Stupid Apple Tricks – WatchOS 2.0

Here’s a list of the things that have gone wrong with Watch OS 2.0 since it came out and I upgraded.

  1. My watch entered super power drain mode after the update.  I got home with 10% battery life … normal would be about 60%.  The internet recommended fix … unpair and repair.  Seems to work … battery life might even be better now than WatchOS 1.0.
  2. On another phone/watch combo, the verification after downloading the update was stuck.  Internet recommended fix … reboot both phone and watch, reset network settings on the phone, and restart the update.  Worked.  Hopefully we don’t see the same issues with power drain on this particular pairing of phone/watch.
  3. Apps on the watch don’t seem to automatically update after the upgrade … meaning if you have a app that uses Watch OS 2.0 functionality and you try to run it, it may just hang forever.  Which, to be honest, seemed to be a “feature” of all WatchOS 1.0 apps for the past 6 months.  Fix for this: delete the app from your Apple Watch’s app home screen.  Then reinstall the app through the Apple Watch app.

If you can’t tell, I think Apple’s QA is really not on the ball lately.

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Experiences with the HP Z27q 5k monitor on the Macbook Pro

It’s been a while since the HP Z27q was first released in the US … about 4 months or so.  I’ve been chomping at the bit to go Retina on the desktop for a long time, so the relatively reasonable price point of the HP Z27k was enough to make me take the leap.

I’m really quite enamored with 5k resolution monitors.  As it turns out, adding one of these to a computing setup is one of the few things that really moves the needle in this day and age.  Having owned one for a while at home and at work, I have to say that my opinion on this still holds.

With that, here’s some advice and stuff to watch out for.

  1. The HP Z27q has suspect quality control.  I have gone through 4 of these monitors and have still not found one that didn’t have a dead pixel or dirt smudges under the panel.  The dead pixels I can understand … the smudges mean some serious QC issues at the factory.  I am attentive to detail (as any software engineer probably should be) but I am not anal retentive about dead pixels, especially when there are 14 million of them in the panel.  So my final panels have a dead pixel in an errant spot on the screen.  I don’t really notice in daily use.  Hopefully the manufacturing situation has improved by now.  All this makes me think the reason the monitor is so much cheaper ($1299 instead of $1999)  is because they sourced B-grade panels.
  2. 5k support on Mac’s in general is touch and go.  There’s all kinds of strange things to worry about like the exact ports you plug into, how many you can use, etc.  Technically, only the Macbook Pro 2015, the iMac 5k, and the Mac Pro support 5k out right now.
  3. 5k support on the Macbook Pro 2014 (with dedicated GPU) works!  It’s not perfect by any means, and it is not technically supported, but the bottom line is it somehow works.  The magic incantations required of you are as follows.
    1. Follow the iClarified instructions to trick the Macbook into thinking you have a Dell UP2715K monitor.
    2. Make sure you have 4k ready mDP to DP cables on hand!
    3. Plug the secondary DisplayPort cable into the rearmost Thunderbolt port on the Macbook Pro. (in case you are wondering, the order and location of the ports most definitely matters)
    4. Plug the primary DisplayPort cable into the frontmost Thunderbolt port on the Macbook Pro.
    5. (Optional) Plug in the HDMI cable to get a second monitor going.  With the right cable and monitor, you can drive 2560×1600 off this port!
    6. (Optional) If you get into a bad state where the monitor is showing the left half of the desktop on both the left and right sides of the screen, here’s how to fix that.  Remove the secondary DisplayPort cable and wait until the screen resets to non-retina mode.  Then unplug the primary DisplayPort cable.  Then plug everything back in according to the above instructions.
    7. I do not recommend trying to plug in the DisplayPort cable and the HDMI cables all at once.  In my experience, this confuses the MacBook Pro.  Whenever you dock your laptop, get the 5k monitor up and running, and then plug in the HDMI afterwards.
  4. Performance is not butter smooth.  Ok, don’t get me wrong here … it’s still 60fps, and the cursor moves just like you would expect it to.  But the resizing and dragging of windows feels laggy.  It’s amazing that the hardware handles it at all, and in my opinion the massive improvement in image and text sharpness makes any UI lag totally worth the tradeoff.  But don’t expect miracles here.
  5. Getting your hands on a Spyder Color calibrator might be worth the hassle.  The monitor displays colors quite nicely on its own and is pre calibrated.  But it won’t hurt either.

