Tuesday, February 20, 2018

My backup / NAS evolution

First I started syncing up some stuff to the cloud and other stuff to USB drives. But that did not protect from much other than drive failure.

So I added Carbonite which kept getting messed up causing me to start the upload to the cloud over from scratch. It was also uploading so slow that it never seemed to finish. At the time it did not support USB drives or network mounted drives. The only real plus was it linked straight into Windows Explorer making it easy to select and unselect what got uploaded to the cloud.

So I did a bit more research added Crashplan Home which let me back up stuff from several Windows and Linux servers to a 16 TB Linux box in the shop and the cloud. Technically I could back up everything to the cloud but only did a subset given the time involved. It did not care if the data was local or not and was a lot faster uploading to the cloud than Carbonite was.

At about this point I had 2 of the 4 4 TB drives on my main workstation with 8 TB drives and was having to move stuff around to make space so a RAID seemed to make sense. After a bit of research I decided on the Drobo 5n which supported putting all sizes of drives (which I had loads of laying about). Another selling point was it said it ran Crashplan native although this turned out to no longer be true when I bought it. I went with the n (NAS) version instead of the USB version thinking this would give me more options. Given that Crashplan supported backing up a network mapped drive this seemed to work fine for awhile.

Then the year of adventure started. 2017 saw a lot of services start cutting features, support and or jacking prices. While already dealing with site hosting changes Google Drive where I had about 1.5 TB of stuff uploaded (technically it was more like 3 to 4 TB but Google does not count most of it) decided when my free 1 TB offer ran out (which gave me 2 TB not the 1 TB I already had free for a year) they would not let me pay for it. My options were remove stuff down to, a counted, 1 TB of data or pay for 10 TB (at 10 times the price). So I started moving stuff to Amazon Drive. which was half the price of Google Drive for unlimited space. Downside was the Amazon Drive interface is REALLY bad. Plus sharing is limited and it does not seem to support versioning like Google Drive does. Odrive helps make it usable but has its own costs.

Then Amazon decided they were they dropping from unlimited to 1 TB for the $60/yr price. Then Crashplan announced it was dropping their Home plan meaning you had to start paying per computer and only supporting backing up network mapped drives if you paid by the TB. (This is where getting the Drobo 5n over the 5c, USB version came back to haunt me.) At a minimum this was going to increase my cost 5 fold. While updating my backup research I started having connection issues with the Linux server I was backing up to and the Drobo was running out of space.

Drobo fun starts

So I babied the Linux server Crashplan connection to the PC doing the Drobo backup for several days. (Remember it turned out Crashplan did not actually run on the 5n model.) I finally got the drive backed up to the Linux box so I had a full backup. Then I swapped out the smallest drive, a 2 TB, for an 8 TB and waited for the rebuild to finish. But it seems I should have checked the logs first because one of the 4 TB drives had dropped offline a couple times and if did it again during the rebuild which corrupted the whole Drobo. I should note here though not actually an issue the Drobo had been telling my I needed to update the software even though the software was already at the version it was telling me to upgrade to. Anyway now I'm panicking since a good bit of the data is is raw video from concerts that is only on the Drobo and the Linux backup and the Drobo is now toast AND the Linux box is getting iffy. So I ordered a Synology 12 bay NAS DiskStation DS2415+ (Diskless)  plus 4 8 TB drives.

Adding Synology (SHR vs SHR-2)

The main difference between SHR and SHR-2 is the SHR-2 allows 2 drives to die at the same time and still be able to recover versus only one with SHR. The plan is to run it in SHR-2 mode so I can use unmatched size drives and handle 2 drives failing at the same time. This way I can start with the 4 8TBs and then move over the 4 4 TB drives from the Linux server. From what I had read this seemed doable.

Turns out it is not.  While SHR lets you add anything,  SHR-2 only lets you add drives to a volume (RAID) larger than the smallest already in the volume. Plus adding a drive larger than the smallest is treated like the smallest drive in the volume. (Note according to what I'm reading if you add 2 of the larger drives it will start to use all of the drives again. The calculator seems to say you need 4.) So for instance if you have a 4 TB and 3 8 TBs you get the same space as 4 4 TBs. With SHR that gets you 20 TB of space after overhead but only 8 TB with SHR-2.

Swapping that 4 out with an 8 TB gets you 24 TB with SHR and 16 TB with SHR-2. The confusing bit is the Synology online calculator shows if you start with those 4 8s and add a 4 TB you get 28 and 20 TB but you can't actually do that with SHR-2.
What you can do is start with a 4 TB and 4 8s and you still get 28 TB in SHR but only 16 TB with SHR-2.

