Last post, new start

by Mat on 11 May, 2017 No comments

As part of the self-hosting, I’ve decided that I’m going to do a personal project. This site will be a bit more of an introductory page.

I’ve launched a new site, literally just now. It’s and I have no idea what I’m doing. What I do know is that I’m going to be myself over there. I don’t plan to go out of my way to explain who I am, but it’s who I am. That probably makes no sense, but I’m trying it. I’ll tell you more about it when you get there. In the meantime, I’m just going to work on it. It’s never going to be done, but it is going to be a collection of sorts.

So come over. See what’s shakin’. 🙂

MatLast post, new start

The Next Project – Self-Host

by Mat on 28 April, 2017 No comments

After several years of hosting on AWS, I’ve finally taken the plunge into self-hosting. I’m not sure what the pitfalls will be, but I do know for a fact that I’m tired of AWS downtime. Whether that’s them or me is TBD, but for the time being, I intend on giving it a go. Thanks to Bigpipe, I no longer have a blocked port 80. 🙂

MatThe Next Project – Self-Host

An Arm’s Length from Fakebook

by Mat on 9 January, 2017 No comments

This is not yet another “Digital Detox” article. I’ve been trying to define what it is about Facebook that has turned so dysfunctional, and I think I finally understand it.

In short, the medium causes the message.

We’ve been hearing a lot about “Fake News” lately. It’s just another variant of propaganda. This isn’t new; people have been lying for purpose since forever. What’s new about Facebook and other social media, is not the veracity of any given message. The phenomenon of “Fake News” is a symptom. It is a clear indication of how the platform is NATURALLY misused. Facebook, 2017 edition, is a vice.

When I signed up for Facebook about 8 years ago, I was already late to the party. I’d put it off for a while, relatively speaking. But when I started, it was essentially an RSS feed from your family and friends. Your friend is doing something, and they post a picture. Your friend was eating something, you shake your head, ask why anyone cares, and move on. And in a few days, you post your food.

And that’s how it all began. It’s pretty innocent stuff. It was a social network. It was your social, and their network.

Then, Google decided to drop Reader. That RSS feed that kept your social media separate from the news was no more. Now, you had one news feed, and it was Facebook. The void started to be filled by shares of news articles. Usually, they were good and legitimate sources. In the 2012 election, you’d see a lot more about the Presidential election, and the Obama team used it masterfully as a tool to win reelection.

After this happened, everyone took notice. No level of politics was off limits, and the full spectrum descended upon Facebook. The fringes had the most to gain, particularly with limited spending. The land rush was on, and Facebook got rich. To ensure they got richer quickly, Facebook also started filtering feeds. The news they thought you liked, none of the news they thought you hated, and opinions that sounded as close to what they thought you were as often as possible.

Early on, people worried about the effect. They turned out to be very, very correct. The main problem is that people can “attach validity” to stories by sharing them. Whether they mean it as an endorsement or not, sharing items breaks down the filter between an organisation, or a trusting friend passing something along. In the real world, if someone shares news, it likely will mean a lot to both parties. Receiving news from an off-brand organisation often comes with skepticism. However, if you get a dodgy story from a trusted friend, you read it. This is the social skepticism wedge Facebook solved, and is now earning billions of dollars.

So where does this leave us all? It’s like alcohol. It’s ok to have a glass of wine, but the young will binge on beer and shots. The addicted will cave whenever presented, and justify its overuse. The vendors will rake in the money, and the ad dollars will flow, just like the dopamine. We are presented with a rush when we have our “contribution” liked – even if we’re just re-sharing something. The conversations get weird.

So for me, I go back to the social “compact” of when I originally started. Back then, “in the good ol’ days”, it was about the people I cared about, not politics. It wasn’t about that family member that posted propaganda dressed up like political activism, but rather their new haircut. I will avoid the politics within Facebook – even those I agree with – as much as possible. I can’t leave altogether; I would simply lose contact with too many friends and family. But I will use Facebook for what it was, not what it has become. It’s the best situation I have left, and until Facebook itself starts to be replaced by non-centralised social networks that avoid politics, I’ll traverse carefully. No more arguing with people I essentially agree with, and no more assisting movements and resharing if it’s important. Just the friends and family stuff.

