Articles

Unboxing My Keychron T10 USB-C Hub

Summary

In preparation for my 2020 13″ MacBook Pro, I realized I am missing some accessories I have not had to upgrade in a while. My 2013 Late model had various ports I needed such as USB2, Thunderbolt 2, HDMI. My needs for a USB-C hub are minimal but I wanted to support Keychron since I have a Keychron K1 v1 and recently upgraded to a v3.

Keychron

If you have never had a mechanical keyboard, check out my article Why I Use Keychron For My Mac. Since I got my K1 I have been following them and have been tracking their T10 USB-C Hub. Up until recently though I have not had a need for one.

Unboxing

Here are a few pictures of the unboxing.

Features

  • 4 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x SD
  • 1 x TF
  • 1 X HDMI ( 60hz at 1080, 30hz at 4k )
  • 1 x VGA
  • 1 x 10/100 Ethernet

Opinions

Only time will tell after using this. To be fair, it will likely be an infrequent use due to most of these ports not necessary for my daily use. I am a little let down that the ethernet port is not a full gig port. Not that I need the speed but some newer switches are only supporting gig or higher so I may run into some compatibility issues.

It supports both USB-C PD and Thunderbolt 3 supporting up to 100W of PD Fast Charging which makes it a great accessory for Macs and Apple ecosystem. Keychron has tried to be a Mac enthusiasts advocate. With that in mind, it works great on Windows 7 or higher.

My Recommendations

My recommendations to Keychron would be to put the input power on the other side. Having it on the same side involves some fun power cable routing. Typically people that own Apple devices are fairly annoyed by things like this.

I would also recommend upgrading the Ethernet port to a port capable of full gig just for compatibility issues.

One last thing I noticed lacking was a USB-C port or ports. While many laptops have extra ports, it would be very nice to be able to plug all of your accessories into one HUB and only plug that into your laptop to minimize insertions.

Final Words

One thing to keep in mind is this USB-C Hub has the markings 5V/3A which is the overhead for it to operate. While it is capable of up to 100W it will siphon off 15W of that. So on my 13″ MBP I may plan on upgrading to a higher wattage power supply to account for that as the 61W one will get reduced to 46W when passing through. This is typical of a USB Hub though as they do require power.

Highly Anticipated 2020 MacBook Pro 13 Inch Purchase

Summary

I have had my eye on a new 13″ MacBook Pro (MBP) for about a year now. My first MBP was a 13″ Late 2013 model. It was maxed out on RAM at the time with 8GB and had a 256GB SSD. I think a 512GB SSD was an option though. This was my first personal SSD. At the time SSDs had a bad name for randomly and prematurely failing so I was a little anxious about that. At the time I purchased it because I was starting to have to support Macs in my day job with some of the software we used, particularly Microsoft Lync and Citrix XenDesktop. It was something new at the time and I wanted to get comfortable with. Steve Jobs did good because based on that purchase I have been hooked!

Why Have I Waited So Long?

Up until about the past year the laptop has worked sufficient for my needs. I do not run a lot of high intensity applications in terms of RAM or CPU. The battery life for what I do is still decent. Ultimately though over the past year I tend to start running low on RAM and see some fairly aggressive swapping. I am also having more difficulties setting up virtual labs in VMware Fusion. I have had to resort to putting the absolute minimum specs on VMs to get them to boot. This is not a bad thing for some Linux Distributions but I have even started running low on disks space. I stood up a Kubenertes cluster on it but that was slightly painful with memory related issues.

Why Not Purchase a 2019 MBP 13″?

I had thought about it for quite a bit starting in December of 2019. To be honest, I was pretty close to doing it. I couldn’t quite settle on 2 or 4 USB-C and balked a little at the price. I ended up sitting on the decision for so long, rumors of the 2020 version came out with some pretty nice features.

Why Not Wait Until 2021?