Oddly the Drobo calculator appears to split the difference. Presumably they are miss reporting "reserved" space as protection space since Protections space is larger than available.

A quick note on price

For a 5 bay NAS the Drobos will run you a bit less $400-$500 than the one model 5 bay NAS Synology at $790 though there are 2 and 4 bay Synology version that as a bit cheaper. However for around $800 you can get an 8 bay NAS from either and for $1333 you can get a 12 bay Synology. What you get on top of the extra bays is extra Ethernet ports (2 with the 8 bay and 4 with the 12 bay) allowing the NAS to talk to multiple networks and or aggregate ports to get higher throughput so it can handle more things talking to it at a once.

The interfaces

Drobo makes you install an app on a PC to configure and otherwise control your Drobos. And it is pretty simple. As noted about above it was having issues with the 3.15 version not seeing it had been updated.

Synology on the other hand you access via a built in web server that looks like GUI desktop.

It should be noted too from Windows explorer Drobo shows you the theoretical max size volume NOT the actual size and available space of the volume. Synology shows you correct info.
Of course shares are basically folders in a volume so each share shows the space reported for the volume.

The new backup design

After checking out a lot of options I was about to buy a Drobo 5c so I could go with Backblaze without having to pay per TB when someone told me how they had unlimited space on Google Drive. Seems if you have a business account with Google (aka G Suite), which costs the same per month per user as 1 TB of Google Drive space, you get 1 TB of Google Drive space per user (shared between users till you have 5 users, at which point it goes unlimited). So now I can buy as many TBs as I want, no 1 to 10 TB jump AND if even if I get as high as 20 TB it will cost half the 10 TB Google Drive cost. Plus you get more features like shared private drive separate from users private drive space where they can share with outside users. Plus Synology as an app called Cloud Sync which lets you sync your cloud services with the NAS. So now it makes sense to move everything to Google. Note for some odd reason when linking Cloud Sync to a Google Drive account you need to use a browser OTHER THAN Chrome. This is a known bug.
You can also link multiple Google accounts allowing you sync to the the various drive spaces of your G Suite users. You can also encrypt the data uploaded to Google if you are worried about someone getting a hold of it. Coupling this with Odrive lets me do something as wild as syncing triggered snaps from the security camera servers to Google Drive via Odrive while automatically removing them locally after a day to make viewing the triggered snaps easier and reduce used space. On the Synology side you can tell it to sync all but the camera snaps.

Update: some Google Drive gotchas

First to move files between accounts is going to take some work. Some oddness I found was:

  • If you have a folder owned by account A and shared with B, B can "make a copy" of that folder but B does not own any files in the resulting folder. However if B uploads to that folder they do own that new file and that new file is shared with the everyone the original folder was shared with. 
  • You can not change the owner of the files or folders to your new account unless they both use an email address in the same domain which would seem impossible if you are moving from end user account to business account since the business account requires a domain owned by you while the end user accounts are gmail based.
  • Moving the files from the folder owned by A to one owned by B does NOT change their owner either even though it warns you that the files will no longer be available to the people they were shared with and it actually seems to be copying the files, not moving them, as in it takes a while to move them. You will also need to reshare all the folders and files if you want the same people to see them again like they were in user A's folders.
  • After doing the above I found video files in User A's Google Photos folder though somewhat hidden since clicking on that folder in the web interface (without Photo app open) takes you to the Photos app where videos do not show. Using left nav you can get to the Photos sub folders and see the files. However these seem to be raw video files that should not even be there.
  • If you remove the above video files from the Photo folders you get pop ups telling you people are loosing access and they are in the trash but when you look at the Trash folder online they are not there.
  • Even after all the above the files still count against user A's storage total even though they are only visible from user B's account. You will need to remove them from users B's folders too before user A gets anymore space made available.
  • So the only way that works to move files between end user and business accounts seems to be to download them local and then upload them again as user B. This is in fact what Google support tells you despite most of the other methods above were posted by people as workarounds. Kind of insane way to move TBs of files between folders on Google servers. And can take forever depending on your upload speed. Over 3 months to upload 1 TB over a 1Mb/s upload connection. Fortunately I have 20 Mbp/s so it should only take about a month.
Note if you are thinking, like I was, you could avoid having to reshare everything by just having B upload the downloaded files to user B's "copy" of the original folder that does not seem to work either because when you upload the file it appears to act as a restore reassigning the owner to user A. You need to start with a new folder owned by B and have B upload to it then reshare all the folders A originally had them shared to. A major pain.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Echo Show first look

Echo Show - Black

I finally decide when they dropped the price to $150 to give it a shot. My main thought was to get a scanner that worked more reliably than the Wand. Unfortunately so far the scanner appears to be rather useless For example I tried scanning some cheese and buns. Twice each with the Wand. Though is said "I'm having trouble understanding right now you can see they pretty much made it.
 The show scanned them easily but then just said it could not find a product matching the UPC. I then tried a TP-Link Smart Plug (HS100) I had just received from Amazon and it found that. So I'm guessing it only works with stuff Amazon carries making it worthless for my use of adding stuff to a shopping list.

