tech: IPv6 at home

I recently upgraded my home network to have a separate router from the WiFi access point. For the router, I took a tip from a friend at work and got a Mikrotik Hex. This device packs an amazing amount of features for under $60. If you are a networking person, this just might be the device for you.

I’ve been curious about setting up IPv6 at home as a dual stack configuration, and the purchase of the Microtik was my start to enable that. Time Warner is my home ISP, and they offer IPv6 service, so it’s time to start playing.

Poking through the menus as an IPv4 person, it wasn’t really obvious what I need to do. Let me share with you the lessons I’ve learned, so hopefully you go faster than I did.

Before starting, understand a bit about IPv6 addresses, how huge they are, and the syntax for them. An address that starts with fe80 is a link-local address, think of this like a 192.168.x.x non-routable address. Next, you need to mentally let go of NAT for home networks. Because the IPv6 address space is so huge, NAT is no longer needed. And when you think critically about it, you didn’t use NAT for firewall and security, you were really using stateful packet inspection. You can continue to use stateful packet inspection, and can configure your IPv6 firewall to do that. Without firewall rules, your IPv6 devices will be reachable from the outside, but you can configure your IPv6 firewall to behave like your IPv4 firewall, except that the home network addresses are global. And you generally won’t be using a DHCPv6 server for your internal network, IPv6 brings a new tool called Neighbor Discovery that will handle the dynamic allocation of IPv6 addresses, routing, and DNS config. It is common for a single interface to have multiple IPv6 addresses, similar to “ip alias” in IPv4. There will be link-local fe80 addresses, and after you are done with the router config there may be one or more global addresses also on the same interface. And there are new commands, like “ping6”.

For more background, the Linux IPv6 HowTo is a great resource.

First, you’ll need to download the IPv6 package. From the webfig web GUI, go to System -> Packages and download the ipv6 package. This will enable the IPv6 menu in webfig and the other management consoles.

Next, configure your DHCPv6 client to request an IPv6 address for itself. Additionally, DHCPv6 will request a separate /64 prefix from your ISP. From webfig, go to IPv6 -> DHCP client. The list is probably empty, click Add New. Set Interface = ether1, which is your external-facing connection. Check the Enabled checkbox. For Request, check both Address and Prefix. Address will get a single IPv6 address for this interface, and Prefix will get a /64 prefix for the internal members of your home network. For Pool Name enter a new name like “pool1”, this will create the IPv6 address pool using the prefix that it downloads here. Leave the Pool Prefix Length at 64 and the Pool Hint at default value. Click OK to create this new entry and return to the list of DHCP clients. After a few seconds, you should see an IPv6 address appear in the Address field, and an IPv6 prefix appear in the Prefix field. Note that the prefix has a different network portion than the Address, you’ve just been leased an externally-routable /64 address range for your home network. Mind blown!

Next, you need to configure the internal interface of the router with an address from your new pool. From IPv6 -> Addresses, ether2 will have a fe80 link-local address, we need to add a global one: click Add New. select the eth2-master interface. Check the box so it is enabled. Leave the Address field with its default value. Expand the Pool section so you can put in a pool name, use the same value as you did above, i.e. “pool1”. For Interface, select eth2-master. Enable the “Advertise” checkbox. Click OK and in a few seconds there should be a specific IPv6 address assigned to this interface from the pool.

Next, you need to enable Neighbor Discovery. Go to IPv6 -> ND, there may be an existing item for all interfaces, we want to edit that one, so click on it. Check the box so it is enabled. For Interface, select eth2-master. Check the box for “Advertise MAC Address”, “Advertise DNS”, and “Managed Address Configuration”. Click OK to save it. I’m not using a DHCPv6 server.

You now have a functioning bi-directional IPv6 network. If you go to IPv6 -> Neighbors you should start to see some entries, with the ISP-provided prefix (not fe80) on the eth2-master interface. If you go to IPv6 -> Firewall -> Connections, there should be entries present there also. You may want to reboot your client (i.e., laptop) or bounce your wifi connection to trigger a refresh of the network config on your device. If you have a phone, in Android look in Settings -> About Phone -> Status and you should see one or more IPv6 addresses. Hit one of the IPv6 checkers on your device and it should pass.