It seems as though the way Apple is going, 2021 is likely to be the year of ARM processors. That, in and of itself is not a huge deal but I do tend to run x86/x64 based VMs in Fusion and I am not sure if there will be an emulation layer to allow that to happen. Likely not. So I knew I could wait for something after the 2019 version but that I didn’t want to wait until 2021. Ultimately it is now a day to day struggle doing some things that require a few different windows open. I have a few chat apps like Teams, Slack and Google Chat. Combine that with Apple Mail and Calendar for 4-5 email accounts. Then try opening up a few tabs in a browser and start up meeting software to share my screen and it just starts swapping memory like crazy.

Ok, So 2020 Was It!

With all of the above the decision kind of made itself and my fear of paying for it went away. Scary times during COVID-19! Not all of the 2020 rumors panned out. Some speculated that it would come with a 14″ screen. To be fair, if I wanted a larger screen I’d have gone with the 16″. I do prefer the 13″ form factor. It is easier to bring with me places. When I travel I usually put the laptop in the hotel safe but my friends usually have difficulties fitting their 15″ laptops in there.

What drew me closer is the beefed up specs and 10th gen Intel Processors. I had thought I was just going to double my HDD and RAM to 16GB and 512GB. When it came to configuration though, I noticed the higher end models had the option of 32GB RAM. While I was doing that why not go to 1TB of SSD. I probably won’t use the space but right now I have to be so careful with my VMs, I can’t leave any laying around.

In terms of the processor I went with the Core i5 versus i7 due to battery life and unnecessary cost. My use case utilizes the CPU very minimally although 4 cores with hyper-threading is useful for running multiple VMs. I don’t game and my business apps aren’t a huge CPU hog.

Final Words

If you are thinking about the 2020 13″ MBP, here is my reasoning and thought that went behind the purchase. I will most likely do an official unboxing and review post when it arrives in a few weeks. Since I picked custom options, it unfortunately takes that long to ship. Hard to believe in today’s world where we expect instant gratification, there are still some things you have to wait for!

6 Useless Things I Am Doing During COVID-19

Summary

A combination of bored-some and a little obsessive compulsive tendencies lead to some random things. Since we’re all scrolling for content, why not read some of my neurotic tendencies during this. Who else is doing these?

Household Paper Product Inventory Management

Paper Products!
Paper Products!

Who isn’t having to do this? Has anyone figured out why toilet paper and paper towels are still hard to come by weeks later? Long before this I’ve done inventory management to avoid the random $300 trips to target to fill up so we’re good but we are starting to get low. This is my first time post COVID-19 to try to acquire Toilet Paper & Paper Towels. I’ve got a good Amazon, Costco and Target stalking routine.

Exercise

One of my morning runs
One of my morning runs

I had a nice running routine since my Gym closed but let’s face it, I’m out of shape and could stand to lose a few pounds so I am on the sidelines nursing a knee injury. After a few days of running I thought I”d take my 4 year old with me. He ran about 100 ft and then wanted to be pushed. I thought I was in shape enough to do that. My knees told me otherwise!

Electronic Devices

Android Update
Android Update

Last week I decided to upgrade the firmware/software on all of my electronic devices. As I mentioned, I can be a little obsessive-compulsive. It started with my wife’s iPhone and iPad and then the apps on them. I then went to her laptop and updated all the firmware, windows updates, printer drivers and 3rd party software. My laptop is almost always up to date so while I checked it there was nothing else to do. Ecobee (smart thermostat) is more of a pain than my threshold for boredom/laziness. It usually requires a chat with support and required way too much work.

All of my My devices are up to date. Shouldn’t I feel accomplished? Not quite but we’ll get there!

Rechargeable Batteries

Recharge!
Recharge!

Ever since the kids came, they use batteries like nobody’s business. Maybe that’s how they get all their energy because its non stop. In any case I decided to replace all of the rechargeable batteries with freshly charged ones. This included both TV remotes, kids toys, noise hair trimmer, DVD remotes, magic mouse, wireless headsets and a few flashlights.

Sometimes I put in older previously charged batteries to see if they need recharging.

Vehicular maintenance

Vehicles sitting for long periods of time need some maintenance. If you have keyless remote, it does have some drain on the battery which can add up over time. This is particularly so if you walk by your vehicle with keys in pocket which tends to wake up the car in preparation for your entrance.