If you can’t do that, Facebook, what are you then?

MatAn Arm’s Length from Fakebook

The iPhone Dongle: Part 2

by Mat on 23 September, 2016 No comments

It’s 7 weeks later, so it’s about time I updated the rant I posted below. It turns out I was almost 100% right, and a little more wrong than I’d anticipated. Now that I’ve seen one of these things, I honestly have had my mind changed.

What? I’m not in full hate-rage mode? No. I’m not. Do I still think it was boneheaded and premature? Yes. However, having said that, I have to marvel at the engineering. It’s really an amazing adapter. Also known as “The Dongle”, it’s just so small and adequate, I understand why Apple thinks (rightly) it’s going to pull this off.

So why have I changed my mind, even though I was right? There’s a very simple test, and it’s whether or not something is annoying. Yes, not having a 3.5 is going to annoy people, but because of how small, simple, and frankly inexpensive this is, the annoyance is going to go way, way down. The fact that these cost $9US / $15NZ is just staggering to me. This has to be at no better than break-even, and maybe at a loss per unit.

So the little guy does, in fact, have a working Cirrus Logic DAC chip inside the Lightning side of the adapter. Really. The whole DAC is in there. And generally, when stuff is miniaturised in the audio world, you are going to pay for quality. The smaller something is, generally, the more you pay to make it sound as good as something big. It turns out that the DAC on this thing is good. REALLY good for the size. Technically, and I do mean *technically*, the audio isn’t as good as the plug. The limitation is essentially it came down to actual CD quality as its top quality level. For the audio nerds, it’s a 16-bit DAC. Most importantly, it’s pretty much noiseless. It’s not adding a bunch of hiss, it’s not making the audio sound “muddy” or “narrow” or whatever adjectives people use. It’s good. In fact, it’s so good, most people will think that the dongle isn’t doing anything but passing through that magic audio from one shape and size plug to another. It’s not, of course. But it seems that untouched.

And to me, this is what have Apple the #courage (gag me) to do it. Most people won’t care or notice much. I ran out and bought one for my 6S+, and I thought for sure it would be an easy comparison. If I put good cans on, and plug them in, I’ll be able to tell which connector is which. NOPE. Can’t tell. Now, it’s not a super-duper audio nerd listening environment, and I don’t think anyone rational would claim that. But frankly, with some regular pop music on, it’s indistinguishable audio. Really. I’m not sure I’d beat an A/B test even on material I know well.

Frankly, it’s a damned miracle.

So, the thing is, all the rest of what I wrote stands. I think the lack of a headphone jack might still put some people off, but it shouldn’t now that this dongle exists. Apple are still trying to make Beats work and make money. Schiller using the word “courage” was shallow…at best. It wasn’t about water resistance. It wasn’t about the stereo speakers. It’s still a calculated gamble to get customers locked in to Lightning, and not USB-C or any other wired standard.

All that withstanding, I just want to applaud the Hardware Development team for The Dongle. I know someone walked into their building and said, “We’re going to take the 3.5mm jack away. It is now your job to make that not be a crappy experience. You have 12 months, and you can only have a $6/unit cost. May the odds be ever in your favour.”

And they did it. Bravo.

Hell. Ya.

Hell. Ya.

MatThe iPhone Dongle: Part 2

iPhone 7, and the step backwards for audio

by Mat on 3 August, 2016 No comments

This is something I wrote for MacRumors. I thought I’d share it here, too.

The argument goes like this. Apple is considering removing the 3.5mm jack. Given the fact that Samsung is already commenting on it, and every rumour and leak from here to the WSJ believe it is, in fact, disappearing.

There are four ways to get audio out of a 6s:

-External speaker
-Bluetooth 4.5

On the 7, you will likely see:

-External stereo speaker
-Bluetooth 4.5

Of course, the Lightning/DAC analog converter will dongle your way into 3.5mm usage. As such, here are the arguments so far for removal of the 3.5mm jack:

-Allows device to be thinner
-Allows for more space for internals
-Allows for DAC selection
-Lets Apple sell more accessories

Now I’ve heard “innovation” thrown around a lot. Yet, every time I’ve challenged someone to say how this will make audio better on the iPhone, everyone falls short. In fact, there’s only one slightly technical reason to give some credence, and that is to get a Lightning/DAC dongle that has a better DAC chipset. Let’s talk about that.

