Portable Battery Packs

Ok, so you’ve got a MacBook Pro and you need a battery pack, the main issues are:

  1. For the older MacBooks, getting something with a Magsafe connector.
  2. For the MacBook 2016 and later, you need something that does high speed USB C charging. Most chargers will charge at 5V x 2A or 10 watts, but these machine needs more like 60 watt for the smaller ones or 86 watts for the 15″ MacBook Pros.
  3. Your Windows laptop with a proprietary connector

Here are some good choices:

  1. BixPower 12V and 19V output with multiple tips. These work  with laptops with different inputs. So that you don’t have to up convert and downconvert them.
  2. RavPower USB C Battery Pack. For MacBook Pro 2016 and later, This supports up to 30W recharging, so not quite 10 watts, but about 3 times faster.
  3. Lizone QC Battery and Lizone 5 pin to MaBook Pro 2015 or earlier. This connects a Lizone battery directly to the a MacBook, they use a proprietary 5 pin, but they do have a Magsafe adapter.
  4. Chargetech AC Outlet Battery Pack. The most expensive option at $200 plus, but this has an inverter, so you can plug in anything that needs AC power up to 87 watts. It is also not as efficient as DC-to-DC but the faster charger of all.

Keyboards for Programmers

There’s no doubt that if you are typing 12 hours a day, having a crappy keyboard is really frustrating. 

A few quick notes. While the Apple keyboards for instance do work are OK, the true aficionado needs a mechanical keyboard.

So here are some reviews. Hobgear is one person’s view. Note that these are “compact” keyboards, so have 87 keys (no number pad) and you can carry them around. There are also 101-key with the number pad which is useful for some types of work (like Ubuntu with the way it does keyboard Grid switching). But they are less portable. For those, the Corsair K70 is a great choice fyi.

  1. Filco Ninja Magestouch. This is the top rated one. The so called ten keyless version is light and its a little unusual in that the keycaps are on the front, so you don’t type on them. It’s $150 for the ten keyless with Cherry Brown (these are smooth actuation) or $135 for Cherry Blue (my favorite, these are noisy and clicks, but feel definite).
  2. CM Storm QuickFire Rapid. It’s nice because it has a few keycap pullers. As an aside, on the Mac keyboard, the CTRL, Option and Delete keys are different. You can use a simple keyboard remapper to fix this. It’s quite a bit cheaper and nearly the same performance at $95 for the Brown.
  3. WASD Keyboards CODE. These are Cherry Blue or Brown and they have a DIP switch so the keyboard mapping works. It also has LED Backlighting which I actually kind of like. It’s $145.


Good deals on gift cards

Well a few tricks here to double dip:

  1. Cashbackmonitor.com doesn’t work on gift cards mainly because they are largely excluded from rebates.
  2. However, MileagePlus X is explicitly all about gift cards, so check there first for deals. As an example AMC is a 5x bonus with a 25% additional bonus if you hold a United Visa card. That means 6x on any purchase.
  3. If they don’t have it you can try Granny Gift Card. Yes that’s a name and look for other sites with cards. There is more risk here in that these are often times physical cards sold by random people, so beware.
  4. For 2% of so discounts, use cashbackmonitor.com to click through to eBay.com and look for an e-card there. If it is from PayPal, you can be pretty sure it is legit.
  5. Once you have an e-gift card, then you can use it at a portal like United MileagePlus or on Cashbackmonitor as they don’t care about the form of payment.

When FileVault forgets

Sometimes when you boot your MacBook particularly in some recovery modes it will forget the cached FileVault credentials. You then get thrown into a strange mode where it says it forgets and asks for FileVault password. And says you forgot your password. 

Actually it’s not you. It’s the macOS which has lost the encrypted disk credentials

Of course you don’t have it because you never got to type It in. What you need to do is just type in I forgot my password and then you login with your Apple ID. 

It will then recover your FileVault is from iCloud and then ask you to type in a new login password. Then on reboot all will be good. 

Buying from Nike, get a 28x Mileage bonus

OK, this is a little convoluted, but Happy Fathers Day here is how it works (hat tip to TPG) but here’s some documentation on a promotion that ended June 16, keep on the look out for more, but the basic idea is you find a retailer that is on both the United Portal and also where you can buy an egift card on their mobile application:

  1. Buy through the mileage plus shopping portal for 15x the normal rate. Note that you can use any form of payment to do this, just click through the portal. That’s basically 30% off right from the start through June 16
  2. If you spend $150 then you get an additional 500 miles (so 3x multiplier, an additional 6%) through June 23.
  3. If you use the Mileage Plus X application then you can buy a Nike gift card for 10x off and use this for the above purchase.
  4. If you have a United credit card, then this purchase above is multiplied by 10% more.

