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Michael Gracie

Improving your iPhone’s indoor reception with Wi-Fi calling and some basic network trickery

No shot against AT&T here, but the reception in my home office sucks. It’s probably just the combination of zombie-proof glass, the custom kevlar/copper mesh in the walls, and the tin foil hat I wear, but I called the carrier about it anyway. They suggested I buy one of those mini cell site jobs for ninety bucks. Instead I spent several times that amount for a new phone because I heard it was capable of Wi-Fi calling i.e. using my internet connection to make and receive calls. Sure enough it seemed it was …

phonescreenshot1x

Unfortunately, even after upgrading the network I still experienced warbled voices and dropped calls, meaning pineapple and broccoli pizza showing up at my neighbor’s door. Very bad.

However, all was not lost. With a little network trickery – mostly tinkering with IP addressing and port forwarding – I was able to get consistent Wi-Fi calling. Crystal clear with near zero drops, and my favorite Chinese takeout joint is again accepting my orders. Very good.

Note that the instruction that follow were done using a plain vanilla iPhone 6s and an Airport Extreme, but that doesn’t mean the general premise won’t work with a Samsung Galaxy and old Linksys gear. All is being provided in as layman-esque terms as possible for this reason; technical types providing commentary such as “you didn’t define NAT correctly” will be punished via intentional disregard. Further, everything that follows assumes you have Wi-Fi calling activated. If not, read the instructions here for getting it running.

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Completed Winter Reading List (inclusive of LSD substitutes)

Winter is supposed to be the time when you relax on the couch, well-tended fire and warming cocktail close by, and spiral into a state of severe depression over your “friends” social media posts read a good book. The absolute value of literary consumption has dwindled yet again, but only because the chimney sweep flew south last December …

The Big Short: Inside The Doomsday MachineMichael Lewis (link)

So the movie just came out (and I already knew the story), but the book is classic Lewis; a thorough – and gripping – tale of monkey business.

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show BusinessNeil Postman (link)

The conceptual transition between the written word and television repeats itself; this time it’s zombies staring at little blue screens instead of big black and white ones.

Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandLewis Carroll (link)

Cannot believe I’d never read this before; like The Bible, a source of many otherwise inexplicable pop-culture references is finally uncovered.

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human ValuesSam Harris (link)

“Faith” is the exchange of critical thinking skills (and money) for someone leading you into a pasture; there a creature (of likely sharper intellect) keeps the flock in check while it in turn baas out ways to treat those outside the ring with patronization and/or passive-aggressive disdain; Harris continues proposing alternatives to this malinvestment.

MG signing off (because Spring draws near, or at least Daylight Savings Time does)

Upgrade your network for a quick return on investment

Here is was my network …

routercombo-old

There are many like it but this one is was mine.

At the time this network was in service, the following applied:

  • The monthly service cost was $92.95 excluding tax
  • The bandwidth allocation to the modem was 150Mb per second
  • The throughput directly from the modem was ~99Mbps (with a 10/100 USB adapter, the only one around)
  • The throughput to the laptop sitting 25 feet away ranged from 35Mb to 55Mb per second

In other words, I was paying a pretty penny for bandwidth I wasn’t taking advantage of, using outdated equipment. Some of which I had to pay rent on too.

Here is my new network …

routercombo-new

There are probably a few like it, but I recommend there be more.

It went into service at the following cost:

  • Arris SB6141 Modem – $69.95, with neither tax nor shipping cost
  • Airport Extreme – $139.32 to the front door

The Airport Extreme was added first, and throughput to the same laptop in the same location jumped to roughly 140Mb/second. Then the modem was brought up (with four additional download channels from the previous) but speed didn’t budge. Still, I was now utilizing most all the bandwidth I was paying for.

The next morning I returned the old (rented) modem. Afterward, thinking I didn’t really need 150 megabits – I had been getting along kinda so-so fine with the old 45Mbps (average) – I called my provider to downgrade service. I guessed that 50-75 megs would probably do. Unfortunately, that tier was no longer available, but they did offer a plan at a flat $69.99 that supposedly gave me the same one-fifty I was paying for before, and without a long-term commitment. I said go for it, and here is the result …

networkspeedtest

Excluding any purchase points (which I did use, to the tune of $57.24) or resale value of old equipment (estimated at $50), the investment was $209.27. Sans tax, my service now costs $22.96 less than before; that’s a payback period of just over nine months. Take into account points and equipment resale and it drops to under five. Not bad, and for ~148Mbps of additional, usable speed.

