11.23.14

On Cruise Trip Investments, or Is My Tanzanite Really Worth Anything?

Posted in cruise, tips, travel at 5:08 pm by admin

Before I ended up on online media, I sold cruises for a living and worked in the travel industry. As a young guy I loved ships the way other kids love construction machines or fire engines or race cars or airplanes. I still love sea-going ships. When I worked in the cruise industry, the pay wasn’t so great; in fact, most cruise-only travel agents were housewives looking to make  some extra money or get discounted travel. There were no bonuses, and the commissions never seemed to balance over the base salary. I was among the top ten—and often the top three—salespeople for my agency, which had more than 19 offices for ten years, and never once did my commission level beat my base salary, nor did I ever have insurance coverage. But at the same time, I was an unattached person in my twenties and I made just enough money to keep myself alive. The real benefit, though, was almost unrestricted ship travel.

If I told you the number of cruises I’ve been on, you wouldn’t believe me. I mean it—you really wouldn’t think its possible for a man to work, keep his rent paid, and spend as many days at sea as I did—and not literally be working on the ship itself.   

Let’s just say that I’ve been at sea for way ( way, way) over a hundred days. Break that up into cruises and leave it there. I’m a three-star mariner with Holland America (At least 75 cruise days) , a Platinum cruiser with Carnival ( at least 10 cruises, all mine were 7 days so call that at least 70 days ) , I’ve sailed NCL , Cunard, and all the Princess ships built between the 80s and 90s, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and a countless number of older lines and ships that sadly no longer exist. In fact, it was the smaller, more intimate ships that I loved. While the fad now is to build bigger and more, my preference was always for the older ships that had history attached to them. Yes, they often didn’t have the latest in modern technology, but they represented a time when ships were made as works of art as well as methods of transportation. They were the ships that brought my grandparents, and very possibly your grandparents, from the Old World to the New.

Refurbished, painted white, and put into cruise service, it was these ships that were in the 30,000- to 40,000-ton range that I love and miss, and that are impossible to find except at great expense or by cruising in some of the smaller European countries. In North America, we’ve legislated those ships out of existence with the SOLAS laws. My very first cruise was on the Fair Princess—the Love Boat cruise line—and it went to all the Love Boat ports: Mazatlán, Cabo San Lucas, and Puerto Vallarta! I spent my first night on the Pacific Ocean, having never traveled outside of the country, away from the lights of any city, and I saw more stars in that sky than I ever even new existed. I was hooked. The rest of my group, sponsored by Princess itself, was partying and dancing in the club. Not me. The only thing I wanted to do that trip was be on the water, staring out at the sea, and watching the porpoises jumping in the bow wake.

The Cruise money pit / Tanzanite.

 

One thing I  experienced during that cruise—and on every other cruise since—was the push to buy what was called “investment-grade jewelry and art,” and specifically, Tanzanite. Within my first day on board I started hearing the cruise director urging me not to get off the ship without making sure I got in on getting tanzanite.  I’d never heard of it before, and since the only place I’ve heard of it outside of cruises has been on hope shopping channels and QVC . So what is Tanzanite? 

The Tanzanite Mythology

The mythology behind Tanzanite is that since its discovery in 1967, it’s been found only in “limited quantities,” meaning that according to the lore, it’s only been mined within a 4-kilometre area at the foot of mysterious Mt. Kilimanjaro in darkest Africa and, therefore, is more rare than diamonds themselves, and that after that 4 km area is mined out (which was theoretically supposed to be in the year 2000, and I heard this claim consistently until the year 2000), there will be no more Tanzanite found on earth, as the specific set of geological circumstances that happened to create Tanzanite were so rare, that to have it reproduced in another location would have odds somewhere around a million to one and, therefore, once the Tanzanite in Africa is mined out, the price of it will skyrocket, making the cruise-ship- or cruise-port-bought ring or stone skyrocket in price accordingly.

The Tanzanite Reality as I’ve seen it.

First of all, let me state that I’m not a gemological expert, I’m not a jewellery expert, nor am I an expert in reselling or retail selling. I was a cruise industry professional for over a decade, and I’ve taken enough cruises to qualify as a cruise expert.