In summary, 5k support on the Mac is still quite hacky.  Reminds me of PC days!  But is it worth it?  If you stare at a screen like I do … all day … then yes, it is totally worth it.  It’s quite possible this could be the last monitor I will ever need to own.  (OK that’s a bit optimistic, but you get the idea).

Posted in Apple | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Why I’m (not) geeking out about eero

After reading an article that Bruce Snell wrote called “Why I’m geeking out about eero“, I sat down for a moment and contemplated why I had exactly the opposite reaction.

First of all, what eero is doing is not particularly new from a technical standpoint.  Mesh networking has existed for a while.  What is new is bringing this sort of auto configuring mesh to a supposedly consumer grade product.  This is certainly appreciated, but crosses somewhat into business class territory.  If you need more than a base station and surrounding repeaters to cover your home, you live in a 10,000 square foot mansion.  If you live that large of a mansion, you probably can afford to have wired backhauls instead of using a wireless mesh.

Which brings me to my second point … “My WiFi problems gone in 60 seconds?”  I don’t have Wi-Fi issues at all, actually.

1. Use the 5 GHz band whenever possible.

2. Use a wired backhaul whenever possible.

Do this with relatively stable access points like the ones from Ubiquiti or the Airport Extreme and you will not have any problems.  A wired backhaul is remarkably better in all circumstances than a wireless mesh will ever be.

As a side note, I don’t understand Bruce’s point about the mesh network “showing up as one network”.  Unified roaming SSID’s have existed since the time of the dinosaurs (in hyperbolic terms) and are simple as configuring every access point with the same security credentials.  No home network should be configured with multiple Wi-FI SSID’s unless you have very specific and technical reasons for wanting to do so.

Third, what stops many people I know from fixing this problem is more a lack of willingness to spend more money on the issue or the awareness to do it.  The eero 3 pack is about 500 dollars.  Wow!  I guarantee you most of the people I know would be able to solve their WiFi problems if they spent that much money on it.

Fourth, where Wi-Fi products fall down has never been on the “promises” side of the equation.  It’s always been in the implementation.  And while eero’s marketing so far has been great and certainly novel, in the end they promise much and offer little detail.

Will the product actually be stable?  Will the hardware not flake out intermittently?  Can the access points recover from numerous failure modes and will they be compatible enough with future devices?  At least if I buy an Airport Extreme I have some guarantee that Apple is testing their devices with my access point.  I’m not 100% pleased with those either, as you can see from my previous blog posts, but they have not failed me on the Wi-Fi at home test, or the “pick a router for your parents” test.

In summary, I might just be a salty dog when it comes to Wi-Fi products and the promises made.  I stick with Airport Extreme’s in a home environment because every single one I’ve ever purchased is still running, even if the feature set is a bit lacking.  I like that the eero is bringing more manageability to the table in the form of access logs and one time guest passwords, which is neat.  And usability is always welcome, but difficult to do well and meaningfully, since this is not a product I plan to interact with on a regular basis.

But let’s be serious … it will take a year or two for me to wait and see if the hardware and software meets the sniff test.  Track records are more important in this product category than marketing … and if you want a stable Wi-Fi network right now, there’s really no shortage of ways to accomplish that.  Injecting unproven and unknown hardware into the equation because of fancy marketing won’t be your solution to your Wi-Fi problems.  And that’s all eero is right now … a lot of promises and not a lot of information.  I hope more details are forthcoming.

