There have been a number of issues I’ve encountered recently that make me want to create this new category: That’s just wrong.

The big one I want to write is about Google, CDNs, and lazy Web Developers.

But for now – NVidia.

I went to their website to use the GeForce Experience which is supposed to make it easy to detect and get the latest drivers for your video card. But what do I see?

GeforceExperience

 

You’ll notice, everything is grayed out. You can’t do anything in this helpful app until you fork over some money personal information.

Thankfully, I’m not the only person who has noticed this and complained:

geforce complaints

 

One of my favorite comedians, Mitch Hedberg comes to mind:

I bought a doughnut and they gave me a receipt for the doughtnut… I don’t need a receipt for the doughnut. I give you money and you give me the doughnut, end of transaction. We don’t need to bring ink and paper into this

I recently made a silly mistake and forgot my private key to my Backblaze backups. Stupid me. The annoying thing is that the password is still saved on my computer, because my computer is still able to back up the files.

If you know the basics of public & private key cryptography, it becomes obvious that Backblaze must store the password locally somehow if it is able to perform a differential backup. Otherwise it would only be able to send full backups each time with the public key.

So, I asked Backblaze to help me find the cached private key (probably in some sort of hashed state) so that I could just transfer this to another computer to continue my backups. Backblaze insisted this was impossible and that there was no key stored on my computer. This means one of two things:

  • Backblaze is lying and they do store your private password somewhere
    or

  • Backblaze is not willing to help in a case where I can prove that I am the owner of the files and simply forgot the password

Again, it would be impossible for them to actually give my password (unless they did something REALLY silly and stored it in plain text), but it should be possible for them to help me locate my hashed private key and then let me use this to continue accessing my backups.

Out of annoyance, I did a brief test in a sandboxed Windows environment and found out that the Backblaze job runner is in-fact passing a hashed private key to the server in order to perform the differential backup. Where is it storing this? I’m not quite sure. They are using some interesting tricks to store it because I could not detect any registry changes or file changes on the disk. This leads me to believe that the job runner alters a file on the computer once you enter your private key and then pulls it from there to pass to the server. I stopped trying to dig further once I proved the point.

So, now I get the joy of wiping all of my files from Backblaze and re-uploading. I very nearly cancelled the service altogether due to their lack of helpfulness. The only reason I’m staying is that it is still a good value, and it will save me time in the long run.

 

Tech companies need to stop using technology as a scape-goat for them not wanting to do something. I am so tired of hearing “it’s not possible” when they really mean “we don’t want to.”

Short version for those who are frustrated with a similar problem:

Windows 7 handles faulty CD/DVD drives very poorly. It can cause the Live USB, Safe Mode, Recovery Tools, and Normal Boot mode to take HOURS to complete.

 

My company recently auctioned old IT assets. I picked one up for a friend and installed Ubuntu so it could be a nice backup or guest computer for them – just web browsing, videos, and light word processing.

Very soon after the purchase my friend had a need to do work on this computer; they needed Windows. This is when the trouble began.

I’ve installed Windows from floppy, CD, USB, and even via image. All with or without slipstreamed updates. This was one of my more frustrating experiences.

I opted for the easiest option: USB + slipstreamed updates. It went great. I had all the software and updates installed and was ready to go. Suddenly, Windows started loading slowly. I mean, VERY slowly. I would see the “Starting Windows” for a few hours. The logo was still moving, and I could see the hard drive light flickering. One night, out of frustration, I just let it sit on the table when I went to bed. When I came back in the morning Windows was up and running fine.I ran my usual checks: defragment, error check, SMART test, etc. All of these showed NO issues. And yet, Windows was consistently taking hours to boot.

I noticed the BIOS was hanging slightly, so I disabled the “Thorough” POST checks. This helped a bit, but it was still taking a longer than necessary to load up. After this, I tried an Ubuntu Live USB drive. It worked fine, and booted lightning fast. (Remember, I had Ubuntu running on this machine before).

Neither the Safe Mode, Recovery Mode, or even the Live USB Windows Recovery mode were able to quickly boot on this computer!

I was wondering if it was power related, so I removed all devices, including the removable CD/DVD drive. Amazingly, the boot time was immediately down to ~30 seconds. However, it’s not because of the power usage. It turns out, the CD/DVD drive is faulty: the tray doesn’t quite open and close properly. The cabling inside has come loose and jams the mechanism. I’m guessing this is causing the drive to send strange signals to the computer.

You would think this type of issue would be detected, and that Windows would ignore the drive during the boot process. I mean, Ubuntu figured out a way to work just fine…

So, the end result is this:

A faulty CD/DVD drive (and BAD CODE) caused Windows to become almost unusable until the drive was removed.

