Getting 8% on Amazon purchases and 11% off Netflix too

Well since I’ve been buying so much now’s a great time to ask how to optimize for purchases. Two pointers:

  1. Amazon. You can get 3 JetBlue Points per Amazon purchase just by clicking through. That’s about a 5% discount. You can also get a straight 5% off by using an Amazon Store Card, so that’s pretty easy. An even more aggressive way is to buy Amazon Gift Cards from Office Supply stores like Staples and then apply it. This gives you 5x from Chase (so about 11% off in Chase points). It’s kind of wash when you think about it as to what’s better, personally, I like the JetBlue Points plus using your regular credit card if you have one that earns it.
  2. Netflix. Turns out that Netflix counts as an 5X merchant. So switch to that with your Chase card because it has a

Building out a simple home backend

OK, for the third time this year, I’m outfitting someone’s home with enough of a backend that they should be relatively stable, here’s a guide to how to do this:

The right NAS

Synology DS216J. There are a host of models that Synology has, but even the most basic $170 computer gives you a RAID-1 configuration. And with a pair of 4TB drives, it is a great deal. I’m not sure if this is the perfect DS216 (they have a confusing list, but I picked the second from the bottom which is I’ve found usually a pretty cheap one). But it should saturate a gigabit Ethernet and it has a one disk redundancy.

The right hard drives are 4TB or 8TB

Seagate Enterprise Capacity. I’m really over provisioning here, but I’ve found that you really want a drive with a five year warranty because it will last longer as they use higher quality drives. Right now the best price/performance is the 6TB Drive. I normally buy these on as they have the best reviews and good prices. Make sure to sign up for their loyalty program and use to get a rebate. You really want three drives, two go in and one is a hot backup. So if a drive fails, you can plug the new one in and with RAID-1 it rapidly rebuilds. But with 4TB at $160 at Amazon, pricing is extremely linear at $40/TB all the way up to 10TB! ($420 at Amazon).

I normally get a drive that’s much bigger than I need because things always fill available demand. Right now the cheapest is 8TB at $39 or so if you can afford it, having a 10TB effective server isn’t such a bad thing for your home, it’s going to store a lot of videos! It will set you back nearly $1200 for the disks though, so if you don’t need that much, the $480 for 4TB may be more reasonable.

Even the 10TB is pretty reasonable at $42/TB and the density is incredible although if you think about with the 8TB at $316, you do pay a big premium for 10TB ($102 extra or $50/TB), so perhaps better wait.

Making a USB Boot Drive for MacOS Sierra

Well it’s time once again to make USB boot disks, I’ve been using Diskmaker X forever, but with Sierra, there are some idiosyncratic things:

  1. Download from the Mac App Store the Sierra download. This will take a while as it it is over 4GB, but this is the image that Diskmaker X uses.
  2. Make sure that you reformat the disk completely before starting. It doesn’t seem to like already formatted disks and crashes with an error about not being to make things.
  3. You now get notifications as it moves along which is pretty cool.


Tranferring files from Android to a Mac

For a while I could not get file transfer to work from an Android phone. Tried:

  1. Take a movie and use Google Photos to upload, this was incredibly slow trying to get 4GB up there.
  2. Same with a OneDrive upload
  3. Airdroid uses Bluetooth to do the same and it was way too slow
  4. Trying Android File Transfer had never quite worked, but I gave it another try and it did!

So here are the tips:

  1. After you download, when you connect your USB cable, you have to set “File Transfer” enabled. Otherwise it just draws power. The only place I’ve seen this come up is by swiping down and looking for an Android System notification about USB state. Not easy to find and it doesn’t seem to be sticky so you enable it each time.
  2. Also if it draws too much, the Mac will shut it down, I’m not sure how to prevent this.
  3. Now with that set, run Android File Transfer and you see a window open up that shows the Android file system. The photos live in the super obvious DCIM/Camera folder.
  4. Also do *not* delete from the Android File Transfer application, this causes the phone’s Photo application to be super confused since you do not delete the meta data about the files.

