So long, 2015 13” MacBook Pro

Real bummer but no one was able to figure out what was going on with my 2015 13” MacBook Pro. I suspect it was the I/O board because using the trackpad would cause the WIFI to drop intermittently.

Rather than shell out the ~$500 to have the MacBook fixed I am trading it in for $650. Hopefully I get that much. I’m really ambivalent about not getting it fixed. I don’t think Apple makes anything as good/useful as this MacBook.

In the meantime, I am using the iPad Pro as my primary device and it is absolutely useable for 95% of things. That said, I really miss being able to ‘cat’ files from my terminal window. I do a bit of Medicare billing and electronically submitting claims results in a lot of text and XML files being dumped to show the status of submitted claims.

This AM I downloaded some of those status files and still can not figure out how to read them. iOS won’t open the files (even though they’re just plain text) and I have no shell I can drop to so that I can interrogate those files. I need to find a tool to allow me to look at arbitrary non-binary file contents.

Anyway, I expect that I will use my MacBook trade-in credit to buy another machine in the coming months and have been looking at the iMac, Mac Mini and holding my breath that by the time I’m fed up with the iPad and ready to pull the trigger on new hardware Apple will have figured out how to make a useful MacBook Pro.

Distraction

My meditation practice has been pretty consistent for the past several months. The payoff is that I am more frequently aware of when I am aware of what I am thinking vs. lost in thought.

Being lost in thought isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But if ever there was a “dose is the poison” example, it’s being lost in thought. A little is absolutely necessary, especially if you create things. But too much can leave you feeling empty and irritable.

Being lost in thought doesn’t necessarily mean that you are not thinking about anything. At it’s heart I think lost in thought just means that you are not aware of what you are thinking and, importantly, lost in thought means you almost certainly didn’t choose what you are thinking about.

That’s where these little technology devices can really drive us to being miserable. So much of what shows up on the screen of these devices is displayed for the very purpose of hijacking your thoughts. By design, these devices really make it challenging to choose what you are thinking about while you use them.

I have been trying to give some shape to the various ways I use technology and one of the ways I’m trying to give shape to those ways is to try to know exactly what it is I’m doing with my device whenever I look at it and to try to hold on to that sense of purpose regardless of how hard it works to hijack that purpose.

Hyperdrive 11-in-1 USB C hub for iPad Pro

I picked up one of these dingus dongles at Best Buy this AM (same price as Amazon, $79) so that I could turn my iPad Pro into a little recording studio device/multitrack recorder in my office. Specifically so I could turn my aging by serviceable Zoom H4n into an external microphone for GarageBand.

HyperDrive USB C Hub, Type C Adapter for MacBook Pro, Laptop USB-C Devices, Ultimate 11-in-1 Surface PC Docking Station w Power Delivery Charging, USBC 5Gbps Data, 4K HDMI, 3xUSB 3.1 Ports, VGA, etc

It does everything it is supposed to, or well, almost everything. My iPad gives me a “not charging” message even though the wall charger is plugged into the available USB C port on this thing. I am thinking that the default 18w charger that apple ships with the iPad Pro is not quite enough to power the hub and charge up the iPad. Maybe a bigger charger?

Who knows, my voice gave out before the iPad battery.

Messages (SMS) not syncing between iPhone and iPad

I’ve noticed, annoyingly, that when I send a message on my iPad it’s not always showing up on my phone and vice versa (especially when sending to non-iPhone users). This, despite the fact that in Settings->Messages both devices are using the same Apple user account.

Turns out the problem is that both devices also need to store Messages in iCloud.

You can do this under Settings->select your name/Apple ID->iCloud and make sure that Messages are turned on. They weren’t on my iPad even though they were on my iPhone.

iOS gestures

It’s been a couple of weeks now with the iPad Pro and I’m still struggling to understand gestures.