Posted in Networking | Tagged | 1 Comment

Your Airport Extreme and/or Time Capsule might be screwing up your network

My iTunes library recently developed a problem wherein the Home Sharing would spontaneously die within a few hours of starting up the library.  This was extremely annoying because I’ve built up a whole networked home entertainment system over the years that is premised around the Apple TV and iTunes actually working.

Turns out the workaround, as far as you can call it that, was to unplug an old 1st generation Time Capsule I was using for backups.  I had seen a problem before where it was knocking a Nexus 7 off the network, but didn’t really make the connection to it being the issue until I realized that Home Sharing is based on Bonjour services, and the Time Capsule and Airport Extreme often proxy Bonjour services for the network.

The latest Airport Extreme is officially supported as a Time Machine target, so I may switch over to that.  But it’s good to have the network stable again.

Update: it wasn’t just that.  I actually had to install a clean version of OS X 10.10 to get the bonjour home sharing advertisements to stop crashing.  I also got a crash course in how Bonjour/Zeroconf actually works.  Suffice it to say that Apple’s implementation is extremely broken across multiple devices.  Don’t trust your computer, your iOS device, or your Airport Extreme/Express … any one of these can break your device’s ability to discover a host computer.

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Tesla P85D thoughts

Basically, a dual motor version of the tesla that can, at the high end, accelerate from 0-60 in 3.2 seconds.

A lot of promises also around autopilot and active safety features. I love the idea but I’m skeptical this is going to be as good as whatever Google has been doing.

Also, I have to remind folks that acceleration alone does not make a superstar. Take a Tesla on the track and it will go into limp mode after two laps. The Tesla also isn’t going to trap the quarter mile or half nearly as quickly as a traditional supercar. It’s fun in relatively controlled street environments, and there isn’t anything wrong with that. But there’s just way more to building a high performance car and charging the concomitant prices.

But that’s OK. Just looking to see the autonomous features match the hype.

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iPhone 6 thoughts

iphone-6-render-2

I honestly didn’t find much compelling in the way of features on the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.  The industry seems to be reaching a bit of plateau in the innovations they can bring to the mobile phone market.  But the keynote was still fun to watch.

Features

NFC – ApplePay (aka NFC payments) is interesting, but just the beginning of a long journey.  Payment ecosystems will need to eliminate all credit cards before users can stop carrying them around.  It is a good long term move, but unlikely to produce immediate benefits.

Performance – The extra 25% speed of the A8 is good but actually brings a much lower bump in performance to the table than previous iterations.  I also feel that we’ve reached some diminishing returns as far as extra CPU performance goes.  The efficiency gains (up to 50%, as quoted, means the real number could really be much lower) are welcome, but I suspect the bulk of battery life is going to go to the bigger displays.

RAM – All indications are that RAM is what ultimately obsoletes a mobile device.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you are holding onto an older device), it appears that the new generation of phones bring the standard 1GB of RAM to the table.

Thinness – Apple’s obsession with thinness is counterproductive at the larger screen sizes.  The phones are thinner than the iPhone 5 and 5S, by about a millimeter.  And yet, they also became larger and heavier, so the bragging rights appear to be a bit selective this go-round.

I say … to hell with thinness.  Some people are actually looking for battery life that can last through a whole day.  Give it to them!  Make a thicker and heavier version of the phone for road warriors that need it.  The slight increase in battery life was nice to see, but simultaneously disappointed me, relative to such a large increase in the form factor.

Display size – Clearly Apple has decided to trend upwards into one of the areas that third party phones have innovated in most … screen size.  The screens are bigger.

The iPhone 6 has a 4.7″ screen in a 16:9 aspect ratio.  This compares with the iPhone 5/5S and its 4.0″ screen.  In many respects, it’s just a larger and thinner iPhone 5.

The iPhone 6 Plus sports bigger changes.  Not only does it have a much higher PPI (401 PPI vs the 326 PPI of the iPhone 5, 5S, and 6) on an even larger 5.5″ screen, but it also adopts some size specific UI improvements from the iPad, such as portraits of your message contacts and dual pane e-mail browsing.

