Johnathan Lyman

My name is Johnathan Lyman. I'm an engineer at Papertrail, a huge Apple nerd and semi-regular blogger. I enjoy bubble tea way too much and find Farming Simulator relaxing.

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2014 – 2018 Johnathan Lyman. All 338 posts and 12 pages were made with and in Seattle.

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Category: Reviews

Coming Soon: The Mega Ultra Super VPS Benchmark Comparo

Not too long ago I pitted Linode and Digital Ocean against each other after hearing about Digital Ocean’s price slashing that brought it in line with Linode’s monthly bills. This got me thinking: only a crazy person would pit seven VPS providers against each other in multiple size categories and see who’s the best.

Who has two thumbs and is crazy?


Linode vs Digital Ocean: A Three-Round VPS Benchmark Showdown

A few days ago, Digital Ocean announced new pricing tiers for their VPSes (affectionately called Droplets). I’ve been a fan of Digital Ocean’s offerings for a long time. Compared to other popular VPS provider Linode, there seemed like there was only one choice as Digital Ocean’s pricing ran 2x for almost everything.

Now that they’re the same price, I think it’s about time they faceoff in a set of sysbench benchmark tests.


Anker Karapax


Writing about phone cases is always an interesting task. Everyone’s positions are usually subjective. Some buy them for the looks, some for the protection, some for both. Some go without cases most of or all the time. When Anker asked if I wanted a copy of one of their new Karapax cases for the iPhone 7 and 8+, I said yes.

The Karapax line of cases from Anker are meant to blend good protection without the stupid price tags that come from some other brands like Otterbox. The unit I received was the Karapax Touch, the slim and translucent mobile device enclosure.

In recent weeks, I’ve operated caseless, but if I was looking for a slim case that "did the job" without looking fancy or trying to act as a fashion statement, I’d have this case on my short list. For less than $10, there’s literally no reason why anyone shouldn’t give it a shot. The material might not be for everyone and I can imagine the translucency of the black color would be a turn off for anyone not rocking a black phone. Such is life, though; no case will appeal to every individual.

Nevertheless, give it a shot. If you’re not a fan, that’s ok. I’m sure you’ll know someone who would be.

Anker Magnetic Car Mount

There’s one problem I haven’t been able to solve 100% effectively thus far and that’s finding a way to hold my phone in my car without 1) using my hands and 2) placing it somewhere loosely. As I was pondering how I could solve this a couple weeks ago, I got word Anker wanted to ship me something that could potentially solve the problem.

Enter the Anker Universal Magnetic Car Mount.

Billed as a simple and sturdy solution to the dilemma I face, I was eager to give it a try.

The premise is simple. The mount aheres to your dashboard and attaches to your phone magnetically. In the box comes a couple adhesive magnet plates to attach to your devices.

Really, that’s it. It seems pretty simple.

Except it didn’t quite turn out that way.

As much as I wanted to really like this product, I just couldn’t. The ahesive on the mount was poor and thus wouldn’t stick to any useful surface in my car. There were a few places it did stick, but they weren’t easily accessible and seemed just as unhelpful as not having the mount at all.

Attaching the magnetic plate was easy but getting it off was a challenge. Anker suggests using floss(!) or fishing wire(!!) to remove it. I don’t know about you but I don’t fish. The floss was useless as it was just too weak. I ended up getting it off with tweezers. I also have a new scratch on the back of my phone. (Good thing the next iPhone is coming soon.)

It’s a great idea in concept and perhaps if you’re lucky enough to have better in-vehicle surfaces to attach the mount to, you’ll have a better time than I did. As it stands right now, I’m not sure it’ll ever be useful for me. If I still have it when the time comes one day that I replace my car, I might end up using it.

That day isn’t today.



Going back-to-back on softball blog posts about apps I use, JPEGmini has been in my arsenal for a few years, now. It’s one of those tools that I don’t think about much, anymore, but I’d be remiss of I didn’t say it’s damn valuable.

Images are huge. Today’s Web is teaching us that we need massive images everywhere, as heros, backgrounds, and whatever other hipster nonsense the frontend developer interns think.

That’s all fine, but bandwidth is still not aplenty. The longer a page takes to load, the less liekly your site visitor will stick around. Seems like a simple problem to fix, yeah?