For security, you probably want to configure some firewall rules. Go to IPv6 -> Firewall. For example, select Add New for each of the following (in order) (eth1 is the public internet interface):

  1. input chain, connection state = established or related, action = accept
  2. input chain, protocol = ICMPv6, ICMP Type = ! echo request, action = accept
  3. input chain, protocol = UDP, port=546, action = accept (this is the DHCPv6 response, kind of important when the lease expires)
  4. input chain, input interface = eth1, action = drop
  5. forward chain, connection state = established or related, action = accept
  6. forward chain, input interface = eth1, action = drop

Then you’ll probably want to run an IPv6 port scanner, like this one. Because you used something like GRC’s Shields Up test for IPv4.

For bonus points, you can add IPv6 DNS servers. In webfig go to IP -> DNS and create 4 of the Servers fields (ignore the Dynamic Servers for now), and put in the addresses for the Google DNS servers, the two IPv4 and two IPv6.

You can also do an IPv6-specific speed test. The Xfinity speed test tool breaks out results specific to IPv6 and IPv4. If you have IPv6 connectivity, it should default to IPv6, and will show the IP version in the results. In the Advanced Test Settings you can pick your IP version to test.

tech tips marcelk 21 May 2017 No Comments

life: thoughts on making politics constructive

When I step back and try to figure out why things in general seem so dysfunctional, here are some of what I think is happening:

Politics has become about power and survival instead of service. This is the one-sentence summary. When you spend the bulk of your efforts on keeping yourself alive through the accumulation of power (i.e., getting a seat on a committee, marginalizing your competition, etc.), and starting the campaign for the next election as soon as you win the previous one (time away, fundraising, etc.), what time is left to serve the constituency and build consensus and would doing so jeopardize your survival? And that is the root of dividing instead of improving. It has become about fighting instead of working. Listen to the language of the current candidates: “fight” is the prominent word. Not “represent”, and not “work”.

America is not homogeneous. There are broad regional differences in viewpoints and values. Not all of us are alike, and not all of us can be put in a blue or red bucket, though all of us are Americans. And that is what makes this place so awesome. Therefore, there is no single right answer for the country across so many topics. And this is why compromise is so absolutely necessary. We need to work together to figure out what works best for the country as a whole, instead of just one group at the expense of another.

At a high level, goals across party lines have a lot in common. Where we differ is on how to achieve them. There are many ways to achieve a goal, not just one. Not just two.

Compromise has become a lost art. It is replaced with slash and burn. Tearing down instead of building. It should be solutions vs problems, instead of neighbor vs neighbor. Fighting is easy, but collaboration across lines is hard.

Take a look at this social experiment by JetBlue. It is not just a metaphor for politics, and it is not a coincidence that they have red and blue hand signs. We all loose opportunities when we succumb to fighting, fail to compromise and fail to work together.

“News organizations” are communicating what sells the most, and fueling the fight. They do sound bites instead of stories, only scraping the surface. Unfortunately due to our human nature, it’s what we like to see.

Campaigns and politics are more about style than substance. The content has become superficial.

Running a campaign takes an unreasonable amount of money. In the 2012 presidential campaign, each candidate with party funds and super-PACs spent $1 billion each. Billion. Those without money can’t compete. The candidate becomes indebted to contributors instead of voters.

Debates aren’t about discussing the pros and cons of platforms and plans, but attacks on a person like a celebrity magazine or a middle school argument. Having a challenging conversation is very different than fight or flight.

There is a surprising lack of accountability and misinformation in truth telling: see

Stories need to move from style (celebrity zingers and sound bites) to substance (long talks on proposed policy and plans). And we need to have the patience to listen and think and ask questions.

We can’t place all the blame for this on the candidates, the system is broken. Both the party system and the campaign process need an overhaul. We need to stop rewarding the wrong behaviors, if we hope for those behaviors to stop.

For each party during the primary process, the question seems to be “is the Republican conservative enough” and “is the Democrat liberal enough”. While that may play well to each party’s base during the infighting of the primary, it creates distance between moderates and the other party in the general election. Instead of finding middle ground that appeals to a majority of citizens across lines, it ends up pitting a small number of right-wing extremists against a small number of left-wing extremists, and leaving the moderates trying to figure out which extremist they dislike the least. This is what makes the party nomination/primary so short-sighted. It fails to think long-term.