Outfitting a new car

Ok, when you get a new car, here are some tips and tricks:

  1. If you have a fancy high resolution GPS like the Vsport, then you will see lots of dropouts, so you need a GPS antenna and ideally it should be on the roof. The so called ground plane cuts down the multipath reception you get so you want it on top. The problem is what connector, well it turns out it uses something called MCX (Micro Cable) and you need one which is a straight connector and not an elbow. Amazon sells a straight adapter that makes this work

Bikes. Likes. Back to it.

Nothing like waiting 30 years between buying bikes. Finally brad got me back so I’ve been trying bikes for theee days solid. Great interval training!

Thoughts are to read the reviews. There are many good ones so I’ll stack rank the important things

  1. Budgets. Well this is the hard one but there are definitely shelf points. Getting to $2k is probably the best Value for the money. But heck bike lust can move you way higher than that!
  2. Bike shop. Read the reviews as they are great but going to your local bike shop (Elements is great!) is the way to try the bikes and work with someone who is knowledgeable.
  3. Fit. Bikes have moved in measurement from reach and stack height to vertical so now the new measurements are center to top and then effective top tube length, so you can measure how “long” and “low” you want to go. A cheaper better fitting bike is way better than a more expensive one that doesn’t fit. Two quick things are to look down when you mount a bike and see the handlebars block the front axle and then pedal backwards with your heels and see if your leg stretches out fully.
  4. Framesets. This is actually hard to change. You want light, stuff yet compliant. The mid range frames tend to be the Best deals. You lose 150 grams in weight for 2x the price.
  5. Wow electronic shifting is pretty awesome. The new etap sounds cool but the latest shim about 9100 makes lots of sense. Right side is down. Left is up and it automatically picks the right chain ring. No more cross chaining. And u can get a new battery and firmware so works on older setups.
  6. Discs. These are coming to road bikes. Great for rain and also is ur running carbon rims and don’t want them to fail. Main issue is thru axle. You really want one as alignment is hard and there’s a safety issue. Or get bolt on skewer.
  7. After the bike itself the wheelset makes the most difference so get the nicest one you can. U can save a pound and rotational weight is 5x more valuable than static.
  8. Computers. This actually makes a difference but they are expensive. The main thing is to get something which is Bluetooth compatible so you can use your phone in a pinch. Of course it does mean your phone battery is going to drain so a dedicated bike computer is not a bad thing.
  9. Power meters. At least you should get a heart rate monitor and a cadence meter and speed of course. But if you can afford it they are great. You can spend a lot but the simpler ones like the crank arm or even the pedals are a great way to do this.
  10. Trainer. Biking is hard to do by yourself so getting an online coach is cheap and easy way to get better.
  11. Indoor. With the new trainers, stick a big screen in front and it is nearly as good as being out there.

Thoughts on bikes, it’s great to spend a day or even a week trying bikes, a great bike shop will let you take them out for a test ride, so bring your riding clothes and you want a course that will let you test going on out on flats, riding up a hill and then a descent preferably on a bike trail with little traffic. (It’s a great way to interval train). It’s nice to have your own phone so you can measure your speeds and also a heart rate monitor to measure how much effort you are putting in (I didn’t do this but wish I had!).

I’m going to resist ranking bikes for the moment since it is so much a matter of preference, but here are some riding notes from an out of shape cyclist sorted from higher comfort to more race oriented, these are the 2016 models and it isn’t a bad time to shop at the model change over. So here’s a list of the dream bikes I tried, wow it was an incredible few days:

  • BMC Roadmachine 01. This was one amazing cruiser. For a cool $11K it should be, man once you get up to speed, it really rocks. Nice aero wheels and the Dura Ace Di2 grippo was awesome as was the wheel set. It’s got the two things that I really wanted electronic shifting and disk brakes. Really a nice ride and super compliant yet stiff at 930 gram frame weight. Basically a beautiful endurance bike that can go anywhere
  • Collage C60. This is a lugged beauty. I’ve always lusted for one.
  • Parlee Altum Disk. I actually loved this bike quite a bit, more responsive than the Roadmachine, but smoother than the F8. It was also incredibly light and felt like it charged up the hills. At $6K list, a relative bargain here as a small American manufacturer doing small batches in Taiwan.
  • BMC Timemachine 01. This is a great race oriented bike. It is not disk ready though, but I sure loved riding it.
  • BMC Timemachine 02. This is a good way to go for value. Adds 150 grams in weight, but is half the price of the 01. You can put that towards an incredible Enve 34 wheel set for instance and get to a terrific place.
  • Pinarello Dogma F8 Disc. This is the disc version of the F8, so a few pounds heavier, but with Ultegra Di2, it’s pretty awesome. It does have a quick release hub though (the 2017 goes to a 12mm transaxle), so you might want to get a set of bolt-on skewers to make sure it doesn’t release and stay true as disks are pretty picky.
  • Pinarello Dogma F8. This is the bike that has won a bunch of Tour de France’s. And as one buddy said, if I were to buy one, I would have to train in the dark until I could actually ride it. It is super light and super responsive. The new Dogma F10 supersedes it this year. With a Fulcrum Race Zero wheel set, it looks fast just sitting still.

So some specific recommendations for accessories:

  1. Quadlock. I think I got this from Wirecutter (and CyclingAbout) and did get for Calvin, it is a really reliable lock for the car. Also I see the Element Cycles has them on their racks.
  2. Ultegra SPD-SL. The leader these days is the Ultegra carbon’s. At 128 grams, it’s hard to beat
  3. Shimano S-Phyre (and super light at 230 grams and only in bike shops for $400 with custom heat fitting) but shoes have a huge range of options. There are a huge number of options but the main things are getting something with Boa dials so it is easily adjustable and carbon fiber soles to maximize energy transfer. Fit of course is always the first and most important thing.
  4. Shimano Yellow Cleats. ($105 at Amazon)Well then there are the cleats, most folks should get some with a little float so you don’t damage your knees. The yellow Shimano ($24 at Amazon) is a 6 degree float and you’ll also want a cover for it too. ($14).
  5. Wahoo Element Bolt. (There are lots of Computer). Well while you could use your phone, the reality is the battery won’t last as long as a dedicated bike computer. I’ve had lots of these over time, but right now the Wahoo Elemnts seems like a decent choice. It’s aero, support ANT+ and Bluetooth so you can use it with your existing monitors and cadence and RPM. As an aside I find DCRainmaker to be just awesome at doing in-depth reviews of gear like this. It’s pretty clear it is between the Garmin Edge 520 and the Wahoo Elemnts (he doesn’t like the large size of the Wahoo, and I do have one of these Garmins running around in my garage somewhere!). One of the great things is that it is configured from your phone, so you don’t spend hours clicking on a tiny machine without touch. And of course Garmin remains ANT+ only whereas Wahoo supports Bluetooth and of course connects to it’s trainers. And although they lack an open apps platform like Connect IQ, their Strava integration is really good
  6. Strava. This seems to be the default social network for cyclists.
  7. ENVE 3.4. These come across over and over as the nicest wheel set even at an astronomical $2K (right now there are a bunch of 20% closeouts) and ultra light 1,532 g or try the Fulcrum Quattro Pro as a good value carbon set for disks. However the stock Shimano WH-RX31 ($450) are pretty darn good). These are 2Kg. For comparison the new Shimano 9100 C40 is $1970 and weighs in at 1557 grams

So frustrating Mac Mail Search fails may need to delete all Spotlight indices

This is the first time I’ve had this problem, but basically Spotlight indexing is working, but Mac Mail doesn’t seem to ever find anything. I’m not the first person with this problem. But the fix doesn’t seem to work. Doing a rebuild and then deleting the index doesn’t help.

I also tried just deleting all the data in ~/Library/Mail/V4 which forces a complete reload, but that doesn’t work either. Argh!

Another suggestion was to sign in and out of iCloud?!

Or you can rebuild your entire Spotlight index since Mac Mail uses it (although this feels like a Mac Mail bug since Spotlight works fine). Now that this actually generated an error saying that it could not remove the entire disk. This looks like a terrible error:

Privacy List Error (null)

Looks like a bug and now typing the terminal line mdutil -E / returns a /: No Index Yikes!

Now it looks like there is something really wrong with Spotlight, so I tried the draconian sudo rm -rf ./Spotlight-V100 but amazing, this doesn’t change any indexing and I still get no index messages. Argh!

