Pragmatic 98: Docks And Interference

19 April, 2020

CURRENT

After a brief chat about John’s App-in-progress Timeless Day, Ronnie Lutes joins to dissect the problems and pitfalls of poorly shielded or cheap USB 3 devices and how they can create BlueTooth drops out, Trackpad bullet chattering, Mouse stuttering and more and how one might diagnose and fix these issues. A must listen for those with suspected interference on their PC or Mac wireless devices.

Transcript available
Welcome to Pragmatic. [Music] Pragmatic is a discussion show contemplating the practical application of technology. By exploring the real-world trade-offs, we look at how great ideas are transformed into products and services that can change our lives. Nothing is as simple as it seems. This episode is brought to you by ManyTricks, makers of helpful apps for the Mac. Visit ManyTricks.com/Pragmatic for more information about their amazingly useful apps. We'll talk more about them during the show. Pragmatic is supported by you, our listeners. If you'd like to support the show, you can do so via Patreon for early release, high quality, ad-free episodes. Visit engineer.network/Pragmatic to learn how you can help. Thank you. I'm your host, John Chidjie, and today I'm joined by Ronnie Lutz. Ronnie Lutz. How are you doing, Ronnie? I'm fantastic. Good morning. Good night. Good evening, whatever. Yes. Good generic time of the day is what they say on the feed, but that's another podcast in any case, because they figure, well, no one knows what time of the day that you're recording in your time zone, my time zone, or when you're actually going to listen to it. I like that. Then they abbreviated it to GTOTD or something like that. I'm like, the first time I heard it, I'm like, "What are you talking about?" Good generic time of the day, anyhow, but yes. There you go. Before we get stuck into the main topic for today, I just wanted to have a couple of quick little announcements of a sort anyhow. I recently at the request of some listeners and patrons was we love listening to your voice, John, they said and I'm like, okay, that's sure. Thank you. would you like to do a podcast to help people go to sleep just by listening to your voice? And I thought, well, that's a bit odd, I guess. So sure, why not? And I kind of teased the idea back and forth in the back of my head for a while. I didn't do anything until this whole COVID-19 thing went down. And so I thought, you know what, if I can help someone get to sleep in these sorts of unusual and difficult times, then why not? So, as of the time of recording this episode, there are now two up. Another one went up yesterday. And if you want to just go to the engineered network, engineered.network/sleep and have a listen. And if it put you to sleep, then two thumbs up, we'll call that a success since that's what it's trying to help you with, I guess. (laughs) I don't know. - Perfect. - Yeah, well, if it works, it's perfect. But I mean, anyway. And because you're still awake, I'm assuming you haven't listened to it. So that's fine. Never mind, it's fine. I'm not even trying to be funny. It's one of those things that people-- I just hope it helps somebody. I don't know if I'm going to do this long term. It's going to be pseudo random, the timing. So, it's-- And if you have requests, if people have requests for stuff they want me to read, so long as it's like creative commons or I can't read something that I'm going to get sued for reading, you know. Right. You know, so I don't know. So, that was the first thing. The second thing was I've actually got back into app development. You probably saw some chatter on this, I think Ronnie probably. - I did, yeah. - Yeah. - We talked about it. - We did, yes. And so the app that I'm currently working on is one called Timeless Day. I don't wanna go into too much detail about it, but it is an Apple Watch app. And I've actually been working on this for a few months now. This isn't a new thing, but the whole COVID situation sort of put it on hold. So I just wanted to let people know that it's back off hold again. I'm hoping to go to TestFlight Beta's in the next month and then release about a month after that or thereabouts, depending on how good or bad the TestFlight Beta goes, I suppose. But in any case, so yeah, it's a watch, it's an Apple Watch only app, standalone Apple Watch app. It will not have a companion app on the iPhone. And I've caught a, I sort of thought about all these different apps that I could be writing 'cause I just feel like writing code. And anyway, it's sort of scratching my programming itch, I guess you could say, but in any case, so I really struggle with decent acronyms sometimes. And I thought about, it'd be nice to have a place to put all the apps that I've ever written or intending to write and to come up with some kind of name. And it's terrible. I mean, I don't think it's that great. It's, I've called it slip apps. It's not trying to be funny. it's just trying to abbreviate what I'm trying to do with my apps, which is solving my little problems with apps or solving life's problems with apps or solving my life's problems with apps, which if you pluck the right letters out, spells slip. That's what I got. That's all I got. Anyway, if it may sound ridiculous, but that's okay. There's a link in the show notes. If you want to go check it out. There's not a heck of a lot there at the moment. This is the causality app, which is the Libsyn joint venture. I guess you could call it. Bedside clock reference is still in there. Obviously that's still not in the store. It's still been pulled down until I can update it, but I am gonna update that. And there's a couple of other apps that also I'm going to develop as well, hopefully in the next six to 12 months or so. So I wanna start getting some apps back out there again and kind of missed doing that, so. - I started doing that a while back too. I started just downloaded Xcode and started watching some videos online and started doing some coding and it was kind of fun, but then I kind of got caught up in COVID-19 and you would think it would be the best time to do it, but I can't seem to find any time to do it anymore, which is weird since I have all the time in the world. - Yeah, so I mean, the funny thing with me is that getting into this space where I'm now working from home and I've got the whole clan at home as well. So my wife and four kids, so it's kind of that noise and distraction makes it difficult, but we've gotten into a bit more of a routine and respecting spaces and different things. And I feel like the time is right for me to sort of like, you know, open the lid on that one again and see what else is in there. So anyhow, but yeah, I guess the thing is that I just, there's bits and pieces about the Apple Watch that still annoy me. And I guess I just wanted to write a few apps to plug some of those gaps. You know, it's just silly little things, but in any case, I didn't want to say too much more about it just to let people know that yes, I am working on that. I am programming in Xcode again, and it feels good to do it. That said, yeah, watch this space. Hopefully by the time the next episode comes out, there'll be something more to talk about. But anyway, for the moment, that's that. - Excellent. - Okay, right. So the topic for the episode. Those people that have been following me on the Fediverse or on Twitter, or my blog at Tech Distortion will know about what we're about to talk about, which is basically all of my trials and tribulations with wireless issues, wireless connectivity issues and docks and interference and things of that nature. Because since I've moved from, to an environment where I'm working from home, I realized that I have a lot of Bluetooth devices connected. And I thought, you know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna get myself a Magic Mouse 2, which is a very, very nice, although ergonomically questionable mouse. You know what I'm talking about. - Right, right. - And right now it's in harpoon turtle mode, another great design decision, nevermind Apple. But I tell you what, when that mouse is working fine, it is a great mouse. It feels really, really good to use. It's precise and I like the scrolling on it, you know, up, down, left, right. The usability of it, it is a very nice mouse. It's just that you get a hand cramp after using it too much. But so anyway, this is about three and a half weeks ago, something like that. So just after about a week and a bit into lockdown. And maybe I'm getting the chronology slightly messed up, but I already had a track pad and I already had the Bluetooth keyboard, which is the full Apple with a numeric keypad. And I picked it up secondhand a while ago, told the story on Bubble Sort. And, you know, that's another story, but never mind. The point is that, so I had that. And then finally, I also was using my AirPods. So previously I used my AirPods and the AirPods would be tethered to, connected to my phone. And I'd be listening to podcasts or when I was out walking or jogging or whatever the heck I was doing, riding my bike. And sometimes I'd connect them up to my iPad but I've practically never connected them to my MacBook Pro. So now fast forward to about three weeks