Crypto Tech in Zug

I attended a meetup in Zug tonight on using tokenization and distributed ledger technologies to help attain sustainable development goals.

This was the second meetup in a month on using crypto currency tech to effect positive change in the world. Very interesting stuff.

I love that there is a community here that is engaged in having these discussions. The technology is still in its infancy.

Clarification: I think sh*tcoin mining is the devil’s work, and I think there’s a huge crypto currency bubble waiting to burst.

But remember how it felt in 2008 when the App Store launched? Or in the late 90’s with the web? That’s crypto tech in Switzerland now.

Solo Stove Bonfire Mini-Review

Last weekend I impulse purchased a Solo Stove Bonfire fire pit because it looked awesome and was highly reviewed, we’ve wanted a fire pit or outdoor heater, there was a 10% discount for Earth Day weekend, and the mobile website accepted Apple Pay which made checkout super easy.

It arrived today and I was super eager to test it out. I had already purchased some 2″ paver stones to set it on (to protect our wood deck), firewood, and marshmallows.

What follows is my first impression mini-review after using it for the first time:

  • It lights quickly and easily. I used some straw, a few pieces, of kindling, and then straight to logs. There was no need for lighter fluid or fire starters or extra feeding of paper. I made a small bed of straw, put 6 pieces of kindling and 1 log on top and then lit it. Once the fire was going each additional log ignited quickly.
  • Once it heats up, it does produce less smoke than a normal campfire / fire pit. It takes a good 10-15 minutes to reach this point though.
  • The fire pit needs to be both pre-heated and full of logs in order to get the secondary combustion where pre-heated air flows into through holes around the upper rim to form flame jets that burn the smoke emitted from the main fire.
  • It seems to burn through wood pretty quickly.
  • Once the flames die down, it forms a great bed of embers for roasting marshmallows.
  • It burns the wood almost down to nothing. I had a few golf ball sized chunks of charcoal but mostly fine ash left over.
  • The fire pit cools down quickly. I was surprised how quickly it cools down. Because it burns so efficiently, I think it burns everything it can down to ash and then when there’s nothing left it quickly cools. I imagine the same airflow that allows it to burn so efficiently also contributes to the rapid cooling afterwards.
  • 👍


​Secondary combustion: ​Look for the jets of flame periodically forming around the rim

Perfect bed of embers for roasting marshmallows

Thoughts on iPhone 7 Plus

Four months ago I replaced my iPhone 6S with an iPhone SE. I loved the idea of the SE: the best features of the 6S with the form factor of the 5/5S for $250 less. Why did I switch? Well, there are a few things I’ve never liked about the 6-series phones compared to the 5-series:

  1. Slippery rounded sides
  2. Power button opposite the volume buttons. I find it very difficult to press the power button without also pressing volume up (and vice versa).
  3. Redesign of the volume buttons

Specifically with the iPhone 6S (especially after a year with the 6 Plus), I was disappointed with its anemic battery life. Not a deal breaker as I can charge at my desk and in my car, but not great either. I never really got into 3D Touch, so I didn’t miss not having it on the SE. The faster Touch ID on the 6S was actually an annoyance to me with iOS 9 and the difficult to press side-mounted power button.

So I was happy to give the SE a try. I enjoyed the fun pink (rose gold) color. The battery life was much better. Mostly I just appreciated the return to the easy-to-grip 5-series form factor. I’ve been very pleased with the SE.

I’m an iOS developer and I tend to focus on UI, so of course I was going to get a 7-series phone eventually. The questions were: (1) which model, and (2) would it replace my SE as my daily driver.

The dual lens camera system available only in the 7 Plus, pretty much decided both those questions. I waited until the SIM-free unlocked phones were available in the U.S. before placing an order, so I only received my 7 Plus this week.

Impressions So Far

  • The matte black color is gorgeous. I’d love to see this color on watches, iPads, and MacBooks.
  • I enjoy having a 5.5″ screen back after a year away.
  • I 💜 the new home button. It feels great.
  • The rounded sides are still slippery and the power button is still not easy to use
  • 2x camera mode is great. Zooming up to 10x is handy. I love the new zoom interface.
  • This is my first 128 GB phone. I could get used to this! 32 GB is now out of the question for me if I am to use the device for more than just testing.
  • 👍

Standing Desk 1.0

Standing positionEarly this year I purchased my first standing desk. Originally I was looking at treadmill desks as a way to help get in shape despite the long hours I spend at my desk each day. I didn’t feel like I had the time for a DIY project, so I was considering pre-built solutions such as this LifeSpan Fitness treadmill desk. Their desk seemed nice, but I had 2 problems with it. First it is fixed in height and so could never be used as a sitting desk, and second I already have 3 desks in my office that I like and the last thing I needed was a 4th desk.

The other reason I was looking at treadmill desks was because sitting at my desk was becoming increasingly more uncomfortable. I’ve been programming professionally for 15 years and sitting long hours each day the entire time. Up until last year, I would only get sore after more than 10 or 12 hours of sitting. But this past year that dropped to 8 and then 6 and then 4 hours or even less. Changing positions and getting up for stretching breaks (which I do regularly) wasn’t helping much. Sitting at my desk had literally become (forgive the pun) a pain in the ass. Of course to address this problem I didn’t need a treadmill, just a standing desk. But I figured that standing all day would quickly become just as painful as sitting all day, so what I really needed was an adjustable desk. (LifeSpan and other companies also sell standing desk treadmills without the desk, so I could always add a treadmill later.)