MG signing off (having not so much a need for speed as enjoying the return)

Editor’s notes: 1) results may vary, but these results were mine; 2) investment doesn’t include the hour fifteen I spent on the phone configuring new modems and adjusting plans

A Practical Guide To Getting Started With Bitcoin

Bitcoin is like cold fusion: It’s had a difficult childhood. Those few in the field are orphans, bastards at best.1

I’ve often wondered if Bitcoin would shed its thick glasses and step out into the real world, but until recently I had neither the time nor inclination to find out. However, I follow the commodities markets quite closely, and recently came across mention of it in an ETF manager’s research report. That prompted me to ask around, and what I heard back intrigued me, in an anti-groupthink sort of way.

Bitcoin will never be good for anything except buying drugs; It’s bullshit technology … smartphone games and hookup apps are where it’s at; Bitcoin can’t be used for marketing so why would I want to mess with it?

Shot down, over and over again. But it was the steadfast, verbatim answer to one question that got me thinking:

YOURS TRULY: Do you have any Bitcoin? Do you know how to get any?

EVERYONE: No. And No.

Maybe nothing had changed, and Bitcoin was still an artifice lurking on basement computers and circulating the “dark web”. However, seeing as nobody I talked to had any Bitcoin, mentioned they’d tried to acquire any Bitcoin, or seemed interested in doing so, I surmised this might just be a case of bad press, combined with the inexplicable desire of the self-professed psuedo-technorati to leverage their free time posting geo-tagged photos of their lunch plates.

Hence, I invested some otherwise scarce time to test my contrarian theory.

What follows is the quasi-organized regurgitation of an endeavor seeking out the simplest, most practical way, if any, for the layman to dip their toes in the Bitcoin waters. Cold water too, so those following wouldn’t get burned. It probably isn’t the path of least resistance – it requires a time commitment – but you will not have to spend a dime of your hard earned, government-issued currency to find a pot of gold gather some spare change.

And of course, learn something new. Like does Bitcoin have legs? Does it have any applicability to the present financial system? Can I acquire Bitcoin without meeting some cartel member in a dark alley?

But first, what is Bitcoin?

If you are technically adept I highly suggest reading the original Bitcoin white paper (PDF), authored by the enigmatic Satoshi Nakamoto, inventor of Bitcoin. For the other 99.99%: the Bank for International Settlements calls Bitcoin a digital currency with an embedded decentralised payment mechanism based on the use of a distributed ledger.

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Completed Autumn Reading List (inclusive of fun and games)

Too much time spent in the officeon the driving range … brushing up on classical Tibetan results in a shorter list than previous.

The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social PolicyThomas Sowell (link)

Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New JerseyBob Hoffman (link)

Tower of Basel: The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank That Runs the WorldAdam LeBor (link)

Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of AntihumanismRobert Zubrin (link)

Mastering Golf’s Mental Game: Your Ultimate Guide to Better On-Course Performance and Lower ScoresDr. Michael T. Lardon (link)

CryptonomiconNeal Stephenson (link)

Select opinion: Tower of Basel is a well-researched, thorough historical account of 20th century war financing; and Cryptonomicon is very long, but I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN.

MG signing off ( རྗེས་མ་མཇལ་ཡོང་། )

Plugging mcrypt into PHP, on Mac OS X El Capitan 10.11

We made our way into the park. Now we do some climbing.

The following instructions are for those a) developing on OS X El Capitan 10.11.X, b) need mcrypt for their PHP development (think PHPMyAdmin, Magento eCommerce or just twisting _RIJNDAEL_256 for shits and giggles), and c) are unwilling to recompile PHP from scratch or run an alternative development package set such as MAMP. Mcrypt will load dynamically with PHP by venturing forth.

