2018-10-31

Thoughts on Apple's new products in 2018 and 2019

Apple had a grand event in October 2018, and these are my take-aways:

Lightning is going away.

The newest iPads no longer have a Lightning connector.  Instead, the new iPads sport a standards-based USB-C connector.  Additionally, the new Apple Pencil no longer has a Lightning connector.

I suspect that no new Apple devices will have a lightning connector.

Goodbye, Lightning.  You were great in 2014, but USB-C made you redundant.

Mac Growth has Stopped ... by design.

Mac sales are more profitable than ever, but Apple has significantly slowed down the release of new Macs.  At one time models were updated every 8 months on average, but now Mac models are sold for several years without updates.  Furthermore, Apple has stopped selling machines built and priced for secondary school students.

Although Apple continues to be within the top five PC manufacturers, Mac sales are declining compared to the competition. And with fewer sales, fewer developers will be investing in Mac software production.

Engineering investment should be focused on Apple's most promising product lines, and that's not the Mac. At this point, Apple's strategy is to maximize Mac profits at the cost of its ecosystem.  Because the Mac ecosystem has no future.

Goodbye, Mac.  You were great in 2010, but iOS has made you a poor investment.




2018-10-02

My Dustbuster Screams like Hell

Yes, once again it is Dustbuster repair time, this time to fix a very noisy motor.

I use my Dustbuster a lot  - at least three times per day - and so it is a good bet that my Dustbuster is used over 1000 times per year.  My Dustbuster likely has many times more usage than your average dustbuster.

Even though these little machines are quite affordable, when it started to act a little wonky, I decided it's to my advantage to fix it.  I don't want to buy a new one every couple years.  I want to maximize it's mileage.

The last time I had an issue, my Dustbuster's power switch became unreliable.  It was an easy fix with an inexpensive replacement part.  But this time the electric motor started to make an awful noise at startup.  I guess a few years of fine dust found its way into the motor bearings.

My goal is to see if it is possible/reasonable to lubricate the Dustbuster's bearings.  So here we go!

Re-lubricating a Dustbuster's motor bearings

Remove six screws to get to the motor.
The motor is within the white protruding part of the housing.


To open it up the dustbuster's housing, I used the simple strategy found in my Dustbuster Power Switch Repair guide.

Once I opened the housing, I removed and unplugged the battery, and then I pulled out the motor/fan assembly.

With the assembly in hand, I lifted off the white motor housing by releasing two tabs on the side.   Removing this housing reveals the top of the motor.   I noticed some dirt and grime at the shaft, so I cleaning it up with some Q-Tips.

I did not gain direct access to the bottom of the motor, because it looks like the "fan" is permanently attached.  Happily, there are some airflow slots that allow some access to the motor shaft. I wiped down the "bottom" bearing shaft with Q-Tips.

Next I used a single drop of 3-in-1 oil on each side of the motor try to wash out the bearings.  Once the drop was in place, I'd spin the shaft slowly by hand, trying to work the oil into the hidden recesses of the bearing.

Finally, I lubed the shaft with a tiny bit of lithium grease. Again I tried to push the grease into the shaft bearing.

After spinning the shaft in both directions a bit, I was confident that the shaft was reasonably well lubricated.

And then I reassembled in the reverse of disassembly.

There is a lot of dust in the hidden recesses of a Dustbuster, which I managed to loosen when I opened it up.  Therefore, for my first power-on test, I took it outside where a huge plume of dust was exhausted.  Yuk!  But it was more quiet than ever.  !WIN!

I don't expect this repair to last long - I imagine that the bearing surfaces are worn beyond their useful life, and that I just masked the problem with some lube that will quickly be pushed away.  But it's worth trying.   I'll update this as things change.

UPDATE

When I first lubricated the bearings, I thought I'd get a few more uses out of my Dustbuster before it reverted to it's old, noisy ways. Happily, I was WRONG!  My re-lubricated Dust Buster motor bearings are working out fabulously.   I have no complaints.

2018-09-14

Jensen VX5228 CarPlay Installation in my Lexus ES300

I wanted to install a CarPlay compatible head unit into my good old Lexus ES330, but I didn't want to spend a lot of money.  So forget it, right?

Ha!  I bought the Jensen VX5228 on discount for under $180, and I haven't been more pleased.