I’ve been starting up my truck for about 10 minutes a week but today took it out for a drive to help avoid flat spots in the tires. Along with avoiding flat spots, you want to make sure they’re properly inflated. In reality it usually takes about a month to develop flat spots. Colder climates see this much more quickly but most people are lucky enough to correct this after 20-30 minutes of driving.

Also not a bad time to check oil and fluids although I already do that nearly every fill up on both of our vehicles. It did come in handy once when I found a coolant leak on my truck.

In all reality though the vehicles can likely sit for a month without it being problematic.

Endlessly and Needlessly Scroll Social Media

Aren’t we all doing this, looking for a new article to waste our time. If you’re not the master of Facebook, NextDoor, Reddit, Snapchat and TikTok, get on it. You can waste a few days on those. If you’re thinking, wait, he missed a few, gold star for you!

Another hobby I’ve taken up when I get bored of this is “Coffee Naps“. Think of it as power napping on steroids. I actually stumbled across this by accident before finding out it was a thing via social media.

Final Words

In all seriousness though, whatever we need to mentally make it through this, don’t feel bad about doing it. Social distance as best as you can and just try to hang in there! Thought you were alone and doing some of these too? You’re not, we’re all in this. Drop a line or a comment if you do any of these.

ISC BIND Look Aside Related Outage

Summary

I had a fun issue today. All of a sudden BIND stopped returning results for recursive queries to external zones.

My logs were filled with lines like the following

Mar 25 09:05:00 XXXXXXX named[XXXXXXX]:   validating @0x7f3458067420: dlv.isc.org NSEC: verify failed due to bad signature (keyid=64263): RRSIG has expired
Mar 25 09:05:00 XXXXXXX named[XXXXXXX]:   validating @0x7f3458067420: dlv.isc.org NSEC: no valid signature found
Mar 25 09:05:00 XXXXXXX named[XXXXXXX]: error (network unreachable) resolving 'com.dlv.isc.org/DS/IN': 2001:500:2c::254#53
Mar 25 09:05:00 XXXXXXX named[XXXXXXX]:   validating @0x7f3450030b60: dlv.isc.org NSEC: verify failed due to bad signature (keyid=64263): RRSIG has expired
Mar 25 09:05:00 XXXXXXX named[XXXXXXX]:   validating @0x7f3450030b60: dlv.isc.org NSEC: no valid signature found
Mar 25 09:05:00 XXXXXXX named[XXXXXXX]:   validating @0x7f3450065e40: dlv.isc.org NSEC: verify failed due to bad signature (keyid=64263): RRSIG has expired
Mar 25 09:05:00 XXXXXXX named[XXXXXXX]:   validating @0x7f3450065e40: dlv.isc.org NSEC: no valid signature found
Mar 25 09:05:00 XXXXXXX named[XXXXXXX]: error (no valid RRSIG) resolving 'com.dlv.isc.org/DS/IN': 149.20.64.4#53
Mar 25 09:05:00 XXXXXXX named[XXXXXXX]:   validating @0x7f3450065e40: dlv.isc.org NSEC: verify failed due to bad signature (keyid=64263): RRSIG has expired
Mar 25 09:05:00 XXXXXXX named[XXXXXXX]:   validating @0x7f3450065e40: dlv.isc.org NSEC: no valid signature found
Mar 25 09:05:00 XXXXXXX named[XXXXXXX]: error (no valid RRSIG) resolving 'com.dlv.isc.org/DS/IN': 156.154.100.23#53

Troubleshooting

Naturally I tried bouncing named without luck. I then thought there was an issue with the root zones and configured forwarders without luck. I had disabled dnssec via “dnssec-enable no” without luck.

This seemed fairly strange. Ultimately since it was DNSSEC related I opted to disable it via as a temp workaround. It appears the validation was the issue.

dnssec-enable no;
dnssec-validation no;

After some investigation and troubleshooting it appeared to be related to ISC’s DLV and letting RRSIG expire accidentally. It failed in an unexpected manner when this happened.

What is DLV?

DLV stands for DNSSEC Lookaside Validation. DLV is a service that ISC has provided since circa 2006. It allowed DNSSEC to be enabled on zones that could not otherwise be enabled. Not all Top Level Domains (TLD) implemented DNSSEC until the past few years. This was a workaround to allow DNSSEC until then.

