Data from Star Trek playing a violin with a thought bubble containing "Unlimited?"
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Limiting Data While Tethering on a Mac

Using Too Much Data

Being a remote worker, I tend to work at home a lot. I also like to roam around to coffee shops and coworking spots on occasion in addition to traveling to meet up with my coworkers. This means I tend to tether quite often and use mobile data.

One of the biggest annoyances I have with Mac OS X is that in 2015 it isn’t aware of tethered vs. (relatively) unmetered connections. I wish there was a mode in Mac OS X that would intelligently back off autoupdates, file sync, and other expensive data operations while on specific connections. This includes when you’re tethered to your iOS device using the iCloud automatic tethering option and WiFi access points you’ve specified as being metered connections.

I’ve never gone over my data allotment but I’ve also probably been way too careful and not been as productive as I could have been. I just want this to be somewhat automatic.

Limit Your Data

I was delighted to discover TripMode recently. TripMode is the missing piece of the operating system to block connections when you’re on a metered data connection. It sits in your menu bar up top and remains inactive until you turn it on or when you rejoin a WiFi network previously marked as metered.

TripMode screenshot

You can turn off individual applications and known services (like iCloud). Each application shows the current usage for the session/day/month depending on what you’ve selected at the bottom of the popover. So far it’s worked well in my limited testing. I hope to report back positive results after the one week trial is up.

TripMode is a kernel extension and therefore isn’t available from the Mac App Store. They promise to not collect specifics about the connections and apps you are making but rather gather general stats about volumes and usage.

Still Check Your Device

After all is said and done, TripMode isn’t the end-all indicator of your current data usage. Your cellular carrier will be able to provide you the most accurate measurement of the data used in your current billing period. iOS does provide usage statistics in Settings > Cellular with tethering being one further deeper in System Services under Use Cellular Data For:.

Please be aware that even iOS can be wrong about the total amount of data transferred. Your cellular carrier’s method on determining bytes transferred may differ from how your phone sees it. Its also possible from tower to tower the algorithm may differ. Ultimately the billing system from your carrier is responsible for the total usage. Usage while roaming or on partner networks can also be delayed for up to a month. Most carrier don’t apply that delayed usage to the month it actually occurred in but rather the month it hits their billing system.

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Treadmill Macro View
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The Downside to Treadmill Desks

Just Published

The New York Times just published an article on their Well Blog entitled “The Downside of Treadmill Desks”. It’s an interesting read.

The article mentions a study performed by two groups at the Brigham Young University in Utah and published to the PLoS One Journal in April. After studying 75 individuals it was determined that while there is a significant positive health impact on using a treadmill desk, productivity and cognition decreased.

My Thoughts

As I’ve mentioned before I’ve been using a treadmill desk since February of this year. Personally I’ve seen a huge increase in concentration and cognition when using the treadmill.

I average about three hours of use today, sometimes up to five. I tend to use the treadmill in the morning the longest, then stand midday and revisit the treadmill at the end of the work day. I’ve found in the morning the treadmill boosts my concentration more than a cup of coffee would. I almost always forget I’m even walking on the treadmill.

My experiences may differ than the study because I have ADHD. The treadmill, it seems, busies the part of my brain that likes to derail my concentration. My original goal for using the treadmill desk was not for the exercise/calorie burn but rather the assist with concentration.

Observations & Realities

I think the reality of treadmill desks at a normal office job present the following limitations:

They’re Loud

You’re going to be walking on a machine. The machine can be loud and your hooves smashing down on it are going to be loud. You’re going to want to reduce the noise as much as possible (if you’re considerate) which means slower speeds and potentially an unnatural gate.

I’ve found speeds below 2mph aren’t effective for my needs. I need to be at 2.5mph or greater for me to see a real attention benefit – and then anything over 3.2mph usually causes too much sweat.

Humans Perspire

You’re going to sweat. I don’t care if you use a fan (which adds to the noise mentioned above) you’re still going to sweat even at 1mph. Those dress pants and undershirt are going to be really pretty after walking six miles.

You can try to keep cooler by using a fan, changing clothes, taking a shower. All of these things modify how you’re going to work and walk. Worrying about not sweating too much will ultimately reduce your speed which will keep you from hitting the right speed (if your speed is anything like mine).

If your office isn’t equipped with a shower or a place to change that’s convenient, your coworkers may not want an afternoon meeting with you.

You’re Vulnerable

When you’re on a treadmill desk, you’re vulnerable. How so? You’re walking, sweating, breathing hard and wearing workout clothes in front of your coworkers. I’m sure the whole office isn’t on treadmills (huzzah if they are!). This will unavoidably single you out. Until you really get comfortable with the treadmill and the way you’re integrated into your workplace you are going to feel like a weirdo.

Weirdos can’t concentrate well. You need to realize you’re not a weirdo.

It Takes Practice

The study specifically mentions typing ability deteriorates when using the treadmill desk. This is an obvious side effect of walking while typing. But like with most things in life, it takes practice.

I was a hot ass mess trying to type and walk the first couple of weeks using the treadmill desk. I couldn’t find the right height for the monitor, keyboard, speed to walk at. All of those things will eventually gel together and you’ll find the right combination. I’m typing at my normal rate of words per minute and my accuracy is just fine.

Believe What You Want

The huge flaw in this article and the abstract of the journal article is this – it doesn’t indicate how much time the participants were given. If you don’t give someone a chance to adapt to the new situation it’s obvious they’re not going to be productive!

You’re going to have to find out if a treadmill desk works for you. Don’t believe everything you read and don’t assume the variables apply to you. Don’t assume I’m right either. A lot of the reasons the treadmill desk works for me has to do with working remote at home and my brain’s specific issues with ADHD.