I never use my iPad without an external keyboard and have quickly become adept at most of the useful key combinations to navigate iOS. And to be clear, iOS is pretty keyboard accessible. As someone who has mostly lived in terminal windows and emacs, being able to navigate around using keyboard shortcuts (some of which come directly from emacs like ctrl-a/e for beginning/end of line, etc.) is really wonderful.

But there’s no mouse at all with this setup. Which at times leaves me with no option but to actually touch the iPad screen. And every time i reach out to the screen I recognize that I do not know what the hell i’m doing. Every time I touch the surface of my iPad i realize I am barely scratching the surface of what I can do with gestures.

Kirk McElhearn has a great suggestion today that iOS should have something like the buried trackpad gesture videos in System preferences that exist on MacOS.
The closest thing to actual help I can find on the Apple website is this guide to using multi-tasking gestures. And I still can’t get them to work right consistently.

Password review and sanity check in iOS

My Spotify account got hacked the other day. I was using a really insecure password that was identical to that of another login I used from a site that had been compromised.

So either someone guessed it or “acquired” it.

Either way, I know it got hacked because at 5:15AM yesterday morning I was listening to a Mozart concerto and then all of a sudden my HomePod started playing some crazy noises that I would have never queued up.

I was expecting the adagio movement of Mozart’s clarinet concerto and got this masterpiece instead!

Groggily looking at my play history in the early morning hours, it was clear that someone else was simultaneously logged into my account. I didn’t jump to action on it but figure I’d deal with it later.

Then, later in the evening all the family accounts associated with my membership stopped working. The natives grew restless and I needed to deal with the situation.

So I changed the password and thought things would be fine.

But this other party was still logged in!

Simply changing your Spotify password doesn’t log out all the other instances of the app. So this time I changed the password and found the button on the Spotify page for “logout All devices.” Additional help here on dealing with compromised Spotify accounts.

This seemed to do the trick. But got me thinking, man, what other accounts have I used that password for?

My MacBook is out of order for a bit so I’m exclusively on iOS 13 and had no idea how to edit the keychain data on my iPad.

Turns out, not only is it pretty easy but Apple does a really decent job of alerting you to:

  • When you’ve stored an insecure/short/easily guesable password
  • When you’ve used the same password on multiple sites

Simply go to:

Settings->Passwords & Accounts->Websites & App Passwords

There you’ll see all of your saved passwords.

If you look for entries that contain a little warning sign like this with the little triangle:

You can click through to those entries and iOS will tell you that the password is either insecure (too easy) or used in multiple locations (a bad practice).

I still have some warnings on mine, but I’ve changed all the passwords that matched the one of the account that was compromised, so that’s a step in the right direction.

Anyway, hope this helps.

Whoa. Just saw my first Saul Leiter photographs.

Taxi, New York, 1957 © Saul Leiter

Convalescing from a head cold last night I watched 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter. Leiter shot some amazing sort-of-abstract, i don’t know what to call it exactly, photos in NYC from the 1950’s onward. I had never heard of him before (not surprising since I could probably only name a handful of famous photographers). But as soon as I saw his photos I knew he was someone I wanted to learn about.

HomePod Automation

Man, i spent way too long trying to get my HomePods to work with Apple’s HomeKit automations this AM. I noticed in my Home app that the latest (the really latest that doesn’t brick your HomePod) update had been installed on my stereo pair of HomePods so I was like, sweet, now I can have my early AM playlist fire up at 5:00am at the same time my Phillips lights come on really low.

No such luck. I fiddled and restarted my iPhone and my HomePods and … nothing. I could not get my HomePods to appear as an available accessory in any scene or automation.

Finally I realized that my iPhone needed to be updated to 13.2 (not a painless process as I needed to force restart my iPhone before the update would install).

Once the HomePods were on 13.2.1 and my iPhone on 13.2, everything proceeded apace.

I still can’t get handoff to work correctly, because i suspect the stereo pairing is using the further HomePod that I’m too lazy to walk to to accept the handoff transfers.