In 2017 it was finally decommissioned with DNSSEC being fully available to all TLDs. The A record was left in place and many resolvers still attempt to connect but it does not provide any data.

What is RRSIG?

If you want a full view of DNSSEC and how it works, CloudFlare has a great article for that here – https://www.cloudflare.com/dns/dnssec/how-dnssec-works/ . In short though, RRSIG records contain cryptographic details, particularly start and end dates for the validity of that data. This is much like an SSL Certificate that has a valid period.

The RRSIG records are designed to be required to be updated frequently to ensure the security much like SSL Certificates need to be renewed. This helps prevent a replay attack where an older compromised key is reused.

RRSIG Value

Running the following I could see it expired

# dig +dnssec dlv.isc.org

dlv.isc.org.		3599	IN	RRSIG	DNSKEY 5 3 3600 20200325160456 20200224153150 19297 dlv.isc.org. TyUbbNgG/Oru7TQFHbDC9E208hB8Szheu634Q03nawQFz4dosOFg+ZB5 z8Svh8fw/g35a/ZW5AP1jbSKh19u4c7Ujre3iygS0Tjycmi0mYG6dS7I CcWLOxZpOKf8uw9mzgbIR/VDEFmKj0OJKdkxAqfaWxXLqBBWgFqIucC6 9Tb98clinCPW34xgk6Fzi+OKAFmiGH6/e8wk/h5RMWxipx5KAk2NsWsw QMyEDaA7eLzZTbBenftVR86g6QO4bR+LOKzxGBFQ2XW0ArQKDiuoBqEw 8cmRcGKzVJ761d7EK+LDvnktRNxRMJ9y5LPgxlO2Xm3Un8oExjVbLKi7 OigQnA==

20200325160456 was the key, that translated to 3/25/2020 16:04:56 UTC which is about when the issue started. Further down in the “References” section the ISC-USERS list confirmed this was by mistake. I suppose it was a good “scream” test to remove lookaside. Newer BIND versions do not even support this anymore.

What Happened?

On many older BIND servers deployed before 2017, they were configured with the following.

dnssec-lookaside auto;

Auto would try to query dlv.isc.org first and then query root name servers. The expected behavior was that it simply would not return any data and then the root zones would be queried.

Unfortunately with an expired RRSIG it failed in a way that made BIND think the query response was not valid and an expected failure. For all BIND knew, it was preventing a replay attack.

References

I had originally posted on Reddit and was also pointed to ISC-USERS.

Using Certificate Based Authentication

Summary

Recently a client had a need for putting a web application on the internet that end users could access. They wanted to lock it down so that not everyone on the internet could access. Whitelisting IP Address was not an option because they were remote users with dynamic IPs and the overhead of maintaining this whitelist would be problematic.

The use case was a password recovery tool that their remote users could use to reset and recover passwords. Simple authentication would not suffice. For starters if the users’ passwords expired they wouldn’t be able to easily log into the site. Along with that it would be a high profile target for brute forcing.

Why Not IP Whitelisting?

IP whitelisting used to be and still us for some organizations the de-facto method of filtering traffic. It can be very problematic though. Users today are on the go, working remotely or using their mobile device on cellular data as well as home internet. Other times it involves sales staff at client sites. Keeping up with these IP whitelists can be a chore. Updating this whitelist can be time sensitive to avoid halting productivity. When not maintained, there is a chance someone unexpected could gain access due to simply having an IP previously whitelisted.

A workaround for this is VPN but that requires a bit of support overhead in user training and support. This can be clunky for users that are not used to to using VPN.

Why Certificates

Many larger organizations already have internal Certificate Authorities in place. For Microsoft Active Directory deployments, when CA has been installed, end users are likely auto enrolling in user certificates. Domain joined workstations already have these and trust it the internal Root CA.

Certificates also have a built in expiration. In an auto enrollment environment, this expiration could be lowered substantially to below 1 year.

TLS Handshake

Once of the nice features of TLS is that it does include a mechanism for this. Below is an example of a TLS handshake where the server requests a certificate and the client provides it.