There may be value in Tanzanite, but I can’t link to anything here that outright proves it by any company that is not in the business of selling Tanzanite to the public.  If it is there, the value of a stone needs to be established and assessed by an independent gemologist who’s familiar with the Tanzanite market and not in between mai-tai’s, snorkelling, or while in the cab heading back to the ship. From what I’ve found—even on an investment scale—the value lies mostly in mining and not in gemstone holding.

As a buyer, it seems there’s value in knowing the difference between  “true blue” Tanzanite gem versus a brown gem that was converted to blue via laboratory heating, which I’m told is impossible to distinguish at the time of buying and after the treatment is done. What sources I have found on the subject say that “Today almost all retail tanzanite gemstones are heated to increase the hue and  intensity of the colour of blue,” It was discovered that heating the brown Tanzanite stones, which are of lesser value, resulted in turning them a bright blue.

So you’re on a cruise ship and you start hearing these pressured calls to buy Tanzanite.

The first thing you should realize is it’s not the cruise line who’s selling it. In fact, any purchase you make on board the ship is always a third party concession. If you decide or discover that you’ve not gotten the best deal, or theres a problem, you’ll very quickly discover the cruise line throwing the ball elsewhere .  Although you may hear claims that “the company stands behind and guarantees any purchase you make,” you’ll quickly find out  “the company” isn’t the cruise line, but the third party concession, and  the cruise line wants nothing to do with whatever problem you’re having with the transaction  you’ve had with these vendors. The cruise lines relationship to these vendors is that of independent contractors who work out of the ships and pay the cruise line a fee and a cut of the profits.

The cruise director may also direct you to certain stores in ports, whom they also say they stand behind if you have a problem. Here’s the secret , the they who are standing behind your purchase whoever ” they “are, are never the cruise line itself.   So while you may sit there about to reach hand to wallet thinking that Carnival Cruise line, or Royal Caribbean isn’t going to sell you something that they have to warranty with their good name, be advised, on board, they’re doing everything they can to give you the impression that it is the cruise line standing behind your purchase but if you have trouble, you’ll be quick to discover that it isn’t.

You don’t have to believe me on this; a simple Google search will tell you all you need to know about the level of support you’ll actually have once you get home and there’s a problem.

Let’s say you take the piece to your local jeweller and he appraises it for only half or a quarter of the price you paid. The cruise line isn’t going to leap to your defence. The cruise ship is there to make money and so are the stores. While there may be investment-grade Tanzanite out there, you’re never going to be paying truly competitive true market value while on a cruise ship.

Resale value of Tanzanite .

I’ve been cruising since I was 19 years old. I’m 46 now, so that’s 28 years of cruise experience, and I’ve never heard even one time of any person reselling their Tanzanite for anything close to what they bought it for—not one single time. While I was a travel agent, I never once had a client tell me that they resold a gem. And in all the shopping I’ve done, the most valuable thing I’ve ever bought on a cruise (and it was bought as a gift for me) that gave me anything close to resale value was a Rolex watch. Although I’ve found industry papers of organizations that are invested in the gem who say that the top stones have increased in value by 20% over the last 5 years, as well as independent reviews of the industry that site poor management and suggest fixes to improve the overall marketing and value of Tanzanite, I’ve never seen it translate into an investment opportunity for anyone I’ve ever met. An eBay search for Tanzanite doesn’t come up with anything that’s all that stunning either. If the gem (and this is not backed up by anything but personal experience) was as valuable or more valuable than diamonds, you would not see a 4.5-carat gem starting at $17 OBO or a 1.5-carat gem with a buy-it-now of $82. And a search of Amazon comes up with similarly low prices compared with what I’ve seen on cruise ships. If you’re going to buy a gem on a cruise, buy it because you like it, and buy it because it’s worth the price that you pay for it as something that you will own and wear, but don’t buy it because you think you’re going to get home and turn it over, because if that were the case, everyone would be doing it, and we’d all be going on cruises buying gems and sneaking them into the country and reselling them, and that’s just not happening.

tanzaniteClick to enlarge picture of Tanzanite sold on ebay for dollars a karat 

But what about diamonds, they’re forever, right?