In the case of an improved Lightning/DAC, it’s fair to say that first, any improved chipset will very, very likely be servicing a 3.5mm plug anyhow. Despite this, the technical presence does exist in that you could have a better dongle. In that case, it will be neither cost effective nor reasonably portable. Even if someone was to come up with such a contraption, it’s still a fairly better option to have a Bluetooth A2DP wireless adapter for your 3.5mm headphones. Yes, those exist; I found that out here a few months ago, and they’re going to start going like hotcakes. However, in the end, the “Better DAC” argument doesn’t hold water. It isn’t a practical signal chain, and it will never be a mainstream product given the cost and portability issues. I don’t doubt that someone will want a “ghetto blaster” “boom box”, but I’m feeling on solid ground that this will be an exception.

In every other case, the technology presenting in the 7 will be equal to the 6s. It’s x = x algebra. It all cancels out. The external speaker is there, so the internal DAC is there as well. And if they waste space on a stereo output, that whole “removed the jack to make room” argument is not only wrong, it’s very, very wrong. I’m not opposed to stereo output, but it isn’t due to this plug. You can make a case against stereo in that it’s just not going to sound very left-right unless they put the output above the top… where the antenna bands are. Not impossible, but not a strong selling feature.

What I’m left with is simply what every customer hates when they feel bent over by a company. They feel like they have to spend more than they otherwise should for something less convenient. I know that if I was presented with a phone that had no headphone jack, I’d be buying a DAC cable. And I’d look at it over and over and say how dumb it is. Maybe some won’t, but after 8 years of iPhones and years before that where iPods were all of that lineage, it’s hard to see why it would be removed. In fact, the clip-on was even the power charger once!

So there is no realistic benefit to buying a 3.5-less phone. Why would Apple do it then? The most plausible reason is simple. Margins are king at Apple, as well they should be. They made a play for Beats headphones, and haven’t been able to turn that purchase into a good return. The obvious thing is to make Beats a brand that is more readily accepted at a greater margin. That margin was built into marketing through rap / hiphop. Now, it’s basically just brand value. They’re ok cans, but they aren’t Sennheisers, Shures, or any other nice upper mid brand you can get. They do have street cred, and everyone knows they’ve got Apple’s ownership. So that brand will be positioned to take advantage of the newly created market of Lightning-based headphones. They will capture a decent amount of money in the semi-proprietary area where iPhone is the only thing you can plug into. And if I’m guessing correctly, they’ll actually be the real driver of Lightning/DAC conversion dongles.

Think about it this way… it isn’t that old cans need a dongle for iPhone. The story is that iPhone cans can also be dongled to use your old crap, too. At least, that’s what the Marketing Team will want you to believe.

In the end, this is about a margin play. It is not innovative. It is a calculated gamble that enough people will just get over it. I think it’s a bridge too far; the iPhone was taken seriously by the mass market because Steve Jobs stood up and said, “what if…. phone, music, and the whole internet on one device?” It’s centuries ago in 2007, but the truth is that people consume media by phone now. It’s the number one, by far, device where people listen to music. It cannibalised the iPod. Over 100,000,000 people pay $10 or more per month to stream audio to their devices. The risk of making that ease of access disappear is, in my opinion, too early.

If Apple waits until Bluetooth A2DP is the norm, dropping the jack isn’t a big deal. Instead, they are choosing to be “bold”. To what end? It adds nothing, it isn’t necessary for waterproofing, and it doesn’t offer anything better than the previous model. Hell, even the Macbook, of two port fame, offers a USB-C, and a 3.5mm jack. It leaves only one realistic plan, and that’s to push Lightning Beats like hell.

Viva La 6S.

MatiPhone 7, and the step backwards for audio

Time Machine eating drive space?

by Mat on 11 July, 2016 No comments

You’re a normal user, and you use Time Machine on your Mac. You’ve got a portable USB on your Airport, or maybe one of the fancy Time Capsules with the hard drive inside. And you think to yourself, “Why is my hard drive filling up?”

