The end of DST?

Twice a year we go through the process of changing clocks either forward or back when daylight saving time rolls around or comes to a crashing end. Yesterday I had to change the time on 5 devices and luckily a bunch more automatically changed. While this process is a little bit of a pain and losing the hour of sleep wreaks havoc on our schedules for awhile, I like daylight saving time as the extra hour of daylight is most welcome.

Recently, a member of the California Legislature has introduced a bill (AB-2496) to eliminate DST. While this sounds like it would simplify things and not subject us to schedule adjustment, generally everything I’ve read indicates that people want DST all year long and not have PST. Unfortunately, this bill doesn’t address that.

If people really wanted DST all year long and still get that extra “hour” of daylight, then we, as a society, have to shift our schedules and notions of when things start. So instead of having a normal workday be 9-5 (OK, I know that 9-5 is a cliché, but bear with me), we’d make it 8-4. Everything would have to shift so that we would have the perception that we have an extra hour of daylight; we wouldn’t gain an hour of daylight, we’d just start and end the routine activities (like work) early so that we can have free time when it is daylight. This, of course, is never going to happen.

Given that we’re stuck with either our current system of DST or ditching DST and not shifting our schedules, ditching DST is not easy. While yes we wouldn’t have to change our clocks, think about all the computers that automatically change their clocks. So now instead of Pacific Standard Time which assumes that DST is followed, we’d have another option like “California time” which doesn’t handle DST. This means that computers and IoT devices have to be updated to support this. It isn’t technically difficult, but rolling this out could be harder than the daylight saving time switch in 2007 (based on the Energy Policy Act of 2005) as consumers would have to explicitly choose this new time zone (with the last change, the rules which specify the DST rules just had to change with no user interaction).

If you take a look at an iCalendar entry, you can see that most modern calendaring programs already take into account DST rules.

    BEGIN:VCALENDAR
    VERSION:2.0
    PRODID:-//Apple Inc.//Mac OS X 10.11.3//EN
    CALSCALE:GREGORIAN
    BEGIN:VTIMEZONE
    TZID:America/Los_Angeles
    BEGIN:DAYLIGHT
    TZOFFSETFROM:-0800
    RRULE:FREQ=YEARLY;BYMONTH=3;BYDAY=2SU
    DTSTART:20070311T020000
    TZNAME:PDT
    TZOFFSETTO:-0700
    END:DAYLIGHT
    BEGIN:STANDARD
    TZOFFSETFROM:-0700
    RRULE:FREQ=YEARLY;BYMONTH=11;BYDAY=1SU
    DTSTART:20071104T020000
    TZNAME:PST
    TZOFFSETTO:-0800
    END:STANDARD
    END:VTIMEZONE
    BEGIN:VEVENT
    CREATED:20160304T043923Z
    UID:AAAAAA
    DTEND;TZID=America/Los_Angeles:20160311T220000
    TRANSP:OPAQUE
    X-APPLE-TRAVEL-ADVISORY-BEHAVIOR:AUTOMATIC
    SUMMARY:Some Event
    DTSTART;TZID=America/Los_Angeles:20160311T180000
    DTSTAMP:20160304T043925Z
    LAST-MODIFIED:20160304T043923Z
    SEQUENCE:0
    END:VEVENT
    END:VCALENDAR

Yes, EVERY calendar entry you have has DST rules in it because they are a mess worldwide. So while calendaring programs are already ready to handle a DST change, are we ready for it? Can you imagine someone in California scheduling a meeting for people in New York and Portland? People in Phoenix already do this, so it should be easy, right?

As much as I don’t like changing clocks and having to wake up the Monday after the change to DST to get ready for my day, I’m OK with the current system. I know that a recent study shows a link between the switch to DST and stroke, but there are also links between the Super Bowl and violence. Should we get rid of the Super Bowl as well just because of that? (There are other reasons to get rid of a sport that almost encourages head injuries, but that is a different story.)

Review: Jarvis desk

I’ve been reading about how bad sitting is for your health and basically ignored it by saying that I get up enough and I run. Lately there have been even more studies saying that exercise doesn’t help the situation. I still wasn’t convinced.

