Review – Cocoon Slim Backpack

I have been using a pretty well made shoulder laptop bag. It has lots of good pockets and the stiching is not flimsy. However, it is still a shoulder bag and that gets uncomfortable during a 15 minute walk to and from work.

So I asked for the Cocoon slim backpack for Christmas. It is an exclusive for now through the Apple Store. This is the same company that brings us the Gridit products.

I asked for the backpack for two reasons. First, it has a built in Gridit section. Second the slim profile places the weight down the length of my spine better when carrying the backpack. Way better than a traditional shoulder bag.

The bag has a very solid feel. The zippers are well made and do not feel like they will separate as a lot of bags do. The sections do unzip to the point you can lay it open fully flat. That completely exposes the built in Gridit section. I was able to organize the items I want to carry but not always use onto the Gridit platform. I found my small Gridit board still fits flat just laying on top of the built in platform. This makes it easy for me to routinely pull out charging cables I need often without opening it all the way.

The laptop section has a soft sleeve area for an iPad or other tablet. Then an adjoining pocket for up to a 15\” laptop.

There are an external pocket on the front of the backpack closed by zipped for slim materials. And one in the front cover but within the laptop compartment. That\’s it. No other pockets as you would expect to keep it slim. Perfect for a back and forth backpack.

I\’m very satisfied with the backpack. An excellent well made bargain for the price.

RapsberryPi and File Transporter Fun

I wanted to mount some external storage on my Raspi. I had thought about a USB drive etc. Then it occurred to me I had a better solution.

I have a FileTransporter on the same network as my Raspi. Here is how I hooked it up.

Preparing the Transporter

First log into your Transporter admin site. And go to your transporters.

Choose the desired unit if you have more than one.
Choose Advanced on the right side and go into the SMF/CIFS section.


If SMB/CIFS is not enabled. Check that box to turn it on.

Then I chose to enable the “second login” option and name the user raspi.
I entered a reasonable password and that has the Transporter ready for the Raspi to connect.


Configuring the Raspi

Log into the Raspi.
Create a folder in your home directory:

Set the folder permissions:

We need to setup a credentials file:

While escalated to root:

Edit the file to be as follows, substituting in the password and username you setup as the second smb login on the raspi

Save the file and exit.
Exit again to return to the pi user account from root.

Next we need to edit fstab to mount the drive to the transporter folder:

Add the following line to your fstab. You will need to substitute the ipaddress, Name of the transporter, username and password from the transporter.
//ipaddress/nameoftransporter /home/pi/transporter cifs auto,credentials=/root/smbcreds,iocharset=utf8,file_mode=0777,dir_mode=0777

Finishing up

Now just execute the command:

You should be able to change into the transporter directory and find all the folders you have existing on your transporter. From now on if you restart your raspi it will auto mount the transporter.

If you set your rapsi to write any files to one of those folders it will now be automatically distributed to all other transporters sharing that folder. If you have other remote raspis and they have access to a transporter you now wide large distributed storage across them. Maybe one pi grabs photos and another elsewhere displays them.


Digital Nerve Center

I have been thinking for some time just how much my iPhone is the central processor of my digital life. In some ways my real world life too. I do not carry a personal laptop. In fact, despite being in information security I rarely carry around a work laptop. I tend to just leave it at home for when I need it. My iphone even serves as my car\’s central brain for user functions. Sure Apple Maps gets a bad rap but it works well for me. Bluetooth hands free for both Siri and Phone calls. I rarely even turn on my XMRadio in my car because I just stream content from my phone to my car audio system using my TuneLink bluetooth adapter.

Using just my iPhone I do 90% of what I need. I download podcasts and audiobooks on a daily basis. I check email, twitter with Tweetbot, etc all using my phone. It was a little difficult to manage at times due to power. Even with having two Mophie Air iPhone cases. I airplay content such as my audio books to an appleTV while gives plenty of volume for whole room audio via a TV. It could be inconvenient if I needed check a message, pause playback etc when the phone was on the charger. Now enter my Pebble watch. I put in a few minutes and cleaned up what types of notifications get sent to the Pebble. Now I can actually leave my iPhone plugged in on my Kensington Night Stand, with the iHandy Alarm Clock up and still stream my content and check messages all with the iPhone as the central management point.

It just amazes me to live in the future. I grew up with the Vic20 and Commodore64 and recall when modems went from acoustic couplers to plug in modular cables. Now, I even write full blog posts using my iPad with a bluetooth keyboard. Sometimes I even edit those posts via my iPhone prior to posting. Got to love it.

Product Review – Pebble Watch


I was excited to find my Pebble waiting for me this weekend. Reviews by other backers have generally been good. You can find several others listed below so I will not rehash all of the common details. Instead, I want to touch on a couple of issues specific to my experience.