A protest vote to throw out a few leaders isn’t going to make a positive effect, because the real issue is the current culture of the institution. It’s way bigger than a few people. Choosing leaders that are less likely to talk across party lines, less likely to find common ground, and more likely to polarize is going to increase the stagnation, not reduce it. A protest is different than getting something working. Like the old saying, “are you going to be part of the problem or part of the solution?” Our lack of governing ability is self-inflicted. When are we going to stop sabotaging ourselves? When we stop polarizing and start compromising.

I’m tremendously happy to be in America and we have it tremendously good here, but at the same time this country faces lots of problems. Many of which are very complex. I believe we are totally capable of solving them. But it’s going to take grown ups to do so. The question is if we can rise to the challenge, or wallow in the state of the natural man.

So what to do? Here are some ideas, for whatever it is worth to you:

Really research. Don’t rely only on news and social media friends. Or other sources that are recognized to be leaning or have an agenda.

Get a deeper understanding of the issues. We all make assumptions that turn out to be false or very incomplete.

Talk. It is the silent moderates that enable the noisy extremists.

Listen to others that are different than yourself and understand their perspective. Have civil conversations, it’s OK to not agree, really! Don’t be silent. Always be civil, even when others are not. Be slow to take offense. One party does not have a monopoly on all the good ideas.

Vote. Every vote matters. Be informed when you vote, really informed. Sound like work? It is! When you default your vote to party membership instead of the fit of each individual candidate, then you are letting the party vote for you.

Continue to engage with the officials after the election, whoever gets elected.

Realize that those elected officials likely have less impact than they claim, either for benefit or detriment. I doubt they are either a savior or a devil. Treat elected officials with moderation.

Remember that they are here for us, we are their customer, not the other way around. That’s why they used to be called a “public servant”.

[Update]: The other thing I see going on is the candidates (especially one presidential candidate in particular) promoting fear. Fear is a strong motivator, but for all the wrong reasons. It creates an emotional response instead of a thoughtful response. Be aware of when people try to manipulate you using fear, for they are doing so with the goal of benefiting themselves. Instead of reacting to the fear, stop and calm down, dig through the facts, and figure out a productive solution to the problem being faced. It’s likely to be more complex and in a different direction than the manipulators prefer.

life tips &op-ed marcelk 03 Mar 2016 No Comments

tech: Google Play store updates and Android system permissions

In the office we’re working on an Android app which isn’t your usual app: it has Android system permissions and because of that we work with a handset OEM to get it pre-loaded on their handsets in the system partition.

The slow rate of ROM OTA updates from OEMs being what they are, we wanted a faster way to deploy updates to our app, so the obvious choice is to also publish our app into the Play store and let Android’s Play services automatically update it from there. Except for one problem: when we published APK updates to the Play store, the handsets would never automatically download the update and install it. Try as we might to debug that, we couldn’t figure out why our app wasn’t getting updated by Play Services like all the other apps. We even got Google to investigate a bit, but never got a solution. So we ended up building a service into our app that would monitor for an updated version being available (via separate metadata that we uploaded to a server) that would then notify the user of the update being available, and then expecting the user to manually click on that to download the update. Yuck.

Fast forward a while, and we rewrite our app so it no longer needs Android system permissions. It still is signed by the same key. As soon as we publish the 2nd version without the system permissions to the Play store, we notice that the Play services update is working.

So that leads us to believe that when an Android app has system permissions, Play services won’t update it automatically. I don’t expect many developers are using system permissions, but FYI for those that are.


tech tips marcelk 24 Feb 2016 No Comments

tech: Nexus 7 battery runs out while sleeping

So I’ve had my Nexus 7 tablet for a while (a good companion to my iPhone ;-), and one of the things I’ve noticed is that the battery gets sucked dry while it is sleeping. I’ll start off with a fully-charged battery, then unplug it and use it for 5 minutes, and put it on the table, but don’t plug it back in. 24 hours later the battery is 1/3 to 1/2 used up. Wait 2-3 days and the battery is completely drained. Argh! Why is this happening?

I finally did some research, and found both the problem and the solution.