A few months ago, my hip starting hurting and it seemed to be worse when I was sitting, so I thought about a standing desk, but the cost made me put it on my list, but postpone the purchase. About 3 weeks ago, I bought some tall legs for my desk from Ikea and put them on; I was extremely excited about this as I would be able to stand all day. Two things I didn’t consider with this move. First off, standing for a long time hurts my feet and the second is that my son likes to be at my desk sometimes and with the desk so high, he couldn’t sit with me.

So I started researching adjustable height desks. The cost range is huge and I didn’t really want to replace my current desk with some several thousand dollar desk. I refinished my desk last summer and put lots of coats of urethane on it; the desk has held up quite well. Several reviews pointed me to the Jarvis Desk. I looked at the specs and was impressed; the cost was reasonable, it had a motor to raise and lower it, and it had a memory to remember the positions. The final piece that convinced me to make the purchase was that I could order just the frame without the top; this shaved some money off the cost and I got to continue use the desk top that has treated me well for years.

I ordered the frame from Amazon and it arrived in 2 days; the price was the same as direct from the company, so I figured I’d go with the faster shipping. The box was heavy…74 pounds. I managed to get it downstairs into my office and assembled it all in about 45 minutes in between working. It wasn’t complicated to assemble, but had a lot of steps. When my wife got home, she helped me flip over my old desk and put the desk frame on my top. Attaching the frame to the top was straightforward and quick with the use of an electric drill.

After flipping over my desk and setting it into place, I plugged it in and raised it up. The speed was pretty amazing. The rated speed is 1.5″/sec unloaded. My standing position is only about 11 inches higher than my sitting position, so it takes less than 10 seconds to change position. I’ve programmed an up and a down position for it.

The first week I had the desk, I was standing as much as possible. Now that I’ve had it for a bit, I’m finding that I’m alternating between sitting and standing throughout the day. The change is extremely easy.

I’ve found that my hip isn’t hurting as much (I’ve combined some stretching with the standing to help) and standing allows me to concentrate more sometimes.

While these pictures aren’t great, I’ve attached an up and a down picture.

IMG 3590
IMG 3591

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Quiet mechanism
  • Fast
  • Appears well built
  • Very stable

Cons

  • Time consuming to setup

Summary

I should have made this purchase a lot sooner; there should be no price tag on my health. I don’t know the quality of the tops that they sell, but the frame was an excellent choice for me. I’m not sure what the more expensive options would have offered me as the concept of the desk is simple; go up and go down. I also picked up an anti-fatigue mat as standing on your feet all day can hurt; I’d definitely recommend a mat to go with this as well.

Some people have commented that a desk with two legs as opposed to the four I had previously make the desk less stable; I haven’t found that the case. I have, however, found that my monitor arm makes the screen jiggle a bit when I type. This is minor and is unrelated to the Jarvis Desk.

I don’t know the long term reliability of this unit, but I am hopefully that it lasts a long time even with me adjusting it a few times a days.

Well meaning law gone awry

Yesterday I was in a shoe store with my family when I bumped into something. I instinctually said “I’m sorry” and then looked to see the person I accidentally bumped. I looked down and saw a dog instead of a person. (I do apologize to my own dog all the time, but was a little surprised to see a dog in a store.)

I’m not sure when people started routinely bringing dogs into stores, but I seem to recall only seeing service dogs with vests or dogs with harnesses to assist blind people coming into stores. My guess is that people have taken a lot of liberties with the Americans with Disability Act and have taken to redefining what is a service dog. The law states that a person in a business, restaurant or other public place may only ask 2 questions to someone bringing in a service dog:

  1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

They cannot ask the person to provide documentation or otherwise prove that the dog is a service dog. It appears that many businesses don’t bother asking because that could open the store up to a lawsuit.

Not only are dogs being brought into stores (Home Depot, Target, Costco, etc.), they are also being brought to farmer’s markets. The California law doesn’t permit dogs within 20 feet of where food is stored; the farmer’s market we’ve been to in Little Italy has an aisle between the sides of the street of less than 20 feet, I’d say. This would prohibit dogs completely from being at the farmer’s market (except for service dogs, of course). However, people bring their dogs to the market and have their dogs come close to the booths where food is being handled. Do you really want dogs going near food that you might purchase? I love dogs, but I really don’t want dogs near my food.