The main reason is that Time Machine puts local backups on your hard drive until it’s 80% full. The more you use your Mac, the faster it fills up. It’s not you; it’s just versions of files that are kept and you’re not aware generally that it isn’t moving over to your backup drive. Well, it is, but it’s also being kept on that otherwise-spacious new driver.

Here’s how you turn it off in Terminal, and still use Time Machine normally:

sudo tmutil disablelocal

You’ll be asked for your password. This simply ends the local storage of backups that you’re already storing on your external drive.

MatTime Machine eating drive space?

Low Hanging Apples

by Mat on 4 May, 2016 No comments

If there’s one thing I have come to appreciate in the technology world over the last decade, it has been the Apple ecosystem. It’s really amazing, and there are a lot of advancements that wouldn’t have happened without their innovation. With that said, and with the benefit of using their products a lot, I’d like to toss out my “WHY AREN’T YOU DOING THIS YET” list.

Caveats… I know that when you say “it’s easy”, it isn’t. I know this very well. There may be “reasons” I don’t know, but then again, I don’t know them. So here we go, in no particular order:

1. Add Apple Watch Complications to the iPhone home screen

2. Change the 48-hour passcode requirement for iPhone fingerprint login to a user-changeable time. I’d prefer 6 hours, myself.

3. iPhone is now auto-lock at 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 minutes. Why can’t there be a 10 and 15? Better, have a different setting when on a charger.

4. A landscape mode on iPhone Music. (This one bugs me a lot.)

5. If you can have a “prior app” target the size of 8pt font, then you can make a desktop option of apps in a list, sans icons. This would mean you could have about 300 apps listed on one desktop screen instead of limiting to 24. Paging and Folders are not intuitive, nor are page flips.

6. Apple Watch should have a SECONDS counter on the Modular face. Hell, there is no seconds counter on the watch, unless it’s a graphic needle. That’s hard to believe.

7. Apple Watch has a Swipe From Top, and Bottom. Why isn’t there a Swipe from Left or Right?

8. Why can’t the date appear near the time on iPhone?

9. Why can’t the iPhone emulator be available on a Mac? I bought the apps, so why can’t I install them as an emulated service? Some of the apps are truly better than any conventional app, so why not let signed apps run on hardware?

10. Why can I no longer anchor the dock to the corners in Mac OS? Why remove that?

11. Why are backups and photos automatically assumed and maintained until 80% of the drive is filled? I shouldn’t have to turn that off via terminal commands.

12. When I ping my phone from my watch, it makes a loud ding. How about turning on the lock screen so I can see it, too?

13. Why isn’t “Apple TV” just an app on my phone? Like the v3 style, pre-apps. 

These are some of the things that could be “fixed”, and “quickly”. There are a lot of upgrades I’d like to see, but all of these are more about usability and options that are, to me, questionably missing. That said, if we’re talking other things like Windows, this list would be much, much longer, so take this for what it is; constructive criticism.

MatLow Hanging Apples

Fast Times at DCI

by Mat on 1 May, 2016 No comments

I had the distinct privilege of working with all of these guys for 5 years, and several before as a volunteer. What they don’t mention are all the Emmys and “real jobs” these guys have. Oprah, NFL, NASCAR, the Olympics… absolutely top-notch. I had the pleasure of getting their production online, and we were able to share this broadcast worldwide. It was some of the most difficult work I’ve done, but definitely an amazing, rewarding experience.

There are countless others on the list of professionals that make this broadcast and recording awesome, and I’ve had the benefit of meeting so many of them. However, for the gentlemen in this video, it’s about time that they had the camera on them. They are all technically incredible, but it is their combination that makes magic. Many of them were also performers many moons ago, as was I, and when you know what it takes to do that, it’s no wonder this crew puts so much into their craft.

