MacOS’s Hidden Storage Management App

When you think you need Daisy Disk or Grand Perspective to clean up your disk, you might be surprised Apple has built a pretty good storage management app into the operating system:

  1. Open Spotlight (Cmd-Space)
  2. Type “Storage Management”
  3. On the bottom, in the Reduce Clutter section, hit Review Files, and you’ll see something that looks like this:

macos-catalina-storage-management-documents-large-files-2.jpg

(This is also shown in Apple’s support article on freeing up storage space on your Mac.)

If this isn’t enough for you, or you prefer the command line, you can also run brew install ncdu.  (after installing Homebrew)  This installs the venerable (and still useful) Ncurses Disk Usage utility.

How to Compare Prices Between Doctors (in the United States)

It’s difficult to compare prices between doctors.  Insurance providers have estimator tools, but the prices they give are often for slightly different procedures than the one you’re looking for.  Even if they do have your exact procedure/test listed, the price ranges they list are usually outdated and nowhere near accurate.

One of my colleagues at work had a method he used to get more accurate price estimates.  I’ve slightly modified it to fit my needs, and am listing it here in case it helps someone else:

  1. Call doctor and get diagnosis and/or procedure/CPT codes.
  2. Call facilities, get routed to billing, and ask for estimates.
  3. Call insurance and also ask for estimates.
  4. Pick facility and schedule an appointment.  This may involve calling the doctor back to get a referral or move a referral.
  5. Once scheduled, call again and ask for an estimate (since facilities are sometimes better able to provide estimates once your visit is scheduled.)

This is a lot of work, but may save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

cpt-professional-2020
CPT Professional 2020 (CPT / Current Procedural Terminology (Professional Edition)) – You don’t actually need this book to figure out what CPT code you need to reference, but the person in your doctor’s billing office probably will.

One last thing: Even if you think you might not be eligible, apply for financial aid anyway.  Especially if you have a family.  You might be surprised that you qualify.  And apply before you pay your bill.  It’s much tougher to get retroactive financial aid for a bill you previously struggled to pay.

iPad: 90% of a Laptop

I tried the iPad-only life for months.  Here’s what I found:  The iPad gets you about 90% of the way to a laptop.  It’s the last 10% of what you might need that is frustrating.  For example:

  • You can listen to music, but if you want to easily trim that media so you only hear the best parts, the Music app on macOS is what you need.
  • Even if Safari identifies itself as a desktop browser, there are still sites that don’t fully work with it.
  • I had a PDF that was attached to an email that I was unable to rotate on the iPad without a paid 3rd party app such as GoodReader.
  • Another email attachment I wasn’t able to see in iPad Mail until I went to the cloud email portal (which barely worked on the iPad).
  • Tax software on the iPad is even more clunky, expensive, and data-loss prone than on macOS.
  • I was unable to change the text size of data entered in PDF form fields, thus making a printout of the form unreadable. Had to use a Mac.
  • My wife used to love her iPad Pro (it was a lot better than the Windows notebook  that made her break down in tears), but now she’s selling it because she outgrew Swift Playgrounds.  She wants to make a real app in Xcode.

You may say now that you don’t need to do these things, that these are all edge cases, but you will run into your own edge cases where the iPad falls down and get frustrated. Maybe in a few years, the software will be better.  But I suspect the Mac will be best for most use cases for many years to come.

apple-magic-keyboard-for-ipad-pro-1-1280x720
Apple’s Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro (Image: SlashGear)

What I Learned From Craig Federighi’s Talk at Berkeley

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, recently gave a great talk at Berkeley.

Craig Federighi-967236574
Image: Wired

Here’s what I learned from Craig:

  1. Do what you love!
  2. Work with people whose work you admire.
  3. Pay attention.  (use a notebook and take handwritten notes)
  4. Never stop acting like the new one on the team.  Ask stupid questions.
  5. Team > Self.  Do all that you can do to help the mission of the team.
  6. Commit, Focus, Reassess.  Set yourself a deadline, say 1-4 years from now, to assess where you’re at and figure out what you want to do next.
  7. Follow your heart.  Trust your gut feelings on big and small decisions.