Let me first tell you what I discovered after being on cruise ships and knowing many of the people who worked for these companies, drinking with them, and doing other things that frankly I’ll have to save for memoirs once I’m no longer in the job market: The simple truth is that all these companies that are selling these diamonds to be sold in cruise ports (and there are really only two or three big ones that you’re going to be seeing, and under many different covers) will tell you that because you’re buying outside of the States (if you’re an American) that you’re going to save so much money because it’s duty fee, which is also not entirely true. You must claim everything you buy while re-entering your home country, and here’s the truth: Of the big sellers in the Caribbean, the biggest ones  are based in New York City, New Jersey, Chicago, and Switzerland, with very few of the larger ones not owned by some conglomerate that isn’t buying its diamonds from the diamond district in New York to begin with. If duty free/offshore prices are so good, how come the very biggest of these dealers were all present the last time I ported in Alaska? Alaska is a U.S. state, and there’s no duty-free there. 

When these companies send their diamonds to the Caribbean, they’re often sending them from either their New York diamond district headquarters to their own retail outlet establishments to be sold at a profit or selling to others with an additional level of profit that needs to be factored into the resale. I found out that most of the time I could have found better prices by going to the diamond district in New York City when I lived there (which I did for 37 years). Having spoken to people around the country and the world, it turns out that whether you’re in Spokane, Washington, Guelph, Ontario, Saugerties, New York, or wherever, asking for a good bargain at your local jewellery shop will often get you a better bargain and a better-quality gem.

Be careful” says the Washington Post.

These recommended listings have not been proven to sell higher quality products than any other stores. Carol Wilkins visited St. Maarten in 2008 and found better deals at onshore stores that her cruise line did not advertise.”

Cruise ships promote shore-based stores for a cut of the profits, not on any  benevolent ideology to get you the best price.

Show me the Monet!  Buying onboard art for investment.

Huff calls it “The worst place on a cruise ship.”

Again, know that unless you’re dealing with Princess Cruise Line, you’re working with an outside vendor, most likely Park West Gallery.

Please, if you’re going to take one piece of advice away from this post it is this: If you do not want the memory of your cruise ending up with the feeling that you’ve been playing a rigged carnival game, then never buy art on a cruise! There are simply no good deals on art at sea. The only possible way this makes sense is if you see a print you like and buy it, but knowing that you’ll never be able to sell it for anything near the price you’ve paid, and also knowing that you could have bought the same print on shore for a quarter of the price. But if that’s what makes you happy, then by all means, go ahead. 

There have been many complaints made against Park West Gallery and other on-board art auctioneers, and if you want to read a book by a man with the inside scoop, I believe Ship for Brains by David Bruns covers it, and if you want to read an insider’s view of the industry, his whole series on living and working onboard ship is interesting and worthy of a read

What’s the secret to what I should buy on board a cruise?

The secret is this: The cruise lines know that most people innately feel bad about the amount of money they’re spending on vacation. Paying $9.00 for a margarita we could buy on land for $4.00 makes us want to do something to feel better about spending all that money on ourselves. Deep in the back of our minds we want to justify the $300 we spent in the casino on a whim before lunch, or the $100 in tchotchkes that will probably just end up in a drawer at home. We want a reason to justify pampering ourselves, to be able to say, “It’s okay honey. We didn’t lose money.” Whether that means scoring big at bingo or buying a signed Picasso print, we tend to look for something that will make us feel better about our self-indulgence and come home feeling like we didn’t just drain our bank accounts on a huge party that’s now over.The cruise lines and shore stores know this, and they speak to the reptilian part of the brain that convinces us we’re going to get a deal that the other 4,000 people on our ship—and the other 12,000 people in port on that day alone—are not going to get, as if we’ve sniffed out some sort of steal that everyone else has missed. It’s easy to fall for when you’re jacked up on booze, hot and sweaty, in a strange environment, and are being pressured by people whose job it is to talk us into making that purchase. But it’s our duty to be good consumers and protect ourselves from being taken advantage of. Bear in mind that you don’t have the same protections at sea or in third-world ports that you do at home. Do your research and realize that no matter what it is, chances are you’ll be able to find it at home.     

When should I buy jewellery, art, or anything else while on vacation?

