Greater Goods Wifi Scale and IOT Madness

Wow, it’s a good thing I’ve spent time working with Raspberry Pi’s because these wifi connected devices that try to be consumer friendly are really a nightmare, here’s a set of notes on this particular product. Note that it is not their fault, it is so common for these problems to crop up:

  1. The Greater Goods scale does not like long passwords or special characters. Both are needed to keep wifi networks secure, there is no documentation, but some gentle testing seems to show most special characters are not allowed and it looks like there is a maximum 12 character limit. Yikes. Probably due to the firmware they have bought from somewhere else. I’ve had lots of wifi cameras with the same problems.
  2. The diagnostics are basically non existent, if you have a failure they say try again or buy a travel router which basically creates a subnet for the device. It  looks some trial and error, but this is how the things works.
  3. First you push the button on the back to get it into setup mode, then you tell your phones to look for it and enter the wifi password there and then it tries to access the internet. If it fails, automatically shows an error then immediately turns itself off, so make sure to stare at the thing intently so you can see the error message.
  4. When it is trying, it shows a digit code for each entry (why this scale doesn’t use a touch screen, I don’t know with full led display, but I guess that’s how they saved some dollars, note to the makers, I think going to $99 for the scale and putting enough UI into it will really help sales!). But basically, 1 means the hardware is good, 2 means that I have SSID access, 3 means I’m at the internet and 4 means I found the Greater Good servers. So what happens is that it gets stuck. There doesn’t appear to be a hard reset, so you have to just keep trying and eventually the firmware concludes it doesn’t work and waits at 1, which is waiting for the SSID.
  5. You will also get super obscure error messages, but there is a decoder ring at the bottom of the setup page. The common ones are l212 which means you need to try to configure the AP again and t206 which basically means a bad wifi password. Again, you have to be quick to see these things.
  6. You can actually check to see what is going on, but this needs some magic. There are three nearly invisible buttons just below the display, if you hold the up arrow on the left for three seconds you end up in diagnostic mode. Then there is an invisible button right in the middle between the up and down arrow, click on that and it will try the 4 step access the internet so you can see where it is failing.

So here is how to safely put a wifi scale on your network so it has internet access but can’t see the rest of your network.

  1. You definitely do not want this device on your core home network, I’m sure there are zillion exploits, so here is what to do.
  2. First get a decent wifi access point system that allows guest networking. I use the Unifi, but other semi-pro systems should allow it. You want to create a dedicated wifi network for these not very safe devices and give them the dumb password.
  3. Then you need to isolate them from the rest of the network. With Unifi, this is really hard, but you basically need to create a network and make it a “guest” network.
  4. In the guest network, you want to make sure that network restrictions is on and that you disable your entire home network. For instance, the blanket 10.0.0.0/24, 192.168.0.0/16 will keep most home networks private. This way they can only access the internet.

Seeing a Photos in one windows with Preview

This has been driving me crazy for years. But Preview has an idea about groups of photos, so if you open up a subset and then later a bigger set of photos, it opens multiple windows. The fix is pretty easy as Daily Motion points out, just start Preview and go into the settings and choose Images ‘When Opening Files:’ then pick ‘Open all files in one window’

Unifi AP in Isolation means bad network cable

Well this has been a strange set of events, suddenly one of our Unifi APs reports that it is in isolation mode. I had no idea what it was. The one report said that it was possible that the network cable was bad.

The symptom is that you reboot the AP and it looks OK, but then it loses connection and reports no internet access. From the other side, the controller reports that the AP is “Isolated”.

How often is this going to really work. Well, I swapped the cable and all is fine. Wow, I love the internet!

Apple Watch Accessories

Yes you can get lots of different bands (although this Apple Watch Series 3 Nike band is actually pretty awesome, looks good and is comfortable). But as usual, there are some things you should really have according to Wareable and PC Magazine:

Then since you are at it, you might as well get totally fitness gadgeted up. Looking DC Rainmaker and Wareables, here are some attachments to get assuming you already have a Powermeter and a Cadence and Speed sensor for your bike you also need:

  • Greater Goods Wifi connected Scale. For the truly nerdy, get on the scale, it connects via Wifi to the cloud and then populates your weight into Healthkit. Never escape those bings ever again! $70 at Amazon
  • Greater Goods Blood Pressure Monitor. Another nerdy thing for those of us worried about high blood pressure. This thing isn’t wifi enabled, so you need to pair it but it will load your blood pressure into the system.