I was hoping I would have more options of what to display on the screen as well. Basically the default screen saver shows the time temperature and cycles between headlines and suggestions of things to try. There are other screen savers but from the reviews they seem to have music which can only be silenced by turning all the audio off. So more like setting a video on loop than a real screen saver. For short list of the skills written for the Show look here.

Otherwise seems to sound and does voice recognition as well as the full sized Echo. So far there really does not seem to be much the Show does that needs the screen.

Note there does appear to be a browser buried down in the Show. For how to get at it and used see How to Access the Amazon Echo Show's Hidden Web Browser While using it is probably more trouble than it is worth it does mean some useful skills maybe coming soon that utilize it.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

AT&T wireless adventure and T-Mobile conversion

Maybe best to brake this down as a timeline:

Try to upgrade my tablet online since the batter is about shot. AT&T appears to have a 10 inch tablet I can upgrade to for about the cost of upgrading the battery in my old tablet but I can not get the order to go thru. keeps telling me my address fields are not filled in even though they clearly are. Decide to just go into the store.

Confirm on website my local store has the tablet and drive into town to get it only to find they do not have them.

I start thinking the website might just not work with Chrome and try other browsers. I get order to go through with IE.

Get email saying the order is pending but should arrive no later than 9/27

Get another email saying the order is pending but should arrive no later than 9/27. Call in and rep says I will have it before Friday. Told if not then I'm cancelling or sending back if comes after.

Tablet order STILL says should arrive no later than 9/27.
Finally had to call in and cancel order then had to go thru 3 reps to cancel tablet line. They also managed to cancel my main line locking me out of the website as well. Took a couple hours to get that back. After that I looked for another carrier. T-Mobile has a deal for those over 55 that was half what AT&T was (2 unlimited lines for $60 + $10 for each tablet) so I decided to move my phones to T-Mobile after 16 years with Cingular / AT&T.

Got to T-mobile store and got switched over after having to call AT&T and scream at the rep that he was not going to talk me out of switching at this point. Except I had to leave with 2 locked phones because to unlock your phones AT&T requires you to fill out form online and then wait for an email to confirm the request and then wait again for a second email with a link to get the code. Second email said it could take up to 2 business days! Second line still had a couple months on contract. They tell me I can't unlock it till I pay off early termination fees but can't do that till after next statement comes out EVEN IF I CALL IN! I'll need to call back after the 13th. And I couldn't login because their site is keyed to the main phone number which is no longer on the account. So I ended up having to buy a phone for second line to keep it online to a phone. And I worried over just what kind of nightmare final bill would come that would need sorting.

BTW being an Cingular transfer my account ID does not work with the AT&T system. It starts wit a 7 which seems to be invalid. So now my phone number is not on AT&T when I call in I have to keep saying representative till I can talk to a person.

Get email to unlock Note 4 and it works so I have 2 phones again. Decide to put tablet SIM in my old Note 8 till figure out what tablet I want to replace it. It tells me it is locked and under contract so can't be unlocked. Get even more worried about final AT&T bill.

AT&T has major outage so thinking that is why my Note 4's signal is so weak.

My Note 4 (main line) signal has been mostly bad the last week+ at house though my new LG K20 I bought to replace the HTC I can not unlock seems to have plenty of signal. Thinking this is why I can not route its vmail to Google Voice. While I was in town I tried to route vmail to Google Voice one last time but it still says servers not responding. Feeling like AT&T must be messing around so I decided to check out the LG V30 people have been raving about. Could be the Note 4 decided to go bad when I swapped the SIM but seemed less likely at that point.

Tried T-mobile site again and still can not register as prime user on account. Call in and rep says problem is a known site issue since 10/8! Ask about LG V30 price. Higher than I was wanting to pay but they are giving away a tablet with it so I go ahead and order the bundle. Seems I had to electronically sign an agreement for them to ship though which I thought might be a problem with the website being broken. Turned out it was 2 docs. First (tablet) went through fine. Second (phone) got the same error as the website but seems to have gone through OK given I got a conformation email.