So doing all the math, this promotion is 15x + 3x + (10x *1.1) = 28x and at 1.7 cents value thats an amazing 47% off.

Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl 290 grams on Canon Pro9000 printer

It’s been so long since I’ve printed (in facts, four years since that’s the last time I posted how to do this!). But here’s a reminder of how to do it:

  1. Go to the Ilford site and download the ICC profile that matches your paper to your printer. Look at the paper and find the various names and hope that they profiled your printer now download the ICC profile.
  2. Looking at the README, you unzip the ICC profile and stick it in a magic directory. For macOS Sierra, this is /Library/Colorsync/Profiles. ColorSync is the tool that does color management on the Mac.
  3. Now you get to decode the very terse name such as GPSPP11_CANpro9000_PPPSn.icc which in this case is the type of paper the Gallerie Professional Smooth Pearl model 11 (which means 290 gsm) and then the next set identifies that Canon paper that it best maps too. In this case looking at the Photoshop dialog, it must be Canon Photo Paper Plus Semiglossy, you can only tell this by going through all the possible papers in the Photoshop CS/Print/Print Settings/Quality and Media/Media Type pull down. Is that complicated or what?! The final n means no color correction.
  4. Now you go through the Photoshop CC dialog in File/Print and make sure to select in Color Handling, Photoshop Manages Color.And then choose the Printer Profile that is the long string above.
  5. Now choose the Rendering Intent. For small printouts, pick Relative Colormetric but if the print is highly saturated or a very large, then pick Perceptual and always select Black Point Compensation
  6. Now go the Print Setting sub dialog and make sure that Color  Matching is set to ColorSync and off you go.
  7. Now to get the correct printout, you also want the image to take the full paper size. The best way to do this is to make sure to select the correct paper size in File/Print/Print Settings/Paper Size and hit save. Now scroll down through the dialog box (I know, a scrolling dialog box is pretty strange, but that’s how it works) until you get to Position and Size/Scaled Print Size, now pick the shorter dimension, in 5.7 for instance, that is the height of 5 and type that into the Height dialog box entry and it will scale with some cropping.


Training and maximum heart rate

Well, training by heart rate has been something that has been around for decades now, but whats the magic maximum heart rate. Turns out the traditional formula 210 - Your Age is at best an approximation. So here’s what Lifehacker says:

  • In your twenties, 210-Age works and this is how the formula was first fit
  • If you are under twenty or over 30, then try 207-(70% * age)
  • If you are female and over 35, then a better fit is 206-(88% * age)
  • If you older and healthy or a woman, then 211- (64% * age)

Are you confused yet? And most of these are really +/-5 to 10 ppm based on individuals. To really try it, you should do a stress test, just be careful and have a doctor.

As for me, I admit that I tried all these formulas and then you should see what your real life maximum is. Which sounds a lot like seeing where you are going to have a heart attack 🙂

Heart Rate Zones

Well what’s the point. Let’s say for simplicity that your MHR is 175, then what do you do with it. So there are many theories here, but from Australia, here’s a nice way to look at it is to get training, you need to be above some rate:

  • VO2Max Boosting. 92% of MHR. 161
  • Anaerobic Threshold. 85%. 149
  • Aerobic Endurance. 75%. 131
  • Base Endurance. 65%. 114
  • Recovery. 50%. 88

Being a weight weenie again comparing 2016 to 2001

Well, I spent years a long time ago on Weight Weenies figuring out how to lighten a bike. I remember sitting in meetings calculating the cost per gram for lower weight. Sometimes I went too far when a handlebar broke, but by and large it worked and I got down to a 15 pound bike not bad for an old Trek 5900 to get to the UCI weight limit of 6.8Kg.