The Jensen is a standard "Double DIN" sized head unit, which means that it can be adapted to fit into a whole lot of modern cars.  I have an older Lexus ES330, and so fitting it required a few extra Lexus-ish parts, but in the end it looks great and works like a champ.

Here's what I needed for my 2002-2006 Lexus ES300 or ES330:
The process was pretty simple:

Workbench Prep Work

On the workbench, I performed the following steps
  • Connect the TYTO-01 wire harness to the Jensen-provided wire harness. The TYTO-01 manual says what to do, but in short I connected yellow to yellow, blue to blue, red to red, etc.  This was the most time consuming step, taking me about 20 minutes, but it was very easy work,
  • Attached the new faceplate's black mounting brackets to the car play unit with four screws.
Now with the workbench part done, now it's time to go to the car with the parts.

Remove the factory radio

Before I start note that removing almost everything is a tool free process.  Lots of things are just snapped into place, and can be removed and reinstalled simply by using fingers.

To remove the radio, I did this:
  • Put the car in Neutral
  • Unsnap the shift cover and remove the wire connector from the cigarette lighter
  • Put the car in Park
  • Snap out the climate control system and lay it aside
  • Remove the four 10mm radio bolts and pull the radio out a ways
  • Disconnect radio connectors and hazard and clock connectors
  • Fully remove the now fully disconnected facroty radio.  Heavy, eh?  I saved it in case I ever want to reinstall it.
Initial Install and Test

Now that the old radio is out, it's time to start to install the new one. 
  • Attach the TYTO-01 wiring harness to the car's audio connector
  • While balancing the Jensen in one hand, plug the harness into the Jensen. Also plug in the FM antenna, microphone, and USB cable.  The AM antenna is not required and is not used.
  • Loosely place the radio in its home within the dashboard.  Check that the radio is working by powering it up.  Then power it down.
Finishing the Install
  • Route the cables properly behind the radio.  They will all fit.  I routed the USB cable to the center console.
  • Bolt the radio in place using those four bolts, making sure everything is reasonably well aligned.
  • Unsnap the vents, clock and hazard switch from the old faceplate.  Snap them into the new faceplate.
  • Plug the wires back into the clock and hazard switch.
  • Snap the new faceplate onto the dash.  If it doesn't fit perfectly, recheck that nothing is impeding it. Wiggle the radio a little if it's not aligned to the faceplate properly.
  • Test the radio, clock, hazard.
  • Snap in the climate control unit into place.
  • Reattach the cig lighter cable.
  • Snap the shifter faceplate back into place.
  • Done!

And that's all there is to it.  It seems like a lot of steps, but most steps takes a couple of seconds since most things just snap in and out of place.


Limitations

The only limitation I've run into is that the TYTO-01 adapter lacks fader adjustment.  Therefore, front and rear speaker levels are not independently adjustable.   As far as I can tell, front and rear speakers are set to be equal in volume.
 Future Projects

Microphone
 
I was lazy and placed the microphone on the dash as shown in the photos.  I think putting it near the rear view mirror would result in higher mic sound quality.  That's a project for a different time.

Backup Camera

I plan to add a back up camera later, but it requires routing a cable from the trunk to the front of the car.  So I'll do this once I feel like crawling around my car for a couple hours.   If you add a camera to your Lexus ES3xx, let me know so I can learn from your trunk-to-dash wire routing strategy!


Fix a Lightning Cable with Heat Shrink Tubing

We've all seen a Lightning cable that has started to fall apart.  They get used every day, and after enough tugs and yanks on your iPhone, they start to fray.

I've seen a lot of these, and so I've started to fix them before they break with heat shrink tube.  I get my heat shrink on Amazon, like this handy and inexpensive pack.  I like the of heat shrink without internal glue - it has higher flexibility and a smaller outside diameter once shrunk.

Heat Shrink Tubing on an Old, Frayed Lightning Cable

In the photo here, you'll see that I slid on a 1.25 inch length of heat shrink over the lighting connector, and then shrunk it into place.  I chose a diameter that just barely fits over the lightning connector.  In all, it took about 60 seconds to perform this repair.

Warning: the white plastic of the lightning cable has a pretty low melting point.  It seems to start to melt at about 125°C (or about 250°F), which is the same temperature that the tubing shrinks.  Therefore, strive to minimize the heat and time used to shrink the tubing.