Called AT&T and they STILL can not give me a final bill and rep said their was an early termination fee pending on the tablet. He is supposed to have cancelled that after seeing the upgrade did not go through. He also thought an installment on my HTC would be added later. One bright spot he told me the user ID on the account so I could get logged onto the site again and pay off the account. From looking at the bill online this month's bill includes the HTC pay off. I paid it off now to wait a couple business days and try to unlock stuff again.

LG tablet arrived but no phone. Checked the web site and says "Estimated to ship 10/20/2017 - 10/23/2017"

Getting ready to call T-Mobile to ask when phone will ship and see phone order is canceled.
Rep tells me:
They have the wrong 4 of my social on file
My card was declined on the phone order and that is why it was cancelled.
It sounds like they tried to charge $800 one time charge for phone but also that $0 was due at ship but he can't tell me which it was.
Can see from Quicken $42.40 was charged to the card on 10/23
Guy keeps saying to call my bank when I ask how to get them to ship the phone. Finally just ask for his manager.
Went though the whole mess again with the manager. Manager could not seem to figure out what happened and passed up to next level.
While waiting on hold for the next level the manager calls me on cell lines to tell me we got disconnected. I tell her I'm still on hold.
Next level says:
The $42.40 is for the tablet.
The phone charge should have be about $80.
Oddly she says my email is right email but at yahoo. No idea how that happened.
If we reorder the phone the "get the tablet free" promotion should still work. But now seems to involve getting a text with a code that has to be entered in a web page.
The phone should be coming now within 2 business days (assuming they have any in stock which there seemed to be a bit of uncertainty about).
I'm now on my account as the prime person but with the wrong SSN. Seems the sales guy put it in wrong. (Or if got messed by one of the many reps.) Unclear if that is why the website was not working but rep on 10/20 call said support ticket was filed for that form not working back on 10/8.
All total about 90 minutes on the call.

I thought I'd try unlocking my Note 8 one last time before setting up my new LG tablet but of course it STILL says it is under contract and can not be unlocked.
Just for the hell of it I submitted one for the HTC which looks like it might go through. BTW I found this info on how to unlock various AT&T phones many even without a sim installed. HTC however requires a sim from another network to unlock it. Fortunately I have the sim the gave me for the Note 8 I can stick in there if the email with the code comes.

Got the HTC unlocked finally. Only took 19 days. OK maybe if I'd worked on it every day I could have got it done quicker but still this is crazy. V30 shipped late on 10/27. Looks like it will be delivered Monday (10/30).

Saw had voice mail on Note 4. Called and had to setup voice mail. Weird call on many levels. Not showing in logs, came in at 11:40 PM and almost a minute of silence. Guessing some sort of automated thing. Tried forwarding vmail to Google Voice again but still getting no response from server error. Will try again after switched to V30.

Got the V30 setup. Just moved the SIM over from the Note 4 and told Google to do its thing then just had to login the apps I needed today. Guess what, the voice mail forwards just fine when the SIM is in the V30. And the V30 shows 4 bars off the amp while the Note 4 is only showing up to 2 on the amp. 1 to 0 off. Speedtest shows about 16 down and 2 up. OK not great but I was getting 10 down and 3 up with the Note 4 on AT&T's network when the Note 4 was getting 2 to 3 bars. On my WiFi of course I'm getting around 75 down and 20 up so that is still the way to go.

Since it was errand day I drove into the T-Mobile store to show them my Social Security card per their request on the 10/26 call. Got to the store and they had no idea how to do this so they called in. Rep then told them I needed a utility bill with my address on it on top of my Social Security card AND driver's license. At which point I basically told them they were insane. I've opened $35K lines of credit with less! As far as anyone can tell me the ONLY reason I'd need the right SSN on my account (just the last 4 actually) is to get me setup as the primary user on the account which I already managed to do by screaming at reps for an hour the other day on the phone. At this point I'm just going to let is slide. If they shutdown my phones I'll just move over to another carrier again. Or just decide I don't need a cell phone.

Got an email from Google Voice that my LG K20 number needed verification to keep it as my voice mail for that phone. Should be simple but it seems the Name ID app that comes on the phone was blocking the call it makes to your phone to verify it is yours. I tried to turn off the filtering but is said I did not have permission because of the whole primary use mess I thought I had sorted. Finally had to kill the app to get around it. Doubly odd when the Name ID app is supposed to be a $4/month add on service which I do not have according to my online account info. BTW I logged into my T-Mobile account just fine and can find no place to sort the permission issue.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Amazon Wand adventure timeline

Amazon Dash Wand With Alexa

21 June 2017 21:51

Thought I do one last thing before bed, so tried to add the Amazon Wand I just got and of course like so much lately it is just not that easy. I opened up the app and found it had updated and wants ALL my info all over again. Now it is just setting here with what I'm guessing is a busy indicator.