This isn’t just about web designers. Photographers can benefit from this, too. Say you’re publishing a fat stach of JPEGs to a gallery for a client. These aren’t what you print with, so do they have to be stupid large?

JPEGmini shines in both of these areas and instead of trying to explain all of it, let me just show you.

The totally free stock photography website Bossfight is one of my go-to sources for awesome, high quality images. Every week, they email a .zip of all the new photos from that previous week. The most recent compressed set will make a good sample size. You can grab all these images from their site but if you want to play along at home, here’s the zip file. Uncompressed, the archive contains 218,609,893 bytes or 208.48 MB of images. Substantial.

For those still playing along, here’s the file list in text format.

JPEGmini’s claims are that its compression is nearly undetectable. Over the years I’ve used it, I’d say that’s mostly true. Annecdotal, sure, but here’s a comparison of bossfight_sample_set/bossfight-free-high-stock-photos-fire-sparks-hot.jpg at 100% crop:


If you can guess where the divide between the processed (left) and non-processed (right) is, I’ll give you a cookie.

And that’s the point. It’s meant to be non-invasive. The same folder of photos that was 218MB earlier is now 135MB. That folder of images can be downloaded here for your pixel peeping pleasure. The JPEGmini Web site also features some comparisons as well as lets you try your own photos, to see how they turn out.

If you’re a serious application developer that seriously wants to cut down on the serious amount of bytes your users upload by way of their serious images, JPEGmini Server takes care of that.

For the rest of us, JPEGmini (free trial, $20) or JPEGmini Pro, (free trial, $99) (my favorite) will do just fine. If you’re unsure the difference, the two big deals are a packaged lightroom/photoshop plugin and larger max photo resolution with Pro. On the mac, Pro and Server support 128MP images and 60MP on the PC. The base JPEGmini app supports images up to 28MP.

Still seems like too much? The Web Service will do fine for the one-offs. It has the same 128MP limit. Sign up and you’ll gain access to albums which can hold up to 1000 photos. More information about the Web Service is here.

Do you use JPEGmini? How many GB has it saved you? Send me a tweet @_johlym.



I struggled to come up with a title for this post. I pondered some long thing that involved describing the app and what the post is about and I pondered using some marketing lingo. In the end, I chose neither.

So instead I used a single word. This post is merely about Drop, the mobile app that lets you earn points by using your debit and credit cards and in exchange, those points turn into rewards.

I discovered Drop through r/passiveincome. It works by linking with your banks of choice and offering you a selection of businesses. Pick the ones you shop at/spend money with the most and you’ll be rewarded. Once you pick your five businesses, the points will start trickling in. The return rate isn’t as lucrative as cash back from the majority of credit card companies, but it’ll open access to a reward system for debit cards, something that’s super rare in today’s market.

From time to time, Drop presents you with a one-time offer from a particular merchant. In my case, I received offers from Amazon, Nordstrom, Wealthsimple, and others, all for varying amounts of points in exchange for spending a certain number of dollars. Sometimes these payouts were wonderous. Sometimes not. Your mileage will vary.


As you accumulate points, reward tiers open up to you. Points convert at a rate of 1,000 per dollar or $0.001 per point. Spend your points on things like Starbucks, gift cards, the Apple store, and more. At the time I wrote this, I had accumulated 122,415 points, the equivalent of $120 worth of rewards. (Update December 7, 2017: I’ve earned an additional 73,334 points since this post was first published for a grand total of 195,749, or roughly $195 worth of redeemable rewards) Consider this an outlying circumstance. A particular offer netted me a large amount of points but required a significant outlay on my part. I wouldn’t have gone for it, normally, but it was in an area and from a merchant I was already considering so the bonus was enough to push me over the top and commit.

It takes a few days for points to show up from transactions. I find most perpetually-offered… eh… offers show up within 5 days.

Rewards are digital, so be ready for that. It shouldn’t be much of an issue for most merchants but if you were planning on gifting something you earned from drop, keep that in mind when you consider your delivery method.

Once you’re signed up for Drop, referring friends nets you both 1,000 points a piece. This is where I tell you that at the time I wrote this, Drop isn’t open to the public, yet, but if you go here you’ll gain access, anyway Drop is now open to the general public. Head here to sign up.

I’m always looking for easy, low-/zero-resistance ways to snag a few extra dollars on the side. This app seems to be helping me out quite a bit thus far. As long as it continues to be useful, I’ll continue using it.