ago, I finally had all of these things all connected at once. That's four Bluetooth devices talking to my MacBook Pro. And that was when I really started to notice these little things that I'd noticed and ignored for the longest time, starting to become a massive problem. So I'd be in the office and the office, I work in a multi-story building in the central business district or downtown Brisbane. So that place is an RFP soup. It's like, there's mobile phone towers everywhere. There's, you look out the window you to see other buildings and mobile phone towers and there's Wi-Fi hotspots all around you. I mean, you're basically, if you could see the RF, the radio frequency radiation, it would be like a layer of smog of radio. This is so much. So I got used to the trackpad occasionally not working quite right because I'd use my trackpad at work or just weird disconnect things with my AirPods, even to my phone. And I'm like, "Oh yeah, this is the RFP suit, but I wasn't using them long enough in the home environment to really understand that there's actually a problem with my home setup, there's something wrong. And I, and for the longest time, I thought it was my MacBook Pro, which is only a year and a half old. It's a 2018 dodgy keyboard model. I don't Okay, so that's not the correct name. But you know, the one I mean, I think everybody will. Yeah, yeah, I think so. But you you'd actually just to just to check So you've got a couple of iMacs, I think you said, is that right? I do, yeah. Yeah, so you don't actually have a MacBook Pro with a dodgy keyboard, just checking. I do not. I don't have any laptops. I don't like laptops. Any specific reason why? Just curious. Well, I figure they're not as good as a desktop, and if I want portability, I'll just use an iPad. And I don't do a lot of work that would require me to actually need a laptop, so there you go. So on your iMacs do you use much, is it all wired or do you use many wireless peripherals? I have the same keyboard you have I believe, the one with the number pad and I have the wireless trackpad and I have a wireless mouse and that is about it for wired and then I will try to plug my AirPods in and I have some issues getting my AirPods connected but I don't know if that's a Bluetooth issue or just a Mac issue. So this is, okay, so the interesting thing for me was that I initially jumped to, oh, dodgy keyboard, dodgy Bluetooth probably, I just jumped to that. And I thought, well, maybe I've got some Bluetooth problems with my MacBook Pro, or maybe I've got some problems with my iMac. And that was just superficially where I started. So when I started listing all these devices out, and then I started to actually write down what the specific issues were to try and track when the problem started and what the problem was. So the issues I have with my keyboard was I was getting keystroke lag. So, I mean, I can type relatively fast. I'm not like 100 words a minute or greater. I mean, I think I average between 80 to 100 on a good day, but I don't break 100 very often at all. And so I can type respectably fast, but not stupidly fast. But even so, when I'm typing, I was typing at moderate speeds, I was occasionally getting periods of time where I was just getting keystroke lag. And I'm like, oh, that's probably just, you know, Catalina doing something dodgy in the background, something in a software stack. God, I know. So I kind of, you know, I'll let that go. Then the trackpad. Now, people that follow Casey List might be aware that he's had issues with his trackpad. Now, he was having issues where he would tap the the trackpad and it would not do much. And then suddenly you would get like a bullet go like a kind of all at once. And like the feedback would be time delayed. Now, I started getting- I'd been experiencing that occasionally, but it was becoming more frequent. And it went from just being a couple to quite a few in a row. And that's quite an interesting sound, if you've ever heard it. It's like, hmm. Yeah, anyway. So then the magic mouse. So how the magic mouse started was it was a brand new peripheral. And this, I guess, was part of the final show. It was that in the air pods was that the mouse was stuttering as I was moving the cursor. So have you ever had a stuttering mouse cursor on a mouse? I have actually. Yeah. Not recently, but I have. Yeah. Well, how would you describe it? Because I struggled to describe what exactly I mean, I call it stuttering. Maybe it's not the right word for it, but it's kind of lagging, but it sort of jumps as it goes from spot to spot though. I think stuttering is a good word. I mean for for us Americans you know the gun culture it kind of looks like a like a like a I don't know like an automatic weapon going across the screen. Yeah yeah a bit like that yeah okay that's a good description as well and it's maddening because if you're used to a mouse that is smooth as silk like when you move that mouse across the table you get an equivalent response at the same rate rate of acceleration slowing down. When it starts stuttering, it drives me up the wall like so fast. I have no fuse for that. And I just, it was, it was, I'm looking at this mouse. It is brand new, absolutely nothing wrong with it. How could there be something wrong with this? And that led me down the path of, okay, well, then we talk about the AirPods. Now the AirPods were even stranger because, So you talked about connection issues with the AirPods, like connecting it. So that was or having a reliable connection. Is that it? Like connection was sometimes dropping out or? Yeah, like it would not connect easily. And then when I did, it would like I could hear it. I don't know, stutter almost to my AirPods would do that. So like crackling in your in the audio and. Yeah. And like pausing and then starting back up again, just some messed up stuff. And this still happens to me, actually, when I try to do my AirPods to my Macs. OK, so that's interesting. I, the funny thing for me was that with the AirPods, the only time that would break out was if I got too far away from the Mac, which is fine. Bluetooth is only supposed to have like a three meter, 10 foot range or something like that anyway. It's not specifically, it's not high power, which is of course part of the problem, which I'll get to. But so what I was seeing was the audio I was hearing in my ears was fine. It was absolutely fine. crystal clear, no crackling, no distortion, no nothing. But it was the other way around 'cause I was using it for all these audio conferencing and video conferencing apps, because of course, now I'm working from home. So working from home, we've got, well, Skype for Business, FaceTime Audio, Microsoft Teams, and of course, roll your eyes now if you'd like to, Zoom, for all of the problems that it's got. Let's not even go there, but hey, And I was in these meetings for a long time, you know, like some days was nine hours straight. And it was ridiculous, right. And because, I mean, I used to go to a lot of meetings and they followed me to work from home. Oh, man. And sometimes, you know, I say these meetings, like that's not all one meeting, right. It's like you basically you jump off one conference call and then you jump onto the next one and And then someone, you jump off, you think you've got 30 minutes and someone sees you're available so they call you. And it's like you're basically on the phone either in a meeting or a conference call or a one-on-one conversation for nine hours straight. And it's ridiculous. But anyway, I'm getting a bit off topic. But the point was that the audio from my microphone, they would say, "Yeah, John, you're dropping in and out." And I'm like, "Okay." First thing I went to before I got the whole mouse was I looked at my bandwidth. And I've got decent enough internet now. Rewind five years and it was terrible. But in the last five years, we've gotten the National Broadband Network or NBN. And unlike some people who have had problems with the NBN, I've had none. The NBN for me has been fantastic. It's fiber optic up to about 800 meters away or it was about a thousand yards away, something like that. The rest of that is just twisted pair copper and it is Measured as the best about a hundred megabits down 40 megabits up So I do not have a bandwidth problem and yet they were reporting. Hey, you're breaking up That's the first thing I figure you know, and it didn't matter if it was video and audio or just audio It didn't matter. It still broke up. So after a long process of elimination I well, I came to the conclusion that I have a common problem somehow. So What did I do? First things first. Okay. I'm a podcaster right amongst other things So I had no I have no shortage of microphones. I have plenty of them. So I don't have to Like my air pod microphones aren't the boss of me. I if I want to plug in my Heil PR 40 I'm gonna do that. So that's the first thing I did when I was reported on that or having audio problems So hide the heart, put the Heil into the MixPre3, put the MixPre3 into the MacBook Pro and assign that as my microphone when I was using Skype, when I was using Facebook, FaceTime, yada, yada, yada. And the audio problems were solved and I'm like, okay. So it's, is it the AirPods then? So