Add SSL to your Bluehost WordPress site

I’ve been meaning for a long time to secure all my websites with SSL and I thought it would be very complicated, but it turns out Bluehost actually offers this service directly, you. You just login to bluehost.com and then go to:

  1. WordPress Tools. You will see that you have the ability to make changes there. Bluehost is using a tool that let’s it change wp-login to a nice format.
  2. Then go to Security and click enable SSL and this got me I’m not eligible for one site and for others I get an “unknown error”, but for some I can enable SSL. It seems that this page is pretty buggy.

So back to google and now I am on a different page that explains something that does exactly the same and does seem to work

  1. Go to Cpanel at Bluehost and find the SSL widget page and look for your domain. Note this only worked for me with WordPress domains.
  2. Click on the big “Free for WordPress” button in the middle then choose install. Now it says sit back and relax but I’m still not quite sure what happens next, but at some point “https://tongfamily.com” should work.
  3. It says it takes hours, but for me it was about an hour, you get an email to the bluest administrator saying order started and then order complete. And suddenly, tongfamily.com is https enabled.
  4. Now you have to do a big edit on your site changing all references to “http://tongfamily.com” to “https://tongfamily.com”, WordPress makes that pretty easy with search and replace.
  5. As an aside this free SSL expires every three months and it automatically renews. Another aside is some say on Stackoverflow that you still want to get a real SSL certificate that does validation, because there is no ownership check here, so someone could hack in and take over your domains, maybe that will be the next step for me, but in the meantime, this is incrementally better.

Right now things are a little weird, if you try to type “https://tongfamily.com” then you get an impersonation message and get directed to some random site on the shared host we are using. Pretty broken, let’s see if this fixes it.

Otherwise, I’m off to look at different hosters again.

 

Reward point redemptions

Well this has gotten trickier and trickier. It used to be that if you wanted to get a trip on United, then you would have to accumulate United Mileage Plus points at 1 per mile and you were off and to the races. Now this has gotten really complicated so you have to consider in this example (but true for any ultimate supplier)

  • United of course can generate miles and be a supplier of free tickets 🙂 A United point is valued by folks (I use The Point Guy) at 1.4 cents/point, so if you get a ticket valued above that, go for it.
  • Star Alliance. United belongs to a network of airlines, so if you have miles on on of them (like ANA or Asiana or Singapore), you can actually get an award on United or vice versa.
  • Bank reward programs transfers. These have transfer partners, so Chase for instance transfers to United if you have a Chase Sapphire card. Amex transfers to Delta, etc. These typically transfer 1:1 into United…
  • Bank program portals. While not usually a good deal, you can use the Chase, Amex or Citi or Bank of America,… to try to buy tickets. These are usually a 1 cent per point so not worth it. Most of these points are worth 1.7 – 1.9 cents, so if you get a redemption value above this go for it.
  • Hotel partners. The same deal with hotels with SPG being a popular one since it is quite valuable. Again there are transfer ratios

So now if you want a redemption things go like this if you want say a United free ticket

  1. Go to The Point Guy’s valuations. This is his best guess at the worth of different points. In this example, I’m using the February 2018 valuations and these do fluctuate.
  2. Find the cost of the flight if you are just buying it. You should include both the cost and the value of the points that you get. For instance, if you are United customer then your status has an effect, you get more “points” (like 8x) for certain fare classes. As an example if the ticket costs $600 and you get 5,000 MileagePlus points, then the true cost to you is $600 – (5,000 points x 1.4 cent/point) = $530
  3. Figure out if there is availability and see what the cost in. In this example, say it costs you 20K points to get it, then the value is $530/20K points or 2.6 cents/point. The hint here is to look at the regular TPG evaluations and in this case, it is well above the estimate 1.4 cents, so you want that ticket!
  4. Now see if you can do better by trying other airlines and see how their redemptions work on say United, yes you could try every Star Alliance member, but hint, ANA is typically a good one at 1.4 cents/point. Each will have different “fuel surcharges” (have you ever noticed that when fuel prices go down, these keep going up). Many European airlines have “surcharges” that are more expensive than buying the ticket!
  5. Then try to see if a bank rewards program has a transfer “through” an airline you don’t normally use. for instance, you might have an ANA account that is mainly for this purpose. So for instance, if it turns out that you want this and you only have 1K United points, it makes sense to transfer 19K points from Chase to get to 20K, the United points are worth 1.4 cent and the Chase points are worth 2.1 cents and these are both below the 2.6 cent value and you are doing great.