Would I like to see a wider variety of offers? Sure. Offers for place I already shop or have heard of extensively is nice from a familiarity/trust perspective but there has to be a few brands/merchants out there that would interest me that I’ve never heard of. Perhaps once Drop is open to the general public there’ll be more of that.


Update 3: Drop is available to the general public.

Update 2: after I wrote this post, I realized it sounded pretty much like a puff piece, selling Drop. It wasn’t meant that way. This post came about in the middle of the night after failing to fall asleep and tossing some words into the blog often helps [1]. So it seemed only fitting to talk about something I like.

Update 1: Canadian? If you haven’t heard of Carrot Rewards, they’ve partnered with Drop to help you earn rewards, too. There’s also a partnership with Borrowell, also.

  1. Seriously. Look at the time on the screenshot. ↩︎

Anker Roav Dash Cam Review

Over the last few months, I’ve pondered adding a dash cam to my car. This idea didn’t come out of nowhere, though. After seeing enough individual cases of a dash cam being useful either in daily life or in the course of fighting traffic accident cases or violations, I started doing some research. Luckily for me, one such dash cam essentially landed on my doorstep [1].

I’m going to break this review down into a few different parts:

  1. Unboxing
  2. Setup
  3. Usage
  4. Companion App [2]


This wasn’t my first Anker product unboxing experience so I was already familiar with what to expect. As a SoundCore owner, I knew the experience would be good but not mind-blowing[3].

The open Roav box

Cutting through the shrink-wrap plastic and lifting the lid, I was immediately greeted with the star of the show.

Under the tray

Underneath the black camera tray lay two divided sections and an Anker 2-port USB car charger. The long, narrow section held a spudger that would become more than useful once I got to the installation. The other the charging/power cable and mounting plate. The addition of the USB car charger was a nice touch. I wasn’t expecting to find one in the box. I ended up tossing this aside[4] since I had one in my car, already, for iPhone charging.

Box contents

The box, in total, held the camera, two mounting plates [5], USB charger, USB-A to micro-USB charging cable, and spudger tool.

In addition, there were three document books: a quick start guide, the user manual, and a quick-quick start guide (a welcome card). I found the quick-quick card to be good enough to get everything up and running, but know the extra info is there, should you need it.

The only thing I wish it came with is an SD card. I see quite a few competing options for sale online that offer SD cards included. It’s a cheap addition and an oversight by Anker, in my opinion.


Upon first start, you’re prompted with a couple questions including setting the date and time. It’s definitely worth nothing that the time is 24-hour so if it’s 6:49PM, set it to 20:49. Don’t do what I did and set it to 06:49. I found this out after the fact via a screenshot I’ll share later.

At the time, I didn’t know there wouldn’t be an SD card included so my setup process was put on hold until I could acquire one. Anker recommends a Class 10 card of 8GB, 16GB, or 32GB in size. I recommend getting the largest you can afford that Anker supports. I don’t know if it’ll take cards larger than 32GB. I didn’t have any to test. I recommend the SanDisk 32GB microSD card. The one I used is the SanDisk Pixtor 16GB, found at BestBuy for $20 on sale but $32 at the time I wrote this review. [6].

Once the card was in, the device is off and running. It automatically records while on so its first video was me staring at it staring at my kitchen counter. Since it wasn’t plugged into power, it also started counting down from 60. At zero it automatically turns off to save power.

Moving to the car, it was relatively easy to get this thing installed. Where I wanted to put it–behind the rear-view mirror on the driver’s side–I have a toll tag blocking the dismount from the adhesive-backed mounting plate, so I put it on the other side. A hidden plus of this is that I don’t see it while I’m driving. My front passenger will, but that’s not really a problem.

During the relocation, I had to use the spudger to pry off the mounting plate. Let me be the first to say that adhesive is serious. It’ll eventually come off but watch your leverage. I’m not responsible if you break your rear-view mirror trying to pop the plate off your window… though when I got mine off, it flew out the open door with conviction.

Now that it’s on and plugged in, I need to route the cables. I opted to take the headliner-to-A-pillar route since a quick evaluation revealed the B-pillar wasn’t going to work for my car. This meant I might not have enough slack to make it all the way to my center-console-mounted car charger [7].