then what I did is, as I said previously, I was using my AirPods with my phone all the time. So I repaired my AirPods to the phone, to my iPhone. And then I made phone calls again using Skype, because I mean, I can do a Skype call from a phone as much as I can from the Mac. It still works. And there were no audio problems. But the thing that was different was that in order for me to make a phone call, I have to go to a different part of the house because my desk in the study has terrible phone reception. So, in order to make a phone call, I have to actually go to a different part of the house. And so, whenever I make a phone call, even if it's on Skype, instinctively, I would leave the study and I would go to a different room and I'd make the call from a different room because I was just used to doing that on my mobile phone. So, what I've managed to prove was that it was a problem with the AirPod microphone when I was in the study. OK, so far, so good. So, the next question. Like a game of Clue, huh? The thing is, and I wrote a whole article about this on Tech Distortion, there is a link in the show notes if you're interested in reading the nitty gritty details. Well, actually, I can't think of it. They're kind of just as gritty as what we're talking about right now. They're the same as what we're talking about. The same grit level is there. So, you can read it if you don't want to hear it or you can read it and hear it. Either way. But yeah, look, it's a process of elimination. And if I had a spectrum analyzer, like some proper test kit, like when I worked at Nortel back in Calgary in 1999 through to 2001 and before that as a student in 97, I mean, we had the most unbelievably awesome spectrum analyzers. I mean, these things are worth $30,000 each, but oh, that was so good. And yeah, these things, you could literally put a string of wire off the end of the probes and it would just give you a sweep of the entire spectrum of noise. Just it was just picking up on that piece of wire in a room. And, you know, just to prove it was working, you could see you put inside the nanocoic chamber and you'd see near silence. And anyway, but I don't have that at home, you know, they didn't let me take that in my carry on when I left. So, yeah, kind of. They didn't let you take the $30,000 equipment home with you? I know. I can't imagine why either. But, you know, hey, there you go. So, no, I don't have any of that. In fact, thanks to my- One of my older sons, I no longer have a functioning multimeter anymore either. But that's a different story. Again. That's what kids do. Yeah. They test patients, that's for sure. And things they shouldn't with multimeters. Anyhow. All right. Back on topic. Right. Yes. So, I didn't actually have a spectrum analyzer. So, this is all just a process of elimination. So, the first thing was the microphone in the AirPods when I was in the study with the candlestick. So, that was the first one. So, the second one was the mouse. So I'm like, okay, the mouse is a problem because the mouse is wireless. Now, I have no way to make it wired. So what I could do is I could plug in a wired USB mouse, which I still had. I still had that archaic technology. So that was fine. So I plugged it in and there was no mouse stuttering anymore. There was no automatic weapon going off. It was just fine as it should be. But that didn't prove that it wasn't a problem with the wireless, it just could have still been a problem with the mouse. So that wasn't conclusive, but that was at least evidence to suggest it wasn't the MacBook Pro in terms of some software stack problem with the mouse cursor, so that was not it. So then I thought, okay, well, maybe things are interfering and I'm getting some kind of interference from some other devices. And it could be something in the study, it could be something connected to the computer, I actually don't know. The next thing to do was to start turning off or getting rid of other devices that could be interfering on Bluetooth. So the simplest thing I thought of was, well, I can wire, I can plug a wire, a USB cable, a USB to lightning cable into my keyboard. And if I plug that into USB, it turns off the Bluetooth radio and it acts just like a USB keyboard. It charges it too, which is good. So I tried that and I found that it actually did improve the stuttering. It didn't get rid of it, but it was not as bad. And I thought, OK, so that now tends to suggest that there could be some kind of interference by too many things on the Bluetooth frequencies that are interfering with each other or making it difficult for other ones to be like essentially being drowned out. All right. So far, so I think almost good. Almost. Almost. Now I have to eliminate what's plugged into the MacBook Pro. This is where it gets a little bit more complicated. When I first got my MacBook Pro, one of the reasons I got this particular model was not because it had a touch bar. In fact, the touch bar was a disincentive to get it because I hate the touch bar. Such a lot of money for no reason. It does nothing. Yeah, nothing useful anyway. I mean, it sure looks good in a demo, but once you try and use it, you know what? I've done a whole episode on that before. Let's look before you touch. Feel free to look it up, listener, and enjoy listening to me rant about how much I don't understand the touch bar. Anyway, I got this one because it had four USB-C ports more than anything else, and there's still not enough. That was the conclusion I've reached. So here's what I had. I started out with this Thunderbolt dock, and Thunderbolt dock is made by company called StarTech.com. I've also heard Marco recommend a different dock from them as well. So StarTech.com and they, you know, I got it through, I think I got through Amazon if memory serves. Not super expensive. I think it was a bit over $200, something like that, Australian, whatever that is in the US, probably $149 US, something like that. And this particular dock, it's a, it is a genuine Thunderbolt dock. It's not USB-C, which means it can drive two HDMI 4K displays directly. It can also drive, it also has a single USB 3 output and a single USB 2 output as well as a gigabit ethernet. This thing's pretty nifty and it's not that big physically and it connects via one of the Thunderbolt ports and it worked really really well and I took it to and from work with me so I could use it at work and plug into external displays at work as well as at home so it got a little bit beaten up along the way. So the other thing that I that I found after a while is that because I was putting it in a bag and pulling it out of a bag and you just everyday wear and tear so this particular cable started to the rubber sort of sheath on the outside of the cable started to peel away and pull back from the connector and you could see the shielded braid layer at each end. So, I knew this thing was sort of getting some internal damage because of all the use because every now and then my USB connected devices would disappear and come back on. So, you just ejected your hard drive without like eject you did you sorry you disconnect your pad your your hard drive without ejecting it first naughty and you get you know what I'm saying it's like you get that message up and you're like, well, I didn't touch anything, I didn't. That message always makes me feel like a little kid, like I'm getting in trouble by Apple. Yeah, exactly. They're like, you unplugged it without like doing it properly first. Like, what were you thinking? I'm like, yeah, but it wasn't me. It wasn't, I didn't do that. They need to figure that out, so that's not an issue. I don't understand that anyway. Man, that's a file system problem and I don't have a dinger to go ding and I'm not, anyway. But still, yeah, but yeah, it's a problem. But irrespective of that, that led me to the conclusion that, okay, there's some problem with the USB 3 output because all of my devices are plugged into USB 3 because I want to get the best performance out of it possible. And so I'm like, okay, I can't have my hard drive sitting off this thing anymore. My StarTech.com dock is no good anymore for that purpose. The screens were fine, as in like the 4K displays were fine. The Ethernet, I wasn't really using at that point, but when I was using it from time to time at work it was also seemed to be fine as well. So I'm like okay fine so it's just the USB 3 and I then bought myself a really really cheap adapter from a company called Unitech and it was a three-port USB 3 hub and it had integrated gigabit ethernet and I bought a really really cheap USB-A to USB-C adapter from a company called Orico. I don't know. Anyway, I'd never heard of them either, but never mind. And so at that point I'm like, right, I've now separated out on USB3. And so my MacBook Pro is now looking like power in one side, StarTech.com Thunderbolt dock on the other side. And then one more output for my USB-C three port hub, USB3 hub. Okay. So then I'm like, okay, I I'm having some issues with my displays now going blinking. This is the nine months of my StarTech.com Thunderbolt dock gradually degrading with use. I'm having problems with it now. So what am I going to do? So I thought, okay, let me just get some cheap USB-C to DisplayPort