Preparing for Power Outages

Michael Steeber, in his recent piece for 9 to 5 Mac, wrote about his experience during a three day power outage:

Going off the grid for a camping trip or hike in the woods can be relaxing. When traveling, airports and hotels are designed to minimize the stress of finding an outlet or a free WiFi connection. But at home, I was totally unprepared. My job relies on a constant connection, so beyond loitering at Starbucks, I learned to take full advantage of the power and data saving features of iOS and macOS to get by. I also discovered a few opportunities for software improvements that would make situations like mine less of a headache.

There’s a lot of good information and tips in this article and if you rely on electricity and internet access like many of us do, it would be wise to give it a read.

At my day job I work from home as a Happiness Engineer for Automattic. A few months ago I made some strides toward preparing for power outages, so I can continue working with minimal disruption. It comes down to two products that I’ve purchased, which I can use to power my most important devices and a bit of software to round it all out.

Ego Nexus Escape: A 150W power inverter that uses the same batteries as our lawn mower and string trimmer (which I highly recommend, by the way). We have a 5Ah and a 2.5Ah battery that can be used to charge my MacBook Air, an iPhone, or just about any other device you can think of.

I haven’t done any testing to know exactly how many charges I can get out of it for my devices, but it helped me through an hour long power outage a few weeks ago. I ran my MacBook off of its internal battery while the Nexus powered my iPhone, which I used for tethering.

CyberPower Uninterruptible Power Supply: We have our Eero base station, modem, and Mac Mini home server run through this. And in the event of a power outage, it gives us about 90–120 minutes to safely shutdown the Mac Mini and run the modem and router off of the UPS’s built-in battery.

It might seem odd to continue using your home internet connection when the power is out. But there are definitely situations when that is possible — depending on what exactly is causing the outage and where the problem is located. We weren’t able to continue using our home WiFi during the most recent outage. But being able to safely shutdown the Mac Mini could help prevent data loss — we have all of our photos, music, and videos saved on the Mac Mini. And although we have backups, in an ideal world we’ll never need to restore from those.

On the software side of things, I’ve installed Turbo Boost Switcher Pro, which I have setup to automatically disable Turbo Boost when my MacBook Air’s battery goes below 20%. And in cases of power outages, I can use the app to toggle Turbo Boost off at will.

Marco Arment wrote about using the app to improve battery life on his MacBook Pro and found that disabling Turbo Boost allowed for about 25% more battery life compared to when it was enabled.

But the real MVP during power outages is Personal Hotspot. Having access to a backup internet connection is so important because I literally can’t work without it. During that hour long power outage I was able to communicate in Slack, work with users over live chat, and perform any other tasks I needed to. The connection itself was about one-third the speed of my home connection, but that didn’t make a difference in practice.

The biggest concern that most would have in regards to Personal Hotspot is data caps, but I’ve been a longtime proponent of unlimited data plans. My wife and I clung to our old school AT&T unlimited plans until they raised the price beyond what we were willing to pay a year or two ago. But at that point we moved to one of their newer unlimited plans. With these plans AT&T reserves the right to slow us down after we go beyond 21GB in a single month, but that’s a heck of a lot of data. Unless there was an extremely long power outage, I don’t think it’s something I’d ever actually hit.

All of this combines to be, what I’d consider, a fairly robust plan for power outages. I don’t have a good handle on exactly how long I’d be able to make it without internet or electricity, but I’d venture to guess I could make it through at least a few days without having a negative impact on my work. Which for me, is the goal I was aiming for.

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Jetpack Stats Shortcut

Jetpack Stats Shortcut

After my favorite web stats software was sunsetted by its developer, I knew it was only a matter of time before I moved on to something newer. I did that late last year when I uninstalled Mint from my Media Temple server and installed Jetpack on Initial Charge. This site now makes use of Jetpack’s built-in stats feature that’s powered by WordPress.com.

I’ve been pretty happy with it so far. The feature is lightweight — adding just over 2.5KB to my webpages — and offers most of what I would want in this type of software while still remaining respectful to site visitors. I wouldn’t mind getting a bit more information about the operating systems, web browsers, and screen resolutions used by my readers — for web design purposes — but I’d rather err on the side of collecting less than collecting more.

There was one additional thing that was missing in the transition from Mint to Jetpack — a quick shortcut to my stats from my iPhone home screen. For years I had an icon on my home screen that would load directly into my Mint installation’s interface so I can peruse my stats without having to launch my browser and type in the URL or open a bookmark. Jetpack doesn’t really have anything like that.

The WordPress app has a pretty nice interface for viewing Jetpack and WordPress.com stats, though. But there wasn’t anything immediately obvious within the app — such as a URL scheme — that I could use to launch directly into that interface. It had to exist, though. You see, the WordPress app includes a Today View widget that can display the daily stats for a single site. And when you tap on the site name, it launches the WordPress app into a modal view of that site’s stats — something that, from what I can tell, is only surfaced when you open the app from the widget.

I was curious if the app was using a URL scheme for that and decided to do some investigating in the app’s source code, which is freely available to browse on Github — open source is so great. After a bit of digging, I found the code that was used for this and to my surprise, it does use a URL scheme:

wordpress://viewstats?siteId=

The Today View widget uses that URL scheme along with the chosen site’s site ID to launch that slick modal stats view. The trick from here is finding your site’s site ID, which you can then plug into the end of the URL and use for all sorts of purposes, such as building an iOS shortcut. But how do I find my site ID, you might ask? By visiting your site within a web browser (when logged out of WordPress or from within an incognito/private browsing window) and using “View Source” on your homepage.

The stats code is automatically added to your footer and should be listed like so:

Finding Your Site ID Using View Source

This is the source for Initial Charge’s homepage and you can see my site ID listed after blog: within the code. So in the example of my site, to launch directly into my stats within the WordPress app I use the following within a shortcut:

wordpress://viewstats?siteId=127845174

Of course, you won’t see anything if you try and open that URL scheme on your device, since it is setup to display my site’s stats, you’d need to be logged in to my WordPress.com account for it to work. But after finding your site ID and logging in to the associated WordPress.com account — that you used to setup Jetpack — you’ll be able to launch directly into the WordPress app to see your site’s stats.

The neat thing about this little URL scheme, though, is that it doesn’t just work for WordPress sites that run the Jetpack plugin for stats. It can also be used by any WordPress.com site — since they both use the same stats system and application for viewing.

To put this all together into something a bit more useful, I’ve put together a shortcut that asks for your site ID when importing and can be used to launch directly into your site’s stats within the WordPress app. You can download the .shortcut file, or for you thrill seekers out there, you can download the shortcut from iCloud.

Once you have it all setup, you can launch it from the Shortcuts app itself, from the app’s Today View widget, or by just about any other means. I have mine added to my home screen using this custom icon, so I have quick access to it on my iPhone and iPad — just like I had with Mint.

My Day One Setup


—June 30, 2019

Notes On WWDC


—June 8, 2019

Tech Travel Kit


—June 4, 2019

Expecting


—May 3, 2019

Prism for iOS


—April 11, 2019

In-App Opt Out


—March 17, 2019

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