A quick financial tip: embrace automation

August 14th is Financial Awareness day, and unlike some of the other silly “holidays” – I bet National Left-Handed Scissors Day is on the list somewhere – financial awareness/literacy actually matters.

Financial literacy is generational: unless you come from a family where credit, debt, interest rates, and income are discussed, you may have grown up without an understanding of these topics. Our first paycheque should come with some instructions on how to manage our money, but it doesn’t, so most of us are left to muddle our way through our financial journey on our own.

One financial tip I can share is to embrace the human trait of laziness. By that I mean don’t pretend that you’ll always have the mental energy to think about savings and set money aside. Instead, take human nature out of the equation and automate your savings by pulling money into a high-yield savings account on your payday. I use Wealthfront myself. There are many options, but none of them are likely to be with your bank. The day you get paid, the money is taken out. You never see the funds in your bank account for more than a day.

It doesn’t have to be a lot – it should be an amount you can handle not having and won’t go “Ouch!” and re-think whether you should save it. Maybe it’s $50 a month. Automate it and pretend that account doesn’t exist. Ignore it entirely if you can. Do this for five years.

$50 a month over 5 years at 4% interest is $3381. Imagine yourself “finding” that money five years from now and being thankful to your past self for making that choice. What if you could save $100 a month? That’s $6763 after five years. Could you maybe do $300 a month? That’s $20,291 after five years.

Compound interest is nice, but what’s even more impactful is automating your savings and taking human nature out of the equation.

Our Lady Peace: Rockin’ like it’s the ’90s

While Our Lady Peace never got that big internationally, in the ’90s they were a mainstay of Canadian rock when I was in my 20s. I had a chance to see them live last month in Calgary with a friend and Raine (their lead singer) still has a great voice. I’m impressed as well with the microphone on the Pixel 7; it didn’t distort and recorded decent sound. 🤘🎸🎶

Young Men are Not OK

I’ve been on a bit of an “avoid CNN” bend for a while after you-know-what, but I’m a big fan of ProfG (Scott Galloway) and this video is absolutely worth watching if you have a son, brother, or husband under the age of 30 or so. As a dad to a teenage boy, I think about this kind of thing quite a bit.

The young men of America (and I’d add Canada in here too) are not OK. They are confused, broken, disillusioned, and it does not bode well for the future of either nation or the world.

And if the idea of being worried about the state of young men triggers your brain in a negative way, I’d encourage you to ask yourself why. As Scott says in this video, compassion isn’t a zero-sum game, and being concerned for the state of young men doesn’t mean you can’t also be concerned about other groups just as much.

Here’s the Washington Post piece written by Christina Emba that shone a fresh light on the issue.

How to fix the Tesla Text Receiving Issue

The first time my wife texted me while I was driving our new Model Y, I was baffled when, instead of the car’s text to speech software simply reading the message, it began reading me off her phone number, date, time, phone number, etc. This effectively made receiving texts impossible, making my experience as a Tesla owner much worse. I was confused at first, because the week before when driving our Model 3 this wasn’t happening. What was going on?

Here’s the root issue: as of May 2023, Tesla’s vehicle software does not understand RCS messages. That’s why instead of the car reading the text message, it reads the date/time/etc. effectively making it useless. This info is part of the header in the RCS message (think of it like an email). In our case, her phone app had a software update that made sending RCS messages the default. It had nothing to do with the Tesla car software.

Until Tesla supports RCS messages in their software, the only workaround is for the sender to turn off RCS messages to the phone number you as the Tesla driver are getting your messages on. This is done in the person’s messaging app, usually in the details of the individual person’s details.

For example, my wife uses Messages, Google’s texting app on her Android phone. If she looks at our texting entries in the app, goes into Details then selects “Only send SMS and MMS messages” and toggles that on, it will force “old” style texting and not RCS. Here’s what that looks like in the software:

Depending on the software the person texting you is using, there may be slightly different working, or possibly a global setting that applies to all messages sent from that phone.

Making this change 100% solved the problem for us and I hope it will solve the issue for you as well.

Sometimes it’s fun to be fun on Twitter

I know that Twitter is a vile cesspool full of anger, hate, and Russian trolls stoking fear and dissolution, cracking the very fabric of our society…but sometimes it’s also a fun place to interact with brands that have a sense of humour and hire funny people to do their social media. 😜 [Link to first Tweet]

Apple’s M1 Max CPU: Heat, Fans, and Silicon Voodoo I Don’t Understand

My first computer with an Intel 286 processor was three decades ago, and my last was the MSI gaming laptop I split the cost of with my son featuring an Intel Core i7-11800H. In between I’ve had various flavours of Intel and AMD CPUs, overclocked most of them, and all have behaved in basically the same way: the harder you push them, the more power they need, the more heat they generate, and the louder the fans get to keep the chips from heat damage. As the Mandalorian would say “This is the way.”