Beyond these points, he also mentioned:

  • Expertise comes with solving real problems.  (my own example: HackerRank vs. c0d3.com)
  • Become good at communicating, both via the written word and verbally.  Craig’s early experience being a DJ at a pirate (?) radio station helped him with this.
  • Don’t read from a script.  If there’s something you’re excited about, just tell that story.  Know what you want to get across.  Be yourself and tell the story.
  • Put yourself in the mindset of the customer.  Translate their needs to the team.
  • Get the right amount of sleep.
  • Avoid burnout by having a diversity of problems that you’re working on.
  • Have a hunger to learn.  Come up with a project and constantly be learning.
  • Focus your main efforts on helping solve the right problems for the team.  If you have a broader concern for the project, you can help manage it.

I loved listening to what Craig had to say and will use many of these tips going forward.

Comparing the Kia Niro vs. Tesla Model 3 for a 2800 Mile Cross Country Road Trip

I was curious how long it would take and how much it would cost to charge/fuel the Kia Niro vs. the Tesla Model 3 on a road trip.  I plugged the cars into A Better Route Planner and GasBuddy’s trip tools, and came up with the following chart:

Drive Time Charge/Fuel  Time Number of Charge/Fuel  Stops Cost (June 2020) to Charge/Fuel
Kia Niro Hybrid 40h 0m 1h 30m 6 $119.94
Kia Niro EV (64 kWh) 50h 33m 14h 9m 27 $554.00
Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus (54 kWh) 45h 16m 9h 5m 27 $148.00
Tesla Model 3 Long Range (75 kWh)  43h 33m 7h 33m 18 $139.00

$554 to charge the Kia Niro EV?  Yes:  Electrify America’s charging network, though widespread, costs around 4x as much to charge as the Tesla supercharger!  Surprised?  The reason is because Electrify America is trying to make a profit, whereas Tesla mainly uses its Supercharger network as a selling point for its cars.

tesla-model-3
Tesla Model 3 (image: Motor Trend)

The Kia Niro hybrid looks like the winner in both cost and fuel time.  But the number of stops for the hybrid is misleading.  Yes, you could get by with only 6 fuel stops, but realistically, you’re probably going to be stopping at least 10-15 times for food, restroom  breaks, hotels, scenic viewpoints, etc.

kia-niro-ev-815
2020 Kia Niro EV (image: drive.com.au)

Overall, I’d take the Tesla for the ease of charging and more refined experience overall.  But I might miss the ventilated seats and CarPlay on the Niro. (Another point in the Niro’s favor: it’s relatively anonymous, vs. the Tesla which has proven attractive to thieves wanting to break windows and steal stuff. It can take 4-6 weeks to order new windows from Tesla. Versus the Niro, I’d pay an extra $400/year in insurance costs on the Tesla too.)

Flaws in Non-Tesla Electric Vehicles

Almost all consumer-level electric vehicles that aren’t Teslas have flaws that aren’t apparent in a 20 minute test drive.  Below are a few that I’ve discovered:

BMW i3: Although this car is an incredible value on the used car market ($11-14K for a 2016 model), the adaptive cruise control isn’t great.  It uses a camera-based system.  (instead of radar + cameras)  When the car in front of you stops quickly, the i3 won’t come to a complete stop on its own.  Instead, it just beeps at you. The BMW app also takes much longer than the Tesla app to unlock the car.

Kia Niro Electric: No programmable seats. Also, from Consumer Reports: “The Lane Following Assist feature claims to track the vehicle ahead. With both it and Lane Keeping Assist turned on, the Niro struggles to stay in the center of a lane, but at least it stays within the lines on most straight roads. A ‘Driver Attention Warning’ warns the driver if there is too much swaying within the lane. This feature does not work well, and we predict most drivers will likely never use it.

Hyundai Kona Electric: Instead of automatically opening the charge door like a Tesla does at Superchargers, you have to pry up the bug-spattered shield manually.  Then you have to remove two plastic covers.  Finally, you can stick the charger in.  Four steps instead of one.

Chevy Bolt: No adaptive cruise control. Uncomfortable seats.