Now the cord has a lot more strength at the point that sees the most stress, and you can't even begin to tell that the underlying cord was falling apart.  That doesn't mean that the repaired cord will last forever, but my bet is that it's life will extended many times over.

And there you have it.  Now go save the life of some Lightning Cables.




2018-08-16

Apple's long history of failures with the Entry Level MacBook

In 2006, Apple released the 13 inch white plastic MacBook.  It wasn't nearly as great looking as the MacBook Pro, but it had a decent CPU and had a lot of built-in capabilities not seen in many other entry level laptops.  It was nearly as powerful as the MacBook Pro, and was really only missing the rarely used FireWire port.

And then what happened???
2006: Plastic MacBook (A1181) is released.  Apple sells a ton of them.
2008: Surprise! A new Aluminum MacBook (A1278) appears.  Is plastic dead???
2008: Surprise!  Plastic MacBook continues (A1181), likely due to the price tag of the A1278.
2009: Surprise! That fancy Aluminum MacBook is renamed the "MacBook Pro" (A1278).
2009: Surprise! A new Plastic MacBook is released (A1342).  It is capable and affordable.
2009: The MacBook Air is released.  It is expensive and under-powered, but great looking.
2010: The MacBook Air gets more powerful and more affordable every year, and then...
2012: The plastic MacBook (A1342) is finally dropped.
2015: Surprise! A sleek MacBook is here, at 12 inches! But it is very expensive and under-powered.
2015: Surprise! The aged 13" MacBook Pro (2012 A1278) is pushed into the low-end.
2015: Surprise!  Apple kills off the affordable 11" MacBook Air.  Want light?  Get a MacBook.
2017: The aged 13" MacBook Pro (2012 A1278) is dropped.
2017: Surprise! A new low-end MacBook Pro (sans touchbar) is released.  Is this really for a Pro???
2018: Will Apple get its entry level Mac Notebook back in order?  It's been messed up for 10 years!


Why get a Roomba and not some other Robot Vacuum Cleaner?

Roomba definitely has the biggest name in robots, but there are a lot of great looking competitors out there.  So why get a Roomba?

Because robot vacuum cleaners have a lot of moving parts.  And moving parts need to be maintained.

The beauty of Roomba and iRobot is that spare parts are readily and inexpensively available.  Sure, there are consumables available for every robot out there.  But new wheels and motors?  How about upgraded parts?  iRobot is unique in that there is the expectation that you can affordably keep an old Roomba going forever.  Everyone else?  Not so much.

My Roomba gets a lot of use, and it's 7 years old.  I've upgraded the entire cleaning head assembly - which includes the primary gearbox and brush motors and dust bin.  I've also repaired a failed power jack.  Other machines would likely already be disposed of.

But my Roomba keeps on going.  I suspect that it will last as long as I need it to.  And that's either with my death, or with the advent of fancy new cleaning technology.

2018-08-12

MacOS Time Machine, the best backup software in the business.

Time Machine is Apple's backup solution.  It's the best backup in the business, but it needs to be updated.

Time Machine is amazing because it is by far more effective than any other backup solution.  You attach a backup drive to your computer, and your Mac asks you if you want to back up.  Say yes, and the backup happens.

Time Machine does full disk backup.  It backs up periodically and automatically. You can step back in time to recover old versions of stuff.  It smartly ignores files that don't need to be backed up (like /tmp and /proc and whatever).  It automatically manages backup disks.  TimeMachine has configuration options, but they're simple and straightforward - perfect for anyone except perhaps the data center backup pro who has spent countless hours developing an optimal backup strategy.

The backup industry has not responded to Time Machine.  It focuses on "every feature under the sun", with countless options and capabilities.  But those products are so time consuming to administrate and maintain that only a tiny number of home users use them.

But Time Machine does not do off-site backup.  And so if your house suffers through a fire, flood, or theft, you still might lose everything.  Bummer.

I hope Apple amps up Time Machine so that Mac users can keep their backups on S3-class storage services. Throw in a few simple configuration options for S3, and Time Machine could help address the weak online backup world including companies like Mozy, CrashPlan, and Carbonite.

Thoughts on Apple's new products in 2018 and 2019

Apple had a grand event in October 2018, and these are my take-aways: Lightning is going away. The newest iPads no longer have a Lightni...