When I recently purchased my Mac Studio with the M1 Max processor (10 CPU Cores, 32 GPU Cores), it was my first foray into the world of Apple Silicon in the desktop/laptop realm (my M1-powered iPad Pro 11 doesn’t really count). I’d been using an aging Core i7 iMac workhorse from 2015 until this purchase, and it behaved like any other machine with an Intel CPU: max speed = heat + noise. h265 video exports from Final Cut Pro would take forever.

Enter the Mac Studio. It behaves in ways I don’t understand, seemingly breaking all the rules we’ve accepted as immutable over the past 30 years. For instance, when the Mac Studio is idle, the fans spin at around 1326 rpm. In a perfectly silent room, I can hear it – but just barely. At first this irritated me slightly because my 2015 iMac was 100% silent when idle. It’s certainly not loud — the fan on my Google wireless charging stand is louder — but I can hear it.

That slight irritation faded immediately when I put the M1 Max processor under load…because what I saw didn’t make sense.

System temps + fan speeds under load.

What you’re seeing above on the left is me using Handbrake to transcode a 50 GB 4K MKV file to a smaller h.265 4K 10-bit file. It’s punishing to the CPU — all cores are firing hard, but temps are only up about 20%…and the fan speed increased by a mere 12 rpm. This isn’t a one-off glitch either: I’ve done 50+ MKV transcodes on my Mac Studio and no matter how hard I push it, I never hear the fan get any louder. And the total power draw while under max load? About 52 watts. 🤯

Apple’s M-series silicon isn’t the best possible maximum performance silicon out there — the top-tier chips from Intel and AMD will match or beat it in some circumstances — but on a per-watt basis, and while staying cool and quiet…Apple has done something really special with their M-series chips and I’m thrilled with my Mac Studio so far.

It’s the guns. It’s *always* the guns.

Here we go again. Another day in America, another mass shooting. 😢 Below is something I wrote in response to a gun owner I know thinking out loud about solutions to the problem.

People buy guns because they are afraid and believe a gun will help them when they need it. A gun in the home is far more likely to be used for suicide or to accidentally shoot a family member then ever be used to “stop a bad guy”. Self-delusion is sadly common among gun owners.

A large number of guns are stolen every year from gun owners. Gun owners are a significant source of gun supply for criminals. These law-abiding gun owners are simply arming the criminals they’re trying to protect themselves from.

Buying a gun, any gun, simply helps fuel the gun industry that lobbies against gun restrictions and causes death and destruction in this country. The gun industry, and their puppets like the NRA, are a uniquely American monster that helps kill 45K+ people a year and wounds another 40K.

No other country has the same level of problem the USA has, but every country has criminals, mental health problems, etc.

What the USA does have is guns.

Lots and lots of guns.

And yet no matter how many people are killed every year, many Americans are puzzled by the source of the problem.

It’s the guns. It’s always the guns.

Moka the Friar

After much spiritual searching, my dog Moka has decided to begin her monastic life: I present to you Friar Moka.

Moka the Friar

(I don’t tend to post things like this often, but putting a little joy into the world is never a bad thing.)

T-Mobile 5G Home Internet: A Complete Failure [Part 1]

The headline already tells you where this is going, but come with me on an August 2021 journey that started with hope and ended in despair.

By way of background, I have two choices for home internet service where I live in a suburb of Renton, Washington: CenturyLink or Xfinity. Because I run a Plex server at home, and do a lot of video/photo uploads, having decent upload speeds and no data cap is important to me. Xfinity is off the table as even their fastest plan in my area (1200 mbps for $80/month) still has a 1.2TB data cap and the upload speeds are 35mbps (and Xfinity hides this fact). Plus, Comcast is the devil 👿 and I don’t want to give them my money.

So for 10 years I’ve stayed with CenturyLink’s DSL-based product. My community of 38 homes is too small for them to run fiber to, so I’m stuck with 80mbps down and 40mbps up. I long for more competition in the Internet provider space and it’s frustrating to me there isn’t more choice — though I often remind myself at least I have two options, many people in the USA have one or no access at all.