While I do see the rationale for not asking for documentation and embarrassing those that are disabled, there must be a way to better handle this than to effectively let everyone bring dogs into stores. California does make it a misdemeanor to misrepresent a service animal (California Penal Code 365.7), but I suspect it is rarely enforced. Can people be taught to be considerate and keep their pets at home? I know that pets are family, but they don’t have to go everywhere. Doing some searches on this topic seems like I’m not the only one annoyed by this trend.

The downside of parking meters

San Diego is in the process of replacing regular parking meters with ones that are called multi-space meters. These are ones that give you a ticket that you place on your dash. I thought that these were neat as I could just pay with a credit card as I usually don’t have change around. My wife, however, pointed out the problem with these is that the minimum is 1 hour on the meter which costs $1.25. I didn’t think much of it until I had to pick something up today and found a meter with some time left on it; I dropped a quarter in it (I do have some quarters in my car) and got another 12 minutes which was plenty of time for my errand.

It turns out that the pay and display meters do take change and apparently you can put less than $1.25 in them. So the lesson is that I still need to have quarters in my car for times that I think I’ll be at a meter less than an hour; otherwise, paying by credit card is quite convenient. Now if the city could just get with the game and figure out some micropayment strategy with lower transaction fees, maybe they could reduce the minimum amount to go cashless.

Simple fix to “This accessory is not compatible with the iPhone” with mophie cases

I’ve been using mophie battery cases for a few years now when I travel as the iPhone doesn’t seem to last all day when I use it extensively. Granted the iPhone 5 has gotten better, but I typically use GPS to track my run/walk if I’m in San Francisco for WWDC or somewhere else. Every now and again when I’d charge my case, I’d get the message “This accessory is not compatible with the iPhone”. mophie’s FAQ gives some lame answer on how to fix this problem.

Recently I bought the charging dock for my juice pack and was getting this message every time my phone got to 100% charge and then overnight my phone would start to drain. After a bit of searching, I found a reference to charging cables on Apple’s support site. While this wasn’t my problem as the dock has an integrated cable, it got me thinking. My dock was plugged into a USB hub instead of directly into the wall or my Thunderbolt display. I switched the dock to plug into the Thunderbolt display and bingo, the problem went away. This tells me that the current supplied by the hub (it’s an unpowered hub as I don’t want to plug in the power supply) isn’t enough to keep the iPhone/mophie case happy.

Such a simple fix for a problem. Maybe mophie can update their FAQ with this information and save others from returning their products or contacting support.

Replacement for Google Reader

Google Reader has been dead for awhile and I’ve been trying out different options as a replacement. I had been using http://netnewswireapp.com on my Mac and found it to be a decent app. However, it didn’t sync with anything and I didn’t have a reader on my iPad or iPhone. While there are several paid sync services, I didn’t want to go that route as who knows when they’ll pull the plug and I’ll be stuck again; also, I just didn’t want a subscription.

I stumbled upon [http://tt-rss.org](Tiny Tiny RSS) and installed it on my virtual server. The web interface was good enough for me to get by and the iOS clients worked (not pretty, but worked). I made due, but just got an iPad mini and missed http://reederapp.com on my devices.

Today I again investigated what to do and found that Reeder and a Mac App called http://readkitapp.com supported a system called http://feedafever.com/. Fever looks interesting and is a $30 one time fee (I’d rather pay one time fees than subscriptions; it is a mental thing and really doesn’t always make financial sense). However, after a bit of digging, it appears that Fever may not be actively developed, so I kept searching. As luck would have it, I found [https://github.com/dasmurphy/tinytinyrss-fever-plugin](a plugin) to Tiny Tiny RSS that mimicked the Fever API. I quickly installed the plugin, purchased Reeder and ReadKit, and was back in business syncing my RSS feeds.

Reading RSS on my iPad is great and while this solution isn’t for the faint of heart (that seems to be my mantra…come up with solutions that work for me, but likely won’t work for others…must be the reason I don’t have any of my own products any more!), I’m hopefully this is going to work for me.