OK of course just after I posted the above it came back. BTW I was referring to the the Alexa app.Turns out the Alexa app is not used to setup the wand despite it having Alexa built in. I dug out the instructions and it says go to a web page on your phone. No idea why because the web page just says use the dash button setup section of the Amazon app to set up. Opening the Amazon app up it of course wanted to update but at least this time it remembered who I am. Got it to connect on second try.  Looking at the tutorial I see it puts items directly into you shopping cart  NOT your shopping list like I could swear the ad I saw said. You can not even move the items from your cart to a list. I also tried scanning 3 random codes. A field guide, a gallon of bottled water and  dog food. It got the first one OK but then started saying "I'm having trouble". It usually says this when it can not reach the Amazon servers. I scanned the first item again and failed again. So all in all it is about as useful as the Echo remote. But at least it was free after rebate and maybe they will sort the bugs out down the road. If I can get it to connect again tomorrow I'll see what kind of luck I have adding random stuff. I'm afraid most of the stuff I'd scan though Amazon is not going to carry.

27 June 2017 16:00

Well been trying on and off but mostly getting "I'm having trouble right now". Today seemed like the perfect thing to try as I needed to reorder dog treats I usually order from Amazon. I used the wand to scan the bar code and it sounded like it worked so. Left it till later to check. Then later I remembered I had not placed my order and I went into Amazon but the cart item counter in the upper corner showed no items. So I went and scanned again and again it sounded like it worked but nothing showing. So I found the treats in my wishlist of recurring items and added to my cart. Then when I went to check out I find this.

So it appears they made some changes since I first tried it. On the plus side it appears they fixed the bit of not adding stuff they do not carry since it did find my frozen yogurt. Oddly it appears speaking into the wand now using the Alexa command to "add to shopping list" is now screwed up. (I could not tell the scan worked so tried speaking it.) Also despite me regular ordering these treats, it appears they could not figure out what treats I wanted to order because if I click on one of the "Choose Top Chews" buttons I get this.

BTW the UPC for the Cadet treats is 768303013119 and the UPC for the Top Chews bag is 31400066341 so a dup UPC is not it.

Hopefully they keep working on this and make it go to the shopping list instead of the cart or this staging area (which seems like the worst option). It would also be nice if the wand could say added [name of item] to your list / cart when is scans something so you know it worked. Saying "I'm having trouble" for any error and nothing when it "works" is very old school Unix style which appears in a lot of places but is just wrong in an interface like this. Especially as often as my Echo often mis hears me. That was my whole point of wanting this wand to eliminate mis hearings and get more detailed entries on my shopping list by using the scanner. Also trying to trigger an IFTTT event seems to just get you the "I'm having trouble" response so it does not seem to even be usable as an iffy Alexa remote now. But frankly that is no biggie. I have 4 Echos I can talk to already. I just need the scanner bit to be useful.

Update 7/6/2017

I think I might have sorted something. I think the Wi-Fi just takes a bit to get going. That makes the need for it telling me what it added even stronger. A post in the user's group got me to go look at mine's connection history. It looks like when you wake it up it stays up for around 4 minutes after you last release the button. Which is good for battery life. But if your Wi-Fi signal is weak or, like mine heavily encrypted, it might just be taking too long to connect. I know it is not unusual for it to take a couple seconds for one of my phones to connect. As you can see from this log pic my Wand appears to often connect to the Wi-Fi but not send anything.

I'll have to do some testing to see if that lines up with failures to scan. Maybe asking the time first and then scanning should be recommended use. After all it is not "on" all the time. When you press the button it has to power up from power saving mode, connect to an access point and get an IP before it can think about sending your request to the server. One would expect it to be doing all that in parallel with scanning or recording audio to send to the server. And that it would hold onto the data till the network is ready for it to be sent to the server. But maybe it cannot for some reason and attempts to send before the network is ready? Again from my logs it would appear that it often times out before it can talk to the server since about half the time 0 bytes are transferred.

So if you press the button and ask the time, that ought take long enough to give it time get connected before it sends that audio to the server. Then you can do the thing you really want to do since it appears to stay connected to your network for about 4 minutes after your last request. If it says it cannot tell you the time for reason X then that just means it is not ready yet. Just ask again and it should work. Though if fails 3 times you might have a real issue. I did a couple quick tests. Seems like if I pick it up and scan it works about 1/2 the time. If I ask it the time it seems to always work. Though I've only tried this a couple times so far. In the logs it looks like this
First instance I scanned which did not work but I could see it had connected to the network so I went back over and asked it the time which worked fine of course.
The second instance I scanned the same UPC code that did not work last time and it worked this time (though I could not tell at the time that it did). I then asked for the time which worked and scanned again. The second time I heard the ding that I believe is supposed to tell you it worked.
The curious bit is the earlier transferred a LOT more data though it did less. It was connected longer due to the time between me scanning and then going back ask the time.
After a wait I tried to repeat the second test, scan / ask time / scan, and indeed only second scan and asking the time worked.