The hint on the problem came from a forum post I read. First, in the Settings app select the Battery – this will bring up the Battery view. At the top of the Battery view is a line graph that shows your battery level over time. Although there is no visual cue that you can do this, touch this graph. Now it brings up the History Details view for the battery. What you’ll see now is a larger line graph for your battery level over time, but more importantly is a breakout by category of what is using your battery: you should see entries for Wi-Fi, GPS, Screen, etc. Next to each entry is a segmented bar graph that shows when these entries were active over this time period. On my Nexus 7, the obvious top consumer of the battery was the Wi-Fi: it had a solid bar that indicated it was constantly in use, even while the tablet was asleep. There are no breaks in that bar. The line graph of the battery level showed approximately a 45 degree slope for the battery level, basically the battery getting sucked dry, apparently by the Wi-Fi. What is going on here?

Back in the main page of the Settings app, select Wi-Fi. Now select the rightmost icon in the top bar, the icon with the 3 vertical dots (like an ellipsis). That should bring up a context menu, one of the options is titled “Advanced”, meaning Advanced Wi-Fi Settings: select it and you’ll get a new screen. On this screen, one of the options is “Keep Wi-Fi on during sleep”. It is currently set to “Always”. Eh? That’s not what I want. Is that why my battery is draining during sleep, and the battery history indicates that the Wi-Fi is the function doing the draining? You betcha. Click on the “Keep Wi-Fi on during sleep” line and select a more reasonable value, such as “Only when plugged in”. Now back out of the Systems app. You’re done.

Now when I leave my Nexus 7 asleep and unplugged for a 24-hour period, the battery drains only a few percentage points, not 30% or 50%. This is the behavior I want.

I checked the same setting on my friend’s Nexus 7, and it had the same default. Why did Google choose to use this default? Maybe they want system updates to be downloaded in the background while the tablet is sleeping. Or maybe they don’t want the Wi-Fi to take 15 seconds to re-associate with the base station when I wake it up. Well, whatever the reason, it’s not worth my battery getting sucked dry when it is sleeping while it’s not plugged in. Bad default, Google.

But if that is the worst pain point on this tablet, then take that as a compliment. It is a good little machine.

tech tips marcelk 23 Jul 2014 No Comments

tech: Raspberry Pi as a print server

I admit it. I’m late to the party. But it’s still quite a good party. Raspberry Pi is tasty.

My wife upgraded her Mac to Mavericks, and then the shared printer stopped working. The printer is hosted on a WinXP system. (Yeah, I know XP is going out of service really soon, getting it upgraded is on my to-do list. It’s turned into the kids’ PC so I don’t invest much in it.) So Apple apparently made some changes in Mavericks so that it doesn’t play well with SMB on WinXP. That laser is our family workhorse printer. She’s frustrated she can’t print to it. I’m not going to be able to get to the XP upgrade for a month or two, so what to do until then?

Aha! Use a Raspberry Pi as a standalone print server. I would like an excuse to get an R-Pi and play with it. So I go online and order the model B with an SD card preinstalled with NOOBS, a nice long USB power cable to go with the power supply, and a case. $87 with tax and shipping, more than I expected.

It arrived this morning. I assembled the case – the most difficult part was peeling off the protective film. Except that the power connector was just a hair too big to fit through the case – get out the Dremmel tool and grind a little bit of the acrylic plastic away on the case, and after a couple tries it fits fine. I found a really good article at HowToGeek on general setup of the R-Pi. I plug the HDMI cable into my PC monitor, ethernet into my home router, power into the wall, and USB into the and keyboard and mouse. Select Raspberian. After some apt-get work to fetch the latest software and install CUPS, it’s ready for customization. Now get sshd running on it using raspi-config, so I can remotely login without a physically-attached monitor/keyboard/mouse, now I can reuse one of the USB ports to connect my printer. It is really cool that a Linux machine running X11 costs only $35 and isn’t much bigger than a credit card (except for the thickness). I give it a static IP on my home network, since it is a server.

I follow more helpful instructions on configuring CUPS locally on the R-Pi, then try printing a test page locally from the CUPS admin panel. The first try using the “Foomatic/foo2zjs-z1” recommended driver (built-in) didn’t result in anything happening , I then tried the “CUPS+Gutenprint v5.2.9” driver (built-in) and it works! No need to download a ppd file from HP.