There are definitely times when you won’t get such a great deal, so that is where judgement comes in. Most of time, I don’t do redemptions at 1 cent per point (which is the floor for just buying through a travel portal.

Why can’t I get a USB C Charger at 87 watts

Well first of all I don’t really understand why a MacBook Pro 15″ needs 87 watts (what a weird number), but also all the charges I’ve been looking at stop at 60 watts for some reason. So on to figure out why this is true.

Turns out it has to with something called USB Power Delivery. This is basically a specification which changes the voltages and available amperages out of a USB connector. This all starts with the ancient history focused on delivery more amperage on the 5V standard that is in the older USB connectors (micro, mini, A, B)

  • The original USB 2.0 had a fixed 5V supply and then 500 mA to give you 2.5W worth of power.
  • USB 3.0 gets you up is at 5V and gets you to 900mA or 4.5W
  • USB BC on the same “old” style connectors” get you to 1.5A or 7.5Watts. Technically this is using something called Power Profiles.
  • Proprietary standards like Qualcomm Quickcharge gets you up to 2.4A and this is implemented on some devices. Apple has their own system that gets you up to 2A or 10W.

However with the new USB C connector, you get a lot more flexibility because you an increase voltage as well and this is called Power Delivery 2.0 (PD for short) that uses Power Rules which are more flexible than Power Profiles and it has more pins so that you get:

  • Dual Role Delivery. have a data channel that allow devices to decide who supplies power to whom (called Dual Role Delivery), so your USB battery  can charge a device and be charged with the same connector rather than having a micro USB to charge and the USB B to connect things. The MacBook Pro does that too, it can charge your phone and it can be charged on the same connector.
  • Setting voltage and amperage. The key idea is that a device can ask for a specific voltage *and* amperage. As an example, the iPad Pro can ask for 9V and 3A to get 27 Watts. The allowable voltages are 5V, 9V, 15V and 20V. Then up to 3A are allowed. This by the way is why most current chargers are up to 60W, that is the maximum 20V x 3A.
  • If the charger can’t deliver it there is a fallback system so that the charger and the device can negotiate the fastest charge.
  • Apple has some special standards that convert USB C to Lightening. This allows up to 27W worth of charging so you want to make sure to get the new style cable when you can because charging from USB C is going to be way faster than using the older USB A/B cables.
  • To get to 100W, the charger needs to support amperages above 3A, but most third parties do not have control chips that do this. That is why you are limited to 60W. So if you can wait a bit and hopefully they will come out with the 5A needed for the 100W “full” standard.

Digital Workflow 2018

OK back two years ago, I wrote about my workflow and it hasn’t changed much since then mainly because I stopped archiving photos. The main reason was that Vuescan kept hanging with macOS Sierra and that was really annoying.

For whatever reason the latest Vuescan and High Sierra seem to get along, so I’m back in business scanning files. The main workflow is:

  1. Vuescan to get the images, I scan in 5400 dpi with 3 samples so it isn’t fast, I’m also using auto flip and auto sku and this gets converted into gigantic TIFF files. I use the infrared scan to get rid of scratches.
  2. The next step is to convert those TIFFs into 16-bit lossless JPEG 2000 files, which gets things down to a reasonable (in today’s world size) of something like 80MB per image. Photoshop supports JPEG-2000 writing, but it does cost money (more it seems each year), so I’m off to see if GIMP works. I tried Imagick last time and it didn’t work, but maybe GIMP will. Unfortunately, there isn’t much focus on the Mac, only 2.8 is available and neither 2.9 nor 2.10 are on the Mac.