Again odd though I did the exact same thing yet it sent almost double the data. Especially odd since the first scan failed.
I also grabbed the connection info before it disconnected to see the signal quality.

At 99% (-46 DB) you are not going to get much better so I think we can rule that out. I have a second Wand coming to do some comparison tests to confirm I do not have an iffy one but from what I'm seeing in the user group I think this is just how it is working right now.

Posted to Amazon customer reviews 7/8/2017 to give users work around to connection issues.

From testing I've done with 2 Wands on enterprise class APs with network monitors and such, there seems to be a race condition with the scanner in that it seems to try and send to the server before the network interface has powered back up. Or maybe just times out waiting for the network to come up. Hard to say which from the outside. Either way I'm seeing it connect to the network and transfer 0 bytes. I'm guessing QA tested it on an insecure WiFi connection which is quicker to connect. Note low end, weak or loaded WiFi might be even slower to connect and see more issues than I'm seeing. BTW If your WiFi is insecure (as in your Wand is not having trouble you best go check) stop reading this and secure it NOW!

The work around is:
If you ask it the time and then scan it seems to work most of the time. Asking the time seems to give the Wand time to finish connecting to your WiFi. I'm seeing about a 50% failure rate if I try and scan something as my first action. If your WiFi is slow to connect you might get an error asking the time. If so ask again.

If it fails twice you probably have a real problem. As in your on your network or the Amazon servers. I was just trying to confirm a couple things while writing this and I can see the Wands connecting to my network and sending data but still getting "having trouble right now" for everything I try. Yet my Echos are able to talk to IFTTT and add to my Amazon shopping list just fine. I can only conclude the problem is on their end.

Hopefully Amazon will fix this plus have scanned items go to your shopping list instead of adding to cached bit of your cart like many have already posted. Note scanned items were going straight to the cart when I first got mine but now they seem to be going to a cache that only shows when you view your cart. As in the cart icon in the upper right corner will still show 0 items in it so it might not look like the scan added anything. Once to view your cart you will see and button to select an item like the one scanned even if the item is one you order often. I'm guessing this is to address people complaining about which seller's item got put int their cart. Note too, when I first got mine it seemed to just ignore anything scanned Amazon did not sell but now it appears to add to cache.

Dear Amazon,
If you read the above, you should also have it tell me what it added when it works too. I noticed this AM when a UPC is not found it now asks what it is, which is better than the ding if "worked" and nothing if didn't which was all but useless. Best fix the race condition first though as it sounds like people are already returning them as bad. Hopefully the above work around helps well enough for people to hold out for an update. I have to believe an update is in the works. From the number of people I see posting about their issues and the fixes looking so simple, you have to have too much invested in this to just have people not use them.

P.S. I'd gladly pay $100 for one of these that would reliable send the UPC to IFTTT or similar so I could rig a kitchen inventory.

Update: 7/26/2017 another glitch

This time it is dumping Alexa commands into the cart cache
Bet they are starting to wish they started with Alexa and added dash instead of the other way around about now.

Update: 8/7/2017 Some good some bad

The Wands seem to take at least 2 shots before they work now. Still seeing a lot of "what time is it" entries in the cart cache too but on the plus side it now says "added" when it does add something to you cart.

Update: 8/18/2017 Just huh?

Lately it almost always says "I'm having trouble right now" but seems to most get the item into you cart cache or do the action. It is also adding commands to the cart cache. Note the "turn off light bar" command showing below actually did turn off the light bar before saying "I'm having trouble right now". This works find for me but will be a problem for those expecting to ask it question like an Echo. Also from the few times it seemed to scan an item successfully, the "added" response appears to have been removed.

Update: 10/30/2017 Same old

Still getting the can't do right now error almost every time I try and use either Wand. About half the time I get something in my cart.  Not see much posted in the Echo groups lately so maybe most have just given up on them. Did see something saying the bar code scanner in the Show actually works. Not really feeling like spending $250 to  see if it does. Maybe if they blow them out for Black Friday.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Glucose meters, WTF?