TLS Handshake - Certificate Authentication
TLS Handshake – Certificate Authentication

In Frame 19, the client makes the TLS request with a Client Hello. Frame 23 the Server response with a Server Hello. This is where they set parameters and negotiate things like TLS versions and encryption algorithms.

Frame 26 is part of the Server Hello but it was large and split up. Boxed in red is the “Certificate Request” where the server is requesting a certificate to authenticate.

Frame 33 is where the client actually provides it.

From here you can see this happens before the application level (HTTP) protocol communicates starting in frame 43. What this means is that before the user reaches the web application for authentication, the device requiring TLS Certificate Authentication is filtering the requests. Many times this is a reverse proxy or load balancer is not vulnerable to the same exploits as the web servers.

Browsers

When used properly and the client has a certificate, the browser will prompt users for a certificate to use such as pictured below.

Browser Certificate Authentication Prompt
Browser Certificate Authentication Prompt

Other Applications

A really neat application for this when you have a legacy plain text protocol in play but you want to open it up over the internet and secure similarly. Perhaps you have a legacy application that uses raw text and is not SSL/TLS capable. You can still put this on the internet through a reverse proxy like F5 LTM or stunnel.

Traditionally this type of traffic would be protected via IPSEC tunnel that is encrypted or a dedicated circuit such as MPLS. That does require specific hardware and/or monthly circuit costs to accommodate.

stunnel is extremely useful in this scenario as you can install it on the local machine that has the legacy application and configure it to connect to localhost on a random port and proxy information out over TLS and configure it to use the certificate based authentication.

Here is a graphical example of what that may look like with an stunnel server broken out. stunnel could be installed on the end user’s workstation though.

Legacy App Secured with TLS 1.2 or higher & Certificate Based Authentication
Legacy App Secured with TLS 1.2 or higher & Certificate Based Authentication

stunnel could be put on the local end user workstation to minimize that unencrypted leg. Typically on the server side the reverse proxy has a leg directly on the same VLAN/subnet as the application which minimizes exposure over that but this does help secure the application traffic over the untrusted internet.

Final Words

In this article we learned a little on Certificate Based Authentication. We also learned how it may help your organization better secure your applications and possibly avoid more costly solutions.

Internet Routing and BGP Looking Glasses

Summary

From time to time I get requests from colleagues, “Can you ping this address?”. Many times what is going on is they are bringing up a new internet link and want to check routing. Sometimes they areadding a public endpoint and want to make sure its accessible. They are asking me because within their network it works but they need to make sure it is accessible or routing properly over the internet.

BGP Looking Glasses are a great tool for this if you would like to be self sufficient. You can also get a wider view than just a few colleagues. My favorite one is HE.net’s https://lg.he.net

What is BGP?

BGP Stands for Border Gateway Protocol. It is the standard exterior gateway protocol for internet routing. While an internal network may use something like OSPF for its interior, BGP is better suited for exterior routing.

One of the few keys to understanding BGP at a high level is to understand it is a distance vector routing protocol. These routes are typically better suited for WAN routing as they are a bit more light weight. The downside is that each router’s perception of the internet is key. There is no unified single view of the internet routing. Each router has its own perception of the internet based on the BGP routes it receives.

This is why Looking Glasses are so important. You can see the perception of various points on the internet. This can help you determine internet traffic destined to your infrastructure is taking the expected and optimal path.

HE.net’s Looking Glass

Here is a small snippit of HE’s LG. They have various routers all over the world that would not fit into this screen shot. You can also see the various functions you can perform on the right hand side.

HE.net Looking Glass
HE.net Looking Glass

Ping and traceroute are fairly self explanatory. For ping it just returns the results of an ICMP ping and traceroute shows a list of routers in the path of getting to the destination.

HE.net Looking Glass - Traceroute
HE.net Looking Glass – Traceroute

The real value here is the “BGP Route” option.

HE.net BGP Looking Glass Details
HE.net Looking Glass BGP Details

Here we can see all of the BGP peers this particular router has learned the route to 1.1.1.0/24, the AS path it takes and which one it selects as the best path.