Nissan Leaf: No active liquid cooling for the battery pack, so the battery degrades faster, especially when DC fast charging. Also, one owner notes that “the Leaf’s battery heats up while driving such that once you reach a charger your charge is throttled down to sometimes half of the 50kW that Nissan advertises. Time to charge becomes ridiculously long. To make matters worse, the battery heats up even faster during charging session. Since there is no active cooling system one soon (in ~250 miles) ends up in turtle (safe) mode and all you can do is park it overnight to let it cool down.”

Audi e-Tron: Front trunk barely big enough to hold a bag of take-out.  To open it, you have to pop the hood, unlatch the hood, then open the frunk.  Too many steps.  And efficiency is low because it keeps 12% of the battery pack capacity in reserve.

404-error-on-evgo
EVgo Charger 0x0404 error when charging Nissan Leaf (image courtesy Green Car Reports)

And the big one: Every one of the non-Tesla cars above requires you to deal with the morass of different chargers out there.  Many of them are broken, have multiple steps, don’t display charger status on the car’s navigation screen, overcharge you, require monthly payment plans, and most of all, are just plain slow.  Finally, third-party chargers by Electrify America cost more – almost 5x as much as Tesla chargers – for slower speeds.

With Tesla, you plug in with one step and you’re charging.  It’s the same experience everywhere.

To be fair, even the latest Teslas have a few missing features: Rear cross-traffic alert, ventilated seats, and 360-degree parking view.  (Even the Kia has ventilated seats.)  It also displays the EPA remaining range, instead of the more accurate range in the trip planner. But Tesla’s Supercharger experience, where you just plug in and walk away, is second to none.

Siena Cathedral

If you ever get the opportunity to visit Siena, Italy, check out the magnificent Siena Cathedral:

sienacathedral

It’s a seriously impressive church built in medieval times.  Inside, you’ll find the chapel of Saint John the Baptist and numerous works of art, including some from Bernini and a  young Michelangelo.

Depending on whether you go during peak tourist season or not, admission is either free or around 8 euro.  Recommended!

Which Apple Watch gives you the Best Bang for the Buck?

I was wondering, if I were to buy an Apple Watch today, which model would give me the best CPU performance bang for the buck?  Turns out, it’s the Series 4:

CPU speed in MHz Price Price/Perf Ratio
Series 4 (GPS, 44mm) 2652 $250 10.6
Series 6 (GPS, 44mm) 3447* $429* 8.0
Series 5 (GPS, 44mm) 2652 $329 8.1
Series 3 (GPS, 42mm) 1326 $209 6.3
  • The Series 6 isn’t out yet, but is expected in fall 2020.  I base the Series 6 CPU performance estimate and price based on the history of Apple Watch speeds and prices.  And yes, the Series 4 and Series 5 have the same CPU speed, so we should be seeing a jump with the Series 6.

AppleWatchPricePerformanceRatio2020

Personally, I’m waiting for the Series 6 in the fall, because I want the sleep tracking and blood oxygen detection features that are rumored to be coming.  But if I didn’t care about these things, and had to buy a watch now, I’d try and find a Series 4.

Graco’s $70 Foam Crib Mattress vs. DaVinci’s $50 Hypoallergenic Crib Mattress

I needed a couple of mattresses for my kids and decided to try two different ones: The Graco Premium Foam Crib and Toddler Mattress in a Box, and the DaVinci Twilight Hypoallergenic Ultra Firm Crib Mattress.

DaVinci strengths:

  • Waterproof
  • Lightweight
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Inexpensive at $50

DaVinci weaknesses:

  • Noisy (every movement makes a squeaky sound)
  • Not as firm as advertised

gracodavinci

Graco strengths:

  • Firm and well made
  • Really comfortable (baby sleeps like a rock on it)
  • No noise

Graco weaknesses:

  • Price ($20 extra compared to the DaVinci)
  • Takes a day or so to expand to full size

Neither of these mattresses had any chemical smells.

Overall, if we had to do it again, we’d pick the Graco – for both kids.  Our youngest sleeps really well on it (every night for a week now).  Our oldest tosses and turns on the DaVinci.  DaVinci makes a good crib but they don’t make a great mattress.