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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.

(more…)

Charging the iPhone X

As a devoted consumer of things Apple for six years, now, it goes without saying when the iPhone X launched, I was up at midnight ordering it. There was chatter that it’d be severely delayed (plot twist: the chatter was dead wrong) and I was able to score my $1,200 (after sales tax) Apple iSlab on November 3rd, launch day.

With the iPhone X (and iPhone 8/8+, we can’t forget about them since this article applies to those phones, too) come a couple new ways to recharge. One is familiar to those with other USB-C devices or the newer iPad Pros. The other might be foreign to everyone–that is unless you’re an operator of a handful of newer Android devices.

Before we dive in, I feel it’s worth briefly discussing what the new-to-Apple charging methods are and how they work.

(feel free to skip to here if you don’t care or already know what we’re talking about and just want some product links)

USB Power Delivery

The first–and hands down the fastest–method involves pure wattage and amperage increases at the hands of USB Power Delivery or USB-PD (also known as Fast Charging; technical reference). The Power Delivery specification for USB devices is optional (but becoming more common in USB Type C-configured peripherals), so you won’t see this everywhere. The gist is that by implementing Fast Charging, a device can charge exponentially faster. In the case of the iPhone X, taking advantage of the max 29-watt acceptance of power via the Lightning port, the device can be charged from dead to 50% in roughly 30 minutes. Unfortunately, not all cables or power bricks support Fast Charging but fear not; I’ve got a list of what’s good at the end.

Qi Wireless Charging

The second power consumption method added to the iPhone X (and 8/8+) is Qi wireless charging. Qi (pronounced chi) is a standard for devices to quite literally receive electrical current without the need for connection via traditional wires. Qi-enabled devices still need to be incredibly close to their source (hence the reason for Qi charging devices all looking like mats or discs on which to place a phone) so don’t expect anything magical like across-the-room power transfer.

However, Qi is slower than Fast Charging. In the iPhone X and 8/8+, expect 5w (7.5w coming soon via a future iOS update), the same current as the small power adapter you’ll find in the iPhone box. Qi isn’t an instant-recharge solution but it’s a great option for overnight charging. It’s not crazy to imagine replacing all the Lightning-cables-plugged-into-walls around your house with a Qi charger. If we place our phones down on tables, desks, etc., why not just place them on a charger, too?

Devices

Now that we have the overview out of the way, here’s a few products I recommend (and the ones I currently use in bold).

USB-C/Fast Charge Devices

Cable

While I’m about to recommend any number of power bricks, I can only recommend one cable. The Apple USB-C to Lightning cable (1m: $25; 2m: $35) is the only mFi-certified cable out there and really the only one I’d trust with these higher-current usages. A cheap cable from Whoknowswhere, China, could end up getting you in trouble down the road in the form of just not working, fire, or an electrical short that silently destroys your thousand-dollar SnapChattery thing.

Power brick

There’s a host of different options, here. The biggest requirement is the device has to have a USB-C port and explicitly support Fast Charging or have at least 29 watts of output and the amperage to back it up. If you’re not 100% sure, volts x amps = watts. The 29w iPad power brick outputs 14.5v at 2 amps which maths out to 29. Anything lower and it’ll definitely still work, but charging will be slower. I recommend one of these:

While a bit slower, any 2.4A, 12w AmazonBasics power bricks will also work fine. Apple added support for 2.4A charging back with the iPhone 6.

Qi Wireless Charging

Since Qi has been a thing for at least a hot minute now with Android users, there’s an array of good pads out there to choose from. I’d recommend any of:

With both of these charging options, I definitely cannot stress enough that it’s not really worth the few dollars in savings to go for a no-name/cheap brand no one’s ever heard of–or if the brand sounds like it was made up by grabbing a handful of letters from a bag and scattering them. The good quality products are cheap enough that they’re worth it in the long run. Since I use both methods of charging, I can firmly state each has their place and you’ll find those places on your own, too.

Now go forth and recharge.

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.

JPEGmini

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.

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:

jpegmini_comparo

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. 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.

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