Categories
recommendations Uncategorized

upptime – this is awesome

upptime
— Read on simonwillison.net/2022/May/26/upptime/

Setup one for me – check it out at https://GitHub.com/phubbard/upptime

Categories
Random recommendations

Matt’s Off Road Recovery

When the Olympics come around, I’ll often watch sports I am 100% ignorant of, just to see the best in the world doing their thing. It’s the competence at work, the striving, that I find compelling.

Like the Olympics, where NBC will strive to deliver narratives about athletes and their paths, good video or books can take you into another life/job/existence. It allows us, the reader/viewer, to visualize another existence; you even see it in museum dioramas and I think it’s a deep human trait.

Since discovering the Vinegar extension for Safari, I’ve found it a lot easier to browse YouTube. I uninstalled the YouTube app, and now solely use Safari on both iPad and desktop; this app is so good. Anyway, that’s what led me to today’s topic, Matt’s Off Road Recovery.

MORR, as I’ll call it here, is a YouTube channel started in 2019. It’s a family business in Hurricane, Utah, that does off-road towing, primarily for vehicles that get stuck in Sand Hollow State Park. Sounds boring? It’s not. Let me explain.

First off, the people are outstandingly competent. Owner Matt, son Rudy and Lizzy, are damned good at the work they do. Sand, snow, crazy steep rock, snow, trailers – oh my god they can back a trailer on a mountainside that looks like Everest – clever use of winches, pulleys and rigging, combining vehicle vectors… it’s a visual feast of ad-hoc problem solving to revel in. And that’s before you detour into the build videos and related channels doing advanced vehicle work.

There’s a host of supporting characters to recognize and enjoy, and the creators have done solid, careful work in establishing recurring patterns & motifs as well as investing in cameras, drones and lights to make the contents better. Like the canonical genius Clickspring, MORR is good at both videos and the work they do.

Lastly, they clearly have gone to a lot of trouble to remain apolitical and kind. In the work they do, often towing people who made bad decisions, lacked skills or inadequate vehicles, it would be simple to mock the customers but they never do. In 2022, when our national media is mainly afire with hate and status games, this is a wonderful thing to find.

I have no interest whatsoever in becoming an off-road recovery person. At the same time, I greatly enjoy watching them do so, and maybe you will too. Hit shuffle on his recovery playlist and be taken to another life.

On a purely personal note, my family owned two Corvair convertibles, so it was amazing to me to watch them create a monster off-road towing rig out of a Corvair wagon. Mad props.

And yeah, I am tempted to buy some swag.

Categories
recommendations

Gaming hardware – google Stadia on sale

I’m much more in the buy-nothing camp than the Black Friday camp, so I debated posting this. Allow me to explain – like many, I gamed in school, with my office mate and friend introducing me to the fun of network games, particularly FPS such as Quake and variants. For years, the combination of parenting and terrible Mac support has deterred me, but recently I found this Dappered gift guide post in my RSS feed.

I used to be much more of a gamer. I truly enjoy it. And before I bought this for myself, I just hadn’t found as many windows to get back to gaming since becoming a dad. It happens. But the Stadia solves every issue I had with that “time” factor. It’s cloud-based, so my games are ready to go when I turn on my controller, which instantly connects to my TV via the included Chromecast Ultra. I can also play on any computer (pictured above) or on my phone. I’ve been able to fit in dozens upon dozens of hours of gaming because of the take-it-anywhere-ness of Stadia. There are no files to download, no waiting for the console to update after leaving it dormant for a few months, no more does that precious hour window get whittled down to 20 minutes. With Stadia, I pick up the controller and I’m playing in less than a minute. Take that, impossible-to-find PS5!

https://dappered.com/2021/11/the-dappered-gift-guide-for-the-dappered-dad-2021-edition/

That sounds appealing, and $80 bucks isn’t bad. However, right now Google is selling them for $22!

Twenty two bucks! Damn, that’s cheap.

Oddly, extra controllers are $60, so I just ordered two Stadias. I hope to be able to play against a kid or friend.

It could well be that Google will discontinue Stadia, they have a long history of axing projects so there is that risk. Still, for this price I thought it worth sharing and a reasonable risk. Can’t wait to try some games again!

Categories
Food Random recommendations

Pistachios and cashews are gangster

Imagine yourself a sea captain, sailing from port to port with cargos of food. Which ones are a risk?

So a cargo of pistachios seems harmless, doesn’t it? It’s totally not – they can suffocate you, set themselves on fire in two different ways and might, for bonus hazard points, explode.

Cashews? They’re covered in toxic irritant irushiol, which has to be burned off before they’re safe for consumption. That’s why you’ll never see cashews in-shell.

I learned both of these and more at the latest issue of The Whippet, which I recommend to you. S/he finds interesting stuff.

Categories
recommendations

PSA: Don’t buy Synology with Atom CPUs

Expensive mistake that their site encourages: only the models (typically the ‘plus’ ones) with Intel CPUs can run Docker and the much-improved btrfs. My DS1817, despite having 10gigabit Ethernet and eight drive slots, cannot and that’s an expensive and frustrating mistake.

Their site ellides this when shopping so, caveat emptor, and save yourself money.

Categories
recommendations Uncategorized

Internet speed tests

So you’re online and you wonder how your network is doing. How do you measure it? I’m here for you.

  • (Updated 11/2021) Ubiquiti’s oddly named http://wifiman.com is my new standby – cleanest UI, most consistent at measuring up to gigabit.
  • Fast.com is my go-to for quick checks. It measures using only Netflix connections so bypasses some ISP fuckery with DPI and slowdowns. Elegant UI.
  • Speed.cloudflare.com is excellent. Detailed and capable of saturating my 1 gigabit downlink. Lots of details.
  • Testmy.net is decent but uglier.
  • Speedtest.net is ad laden.
  • Sourceforge.net/speedtest is ok and used to be my favorite. Lots of ads now.

