Thursday, January 4, 2024

Some Recent Frustrations with Apple iPhone 15

 I just recently upgraded to the iPhone 15 (not the Pro) and had some frustration with the process. The first was the so-called "Quick Start" feature. My previous iPhone was a 12 and it would present the Quick Start Prompt, but the 15 would refused to connect and start the process. The 12 was running iOS 17.2.1 and did have Bluetooth enabled (which I believed is evidenced by the prompt to use Quick Start on the 12), but that was as far as it got. Ultimately, I had to use an iCloud back up to do the update and that worked as expected. So, in the end, I am setup. I will say that the transfer of service (using eSIM) was a perfect experience with AT&T. It was much better that the experience I had updating my Pixel 6 to Pixel 8 on T-Mobile. That was also frustrating (perhaps a blog entry for another time).

Another frustration was using Apple's Support Chat. Evidently, they have "improved" it by enabling some AI features. The Chat could not understand the problem I explained and kept referring to support articles on using iCloud and not helping me with Quick Start. I still don't know if I ever reached real support person, or was just dealing with unhelpful assistance from a 'bot.

One last little frustration was the changes to Face ID. Recently, Apple added "Face ID with a Mask" which seems like a great idea for the current endemic environment humanity is in. They also now added Glasses detection, but it seems to be tied to "Face ID with a Mask" and not generic Face ID.  I am not sure how this different. I added it any way using three scans of my face with and without glasses. It does seem to work, but is a little tedious. I should pointed out that the Glasses detection does not work with Sunglasses (according to the support article) so keep that in mind when using the iPhone in the daytime outdoors. 

Monday, October 23, 2023

Renting, Driving and Riding in a Tesla Model 3

My wife and I had a family event to attend in Maine earlier this year. It was hard to get a direct flight into Maine to make it easy to avoid getting a car, so I planned for us to fly into Boston and rented a Tesla Model 3 from Hertz. Additionally, we decided to use some additional time to visit Cooperstown, NY and visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (something I had on my personal bucket list for years). This blog is about the experience I using a Tesla Model 3 for a week (along with a little bit about the Hertz rental experience).

First, my wife and I have been PHEV owners for 10 years, so we were already used to having to plug in to charge every night and we almost never had to pump gas. It is a great experience to have avoiding the gas station on a regular basis. Everyone (in my opinion) should try it. The savings is also larger than I thought when I started this journey back in 2013, especially because I was living in Northern California at the time where gas prices are much higher than they are in Texas.

I have been a Hertz customer for decades and they have been a good rental company for me. The rental experience for the Tesla was similar is most ways to prior experiences with rentals of gas cars. Some differences include:

  • There is a post rental charge for using Tesla Superchargers. This makes sense. There is no markup from Hertz which is great. I believe I spent less on charing than the gas would have cost me (especially in the north eastern US where gas is more expensive than Texas). Tesla Superchargers were one of the wonderful things about using the Tesla Model 3. More on this later.
  • Hertz does provide pretty good videos on how to  use a Tesla (but I learned later, not quite as good as I would have liked).
  • The communication about how much charge you need in the car when it is returned was a bit muddy. We charge it up to 100% before we returned it (with more than 80%, which I believe was the requirement)  and that worked out for us, but how much we had to returned in the battery was unclear when we got the car. 
As for driving or riding in the Tesla Model 3, there were many things to like about the experience. Even though we rented a standard range and rear wheel drive, we felt there was plenty of torque and never really had any concern about how the car handled in traffic. We had to lean into single petal driving, but that was pretty easy to do. Personally, the car was a bit low to the ground and getting into and out of the car was harder than it is in my Ford Fusion. I used driver profiles (more on this later) to get around this. My wife who is shorter than me didn't have any such problems. Some people report that not having a display in front of the drive for speed and such is annoying, but my wife and I didn't really find it a bother. That is not to say the center display was perfect (more on this later as well).