Why did I type this whole post when I put the relevant information in 2 sentences at the top? Because it makes me feel better, that’s why.

When things that should just work, don’t

Reasons why Linux cannot be taken seriously as an end-user operating system

I can think of at least 10 other things I would like to title this article, considering the amount of time I have had to spend on this issue.

For the past 2 years I’ve been using my Intel NUC + Xubuntu + VirtualBox as my own private server / media center PC. It’s been working great for testing out anything I want, running my own servers, and playing movies on my TV.

It’s great except for one flaw: every time you unplug the monitor or turn the TV off, you either need to reboot the NUC, or drop into command line mode and run a command to reconfigure the screen.

Seems like a pretty big flaw, right? I think expecting a monitor to “just work” when it’s plugged in is a pretty basic request. This error is from the 14.04 version, which is about 2 years old. When asking the support community, they basically said “Yea, it’s not a big deal… It’s not a high priority for us to fix.” 2 years (and two major versions) later, this bug still isn’t fixed.

I decided I had enough, so I would install the stock Ubuntu (even though it has the gut-wrenching-make-me-want-to-gouge-my-eyes-out interface – seriously, Unity is so terrible). I assumed it would have better support for this type of thing.

I downloaded the ISO, booted into Ubuntu, selected the typical “Erase disk and Install Ubuntu” – and what happened? The reasonable person would expect that it installed Ubuntu, I restored my Virtualbox configuration, and I went about my day happily. This is far from what happened.

After a few hours and a few failed installation attempts, I found out that Ubuntu is failing to install the bootloader. Furthermore, it failed to even configure a boot partition. How is this possible? You know what – I don’t want to know. I’m sure someone is going to comment about how “Oh, it’s confused between the UEFI and Legacy boot options that the NUC supports.” I don’t care.

It’s 2016, it’s a robust piece of hardware, and when I tell an OS to have its way with my hard disk, it should have no problems doing so! I guarantee that if I were to use Windows 10, or Windows Server they would have no issues. This is why I say Linux isn’t going to make it as an end-user OS. The community really needs to get its act together and start fixing problems that require the user to do things like drop into the command line, or manually configure partition tables for simple things like plugging in a monitor or doing a fresh install of an OS.

Yes, this is mostly a rant – but I’m putting it out there so that if some poor soul Googles “Ubuntu doesn’t work on NUC”, or “new install of ubuntu grub won’t load” they just might find my solution: manually partition the partition table yourself, turn on Legacy Boot mode, and make sure Secure Boot is off. Finally, while it’s installing – give some thought to whether or not you really still want to use Ubuntu.

 

P.S. – For some reason when installing the third party plugins, the Adobe Flash Plugin downloads INSANELY slow – I’m talking 1 KB/s at times.

I did a 5-day fast / juice cleanse recently. My friends have had a bunch of questions about it, so I figured I would write it down and share with anyone who wants to know.

What I did:

I used a prepackaged 5-day fast & cleanse kit. The kit provided nutritional supplements, hunger management pills, and fiber. Because the company did not give me the kit for free, I’m not giving them free advertisement :). I would recommend it to anyone who is interested though – just drop me a note and I’ll tell you which one I used.

The kit only allows you to take the supplements, water, herbal teas, and juice. No caffeine, no fake or added sugars, no solid food, etc. Obviously, you want to limit how much juice you’re drinking to make it a fast.

Each meal you take fiber and 4-7 pills. Pace yourself, you don’t want to get full too quickly. 😉

On the first and second day I drank 3 x 300 ml (10 fl. oz) of juice. On days 3 through 5 I drank between 2 and 2.5 bottles of juice. Usually one in the morning, one at lunch, and a small amount of juice in the early afternoon.

My total caloric intake was about 300-500 calories per day, and mostly in the morning.

Why I did it:

1. I heard good things about it from a friend.
2. I’ve never done a cleanse or fast before, so I wanted to see what it was like.
3. I was interested to see if I would notice health benefits.
4. I was hoping it would help me get rid of some extra fat from some of those troublesome areas. 🙁

How I thought it would go:

I was quite worried I would be barely able to function mentally and physically, and would basically have an IV of juice going in order to be OK.

I wasn’t really worried about being hungry, because I’ve done the Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) thing before. When I first start my weight loss (link) I decided to “reset” my appetite by doing a 500 calorie diet. This felt like nothing to me at the time, and I only lasted about 10 days before I caved and upped my intake to 750 calories.

I was excited for how much extra time I would have since I wouldn’t have to worry about cooking, eating meals, or going to the gym.