As explained in my series of gigabit posts, making a fast, reliable network takes time and effort, and these sites don’t magically make it happen. However, having a way to measure your changes is super helpful, and I probably use these weekly.

I got an email 11/28/2021 – if you’re having WiFi speed issues, sometimes you need to change the frequency or band used by your access point/router, and Bill Hess wrote this nice how-to here, for both Mac and Windows.

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EVlife recommendations Uncategorized

First ebike ride

My neighbor is in our COVID-19 pod and kindly let me try out his Specialized Turbo Vado. It’s his commute bike.

I just finished a 16.4 mile ride with 1,300 feet of vertical and I feel great. This would have left me mostly dead if not for the motor.

I’ve been wanting the Luna bikes Enduro X-1, mostly based on this review as well as this one by a man who’s nearly my height at 6’9”. Sold out now but I am feeling the want. It’s magical to blast up hills again. At 3 to 5 thousand for a nice one, they’re expensive but as I said, I’m a convert.

Categories
recommendations

Inexpensive indoor air quality monitor

These are $38 on Banggood. It measures temperature, humidity and airborne particulates. Laser light scattering technique, the same as in my more expensive Purple Air I wrote about previously. These are display only, two screens, no connectivity but perhaps that’s all you need for something you place on a shelf.

Thanks to my friend Roger for finding these. I bought two and loaned one to our neighbor who promptly used it to check in vs out and verified his AC filters.

Anyway, it’s well made and cheap, so if you want one I say get it.

https://m.banggood.com/PM1_0-PM2_5-PM10-Detector-Module-Air-Quality-Dust-Sensor-Tester-with-2_8-Inch-LCD-Display-for-Monitoring-Home-Office-Car-Tools-p-1588436.html

Categories
recommendations

New cable modem

Maybe it was getting old, or maybe the much-increased traffic from pandemic WFH caused problems, but for whatever reason our Spectrum-provided cable modem has been a problem. I’ve had to power cycle it a few times to clear slowdowns. Symptoms – speed tests dropped down to under 10 megabits, and on reboot would rebound to over 200. (We’re paying for 400/25 and seem to be provisioned for faster.)

Having seen similar problems before, I first narrowed the suspects down by power cycling the (apple) access point and (Mikrotic) backbone switch and (ER-4) router; none sufficed but a modem cycle did. I found the Spectrum supported modems page, did some research and bought the Netgear CM1000v2 direct from the manufacturer and installed it today.

Install was painless. I called Spectrum’s activation line (877-309-5869) and waited for a callback. The tech took the MAC address, waited patiently for the power, sent down an activation packet and waited for reboot and DHCP to the router. Easiest install I’ve ever had with any ISP!

Now things are back at line speed and I’m a lot happier. I’m spending hours a day on Zoom and BlueJeans and now Google Meet, so fast and reliable internet is rapidly becoming essential.

fast.com is a great test
Admin interface is basic

The CM1000v2 isn’t their fastest – they have ones that can gang 2 or 4 gigabit ports together. I decided not to bother, as 1G is the max available locally and going faster than that would cascade to needing a new router and possibly multipoint wireless. I’ll wait.

New gear

I considered the other supported modems, but the Arris ones ran hot and some had the problematic Intel Puma chipset; hard pass. Do your research if you’re thinking of buying an Arris SB8200 Rev 4 or Arris SBG8300.

Categories
Covid-19 recommendations

1080p webcam for Zoom for $40

Fact 1:In the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re all on Zoom et al quite a lot.

Fact 2: Apple webcams are 720p resolution and quite low quality.

Fact 3: Nerds want to be helpful.

Consequence one: Good webcams are sold out universally.

Consequence two: The people behind the cheap and awesome WiFi webcam brand Wyze have written custom firmware to convert a wireless security camera into a very decent USB 1080p webcam. And it’s free.

Hardware requirements

  1. Wyze webcam v2 – vendor, or Amazon. $26 bucks as of today.
  2. 8GB or so micro SD card. You might have one around if you use Raspberry Pi. I bought this two-pack of overkill 32GB cards, since that’s a useful size for Pi project. $14.
  3. USB3 A to A cable. These are unusual and I had to order one. I bought a two pack so I can have a spare. $12, and cheaper versions exist. Note that your computer needs to have a USB3 port with an A plug – I’m using the one on my LG monitor.

Flash the firmware

Instructions are here on their site – TL;DR is to unzip the download and copy demo.bin into the root directory. Power up holding reset for five seconds. Pretty do-able even for the less technical.

Results

There are two Wyze cameras, basic or a $35 pan/tilt/zoom. I already had two of each, because at $20 to $35 each, they’re in my hobby budget and have been delighted with ’em. I chose the base camera as I see no use for PTZ.

Here’s the built-in webcam from my MacBook. It’s the 2018 15″ model, my work computer.

Now here’s the Wyze:

Color is a bit off, but resolution is a huge amount better. it’s also wide-angle, with strong curvature at the edges.

I was just in time for a Zoom birthday party.

Why yes, my family does look sharper than everyone else. And wide angle was perfect for this use. Sometimes you get lucky. You can kinda see my low-rent mounting:

I’ll leave it that way for now, as it makes it quick to move around and try other lighting.

Overall – recommended. Pretty cheap, the parts are versatile, and when this ends you just re-flash the camera to get back to a nice smart camera/IoT device.