Things I knew to do once picked up the car:

  • Use the keycard instead of Tesla's app to get into the car and activate locomotion. I should note that since this rental I am reading that this may have changed when renting from Hertz. If this is the case, please add a comment. I will update my impressions the next time I am renting.
  • Apple Car Play is not supported Tesla, so I will have to figure out how to make use of my iPhone with Tesla's infotainment system. More on this later.
  • Set up a driver profile for me and one for my wife (Hertz automatically allows the spouse to be an additional driver when you rent as a Gold member).
  • Use CCS charging stations when Superchargers were not available. I was able to make use of the ChargePoint network effectively in those places where a Supercharger was not available. My wife and I have had good experiences with ChargePoint. Frankly, this was only really a factor in Cooperstown. The availability of Superchargers along I-95 in New England is very good.  The Tesla adapter for using CCS charging stations worked flawlessly (as did the Superchargers without the adapter).

Things I wish I had figured out before we got into the car:

  • How to put the car into park. This is done by pushing in the button on the right stalk after coming to a stop. This is marked, so I have no real excuse here. I just didn't understand that when I first got into the car.
  • How to engage autopilot. This turned out to be more tricky than both of us would have liked, but once it became clear how to do it, we enjoyed the ride. Just be attentive to the color of the small indicator on the upper left corner of the center display or it will be hard to know when it was successfully engaged. 
  • How to use Easy Entry along with driver profiles. Once I figured this out, it made it so much easier to get my 6 foot 1 inch frame into the Tesla Model 3.

Things I really like that a Tesla does:

  • Sentry Mode is great. I wish more cars made better use of their cameras.
  • Having Phone Charging pads for both the driver and the passenger. I believe more cars do this, but I really like this in the Tesla. The only negative is that it was low power in this car. I believe newer Teslas improve on this.
  • Once engaged,  autopilot is very nice. I hope that other modern cars are providing similar features with their driver assistance systems (e.g. Blue Cruise for Ford).

The one thing I wish the Telsa did:

  • Better phone integration, especially with iPhone would be welcome. I was able to get the music on my phone to play via Bluetooth though the Tesla's sound system (which is very good) and I was able to make and receive calls, but something that allows me exchange information between the navigation system and the iPhone mapping apps (Google or Apple Maps) would be useful. Perhaps this a feature if you use the Tesla app. I don't know. Also, I wanted to listen to some MLB games using the MLB app, but I didn't have any luck with that. That may have been my fault, but this is easy to do in Apple Car Play. 
In summary, it was a good choice for this trip. We'll will use an electric car again the next time we rent. It will likely be another Tesla Model 3. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Cutting The Cord with Xfinity

I have finally cut the cord with Xfinity after more that 15 years as a customer first of the Comcast Cable TV service when they swapped markets (DFW/Houston) with Time Warner Cable in 2007, adding Internet and then cutting Cable TV and finally dropping the Internet service all together.  I also used them in both Atlanta and Mountain View when I spent time living there. As with many subscribers, the cable TV service was bundled in such a way that there were many channels my wife and I never watched. And, it cost a lot.  The Internet service also cost a lot until other options became available (fiber providers like Google Fiber and others cost much less per Megabit). Today, they are faced with challenges from wireless providers like T-Mobile, Verizon and even  AT&T. I use T-Mobile 5G Home Internet today. More on how I use it will come in another blog post. Ultimately, Xfinity deployed more speed and improved support for customers owning their own equipment (as I do) and was an early supporter of IPv6 for dual stack support at home. However, my main problem with the Xfinity Internet service was how geolocation failed to work properly when I watched MLB.TV. I realize that geolocation is a thorny problem, but I know that other services I tested  (T-Mobile and Verizon are two) have the same problem that I could not get reliably solved when using Xfinity. You can look geolocation problems up in the Xfinity community forums or do a Google search if you want to know more. I am happy to try them again the future once it is clear these problems have been fixed for good. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

My First Experience with Matter

 I configured my first Matter-compatible devices today. Matter is the new smart home standard that fosters local control and interoperability, both of which are important features. In my case, I wanted to create a smart plug strip using smart plugs and traditional plug strip (I would have used a smart plug strip, but a Matter compatible one that works in my home did not appear to be available yet). I chose to use TP-Link as they offered a couple of very similar options (one from the Tapo line and the other from the Kasa line). These may be the same product, but in my case, Tapo did not work for me, but Kasa did. More on this a bit later.