How it actually went:

In one word: awesome.

I really wasn’t hungry, and didn’t start to desire food until day 5. Even this desire was just for the taste and comfort of eating – not because of hunger. I have been told from a friend who did this fast at the same time that they did feel hungry – so maybe it’s my experience from doing a VLCD before that helped me through this?

Each day of the fast I took a picture in the evening, and weighed myself. I’ll share the weights with each day’s summary.

Another great thing I noticed is that my sleep pattern normalized almost immediately. I usually struggle to fall asleep at night but during the fast I had no issues. I think removing all the extra factors from my body and the lack of food really helped.

Starting weight: 76.3 Kg (168.2 pounds)

More Details
Keep in mind, right before this fast I just returned from a vacation where I had an unlimited supply of fruit, vegetables, and lean protein. Before the 10-day vacation, I was at my average weight of ~ 78.5 Kg (173 pounds). After the vacation I was at the 76.3 Kg mark.

Day One (75.7 Kg / 166.9 pounds):

More Details
I only felt slightly hungry at around 10 AM. Though, I did not follow the kit’s advice of easing myself into the fast. I ended Sunday evening with a big meal, and had two coffees as well. I started to get a head ache in the afternoon on the first day – likely because of me going cold-turkey off of caffeine. This ultimately lead to a mild migraine with light sensitivity and actually caused me to get nauseous and lose what little food I had. I don’t attribute this to the fast, I attribute this to going from a medium level of daily caffeine intake to ZERO in a single day.

I drank a juice at each meal because I was worried that I was going to starve my body completely and lose a lot of muscle mass.

Day Two (74.8 Kg / 164.9 pounds):

More Details
No headaches and no hunger pains. I still drank a juice at each meal, but I didn’t feel like I needed to as much as I did on Day One.

Day Three (74.1 Kg / 163.4 pounds):

More Details
On this day, I only drank 2 juices with no issues. I figured out when to time taking the juice to make sure I had enough focus at work. I could tell when my blood sugar was dipping in the early afternoon and would then drink my second juice. The only negative side-effect from this is that I really struggled in my 2-hour Chinese language class in the evening. I think if I had taken another juice for dinner I would have been able to do it just fine.

I heard from a friend that some people actually do training while fasting because there is a boost of the Human Growth Hormone while fasting. I looked it up and found some convincing articles about it.

So, I gave it a try. I was not brave enough to try lifting weights at the gym, so I just did exercises at home. On this day, I did push-ups and chair dips. Even though I hadn’t eaten solid food for 3 days, and was running a ~1800 calorie daily deficit, I was able to do 30% MORE push-ups per set than I can usually do. I didn’t feel the energetic “Go-Get-it” rush that I feel at the gym while doing this, but I did not feel tired. It was quite a strange sensation to just tell my body to do the work and have it do it, even though my mind was quite convinced that my body would be unable to perform.

Day Four (73.3 Kg / 161.6 pounds):

More Details
Just two juices again and no hunger. I decided to try exercise again and did a very intense abdominal exercise from one of the famous exercise programs. Again, I performed the same or better than I usually do in my workouts.

Day Five (73.1 Kg / 161.1 pounds):

More Details
Just two juices again and no hunger. I took it easy at home on this last day. I couldn’t help but notice that I had no soreness from the exercises. I didn’t get sore until after I started eating food again on the 6th day.

What I learned:

The main thing I learned is that I don’t know my body as well as I thought. I thought I knew it pretty well after shedding weight and keeping it off. But in this fast / cleanse I learned that our bodies do not need food every day – or even every week!

Would I do it again? Absolutely!

People often ask me “what do you eat” or, “how did you lose weight?”

As I’ve said before, this comes with a change in what you’re doing, which starts by changing how you think.

So… let me give you a glimpse into my mind of what I think when I look at food. I’m really not trying to pick on this product, it’s the same analysis for any product.

I aim to get about 200 grams of protein in a day, so it’s often what I’m looking for in food. I’m not sure how realistic this is, but in my mind – as long as I eat enough protein, fruit, and vegetables then the remaining calories in my daily “budget” are all for me to eat what I please!

This is why I take it so seriously when a “protein rich” product is really not much better than a candy bar.

Since I know some of you may suffer from TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) on this, I’ll give you my tips up front:

If the food advertises “22% protein”, that means the product is 78% fat and carbs (sugar).

Fat has almost twice as many calories per gram as protein, so it’s much less filling. And well, more fattening.