In many ways, the iPhone 6 Plus defines this generation of iPhone’s.  It fully embraces the idea of increased screen size, even if it costs more as well.  The UI changes for the larger screen will help.  The increased PPI is more for bragging rights than tangible usability improvements.  In fact, the greater PPI tends to decrease brightness in LCD displays and worsen battery life, since the backlight must be made brighter to shine through all of the overhead around those tiny pixels.  The iPhone 6 Plus, as a result, has a slightly lower contrast ratio vs the iPhone 6, and also doesn’t have as much battery life as you might expect, given the much larger size.

On a side note, the reachability feature seems sloppy.  Instead of moving the top half of the UI to the bottom half of the screen, I would have shrunk the interface to the lower left or right corners instead.  This would allow you to navigate the UI one handed just as easily.  In addition, the reachability feature “resets” the screen after just one tap.  That will be horribly frustrating if you need to actually navigate the top area of the interface with multiple gestures.  Zooming down the interface to the corner would make it navigable during extended use.

Bezels – The large bezels at the top and bottom of the new iPhone’s are also a huge disappointment.  Compared to the LG G3 or Galaxy Note, the iPhone 6 Plus has a larger physical form factor for the same size display.  In short, Apple looks to have unnecessary enlarged a form factor that is already pushing the limits of pocketability.  The touch ID feature is great, but also boxed Apple into a corner when it came to reducing the bezel size.

Cameras – Optical image stabilization is a nice improvement on the iPhone 6 Plus.  The larger FaceTime camera will definitely help with video calls under low light conditions.

Storage – As I’ve commented on many times, the wise thing for Apple to do would be to upgrade storage to 16/64/128.  16GB is still viable for a phone, but leaves just enough pain to induce an upgrade if you want to install a few apps or put on some music.

Surprise! They actually took my advice this time around.

64GB will be a very solid upgrade for almost any user.  About half of the 16GB is used by the operating system and overhead, so 32GB was never quite as big of an upgrade as it seemed.  So 64GB, in reality, more than doubles the amount of available storage.  128GB will be a little over the top, but perhaps worthwhile if you take a lot of photos or prefer your phone as your main media consumption device vs a tablet.

Wi-Fi – The iPhone 6 supports 802.11ac.  This is expected, but also practically useless in real life.

VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling – This can be summed up as “better call quality”.  Both VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling are significant upgrades.  Wi-Fi calling, in particular, may help eliminate the need for funky range extenders in the home.

Truth be told, it’s actually surprising how poorly the industry has innovated here for devices that are ostensibly “phones”.  It’s about time.

Price – The standard 199 starting price point for the iPhone continues with the iPhone 6.  The iPhone 6 Plus starts at 299.  The extra premium for the iPhone 6 Plus, is, in reality, virtually pure profit.  Nothing unexpected here.

Summary

By my judgment, I would gladly have skipped the iPhone 6.  The moderate increase in screen size was not compelling to me, and none of the other features and improvements were solid enough to justify an upgrade.  And, this comes from a guy who looks for any reason to upgrade.

The iPhone 6 Plus, however, is just different enough to pique my interest.  The UI improvements made on top of the extra screen size hold real potential.  Let’s face it … iPhone’s are great devices, but the screen size is always a compromise when it comes to reading or browsing the web.  For this reason, I frequently carry my iPad Mini 2 around when I go out.

I don’t expect the iPhone 6 Plus to replace my iPad Mini.  At just 43% of the screen real estate, that would be impossible.  However, it will certainly be more usable in cases where I don’t feel like toting the iPad around.

The jury is definitely out on the form factor, but based on some testing with the Galaxy Note, I believe I can make the iPhone 6 Plus work.  It fits perfectly in my regular fit jeans (32/32), and sitting is not a problem as long as the phone is oriented with its top toward the pocket opening.  However, lifting my phone side leg or crouching will present issues.