All I can suggest is give it a whirl!

 

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Is your Apple Watch Digital Crown sticking?

I noticed a couple days ago that the Digital Crown on my Apple Watch wasn’t turning quite as easily as it had when I got it. Of course I immediately thought it was a defect since it visually looked clean. Turns out it was needing a bit of maintenance. 

I use a treadmill desk and even with the 3mph speed I sweat a bit. The Watch was designed to handle fitness scenarios but apparently it can get gunked up without some maintenance. Simply wiping down the exterior is not enough. 

Apple has realized this too. They even published a support document specifically about the Digital Crown and their recommended process to remedy it:

https://support.apple.com/en-us/ht204639

It was a little unnerving putting the Watch under running water, but it worked. Now you know. 

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Watch Closeup
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Apple Watch Sport Ion-X Glass Easily Scratched

 

I committed an act of such shame that I have a hard time even talking about.

 

Okay it wasn’t that horrible and I knew this was going to happen eventually – just not on day two. I scratched the display of my Apple Watch Sport edition.

Apple Watch Sport in Green with a scratch in the displayI thought I was babying the thing. I was taking it off when I knew it could get damaged but somehow I managed to still scratch it. I called Apple and talked to a super nice tech on the AppleCare team. I e-mailed him photos and he forwarded them onto engineering. I got a call back and was simply told, it’s cosmetic damage.

I know it’s cosmetic. But really, should a $400+ watch scratch this easily? I have watches costing in the $10-$30 range with scratches much less visible than this and some with no damage. I’d expect the glass to withstand at least a brushing against a non-diamond-encrusted surface.

I guess Apple has other expectations on the durability of their glass.

 

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Attention Brain Word Cloud
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My Signal-to-Noise Ratio

I’ve mentioned before on this site and other places that I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and that I’ve been doing a lot to manage it. I didn’t really connect the dots until I started working remote for Automattic almost two years ago. It’s a continual process for me and I’m continuing to make adjustments over time to combat it. I have good days and I have bad days.

Medication

After I got diagnosed with ADHD by an accredited counselor and my primary physician, I started on medication to help. It was my goal at that point to not be on the meds long term but rather use them to show me where I could be. It’s hard to see the destination without an idea of where you’re going or even why you’re going.

The medications worked pretty quickly. Within the first week I started seeing things in life I always ignored. I went to a museum in Houston with family and discovered myself reading the signs around exhibits and actually taking in what I was seeing. It was amazing. Within a couple months I realized I wasn’t eating food regularly any more (it’s a common side effect) and my personality was changing too. We also increased the medication a few levels to figure out what was the right level to be at. I ended up taking myself off of the medication a bit earlier than I had wanted to originally but I could see the longer I was on it the harder it would be to come off. I wasn’t addicted per se but the clarity I got from it was hard to give up. Really hard.

Post-Medication

Since I’ve been off the medication I’ve been using the tools my counselor and I came up with to help with concentration and focus. Primarily its a mix of the following:

  • Exercise
  • Note taking
  • Music
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness

Exercise

Being active is a huge part of the success with dealing with ADHD. Working at home gives me a ton of flexibility to include exercise in my daily routine. I’ll break up my day around noon with a bike ride, walk or step aerobics in my basement. Since February of this year I’ve been using a treadmill under my standing desk with some good results. I try to walk in the morning and afternoon and then stand in between. I find it gives me some different kind of focus than when just purely standing. I haven’t fully decided if I’m more successful with the treadmill desk but I am benefitting from the activity being more regular health-wise.

Note taking

Taking notes is a huge deal with ADHD. You have to leave yourself a reminder of where you left off on a task or else you will forget. Short notes are sometimes not even sufficient – a few words is sometimes not enough to remind you. It’s crazy how often I can forget to do something even hours later without a note. I haven’t found the perfect single place to leave notes so it’s a combination of sticky notes on my monitor, handwritten notes next to my keyboard and electronic notes in Evernote. I should boil it down to one place but I tire easily of a single solution and then stop using it.

Music

I’m not quite sure how I’d survive without music. I’ve been listening to electronic/trance/techno music since I was 12 years old when I discovered it allowed me to concentrate on tasks. Most electronic music (if there isn’t a lot of vocals) will busy the part of my brain that is trying to derail me. Working in a regular office environment you’d always find me with my headphones on. Working at home I’m using open speakers and I find that I don’t get the same effect. I actually don’t listen to music consistently throughout the day but when I find myself straining to finish a task, I find the right music to assist.

Meditation & Mindfulness

I should practice formal meditation more. Years ago I would set aside time to meditate and I enjoyed it. In the two years I’ve worked remote I’ve only done a full meditation exercise a handful of times. I tend to use short moments of meditation thought to help center myself when I feel like I’m going too many ways. Being mindful of yourself is a big help. Be aware of when you’re started to swerve off course and recognize the signs. Being on the treadmill desk is a little like meditation … it’s amazing how much around me sort of fades out when I’m walking and working.

The Noise

What it comes down to is you have to try to reduce or replace the noise in your head with something else. In radio engineering Signal to Noise Ratio is the amount of desired signal vs the background noise. You want more signal than noise otherwise your transmission isn’t effective. Signal is analogous to the task or idea you’re trying to focus on and the noise is everything else going on in your brain that’s trying to derail it. You have to find the ways that work for you to reduce the noise or improve the signal.

Much like radio engineers there are things you can do to improve signal and reduce noise – some of which I’ve mentioned. Everyone is different. For some the only thing that works is the medication – and it works well. Don’t be ashamed if you are on medication to help. There is such a negative stigma with taking medication for mental conditions which to me is crazy. Find what works for you! Don’t get discouraged if something doesn’t work down the road or if you fail with an experiment.

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