Anyway. Apple has strayed pretty far from the ease of the Macintosh, that’s for sure.

iPad WordPress blog tips and help

With my beloved 13″ MacBook Pro Retina (early-2015) aka THE last good MacBook Pro in the shop, I’ve had to get productive on the iPad Pro I recently picked up. Probably have a whole host of things I’ve learned on making the transition to iPad that are worth sharing but top of mind is getting wordpress blog posts working.

Mostly this is because the only app (so far) from my MacBook that doesn’t have an equivalent on the iPad is MarsEdit. MarsEdit is hands-down the best blog writing software ever made. ANd it doesn’t run on iPad.

So I’m using the iOS WordPress application. Not nearly as nice and getting it up and running was fraught with hoops I had to jump through.

First was updating all sorts of stuff on my Linode box because, well, I’ve been lazy and running all sorts of old versions of php. What was cool here was being able to use the Linode console in safari to upgrade Ubuntu. Truly living in a sci-fi like future when a table can do this:

Anyway, once the housekeeping updates were completed, I was still running into errors posting entries (especially attachments) to this site.

I believe some of the errors were tied to the fact that I have a self-hosted wordpress site but was logged into the iOS wordpress application using my “wordpress.com” account. So I logged out of the wordpress app and instead, I used the credentials from my self-hosted site.

But before I could do that I needed to resolve the “Couldn’t connect. XML-RPC is missing from server” error that I was getting. I don’t think I ever had to install an xml-specific package for earlier versions of PHP but now that I’m running 7.3 I had to run:

sudo apt-get install php-xml
sudo service apache2 restart

That allowed the wordpress iOS application to connect to my self-hosted site and upload images.

Heady times, for sure!

Still looking for a MarsEdit equivalent on iPad. Not hopeful. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to manage documents/writing on this thing. I like the built in Notes app for its syncing but interface wise it’s sort of lame and it means copy/pasting text into the wordpress app. Also lame.

Will update and the workflow process improves.

MacBook Pro Retina 13″ Early-2015 wifi problems

I think my airport card in my MacBook is dying. Making some notes here in case I find a software fix. Wifi problems seem very common with this model laptop especially post-Yosemite but my wifi issues have been very sporadic until now. Now, whenever my CPU spikes my wifi drops.
Stinks.

This, I think is the log:

AirPort: Link Down on en0. Reason 8 (Disassociated because station leaving).

This command seemed to help folks back in the Yosemite days:

sudo ifconfig awdl0 down

update: that did nothing. dropping off at Genius Bar. Fingers crossed it’s just an airport card replacement.

Another update: Genius Bar was less than helpful. Tech told me to login as a different user (which I did) to see if the problem still occurred (which it did) and suggested it would be too expense to replace the display where the antennas are located (which is not the problem). Going to drop my beloved MacBook Pro off at a local repair shop this week. Given that the trackpad stutters, the thunderbolt->Ethernet is wonky and occasionally the mouse locks up, I’m thinking it’s likely an I/O board issue. Fingers crossed.

Excellent article on a small city’s car-free transformation

Spain’s Happy Little Carless City

Pontevedra, once choked with cars, is a laboratory for how smaller cities can implement a few simple tricks to reduce driving dramatically.

Many great points here including:

  • free parking at perimeter of city

  • make streets for walking (get rid of sidewalks)

  • small, incremental steps

My hope is that one day Red Bank elects the kind of forward-thinking leaders capable of this kind of vision. We are a long way off from that.

Catalina Inbox not Syncing with Gmail

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Good to know I’m not the only one, but I don’t think the issue that I’m having is widespread which makes me nervous!

The gmail IMAP inbox on my Mac running catalina bears ZERO resemblance to the inbox I see on my iphone or in gmail thorugh the web browser. Frightening. And still AAPL is at an all time high. #freemarketfailure?