However, I have concluded that the iPhone 6 Plus will be too hard to fit in the pocket with a case on.  A battery case will certainly be out of the question.  So, whereas I used to rely on my Mophie Juice Pack Helium when traveling, now I’ll be on the lookout for a decent pocket charger to carry around.  I have the Mophie Power Reserve, which is serviceable, but rather undersized compared to the battery of the iPhone 6 Plus.  However, it also hasn’t been obsoleted like my Juice Pack has by the change in design, so it has that going for it.

All in all, it seems like the iPhone 6 will be a nice upgrade for many, but doesn’t bring a lot of serious innovation to the table.  This is the first time I would have honestly skipped an upgrade cycle if the only new iPhone coming out had been the iPhone 6.  But the iPhone 6 Plus brings the most change and is going to be worth a look.  Pre-ordered.

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Airport Extreme bugs (and guest network performance problems)

The Airport Extreme is my favorite consumer grade access point.  I’ve had well over 10 different models go through myself or to various friends and family, and all of them are still running.

Unfortunately, while the hardware and firmware are great, I disagree strongly with the dumbing down of the airport utility software.  It’s actually gotten worse over time.

1. You can’t control the bands (meaning 2.4GHz or 5GHz) that the Airport Extreme transmits on or that it extends on.

2. You can’t control signal strength and you can’t limit connectivity to clients below a certain speed.

3. You can’t block older clients any more (like b or g).  Old clients are slow and take up a lot more airtime, so it’s nice to have the option to block them.

4. Windows software client has been abandoned and doesn’t properly configure newer Airport Extreme’s.

5. Airport Extreme’s like to use DFS wifi channels in 5 GHz, but many devices don’t actually work with these channels, so they will randomly appear incompatible.  The workaround is to manually select a non-DFS channel to transmit on.  The proper fix is to enable an options for automatic band selection that doesn’t include the DFS range.

So yeah, not perfect, and getting worse.

The latest problem I’ve discovered is that an Airport Extreme that is functioning purely as an access point and not the main home gateway will suffer severe performance degradation on the guest network.  Any Airport functioning as a pure access point handles the guest network by sending out guest traffic over VLAN 1003 instead of as untagged traffic, so all you need to do is pick up that VLAN at the router to enable the guest network.

Anyway, as far as performance loss, we’re talking 3 to 7 mbps of throughput as opposed to 300 mbps max.  Now, as it turns out, I don’t particularly care if my guests get more than 3 mbps of throughput, but it’s still engineered incorrectly.  I’m just writing this because very few people have noticed the problem and it was hard to find out why this was happening.

Despite all this, I still recommend the Airport Extreme for home users.  Most of the above helps optimize for dense wireless environments (like a condo or a office building) but isn’t fatal.  But there’s definitely room for improvement, and there definitely isn’t any reason these options should be removed or hidden for advanced users.

Posted in Networking, Technology | 16 Comments

Quick revisit of pfSense

pfSense on the Intel NUC continues to impress.

It turns out that in the past few months some of the newest Intel NUC’s got full pfSense support.  I also discovered that booting pfSense off a USB drive works really well, meaning you can put those old USB drives to good use and not waste money on new storage.

So the old complicated process I had of bridging into a VM on Ubuntu is gone.  It’s just straight to the metal now.

Either the Intel D54250WYK (4th gen Core i5) or the Intel D34010WYK (4th gen Core i3) are great options for a modern build.  From the previous generation of NUC’s, the Intel DC3217IYE (3rd gen Core i3) is fully supported as well and has the nice benefit of supporting 1.5V DDR3 RAM, which the 4th gen models do not.  That means you are far more likely to be able to scavenge all the parts needed to build a working system if you buy the DC3217IYE.

It’s inevitable that the 100 to 130 dollar NUC platforms will get full support at some point (such as the Intel DN2820FYKH).  At those prices, I really can’t imagine recommending a consumer grade router over an inexpensive NUC-based pfSense build if you are even remotely techie.