From a Mac, now in the Settings for “Print & Scan”, click on plus sign to add a printer, and it shows up automatically as a Bonjour printer. Sweet! That was painless.

Now to get it printing from a WinXP client – changing it from a local printer to a remote printer. First delete the local printer. Using the bartbania site listed above it suggested that I define the printer on XP using it’s share name of \\\printers\HP_LaserJet_1022. But that fails to add the printer. A bit more searching and I find the CUPS docs that suggest the other radio button to add it to XP with a remote URI of That works! IPP was first added to Windows in XP. So now it’s working from both Mac and Windows clients. Mission accomplished.

Bonus points: I can print from my iOS device using AirPrint! It turns out that AirPrint is just an an extension to IPP, and CUPS seems to handle it fine. I’ve printed from my iPhone and from my wife’s iPad. It should work for any iOS app that is AirPrint enabled. I didn’t have to do any more work than what is already described above.

More bonus points: it’s not much more work to enable this printer for Google Cloud Print. Just follow these instructions. Basically you need to just install Chromium and do some configuration with it, before you unplug the keyboard, mouse, and HDMI.

Now tuck this little box neatly away next to the printer. But in a way that I can still see the LEDs. Maybe sometime in the future I’ll attach a USB disk drive as use it as a NAS or DLNA server.

cool stuff that doesn't cost much &tech tips marcelk 04 Jan 2014 1 Comment

tech: mobile OS stats across the world

I stumbled into, and poked at the mobile OS data there (collected over the last 3 months). It really hit me how there is tremendous variation of device OS market share from country to country.

Here are some samples.

Range extremes:

  • iOS: 68% in Denmark, 1% in India
  • Android: 91% in South Korea, 6% in Somalia
  • Blackberry: 39% in St Martin, 1% in Thailand
  • Windows Phone: 23% in Finland, 1% in India
  • Series 40: 60% in Liberia, 1% in Austria
  • Symbian: 36% in Oman, 1% in Columbia

Basically no iOS or Android:

  • South Africa: Blackberry and Series 40 (Nokia) lead with a combined 60%, Android has 14%, iOS has 3%

Two western European countries where Android and iOS distribution is flip-flopped:

  • Spain: 70% Android, 25% iOS
  • Sweden: 62% iOS, 35% Android

Not the “usual” presence from a North America perspective:

  • Pakistan: 39% Series 40, 17% Symbian

And here is another view via Kantar / TNW.

So those of us in North America or western Europe who assume you understand the device OSs which are out there worldwide, think again.

tech tips marcelk 03 Dec 2013 1 Comment

tech: Android and Java 7

After not having built any Android apps for a few weeks, I returned to an attempt at that. Things went fine, until I tried to run my app on a device. The app crashed immediately upon startup with the following error in logcat:

E/AndroidRuntime( 6844): FATAL EXCEPTION: main
E/AndroidRuntime( 6844): java.lang.RuntimeException: Unable to instantiate activity ComponentInfo{org.apache.marcelk/org.apache.marcelk.junk}: java.lang.ClassNotFoundException: Didn't find class "org.apache.marcelk.junk" on path: /data/app/org.apache.marcelk-1.apk

Huh? That’s my activity class. I’m sure it’s there. So I look in my Android project directory and there in the classes dir is org/apache/marcelk/junk.class. So why is it complaining it can’t find it?

If I look just 3 lines higher in logcat, I see the first indication that something went wrong:

I/ActivityManager( 476): Start proc org.apache.marcelk for activity org.apache.marcelk/.junk: pid=6844 uid=10065 gids={50065, 3003, 1028}
W/dalvikvm( 6844): Unable to resolve superclass of Lorg/apache/marcelk/junk; (97)

My superclass is CordovaActivity, so that is present, correct? The cordova jar which contains CordovaActivity is in my libs directory in my project. But did it make it into classes.dex? That’s hard to tell, classes.dex is not a zip file like the apk that I can easily peek in to. Running the command “strings classes.dex | grep CordovaActivity” isn’t conclusive, would be nice if there was something that was. Aha! Look in the Android SDK’s build-tools/android-4.3 directory and there is a cool utility – run this:

dexdump classes.dex

Indeed, my junk class references CordovaActivity as a superclass, but CordovaActivity is not present in classes.dex. Why isn’t it there?