Catalina

Upgrading my MacBook Pro, the Catalina upgrade hung up on “Setting up computer…” but as I had already looked into that issue for a buddy of mine the other day, I know that’a a widespread problem so I just rebooted and it everything came up fine.

Was a bit of a bummer that Scrivener 2 didn’t make the cut for Catalina and as it’s a 32-bit app and I’m not paying to upgrade I went through and exported all of my Scrivener projects as text files before the upgrade. This, part of a larger plan to try to narrow down the number of buckets/apps I use for writing/notes/etc. So exporting ten or so projects was a bit tedious but I discovered that I have written A TON of stuff over the past six years or so. Way more than I thought I had. And that’s not counting journal writing which lives in Day One.

Other than the loss of Scrivener, I’m noting mostly positives since upgrading:

  • apps launch so much more quickly under Catalina.
  • sidecar doesn’t work with the last, best MacBook Pro Apple ever made. Not sure it would have changed my life, but would have been cool.
  • the Photos.app is really, really good at picking out your best photos. It’s uncanny. I wish there were some way to say “find all my lousy photos so I can just batch delete them.” But maybe that’ll come. For now, it’s great just to scroll through the days or months view and see what iPhoto thinks are my best photos.
  • Music app is better though since moving my library to the cloud with iTunes Match, I’m noticing some wonkiness with my album covers getting lost. Need to carve out some downtime to clean up my album covers in iTunes. It’ll make browsing what to listen to much more engaging.
  • iCloud account info under system preferences seems to be much better organized now, especially around Family Sharing type information.
  • everything else seems pretty smooth and snappy.

Fingers crossed on this Spotify update for iOS

I’ve been seeing references to the latest beta of Spotify on reddit where users report that Siri support now works with Spotify. This will be great if it works well!

NewImage

I have been loving my stereo homepods but am itching for better automation/shortcuts and Siri integration and have been using my iTunes library to play most of the music but it’ll be great to have access to my Spotify playlists.

Microsoft Outlook on Mac.

Been using this for work lately. Crashes pretty regularly which I could live with if it would only support emacs keybindings like Mail.app does (ctrl-a for start of line, ctrl-e for end of line). Very frustrating!

HomePod with iTunes Match

I’m running stereo HomePods in our living room. Boy what a difference a second HomePod makes!

Doesn’t sound as good as my beloved Vandersteens which got relocated during a recent furniture rearrangement and frankly the Homepods don’t make for great “active listening” because the imaging is way to fuzzy and nebulous but for just hanging out and getting things done, the sound of stereo HomePods is really excellent.

So naturally I wanted to have access to music to be able to yell at the HomePods and ask Siri “play the album Babylon by Bus.” But I am cheap and already subscribe to Spotify so didn’t want to have to subscribe to Apple Music on top of Spotify. So I dug around a bit and ended up springing for the $25/year iTunes Match service which allows me to take my 30k songs from my iTunes library and upload them to iCloud so they’re available on all my devices (iPhone and HomePods in this case).

It took a lot of BS and fiddling to get this solution to work but ultimately it did and now I can ask Siri to play anything that is in my music library without having to airplay it from my Mac or iPhone.

First I had the difficulty of just getting my 30k songs into the cloud. That took about 3 days and 3 attempts at telling iTunes to “update iCloud Music Library.” But after about 3 days all of the tracks had either “matched” or “uploaded” next them. I presume the latter is when iTunes Store doesn’t have access to the track.

NewImage

After that, I was able to see all of my music on my iPhone which was pretty cool (tons of live dead shows now!). But still the HomePods would say, “sorry I can’t find that” when I asked them to play something from my library. So I removed them from the “Home” app on my phone and then restarted them. At which point they now seem to be aware of all of the music in my library.

Very cool to be able to say “hey Siri, shuffle some Antonio Carlos Jobim” and have it just work.

Now to make some playlists!