I wore my Pebble to dinner on Friday night. The $spouse’s comment was that it looked like something out of a cereal box due to the black plastic. My reply was: I was just as excited to get it as when digging the prize out of said cereal box. Granted, it is not formal wear like a Rolex. It does handle the things that I wanted it for. Viewing information and controlling music on my iPhone when walking to and from the office or working out. Even the black rubber band it comes with works best for my immediate needs. I won’t mess it up with water or sweat.

Issues – Siri and Bluetooth

I have run into a couple of the reported issues. The Siri blocking issue frustrates me most. This occurs most of the time when the Pebble is active with my iPhone and I try and trigger Siri. You will see the bluetooth selector next to Siri’s microphone icon. If the pebble is selected then it dead ends the audio and Siri cannot hear you. Sometimes you can select the iPhone to get Siri working again. Often it will flip back to the Pebble if you have lost Bluetooth connectivity. Such as leaving the watch on your desk and carrying your iPhone around the house.

I did find that I never have the Siri issue when I am in my car. My iPhone is set to automatically pair with my car handsfree system. The non phone audio of my iPhone also automatically associates with my TuneLink bluetooth adapter that goes to the line in of my car audio system. Siri functions every time normally without hooking into the Pebble by accident.

There is another issue I have noticed that no one else seems to have mentioned. If I open an app that consumes a lot of iPhone memory and other resources I think the iPhone is killing the Pebble app. It comes back when the Pebble communicates with the iPhone. That triggers the popup to request approval for allowing the Pebble to talk to the phone again. This is something I hope Pebble can fix in a software update to better hook approved status and not keep prompting going forward.

Issues – Notifications

I have had a mixed experience on notifications. I had some sporadic issues with even normal notifications working such as iMessages. A reboot of my iPhone seemed to clear that up.

Email notifications gave me a brief headache. I did not want every single email showing up on my Pebble. So I killed display in lock screen on the main settings for my two primary mail accounts in the iPhone. However I left it active on my VIP list which is supposed to override the settings. I had hoped this would mean that I only saw email on the Pebble from that list of people. Unfortunately that temporarily broke email notifications.

I did a run through to reset all notification styles and got it working again. Then moved it back to VIP list only and that seems to have cleared it up for me. I am now just seeing email notifications on my Pebble from those on my VIP list.

I strongly suspect the reset notification hook dance has a tie to the Bluetooth reconnection after the iPhone and Pebble gets back into range of each other.

Update 2/17/13 7PM I have found I definitely have to do the trick of changing notification type to none and back to the desired type like banner after I have gotten the pop up requesting permission to give the Pebble permission to connect to my phone. It is consistent.

Summary Opinion

I love the watch so far despite the odd bluetooth and Siri issues. I think it will fit the need exactly as I intended. Future software updates should keep the experience improving. It is not going to be a purchase for everyone for a while yet. But perfect for my walking and exercising needs. One other scenario I look forward to with the Pebble. I listen to a lot of audio books. Now I can leave my iPhone plugged in and charging on the night stand with airplay of my books to speakers. I get to see important messages and pause the book if needed all without having to take the phone from it’s charger.

Product Review – Philips Hue Light Bulbs

I have been using the Hue bulbs for a monthnow. I purchased the starter three bulb kit from the Apple store. It worked out well since I have a floor, table and kitchen overhead lamp in my apartment.


The setup was very straight forward. I just have to install the Hue app on my iPhone after hooking up the controller box to my router andinstalling the three bulbs. You just press the button on the controller and the app sees and associates the unit to your app. Nowyou can control the bulbs with any of the preset lighting profiles.

The App

Now the bad part of all this is the app. It is nearly pure garbage. It tries to sync the profiles between your online account and to alldevices with the Hue app connected to your controller. My experience has been that it often glitches and you get duplicate or missing profiles across devices. They would have done better to support iCloudor dropbox sync support. The worst part of the app by far is the timer function. You can set profiles to start and stop on a timer. Youwould think that the timer settings get loaded into the controllerunit. The best I can tell is that the timers only work if you leave the app running on the device where you set the schedule. Any glitches in connectivity can cause them to fail to go off as well. In a nutshell they are completely unreliable.

General Experience

Overall the setup was very simple. The app is the worst part of the experience for automation. The bulbs are 60W equivalent. If you needbrighter then these are not the bulbs for you. I did enjoy takingphotos and setting my own color profiles as long as I was satisfied manually switching to those profiles rather than scheduling them. I definitely do not regret the purchase, since I can climb into bed and flip all the lights off at once. If I need to get up in the middle of the night I can flip them all to a low power profile like “moonlight.”That is great so I can move around without waking myself up too muchfrom bright light.

Keep in mind the limitations of the scheduling if you are considering this purchase. That might be a deal breaker for most folks. Instead look at the Belkin WeMo to control your existing lights.