Go ahead and pamper yourself while on vacation if you see something that you would buy at the list price at your local department store or jewellery store, and that you would have no interest in trying to resell. If you see a $100 pair of pearl earrings that you’d like to wear every day and you’re not interested in them for their resale value, then go ahead and buy them. If it’s something you’ll enjoy having and using and the price tag isn’t important to you or anyone else, go for it!

Never Buy

Items that are mechanical and are not covered by a manufacturer’s warranty from your home country. Those $10 watches that go on sale the last day of the cruise? Often they’ll last about as long as a $10 watch would. Gadgets like cameras, that might be broken out of the box, are often grey market items that you’ll have issues getting serviced unless they’re covered by a manufacturer’s warranty that’s valid where you live. Be careful that the DVD you want is the right zone for your country.

Buying in port— Or -“The natives will not be insulted if you don’t negotiate over that $10 T-shirt. It’s not part of their culture, and most of the time they think you’re a di*k, oh, and you’re ruining it for the rest of us.”

If there’s one thing that cruise directors do that completely muck up our relationships with the people who live in the ports, it’s that they spread this totally bullshit mythology that  the people at whatever island will be insulted if for some reason you don’t negotiate on whatever item you’re considering buying.

This is factually wrong. There are a few cultures, in the Middle East and Asia where part of the process of conducting business there is a cultural standard of negotiating, but none of the place that your cruise ship is stopping, especially if you’re in the Caribbean , South America or even the more popular parts of Asia have this as part of the culture, where they’ll be insulted if you don;t bargain, nor in fact do they want to bargain. 

What ends up happening more often is that people carry it way too far. If you’re looking at buying a T shirt in Mexico that the vendor is looking to sell 3 for $10 , and you offer him $5.00 for the three T-Shirts, the only thing you’re going to do is

A-piss him off and

B-If enough people do it, he’s going to raise his price to $20  so that people can bargain him down to  the $10 that he wanted in the first place.

Again, your vacation isn’t a profit making adventure, What I see time and time again is people who have paid big chunks of their salary to go on these once in a lifetime vacations wasting their entire time in port arguing over a few cents on a piece of shit T-shirt that most of the time they’re never going to wear more than once or twice anyway.

Think of the amount of money you’ve spent on your cruise, then think about how much of that limited amount of time you have to be in that port.

Usually six hours, eight to ten if you’re lucky.  Is it really that important for you to take maybe  a sixth of the time you’ll spend on this tropical paradise worrying about paying $5 less on some $10 thing? You should negotiate when you’re buying high ticket items, and how you should negotiate is using the low stress technique which i’m going to lay out for you.   

Marks easy way to negotiate while in port 

You see a vendor who has something that you want. The vendor is there to sell you stuff, he wants you to buy it from him. You ask him one simple question about the cost, by doing this, you’re letting him know you’re interested in it. Thats all the vendor needs to start focusing on you .

If the price he quotes you is higher than you want to pay or you think there’s some wiggle room in there, then you say “ No thanks, too much” and you go and start to walk out or walk away.

I promise you, if he or she’s at all capable of letting that item go at a lower price they will call you back or even follow you out of the store.

Once this happens you should have an idea of what you’re willing to pay for it, not a maybe number, the real number that you’re willing to buy the item at if the vendor hits . If the vendor asks you want you want to pay, give him that number. Remember he isn’t there to lose money, he’s there to make money to his family, so don’t insult him.

He will either counter with another price, or ask you what you’re willing to pay for the item . If he asked you what you’re willing to pay, you respectfully tell him  I can only afford $X .  If he says no, then again, walk away, you should fully be prepared to either walk away here, or to pay his price.

Thank him, and go walking away. If he lets you walk, it means he cannot sell you the item at your price. But be human. I’ve seen people try and negotiate in drugstores over the price of a bottle of Pepto Bizmol or a bag of potato chips. I’ve seen people who have gotten discount on getting 4 T shirts for $10 annoying the shit out of the vendor because even though originally he was selling them 2 for $10 and now he’s giving you 100% more than his original offer they then want to pay $5.00 for it, and then when I talk to the people they tell me “ Oh, the vendors enjoy it, They’d be insulted if I didn’t try and bargain them down” Let me tell you that’s 100% not what that vendor was thinking, he was thinking that you were an insulting stingy disrespectful asshole , and what the guy is going to do is raise his prices all around, because he knows that the next time he gets another stingy disrespectful asshole like this who takes up a half hour of his time bargaining with him  only at the very last second to try and cut the price by half after he’s already given out twice as much product he has somewhere to go negotiation wise.