Autonomous Systems

If you are new to BGP and dynamic routing protocols you may be wondering what an AS (Autonomous System) is. In BGP world, it is basically a grouping of similar routers that announce a similar set of subnets or prefixes as they are called in BGP. BGP groups systems together by AS. As each router learns a route, it appends its own AS to the AS path before passing it along.

The above is a bad example because it shows a single direct AS path as HE appears to be directly peered with CloudFlare (AS 13335). CloudFlare is very well peered on the internet. Below is a better example. It at least shows it passing through AS 1299 (Telia) to AS 174 (Cogent)

It seems HE.net is fairly well peered but here is another router output that shows some decent AS paths and the differences. AS 174 being Cogent and AS 209 being CenturyLink and AS 3356 being Level3 it chooses the shortest AS path. Keep in mind the traceroute through CenturyLink could possibly be shorter actual router hops. A shorter AS path does not necessarily mean less latency or shorter traceroute hops.

#show ip bgp 73.0.0.0/8 
BGP routing table entry for 73.0.0.0/8, version 767462940
Paths: (2 available, best #1, table default)
  Advertised to update-groups:
     18        
  Refresh Epoch 1
  174 7922, (received & used)
    X.X.X.X from X.X.X.X (X.X.X.X)
      Origin IGP, metric 13031, localpref 100, valid, external, best
      Community: 174:21000 174:22013
      rx pathid: 0, tx pathid: 0x0
  Refresh Epoch 3
  209 3356 7922, (received & used)
    X.X.X.X from X.X.X.X (X.X.X.X)
      Origin IGP, metric 7800026, localpref 100, valid, internal
      rx pathid: 0, tx pathid: 0

Final Words

If you ever find yourself needing to ping or traceroute from a remote endpoint lg.he.net has you covered. Many carriers have their own looking glass. This is useful incase you want to see how your routes are perceived from their end. If you use BGP at your edge and receive full routes, this is another avenue of seeing those prefixes. With looking glasses, you can do this from various endpoints across the internet pretty easily.

Exciting News!

I get to help a diverse set of clients on a full time basis starting early March 2020! If you are wondering why I have not written an article recently, I had this big decision going on and was focusing on that.

I recently made the decision to enter into the consulting world again. I will be transitioning into this over the next month. Over 3 years ago, after recovering from a failed business, I was blessed to be an independent consultant with Pegasus for the greater part of a year. The opportunity came at an excellent time to help get me back on my feet. They then offered me employment when I needed more stability with flexibility and it was a mutual arrangement. A work home was made at Pegasus for the next two and a half years and it was great. I could not have planned this better even if I tried so it had to be His plan!

Most recently a few previous clients needing assistance drove me to adjust my current employment terms. Pegasus was flexible enough to allow me to make this transition and still take care of them.

With all of that said, I am always looking to acquire new clients to share my extensive knowledge base.  Most of you know but I have been doing IT consulting for over 20 years, extremely detailed oriented and thought provoking in all aspects to a fault. Please keep me in mind should you have some IT needs or considerations, now or future. If you’d like to check out my resume, skills list or blog site – https://www.woohoosvcs.com

Review of KardiaMobile 6L by AliveCor

My review of the KarbiaMobile 6L by AliveCor. It is a pretty interesting device that can help detection if you are having some strange heart rhythm issues.

Summary

Earlier in the week I had some heart irregularities that scared me. Upon visiting my Primary Care he calmed my concerns but recommended a device I had actually already been looking into to help monitor at home.

The device was KardiaMobile by AliveCor. In doing my own research, I came across it but I wasn’t sure how accurate it was. Since my doctor recommended it and said he had one I was satisfied by the quality of the results.

Options

There are two main options. A Single lead which is their original product or the new Six Lead (6L). For me, for the extra quality of the EKG I opted for the 6L as it was only marginally more expensive and why not?

What Are Leads?

I won’t attempt to write in depth on this as I am just learning about it but do not confuse electrode for lead. Have a good read on this Wikipedia article – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrocardiography#Electrodes_and_leads

In short, more leads equate to a higher quality EKG with more data points although for most of us, the single lead will do just fine for home monitoring.