 

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The Keyport slide: Pain in the ass to buy, but nice once you have it

keyport2-e1318642571965

Let’s face it … keys are annoying. There may be a day, friends, when we can use biometrics to sign in everywhere … but that day is not here yet. In the meantime, we get by with lots and lots of keys and key FOB’s.

The Problem

Keys, and the associated rings that they hang off of, are not particularly well organized objects. The key itself is a flat metal piece with lots of pokey bits. Then the head goes onto a ring in a perpendicular fashion, which just makes the whole thing take up more space and fit awkwardly into your pocket.

Women carry around purses, so big key rings tend to be a little more OK since they just go in a big bag.  Although, we all know that those keys end up scratching up everything else inside that purse.

Men, with just jeans pockets, value their pocket space. A key ring, with all of its jabby bits, occupies lots of valuable pocket real estate. Enough, in fact, that we have to pick and choose the keys we want to carry around, lest we leave imprints of keys in our thighs and worn holes in our pockets.

The Solution

Is there a better way? Yes.  It’s called biometrics!

Oops … as I said earlier, we’re not quite there yet. So enter the Keyport Slide 2.0 … the next best thing. Born of necessity (apparently, motorcyclists don’t like large gangly keychains banging around their ignition either), the Keyport Slide tries to solve the eternal problem of the colossal keyring.

The Slide accomplishes its magic by allowing you to fit 6 keys into a compact space barely larger than a Tic Tac box. It does this by using custom blanks and fitting them into a custom plastic container. Holding each key blank in place are spring loaded buttons that allow you to “slide” the key out when you need it.

The Process (ouch!)

Sounds great, but how do you actually get one!  Suffice it to say, the rubber meets the road a bit awkwardly.

1. You have to take pictures of every key on a paper template and mail them in so that Keyport can tell you what you need to do with each key.

2. If you’re lucky, all of the keys will have standard blanks that can be mailed to you. If you are unlucky, some of the keys will require custom duplication by you, which must then be mailed into Keyport for custom fitting. In the case of auto keys, you may additionally need to select and mail in a copy of the key with the key transponder that is inside the auto key so it can be custom fitted into the Slide.

2.1. You can pick additional gadgets to fit instead of more keys.  USB drives, pens, lights, etc.

3. Mailing keys in requires printing of more forms, and the willingness and trust to send the keys to your stuff in the mail to a company. You may also need to pay your dealership good money to make a copy of your car key before you mail it in. What a racket!

4. Then you wait.

5. When everything comes back, your custom keys will be ready, but you will also receive the standard blanks. Those need to be taken to a locksmith and duplicated by you.

6. Finally, you’ll have everything you need to assemble the slide. Tiny spring loaded buttons, blanks, and the key transponder goes in on the side so it doesn’t take up a spot.

7. All done. Finally!

As you can tell, this ends up being more like 80 to 100 dollars in parts from Keyport, 20 or 30 in service from a locksmith, and perhaps 80 bucks to get another car key made. There’s also all the time spent in visiting the post office, locksmith, filling out forms, etc.  Not cheap, and certainly not a one stop shop process. In addition, the website isn’t all that clear or consistent about exactly what you need to do, so expect to spend some time muddling around trying to understand what it is you need to buy.

The Final Product

I have to say that, despite the unfriendly process of purchasing the Keyport Slide, the final product is quite worthy.  And, in its defense, the difficulty is mostly by necessity … I can’t think of many ways to make the buying experience better that wouldn’t drastically increase the cost.

The weight of the Keyport Slide, fully loaded, as compared to the keys it replaces, is reminiscent of moving from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5. It feels almost ethereally light for something that holds six keys. Physically, your hand gets a bit confused … where did the weight go? It turns out that the metal heads of each key contribute significantly to the overall weight of your keys. Remove the heads and just keep the keyed portion, as the Slide does for you, and you have a very light set of keys!