So after some research I decided to get a GeekDesk without a top and reuse the existing glass top from one of my desks, and just swap out the existing frame for the GeekDesk one. I chose the more expensive Max version mainly for the programmable presets, and I chose a small frame to fit one of my two 120 cm desks (I could have gotten a large frame for my 160 cm desk).  Using my own top saved me $264 between reduced price and reduced shipping.

GeekDesk Max frameCustomer service at GeekDesk was great and my desk arrived promptly. You assemble it yourself, but that’s easy and the build quality is great.  Adding your own glass top is probably even easier than adding your own wood top because you can assemble the desk upright and merely set the glass top in place. The one thing you need are little rubber / silicone pads to put in between the metal frame and the glass top. These cushion the top but also provide the necessary friction so that the top will not slide sideways with pressure. Fortunately I already had these from my previous desk frame.

When the desk is in seated position the before (above) and after (below) appearance is practically unchanged.


In Use

At first, I was changing positions every 30 minutes using a timer to remind me. I rotated between 3 positions: sitting in a chair, standing, and sitting on a balance ball (with the desk in its lowest position). Changing so frequently was no doubt overkill and most of the time I had trouble focusing properly while standing. Working while sitting is a hard habit to break. 9 months later I still sit most of the day, but once or twice a day I will move the desk  into standing position and stand for a while. I probably ought to change more often. I still find it hard to concentrate while standing, so whenever I’m faced with a particularly difficult problem to solve, I always have an urge to sit. Overall I’m very happy with the purchase and glad I have the option to shift my work position upon demand. Maybe next year will be the year I am able to add a treadmill into the mix.

Lowest position

Speaker kit

I thought I might list the gear I pack when presenting at conferences

  • 15″ retina MacBook Pro — my favorite Mac ever. Great for presenting, coding, and preparing slide decks
  • iPhone 5 (AT&T) — my constant companion. Tethering via Personal Hotspot usually beats hotel / conference WiFi every time. Also, I often run Presentation Clock on it while I’m speaking to help me budget my time (propped up by a Glif).
  • iPad mini with Verizon LTE — often my demo device. The non-retina screen actually makes for a better presentation device. Also an alternate tethering source for internet. Having both AT&T and Verizon as data options helps cover all the bases. Recently I’ve had luck running demos on the iPad mini while displaying via AirPlay and back onto my MacBook all driven by the iPad’s Personal Hotspot. This lets me avoid Xcode and the iOS Simulator during presentations.
  • Kensington wireless presenter (with extra lithium batteries) — rock solid and works great and means I’m not tied to my laptop or the podium.
  • 3 x 4 GB USB thumb drives — for distributing slides and sample code at the beginning of the talk (have I mentioned that conference WiFi is usually terrible?)
  • Mophie juice pack with charging cable — I could probably leave this at home, but it’s nice to have a backup and offering power is a great way to meet people.
  • 2 Lightning to USB cables — for charging phone and iPad simultaneously. Or for debugging (perhaps running Instruments on) an iOS device during a demo.
  • 2 x 12W USB Power Adapter — why would I cart these larger iPad chargers around when traveling? Well I figure you often only get a limited amount of time with an outlet, so you need to make that time count. For that reason I actually upgraded to the 12W adapters (the ones that come with the iPad 4) from the 10W adapters that accompanied the first 3 iPads, merely for the modest gain in charging time. Having 2 means I can charge the iPad and iPhone simultaneously or else the iPad and the Mophie (typically what I do overnight)
  • 1 x 5W USB Power Adaptor — so why bring this one at all? Well, I hate having to remember to swap devices between a limited number of chargers. This allows me to charge my iPhone plus the iPad and the Mophie overnight, so they all start each day fully charged.
  • 4 outlet portable power strip — great for many hotel rooms that often offer only a single outlet in any one place. This lets me plug in all 3 chargers plus charge my MacBook.
  • Lightning to VGA Adapter — in case I need to do VGA out directly from my iPhone or iPad. This is strictly a contingency plan. But also nice that you can do so while debugging or running Instruments via the integrated Lightning port (this used to be a feature limited to the HDMI adapter).
  • mini-displayPort to VGA adapter — for connecting my MacBook to the projector. Typically the conference always provides these but you should always carry your own.
  • MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Converter — in case the power adapter at the podium / presenter’s table is the original MagSafe. Lately though, conferences have been supplying both flavors!
  • Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter — this is really more of a WWDC thing, but you never know when you’ll need access to ethernet.
  • Lightning to 30-pin Adapter — I’m only carrying Lightning devices and cables, but this is just in case I need to charge from a 30-pin cable (perhaps when riding in a car; I haven’t upgraded my car chargers to Lightning since my wife is still on an iPhone 4S)

So that’s what I’m currently carrying to conferences. I enjoy the convenience of leaving my full-sized iPads at home and only having to bring Lightning-flavor accessories. What are you carrying to conferences?