Microsoft Intune “Defer software updates” and iOS Patch releases

Right now I’m trying to allow my fleet of devices to access iOS 15.0.2 but I do not want them to have access to iOS 15.1 yet (being released later today). Typically I like to allow a couple of weeks before upgrading devices to new minor releases to allow other folks to uncover any issues that might be introduced before my fleet tries to use them.

Intune has implemented, as part of their Device Configuration policies for iOS, the ability to take advantage of Apple iOS’ ability to defer a software update by up to 90 days.

This is potentially a great feature and has worked so far on Major and Minor releases. However, this is the first time I’ve attempted to use it to limit folks to a specific patch release (Major.Minor.Patch i.e. 15.0.2).

In my testing I find that just having the “Defer Software Updates” option set to Yes regardless of how many days delay specified causes iOS’ Software Update to completely ignore the patches.

If I watch closely, I sometimes see a ghost “iOS 15.0” zero byte offering that will disappear on a subsequent refresh. I find it appears immediately after I Check Status of my device in Intune Company portal. Then goes away after I refresh the Software Update page until the next time I refresh.

I cannot say for sure if the flaw is with Microsoft’s Intune implementation or in iOS’ Implementation, I can only say that I cannot take advantage of this feature for Patch versions while trying to safeguard the integrity of my iOS fleet.

One other thing – a defect in the Device Configuration policy. It seems if you EVER set and save the Defer Software Update setting, even if you subsequently set it to Not Configured, this will permanently enable the number of days parameter. This parameter defaults back to 30 when you set the Defer parameter to Not Configured and still be sent to the devices…

Tesla Firmware Update 2021.24.5 Resolves My Car’s Sleeping issues

As you probably know, today’s cars are almost more like our smartphones than like the cars we knew and loved from the 70’s and 80’s. Electric Vehicles (EVs) even moreso.

I have a 2017 Tesla Model X. Most of the time I have it parked at home where I can leave it plugged in as much as I want to ensure that it’s always topped up and ready to go with a full tank of “gas”.

One big difference between EVs and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars is that, unless you leave your headlights on, there is very little that will impact your ICE car if you leave it just sitting somewhere like an airport parking lot while you are traveling to some far away destination. EVs, or at least Teslas, have a relatively low power “Idle” mode that they enter immediately after you lock the car and walk away.

They also have an ultra-low power consumption mode referred to as “sleeping” that they are supposed to enter soon after that. They are supposed to remain in this sleep mode most of the time they are not in use, waking now and then to check for software updates or to perform some internal housekeeping.

Since I’ve owned my car, it has be very reticent to actually sleep. This didn’t affect me much except to be concerned for what the long-term impact of the car basically staying active all the time might do to its components. This was dramatically exacerbated when I upgraded my Full Self Driving computer and Media Control Unit (MCU) to the latest and greatest versions.

When I was at home any drain was not an issue since the car could be plugged in all the time if I so chose. But I found my “Phantom Drain” (as the excess power consumption caused by not sleeping is called) was pretty impactful when away from home. I was on a cruise a while ago and lost just under 30% of my battery state of charge just sitting in the hotel parking lot for a week.

Anyway, this is all just a preamble to say that the latest firmware update – called 2021.24.5 (I get these, on average, about every 18 days) seems to have absolutely addressed the sleep issue for my vehicle.

I mean it’s night and day. Where it was alternating 16 minutes sleep, 45 minutes idle for much of the day, ever since the update it sleeps for literally HOURS at a time regardless of whether it’s plugged in or not!

It even sleeps when it’s not at home (Sentry mode off, of course) which was a rarity before. But now it appears to be the norm.

I imagine this does not affect a lot of people, but I’m pretty pleased with this update.

Oh, and as a sidenote, as of about 3 software updates ago (2021.12.25.7 or 2021.24.2) I was finally able to log into YouTube in my Tesla’s entertainment system.

So somebody on Tesla’s engineering team seems to be fixing these ancient issues…

Wemo Smart Plug – Not there yet

I have a love/hate relationship with Belkin’s Wemo products. When they work they work very well but when they decide to misbehave, they are miserable to get working again.

Wemo Smart Switch

I already have 9 Wemo switches in my smart home. These took a long time to settle down but back when I first got them they were at the “bleeding edge” so, like everything else at the time, things were expected to be somewhat rough around the edges.
I credit creating DNS reservations on my router for most of their current stability and improvements in device driver code for much of the rest.

When I added the first of these new smart plugs to the Wemo app it seemed to work perfectly. So I went ahead and added the other two and had them distributed throughout the house.
By the next morning I found the first one was no longer responding (just flashing orange LED) and it had to be reset – after that it worked perfectly, it even integrated with IFTTT just fine.