Before beginning acquire the following stuff …

1) libmcrypt-2.5.8, which you can find here; download by clicking the one of the two file links (author used “libmcrypt-2.5.8.tar.gz”);

2) PHP 5.5.27 source code, which is available here; [NOTE: you may someday update OS X beyond 10.11, and PHP may get updated along with it; the author used 10.11, and PHP 5.5.27 was included with that OS version. If necessary use php -v to check your version of PHP and then download the PHP source for that version.];

3) Xcode 7.0.1, which you can get from the App Store. You will also need the Command Line Tools (OS X 10.11) for XCode, which you get by selecting “Xcode/Open Developer Tool/More Developer Tools…” from the Xcode menu, then logging into your Apple Developer account (and if you don’t have one of those, get one); and

4) Homebrew (http://brew.sh) which can be installed by typing ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/ install/master/install)" at the command line.

Now we get down to business …

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Completed Summer Reading List (inclusive of pornography)

Not the “other” porn fishing blogs, Pravda the New York Times, or product catalogs disguised as instructional material Golf Digest, just books (without “spare change” links) …

The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & PowerDaniel Yergin (link)

Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001Steve Coll (link)

The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of SecurityKevin Mitnick (link)

The StrangerAlbert Camus (link)

Who Owns The FutureJaron Lanier (link)

Much Ado About NothingWilliam Shakespeare (link)

Myths of the Oil Boom: American National Security in a Global Energy MarketSteve Yetiv (link)

Harvesting Gold: Thomas Edison’s Experiment to Re-Invent American MoneyDavid Hammes (link)

WomenCharles Bukowski (link)

Debt: The First 5,000 YearsDavid Graeber (link)

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the FuturePeter Thiel (link)

MG signing off (to conjure some “sound smart” reviews, or maybe not)

NMAP on OS X Update

For anyone still struggling with NMAP on Mac OS X, including but not limited to while following these instructions, please be advised that the latest package, nmap-6.49BETA3, works. And works well.

Zero issues found here, and the Zenmap GUI loads without incident (and quite snappily). Even after installation of OS X 10.10.4, released just yesterday, the world’s finest network security application remains in solid working order.

nmap10104

MG signing off (because that is all, but I’d still follow the previous instructions before re-installation)

Thesis to Genesis Framework Migration: 5-Step Fix for Missing SEO Metadata

I recently moved a special business from Thesis 1.8.x to the Genesis Framework. And during the examination of before v. after, realized that thousands upon thousands of titles, meta descriptions and keywords previously stored by Thesis were no longer being referenced.

Genesis has similar features for SEO metadata, but unfortunately there is no related ‘migration tool’ for accessing and/or moving data that is otherwise stored in custom field format i.e. WordPress’s wp_postmeta table. Depending on how big the site is, this could potentially wind up one heck of a copy/paste project.

Fortunately, however, touching WordPress’s database directly is an easy task; it’s generally nothing more than MySQL queries. Hence, without further ado, here are the steps for moving Thesis post metadata into the corresponding fields in Genesis …

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Traveling Sidekick

Yours truly likes traveling light. There’s method to the madness too: during college I dropped Thermodynamics 101 because I knew I couldn’t pass it, but in order to gain some credits that same semester I picked up Tax Accounting for Surreptitious Offshore Trusts Based in Tropical Locales. I wound up graduating with a degree in Aerospace Engineering passing the CPA exam in 15 minutes; followed that up with a masters in Bimini Ring Game Double Hauling While Hung Over, and the rest is history. I long to reconfigure baggage because I’m not certified to launch rockets.

Further, sometimes you gotta play it safe. Even if you build systems with brick shit-house parts, a client might claim something isn’t working because they live in Colorado hence they are stoned to bejesusthey are part of an email circulation list that includes Windows/Outlook users infected with nasty malware … the tuck pointing didn’t dry in time.

Enter stage left, the Acer Chromebook c670 …

acerchromebook

I’ve intrepidly sought out a reason to charge down the Boot-Ubuntu-Linux-Via-USB path, but have been unsuccessful. The screen can’t touch a Retina display and there is no way to test your latest Python-based machine learning algorithm with it, but you can’t stuff three grand worth of Macbook Pro down the back of your pants while the gate agent for an overbooked international flight is meticulously counting your “personal items” either.

In other words … the little puppy, which will set the average US citizen back a whopping $200, is one superior, high-value, remote work tool.

MG signing off (because the Chromebook is stark white while my attitude is decidedly dark – ultra-sharp contrast is the result)

UPDATE: And prices are dropping.