iCloud Photo Library gets wedged

I have not seen this discussed too much, but we use iCloud Photo Library extensively to save old photos. We try to stay in the free 5GB tier, so the algorithm is:

  1. Use iCloud Photo Library like the old Photostream, but it saves all photos up to the 5GB limit.
  2. Every so often get on a Mac and go through these photos, edit and delete them and put them into long term photo storage. This is a RAID-6 NAS with backup to another NAS, to CrashPlan and then an FTP server. (Ok, I’m paranoid).
  3. When this is done, create Shared Photo Albums for trips and things for sharing (most everyone with an iPhone just get these, for others, use the web sharing feature).
  4. Delete the photos from Photo Library and you then see curated content in the Shared Photo Albums.

The problem is that Apple often gets confused about how many photos are in your library. Even if you delete all photos, you will often see the “You need 156GB to upload and your photos), even though everything is clean.

The solution I’ve found is that you have to toggle the Photo Library button in Mac Photos or iOS Photos, this seems to make it happy again 🙂

Car Accessories

If you are getting a new car, here are some indispensable accessories to go with it:

  • Tire Pressure Gauge. It’s huge but it is reliable and easy to use. All analog and no batteries.
  • LED Flashers. Yes you need batteries, but they are way better than flares
  • Flashlight. You need a bright one and Candlepower will turn you on to the really good ones. Current favorites are the Nitecore MH20GT for $120 that comes with two Lithium Ion batteries and a charger as a bigger choice the  Nitecore P30, it is 1000 lumens and a break taking $64 at Amazon.
  • Battery charger and tire pump. Yes, you might need a battery charger for your EV, but you do need one for the other 98% of the cars out there. The CostCo one is nice although big.
  • Floor mats and covers. Auto Anything has a great selection and these are completely waterproof and great for the wet climates. Typically you can get a 6% rebate from Cashbackmonitor.com if you buy from there.
  • Leatherman PS4 Squirt on your keychain. In case you need it.

Moving Google GSuite domains

If you have a company and you are merging or getting acquired, then what’s the easiest way to get the data across. Turns out this is a little tricky. But the basic things to understand are:

  1. There is the concept of an owner for a file. This is the user who sets permissions. However, you cannot change the ownership across organizations.
  2. Instead, the easiest thing to do is to use Google Drive and go to the old organization and share all the folders to the new organization. Then you can Add to My Drive and now create a new set of folders and copy all the data. Delete the old folders when you are done.
  3. This takes some time and hopefully you have enough GDrive space but it does work.
  4. It does mean you have to recreate permissions on the other side, but now is not a bad time to clean things up.

Charging your EV Decoder Ring

You would think there would be an easy FAQ if you have an Electric Vehicle, turns out that after navigating through all the many sites, here are the easy steps, if you aren’t lucky enough have the plug and play Tesla.

First the plug nightmare

As usual with the start of an industry there are way too many “standards” for plugs, so nothing really plugs into anything without a little thought. Here’s a map:

Level 1. This means good old 120V with the familiar US two prong (technically called a NEMA 5. This will take a long time, if you have a monster 60KWH battery on a Chevy Bolt for instance, it will take days to charge since you can do 120V x 20 x 75% Amps = 1.8Kw/Hour but you can’t drive a circuit at 100% and there are losses, so assume 25% buffer from max amperage to usable. Every car has an onboard AC to DC converter at 2.4, 6kW or even 7.2KW, so the speed of charging depends on it. It’s maximum is 1.9Kw

Level 2. This is the 220-240V and of course is much faster, however, there are no less than three different plugs. There is J1772, NEMA 14-50 and then Tesla’s proprietary plugs. The NEMA 14-50 is used by newer Tesla’s and i3s the same as what you find in an RV Park. It is four prongs with one L so you can’t misinsert it. There is also an older Tesla proprietary connector. The J1772 is the North American standard and is five prongs and is used by early Volt and Leaf’s in the so. This runs at 16A or 30A which corresponds to a 20A or 40A circuit (you need 25% buffer when you are charging continuously). This mathematically means 3.5Kw or 7.7Kw charge. When you use this, you can either have 16Amp or 30 Amp effective charge. Most cars have smaller chargers, so the Leaf is 2.4KW internal charger. But this is way faster, so with the 7.2KW charger in the Bolt, you can use the full 30 amps at 240V (30×240=7.2KW). This means that a flat battery gets charge in 60KWH/7.2KW = 9 hours.

Level 3. This is the 440V but done as a DC, that’s because the AC/DC converter is huge. There are quite a few variants for level 3. There are three important ones, the CCS is a J1772 with DC below (technically called J1772-2009). It is what is used by American and European manufacturers (Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Porsche, Volvo and Volkswagen). Then the Japanese have CHAdeMO and Tesla has an adapter for it as well in addition to their own proprietary Supercharger.

