My 2017 Goals

I'm not a fan of "New Years Resolutions," but I do enjoy setting goals for myself. What's the difference? In my mind resolutions seem to be very arbitrary, not well documented or mesaured, and quickly forgotten, while goals are much more specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound. Sound familiar? If you've been in the business world for any length of time, you'll recognize these as S.M.A.R.T. goals. I first set annual goals in 2015, and enjoyed the process of working towards them every month. Goals are something I'll to set in order to drive positive, purposeful change in my life.

My Goals for 2017

  1. Pay off a certain amount of debt
  2. Read 20 books
  3. Post four photographs per month
  4. Journal two times per week
  5. Cook one new recipe with one new food per week
  6. Bike 1500 miles

Because I'm a data junkie, I like to track things at intimate levels of details, and do it digitally. This year I'm using the iOS app Strides to help me track my goals. I like that I can enter various types of goals, and it will track. And it syncs between iPhone and iPad, a must-have for me. I did not pay for the upgrades.

I'll detail my goal tracking at the end of each month.

Wi-Fi Networks: Frequency Fracas

The Problem to Be Solved: Horrendously slow Wi-Fi in a large apartment building.

The Cast of Characters:

  • Gigabit Wired LAN
  • 6th Gen Apple AirPort Extreme
  • 50 Mbps symmetric fiber connection (shout out to Ellum Net, the best ISP. EVER.)
  • Two MacBook Pros
  • iPad Air 2
  • iPhone 6+
  • Nest Thermostat
  • Belkin WeMo Switches
  • Two Apple TVs and Rokus
  • A Very Frustrated Nerd

The Backstory: I moved into a new building in March 2015. It was an awesome building. Over 100 years old. Ford Model T's were once built where I now sleep! I was able to ditch Time Warner Cable and go with an indie ISP. Life was good.

My household has always been streaming-only when it comes to TV; everything I watch comes in via Netflix, Hulu, etc. As I settled in for my first night in the new place after a day of moving and unpacking life went from awesome to abysmal - the streaming quality was terrible! My "Friends" we're nothing but big pixelated blocks. I didn't understand how this could be with my big fast internet connection. Being the honorable nerd that I am, I set out to figure out what was going on. I was using the AirPort Extreme setup with both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks both named Kennedy and a 2.4 GHz guest network named Clinton. Yes, I have a fascination with former Presidents.

The Process: Let the testing being! I first started with a good old fashioned speed test on iPhone 6+ using the Ookla speedtest app. Enter the problem: I was shocked when I saw I was getting only around 2 Mbps. I was certain my internet connection was better than that! When I wired up one of the MacBook Pros directy to the AirPort Extreme, I got around 90 Mbps both directions. Something wasn't right! Tested the MacBook on Wi-Fi and got the same 90 Mbps result.

After using "the Googles", my working theory was that because I live in a densely packed area of town in a large loft building the Wi-Fi frequencies were overloaded. Now, how to test this theory? Was it possible to test? Remembering back to wireless frequencies and that lower frequencies penetrate walls better, I wanted to split my 5 GHz network from my 2.4 GHz network and test them separately. Would the 5 GHz band be less crowded and stay "inside" my loft?

The Solution: Once I seprated Kennedy on the 2.4 GHz frequency and Johnson on the 5 GHz frequency (see what I did there? VP) I tested iPhone, iPad, and Mac on both bands. Sure enough, around 2 Mbps on 2.4 GHz and 50+ Mbps on 5 GHz. 

One Last Burning Question: The only question left was why did the iOS devices not prefer the 5 GHz network over the 2.4 GHz network when they were identically named? Without an Apple Engineer, I can only speculate, but it appears that they prefer networks based only on signal strength. This is my working assumption as most places in my loft the Wi-Fi "seashell" signal indicator shows only 2 of the 3 bars on Johnson (5 GHz) while showing full strength on Kennedy (2.4 GHz). All devices that support 5 GHz are now configured to only connect to Johnson, and I use Kennedy for devices that require 2.4 GHz - Nest, Wemos, etc. Problem solved - speed is king!


iPad Air 2, the Apple SIM, and Network Speeds

Anyone who knows me knows that I love Apple products, but they also know that I love the wireless industry. With Apple's launch of iPad Air 2, they also launched the Apple SIM. It's my time to shine!

Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards have been in use for years by carriers in the US like AT&T (Cingular), T-Mobile (VoiceStream), and more recently by Verizon and Sprint with the launch of LTE. Overseas SIM cards have been used even longer. Previous to Apple's launch of the Apple SIM, a SIM card was provided by the carrier for each line of service. Your identity to the network/carrier was the SIM card. You could move your SIM from device to device and your service (phone number) followed the SIM. This process won't change for many, but those buying Apple's new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 will be able to take advantage of the new setup.

Apple has taken an AWESOME step and launched dynamic SIM cards. Right now in my iPad Air 2 I have an Apple SIM that has service from both Sprint and T-Mobile active at the same time. I can't be connected to both networks simultaneously, but I can easily switch between each provider with the tap of a menu item. I can also manage my account with each service provider including adding, changing, and canceling service.

There are a few things you should know about the Apple SIM & service: 

  • Only AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint are supported at this time in the US
  • Outside the US support is limited to the UK provider EE
  • Once you setup service on T-Mobile or Sprint, you can't setup AT&T service
  • Setting up AT&T service on the Apple SIM will lock that SIM to use on AT&T's network, and will not allow you to switch to other networks without obtaining a new SIM



iTunes Radio

Monday's tip about iTunes Match talked all about how iTunes Match enhances your music library. Another awesome benefit of an iTunes Match subscription is ad-free iTunes Radio.

This Pandora-style app is built right into your iOS device (and iTunes!) and has a very similar feature set. It's great even without an iTunes Match subscription. 

Launch the Music and tap the Radio button. You'll be shown sample stations as well as any that you have created. You'll also see a large pink "+" button to create a new station. To start tap "New Station". You can pick a station from the list of genres or you can search for an artist, album, or song to "seed" your list. If you searched for a seed, select it from the list and your station will begin to play.

Once your station is playing you'll see a few new buttons.

2014-01-10 iTunes Radio Screenshot.png
  • Price (top right): Allows you to purchase the song from the iTunes Music Store
  • Inspector, shown as circled "i" (top center): Here you can start new stations from this artist or song. This screen also has one of my favorite iTunes Radio features: Tune This Station. You can choose whether you want the station to play you the Hits, a Variety of songs, or if you want to Discover new music. iTunes Radio uses your library to help it make decisions once you've made a selection with the slide. Also on this screen you can allow explicit lyrics, or share your station via the normal sharing methods.
  • Star (bottom left): Star this song if you want to hear more songs like the current one playing, or never play it again on this station, if it doesn't fit or you don't like it. Lastly, you can add it to your iTunes Wish List to remember to purchase later.
  • Skip Song (bottom right): Skips the song currently playing, but won't block the song from playing again in the future. As with Pandora, you can only skip 6 songs in an hour.

We love iTunes Radio in our house - we use it for parties or just background music while working. It's new to iOS 7 and included on all iOS devices.