adapters from a company called Cable Creation. They were cheap. And it was just one port to DisplayPort. So one USB-C to DisplayPort. So I put those in. And so I had one for one monitor, one for the other monitor, got a couple of DisplayPort cables, then everything was fine again. And I could stop using the StarTech.com Thunderbolt dock. But at that point, I was now out of ports. But on the plus side, nothing was disconnecting anymore. So, all of this has got nothing to do with the Bluetooth, so you think. But there's a reason I'm going on about it. It's an important reason I'm going on about it. I'm not trying to bore you. I'm not trying to put you to sleep. That's the other podcast. - I was gonna say, yeah, that's not this podcast. - Oh yeah, there's a podcast for that. Oh my God, anyhow. So at the end of all of this, that was all well and good until I needed to plug in the device I'm using right now, which is the MixPre3, because the MixPre3, which is my awesome podcasting mixer, USB interface device is a USB-C. So I needed to use one of those ports, but I couldn't 'cause they were all in use. So when I would record, I would have to unplug one of my monitors and be one monitor down. Not the end of the world, admittedly, but still, like I said before, four ports was not enough. Well, it would have been enough if my dock would have been fine. But then again, why do I need a dock? Oh, that's right, because we've got everything now as a USB thing and we are living in Dongle City and docks and dongles are now our friends, until they're not. So far, so annoying? Yeah, sounds great. Yeah, sounds great. Yeah. So, at this point in time, what I basically had sort of realised is that I had a bunch of other devices plugged in to my MacBook Pro. I had taken my Bluetooth keyboard out of the equation by turning into a USB keyboard and that improved the stuttering of the mouse. So, I then had a look around and said, I thought about, well, okay, I remember reading a long, long time ago, and I do actually mean a long time ago. It was almost a decade ago, about how USB 3 would be terrible for like for Wi-Fi and for Bluetooth. And I'm like, I don't know what made me think of it. It just randomly came into my head for some reason, like I remembered reading an article about it. It wasn't a Google search either. It just I don't know. I just anyway. So I started doing some research into USB3 and the article that I was thinking of was originally written, I think it was in 2011. So I said about a decade ago and it was a fascinating paper put together by Intel about USB3. and there's a link in the show notes and also a little bit about Bluetooth as well. Now I didn't wanna, so I guess in some episodes in the past I've gone into inordinate detail about how different protocols work and so on and so forth. I sort of consciously wishing to not do that this time, maybe another time, but for the purposes of this episode I just wanted to talk about the specifics of how this manifested in my use case in the hope that maybe this will help somebody else if they have problems like this. So, need to talk a little bit about the problem and how I fixed it, and then why it was a problem at all. Sticking with me? I'm all here, but I don't, you know. I thought, though, when you told me that we were going to talk about Bluetooth, I thought we were going to talk about King Harold. Oh, yeah. Well, we could- We have to give him a mention, don't we? I tweeted last night that you had invited me on and we were going to do a history podcast. So I got a lot of people that were like testing me going, "Oh yeah, you've been wanting to do a history podcast for a while." So at least they'll hear this part and go, "Oh yeah, it was about a..." That's how... So King Harold was the king of Denmark. He was actually the king that brought all of Denmark together. So the Bluetooth, the little bee that you see on Bluetooth is actually the... It's two ruins. the Hagoroon and the Bjarken rune which are the which are his initials HB so that's how that little thing is made because it kind of looks funny it doesn't look like a B or you know there's no T in there it's why is that a why is that the logo and I guess Jim Kardash of Intel in 1997 just said hey let's call it Bluetooth because he was the king that brought all of Denmark together just the way the Bluetooth is supposed to bring every you know everything to communicate together. So there's your history lesson. So for those that I said, we were going to talk about history, we did for a second. Look, honestly, I actually didn't know any of that. And thank you for filling me in on that. And there is a link in the show notes for an article about the Denmark Bluetooth, as opposed to the wireless standard Bluetooth. But yes. So, yeah, I didn't know that. Funny little bit of history from my side. when Nortel let me go in the mass downsizing where they sacked 60,000 people in the space of three months in an attempt to save themselves, and it still didn't save them. But never mind that. I was applying for other jobs in and around Calgary. And I was interviewed for a particular job. And I kind of had a little bit of egg on my face. Now, this is late 1997. Okay. And then what made me think about this is when you said in 97, the whole Bluetooth thing, right? Yeah. And so when I was interviewed for this job, they asked me a specific question because they were looking for people to help them develop the first generation of Bluetooth application specific integrated circuits or ASICs. And so they wanted to be one of the first ones to market. And they said, oh, how familiar are you with Bluetooth? And I'm like, with what? because I hadn't heard of it and because my head was so buried in the CDMA standards and the TDMA standards and GSM, I hadn't. So all the high power stuff, even though Appliance BTS that I was working on was a low powered CDMA solution. I hadn't I hadn't actually been that I wasn't familiar with what was going on in that in the very low, ultra low powered spectrum. So so there you go. And the other funny thing about that job is that three days I'd booked my flights home. Three days before my flight left, I'd already sold off all my stuff and everything. They called me and offered me a job. But never mind that. No, I didn't take it. I came home. There you go. That's my history lesson about my first running with Bluetooth. Okay. Before we go any further, though, I should probably talk about our sponsor for this episode, actually. And this episode is brought to you by ManyTricks. And they're makers of helpful apps for the Mac. And their apps do, well, you guessed it, ManyTricks. And their apps include Butler, KeyMail, Leech, Desktop2Curtain, Timesync, Moom, NameMangler, Resolutionator, and Witch. And there's so much to talk about for each of those apps that they make. So we're not going to cover all of them, I'm just going to touch on some of them, just five actually. Time sync, I've been using that a lot lately, by the way. You can track your time that you spend in apps or activities on your Mac, the simple and easy way by using time sync. You can pull all of your apps by common activities, create custom trackers for non-Mac activities if you want. And it's simple, but powerful reporting feature shows you exactly where your time went. So you can plan better and stay focused when you need to. Resolutionator, that's another really good one too. It's so simple, it's a drop down menu from the menu bar and you can change the resolution of whatever display you like that's currently connected to your Mac. The best part though, you can even set your resolution to fit more pixels than are actually there. And that's really, really handy, especially if you're stuck on a small screen laptop and you need a little bit more real estate on the screen. It's very, very handy. Now, which you should think about which as a supercharger for your command tab app switcher. Let's say you've got three or four documents open at once in any one app and then you can use which is beautifully simple pop up to quickly pick exactly the one you're looking for. You can switch between tabs as well as apps with app windows with horizontal vertical menu bar switching panels full text search for switching you can show the front most app in the menu bar icon if you want it now has full touch bar support too and there's a lot more than that to it. Name mangler you've got a whole bunch of files to rename quickly efficiently and in large numbers, then NameMangler can help. It's designed for staged renaming sequences with powerful regex pattern matching. Recent additions including a group by feature when making a sequence and title case conversions can now keep their existing formatting or you can convert them to lowercase based on their word length. The best part is it shows you the result as you go and if you mess anything up just revert back to where you started and try again. Moom, one of my favorites, I installed on every new app and every new Mac. It makes it easy to move any of your windows to whatever screen positions that you want, halves, corners, edges, fractions of the screen, and then you can even save and recall your favorite window arrangements with a special auto-arrange feature when you