When it was all said and done, I was short by about 3 feet. I ended up using a USB-A male to USB-A female extension to reach the rest of the way. It’s hard to know how long is long enough because everyone’s car is different so I can’t fault Anker for that.


Recording videos is dead simple. The device is designed to automatically turn on and start recording when power is applied so turning the key (or pressing a button in some newer cars) is all that’s required. By default, audio recording is turned on so if you don’t want any evidence of your terrible in-car radio sing-a-longs, I suggest you flip that off in the settings.

Video Quality

The Roav has three quality settings:

  • 720p @ 30 frames/second
  • 720p @ 60 frames/second
  • 1080p @ 30 frames/second

The default is 1080p and that’s where I left it. Examining a 5 minute clip, the video file came in at roughly 500MB. If you bought a small card, you’ll be overwriting footage after every 70-80 minutes of driving. For most, that’s totally fine, too. With my 32 GB card installed, I shooting for 2.5 hours of footage available at any given time.

The videos are decent. The quality isn’t super great, but the dynamic range (differences between light and dark) are pretty good. The morning of my writing this review, I took a drive. The timestamp is off, but it was at 9:33 AM. Depending on the angle, license plates weren’t always legible, which was unfortunate. I suspect legibility will be limited to those directly in front of the camera or when the sky isn’t so bright.

Note: I have yet to test it at night. I’ll follow up when I do.

Here are a couple clips. The first is from what I was still parked.

And the second from when I was driving (taken around the same time as the screenshot above).


There’s a whole host of settings that can be flipped around (check out the Companion App section for a visual aid) but the ones you’ll find most important are the crash sensitivity mode and the Parking Monitor.

Crash Sensitivity

If you’re in an accident, you’ll want to make sure the video is saved off. The Roav will lock the video file so it can’t be overwritten at a later date.

Parking Monitor

If you’re leaving your car unattended, the Roav will keep an eye on things for you while you’re gone, for a set amount of time, up to 24 hours. This’ll rely on the battery being charged so if you’re taking infrequent short trips and leaving the car for more than 24 hours, you might want to consider either shortening the duration or… well… driving longer. The battery might not make it to the end of the 24-hour window.

Overall, I found the usage of the Roav to be fine. I kept getting confused by the fact that it’s not a touch screen–so much in our lives is, these days–and that tapping the capacitive buttons below the screen was how I needed to navigate. I suspect it’ll eventually sink in.

Companion App

The Roav has built-in Wi-Fi. When it’s turned on, you can connect to it as you would any other Wi-Fi hotspot [8]. Once you’re in, fire up the Roav app. The app itself is relatively self-explanitory so I won’t go into a ton of detail about it.

Like I mentioned earlier, all the settings are available from within the app. I’d argue this is the best way to set up the device. The screenshot above is what I’ve configured for my Roav.

Video Navigation

Being able to browse the Roav’s stash of videos on my phone is quite nice. Tapping on a video will allow me to start watching it, download it to the app for offline viewing or–and this is the odd part–download it to the app so I can copy it to my phone. Yes, it’s a two-step process.

Downloading a clip is relatively painless. The speed is decent (around 3MB/second) which let me fetch that 550MB video I told you about earlier in just a couple minutes. The app doesn’t do a very good job of estimating how long it’ll take, though. The above screenshot had a valid and reasonably accurate estimate but the long video download did not (below).

Wrap Up

Overall, I like The Anker Roav. It’ll probably stay in my car for some time as it serves the purpose I need it to. I’d recommend this camera to anyone that is looking for one on a budget or doesn’t need a load of fancy features. There were a few areas I’d love to see the next version improve upon:

  1. I feel Anker could have stepped up the screen quality a bit as well as provide a better-compressed video file (15mbps is a bit much for a dash cam, in my opinion)
  2. Optional connection for a rear/internal camera. So much nonsense can happen behind a driver that a forward-facing camera won’t catch. The same goes for inside the car.
  3. Provide a micro SD card in the box. They’re cheap…
  4. …or have internal storage.


You can pick up the Anker Roav on Amazon for under a hundred dollars right now. That’s a steal, in my book.