Money hungry cable company

As most tech people have heard, Time Warner Cable has raised its modem lease fees from $4 per month to $6 per month. While I think that is steep, I don’t really have a problem with it as it doesn’t affect me. When they started charging the modem lease, I spent $25 for a used cable modem (I have a standard Internet package, so a DOCIS 2.0 modem works fine). My father has been paying the lease fee and asked me about it now that it is going up. The difference with him is that he has telephone service through Time Warner as well. Instead of a standard cable modem, he has an MTA which handles both phone and Internet in one box.

Time Warner doesn’t charge a lease fee for the phone part of the box, but charges a fee for the Internet part of the box. Yes, you read that correctly; my dad is only leasing part of the box and the other part is free. If he doesn’t want to pay the lease fee for the Internet part, he has to buy a separate cable modem (currently around $17 used on eBay), put in a splitter and hook it up. He does NOT return any equipment to Time Warner Cable. So if he does that, he would own his own Internet cable modem, and have a free telephone cable modem, but only use half of it.

This is absolutely insane; someone in corporate said that they must charge a lease fee for all Internet customers that use Time Warner Cable equipment. This makes sense except for telephone customers that don’t have a choice, but to use the TWC supplied MTA. It is quite unfortunate that there is such a monopoly on high speed Internet; AT&T U-verse is an option, but their speeds and prices don’t compare well to cable. We don’t have FIOS in our area, so we’re pretty stuck.

Finding the perfect suitcase

About a year ago, I decided that the rolling suitcase I was using to travel was getting too cumbersome and I could make it through the airport easier with a small duffle bag. Last year I travelled 12 times (11 for work) and the bag worked well. However, the bag started hurting my shoulder and I started looking for a better solution.

Like most things I buy, I researched suitcases until I was blue in the face. I wanted one that would easily fit in an overhead bin and had 2 wheels. This turned out to be a huge challenge. First off, many manufacturers have switched to spinner type bags with 4 wheels. This type of bag makes a lot of sense for people going from house to car to airport to hotel and travel over smooth surfaces. This isn’t always how I travel. When I’ve gone to San Francisco or Portland, I’ve taken public transportation and then walked a number of blocks over uneven sidewalks. The spinner bags would be harder to use, so I immediately ruled them out.

Finding a small bag also proved to be troublesome as different companies measure the bag dimensions differently. Some include the wheels and handles; others do not. I checked the websites of the airlines I’ve used in the last year (Alaska, Delta, and Southwest) to make sure the dimensions met the guidelines. I also found that some bags had a compartment for a laptop. This seems a bit ridiculous for business travelers (makes sense for airline crews) as most people that travel for business will drop off the luggage at a hotel or leave it in a car and take the laptop in a backpack or other bag into an office.

After much searching, I ended up getting a Travelpro Luggage Crew 9 20-Inch rolling bag as well as one from Costco. After evaluating the two (I could return the one I didn’t like), I decided to keep the TravelPro. While it isn’t perfect, it seems to work OK.

The TravelPro has the dumb laptop compartment which makes it fatter, but I have no use for it. If this was left off, it would be a better bag. However, the other aspects of the bag seem well thought out. It doesn’t tip over and the handle and wheels work well. My Brenthaven MetroLite backpack has a way to easily slide the backpack on the handle of a rolling bag and that seemed to work well; however, it did a bit of extra weight on the arm that I was using to pull the suitcase. The suitcase easily fit in the overhead bin on my Southwest flights and rolled well through the airport.

Will this be the perfect bag for me? I have no idea; I just hope it lasts for awhile.

Suggestions to SeaWorld

Yesterday my family and I went to SeaWorld as it is now an annual thing for us to visit a theme park (last 2 years was LEGOland). I expected there to be some people (tourists and others that don’t celebrate Christmas), but thought it would be a breeze to get into the park. We left our house around 9:40 for a 10 am opening of the park. We live less than 10 minutes away, so 10 minutes to get in, get parked and get to the gate did not seem unreasonable to me as we’ve done it before.