Here is a picture of the measurements of a 6 lead. A single lead is simply the first “I” listed below. Leads 4-6 (aVF, aVL and aVR) are calculated and not actual. Its fun how triangles work, isn’t it 🙂

By Npatchett – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39235282

Detection

The natural question is exactly what can this detect? It is FDA-Cleared to detect the following

  • Bradycardia
  • Tachycardia
  • Possible Atrial Fibrillation

The nice part about it is Kardia only uses the first lead to detect these so you do not always have to take the 6 lead test. It can sometimes be inconvenient if you are in a public place.

Unboxing

It arrived in a small box.

Kardia Outer Package
Kardia Outer Package

I opted to buy the carry pod as well since I plan on throwing this in my laptop bag and carrying around.

Kardia Inner Package

Recording

The initial setup and pairing was nice but unexpectedly I did have to disable NFC. I use this for mobile payments so it may be a pain to disable and re-enable constantly. Minor inconvenience but worth mentioning.

Kardia Record

Here you can select the Single Lead or 6-Lead. The Single lead requires pointer and middle finger to touch the metal contact from each hand. The 6-Lead requires thumbs and the bottom center metal contact to touch part of your left leg.

Reviewing Results and Sharing

Simply hold for 30 seconds and it will record. when it is done it will provide this report. It will save the results locally but you can use the “Email EKG” to share. This is not limited to email, you can share it with any app on your phone such as FaceBook but it does generate a PDF file so the app needs to be able to accommodate transferring a PDF instead of an image file.

Kardia Results

Here is an example of the output I took of my first 6 lead.

Kardia Sample EKG Results

Final Words

At a first glance, I am happy with the 6 lead. It may never end up to be more than a toy I tinker with on occasion as I likely do not have any underlying heart issues but it is very convenient to have this available.

Unless you are highly proficient in reading EKG results, the intent should be to capture an event you are unsure of so that you can share with your doctor, whether it be a primary care or cardiologist. Many times you can walk into the ER having an event or even be at the doctor’s office and they not catch it on an EKG. This device gives you a better chance of catching it.

The Importance of Sharpening Your Knives

Dull Knives

This Thanksgiving was much like many of the past Thanksgivings. We smoke a turkey and have some family over. Not much deviated except for the fact that when it came time to carve the turkey I had some difficulties. My carving skills and understanding of turkey anatomy are fairly basic so I figured I just chose the wrong knife.

I chose another one, same thing. I repeated a few times and eventually cut it up with a pair of heavy duty kitchen scissors. A bit brute force but it worked!

How Did I Get Here?

My knives over the years had dulled. They actually had never been sharpened. My wife graciously gifted a knife sharpener for Christmas and it was night and day. I couldn’t believe I had let the knives get so bad. They were all practically glorified butter knives until sharpening them. They were not always this way but now they all cut everything like hot butter.

Why are you reading a blog about sharpening your kitchen knives?

While sharpening the knives, I drew the correlation to personal growth, career growth and overall being. So many things in our life take a toll. These are not necessarily bad things but they do cause some normal wear and tear on our personal wellbeing. We give without replenishing ourselves and resharpening our knives(skills). They can become dull over time too.

What Does This Mean For Me, The Reader?

Remember, all things in life take maintenance. Friendships become stale over time when one party is constantly trying to connect but the other does not reciprocate. The vast knowledge you acquired decades earlier can seem like it was another lifetime ago. Many time we are all too busy to even notice this happening. We have a funny way of getting wrapped up in life and following it without much intention. We have kids and they become our life and all we have time for, especially during the younger and more difficult years. It can be easy to just take a back seat to life for a while and let it go where it will.

What Can I do?

Set aside some time. For some people that may be 20 mins a week. Others may need some PTO to reflect or a nice vacation. Be intentional with this but do not let it consume you. Determine how much time you are going to spend on “sharpening your knives” and stick to it. Don’t over or under do it.

For each person, “sharpening your knives” may be a something different. It may be reconnecting with a family member and building that relationship. For others it may be refreshing on technical skills for your career.

