Getting my Jeep lifted…finally!

Ordered all my lift stuff in Jan, and by the time it all came in, COVID19 became a thing. Well, this would have been done sooner if FedEx didn’t drop the ball on two of my Extreme Terrain parts.

Apparently if you punch in my address in Apple Maps, it’ll take you 3+ miles away to some other spot, whereas Google Maps takes you to the right place. So the FedEx driver dropped off $500 worth of lift parts at the wrong place, and it took Extreme Sports and FedEx over a month to duke it out.

Investigation, and eventual conclusion, and FedEx issued a credit to Extreme Terrain for the lost parts. I waited for all that to pan out, then I ended up buying the parts from Rough Country, since Extreme Terrain could only use FedEx. I call BS, but whatever. I have all the parts I need now.

Anyhoo…fast forward to today, and I get a call from Dan at Jeff Daniels Jeeps, asking if I’d like to bring in my Jeep to get the lift installed. I had to mute my phone, I was screaming, so excited! Sent them the list of parts, so we can go over the scope of the work and cost. We agreed I’d drop off my Jeep at 0630 on Monday (you read that right, I think they’re vampires) so they could get started. Two days later I’ll go back to pick it up.

They’re loaning me one of their spare vehicles so I can get back home, since they’re 40 miles away. Why 40 miles away? Well, when you want something done right, you go to the professionals. I heard of them when I moved to PA, always figured I’d go to them to get the lift kit installed.

So everyone be warned. After next week, I will no longer be referred to as a “Mall Crawler”, since I will have enough clearance to visit Rausch Creek for some serious rock crawling! How serious? Well, the pebbles at Wallmart are bout 1/4-3/8″ in diameter, which the stock 31″ tires could handle easily. I’m hoping Rausch Creek has a trail with at least 6-8″ rocks.

I have the low end Jeep model, but once the lift is installed, I’ll be as capable as the higher end Rubicon. The only thing that I forgot to include is detachable sway bar clips. Once I get that mod done, I’ll be able to disconnect off road and get that extreme axle flex to get over some of the bigger rocks. 🙂

So as I graduate from Mall Crawler to Rock Crawler, I’ll be making an untold number of mods to increase capability. I just have to be careful not to make the Jeep unbearable on highways.

Wait, highways…that’s what the Harley-Davidson is for! 😀

BestBuy? Not really

Now that I upgraded to a newer MacBook Pro that has USB-C ports (only), I came to the realization that my many super fast USB3.1 thumb drives are now old technology. I need to get rid of them before someone finds out I’m behind the curve on thumb drives.

Since I bought a CalDigit dock, with all of the high speed ports it has, I knew transferring the data from the old thumb drives to the new ones would be fast and easy. Now I just need to decide what USB-C thumb drives to buy.

I went with 64GB Sandisk Ultra Dual Drive USB Type-C thumb drives, which are rated at 120MB/s, to match the size of the old thumb drives. They came in two days after I ordered them from BestBuy.

When I unpacked the envelope, I noticed two of the four new thumb drives had a sticker covering up the “Made In China” stamp. The lables were the kind you couldn’t remove. Wow, someone went through the trouble to do this, when it really doesn’t matter.

How annoying. Trivial? Yes. But annoying. I hate liars. I really do.

Transfer speed from the old thumb drives to the new thumb drives averaged close to the rated 120MB/s per second. The old thumb drives were rated at 180MB/s. Not bad really.

If I had to do this again, I probably would have bought a couple more SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD. But the reason for picking the new thumb drives was because its what we use at work. This helps set expectation performance wise.

Hmm…wait…did I forget to wipe these things down before I opened them? I must be losing my mind with all this quarantine crap. Finding trivial stuff to write about. Maybe I should get out more. Maybe I should be more like Jack Black…

Home Office Redux

Logitech MX Master 3…’nough said. After spending the last few evenings writing blogs and working on some scripts, I realize the Kensington SlimBlade Trackball bottom left button stopped working. Its three years old, so out of warranty. I tried operating on it to avoid spending money, but no luck. I’m heading to BestBuy to pick up a Logitech MX Master 3 and an DisplayPort cable now that I have a Dock that supports it.

I really wanted a track ball, but Kensingon’s quality control has slipped in recent years. While I gave their SlimBlade a shot, and tolerated it for a few years, it never felt right. The buttons were horrible, not verry tactile, and each click like I was clicking twice. I’ve officially stopped using that brand, since clearly their focus on profit has derailed their hard earned reputation. Bye Kensington.

I’ve used Logictech mice in the past, and they’ve always worked flawlessly. I never tried any of their high end mice, since I was using Kensginton almost exclusively. I’m not a fan of trackball-like mice that have the ball off to the side. What’s the sense of a trackball if you can’t flick the ball and have it fly across the screen, or flick to have the page scroll really fast.

I remember reading about the Master 2 update not being much of a big deal over the original. That said, you’ll find a bunch of really detailed Master 3 reviews on YouTube that made the decision easy for me. Lots of glowing articles out there too.

Aside from the obvious ergonomic shape, the ability to switch between computers over Wi-Fi; quiet buttons and a completely silent scroll wheel (when you disable the clicks); a USB-C port that’ll give you 3 hours of use after a 1 minutes charge. #QuickChargeFTW

Feels wierd typing this all on my laptop keyboard and trackpad. I’m not a bus, dammit. Ergonomics matter to me. Doesn’t make much sense using my DasKeyboard if I need to use the laptop trackpad. Oh well, off to BestBuy to pick up the mouse, and to get some fresh air, which is a commodoty today.