I did build the project with the Cordova CLI tooling, which [in this case, unfortunately] masks output from the commands it fires. So maybe there is something being masked which is important. The Cordova project basically has an Android project in my_project/platforms/android, so run “ant clean” and “ant debug” there. Hmm, now I’m seeing 140 warnings like this:

[dx] trouble processing:
bad class file magic (cafebabe) or version (0033.0000)

And the CordovaActivity is one of those classes that it warns about. Indeed, the first 4 bytes of a class file are 0xCAFEBABE, so it must not like the version number. Version “0033.0000” is the java major/minor version in hex. 0x33 = 51 decimal. So let’s check that: I unzip cordova.jar and run “javap -verbose org.apache.cordova.CordovaActivity”, and sure enough it reports major version 51 and minor version 0. The class file layout indicates:

Java 5 = 49
Java 6 = 50
Java 7 = 51

So CordovaActivity was compiled with Java 7. Does dex have problems with Java 7? According to this article, yes. Dex likes only Java 5 and Java 6. If dex sees a Java 7-compiled class, it will silently omit it. Aha! Problem indentified. Now to fix it.

Now that you mention it, I did recently change my JAVA_HOME on my workstation to point to a Java 7 JDK instead of a Java 6 one. So where in the docs on does it say that you can’t use Java 7? Nowhere, according to what I’ve seen. Pfffft!

On my Mac, I simply change JAVA_HOME in ~/.bash_profile to be:

export JAVA_HOME=`/usr/libexec/java_home -v 1.6`

since I have both Java 6 and 7 installed, then I do an “ant clean” in my project directory, go back to the Cordova source and do an “ant clean” and “ant jar”, copy the cordova jar to my project, then go back to my project to do an “ant debug”. It works!

I’ll capture this experience here, in hopes that it will help someone else in the future. For the record, this was using Android SDK Tools 22.2.1 and Platform Tools 18.0.1 and API 18.

Update: OK, in the System Requirements section it does say JDK 6, but I usually interpret that to be the minimum level, not the maximum level.

And, specifically the Oracle JDK must be used due to a dependency on the package. The IBM JDK or Apache Harmony can’t be used.

Update November 2014:

The ADT as of version 22.6 now supports Java 7. And Android 5 (Lollipop) requires Java 7.

tech tips marcelk 06 Nov 2013 No Comments

life: 43 Thoughts About Investing and the Economy

This piece from the Motley Fool reminds me that when it comes to investing, there really is no magic. I don’t understand why this isn’t required learning in school. Important stuff.

Read it: 43 Thoughts About Investing and the Economy

life tips marcelk 14 Sep 2013 No Comments

life: the epic road trip


  • duration: 23 consecutive days
  • driving distance: 6747 miles
  • longest single day: 856 miles, 15 hours driving (not including breaks)
  • total hours driving: 112
  • average mpg: 29.1
  • gas consumed: 321 gallons
  • number of kids upon departure: 5
  • number of kids upon return: 3 (2 left at college)
  • family groups visited: 9

Monuments / Parks / Museums visited:

  • Frazier History Museum: Louisville KY
  • Gateway Arch: St Louis MO
  • Keeper of the Plains plaza: Wichita KS
  • Mesa Verde National Park: Cortez CO
  • Canyon De Chelly National Monument: Chinle AZ
  • Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial: Gallup NM
  • Petrified Forest National Park: Holbrook AZ
  • Meteor Crater: Winslow AZ
  • Historic Route 66: Winona & Williams AZ
  • Grand Canyon National Park: Grand Canyon AZ
  • Cedar Breaks National Monument & Brian Head Mountain: Brian Head UT
  • Bryce Canyon National Park: Bryce Canyon UT
  • Capital Reef National Park: Torrey UT
  • Goblin Valley State Park + Little Wild Horse slot canyon: Hanksville UT
  • Arches National Park: Moab UT
  • Colorado River rafting: Moab UT
  • Mountain biking + horse ride: Moab UT
  • Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast: Salt Lake City UT
  • Field Museum: Chicago IL

My favorite moments:

  • Standing at the top of Brian Head peak, 11307 ft elevation, 53 degrees fahrenheit on a sunny August day (not including a significant wind chill), able to see for 100+ miles in every direction.
  • Hiking across amazing landscapes.
  • Laying on a blanket on a cloudless night in Arches NP looking at the stars.
  • Enjoying the dry air (low humidity). It really does make a difference.
  • Driving on a section of historic Route 66 while the kids watched Pixar’s “Cars” movie, and in the end credits the song “Route 66” played while we were driving through “don’t-forget” Winona Arizona.