We get to the parking lot and had to wait in a line. That’s the first problem. The way SeaWorld does parking is they have multiple gate houses (that’s what I call them) with 1 car lane on each side. Each gate house can accommodate 2 people, one person on each side. Well, SeaWorld decided to staff each gate house with 1 person meaning that instead of 2 cars going in at a time, only 1 went in at a time. You would think that this was done to slow down traffic in the parking lot, but there was practically no moving cars in the parking lot. I also noticed that one gate house was empty, so there were no cars at it.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the 1 person has to take your money or pass, go inside, ring it up on the computer and print out a receipt before returning. So with the great invention called mobile terminals, they should be able to collect money/credit cards/passes without having to go inside. Combine this with 1 person per lane and more cars could get in faster. If you were unlucky and pulled your car on the left hand side of the gate house, your passenger (or you if you don’t have a passenger) has to hand everything through the passenger window. Putting a person on each driver’s side window would make it easier.

After we made it through that line, we had to park. At DisneyLand, there are people directing you to empty spots and basically don’t let you park wherever you want. SeaWorld kind of makes it a free for all which causes empty spaces. So people cruise up and down the aisles looking for empty spots (we did that and found one pretty quickly).

We thought we were home free and the long lines were people buying tickets. We were wrong; the long lines were to get in. They had 2 entrances open which meant that 4 people at a time could get in. Then when we got to the front of the line, the same problem they’ve had for ages showed itself again. That was their horrible ticket scanning machines. These machines require you to put your ticket on a platform and line up the X to read the barcode. They are slow and problematic. Then for pass holders (and presumably multi day ticket holders), you have to put your finger on the biometric scanner which seems to be flakey as well. Yesterday, the machines flat out didn’t work, so the people at the entrance had to use handheld devices and scan the barcodes. While barcode scanning is a fairly fast process, lining up the barcode takes time especially if you’re trying to hold the device and the ticket. Using a magnetic stripe on the ticket like they do on many transit systems would speed up the process. The downside is that people that printed tickets at home would have to exchange them for encoded tickets. Since there were a number of unused automated kiosks, this doesn’t seem unreasonable. While this does shift the line, it only shifts the line for those that printed tickets at home.

While this may sound like I’m complaining, a trip to a Disney theme part shows that these problems have been thought out and solved a long time ago. I’m not sure if the current owners of SeaWorld don’t want to invest the time or just don’t care. It could be the latter because people still come to the park and are just grumpy until they get inside and forget about the 40 minutes to actually get there.

Suggestions on busy days

  • Staff each parking gate house with 2 people.
  • Open all parking gate houses.
  • Use mobile terminals for parking payment collection.
  • Put people on driver’s side of each lane and not stay in gate houses.
  • Have people directing cars to fill in every spot.
  • Open more entrances to let people in.
  • Get more reliable ticket reading machines.
  • Use magnetic stripe tickets instead of barcodes.

Simple Energy Conservation

Awhile ago I was talking to my dad and the topic of energy bills came up. We both live in places that are roughly the same size and in the same climate (he’s about 7 miles from me). He was surprised at how much lower my bill was than his; mine includes gas and electric and his only electric. We started to figure out the differences. I have gas hot water, his hot water isn’t included in his bill (he pays it via his HOA dues). I have a gas range, he has an electric range. I have gas heat; he has electric in wall heaters. Neither of us has air conditioning. Since it is the summer, heat could be ruled out and cooking is pretty minor in terms of overall use.

What were the big differences? We started to think and determined that it is probably the computers. My parents each have an iMac that they leave on all the time whereas my wife and I each have a laptop that we put to sleep. In addition, I turn off power strips when not using them and have other powerstrips with timers on them.

So my father decided to turn off his computers and other equipment at night. The first thing he noticed is that there are days that he doesn’t even turn on his computer; he uses his iPhone or iPad to do what he needs to do. When his next bill came, he told me that he saved at least $10. This may not sound like a lot, but that’s over a 10% savings. He’s still not down to my level (could be the TiVo or his stereo amplifier as we don’t have a music system in our house right now), it is encouraging.

We’re lucky that we live in a very temperate climate and that our energy bills are so low; I was talking to some people last month that live in the southeast and my <50 a month bill was peanuts compared to their $400-$500/month bill due to have to heat and cool their houses.

What if other people started doing simple conservation things like this? It would not only be a nice cost savings, but it could lead to being able to turn off a power plant. Who knows.