Some notes about my smart home:  I use a couple of ecosystems. My first choice is to use Google Home mostly because I worked for Google for 11 years and did a lot of dogfooding while I was an employee (dogfooding is the Googler term for internal beta testing, a common practice at Google) and am quite familiar with Google Home. I also have a Hubitat C-8 which drives several automations on which I use Zigbee and Z-Wave sensors. This is mostly to capture motion and contact sensor data which I use to drive background automations that Google Home does not handle. I do want to unify these two more and I am eventually hoping to use Matter as that unifying mechanism, but it is still early days for Matter (as I said earlier, I am just setting up my first set of device in matter today), so that journey is just starting.

My first attempt was the Tapo Matter Smart Plug - Tapo P125M. These came in a 3-Pack which matched my initial use case. However, I could only get one to setup on Matter. The other two just hung up. I could configure them via the Tapo App (at least on iOS), but that was not going to work for me. Fortunately, as a Amazon Prime member, returns are easy and I moved on to my next attempt. 

My second (and the one that almost worked) was the Kasa Matter Smart Plug w/ Energy Monitoring - KP125M Smart Plug. I needed at least three, so I bought two boxes. 

Setting them up using the Google Home app on iOS  (I was using version 3.2.104) was very easy. While you would think the Android version is better, that has not been my experience. First, plug in the smart plug to a power outlet. Next, push the button the side of the plug and hold for 10 seconds to get it into setup mode. Now, use the same approach you would normally use when adding any New Device in the Google Home App (using the + Add button in the lower right hand corner of the Devices page and on the next page, select New Device at the top of this page.)  Next, select the Home into which you are installing this new plug and wait for the Google Home App to search for the device. In some cases  (like this one), the Google Home App will discover the plug and ask if you want to install it.

This seemed to all work as advertised and so I have deployed it in my smart home. I know I will come back to this as things evolve, so watch this space for more  adventures!


I am adding this epilogue to withdraw my recommendation for the Kasa plugs. They also stopped working after a while. Thanks to this video from Eric Welander I know why. There is a firmware problem that caused connectivity to 2.4 Ghz WiFi to flake out after some time. He was not clear if this could be addressed with an over-the-air update or not. It appears this affects both the Tapo and Kasa Smart Plugs (both made by TP-Link), so until I know this has been addressed, I will look elsewhere. Eric recommends the Eve Energy Smart Plugs (model 20EBU4101), but they are much more expensive. I can't recommend them as I have not tried them yet. I will post on the blog when/if I do.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

A Smattering of Things as I Learn More about Smart Homes

 I have been dabbling in updating parts of my home to use "Smart Home" Technologies. Somethings have been straightforward and others have been more difficult.  Some basics first:

  1. Since I worked for Google, I am using Google Home and its ecosystem when it works well enough that my wife does not get frustrated using it.
  2. For things that don't directly work in the Google ecosystem, I will investigate things to see if there are ways to link them up that work reliably (It needs to avoid frustrating my wife).
  3. I am not trying to do everything at once, but I will try to replace subsystems with the same solution.
Using these rules, I first started with deploying Google Nest speakers in most rooms so I would be able to engage the Google Assistant without using my phone. I put Nest Hub Max displays in the kitchen. the owner's (my wife and my) bedroom, and in my wife's sewing room. I use Nest Hub displays in the two guest bedrooms and the dining room. I use some Nest Audio speakers in the Den and Library and a Nest Mini in the Powder Room. I am using a paired set of Google Home Max Speakers in my office.  I also putting a Nest Mini in the owner's bathroom. That should provide good coverage for the assistant to work throughout my home.