Now with the latest offering, I haven’t weighted it, but feels much heavier than that Trek, so on to figuring out how to make it more reasonable;

  • The new bike has disc brakes so that is a one pound penalty right there typically although I’m having trouble finding numbers, it’s a little hard to find how much a groupset weighs, but for Dura-Ace, they had a very similar weight for years. The 9000 was 2101 grams (with cable), 9070 with Di2 (2080g) while 90, the newest versions the 9100 is 2097g and the 9150 Di2 is 2051g. The disc brake versions 9120 adds 348 grams for mechanical while the 9170 adds 338 grams. So this is adding 12 ounces to the build. I can’t regret this as it is about safety.
  • The newer bike uses Ultegra 11 while the older one is Campagnolo Record 10 (yes I know I splurged!). At least for the older Dura Ace 9000 vs Ultegra 6800, there is a 296 gram difference or another 10 ounces which is way more than I would have thought. Also the Campagnolo Record at least a few years ago was super light, about  24 grams less that Dura-Ace, so call it an 11 ounce difference. Going back of the years, you can add up the groupset from Sheldon Brown as I can’t find it online. While expensive, losing 11 ounces is actually a pretty big deal.
  • The pedals are SpeedPlay X/1 Titaniums are an amazing 150 grams for a pair! Now the cleats themselves are lots heavier, but the PowerTap P1 weigh 429 grams, so that’s a huge different right there of 279 grams or half a pound. But on the other hand, knowing the power is so important to training and they are simple to remove if you want.
  • The wheelset before used Topolino wheelset with 23mm tires while the new one is ENVE with DT Swiss 240 and 25 mm tires. I used ultralight 180 gram Veloflux Pavelights and eyeballing it the 25mm tires are more like 225 grams , so call it an extra 90 grams just for the tires. And the Topolinos I got because they were just 1390 grams. Now the ENVE 3.4 with DT240 are amazing strong and weight just 1492 so about 102 grams more. For a total of 192 grams 6.8 ounces. Can’t really regret this as the Topolino wheels were great, but definitely not a rigid as the ENVEs.
  • The Dogma F8 Disc frameset weighs in at 798 grams while the Trek OCLV 110 was 1030 grams. That’s actually a gain of 232 grams.
  • The fork on the Trek is 345 grams while the F8 ONDA 2 fork is 400 grams so that’s 55 grams heavier

The net is the new bike is going to weight more although it is far stiffer and faster (I’m getting about 1-2mph more speed out of the thing) but to add it all up: 338+320+279+192-232+55=952 grams about 2.1 pounds. That means even if all the components are equal, this will be a 17 pound vs 15 pound bike.

But we are probably over that, so here are some places to make equipment changes:

  • The saddle on the Trek is a Fizik Aliante 2003 with Carbon rails so it is 175 grams while the newer Dogma has a Fizik Aliante 8 coming in a 275 grams. I also have an incredibly light but uncomfortable Selle Italia SLR which is 120 grams not counting the electrical tape you need on the side because the leather is so thin it will wear through. A simple fix to gain 100 grams is using the Outdoor Gear Labs recommendation and getting a Fabric Scoop Carbon Flat Pro Flat which is 176 grams. If you spend an additional $100, you get this down 10 grams (which isn’t really worth it).
  • Stem. I remember lusting after this stem, it was one of the first carbon fiber stems. Made by Time called the Monolink Pro, it is 130 grams while the Dogma has a MOST TigerALU ST which is the internal brand for Pinarello and is 160 grams. For $80, you can get the MOST Tiger Ultra 3K which is 130 grams or for $160 there is the MOST Tiger Ultra 1K which is 100 gram (wow!) stem.
  • Skewers, these were really nerdy, but I did get the Salsa Titanium skewers at 91 grams for the Trek and for the ENVE has titanium skewers so probably about the same weight, but I really should get bolt on skewers to prevent them from moving around which are $44 at Bikeparts and 47 grams since they don’t have the quick release mechanism. As an aside, another option is the DT Swiss RWS Thru Axle, this uses a 12mm hollow tube, so theoretically stronger than a simple titanium skewers, it weighs just 54 grams but is $43 at JensenUSA for each axle so roughly twice the price of the Control Tech but is supposed to have better clamping force than quick release and is easier to manage than the lock nut system because it has a simple lever and is the best of both worlds in that sense.

Doing all this removes 100+70+45=215 grams or nearly 7 ounces. Wow, I’m a weight weenie, but it does get closer to that 17 pound mark.