The other two were not so good, they just kept losing connectivity, regardless of where I located them in the house.

A real deal killer for me, and something I had not initially considered was that these were not recognized by SmartThings (which is not a problem for the Wemo Smart Switches). Likewise, Hubitat Elevation – which was going to be my primary hub for these new plugs – only has a user supported device driver for Wemo switches, dimmers, etc. and these new ones apparently do something funky (respond unexpectedly or on random ports, who knows) such that they cannot be identified for use as a device with this hub.

The real kicker is that, in introducing these to the Wemo app, it started doing all sorts of interesting things both with these plugs and my existing stable of switches. Random switches / plugs would show up as disconnected at different times. Never less than two and typically no more than four even though the switches were still working just fine with my existing hubs.

So I have returned these and am going to instead use Ikea’s Tradfri Wireless Control Outlets. I have 5 of these controlling various lighting fixtures in my house already and do you know what has never given me any problems? These Tradfri outlets! They are somewhat more limited in that they do not have an on/off switch on the unit to override them if things go awry or if you just feel like manually turning something on or off. But I’ve ordered a bunch more and am unlikely to look back at the Wemos for a long long time.

Even now, days after removing these Smart Plugs from my Wemo app, one of my Smart Switches still shows as disconnected, even tough my SmartThings hub can still control it just fine.

tldr; don’t use with SmartThings or Hubitat Elevation and beware the Wemo app. If you do get these working, don’t ever, ever change your setup…

Lamicall Tablet Holder

Super Versatile Tablet or Phone Holder

Apparently I’ve gone a bit mad for this stand. It’s called the Lamicall Tablet Holder I counted back and, since early 2019, I have ordered a dozen of these great little tablet holders. Every time I see it come on sale I think of another person or another use for these.

Quality control is impeccable, I inspect everything I receive from Amazon immediately when it arrives and every single one of these Lamicall Tablet Holders has been scratch-free and works perfectly (the hinge on the stand is neither too stiff nor too loose).

My day job is working with mobile phones and tablets so I have 4 of these stands on my office desk alone. They fit Samsung Galaxy S and Note class phones, Pixels, iPhones, and iPads (10″ & 12″ Pro and not) perfectly. It gets them up off the desk so they don’t take up as much space (especially the tablets) and can be easily canted to whatever angle makes sense for the testing I’m doing. Sometimes I’ll have an iPad in one of these holders and be demonstrating another device in a second holder using the back camera while on a teams meeting or a zoom or Webex call.

Around the house I have a couple on my kitchen island so my wife and I can keep our iPads out of any foodstuffs that may be on the counter. This keeps the screen visible to me whether I’m looking at a recipe or viewing a youtube video.
I also have one I keep on a smallish end-table in my media room as there is just not enough room there to lay down a tablet (barely enough room for a phone) with the remotes, Kleenex box and dishes that are invariably already there.

Most of my devices are wireless these days, but for those that aren’t (I maintain legacy devices for backward compatibility purposes), you can feed the charge cable through the back and the gap in the actual device holder allows you to easily plug it in to your device. Also this is MUCH more attractive and less cluttered than having the cable snake its way around the phone to the bottom if you’re laying it flat on your desk but want it oriented properly toward you.

This is an inexpensive, simple and satisfying accessory that makes a great gift for people who already seem to have everything. You really don’t know you need one of these until you’ve already got one. My mother has already commented on hers several times and uses it whenever she is Facetiming with either us or her grandkids.

Oh, be sure to get the “Tablet” holder and not the smaller “Phone” version. I haven’t tried the smaller one but this works just fine for phones and why limit yourself?

So color me a bit obsessed, but I really can’t say enough good things about this tablet holder.

Oh, and I don’t get anything for linking to this product, so it doesn’t matter if you use my link or not. I just want to share something that just… works and works well.

Evernote Android Photo (Document) doesn’t do OCR

This is as of 20210131

I was fooled by this. I’m using a Samsung Galaxy S20.

I create a new note in Evernote by taking a photo and specify that it is a color document.

I can then never find it via OCR.

Using iPhone 12 Pro Max and Scannable with the same document results in an Evernote note that is perfectly searchable OCR works fine.

eMail to AOPA regarding why I am no longer a member

I have been a member of AOPA since around 2004 when I did my flight training.

They are a worthwhile organization that lobbies hard for general aviation pilots and they do a lot of education and outreach.

Over the years, the cost of membership has gone steadily up and this was fine with me, the increases were in keeping with inflation and growth of AOPA generally.