Staying safe and keeping your bike going

If you’ve got a regular commuter bike and you are trying to survive the long winters without rusty chains or getting (heaven forbid) hit by a driver, here are some things to get:

  1. Puroma Bike cover. The snow and the wet are murder on a bike, so if you can keep your bike in a garage, but if you do leave it out a $13 cover will really help. You can even lock your bike up in it so that’s convenient.
  2. ProLink Chain lube. It is amazing how lube really hasn’t changed, but nothing rusts a steel chain faster than all that salt and water. So get a great lube. You want to wipe the chain as often as you can and then put a little lube between all the links. If there is already rust on the links, then lube plus a light cloth rub should clean it up,
  3. Light and Motion Vis Pro Helmet light. I have the original 120 lumen Vis 360 and it is great, but the latest is 600 lumens. The rear light is dimmer, but that’s not really the point, you want a bright helmet light because when you see a car, staring at it will attract the drivers attention and instinctively people will not drive directly into a blinding light. You want to use this even in the daylight, because bikes are one thing that people completely tune out. Yes this one is expensive, but what’s the value of not being killed by a car.
  4. Cygolite 800 Handlebar light. Again the thing to do is to get a bright one, so people can see you. Outdoor Gear Labs has a great review and all the top rated ones are pretty good, but getting a really bright light matters.

Low cost sim’s when overseas (like New Zealand)

Well, T-Mobile free roaming actually works incredibly well in so many countries. It’s a bit slow, but it works. And if you pay $5 to Skype, then you can even get very low cost (two cents per minute calls to the US or free to toll free numbers). Or try FaceTime Audio if you are calling another iPhone.

However the one case where it doesn’t work well is with local calls, so the best thing to do is to find a low cost prepaid provider. Here’s the start of list. Turns out it pays to research the different providers where you want:

  1. An easy way to get one of their SIMs. The easiest is at the airport.
  2. Decide if you just want a “holiday” SIM which usually includes 17 days and a bunch of data.
  3. Make sure to bring an extra phone so you can use your US phone for most purposes.
  4. If you will ever be back to the country, try to get a prepaid SIM and then you can turn off autorenew.

In New Zealand, Canstarblue says that skinny has the best plans, so a little research shows:

  1. Their holiday sim package is $30 for 14 days.
  2. They also have a $5/week plan with a $2/sim charge.
  3. Their SIMs are at The Warehouse, PaperPlus, I don’t know if they are at the Auckland airport, I know that Vodafone and Spark are definitely there.

These are both super reasonable.

There is also a separate review just for travelers. The main point is to look in the duty free section before you leave the airport as that saves the 15% GST. Vodafone appears to have this. Their prices tend to be a bit higher though.

The lowest cost options are Skinny (a prepaid brand for Spark) but you normally can’t get at the airport. Spark is also a good choice.

Protecting yourself from Unauthorized Porting

Now that so much of lives are tied to mobile phones, one of the key things to do is to protect yourself against number porting thieves. This is a dastardly plot where an identity thief gathers enough personal data (SSN, Mothers Maiden Name) to be able to port your number. Then suddenly all of your two factor authentication breaks and they can take control bank and other accounts.

The solution is to lock your porting. At T-Mobile for instance, you can set a separate porting 6-15 digit pin by calling 611. It’s a great thing to stick inside your password

Tesla and Bolt Cold EV Performance

Well if you are even mildly cold temperatures like 32F, we’ve found that range falls significantly. There are quite a few factors but a very smart guy at Tesla Motors Club lays it out well:

  1. Preheat your battery. Turn your range mode off on the Tesla, turn cabin heat on while you are plugged in. This is counter intuitive but range mode turns off the external battery heater and thus the only way to heat up the battery is with internal resistance. If you don’t this what you will see is your electricity consumption is double until the battery reaches operating temperature of 15C
  2. Draft (aka platoon). Air is denser and resistance increases as the square (he says the cube but I don’t think that’s right). So when cold it is even more important to platoon. That is follow a big rig if you can stand going relatively slowly (65 mph max) or look for that really fast camper van. Get as close as you dare by changing the follow distance. Just be aware that Autopilot does not handle the case where the car in front swerved and there’s a stalled car in front. It’s designed to ignore stationary objects. So keep a close eye. I’ve seen this reduce power usage by 50%. While this is true all the time it’s even more important when cold.
  3. Manage max power. When the battery is cold this is really important. The battery is very inefficient below operating temperature so keep it very chill to say 25KW usage until it reaches operating temperature. You can tell this by watch the power meter and there is a charge limit icon as well.
  4. Limit the power used uphill. Going up is not symmetric with going down. It’s actually much better to go 55 up and hill and 75 down.
  5. Use your seat heaters. The internal cabin can use 2-6Kw of power and seat heaters are way more efficient. And it’s ok to wear your coat inside the car if you are a true nerd.