How to charge at home, beware the bad extension cord

Well of course Tesla has their own proprietary Superchargers and plugs, I won’t cover that here, but if you have some other company, there is J-1772 plug (this is a huge 5 prong monster) that you plug into the car. There are three levels:

You get a J-1772 to NEMA 5 for  120 V plug for home. This you use to plug into your car. The car has an onboard charger, so it just sense voltage and starts drawing. This is going to be slow, for a 60KWh battery, charging at 1.8Kw/Hour will take 34 hours to get to a full charge, but it is useful for trickle charging. One important gotcha is that the connection to the extension cord has to be good. The first time I did this, we used an old cord and they have a sensor box, it would just stop charging after a while without an error. And would report “Charge Complete”. I don’t know why anyone thinks quitting after five minutes is charge complete. So make sure you get a good extension cord.

Level 2 charging box means you have a J-1772 to 240V for home (or CHAdeMO if you have a Japanese car).  Now if you want to do this at home, you either need to buy a $500 box and install it,

Level 2 converter cable. If you are lucky and have a 240V circuit in your garage for a dryer (yippee), then you don’t need to do this. Dryers use a 4-prong plug called NEMA14-30 so here are the adapters that are around

  • QuickPower J-1772 to NEMA 6-20R. (As does AV)  For $99, you get a connector to a three prong.
  • They also sell for $20 adapter to connect to NEMA 14-50P (used in RV parks rated to 50A). Apparently you can modify the NEMA14-50P to work with the NEMA 14-30 if you have some pliers or use this Tesla based guide to figure out all those 240V connectors (there are an incredible number). So basically look at what you have and there should be some way to hook it up
  • There are also adapters for  NEMA 10-30P which the older three prong version of the NEMA 14-30.
  • A direct J-1772 to NEMA 14-30, If you have a 30 amp circuit then and ClipperCreek LCS-30P will get the most charge out for you for $515. It will take out 24 amps from a 30 amp circuit so gives you 24A x 240 V = 5.8Kw chargeThere is also the ClipperCreek LCS-25P available for $500 (I don’t know why so much) and it supports 20 Amps actual charge from a 30 Amp circuit breaker. So this is 240V x 20 = 4.8kW. So a 60kWH battery will take twelve hours to charge. In their world P means that it is portable and doesn’t need to be hardwired.
  • Since there is only a $500 choice of a cable, you can also look at an adapter which goes from a 30 amp NEMA 14-30P to a NEMA 14-50P but if you do this you have to make sure the car doesn’t draw 50Amps when this is for a 30 amp circuit otherwise you trip the breaker or worse!

Sign up for a charging network, get the RFID cards!

Some car companies have partnerships with charging networks. For instance Nissan has six months free for Chargepoint. Basically each network has their own chargers and you there are a variety of plans:

  • Chargepoint. This is sort of an aggregation network. Their underlying chargers are priced by the individual installations. Some are free, like lots of Universities. There is also a complex set of individual promotions, but these are not geographically sorted, but at least we can all get free charging at one Whole Foods in Florida, you spend a lot of time clicking on promos. But basically, you get an application and there is also a card that you get. Some companies like Chevrolet give you an RFID card. You also want to download the mobile application and make sure your credit card is attached to it. Also make sure to map the stations near you. They do tell you want is charging and what is free which is nice. One important thing that you have to have is a ChargePoint RFID card. Free chargers sometimes are not provisioned for visa, etc., so if you try to use Apple Pay, it seems like it works, but then the charge later fails.
  • Blink. This is another network. They are mapped by Chargepoint but have their own scheme. There is yet another card for you to buy. They charge a la cart.
  • AVnetwork runs the West Coast charging network although it’s really Oregon and a little bit of Washington and the great thing is that these are fast DC chargers at 24kW to 60kW. They have single use fee of $10/charge or a monthly  subscription for $20/month to use them, so you have better be running up and down the coast a lot.

Know where the charging stations are. There are relatively few so know where they are and what they take. The ones near universities can be great. Some cars are great like the Leaf of i3 about finding stations, others like the Bolt have no support at all.