Griffin Powermate – Mic Mute Button

I picked up a Griffin Powermate last week on a whim. It is a usb connected solidly built alluminum control knob. You can press and turn it to trigger events. It also has a blue LED light for giving status feedback. It can work on Mac and Windows.

It comes with a number of default actions for controlling applications like iTunes, Safari etc. You can add your own and even trigger scripts with it. Griffin provides some apple script samples with the software for the powermate. These can do things like place the led into a triple flash alert mode.

I took the supplied scripts and saved them in a Scripts subfolder on my mac. Then I setup a new Control group for podcasting. You can only choose one active set per powermate at a time. Yes you can connect multiple powermates if you really want. I then found and added the applescripts for controlling skype that I found over at Mystic Coders. Next I put together triggers to toggle muting both an active skype call and the input audio level for my Mac. This way if I am on Skype with someone and they are recording I can mute for coughs, interuptions etc. I have the action also zero out then restore the input audio level as well. That solves muting my mic if I am the one doing the recording.

Setting up the Triggers

For the Trigger: Mic-Mute: Under Advanced I check to match light state for “Default” This only runs the below actions if the light is in the default state. This keeps it from running twice once we change the light state while muted.

  • Action: InputVolume-0: AppleScript: set volume input volume 0

  • Action: Skype-MuteON: AppleScript: run the skype mute script from Mystic Coders

  • Action: PM-LightPulse: AppleScript: run the Griffin provded script: AlertX3.scpt

For the Trigger: Mic-UnMute: Under Advanced I check to match light state for “Alert x3” This only runs the below actions if the light is in the alert state as defined in the Griffin script. This keeps it from running twice once we change the light state while unmuted.

  • Action: InputVolume-72: AppleScript:  set volume input volume 72

  • Action: Skype-MuteOFF: AppleScript: run the skype unmute script from Mystic Coders

  • Action: Clear Light State

That does it. Now when I go to record a podcast I flip my active control set for my powermate to my Podcast set. Press the knob to mute and again to unmute. It flashes while muted to ensure I know I am muted to save me from talking for several minutes without getting it recorded.

iPad as a Podcast Skype Source

I was doing some experimenting for a friend over the weekend. It is common to run skype on a second computer when podcast recording and take the in/out audio from the second computer, usually a laptop, into a channel on a mixing board. Then you use mix minus to ensure the person on skype can hear everything but themselves. What if you don’t have a second computer BUT you do have an iPad? This is still assuming you have a mixing board of course.


Just attach the USB Apple Camera Connector Kit adapter to your iPad.


Next attach a Griffin iMic to the USB Camera Connector Kit adapter.


Hook it into your mixing board via the in and out ports on the iMic to the appropriate jacks on your mixing board. Start Skype and it will send its audio to the iMic appropriately split to the in/out ports of the iMic.


Congrats you are using Skype running on your iPad mixed into your audio for your show.

Apple iDevices and Audio Recording – Pulling out what is left of my hair out.

Ever since I got my first iPhone, the 3GS, I have wanted to use it to record audio. ??I have been in podcasting since it started. ??Six years ago. ??Not the five Apple tried to claim in iTunes. ??Five is how long they have had it in iTunes.

I also had gotten an Owle Bubo ( for Christmas last year. ??It is a great camera grip and comes with the Veracorder mic to better aim your audio when making video. ??The veracorder mic is below. ??It’s short and can be bent to angle toward your source. ??It works on the iPhone3GS but has been broken on the iPhone4. ??


Combined with the FiRE field recorder app ( it makes a great hand recorder for questions, notes etc. ??Especially since the FiRe app supports the Izotope ( audio processing plugins like Noise Gate, Hiss Reducer. ??Sure you can only use one at a time but its cool for field use. ??Even better is you can turn on pass through audio. ??Where I am going is I wanted to be able to use my iPhone or now iPad as an inline noise gate for my sound board. ??Why not? ??I have it so why not use it?

To this end I needed a way to split audio in and out. ??So I originally picked up a splitter cable from?? ??This was made to work with the iPhone. ??But it never would override the internal mic. ??Now I find it works on the iPad. ??I tried it again with the iPhone4 with little joy.


Next I go for the Griffin iMic. ??The device itself works on the iPad and briefly FiRe recognized it fully and pass through audio worked. Then it quit. ??Recording then playback can be heard through the output. ??But the live pass through quit for a reason I cannot explain. ??I have emailed the developer of FiRe. ??I also find I cannot try it on iPhone 3GS or 4. ??Because those reject the camera connector kit plug. ??This is really irritating since I know that the iPhone4 changed the audio on the dock connector to be usb audio device. ??So if Apple would just let the camera kit usb plug work I am betting the griffin imic will work fine. ??All avoiding the inconsistent nightmare that is the headphone jack. ??


In a nutshell which is appropriate since the changes and inconsistency are driving me nuts, get your act together Apple. ??PLEASE!