connect or disconnect an external display. It also has full touch bar support and keyboard integration with Adobe's apps. It also works perfectly on an iPad operating in sidecar mode as well. Use that a few times. It's the first app that I load on a new Mac. Like I said, it's just awesome. Now, that's just five of their great apps and that's only half of them. And they all work with the latest version of Mac OS Catalina. All these apps have free trials and you can download them from manytricks or oneword.com/pragmatic and you can easily try them out before you buy them. They're all available from their website all through the Mac App Store. However, if you visit that URL, you can take advantage of a special discount off their very helpful apps exclusively for Engineered Network listeners. Simply use Pragmatic19, that's Pragmatic the word and one nine the numbers in the discount code box in the shopping cart, and you'll receive 25% off. Now, this offer is only available to Engineered Network listeners for a limited time, so take advantage of it while you can. Once again, thank you so much to ManyTricks for sponsoring the Engineered Network. - Yeah, I use a couple of those. I didn't know they made Butler. I love that app. - Yeah, and the funny thing is, when I've spoken to them in the past, I said, "Hey, do you want me to talk about Butler "'cause it's a great app? "I've used it and a lot of people that I know use it "and love it as well." And they asked me to focus on these five. They have their reasons, but to be honest, I think that so many people know about and use Butler already, maybe they feel like it doesn't need to be discussed. But I mean, for whatever it's worth, yeah, Butler's awesome too. So, but yes, and I also have that installed on my Mac. But yeah, anyway. - Good company, good apps. - Yeah, they are a great company and they have some really good apps. So thanks again for sponsoring the show guys. They've been one of our longest supporters actually. So they're awesome. All right, so I said I was gonna get into a little bit more about the Bluetooth and why it is the way it is and what it's doing. So let's do that. And I like, when I'm trying to describe this to anybody or go through this or get it straight in my head, I like to get back to basics. And the basics are whenever you've got communication, you need three things. You need a transmitter, a receiver, and a transmission medium for joining the two or to carry the message. And the same is universally true no matter what you're doing. So in this particular application, the transmitter probably wasn't a factor because everything was within tens of centimeters or inches of each other. So signal strength from a transmission point of view, if I transmit, is it going to make the destination to the receiver? That's probably not a problem at all. Interference, though, I mentioned it a few times before, interference could be a problem for the receiver. So the problem with interference in the communication, the transmission medium between them, the problem with interference is that it's not as easy as it used to be. So narrow band and broadband. So when I talk about narrow band, I guess a lot of people think about, okay, maybe I'll think about this other way around. When people want to talk about broadband, they think about broadband internet. When I'm talking about radio, it's all got to do with the width of the channel. So if you've got a channel that's carrying data, narrow band, let's say 25 kilohertz or 12.5 kilohertz or something like that, that's what they would consider a narrow band. And broadband could be measured in the megahertz, you know, like 2 megahertz, 5, 10, 20 megahertz, whatever it might be. So that's a broadband as in a very, very wide bandwidth. Back in the beginning or the early days of radio, broadband wasn't used at all. all radio transmissions were essentially narrowband because you could make an antenna that was the perfect resonance for that frequency, you could optimize that for the minimum amount of power loss and by focusing all that power and all that energy into a narrow band you would get a much higher peak energy and that peak power output would get you more range, more distance. Now fast forward to today or the last 30, 40 years and people have realized that well sometimes that's not what matters. Sometimes you don't need that range, sometimes you only need things to work in smaller areas and if that's the case you don't need a high-powered narrowband signal, you want to flatten that out over a wide bandwidth. Broadband communication technology sort of you know GSM, so time division multiplexing is not really what we're talking about, it's more frequency division multiplexing and there's many ways you can do frequency division. One of the methods is direct sequence spread spectrum, another one is frequency hopping spread spectrum. So the idea behind frequency hopping for example is that let's say your channel is a megahertz wide, you apply an algorithm to that to say well for this split moment here I will be in this part of that spectrum, in the next moment I'll be another 20 kilohertz further up and another time period I'll be further up and then I'll be back again and by hopping around that spectrum if you have got a narrowband interferer at one frequency let's say 24.11 gigahertz that's a 2.411 gigahertz I'm only going to hop in and out of that specific part of that spectrum for a very brief period so any data that I lose in that period of time, I've got other ways of recovering that. So we always, you know, we encode our data so we can recover lost data. So the idea is that even if you lose like three, four, five percent of that data, you can still recover it and you can still continue to transmit and the data will get through fine. The whole idea of frequency hopping sounds a little bit weird, but it does actually work. As opposed to direct sequence, which is a different thing, which I'm not going to talk about but anyway another story. So the idea of broadband versus narrowband. However all that was well and good because what broadband was trying to get around was narrowband interferers. In the beginning we had narrowband radio signals. How do I get around the noise from interferers that are narrowband? I go to broadband. Okay fine. So I'm frequency hopping in a nice broadband chunk of spectrum, so I should be fine. And yes, you will be fine if you're just trying to avoid narrowband interferers. But what if you've got a broad spectrum interferer? Something that's going to spew noise across that whole frequency range, such that if you chomp between this sub part, this part, to this part, and then back again, no matter where you jump, you've got nothing but noise overriding over the top of you, at which point then you're kind of screwed. What does a broad spectrum interferer sort of look like? How is that a problem like for us right? The most obvious one is competing devices. So let's say you've got too many Wi-Fi transmitters, too many Bluetooth transmitters, you've got cordless phones and they're all on different parts of that spectrum. So the way that they try and guard against that as I say, okay, well, Bluetooth, you have this chunk of 2.4 gigahertz, Wi-Fi, you have this chunk and they're separate, they're separate chunks. But if you've got damage to one of them, then it could bleed over into the next spectrum because the spectrums are really right next to each other. So that's something that could have been causing the problem. Because I've got a whole bunch of Wi-Fi hotspots in this place, it could have been those, but none of them are are actually physically in this room. In fact, the nearest one is a good, you know, probably 20 feet away. So I don't know, maybe it's a possible, put that as a possible. And then of course you've got things that you don't realize and there are things that you don't realize that could be causing broad spectrum interference. And one of the things I didn't realize causes broad spectrum interference until someone pointed out to me a few years ago are LED light bulbs. Do you have any LED light bulbs at all? I do. I was just like, wait, wait a minute. I do have some, yes. My whole house is full of LED light bulbs. Yeah. And it's increasingly the case. And it's unlike fluorescent light bulbs, for example, or compact fluorescents. They don't spew out broad spectrum, you know, interference. And the reason that LED lights can produce lots of interference is because what they are essentially is LEDs are a DC device, and we're plugging them into the AC, alternating current from power from the light socket, which comes from the switchboard, which in North America, that's 110 volts at 60 Hertz, 120 volts, 60 Hertz, whatever. And in other parts of the world, it's 220, 230, 240 volts at 50 Hertz. But the point is that's alternating current. So to go from AC to DC, you got to run it through a converter, step down the voltage to run it through the LED light. And all of that is essentially switch mode power supply and switch mode power supplies are noisy as hell. You would think, okay, well, switch mode power supplies, you know, like plug packs. So you, those little wall, sorry, they call them wall warts too, right? So the little