Enhanced version of my original Facebook post

Been using a True Test meter just to keep an eye on things every week or so since mid 2013. This is because I read at the high end of OK on the yearly physical blood panel that you fast for. Doc was worried my reading might be higher when not fasting but they do not seem to be. Pretty steady readings. (Excluding off diet days ) Should note I took a reading right before the blood panel each year to check meter's accuracy and the reading would always be real close.
Anyway recently I ordered what I thought were the right replacement strips but they are for a newer True meter model. The packaging looks almost the same. After some research I discovered my type strips had been pulled from the market because they did not meet new accuracy regulations. (FDA says they now have to be within 15% instead of the previous 20%) So I did more research to see what new meter I should get. I finally settled on the FreeStyle Lite which Consumer Reports, among others, said was more accurate and had highest repeatably. When I tried it though I was shocked how high my readings were. OK not call the doc high but but the chart here shows how things got a lot less steady on May 19th. Doc had me on some short term inflammation meds known to raise BP and glucose though so I just checked it every day or 2 till after I was off the meds. But the readings were still higher than I was used to after the meds ended on the 22nd. So I bought test solutions to check the meter. The readings with the test solutions varied widely too. High solution was 346 to 281 and low was from 65 to 43. You might notice my readings for Jun 5th are 120 and 7 minutes later 111. Which seems off but is within the 15% guideline. The test solutions however are not even close.

So I just ordered two more meters. The other top rated Bayer Contour Next and the one that matches the strips I got by mistake, a True Track. The test solutions are good for a couple more months so when the new meters get here I'll test all 3 side by side with the same drop of high and low solutions to see just how close they are. I only wish I still had a few strips for my old meter to compare with.

How I did testing

The new meters came with test solutions so I had 4 to try. I also found that maybe I did not shake the solutions enough in the tests above. This time I gave each 20 flips before putting 5 drops in a spoon. I then sampled each with meter in rotation, just in case testing some how tainted the solution. I did 2 tests with each meter in each solution. I would have liked to do more but the Bayer only comes with 10 strips and did not want to buy a bunch more if the meter is useless.

Each vial of test strips is labeled with what to expect when you test with. Here is what these test strips should report. I've highlighted the solutions I had to test with.

Strip Ranges
Contour Next EZFreestyle LiteTrue Track
Level 13746
Level 2111138
True Control 084114
True Control 1175237
True Control 2361489

The disappointing results

Here are the readings I got. The ones in range of what they should be are in green

Contour Next EZFreestyle LiteTrue Track
Freestyle low3680140
Freestyle low (2)3849130
Contour Next lvl 212468267
Contour Next lvl 2 (2)12973264
Freestyle high182283Hi (>600)
Freestyle high (2)183296Hi (>600)
True Control 17998230
True Control 1 (2)73103211
So I just do not know what to make of this. Interestingly other than one reading they all are in range when tested with the same brand solution but only the Bayer was in range with someone else's solution. So my first thought would be the Bayer though it is readings seem low. I guess the thing to do is get more Bayer strips and check my blood with all 3 meters for several sessions. Given the above results I'm not sure if any of these meters tells me anything about my glucose levels. I'll update this again after I get a few readings.

One last thing. As I mentioned above the FreeStyle Lite Blood Glucose Test Strips are the most expensive at $74.50 for 100 and it appears Amazon has stopped carrying them. The TRUEtrack Blood Glucose Test Strips come in at 100 for $20 and Contour-Next Contour Test Strips come in at around $21 for 100.

Update 6/17/2017: First blood test. I got a drop of blood on my finger large enough to do 2 rounds of tests with the meters. First round

Second round

 To me the interesting bit is even though the Bayer and TrueTrack meters vary 8.41% and 12.26% respectively but they both vary in the same direction which would tend to make me think there might actually be that much variance in the blood sample itself. Let's look at the data again.

Contour Next EZFreestyle LiteTrue TrackAverageStandard DeviationMeanMin from max
Freestyle low368014085.3352.2080.00388.89%
Freestyle low (2)384913072.3350.2449.00342.11%
Round deviation5.56%63.27%7.69%
Avg for meter / average for test53.07%18.18%71.25%
Avg for meter / min for test2.78%79.17%275.00%
Contour Next lvl 212468267153.00102.62124.00392.65%
Contour Next lvl 2 (2)12973264155.3398.19129.00361.64%
Round deviation4.03%7.35%1.14%
Avg for meter / average for test17.95%54.27%72.22%
Avg for meter / min for test86.03%3.68%290.44%
Freestyle high182283600355.00218.10283.00329.67%
Freestyle high (2)183296600359.67215.67296.00327.87%
Round deviation0.55%4.59%0.00%
Avg for meter / average for test48.93%18.98%67.91%
Avg for meter / min for test0.27%59.07%229.67%
True Control 17998230135.6782.2598.00291.14%
True Control 1 (2)73103211129.0072.58103.00289.04%
Round deviation8.22%5.10%9.00%
Avg for meter / average for test42.57%24.06%66.62%
Avg for meter / min for test4.11%37.67%202.05%
Blood test 1 sample 1107143106118.6721.08107.00134.91%
Blood test 1 sample 2116135119123.3310.21119.00116.38%
Round deviation8.41%5.93%12.26%
Avg for meter / average for test7.85%14.88%7.02%
Avg for meter / min for test5.19%31.13%6.13%
Avg for meter / max for test6.64%12.59%5.94%
Average Round deviation (repeatability)5.35%17.25%6.02%
Average of averages25.03%26.07%57.00%

