SSD Porn (Samsung 960 PRO)

Just over a month ago i got very lucky to apparantly become one of the first owners of a Samsung SSD 960 Pro M.2. Order queues are delaying this thing for about 3 months, quite the same distribution mess we experienced with the 950 Pro a year ago. Anyway, be assure that the wait is absolutely worth it. Coming from a already not-so-shabby SM951 the 960 really kills it, but watch for yourselves…


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Everyday carry

long time no post. I’ve a couple of topics on my backlog but simply too few hours to properly put them here, what a pity. Now, one topic i’d like to share is something i’ve been experimenting with for about a year: Everyday carry or EDC - stuff which you drag around almost every minute of your day. There are lots of approaches as there are unlimited personas and priorities. Certainly mine may not be relevant for everyone else, but i’m quite sure someone will find it useful.

My priority on EDC is utility and simplicity. I dislike the idea of carrying a lot of items where i might only use a subset. Looking at my day-to-day carry, i came up with a very unsurprising list:

  • Keys
  • Phone
  • Creditcard
  • Other cards, cash, USB storage

Keys

I started collecting all kinds of keys i would eventually need - and not surprisingly i ended up carrying 20 keys all the time. Janitor style. The drawback is obvious: keys are clunky, loud and uncomfortable to sit with. I iterated to split my keys for use-cases like “work”, “home” and “other” by adding them to individual keyrings that i could connect using carabiners. It eased the problem but of course was just a nice solution for a unnecessary problem. Next iteration were keyholders. I started with the “Carbocage Keycage” and reduced the number of keys to fit the keyholder.

Keycage came out of a long list of more or less successful (Kickstarter) projects that aim to provide a good solution for key carrying. I reviewed about 25 of those, there are nice ideas among them but the rather simple construction of Keycage matched my requirement. The product is a carbon fiber cage (hence the name) that uses long screws to connect and keep the keys in place. Keys can be organized by re-ordering them to nicely fit together. Keycage is nicely constructed, lightweight and good looking. However, a severe issue arrises when disassembling the keyholder to remove or add keys: Carbon and metal do not connect very well. After some assembling the nut loses friction with the carbon and there is basically no way to get your keys out of the holder other than destroying it, which turns out to be quite complicated due to the good construction.

"Disassembling" Keycage

Next i went to “KeyBar”, which was out of my scope due to availability aspects. It’s clearly a heavy-duty product and comes with some nice color, material and finish options. I chose the Titanium model built by EOS. Pricing is steep but this thing is virtually indestructible and thoughtfully made, obviously at the cost of price and weight. I am delighted with the product though, it does exactly what it’s expected to do and looks nice.

Carbocage (bottom) and EOS Titanium KeyBar (top)

Phone

Considering myself as a mobile power user, i chose a iPhone SE for mobility, battery life, speed and accessibility. Even though having large hands that 10cm (4”) screen works perfectly for me without taking too much space. Upgrading from a iPhone 5, i still like the design, dimensions and as usual the build quality has no equal.

With regards to case/bumper, i literally checked out hundreds of cases and came up with a Xcase case that allows access to one card, which happens to be a credit card as my primary payment options. Cash fits there as a alternative. It does its job terrifically well without adding clutter, thickness or costing a fortune. It certainly has not a spectacular look, which i like, but the utility of it is great. You can easily flip out the card with one hand. Note however that the card will wear off a bit more than usual by covering it with plastic and creating friction when sliding it out. Update: Just recently i had to re-purchase one and the quality got really bad, some parts of the case start to break after a few weeks already. Therefor is switched to a Ozaki O!coat+Pocket which follows the same concept but is much more flexible and less likely to break.

iPhone SE credit card case

Cards & Cash & Storage

While i’m comfortable with carrying my phone and credit card most of the time, there are good reasons for carrying a couple more cards. For example health insurance, licenses, debit and access cards. I had several purses over time and got stuck with the Golden Head Colorado 1231-05-8 which sports a total of 21 slots for cards. I use 10-14 of those, which allows some spare space while keeping its profile low. For me its the optimal solution and boy is this thing done well.