What’s needed is an actual reboot (which they don’t mention). But after reboot, I do get the indexing message at the Spotlight icon. I don’t know if this will help but worth a try.

And Eureka it works. Looks like net, net, Spotlight somehow got confused. I’m not sure if I had to do a complete reindex, but the fact I was getting (null) messages is not a good sign

Random thoughts on 4K Gaming and monster rigs and drones

Ok, some projects for this year;

55″ Gaming Monitor and nVidia 1080Ti.

Last year, we discovered thanks to that televisions are great displays. Ended up buying 40″ 4K Samsung monitors for $600 that are just awesome for showing 4 or even six full windows of code. This year, the discovery is the curved displays and 55″ monitors are going to be amazing for gaming. We used to use multiple screens, but with the modern nVidia processors, a single 4K display is really all you need. recommends the LG 2017 OLEDs if you can afford it. 55″ is $1800. But the Sony X900E is just $1200 (ok everything relative) for an incredible full screen display. Imagine it one foot from your nose playing Call of Duty!

The friend here is an nVidia 1080Ti. That is a monster $700 card that is 2x the 1080 and handles 4K gaming well at 60fps. Of course the coming frontier is going to be 8K monitors and 4K120 monitors, so the race never ends, but this isn’t a bad stop.

Hackintosh Lives for Professional Video and Image Editing

The Hackintosh is alive and well (as long as you use Tony’s hardware and installation guide) and with Apple basically giving up on Mac Pro’s and MacBook Pros, what’s someone to do who uses an all Apple workflow. The answer for right now seems to dual boot your Windows gaming machine (see above).

But the basic idea is to take advantage of the new nVidia Pascal drivers and run your machine. You do need to use the older Z170 motherboards, but that isn’t too much of a problem as the Z270 and Kaby Lake  are pretty marginal upgrades anyway. Then you use Unibeast to create a bootable MacOS on your hardware. You will get a strange error about a volume mounted so you need to look at /Volumes for the errant volume, but it works otherwise. Then you load Multibeast to get the drivers that you need after you do your initial boot.

You then need to twiddle your BIOS settings so that the this USB will boot. Boot your new hardware with the USB key in and hopefully the boot loader called Clover will start. You then add your device drivers and you are done!

Life is not complete without a Drone and VR rig

Well, how can life be complete without being on the bleeding edge. I bought a DJI Phantom 3 more than a year ago and it stopped working and I never fixed it. It needs a huge case and where was I going to put it. Looking at the best drones of 2017 (or, or best drones review and,

It’s pretty clear we are reaching an inflection point where the software is maturing (yeah collision avoidance) and prices are crashing. The main thing I would love:

  • Collision avoidance. These things really do crash a lot and so if you are taking photos, losing the drone is just terrible.
  • Water safe to have is something that makes it safe to use over water. Like these gigantic floats. After all losing a $1K is kind of a bummer.
  • Photo quality. The whole point is amazing photos and videos and being able to get close for the shots.
  • Portability. Having something small makes a big difference.

Mavic Pro. The winner at least for this year seems to be the DJI Mavic Pro which fits in a water bottle and has a 4K camera. It’s basically at that magic $1K price point (actually $1.3K with all the accessories from Amazon). It has front facing cameras for collisions and infrared sensors that point below. It’s so small and portable that it can fit into a backpack.

Phantom 4 Pro has got your number if you are shooting for quality , it is way larger, but has cameras at the front and back that look for obstacles and avoid them plus a really great 4K camera with 4K60, F/2.8 Lense and 12 stops of dynamic range. It’s $1800 with the remote. You can also get a backpack so you can carry your drone on the plane or get a hard case and check it in if you dare.

Inspire 2. For true lust, this has a 5.2K camera that writes RAW to an onboard SSD. Drool, drool, drool. $3K worth of drone.

Some runners up are:

The Yuneec Typhoon H UHD ($1300 at Amazon but $1800 with collision avoidance in the Pro version) is pretty cool given it’s Intel Realsense collision avoidance. I guess I’m sensitive to two things, collisions and water 🙂 so it’s a little cooler technology wise, but the DJI Phantom 4 Pro has the advantage with popularity.