On the plus side, the CenturyLink connection is very stable, costs $50/month, and there’s no data cap. 80mbps is generally enough for my household, though I of course long for something better — and when I received an email from T-Mobile sharing that their 5G home Internet service was available in my ZIP code I signed up immediately…after I confirmed I could cancel if it didn’t work because I was hugely skeptical of their claims.

Why? People using TMO that come to my home get very weak signal. In early 2021 I tried a TMO mobile WiFi hotspot and had terrible signal and speeds. So it was with a large grain of salt I took TMO at their word their 5G signal was going to work great in my home. At the time, their speed claims were a minimum of 100mbps up and down, with the reps telling me verbally I should speeds around 300mbps. This was enough to lure me into testing it. It’s worth noting their web site now says typical speeds are 35-115mbps which is a dramatic downgrade to their initial marketing.

What the TMO site now says about speeds.

Their sign up process was incredibly invasive – at one point I wondered if I was being phished because they were asking for so many pieces of ID and information.

It took a few months for me to get the combo modem/ WiFi router (more demand than supply), but when it finally showed up I was excited to give it a try. Setup was fast and easy; after a couple of minutes I’d booted it up, applied a firmware update, and was ready to test it. I put it in the window of my main floor office and was immediately concerned, but not shocked, then I saw I only had two bars of signal.

Well this isn’t off to a good start…

Signal strength and speed are not linked though (despite what you might think), so I ran a speedtest on my phone connected to the TMO router. The results? 😩

This isn’t the 5G speed I was hoping for.
Continue reading T-Mobile 5G Home Internet: A Complete Failure [Part 1]

10 Years in the USA: Looking Back

10 years ago today, my family and I drove across the border, leaving our life in Canada 🇨🇦 behind and embarking on a new adventure: working and living in the 🇺🇸United States of America. It’s gone by so quickly, my brain can’t quite grasp it’s been a full decade of my life. It was such a scary 😱 decision at the time — leaving behind our friends and family, moving to a place where we knew no one, and where we’d be starting over from scratch. Keep in mind that neither my wife nor I moved away from home to go to college: our entire world was in our hometown of Calgary.

So much has happened in the past 10 years! Some of the highlights that come to mind, more or less in order, are:

  • Getting to work at HTC and having my first real corporate job (before that it was just vendor contracts with some big companies, never full time employment). Special thanks goes to John Starkweather for trusting that some guy from Canada was the right person for the job (even when the job ended up being a different sort of animal). Thanks also to Jason Gordon for his wise words as I was thinking through the big decision to move.
  • Being able to build a new home with space for people to come visit.
  • Having the joy of creating HTC elevate, traveling the world and meeting some truly fantastic HTC fans. That community program and the people in it hold a special place in my ❤️. #IBleedGreen
  • Working with some truly fantastic people at HTC, some of whom are still my friends to this day.
  • The birth of my daughter Alanna, who’s a real spitfire and destined for great things!
  • Learning the valuable lesson that green card sponsorship should have been part of my HTC hiring contract. 🤷‍♂️
  • Getting the opportunity to work for John Starkweather again, taking a contractor role with K-Force to work for AT&T and get my green card (and so did my wife and son).
  • Learning that I could step up into big roles and take on leadership where there was a gap; that being the one who says “Yes, I’ll help” is a great way to learn and grow.
  • Using my role at AT&T to move through a variety of experience-expanding roles such as learning Adobe Experience Manager and other tools.
  • Discovering a great school for Logan that grew into a career path for my wife and a great school fit for my daughter.
  • Experiencing the totally new scenario of having to earn a job interview, and failing to get the role; reinforcing the importance of interview preparation and confidence in telling my story to an employer.
  • Watching my son grow from a little guy who fit in my arms to a kind-hearted, creatively brilliant kid who’s getting taller by the day!
  • Once again learning that truth in the maxim of “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”; leveraging my network and past recruiter contacts to open the door to a role at AWS that was absolutely perfect for me. I had to work very hard to get through that open door mind you…
  • Being reminded that relationships matter; building and maintaining a professional network is critical to continued success.
  • Jumping into the developer community space with my role at AWS, something I knew nothing about, but realizing that people are the same no matter if they can code Javascript or not: everyone wants to belong to something special and online community has been in my blood since I first heard the screech of a dial-up modem.

Looking back on the past 10 years, I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for the blessing that have been showered upon my family and I. I’m so glad that every other door in Canada was closed to me, and that Ashely and I had the courage to leap through the open door that led us to this life. Here’s to the next 10 years!