To have some “emergency cash” with me all the time, i put a EUR note to a waterproof aluminum cash stash from True Utility “Cash stash” (TU241). While it might not survive 20 years at a keychain it certainly is reasonably well done and compact. For mobile storage i chose a 32GB JetFlash 710 “stick” from Transcend which comes with a nice metal enclosure and provides a lot of speed and capacity at a low price. Those items are connected to my keychain of course.

Fixing OSX Bluetooth the hard way

Some time ago i decided to cut cords and go wireless on my audio equipment. I listen a lot to music when commuting or working but also regulary use a headset for computer games. Carrying a fixed line headphone around all the time is a mess. Going wireless there are basicially two options, either proprietary RF or Bluetooth. The latter has the advantage of being implemented in almost all kind of mobile equipment while proprietary RF is often optimized for range. Bluetooth offers plenty of throughput and codecs like aptX provide real good stereo sound quality at 352kbit/s when using simplex (e.g. listening to music). This however is not true when also using the microphone of the headset - in this case A2DP falls back to its mono “hands-free” profile which sounds like a analog mobile phone 25 years ago. It’s beyond my understanding why there is no “good enough” duplex operation mode for high-end headsets.

Anyway, since this is not my primary use-case i evaluated lots of Bluetooth headsets and chose the Sennheiser Urbanite XL Wireless. The thing with companies like Sennheiser is that they actually know how to build audio equipment in a proper way and are not purely focused on marketing and fashion. They run circles around those fancy Beats headphones when it comes to battery life, durability, utility and sound quality. Using this headset with my phone and workstation computer is bliss. On my Mac Book Pro (2013) however, it was just a never ending pain.

While connecting and operating the headset works perfectly most of the time, in some situations the transmission drops every couple of seconds for a fraction of a second which drives one crazy when trying to focus or just enjoying music. There are lots of guides and suggestions to fiddle around with Bluetooth parameters on OSX to “solve” this kind of issue. Sadly none of those helped in my case, probably because those workarounds changed the bitrate while my setup does not seem to have any kind of bandwidth or connection quality issues.

What helped to reduce the number of connection drops was wiping and re-installing OSX. I think parts of the problems were related to changing those Bluetooth paramters. Still, the issue appeared every now and then. To solve it, i finally decided to bypass the built in Bluetooth module, which is actually integrated to the Wi-Fi module. Changing this module requires to get a $100 Apple proprietary replacement and rip apart the machine to install it. As an alternative, i got a small €15 ASUS USB-BT400 dongle with Broadcom chipset, which supports aptX. There are even smaller dongles but the smallest ones are not built to safely stay in place on the USB port. Others were a bit bigger and blinking like mad.

Obviously there is no easy way to disable the integrated Bluetooth hardware at System Preferences or elsewhere. In order to do so, you need to download Apples “Hardware IO Tools” from the developer portal. For that you need a Apple Developer subscription ($99/y) or know someone who has access. Make sure to get the latest version which usually supports the latest version of OSX. While those tools are an extension to Xcode, there is no need to actually install Xcode.

After downloading, open the disk image and launch “Bluetooth Explorer”. This tool gives access to a lot of Bluetooth functionality on OSX. We just need the “HCI Controller Selector” from the “Tools” menu, or simply press CMD+K. There you see a list of all present Bluetooth controllers, just select the non-Apple one and hit “Activate”. Removing the Bluetooth dongle may however reset the default.

Enable USB dongle as default

Verify that the USB Bluetooth dongle works fine. To make the external dongle the default even after reboot, use the following command:

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sudo nvram bluetoothHostControllerSwitchBehavior=always

Then reboot. To revert to the original settings, you may reset the machines NVRAM or use:

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sudo nvram -d bluetoothHostControllerSwitchBehavior