I honestly cannot recall if I was notified about the price increases in the past but I know I was not about the more recent, much more aggressive increases.

One thing that will lose my trust really quickly is people changing things materially on me without the transparency of notifying me. It was one reason why I disliked Comcast – the bill was different every month.

AOPA’s member retention services seem to focus on sending me a new email every 3 days offering me this great one-time deal which is that they’ll knock the price down (for that one renewal) to what I paid last year.

I’m still trying to figure out, do people really receive the same notification over and over and eventually just fall for it?

Anyway, my trust has been eroded and I sent them the below message in response to their latest missive.

I get one like this every 3 days

Does this really work? In the past 30 days you’ve sent me 12 exhortations offering me the EXACT. SAME. ONE TIME. “DEAL”.

I dropped my support for AOPA when, after many years of fairly reasonable price increases (5% in 2009, 13% in ’11, 9% in 2015) even a 20% hike in 2017 which was a bit galling but, whatever, fine.

But I got annoyed when, without any warning you hiked the price by a whopping 33% in 2019 and then proceeded as if nothing had happened. I have to guess many of the pilots are older people and they just don’t notice the increases.

AOPA does a *lot* of good work, but I do not trust anybody that is not transparent. When you are going to raise prices, let me know ahead of time and why (even “due to inflation”).

All I see is that you are now increasing the cost of membership because you can.

I am disappointed.

Regards,

Marc

I dunno, am I wrong here? Being petty? It’s only a $20 increase but it grates when a company seems like they can act with impunity.

Bright Side to Covid-19: Social Distancing is an Introvert’s Paradise

Obviously a pandemic like that being caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus is nothing to make light of. However, that being said, the very effective “social distancing” that has been implemented in order to slow down the disease is, for me, a gift.

Home Depot
Well organized line to get in

I had to visit The Home Depot today in order to pick up some muriatic acid so I could balance my pool chemistry. For the first time in my life I needed to wait in a line to get in to the store. At first I balked as I *hate* waiting in lines.

But this looked different, the vibe was decidedly calm and patient. There were about 20 people ahead of me. This was out in the parking lot and, even though the temperature was in the high 80’s, we were comfortable as there were shade canopies set up and they were offering cold bottled water. Everybody was requested to stand one car park space apart (see the picture).
It was… comfortable, nobody breathing down my neck while I waited, imposing their impatience on me. In fact everybody was decidedly chill.

If the lines at amusement parks, concerts or other events were anything like this, I might even be tempted to go to some of them.

We also had to pick up some necessities from our local Publix (milk, some bread, etc.). The parking lot was pretty full so I was expecting it to be kind of a zoo inside. Again I was pleasantly surprised.
*Everybody* in the store was pretty chill, gave each other a wide berth and were basically pleasant all around.

Last week we picked up a big bag of cat food, the pet supply store requested us to call when we got there and someone came out and just put it into the back of my car for me. A bit decadent I admit but it appealed to my sensibilities. I’m not a “browser” I know what I want, I just want to get in, buy it and get out. So this is exactly my kind of shopping experience.

At my company, a couple of years ago they drank the “collaboration workspace” Kool-Aid and laid waste to the entire idea of privacy and permanence in favor of low-walled, noise encouraging, distraction provoking work areas.
They also introduced “hoteling” for our Consultants because: screw them.
You could not design a more miserable work environment for introverts if you tried. As someone who takes a while to learn new people’s names I can tell you that making sure that I cannot see a name tag or figure out where someone sits from day to day just doubles down on the awkwardness of working with these “temporary” workers. By temporary, you mean “months” and “years” at a time BTW.
The constant distraction of people making phone calls as they stroll up and down the aisles looking for a little privacy, to the myriad conversations going on in any language except English to the guy, and I kid you not, two cubes down who thinks it’s perfectly fine to use his speakerphone for everything from long-form conference calls, to retrieving voicemail, to just letting a call ring and ring and ring in case the recipient might answer it one day (who the hell doesn’t have voicemail these days anyway).
Anyway, I rant. The point is that today, with “social distancing”, that nonsense is completely out of the picture as I am now required to work from home.
My home office is awesome! I no longer have my concentration efforts shattered into an infinite number of small pieces as interruptions and distractions force me to start and restart my train of thought endlessly in a wasteland of extroversion.

As for having to stay at home generally, I *like* my home and have made it nicer to be at than ANY resort I have ever stayed at.
I have a full and comfortable gym. My office is spacious and practical. I have a heated pool that I can and do use any time I choose – with no rude people or their kids getting in my way. My media room is a nice place to enjoy TV or a good movie.