black box that plugs into your power strip or your, well, in North America, you guys call them power strips, but you know, power boards, whatever you wanna call them. You know, you plug these things into the wall to step it down to whatever else to charge, whatever device you might have. and these things also are switch mode power supplies. So they're also very noisy, but usually they don't transmit noise or spew out noise way up into the wifi frequencies and Bluetooth frequencies. There have been cases where that happens, but it's rare, but it's not necessarily a common problem. I was having problems even with the lights in the local rooms turned off 'cause they were happening the day and the night. So that's another one to be aware of. If you're having problems at night the lights are on and you're not during the daytime, that's another option. I have weird LED lights though, they don't have a socket, they're actually just little flat panels. Oh, okay. My house is, I built it last year and when I went to go get a bunch of hue lights, I went and bought some and I took the top off, I took the, you know, off my light and I looked at it and there's just a little panel in there so I don't have any sockets at all, which was a little frustrating because I couldn't get the hues that I wanted but whatever. cool. We actually have some lights at work that are similar to that. And they actually do have their converters, but the converters are often a different room. And it's like they're hidden in like wall panels. So they step down their voltage and they run DC to the lights and they have a different fitting like you're describing. And it's interesting because I walked into those into this one room way back after they had the building refit. And I asked them, "Is there something wrong with the air conditioning in this room?" And they're like, yeah, it's just there's, I think it's about 4,000 watts worth or something like that of heat being dissipated from all the switch mode converters for the LED lights in the next room. I'm like, oh, so we solved the problem by moving it into the next room. Great. Anyway, anyway, yeah, it is interesting though, the way it's going. And I've talked about an episode a long, long time ago about I do hope that some point we go just go to DC and be done with it. Yeah, like the house has got DC for lights and then DC for appliances. And we don't do this whole AC to DC thing. Yeah, it's stupid. It is. It is. It's it's old school. But anyway, that's all right. We'll get there at some point. So in this case, just saying it's a heads up as a possible. So getting back to my specific problem, if I was going to have if it was a problem with interfering, then I something would have to have been a broadband interferer and it would have to be close to the MacBook Pro because it needs to drown out the receiver. And I know it's the receiver on the MacBook Pro that's the problem because if you think about it from the AirPods perspective, the AirPods have got data going in both directions. So you've got data from the MacBook Pro to the AirPods for the audio that you're hearing from the computer and you've got the vice versa. You've got the AirPods transmitting to the MacBook Pro and it's trying to receive that from the AirPods. And that's the problem. That's what was breaking up. So you could argue, of course, that, you know, technically in order to negotiate a connection and if we go down the whole, you know, W1 chip and how that works, and that's a whole nother story. But the point is that, yes, there is a bit of back and forth as negotiation. So I say it's transmitting and receiving, but the truth is that the data that's coming back into the MacBook Pro is predominantly the microphone. Obviously it's also if you tap the side of the AirPods or squeeze them if you've got AirPods Pro. That also is technically communicated back to the MacBook Pro, but yeah, it was evidence enough to suggest that whatever was interfering was interfering with the MacBook Pro's ability to receive Bluetooth. And how that would be manifest on the keyboard would be, well, some of those keystrokes. So if you type a keystroke on the keyboard, it's going to build up a buffer, and then that buffer is going to send that through to the MacBook Pro on Bluetooth, and the MacBook Pro is going to say, "I missed that last bit. can you send it again? Miss that last bit, can you send it again? At which point then the buffer builds up and then suddenly five or six keystrokes get through all at once and then you see all of your keys catch up. So all of the cause and effect of it all, it pointed to a localized interferer that was drowning out the nearest radio receiver in the MacBook Pro for Bluetooth. So far so good? - So good. - Okay, again, the whole Bluetooth, okay, so I do have to say some of the specifics about Bluetooth. operates specifically between 2.4 exactly and 2.485 GHz which is a I say narrowish it's not that narrow it's 85 MHz of spectrum. So if you exclude the guard bands so guard bands are just to stop interference from adjacent frequency allocations so forgetting the guard bands so get rid of those, there are 79 1MHz wide channels. And each channel observes standard, I say standard in air quotes, a spread spectrum frequency hopping. So frequency hopping, spread spectrum, I'll sort of walk through how that works. But that's how Bluetooth does its spread spectrum. Going back to the USB 3 article, why did I bring up USB 3? Why did you? Why did I? Well, you know, I was bored and I figured I would just talk about it for no reason. Okay, so USB 3 was called originally SuperSpeed. I don't know if anyone still remembers that, but it was. And anyway, it was first announced in 2008, but the first devices really hit the market in 2010. And it was a massive step up from USB 2 in terms of the data rates that you could get, at least, you know, for the years leading up to that. Nowadays, we just take it for granted. It's like, oh, it's the standard, you know. But there was a downside that they figured out there were several white papers written but the one that I was remembering was by Intel but there was another one by another company called MicroSemi that was really good too. The problem when they were doing certification for USB 3 though was that they found that there was a lot of EMI problems. So EMI is electromagnetic interference. When we talk about CE tick, the CE tick of appliance, or A ticks and N ticks and all these other things, they're all different standards designed to ensure that there are two things. You've got electromagnetic susceptibility and you've got electromagnetic interferer. So if your device, let's say your Apple, and you want to release a device on the market, what you want to make sure is that it doesn't radiate too much electromagnetic interference and you also don't want it to be susceptible to other electromagnetic interference from other interferers outside of your product. So there's a whole bunch of qualification testing which you can do. And I actually did some of that qualification testing a long time ago in a previous life and I won't talk about it because, you know, that's, it was defense stuff and it was really not that exciting but irrespective it's classified. The point is that EMI and EMC testing is a very important part of all new hardware and product development. And so they realized that because of all these extra high speed buses going outside of the computer, they had to do something about all of the EMI that was spewing out everywhere. Normal cables, as they were at that point for USB 2, weren't gonna cut it. They had to have additional shielding and they also did something else. And this is very important. There were several EMI peaks because of the frequencies that they were doing the data clock at. and they were causing narrow band EMI peaks. So remember before I talked about narrow band, wide band and the narrow band, you can put more power into it. Well, sometimes it's unintentional. Sometimes with digital, you're trying to switch that signal so fast that those frequencies, you're gonna get a whole raft of harmonics and they're gonna be very high powered and they're gonna be very narrow band. And so in order to get rid of that problem or reduce that problem and spread that problem out, you might be able to figure out where I'm going here, is rather than have so many little, so many big peaks to flatten it out so that it was essentially flattened across a wider spectrum, they applied a concept of spread spectrum to the data clocking. And I say that in a manner of speaking, there's a fascinating article, like I mentioned before from MicroSemi that explains this, there's a link in the show notes, and they call it spread spectrum clocking. And it's a technique that they use to intentionally modulate the ideal position of the clock edge such that the resulting signal spectrum is spread around the clock, the ideal frequency of the clock. And that has the effect of spreading that noise across a very wide frequency range, which means that when it comes to EMI compliance, it's easier to get EMI compliance because there's no narrow band noise, which is what EMI is looking for. EMI will say, don't spew out this signal greater than like 60 