Apple Watch Series 3 and AirPods

Wow, while Apple may not be the revolutionary company of Steve Jobs, overall in the industry, they still lead the way on making things simpler. I used Apple Watch Series 1 initially and it was so confusing with this landscape of little tiles, but using WatchOS4 is so much more natural and the setup is incredibly easy.

Some notes on amazing things:

  1. It is so cool that they use Bluetooth LE to sense proximity to a configured device and then grab that configuration from the device. You don’t have to setup again anything from Wifi passwords to authentication.
  2. They did a great job on doing things without asking people questions like what do you want to call my watch (How about Rich’s Watch).
  3. They also did a really nice job going through all the applications already loaded on the phone and putting the watch versions on the phone.
  4. The new scroll back and forth seems much more natural and I wish the “list view” of apps was the default, the sea of tiny icons was always so confusing.
  5. It is amazing also that when you come up to your Mac, it will ask you if you want your Watch to unlock your Mac. Although when it doesn’t work, it is pretty impossible to debug.

The AirPods were perhaps the biggest surprise, they put incredible care into the initial setup. Just open the box near your iPhone and it pairs automatically and well it just works. Nice job. The sound is remarkably good.

Now the bad parts:

  1. Discoverability is hard. There is nothing to tell you how to control the AirPods. I was super surprised I didn’t get the voice of someone in the AirPods welcoming me and telling me what to do. That a double tap is what gets you to Siri. For instance how to configure the right and left double taps to do different things.
  2. Same with the Apple Watch, after the initial setup, you have to Google and query to figure out how to make things work, there is no walk through even though you obviously have a phone sitting right there, why couldn’t there be a guide?

Overall though compared with most experiences nice job!

Chase Ink 5x bonuses on Airbnb and Amazon purchases

These cards are pretty amazing. When you pair a Chase Ink with a Chase Sapphire, you can get 5x points instead of 5% back, that is worth 11% off (assuming 2.2 cents/point).

There is a $75K cap per credit card for this, but you can multiple Chase Ink cards for each LLC and for each person, since you can use your SSN as a business. So how can you use it. Miles and More has a great guide:

  1. Cellular, landlines and television bills. These are easy ways to get 5x.
  2. Office Depot. Staples gift cards. More of a pain, but they do have good sales, note that this is one area where gift cards to other stores do count. So you can get say an Amazon gift card through staples. Then you get 5x off all Amazon purchases. Right now there is even a promotion where you get an extra 5x points for clicking through the chase mall. Total benefit is 10x chase points per Staples purchase for a whole suite of zero mark up cards like Target, Nike and Overstock.
  3. Paypal Digital Gets. Amazingly it looks like gift cards bought through PayPal also qualify. Make sure to use cashbackmonitor.com to get typically a 1-1.5% rebate and then you also get eBay points for another 1%. For instance Airbnb has gift cards there so you can get 1.5% rebate + 5x points from Chase Ink. Not bad!
  4. Giftcardmall, Gyft ($500) and CardCash through PayPal. These all code as 5x bonus points. Not that at for all these sites, passing verification is really pretty hard, I was unable to purchase from any of them the first time, so be patient because of course gift cards have quite a bit of fraud.
  5. Swych is an app that allows up to $2K but your lose out on the cashbackmonitor play.

USB C Cable Recommendations

About 5 minutes after you buy a cable you will probably forget how much data and how much power it can carry.

Unlike all previous generations there are all kinds of limitations as and differences that you can’t see.

The basic problem is the amount of amperage and the data rates for cables differ and there are length limitations as well so here are the parameters.

Try to get cables which are USB/IF certified or reviewed well. There are lots of counterfeit cables out there.

Data

You should label your cables so you know their max capability. Most folks are not going to need Thunderbolt 3 cables unless they have an offboard disk drive or special display but for completeness.