 

You can often get your nutritional needs in a more efficient, cheap, and delicious way. For example, this $5 “protein ball” has about the same amount of protein and calories as:

  • a glass of skimmed milk and a cookie
  • egg white omelette and some juice
  • a bowl of Cheerios with skimmed milk
  • can of tuna (which would have 4x as much protein)

All of these options would be cheaper, more filling, and more healthy. And personally, I love these foods! If I could easily buy a can of tuna and skimmed milk at any convenience store I would always meet my protein quota.

 

Also, keep in mind that the percentage by weight and by calories can be quite different.

nutrition chart

Notice that the protein and carbs are about the same, but the fat is much higher. And the “Other” category for weight is often caused by fiber, etc. The “Other” category for calories is due to rounding and the “accepted values” for a gram of protein, carbs, or fat.

SO, let’s take a look at a product I wandered by in an airport recently

front

What the manufacturers probably want you to think:

  • Oh look, it’s a cute little ball with eyes
  • Oh hey, it says 22% protein. That sounds good!
  • It has whey protein. Not just any old protein, but WHEY protein…
  • There are 6 delicious cute little balls in this package

What I’m thinking:

  • It’s a “protein ball” and it only has 22% protein?
  • It is 45 Grams, so 22% protein would be 10 grams (I didn’t even have to look at the back to figure this out).
    • 10 grams of protein would be ~40 calories. So [Total Calories] – 40 = How many wasted calories are on this product.
  • There is a cute little protein ball, which I think is supposed to distract me from something
  • They are advertising WHEY protein (which metabolizes very quickly, so it won’t last long)
  • They probably added whey protein because the base ingredients don’t have much protein

Ok. So now we’ve looked at the front. Why not open it up and see how it looks before we look at the back?

open

What they want you to think:

  • AH! it’s a cute little protein ball! Just like the package said! If only it had eyes and a personality and it could be my little pet.
  • They’re so small and easy to eat!

 

What I’m thinking:

  • It’s all shiny. This thing looks like it’s full of fat. It’s either greasing up to compete in a sports competition, heading to the beach to get a tan, or breaking out in a sweat just from moving out of the package.
  • These are kind of small, and not very heavy. I don’t think this will make me very full.

 

Alright, we’ve looked enough, now let’s look at the back.

back

What they want you to think

  • Look at that boring black and white table to the left. I’m not going to squint at the small text and numbers. I’m hungry!
  • Look at all those cute balls on the right! And the pretty fonts and colors!
  • I’ve stumbled upon “the most delicious, all-natural, protein balls in the universe!” I’m so smart!
  • They’re Gluten Free! I’ve heard that stuff is bad for you!
  • No egg whites! Wheat Free! No Added Sugar! Vegetarian! No GMOs, and no soy! This sounds amazingly healthy!
  • They lovingly make their protein, unlike those other heartless protein producers.
  • And they feed their cows grass! I know that cows are supposed to eat grass, so that sounds good!
  • Rock ‘N Roll! Who doesn’t like Rock ‘N Roll?

 

What I’m thinking:

  • OK, so I know it has 10 grams of protein, yep. Confirmed it right there on the bottom.
  • So that’s 40 calories out of… 187!!! Wow, how much fat and sugar is there in this thing?
  • Ah, it says right there. So there is almost the same amount of fat in this thing as protein, and twice as many carbohydrates (sugar) as protein.
  • Let’s take a look at the ingredients…
  • Dates is the first ingredient? That means it’s most used ingredient in this PEANUT BUTTER PROTEIN product. So much for “no added sugar”
  • Peanuts (38%) – not bad.
  • Whey Powder (milk) 3rd down on the list… not so great.
  • Fruit juice concentrate – so “no added sugar” was a blatant lie then…
  • Rice starch – OK, something has to make these sugar-fat balls not stick like glue
  • A pinch of HIMALAYAN salt, because any other salt just won’t do…
  • Alright, now for the lies on the right: “most delicious in the universe”? You haven’t even left Earth…
  • Gluten Free? Unless you have Celiac Disease, it doesn’t matter
  • No Egg Whites? WHY NOT?! How about a balanced protein compound?!
  • All Natural – What does that even mean? Animal droppings are all natural; doesn’t mean I want to eat them.
  • No Soy? Again – WHY NOT?!
  • Wheat Free – isn’t this a repeat of what you’re trying to say with Gluten Free?
  • No Added sugar – are you kidding me? You put more dates and fruit juice concentrate in this than protein!

And almost as important as the calories – how did it taste? It was OK.

If I had my choice I would have eaten any of the items on the list at the beginning of this post.

Pro

  • You get to be King!