The content from this post originated from

MatFast Times at DCI

Handbrake and OSX 10.11 El Capitan

by Mat on 28 December, 2015 No comments

If you upgraded your Mac to El Capitan, and you ever go back to directly ripping a DVD from Handbrake, you’ll want to do this first:

  1. Close Handbrake, and open a new Finder window.
  2. Type cmd+shift+G, and paste in this path:
  3. Inside this folder should be a folder named “Migration-[random letters and numbers].” Open that folder and you’ll find “QuarantineRoot.” Open that folder, and you should see your libdvdcss.2.dylib file.
  4. Open a second Finder window.
  5. Type cmd+shift+G, and paste in this path:
  6. Drag and drop the libdvdcss.2.dylib file from the first window into the /usr/local/lib folder. You should be prompted for your admin password.
  7. Restart Handbrake.


MatHandbrake and OSX 10.11 El Capitan

iPhone 6S International Versions for USA

by Mat on 11 September, 2015 No comments

UPDATE (14 Sep): has been updated. Everything below was confirmed, except that T-Mo switched over.


Now that the iPhone 6S has been announced, it has been interesting to see that the new models are still split in two, but are darn near identical. This is great news for those that travel abroad, and want to use other sim cards as they travel. Here’s how the new split breaks down:

The AT&T and T-Mobile models:
Model A1633*
Model A1634*

LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30)
 TD-LTE (Bands 38, 39, 40, 41)
 TD-SCDMA 1900 (F), 2000 (A)
 UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz)
 GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)

The Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile models:
Model A1688*
Model A1687*

LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29)
 TD-LTE (Bands 38, 39, 40, 41)
 TD-SCDMA 1900 (F), 2000 (A)
 CDMA EV-DO Rev. A (800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz)
 UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz)
 GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)

The differences here are much smaller than before. With the iPhone 6, there were differences in the TD-LTE radios, but not anymore. This means that you can get LTE effectively worldwide on either model. Here are the differences I know, and hopefully they can help you decide what to get.

Sprint, as far as I know, still carrier locks within the US. Even if you buy an unsubsidized phone from them, you can only use the device on Sprint/Ting in the US. You can unlock internationally, but it’s still unnecessary. Avoid the headache.

T-Mobile and AT&T offer “LTE Band 30” in their phones. In short, this is an additional LTE band that offers excellent speeds in dense, urban areas. This is already being rolled out, and will help AT&T customers in areas that were notoriously slow due to overuse in a small geography.

AT&T has had a reputation for carrier-locking in the past, and generally, you must be “in good standing” to unlock. In other words, you have to beg, and then they’ll let you off… assuming you paid all your bills, you good little sheep. The NSA thanks you.

T-Mobile doesn’t appear to have plans to use that LTE band, so while they’ll be offering better deals without contracts, you’re also going to deal with what has historically been a lesser network. Some of the new bands added to these models will help, provided your area gets upgraded. They do offer the most flex and the best international plans, while generally being least expensive. UPDATE: T-Mobile has the CDMA version; same as Verizon below.

Verizon offers the best blend, it seems. You get a phone with CDMA included. This will give you coverage with speed in almost every place on earth. You only miss out on LTE 30, and it’s irrelevant if your network is decent. Having used Verizon for several years, their network is their strength. Unless you plan on being an AT&T customer in the next 2-3 years, it would be hard to recommend anything other than a Verizon phone. Why?

If you like Verizon or T-Mobile, you’re set. If you like Sprint, you’re able to get on their network, including prepay with Ting. You can use T-Mobile’s plans with a T-Mo sim, and get some of their international data options, or their prepay as well. If you’re going with AT&T while in the US, and you plan on being in major metropolitan areas, AT&T might be worthwhile. However if you are an AT&T customer, it might be best to buy the T-Mobile version so you have no carrier locking issues.

While the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus don’t have the “Apple Sim”, this setup has been a big step forward in offering a “World Phone” right out of the gate. All 4 carriers seem to be offering unsubsidized and non-carrier-locked handsets on Day 1, but I will stick to my recommendations until I hear that AT&T and Sprint have actually changed behavior.

Please be aware – this is as accurate as I can see from the specs posted on 10 September 2015. I cannot guarantee accuracy, other than to say that “you see what I see”.

Good luck, and enjoy those phones on Launch Day!

MatiPhone 6S International Versions for USA