Now in a Chevy Bolt you don’t have the same flexibility as it doesn’t have an internal battery heater:

  1. Preheat. Ok you don’t have a real way to do this but the best way is to keep the car is a nice warm garage.
  2. Draft. This is more important but a little harder since there isn’t adaptive cruise control in the car. On the other hand it is smaller than Say a model X so even getting behind an SUV seems to help.
  3. Seat heaters. They supply one in every position so use it!
  4. Chill uphill. Same advice as the above

Quick notes on photo scanning, securing and backing up Synology

OK, some quick notes on the logistics of managing the home IT. It’s a real job 🙂

  • I never could get the Synology DS-212J to work. It is so frustrating. I’m pretty sure there is a firmware bug, but can’t prove. The symptoms are that it worked fine, I did a firmware update and suddenly the two 4TB drives I had no longer worked. It works fine with SSDs, but not with real hard disks. The problem is that the drives are just not recognized by the firmware at all. I’ve tried basically every kind of HD. Stymied.
  • Synology. Wow they’ve really advanced their software. but if you have one of these boxes, here is what you should do: a) Make sure you are running RAID10 with modern drives, running SHR2 or RAID6 is very likely to cause a disk failure. Right now I’m in the middle of copying lots of data to make room for a RAID10 system with SSD speedup. The exact configuration is 4x10TB with 2x1TB SSD, this gives 20TB of storage that is vulnerable to two hits on the drives, but on the other hand, on rebuild, you are unlikely to have another fault.
  • Also you should really move to two factor authentication on everything and Synology now allows this. You go to your DSM manager and click on the upper right icon which is the picture of a face. You will get to a dialog and click on it. You should use Authy by the way on the phone and there is a nice Authy Desktop application to keep this. You might also think about enforcing two factor on all your administrator accounts.
  • Also for backup if you subscribe to GSuite, then you can use the new cloud backup with Cloud Sync if you want readable document or Hyperbackup to push all your NAS contents up to Google Drive (they allow up to 2PB, so that should be enough). You can even encrypt the contents so Google can’t read it. It is a good solution now that Crashplan is going away. You should probably also pay for another service, but this actually works pretty well. If you want something simpler you can also use Backblaze. The big advantage of Backblaze is that they store unlimited copies, so if you make a mistake you can still get your data.
  • Finally if you are doing the conversion of old photos to online, then checkout wirecutter for a good list of scanning services. You want one which will scan in high resolution and which also does touch up. It pays (no pun intended) to pay a little bit more because you are only scanning once. The alternative is to roll your own like me. Buy a good film scanner and get Vuescan, it’s complicated to use, but you get exactly what you want. For me that’s a good 8-bit Jpeg scan for older photos, but since storage is free, you can also do a 16-bit TIFF scan for true archiving.

Getting rid of expressvpn.tun, fixing VMware Fusion and Mac OS Fuse X

This has been bothering me for a while, this takes up a High Sierra device slot and so you can’t run VirtualBox, VMWare Fusion, OS X Fuse with this loaded. And I keep getting the error “No peer process to connect to”.

There is a red herring that has to do with the kernel extension and signing problems. But the real issue is that there are not enough device slots to run properly.

However, you can’t get rid of it easily because my ExpressVPN subscription ended and you can’t just load the software without a valid subscription.

Also searching the file name expressvpn.tun doesn’t work because that is just the logical name, not the file name.

Looking at forums, these kexts normally live in System/Library/Extensions or /Library/Extensions and the way that you remove an extension is to remove it.

I found a kext called tun.kext so I moved it and expressvpn.tun no longer loads. Now I get a slot back!

It’s not a bad thing to check what is loaded as kernel extensions with kextstat | grep -v com.apple and if you do I found some interesting things:

  • HornDIS. This is apparently an extension that is USB tethering for Android devices. If you don’t need this, then you remove them for the two Extension libraries above.