The form factor allows you to fit six keys, with three buttons to each side that latch and unlatch the keys to slide them.  This has allowed me to put in keys that I don’t normally use, but which are really a problem if I forget them.  Great peace of mind.

One decision I had to make was in regards to the car alarm.  As you probably know, car manufacturers have gone down the consumer unfriendly road of making their FOB’s larger and bulkier than ever before … all so that you can “unlock your car without a key”.  To keep it simple, I’ve had to let go of using the alarm fob.  Instead, I simply physically lock/unlock the car with the Keyport.  This works, and it also disables the alarm even if it is set, thank goodness.  I felt that the annoyance of having to carry the giant key and alarm fob in my pocket (constant) was greater than the annoyance of having to unlock the car door manually and lock it with a button (couple of times per day).

The Keyport also sits rather large in the ignition of the car.  It’s not heavy in the ignition by any means, which is good.  But it does feel a bit awkward when twisting the key to get the car started.  The plastic slide juts out further from the ignition than most key sets would.

Conclusion

The entire process of purchasing is a pain, true.  But I take real joy in not having to remember which keys to bring.  It’s also even better not having a large, weighty, and sharp metal mass in my already tight jeans pockets.  I enjoy the benefits of the Keyport every day.  Recommended … if you are willing to put up with the hassle of ordering and getting keys duplicated.

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Lost a bit of weight thanks to Grown Up Soda and Dry Soda

 

 

gus-sodas

As we are perhaps all wont to do, I’ve gained a bit of weight in my older age.  Don’t take this the wrong way … I’m not exactly fat by any standard, and I don’t look old.  But I do have a very slim frame, and the weight was all going to my belly.

As I’ve now discovered, this was due in large part to my love of Coke and Cherry Coke … or really, any sort of tasty fizzy soda.  Hey, if Warren Buffett loves Cherry Coke, it can’t be all bad, right?  Well, he probably doesn’t drink two or three cans a day either!

The first thing I tried was switching to Gatorade or a lighter drink.  Well, going cold turkey (aka water only) was just not cutting it.  And Gatorade actually has just as much sugar, so that tasted worse and wasn’t really any better.  As a kid, I used to dilute Gatorade mix and drink it, but I just don’t have the time or the willpower to futz with that any more.

Turns out I need some sugar throughout the day.  And I really enjoy the fizziness you get from a soda, which I find really refreshing.

Knowing that moderation is often a much more sustainable approach, I set out to find the next best thing … soda with less sugar.  After all, the way I drink sodas tends to be haphazard.  I open the soda to get that first refreshing hit of cold fizz and sugar.  And then, after two or three swigs, I’m actually pretty sated.  But the can is open, and now I’m obligated to keep drinking from it because it’s there.

So … OK, this can’t be too hard to look for, right?  Shockingly, half sugar drinks without artificial sweeteners are incredibly onerous to find.  So obscure are they, in fact, that one starts to think there must be some sort of sugary conspiracy in the works.  And who really enjoys the taste of artificial sweeteners?  I can’t believe there’s a market for that stuff.

Regardless, I finally found some palatable alternatives in the form of Grown Up and Dry Soda.  With roughly half the calories, the sodas still taste quite decent.  I’ve taken to the Ginger Ale and Cola flavors quite well.  The lavender flavor is OK, but gets tiresome quickly.  Same with the Apple flavor.  The Blood Orange flavor is sticking with me so far, however.

I’m actually surprised at how effortless it all was.  I would say I dropped from 155 lbs to 146.5 lbs over the course of three weeks, and really didn’t have to change much.  I allow myself to drink Coke when eating out (which means mostly on the weekends) and it hasn’t really impacted my weight at all, so I suspect this is going to be sustainable over the long term.

I still find myself snacking quite a bit a night, although the chips have been cut out.  And recently I find myself quite hungry at night, which I believe is my body telling me that we’ve run into the limits of what changing out the snacking and soda routine is going to accomplish.  But I’m at a pretty good weight right now, so I’m just going to let it ride.

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