Thunderbolt 3. 40Gbps (0.5m passive limit) beware of the versions that drop to 20Gbps

For USB, each cable version is a superset of the previous generation. from the fastest

USB 3 Gen 2. 10GBps. 1 meter limit.

USB 3 Gen 1. 5Gbps. 2 meter limit

USB 2. 480Mbps. I haven’t seen a limit for these. But I’m sure they have one.

Power

The second limit is the maximum power they can carry. USB C has power negotiation logic so the voltages can vary from 5V to 9V to 12.5V to 20V and the amperage can vary from 2A to 3A to 5A.

Cable Recommendations

So looking through Amazon here are the cable reviews:

  • Apple cable. $20 so expensive but probably the post reliable I’d bet. This is a 100 watt (20Vx5A) cable. 2M. But only 480Mbps.

You shouldn’t need Thunderbolt 3 by for completeness:

Encrypted PDFs not working in MacOS Sierra

I don’t know about High Sierra but with Sierra, the latest encrypted PDFs just show up as greyed documents in the MacOS Preview and even if you file open in Safari. They do work in Adobe Acrobat Reader and also in Chrome. Seems like Apple needs to update their encrypted reader.

If you actually want to decrypt and use these, you cannot do this with Adobe Acrobat Reader, it insists on keeping the encryption even if the sender just wanted to be safe mailing it. Even if you try to File Print and says “Save as PDF”

The workaround seems to be to use Chrome, you have to use File Open, decrypted, print and then use the “Save as PDF” and it works. Sigh. Complicated!

Miscellaneous Notes…do not buy the Anker USB C 60 Watt charger

Well the Anker 60-watt USB C Charger with 3 USB A ports is half the price and seemed to work well. Sadly, it just “loud popped” and failed. You can actually hear the capacitor that blew up rattling around inside. Sometimes half the price with more features is not the answer.

I was using it at 240V, so I wonder if this is because it isn’t really designed for that high a voltage

Outfitting and new apartment

Ok if you are outfitting a new apartment, there are so many things to get, here’s a quick summary:

  1. Tools. Well, if you want to get fancy, you can get either a basic kit from Home Depot for $20, a bigger kit for $60 from Amazon or if you want something that will last pick from this a la carte list on The Sweet Home. Personally, I suggest the $60 kit, it comes with a nice bag and has the all important vice grip 🙂
  2. Commuter Bike. If you do not want to drive to work and don’t have public transportation, a good but inexpensive bicycle makes some sense. These are called urban bikes or commuter bikes and you want something that doesn’t cost much and which you won’t care about too much when the bike thief shows up. Right now with a $30 saw, even a really good bike lock last just 30 seconds, so don’t get too attached.  There are some good lists at Bicycling and also Popular Mechanics. Popular Mechanics has a reasonable price and the 3 x  7 speed Raleigh Cadent 1 isn’t a bad choice for $350. While I normally say buy from a local bike shop, in this case for a lower cost item like this, Amazon isn’t a bad choice if you do not mind assembling it.
  3. The Best Bike Lock. You have to watch the New York Times video to see how no one cares if you steal a bike to understand how unattached you have to be. But basically a bike lock hopefully just makes a thief look for an easier target. Best choice is the Kryptonite Evolution Mini-7 and it includes a cable as well. For $69, it’s reliable and a long term choice. If you really want to be safe, buy the 15 pound (?!!) Kryptonite New York Forgettaboutit Chain which is really a name and a think for $70.
  4. A dining room table can be really expensive or super cheap. The Sweet Home is a good start. But if you want lower than $1,000, you can’t go wrong at Ikea with the PS 2012 and the classic Terje folding chairs. Article makes just the coolest direct order furniture like the Sena for $600. Also, if you want something simple, then you can’t go wrong with an Eames chair replica and a simple Zinuc.
  5. Futon sofa. This is a good choice if you are going to have guests. It is never going to as nice as a say a Article Sena sofa that The Sweet Home has reviewed but it is quite multi purpose. But this tongue-in-cheek Houzz review and there seem to be quite a few “spam” sites. The SleepJudge is another one and it happens to have a top selling Amazon bed on the list called the Novogratz Brittany.