DYI Servers

1. Right now the easiest thing to do is to get a NAS box which supports 4-12 bays. I personally use Synology for this, they are reasonably cheap and they keep their linux based system up to date. (You can even run docker containers on it). Idk how much future proofing you do, but right now the sweet spot box is a 4-drive NAS (I have an 8 and a 12). With 8TB drives, these can last a good long time. Since I’m a bit of a geek, I’ve found the 12 is just about perfect because it has a enough space and then you don’t have to constantly rebuild drives. I normally run these in 2 drive fail over mode, but as @vsadovsky has pointed out to me, these days it is easier just to run in RAID10 so that you get one drive worth of failover and instant recovery. Recovery is the bane of these large systems and in fact in recovering a raid drive you can actually cause a read error destroying the array.
2. You can also build your own server if you are a power geek (we have a hand built server in the surround.io office in a 24-disk chassis), this is something you only want in a machine room however.
3. In terms of ripping drives, I’ve mainly focused on Mac tools, but there are quite a few of them. Basically both DVDs and Bluray have been cracked and so you can easily “backup” those formats onto the system.
4. In terms of viewing, you have a few choices. With Android setup boxes, there is a viewer called Kodi which works well and streams off the box. Assuming you have 1GB ethernet, this works fine and a Synology. I run the system in SMB and AFS mode (you can also run it in NFS if you like :slightly_smiling_face:
5. For viewing, there are also viewers for your phone and of course Windows and Mac. Kodi works on all of them, although many times i just use VLC as I don’t need the full browsing experience.
6. Finally, you can also use this whole setup as a DVR. There is a box called HDHomeRun Prime which is a OTA/Cable box that converts those into an MPEG-2 stream over IP. There is a free tool called MythBox that then acts as a personal DVR and this easily allows direct viewing or there is a Kodi plug in and this is the homebrew way to integrate ripped DVD/Blu-Ray with live viewing. We actually don’t use that anymore as the kids have lost interest in cable and we don’t watch sports.

Encoding UHDTV, x.265, 4K aka UHD

Wow now that UltraHD is now a thing and you can buy UHD Blu-ray, how do you think about encoding all of this. Well here are some of the things to know:

  1. X.265 (aka HEVC). This is the latest encoding format. Think of it as life beyond X.264 (aka MPEG-4). It is about twice as efficient so save some disk while you are at it!
  2. Rec. 709 and Rec. 2020. Ok these are terrible names, but refer to the color space (that is how many colors are represented). With the now ancient Blu-ray this wasn’t an issue but now that we are moving to HDR with a wide gamut, you want Rec.709 at least and Rec 2020 is better. Of course,
  3. 10-bit color. Related to the above wider color range, today you mainly get 8-bit color, but with wider gamut, you need more bits, so encoding at 10-bits (what in the old days was called 24 bit RGB vs 30 bit RGB) is a big win.
  4. 4K vs well 4K. Ok, one confusing thing is that are two slightly different widths. 4K can mean a true 4096 pixels across or 3840 or so to match the 1920 across that is HD. A bit of a small detail but good to

Using Windows Keyboard with a Mac

If you like your spiffy new mechanical keyboard but want to use it on a Mac, you need to map the Command key and Option key around because on a Mac, it goes Control, Alt or Option and then Command whereas on a Windows keyboard it is Control, Windows-Key and then Alt.

This is really confusing for muscle memory. The solution is to remap the Modifier keys, you go to System Preferences/keyboard/modifier keys and then select the USB Keyboard and then for Option Key map to Command Key and vice versa. Done!


Google Shared Folders to your desktop

Google Drive has some pretty hard to understand semantics when it comes to sharing folders and files. When a file or folder is shared with you, they are not synced to your desktop, they live in a special place called ‘Shared With Me’

So they do not take any of your disk quota (much better than Dropbox), but they do not sync down with you use the Google Drive client for Mac or Windows. You can edit them to your hearts content. Note that with Google Apps (now called GSuite), you never actually download any data, instead you get a tiny file which points to data in the cloud. This is nice because you can rename the files to your hearts content and Google doesn’t get confused.

In contrast, Microsoft OneDrive does copy the real data down and if you rename things and then sync up, you can get in real trouble. Because it has to figure out what files are actually different.

As an aside with GSuite, the way that offline viewing is done is that the actual data is cached in the Chrome browser and so you never actually manipulate the files, just pointers. That makes it really hard to setup because you have to remember to enable offline for each Chrome and then each document, but it works better when there are multiple copies since only GSuite code manipulates things.

Finally, if you want to make a shared folder act like a regular Google folder that is owned by you you have to do something very special which is to use the web browser right click on the files or folders in Shared with me and select “Add to My Drive” so it now count in your quota and get synced

Annoying things about IMAP and MacOS and iOS

Well somehow things just keeping getting more annoying, but here are the gotchas if you have your own generic IMAP account:

  1. MacOS seems to get confused about the default account. And you get this strange, cannot move message to (null) message. What this means is that you need to go to Mail/Preferences/Accounts and look into your account and then in the Mailbox Behaviors and click on Drafts, Sent and Junk and Trash and select the server side folders typically INBOX/
  2. iOS has the same issue, the defaults are not set, so after you sign on you need to go to the Settings/MailAccounts/ and pick the new IMAP account/Advanced and set all the Mailbox behaviors to use the server side.