Having spent 4+ years struggling with my Samsung 4K monitor resolution, switching to a proper DisplayPort cable (from an HDMI cable) put an end to that nonsense. I’m finally getting crystal clear high resolution and refresh speed. I should have known better.

UPDATE: I found an article covering my most favoritest feature of all. Logitech’s new scroll wheel design is IMHO one of the biggest advances in mouse design in like forever:

Logitech’s MX Master 3 scroll wheel is focused hardware at its best

[UPDATE] If your computer is encrypted, your wireless devices won’t work at the FileVault 2 preboot screen. So you’ll need to use your laptop’s keyboard and trackpad to get to the macOS Login Window. Or if you have a desktop computer, a wired mouse and keyboard. Logitech provides a USB-A receiver, which is pretty useless when your MacBook Pro only has USB-C ports.


Teams: Love/Hate Relationship

With so many folks under shelter in place mandate, working from home is a wake up call to today’s business world. Where most of us who manage large numbers of computers in enterprise environments, the ability to work remotely has been a must in our position.

Whether the user has a teleworker gateway or connects over VPN, the user needs to be able to work on files, email, and of course conference calls. As stressful as the past few weeks has been, seeing your teammates on a Teams call instills a sense of calm. At least until you’re asked for the status of a task/project you’re working on…that’s a subject for another blog. 🙂

So yea, I’m connected at home, and Teams is working, and audio is mostly OK, but geez some folks sound like Max Headroom. In most cases the person with lousy audio is shoehorning all internet traffic over a single network, and running Teams through a VPN connection. Say. Bye. To. Quality.

So how do I address these issues? I have a dual-band router that provides a 2.4 GHz network and a 5 GHz network, and I use DD-WRT to manage traffic.

I connect my work and personal Macs to my 2.4 GHz network, since there’s plenty of bandwidth to get work done during work day hours, and I can Facebook/surf/study during the evenings and weekends.

I connect my iOS devices (iPhone and iPad) and my AppleTV to my 5 GHz network, which I tuned to prioritize VoIP. This way I can join Team meetings on my iOS device and benefit from excellent sound quality with minimal latency.

How good is it? I ran some tests with colleagues and family. Teams audio has minimal latency and compression…same for Facetime audio/video calls. To test I simply started some Teams calls using my work computer (2.4 GHz, no VoIP priority, and on VPN) and it was pure crap.

The switch to my iPhone and audio and camera is now very high quality. I still run Teams on my work computer for viewing when folks are sharing their screen.

Prioritizing VoIP on one network using a dual-band router is one reason there’s such a big difference. The second reason is iOS doesn’t have to go through VPN or a teleworker gateway.

I betcha that detail opened some eyes. Hope this helps you remote workers. Oh, and I don’t hate Teams anymore. 🙂

RIP old Mac, hello new Mac

Funny how you get used to an old computer, never thinking of replacing it since, well, it works. Years go by, tons of work, Facebook posts, etc. Then one day….BOOM! #RIP #logicBoard

So last night I had to scramble to get a replacement laptop to finish some work. I knew I’d have to buy something with 1TB of space, and that it would take hours to transfer the data. Especially when the ports on the old computer don’t match up with the ports on new computers.

Apple had some referbished MacBook Pro laptops, but they’re expensive, even though they’re referbished. I needed a 15 or 16″ laptop, with a dedicated GPU (since I run two 4K monitors at home), 16GB RAM, and 1TB SSD.

The closest thing Apple’s referb site had was a MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2017), with 16GB, 1TB, but no dedicated GPU…for a whopping $2,000. Took a peek at their 13″ refurbished offerings but quickly moved on because, well, GPU.

I surfed over to Craigslist, didn’t see anything close to what I wanted. Then someone told me about Facebook’s Marketplace. Hmm…never looked at that part of Facebook. Glad I took the time!

I found the exact MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2017) I was looking for, and it with had a 3.1GHz processor and the battery charge cycle count was 10! The guy wanted $1,400 and was 30 minutes away. Got there quickly, confirmed the seller was legit, and got home 30 min later.

Ok now for the data transfer. I’m a huge fan of Apple’s Migration Assistant for home use. I wish Apple would make it enterprise worthy, but not holding my breath, they haven’t taken our request seriously. No money in it I guess.

I have a dual band router at home, running a 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz networks. I have the 5 GHz network set to give VoIP highest priority, and the 2.4 GHz network is left at it’s default settings. I connect my iOS devices to the 5 GHz network so I can have the best audio/video possible for Facetime (family) and Teams (work).

I connect my personal and work computers to the 2.4 GHz where I left the router defaults, and I’m able to get excellent performance.

Compared to trying to do Teams calls over a single band router, through a VPN connection…well, that’s just crazy. If you don’t have a dual band router, get one. Oh, wait, the stores are closed….oh well…


Getting back to the new laptop, I started the Migration Assistant transfer over the 2.4 GHz network, the estimated transfer time was 8 hours plus. Well, its 1AM and I start work at 9AM so that’s not going to work.

I ended up putting both computers on the 5 GHz network and starting Migration Assistant again. This time I got a 3 hours plus estimate. Sounds right, and I confirmed when I woke up at 5AM and found the transfer finished already.

Oh well, I’m a happy camper. I’ll pull the 1TB SSD off the old computer and put it in an enclosure so I can rsync the new laptop’s SSD to it a couple times a day. Yes, SSD drives fail too. Even though last night’s failure was the logic board.