We flew my oldest daughter home from college so she could do the trip with us. I’m thinking it may be the last time we have all the kids together for a big trip like this. Even after being in the minivan for 3 and a half weeks, at the end I told my wife that I could keep going if there was no need for me to have a job and earn money. The kids did really well. It was work, but it was fun, and we saw amazing sights, and I got to spend quality time with my family.

The following pictures were taken with my phone, and are untouched except to increase the compression to make them smaller downloads.

brianheadtree3 Near the peak of Brian Head mountain.

brianheadclouds Sunset clouds over the resort at Brian Head.

waiting3 Waiting for dinner to be served at a restaurant after a day of driving and hiking.

life tips marcelk 08 Sep 2013 No Comments

life: going to college with financial responsibility

Now that my second child is on their way to college, I think my wife and I have narrowed in on an approach to higher education that is sustainable. Here are the principles we’ve been teaching and doing with our children.

Go to a school that is affordable.

It would be great fun to drive a Ferrari 458. Really great fun. But until I win the lottery, it’s just not realistic to own a $250,000 car. Instead I drive a low-end Acura. The Ferrari is literally 10 times the cost of my Acura. Does that make it 10 times better to drive during my daily commute? The Acura serves me very well. There are way better things to spend my limited money on. The same concept applies to schools. Is the small class size and name and some extra networking opportunities really 10 times better than a qualified school with in-state tuition? Perhaps better, but 10 times better? I think you have better things to spend your limited money on. If you can get scholarships or tuition reduction, then go for it. If your money is unlimited, then go for it. Want to take out loans for the expensive school? Read the next item.

Do not go into debt.

I hear people talking about exiting school with a degree and 50 or 100 or 200 thousand dollars in debt. I find that crazy. It’s a mortgage that you can’t live in that will take 30 years to pay off. Do you really want to burden your existing or future family with that much debt? It does not have to be that way. Pay as you go. If you need to take a semester or a year off of school to earn money to carry you through the next period, do that. There is absolutely no shame in that. You need to go at the right pace so you exit school with zero debt.

As parents, we will match whatever you can get.

I can help because it is expensive, but I want you to have financial skin in the game. So we will do a 1-for-1 match of whatever income or cost offset you can get. Get a job and earn some money, and we’ll kick in a matching amount. Play video games and hang with your friends and earn nothing, and we’ll kick in nothing. Now do you have motivation to put it in that scholarship application? My first daughter is earning money to cover her living expenses, and we pay for her tuition, these being roughly equal. I like that arrangement, as she gets quicker feedback on managing her living expenses, those being more variable than her tuition expenses – she learns budgeting and balance.

As parents, we will cover your first semester or year expenses while you get your feet under you.

It can be a tough transition from high school to college. When you get to college you are going to need to apply yourself at a substantially different level than that last year of high school where you breezed through your classes and had a case of senioritis. Although ultimately I want you to be financially responsible for your education, more importantly I want you to be successful in your education. In the beginning I want the transition to college to be successful. I don’t want the first year or semester to be a failure when you combine tougher school with a job, which may also be the first time you’ve done this combination. So focus on school for the first semester or year, figure it out, and I will cover your tuition and living expenses. I’m not going to cover your playing expenses: learn to be frugal and figure that out on your own.

Although we are helping financially, you are responsible for getting the bills paid.

Is tuition or rent or meal plan payment due? I’ll transfer my contribution to your bank account. But you need to go to the tuition office and write the check or set up the draft, make sure the funds are in the account, and keep track of the due date and get it in on time. That’s just part of being an adult. And you’ll be doing these kinds of things the rest of your life, so you better know how to do it now, because they are really important.

I don’t want to sound judgmental, but having parents pay for everything and the kids not having any responsibility was not how we wanted to do it. I love my kids and I want to help them grow, be responsible, and independent. This is part of our path in getting there.

life tips marcelk 29 Jul 2013 No Comments

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