dBm, you know, in this frequency range, otherwise that's an insta-fail. Go back and redesign your stuff. And so this solved their problem at the cost of increasing spread spectrum noise. And so it was, and I'll just correct myself, it was in 2012, not 2011, sorry, the Intel white paper. And what it did is there were enough devices in the market that it actually did a test of a USB 3 hard drive and there's a figure 3.3 in their white paper and it shows with the spectrum analyzer the amount of noise that increases the noise floor in the specifically in the WiFi and Bluetooth bands and if you look at the 2.4GHz section for that 85Mb part of the Bluetooth spectrum, and it is significantly higher. And so Intel's commentary, and I'll quote exactly so that it's clear. This is what Intel said in their analysis. "With the hard drive connected, the noise floor in a 2.4 gigahertz band is raised by nearly 20 dB. This could impact wireless device sensitivity significantly." - Kablammy. - Yeah, whoopsies. Now, of course, you know, you could argue that this has been a problem then for a very long time, potentially. So, why is- How is this not an issue for other people? Is this actually the cause of the problem? Well, I'll put to you that this is the cause of my problem and I'll explain why, because I- It could not be anything else. And unfortunately, the answer to this was spend more money, which I don't- It's always the answer. It's not always the answer, but unfortunately it was this time. And I really hate that being the answer, but I tried everything. Believe me, I did. There's photos in the article that I wrote on tech distortion about this. I OK. You know how people make jokes about people wearing tinfoil hats? Yeah. Well, I got some tinfoil, I guess, and I wrapped it and then I wrapped the whole cable for my StarTech dot com and tapped that And I wrapped that in electrical tape and then I got an RF choke and I clipped that on the outside of the cable and it did not help enough. And I had a look at my cheap USB Ethernet adapter and I'm like, OK, I'm going to take it out of the equation. I've taped up my dock. It's slightly improved it, but I still had mouse stuttering. I still had problems with my audio. So I'm like, you know what? I'm done. I'm done playing. This is, this has got to be what it is. It's got to be something wrong with this damn dock. I need my ports. I can't just keep using this other USB hub because it was made out of entirely out of plastic. The shielding on it was, it was obvious that it didn't have very much at all. And so I just unplugged them all. And then I tried using my mouse with the MacBook Pro working without the other screens, of course, just the laptop display. And it was perfect. I figured I've got noise from my hub, I've got noise from my dock, I can't fix them. And I suspect that that USB noise is just leaking out and I can't stop it. So I bought a CalDigit TS3+ hub, Thunderbolt dock. Now this thing's beautiful. Okay, don't get me wrong. It's also not cheap. It's like 400 bucks Australian. go retails for about 300 US. So this thing is not cheap. And the thing that's incredible about it though, is that right now I've got one cable plugged into my MacBook Pro and it goes to the dock. Everything else, absolutely everything else is plugged into that dock and I still have spare ports. And there is no stutter, there is no keyboard lag, my AirPods work perfectly and the trackpad is not going off like a jackhammer anymore. - It fixed it. I mean, maybe it's worth just quickly listing what I've got plugged in this. So I send the TS3 plus, I've got the audio output to my desktop speakers. I've got a set of power desktop speakers. So that's, it's a 3.5 mil audio out jack. So I've got that connected to that. I've got hardwired ethernet to my router. I've got a Thunderbolt cable, obviously to the Mac Pro. That also charges the Mac Pro. I've got the DisplayPort output, goes directly to monitor one over DisplayPort. I've got a, I'm plugged the Thunderbolt downstream connection to one of my display port adapters to the other 4K monitor. I've got one USB-A port to the eight terabyte hard drive. I've got one USB-A port to my Blu-ray drive, which I can now leave permanently connected, which is cool. For when I wanna get up a Blu-ray disc. I've got one USB-A to a Qi charging pad, just because I can. Why not, right? It's a spare port. One less cable charging that anyway. The USB-C connection to the MixPre3 that I'm recording this conversation on right now. And of course the AC power adapter, which goes to the wall socket to power the whole thing. It also has an SD card reader which I've used many times for my Nikon. I've taken some photos and I've tested all the other ports. So I can now pack away my USB-C 61W charger and my Apple MacBook Pro USB white cable because I don't need it anymore and everything's back on Bluetooth and everything's working perfectly. Problem solved. That's amazing. It's ridiculous. So, you think that, you know, when they were doing Bluetooth, they just didn't realize that there was going to be so many devices using it and stuff like that? I think there's a confluence of problems. I mean, I guess if you go back to the 90s, I guess they probably weren't thinking about the scale that Bluetooth could get to, for sure. I agree with that. I think they wouldn't have even thought of it. But I also think that when they did USB 3 and all the high speed data and all that, I think that there were some assumptions made. And I think that the drive to get costs down has led to some of that being a little bit less thoroughly tested or not as robustly built as it perhaps should have been. And that's a contributing factor now because we're at the bottom point of that cycle. I mean, USB 3 has now been around for 10 years and so longer or thereabouts anyway. And so that drive to the bottom is stronger today than ever. Everyone else, if you go to Thunderbolt, the specs on Thunderbolt cables, they're even higher, you know, in terms of shielding and constant like capacitance and inductance. and it's, you know, getting Thunderbolt cables, you know, they even have conditioning chips in the cables. You know, it's very complicated. The point of it is that as they go faster and faster, they have to do more and more to stop interference from getting out. And if you have damage to the cables or the devices are poorly designed, you're kind of screwed. And I guess the other part of the thing, the other part of the problem, I think, is that there's lots of layers in the stack. I mean, I spoke to Casey about this a couple of times and as I was attempting to convince him to try some of these other things. And he's convinced that it's been a problem since Mojave, it's a software problem and that's all there is to it. And it's like, well, if I remember correctly, the problem has moved between machines and other people with similar machines and similar builds and similar equipment don't have this problem. So is there another broadband interferer somewhere near his desk that's causing that interference? So he remains convinced it's a software problem, I respectfully disagree, but that's okay. It's just a process to work through that troubleshooting and saying, right, well, look, I've eliminated all these other possibilities, so what's left has to be what it is, which is probably a poorly poor rip off of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle there, but you know. Sure like chigi. I guess. It feels a bit like that you have to be. And because I don't have a $30,000 RF spectrum analyzer that I can just dangle in front of my computer and say, "Oh yeah, there is your problem." Well, no, I can't do that. And I wish I could, but alas, no. So, anyhow. So, I guess what's the solution? I think ultimately the solution, I hate to say it, I'm just going to go spend more money. The StarTech.com dock was slightly over half the price, slightly over. So it wasn't quite half, but it was a bit more than that. So maybe three fifths the amount of money of the TS3 Plus. But the truth is that had I spent more upfront or maybe had I treated it better, I never would have had these problems in the first place. People that have got this problem are usually got this problem because they've got either a cheap cable, a bad connection or a damaged cable or a faulty device. And because it's plugged in and it's or it's physically very close to your computer, that noise is gonna cause weird interference. And it may not manifest the same way for you as it did for me, because it could be some other problem like random disconnects. So for example, long time patron and long time supporter of the show, a guy called Ted McFadden, after he read my article, he went and moved one of his USB drives much further away from his Mac. And he'd been having problems with Bluetooth dropouts and it just stopped. And I checked in with him a few hours ago just before we started recording, and he said he hasn't had a dropout this whole week. Now that's not definitive of course, but it certainly is a good sign. And people I think have gotten too accustomed to, oh, I'll just grab this cable and it's like whatever it is, a Monoprice, it's really cheap and so on and so forth. Well, if you're having weird