This may even involve doing a self inventory of things that are taking away from your goals and having some hard conversations with people or bosses. Many times some personal baggage needs to be let go so that you can grow. Dealing with that could be an article in and of itself.

Final Words

I hope this has helped. This time of year many of us get some downtime and it is good to reflect and set the course for the new year. Let this be a conversation starter with your friends/significant others/coworkers or even drop me a line in a comment!

Remote Workers – Does It Really Work?

Summary

I have been a remote worker for the past few years. It is not my first time but certainly the longest stint I have done. I wanted to share a few success tips as well as provide some insights for those thinking about doing it.

If you are on site full time or 100% work remote/work from home, the grass may always seem greener. With everything, sometimes it is but it isn’t always!

Remote Work Benefits

Some of the benefits of working remotely can be easily apparent for anyone that is wishing to do this. The biggest one is lack of commute which decreases wear and tear on your vehicle. It also decreases wear and tear on your body due to lack of stress from driving in traffic.

It is almost like getting a small pay raise without actually getting one.

Another benefit is potentially less distractions. Can’t get any work done because people keep coming up to your desk or cube? You’ll immediately lose that foot traffic working remote.

You can take useful breaks. Need to step away for a few minutes and do something else for a bit. If you’re working from home you can start a load of laundry or do some dishes. You’re getting the downtime from what you were working on and being productive for the home as well. It just requires strong boundaries set to avoid getting distracted by all the things going on at home.

At the end of the day when you are done with work, there is no 30-60 minute commute to finish out the day. If you work from home you are already there. If you co-work, hopefully it is near your home and its a light commute.

Remote Work Downsides

For some it can be difficult adjusting to less social interactions. Water cooler talk or impromptu meetings that randomly happen out in the hall can be missed. You can find that you are the last to know random information because of this. Sometimes out of sight, out of mind.

Without a need to go into the office, personal grooming and schedules can become a blur. Asking yourself questions like “Do I really need to shower today?”.

People can get distracted by many things at home. From door to door sales people to never ending laundry, there is a plethora of things to distract you from your work tasks.

Its a rare edge case but I actually started having issues with my transmission in my truck because of the extremely low mileage on it. It is an adaptive transmission and it was not being driven enough under enough conditions to learn properly. – Link as evidence for those non believers. – https://static.nhtsa.gov/odi/tsbs/2016/SB-10081880-5448.pdf.

Another downside I found is that sometimes my commute is too short. I didn’t have the proper time to decompress between home life to work life and then back to home life. For example if I stop at 5:30PM and the wife and kids come home a few minutes later I find that I’m frantic and still trying to unwind from a busy day. The same is true if its a hectic morning getting the kids off to school and I walk into the co-work space with emails lined up that need responding.

Surviving Remote Work

I personally go to a co-working space. This can help mitigate some of the downsides. The space I go to is fairly economical and many places have plans that start at $99/month depending on your area and needs. It is about 5 miles from my house so the commute isn’t terrible by any means.

In some of the more active ones you can find people in similar industries and chat, network and meet like minded individuals.

It gives you a reason to get up on a schedule, shower, groom and be out and about. I also use my lunch break to use the gym a couple of times a week. I find running errands or actually going out to lunch helps to increase social interactions. Even for those that are anti-social or introverts, daily social interaction is important to help keep the mind sharp! Scientists have actually linked loneliness and Alzheimers – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5764000/

Excelling At Remote Work

If you are working remotely you do not just want to survive but you want to make the best of it. Many times when it comes to coworkers that are not remote workers, you can be up against a perception issue. They imagine you are sitting around, doing laundry and watching TV. Particularly if they try to reach you and you are unavailable. One of the best ways to mitigate this can be to be overly responsive via various mediums your organization communicates. Communicate when you’re in for the day, when you take breaks and lunches and when you’re leaving for the day.

Prioritize the mediums they communicate with with. If its phone or IM/slack, make sure to respond immediately if possible even if its to say you’re busy and you’ll respond in a bit. Lean on the over-communication unless asked to dial it back.

Final Words

Working remotely can be a blessing or a curse. It is not always for everyone but hopefully I have shared a few tips to help you survive and excel at it if you find yourself pushed into it or wanting a remote work job.