The Chromecast with Google TV devices were just coming out when I started this work, so I have added them to the TVs that don't have Google TV built into them (which is only the TV in the Den at this point). I have configured them to work as the display in the Den (where there is only a Nest Audio speaker) and as the TV in the other rooms (where there is also a Nest display device). This allows the TV to be controlled by the Google Assistant using your voice. I am careful to call the TV a TV and the display a display so you can distinguish between the two when using them to do things like show a YouTube video. My wife likes the Google TV's white remote as it allows here to turn the TV off and on as well as control the volume. I just need to remember to leave the TV setup so she can control it. I sometimes forget ;-). For those of you that are wanting to work with Google Assistant, the Chromecast with Google TV devices work pretty well, but it has gotten a lot easier to integrate a lot of boxes with TVs. I have had good experiences with Roku and Apple TV devices as well. I can't say that about Fire TV even though they run the same basic OS as Google TV. I have not dug into that deeply. 

I also replaced all the thermostats with the Google Nest Learning Thermostat (version 3). The only concern I have had there was dealing with some issues related to four wire controls (versus five wire). I have generally been happy with these thermostats. 

I replaced all the smoke detectors with Google Protect smoke detectors. I do like them, but I am concerned that the roadmap for these devices is not very clear at this point. I am hopeful that there will be some news as the work with ADT (the alarm monitoring provider) matures. 

I also use the Nest x Yale door locks on the external doors to my home. They work great. But, I do have some of the same concerns I have with the Nest Protects I described in the previous paragraph.

I also replaced all the bulbs in my home with LED bulbs and use that opportunity to replace all the wall switches with smart switches from Leviton. I looked at several different offering here and when with Leviton because they work with the Google Assistant. I have switches, dimmers and ceiling fans all under control now. I can use Google Assistant to turn them on and off and even group them togethers by room (e.g. "Turn all the den lights on"). I can do the same thing with the ceiling fans. It is pretty cool.

I also have several Nest Cameras to keep an eye on the garage, the backyard, the front and one side of the house where there is a door into my backyard (there is no windows on the other side and the only access there is into my neighbor's backyard)  I also installed a Nest Doorbell that when a visitor uses it, will chime throughout the house. It is also pretty cool.

I think I will stop at this point, but there is more I will add in a future posting as I have more I have done.

Monday, June 7, 2021

A Note about Typography

I use specific typography to indicate specific special meaning for certain words, phrases and strings. Hopefully, this will help make things clearer when I write about various things on this site.

Italic is used for:

  • Email Addresses
  • Uniform Resources Locators (URLs)
  • Program Names
  • Protocol Commands
  • Filename and directory pathnames

Constant width is used for:

  • Computer output in examples and text
  • Source code examples

Constant width bold is used for:

  • Program invocation commands (e.g. what you would type at a command prompt)

Bold is used for:

  • indicating a system login

Bold Italic is used for:

  • indicating an application specific login

Note that I vary from this when the topic of a particular post is not technical and none of these conventions are useful.

Welcome to My Blog

 This post was adapted from my 2011 Site. I have updated to 2021. Enjoy.

About me:

Professionally, I have been involved in working with Internet-based technologies since I started my first job in the profession as a Computer Systems Administrator back in 1984. So, I have been involved in the evolution what people think of as The Internet today from the ARPANET and its siblings (e.g. CSNET, BITNET, etc.) into the NSFNET and then into the commercial Internet we have today. I have worked as a consultant as well as a regular employee in a large multinational companies (NTT,Alphabet[Google and Google Fiber]), smaller domestic companies (The Planet, Verio) and non-profits (Baylor College of Medicine, Rice University).

I have worked on migrations and consolidation of POPs, establishing interconnect facilities for telcos in data centers, integration of mail systems, DNS and USENET news, deployment of different authentication architectures (RADIUS, TACACS, LDAP and Active Directory along with token-based systems), PCI DSS compliance, establishing SAS 70 controls (Type I) and testing of operational effectiveness (Type II) and more traditional IT-oriented activities (helpdesk operations, change management, nightly batch job management, etc.). I have done resource planning for both networks and data centers. I have also become an advocate for the use of IPv6 in the Internet (see for more). I have it deployed on my home network and use IPv6 every day.

Thanks for visiting and come back often!

Some Recent Frustrations with Apple iPhone 15

 I just recently upgraded to the iPhone 15 (not the Pro) and had some frustration with the process. The first was the so-called " Quick...