  • You get to do everything and be a highly valued resource in your company

  • You’re never bored

  • No one knows exactly  “what you do”

  • You get to learn many new skills

Con

  • You have to be a 2

  • “I do everything” doesn’t look good on a resume when you want to go to a new company

  • You’re always busy

  • No one knows exactly  “what you do”

  • You have to self-learn most things

 

Being a wildcard at work is just like being a wildcard in poker. You’re never as good as the card you’re pretending to be: The kings will be more skillful than you in their category, and the twos will be a more cost efficient resource for the work.

As with most things in your professional life, you have to look at the long-term and decide if being a wildcard is working to your benefit. If not, it might be time to switch tables!

nutrition speedometerCalories are like the speedometer on your car…

When you’ve been driving a while, you don’t need the speedometer any more. Maybe you check it when you start to drive in a congested area or pass by a cop.   But, you know what 40 feels like, and you know when you’re supposed to drive 40. But we tend to become comfortable with going over the limit.

Calories are the same. They’re a good reference that you should check from time to time… But if you spend all your time focusing on them, you won’t get to enjoy the road along the way.

Knowledge is like bricks: We collect them so we can build something.

Some people collect bricks in a few areas and can build a bridge between two bodies of knowledge.

brick_bridge

Some people collect a lot of bricks in a single area and can reach new heights.

brick_steps

 

Some people collect a random assortment of bricks, and just use them to build a protective shield to keep others out. They might occasionally hurl a brick at others to insult or attempt to impress them.

brick_fort

 

Think about the bricks you’re collecting, and what you plan to build with them.

The Nexus 5X is a sub-par phone

I wasn’t sure I wanted to write this review, but now I’m quite certain. In the middle of writing this review I saw something I wanted to take a picture of, and of course – the Nexus 5X choked. I found myself saying “Would you work just ONE TIME!”

I’ve never been so disappointed with any phone I’ve owned before. There is (almost) no reason to upgrade from the Nexus 5 (a decent phone) to the Nexus 5X (a big disappointment).

 

The lesson: The Google Play Store is no guarantee that you will get a solid phone.

You are better off just going to the store and giving your desired phone a test drive. I think brand means very little these days. I believe I would have been much happier with a Xiaomi, OnePlus, Redmi, or even a Moto X.

There are too many manufacturers making phones that are too underpowered.

Below is the review I started to write for the phone, but these days I just get sick to my stomach thinking about the money I spent on this phone. Maybe these notes will be helpful to someone.

The Good:

  • Fingerprint Sensor
  • Camera is above average (when it works quickly and doesn’t freeze)
  • Good selection of Radio Bands (This phone works on certain carriers in Hong Kong, China, Israel, and Europe).
  • Volume / Power buttons are on the same side.
    I didn’t realize how great this was until I used it. My Nexus 5 had problems at the gym. Whenever I would set it on its side on the treadmill at the gym either the volume would keep getting bumped up or down.
  • Latest version of android
  • Price
    If you don’t have an already working phone, it’s not bad. But I would recommend Xiaomi, Redmi, OnePlus, or Moto X as a better value.
  • The Feel
    • It does have a nice slim feeling in the hand without a case, but you can’t use this device without one. It has the soft finish that really makes it comfortable to hold. But again, you won’t get to feel it when it’s in the case.
    • It’s Plastic instead of Metal

 

The Bad:

  • Battery life is pretty terrible
    Maybe it’s the latest version of Android doing this too? I’m not sure, but I can’t make it a full day unless I leave my phone in my pocket all day and never use it.
  • Slow to detect new cell networks and WiFi networks
  • Slow performance
  • SIM Card Tray finicky
  • Camera’s low-light performance is very lacking
  • Hangouts App performs worse on the 5X than on the 5 (Constantly scrolls to half-way back in the history of a conversation)
  • Very weak plastic
    I have only dropped it one time without a rubber case, and it significantly misshaped the plastic on the corner. It has sustained a few other drops within the semi-rubber case. Even with this, the plastic managed to get scratched through the case.The 5X has the nice soft plastic feel, but it is quite gooey plastic, and not very robust.
    The 6P had that shiny metal feel, but it bent in about a week through normal pocket-stress
    In general, this generation of Nexus phones doesn’t seem very good.

The Ugly:

  • The camera software stalls, and can’t be launched about 5-10% of the time
    • You will have to force-close the app or perhaps restart your phone to fix it. Say goodbye to those awesome photo opportunities!
  • Even when the camera does work, I noticed that it loses pictures if you press the power button to sleep the phone too soon after taking a picture.
  • IT IS SLOOOOOW sometimes. I really can’t believe LG would sell an “updated version” of the Nexus 5 and stick it with the same amount of RAM. 2 GB just isn’t enough RAM for a high-performance Android phone.

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