And I am never, ever bored.

I have had to put some hobbies on hold in the past as my interests are far ranging and there is never enough time to do everything I want to do. I could stay heads down on my personal projects for *years* without running out of things to do.

People who get bored mystify me.

In short, social distancing is custom-made for people like me. I enjoy the company of people in small amounts, I don’t enjoy the crush of strangers, especially the ill-mannered ones that seem to dominate public sphere when I’m out.

I’m comfortable with and thrive on being on my own or just with my wife.

I earnestly hope that some of what we are doing now will stick around after the current pandemic fades. Covid-19 is awful, but the unintended side effects have proven to be life enhancing. Let’s keep the good stuff!

I have become a one-issue voter – Universal Health Care

I emigrated from a country that has universal (more or less) health care. It’s not something that I though a lot about at the time as I was much younger.

When I saw my first few pay checks after things settled down I will admit to being absolutely astonished over how much of my earnings I actually got to keep. People in these United States who grouse about the amount of money that is claimed from them in the form of the many taxes listed on pay stubs have literally no.freaking.idea what high taxation means.

After a few years of this ongoing windfall, after some dealings with the horror-fest we call the American Health Insurance industry, it began to weigh more and more upon my consciousness that I was exactly one catastrophic accident or illness away from complete and utter financial ruin.

Here’s the thing about catastrophic anything. You don’t choose it. It “chooses” you. I don’t care how careful or pious a life you lead. Wonderful people develop debilitating illnesses. That inexperienced kid driving their dad’s sports car will over correct and smash into you just as easily as they could have smashed into the person driving 3 seconds behind you.

Of course nothing is ever perfect. Everything is a package deal. You love your job, but there are always things that could be improved. You love your spouse, but… well let’s not go there. But you get what I mean. I *love* America and what it has to offer and am one of the very few people on this planet who is fortunate (lucky?) enough to be able to live here and participate in the most amazing social, cultural and political experiments that the world has seen up until now.

However, with all the opportunity available to us as Americans, there are areas where significant improvements are still possible and needed. For me, at my stage in life and my perspective of formerly living in a country where – largely – health care is not a hulking specter but rather an every day availability, I recognize that we need to get off our collective asses and stop paying lip service to the idea that maybe it would be nice if the greatest country this world has ever seen wasn’t at the bottom of nearly every measure of health and wellness. Dammit, we should be the absolute longest-lived people on the planet! Infant mortality should not even be a concern for soon-to-be American mothers. U.S. Citizens absolutely should not need to travel abroad in order to be able to afford some kinds of major surgery (medical tourism).

There are plenty of proposals, emotions and political biases that are battling on the American health care landscape. And not one.single.one of them will be the perfect answer. We will never come up with a system that serves every American optimally all the time.

But you know what we deserve? A system that doesn’t view the patient as a nuisance to be attended to in order to extract every last possible penny from insurance, government and personal coffers.

And so, after years of voting on myriad important issues at the local, state and national levels – and regularly finding my vote completely overwhelmed by partisan politic slogan-based voting of others whose rationale can make sense of neither by logic, math nor morality – I have decided to toss my hat into the ring of single issue voters.

This is not because it’s easier (in some ways it is nicer to only have to care about the one position of a candidate) but because each candidate in each race will comprise myriad positions on a myriad of issues – some of which I may agree with, many of which I won’t – but they come as a package.

So now, Universal Health Care is my primary issue of concern. I think our country and our citizenry is deserving something other than this current travesty of inefficient and patch-worked pieces.

So… what are we going to call the Baby Boom that inevitably follows the Coronavirus Home Quarantines?

*Updated March 11, 2021*
Boy, did I call this one wrong… I suppose the people most likely to make new babies are the ones that couldn’t get together due to the pandemic? But the fall in the birth rate completely caught me off guard.
*End March 11, 2021 Update*

Every time people are prevented from doing what they normally do and have to find their own entertainment at home (blackouts being a prime example of this), 9 months later we inevitably have a bump in births because… well.. people.

So, I am calling it now, we will definitely see not only a bump but a veritable “hump” in the birth rate come November/December 2020.

The only real question, given the unprecedented and global nature of the the stay-at-home quarantines, is HOW big.

With absolutely zero scientific data behind it, I am going to go out on a limb and predict that, not only will the increase in birth rate overcome the tragic increase in the base death rate due to Covid-19, but I suspect that people will be eager enough to end up with a net increase in the world population by the end of 2020 over and above what we naturally would see with normal population growth.

Whether this is a good thing remains to be seen, but I expect that it will be a hopeful thing for those involved…