  1. Anker contacted me and asked if I wanted an opportunity to review the Roav, free of charge. I obliged. Affiliate links may be used based on my final conclusion. Consider this the disclaimer. ↩︎
  2. This is its own section because the Roav app is entirely optional. Everything you can do by poking at the camera screen or popping out the SD card can be done in the app and vice versa. ↩︎
  3. I think Apple takes the cake, there ↩︎
  4. a drawer ↩︎
  5. the second was underneath the camera in the black tray ↩︎
  6. I wouldn’t normally go to a retail store for something like this but I didn’t want to wait and the difference was just a few dollars– a deal’s a deal! ↩︎
  7. my car provides two cigarette lighters: one underneath the center stack and one in the center console underneath the arm rest ↩︎
  8. You might notice your phone not show a Wi-Fi symbol. I deduced this is probably because the phone can’t actually get to the Internet via Wi-Fi so it’ll prefer LTE. Here’s a screenshot of my Wi-Fi settings to show it still connected, regardless. ↩︎



I’m super excited to write this blog post. I’m always interested in new mail clients (I miss Mailbox). When I found out Polymail dropped for both iOS and Mac, I jumped on it. Apparently so did everyone else, which lead to some problems.

If you’ve never heard of Polymail before, don’t feel bad. I didn’t hear about it until super recently, myself. Polymail has a super slick UI that doesn’t waste space with stuff you don’t need. It features killer email delegation and reminders (remember when Mailbox let you put off an email until a date in the future?), get information about the person you’re talking to, and keep all this organized and synced between all your devices.


Let’s talk about the follow-ups, first. I’m a huge fan of triaging tasks. If it’s not time-sensitive, it doesn’t need doing right now. Granted, if there’s nothing else that needs doing, that logic doesn’t apply. This is super helpful for those with noisy business inboxes where everyone and their grandmother is clamoring for your eyeballs to absorb their textual essences. Sorry grandma, I’ll take a look at that chain letter tomorrow at 4:30 PM.

You can choose to follow up on a conversation using one of the preset dates, be super noncommittal and say “read later”, or pick an arbitrary date in the future, because you’re a master of your schedule and you know you have sixteen time slots open right now between today and Christmas 2018. Those voids of sadness need filling!

On the flip side, you can remind yourself to follow up with someone else if they don’t read your email. This is a neat feature, but be careful. You can very easily become “that person” that everyone in your office hates. You know which person I’m talking about: “hey did you get my email?”

With great power comes great responsibility. Can I trust you to not abuse it?

Following Up

When you’re writing your digital prose to the person on the other end your email exchange, knowing who the heck they are is important. It’s even more important in cases like candidate screening or figuring out if the person is real, or not. Next time you get resumes for a job application, use their information Polymail will glean about them on your behalf.

The Downside of Cloud Sync

While writing this quick review and even attempting to use Polymail, I ran into two problems that I think are worth noting.

First, cloud sync is a very dangerous territory to enter if you’re not prepared. In the case of Polymail, I don’t think they were. The sign up process requires you give them access to your email accounts, which is fine. The problem here is, they do everything through their servers. The emails don’t go straight from or or your O365 account to the client. Nope. That’s too easy (or hard). I found this to be true when after about six hours, Polymail claimed I didn’t have new email. If only that was *really *the case.

Hi all! 👋 Initial mail syncing may take a little longer due to high traffic right now, but we’re working on it. Thanks for your patience! 💌

— Polymail (@PolymailApp) July 21, 2016

That’s the tweet Polymail posted about the delays. Given I haven’t received more than one round of emails, I’d say it’s more than a delay.

My second problem is moving email accounts from one Polymail account to another. I wanted to use Polymail for work, too, so I created a work Polymail account. I also wanted to get my work email on my personal devices using Polymail. My routes were to use my work Polymail account everywhere else or move my work email to a personal Polymail account. I opted for the latter but ran into an issue.

My work email address is stuck in some sort of “account will be deleted” state that won’t progress. I didn’t think it’d take hours to delete an account, but I guess so. In the mean time, no work email via Polymail.

End of the Day

Originally I was pretty hesitant to jump in because of cloud syncing issues. This morning, I checked on it and everything seems to work well now and I was no longer getting the error in adding my work email account. So with all that being said, I’d definitely recommend Polymail.

You can pick up Polymail from for the Mac and the App Store for iOS.

Johnathan Lyman
Kenmore, WA,
United States
blogging, design, technology, software, development, gaming, photography