The cycling workflow

Of course a dedicated bike computer has a longer battery life than an iPhone particularly for long rides, but if you are just going out, it is possible to use the iPhone as a computer as long as all your devices support Bluetooth LE (as long as it’s a short ride). Here are the things to know

The Applications

These run on you mobile device:

  • Powertap Mobile, these speak Wifi and BLE and they have an IOS application for data logging. You can use this to record detailed power meter information and then upload it to Strava, MapMyRide or Training Peaks. This seems like the best merge of all information with the exception of gearing that Shimano provides.
  • Shimano E-tube. While this is mainly a configuration application with the new wireless transmitters they speak BLE, so you could theoretically have an application that can read the gearing and battery. One cool thing is to be able to add what gear you are as you ride, but I couldn’t figure out a way to do this.
  • Strava. This is the ticket, it syncs with power meters, speed and cadence as well as heart rate monitors that communicate on Bluetooth LE. It works pretty well. The main issue is that it costs extra to see real time updates and if you are using the screen, then your battery will only last three hours or so. But if you pay $60/year, you get more analytics. And also a simple set of training plans.
  • Garmin Connect and Garmin Express. This is for Garmin products with Bluetooth connections (not the Garmin 800 which is ANT+ only). It runs on your phone and bails ride information up to the Garmin at connect.garmin.com

The Sensors

Here are some products that have Bluetooth LE and I was surprised how easily they work. Pairing does seem to work and all of these support simultaneous connection to an ANT+ device like the Garmin 800 as well as to BLE devices like an iPhone:

  • Wahoo Blue SC, This works well with Strava and synced automatically.
  • PowerTap P1. These pedals work fine
  • Scosche Heart Rate monitor. This is another simple product.

Analytics, canned training and coaching

Finally what do you do all this data, well, you can use one of these tools. The main tricky part is getting the raw data up into these sites. here’s how and what you get after you do.

Garmin Connect. Garmin has both analytics and also training and coaching.

Strava is mainly about social networking but its  mobile application to do direct upload or you can use Garmin Connect with late model hardware. Or Garmin Express if you have to plug it with USB. For extra $60/year you then get real-time analysis of the data while you are riding and a canned training from Time Crunched Cyclist so that you can make progress with as little as six hours a week of training. These are not customized but they seem to work. These are interval workouts mainly.

Training Peaks. I actually used this years ago and it has three things: a) analytics, b) canned training plans and c) a coach. You can also upload so the workflow is:

  • For long rides, use your Garmin and then use Garmin Express (for older Garmin 800) but I’m not sure how you go from Garmin Express to Training Peaks or sync them from Garmin Connect to Training Peaks.
  • For short rides, auto connect Strava for social sharing via an auto connect and upload from there.
  • Finally, to get more detailed power information use PowerTap Mobile.  You can even take your training plan and for later Garmin computers download the plan into your bike computer. If you have Mac or PC near your computer, you can use PowerAgent to do this upload.


Building a Machine Learning machine

Well, if this summer you need some heavy iron to train models, here are some tips. The main issue is that both AMD and Intel are in a transition, so availability of the really cool hardware is delayed.


So you have two choices, one is to stick with the last generation CPU and use the latest generation GPUs where the main compute lives that means:

  • X99 Motherboard. You want one with extra PCI switches so each graphics card see a full 16 lanes to the RAM for loading images. The ASUS workstation board does this and we’ve used successfully.
  • Broadwell-E processor. If you get the Xeon 1650 V3, you can even overclock it to get about 30% more peak power. However it would if you need a lot more threads running then you need more cores. For instance the 18 core 2699 V4 runs at 2.2GHz CS the 4.3GHz you get from overflowing the above so in theory if you relatively few threads you should go to the $3k vs the $600 chip.
  • nVidia Tesla cards. This is the big change, depending on how much VRAM you need, that’s either the Titan or the 1080 Ti.

if you can hold a little bit then it makes sense to use the upcoming Skylake X chips which will have many more lanes and cores:

  • X299 Motherboard (yes they skipped the X199 for some reason). This has Optane support for hybrid hard drives.
  • Skylake X. These are coming in the second half of the year and will be monsters with lots of cores (way past the 4 cores in the current Kaby Lake X). You can even overclock some of them. You will need to spend at least $1k to 44 pcie lanes. And the 1 core monster is $1k

Finally there is AMD with Rizen which has more cores at lower clock speeds. And with lower prices

  • Rizen 1900X. It is 8 cores and about $500 vs the Kaby Lake version. Also all supports ECC with this Much memory you need ECC
  • Threadripper. Ships later this month 16 cores and 60 PCI Express lanes. Not sure the price but perhaps $1k
  • Epyx. This is 32 cores and 128 PCIe lanes so perfect for big multithreaded jobs.
  • X399 motherboard for the above

Net net some tough tradeoffs. Main advice is to hold off if you can until July to see these new parts. Limp by in x99 if you must. But it will be interesting to see what works better an Epyx vs Kant Lake X or HAswell-EP vs Rizen 7