dropout problems, If you're having weird issues with your Bluetooth devices, it's worth thinking, it's worth exploring a bit more. I was also talking to Peter Nicolades in the Slack group and he was having to set his Wi-Fi channels manually because he has his own RFP soup I suppose in his house, so many different Wi-Fi devices. So, you know, because Wi-Fi devices are supposed to be able to automatically pick channels and it wasn't working properly for him. Have you ever had to do that yourself? - I messed with it just because I wanted to mess with it. I have very good internet. I have gigabit ether or ethernet to all my computers and then my wireless is very good. So I don't have any issues with it. However, I did play with it just recently because as I'm home and just messing around with my digital life, I got nothing better to do. So I downloaded an app that would show me what channels everybody was using and actually no one around me is on the same channel I am, so I don't really have an issue with it. But yeah, it could be a problem for sure, especially in apartments and such, but I live in a house next to, far enough away that it's not a big deal for me. - Yeah, so when Peter told me about that, I'd actually, it had slipped my mind that you could manually set them, 'cause I've always seen that option, but I always left it on automatic. I've never had to do that, but that is another option. And apparently that worked really well for him, because I think actually he also mentioned has some Zigbee stuff in there as well which is another potential interferer as well. Yeah, I think most people if they had this issue they would probably just not, they probably would not figure it out honestly as much as you went into it. I enjoy the fact that you talk about Casey anecdotally not seeing this but I mean you should pretty much laid it out here based in graphs and everything saying that you know these are the items that leak the spectrum and you know it's fairly easy to understand. I tried to sort of explain as best I could. The thing is with - there's a couple of things that I found really annoying in my - well, see I was playing with radio a long time before I was even - before I was an engineer. I started playing in CB radio when I was like 10 years old and then I got into 12, I forget, a while back. Anyway, memory is hazy but somewhere back then and I built every antenna I could - you could probably name, I've built it some way and I even designed just mathematically the log periodics, I did a few of those that I actually did the calcs myself and everything and that's so much fun. I really enjoy doing it and then I became an amateur radio operator or a ham radio operator and then I got my electrical engineering degree and the rest have gone on about probably ad nauseam. So, the fact is though that through all that time with radio, there's this consistent, I don't know, it's almost, it's not a, it's a perception that it's some kind of magic, you know, like it's a black box and inside that black box is black box magic, it's black magic in there, it's like, you know, and it's not, you know, it really isn't, there is no such thing as magic, there's no such thing as, there's always a reason, it's just a matter of understanding it. And it's frustrating because some people look at this and they just throw their hands up in the air and say, "Oh yeah, that's RF stuff. I don't get it." I've come to appreciate that when we've got communication, you know, I talked before about a sender and a receiver and the communication medium between. You've got this problem where everyone wants to communicate between two places. And that is never a problem if there's only ever two people in the world and and one communication medium between them. That's no problem. But it's when you add in millions of other people or in this case, devices, all wanting to talk to each other or different people, and they're all stacked on top of each other in the same space, then you've got a problem. And so the easiest way is a cable because everything, your signal's encapsulated within a cable because then you own it. You own the transmission medium. So you can do whatever you want in your private party cable, you know, it's not going to interfere with anybody and it's yours. But the problem is that if you've got a lot of noise in there and then you let that noise out, suddenly it becomes a problem for everyone else. And so containing that, I don't know, think about like a genie in a bottle and once you let that genie out of the bottle, that noise being the genie and the bottle being the shielding on the cable, once you let that genie out of the bottle, it's over. You can't shove it back in very easily. Once you've broken that, it's hard to fix it. So, I think I suppose if I was giving a general advice, if you're having issues with, you know, if you're having issues with Bluetooth devices or even Wi-Fi dropouts and so on and so forth, one thing you can try is if you've got a lot of stuff plugged into your device, just disconnect whatever you can get away with and try systematically figure out if you've got a bad cable or a bad device that's causing noise to get out there especially if it's USB 3 because USB 3 has these issues and if you have hubs and devices treat them better than I treated mine because... be nice to them. I did not help the... that's StarTech.com I know I was sort of going on about it but I mean the truth is I could have been nicer I could have been gentler with it but and it's and it's And I suspected if I, if this beautiful TS3 dock, if I had, if I treated its cable, the way I treated the StarTech.com, if I took it in and out of work five days a week for six months, I don't think it's going to look quite as pretty as it does now. So, you know, maybe keep that in mind. You need to put it in a sleeve. Yes. It needs a sleeve or a sock or something. I don't know. Alrighty. So what do you think? I think you explained it first to someone like me who couldn't, who wouldn't understand any of this stuff and you explained it very well and now I can, you know, if I was having these issues more I think I would understand a little bit about it. Cool. All right. Just some real-time follow-up though. Yeah. For, it is Mahave, not Mahave. I live in it. I live in the Mahave Desert. Been here for 20 years. So for, I know, I know everybody, everybody has their own accent and how they say things But from the person that lives in it. Mojave. It's Mojave. Mojave. Yeah. Got it. And I sense that that's perhaps a three and a half year correction in the making there. And I think you know what I'm talking about. This is an episode of Bubble Sort, perhaps, where we may have had this conversation less directly. So, yes. So, Mojave. Got it. Yeah. Loud and clear. Very good. Nice. Okay. Well then, if you would like to talk more about this, you can reach me on the Fetaverse at [email protected], on Twitter at John Chigi, or the network at engineered_net. I'd personally like to thank ManyTricks for once again sponsoring the Engineered Network. If you're looking for some Mac software that can do, well, ManyTricks, remember specifically visit this URL, manytricks.com/pragmatic for more information about their amazingly useful apps. If you are enjoying Pragmatic and you want to support the show, you can by supporting our sponsor or via Patreon at patreon.com/johnshige with a special thank you to all of our patrons and a special thank you to our silver producers Mitch Bigler, John Whitlow, Joseph Antonio, Kevin Koch and Oliver Steele and an extra special thank you to our gold producer known only as R. Patron rewards include a named thank you on the website, a named thank you at the end of episodes, access to raw detailed show notes, as well as ad-free high quality releases of every episode. So if you'd like to contribute something, anything at all, there's lots of great rewards and beyond that it's all really, really appreciated. Of course, there's lots of other ways to help like favoring the show in your podcast player app, sharing the episode or the audio with your friends or via social. Some podcast players let you share audio clips of episodes, so if you have a favorite segment, feel free to share that as well. All of these things help others to discover the show and can make a huge difference. So, if you would like to get in touch with Ronnie, what's the best way for them to get in touch with you, mate? I am pretty much just on Twitter @RonnieLutz, L-U-T as in Tommy, yes. That's where you can find me. Awesome. Very good. Thank you for that. And so, once again, a special thank you to all of our patrons and a big thank you to everyone for listening. And thanks for coming on the show, Ronnie. It's been a blast. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. anytime. [MUSIC] (upbeat music) ♪ ♪ (upbeat music) ♪ ♪ [Music] And now it's time for the after show. Oh yeah. I just... Oh god.
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Ronnie Lutes

Ronnie Lutes

Ronnie is a long-time Apple tech geek and for many years co-created PocketSized Podcast in both of its incarnations, though more recently has become a regular member of the BubbleSort crew.

John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.