Repeatability wise Bayer seems to be best by a bit and best all around. Especially when you consider second place for  Repeatability is TrueTack and over all is Freestyle.

Something else I just noticed it the strip I just received for the Bayer meter have different ranges than the first ones that came with the meter.

Lastly I realized I had not said anything about the kits the meters come with.  Here are pics of them. The Bayer and TrueTrack came with test solutions and the Freestyle did not. I bought those separately.

The Freestyle

The Bayer 

And the TrueTrack

The Bayer kit seems not thought out to me. Especially given the meter seems the most accurate so far. Personally of the 3 lancet devices I prefer the TrueTrack one. It is easier to use and seems to get a larger sample for the same setting.

UPDATE: 8/5/2017 Added 6 more days worth of tests and some more color coding.

The Contour is still the one closest to the average of all 3 meters and seems the most repeatable

Contour Next EZFreestyle LiteTrue TrackAverageStandard DeviationMeanMin from max
Freestyle low368014085.3352.2080.00388.89%
Freestyle low (2)384913072.3350.2449.00342.11%
Round deviation5.56%63.27%7.69%
Avg for meter / average for test53.07%18.18%71.25%
Avg for meter / min for test2.78%79.17%275.00%
Contour Next lvl 212468267153.00102.62124.00392.65%
Contour Next lvl 2 (2)12973264155.3398.19129.00361.64%
Round deviation4.03%7.35%1.14%
Avg for meter / average for test17.95%54.27%72.22%
Avg for meter / min for test86.03%3.68%290.44%
Freestyle high182283600355.00218.10283.00329.67%
Freestyle high (2)183296600359.67215.67296.00327.87%
Round deviation0.55%4.59%0.00%
Avg for meter / average for test48.93%18.98%67.91%
Avg for meter / min for test0.27%59.07%229.67%
True Control 17998230135.6782.2598.00291.14%
True Control 1 (2)73103211129.0072.58103.00289.04%
Round deviation8.22%5.10%9.00%
Avg for meter / average for test42.57%24.06%66.62%
Avg for meter / min for test4.11%37.67%202.05%
Blood test 1 sample 1107143106118.6721.08107.00134.91%
Blood test 1 sample 2116135119123.3310.21119.00116.38%
Round deviation8.41%5.93%12.26%
Avg for meter / average for test7.85%14.88%7.02%
Avg for meter / min for test5.19%31.13%6.13%
Avg for meter / max for test6.64%12.59%5.94%
Round deviation0.93%1.63%18.27%
Avg for meter / average for test6.52%7.83%1.30%
Avg for meter / min for test3.37%19.23%9.13%
Avg for meter / max for test6.00%7.20%1.20%
Round deviation4.76%9.73%17.14%
Avg for meter / average for test5.15%4.56%0.59%
Avg for meter / min for test2.38%12.86%8.57%
Avg for meter / max for test4.70%4.17%0.54%
Round deviation3.67%26.92%5.15%
Avg for meter / average for test1.37%7.76%9.13%
Avg for meter / min for test14.43%21.65%2.58%
Avg for meter / max for test1.14%6.44%7.58%
Round deviation2.75%8.93%2.83%
Avg for meter / average for test1.04%4.78%3.73%
Avg for meter / min for test4.25%10.38%1.42%
Avg for meter / max for test0.96%4.37%3.42%
Round deviation3.03%2.91%7.22%
Avg for meter / average for test1.31%2.62%1.31%
Avg for meter / min for test3.61%7.73%3.61%
Avg for meter / max for test1.26%2.52%1.26%
Round deviation0.00%1.00%11.01%
Avg for meter / average for test0.47%6.51%6.98%
Avg for meter / min for test7.00%0.50%15.00%
Avg for meter / max for test0.41%5.79%6.20%
Average Round deviation (repeatability)3.81%12.49%8.34%
Average of averages11.75%16.92%47.51%
LegendReading in range for test solutionLowest value of 3
Calculated valueHighest of 3
Reading with 5 of average
The pics of the new tests