Remember also that you’re here as someone lucky enough to take a luxury vacation, it doesn’t matter where you are on the earnings scale at home if you’re rich or poor, in these countries that you’re visiting most of the time you represent people who have access to jobs and opportunities that these people will never have. When you go back to your luxurious cruise ship after spending the day in the oppressive caribbean heat, they go home to their shanties and use whatever money they’ve gotten from selling you T shirts or bracelets or braiding your hair in order to feed their families and send their kids to school. I personally get no joy of out of buying some trinket if after I’ve left, the vendor is angry, and I’m angry and I’ve just spend 30-45 minutes of my time at this beautiful tropical port arguing over $5.  If you’re buying a piece of jewelry, and you’re spending a few hundred dollars , absolutely do some negotiating, but after all the cruises I’ve taken, I’ve still found that walking away seems to be the best negotiation tactic, because as soon as he calls me back and asks me what i can pay, I have a number in my head, and often if I give that number, and this is really the number that if he gives it to me I’ll take out my wallet. I’ve gotten the biggest discounts this way, the least amount of arguing.

11.12.14

Rosette/Philae landing coverage

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:05 pm by admin

11.07.14

An iOS User Tests The Android Waters

Posted in Computer stuff at 10:09 pm by admin

Q: How many Apple iPhone early adopters does it take to change a light bulb? A: 3001. 1 to do the work and 3000 to go online and bitch about the lack of obscure features!

For years I was a solid iOS user, and for as many years my wife mercilessly mocked my love of my iOS products, from being accused of being a “fanboi” to a “ Devotee of Steve” my adoring wife left no stone unturned in her incessant distain of my iDevices.

When it came time for her to get her first smart phone it was a no brainer that she went to the dark side and chose a Samsung Galaxy S 3, with a larger screen and many more options than seemed to be available on my iPhone 4. She was in love with the ability to customize it to the Nth degree, and eventually I started becoming impressed with what she could do. Since my phone contract expired within a week of hers, I tried a Galaxy S3 for a few days, before deciding to go with the iPhone 5.

I’m using that iPhone 5 today. That Android S3 experience is not the sole source for my opinion of Android- I eventually went out and bought myself an Android Tablet that I still own and use today.  But I found that owning the Galaxy S3, coming directly from an iPhone, showed me that I was unable to establish what I felt like was a relationship with the technology.

I know that sounds terribly hipster thing of me to say, but hey, I’m an Apple user, I guess one of the things that comes with being an Apple user is you get to sound like a hipster and no one is surprised :) 

My iPhone enabled me in a positive way that the S3 didnt. I’ve spoken before about the fact that I’m dyslexic, and Ive also spoken before about the fact that my iDevices have been the tools that have helped me bridge the gap with a good deal of what is called executive dysfunction. This isn’t just unique to me- Im not the only one to have found organizational help by using a Tablet for executive functionality.

Now, whereas I felt that my iPhone was helping with the executive dysfunction that is innate to many people who have learning disabilities, I found the Android phone challenging it. The iPhone is surely a more simplistic device to operate, but I felt like it almost also knew what I was trying to do before I input commands into it. Yet it felt like with the Galaxy I had to go to great lengths to get the S3 to do that, to get to the point where it was enabling my work as opposed to being a thing that created more obstacles. Something that I’m trying to use to work better, but that was in the end just creating more work.

I found some notes on the experience that are very representational on the issues I have with the OS as a whole. Please forgive the grammar and formatting as they are literally just jotted down as I was experiencing the OS and in the days immediately afterwards, they were for my personal reference in a discussion that I was having online, but were never supposed to be formatted for publishing in a blog post.

When I got my Galaxy S3 phone , one of the things that really bothered me was that a lot of the stock Samsung features didn’t work. The calendar on a Samsung Galaxy phone didn’t allow you to invite other people to an appointment, and wouldnt sync with other calendar programs like Outlook. I had to download a third party calendar program that would allow all my calendars to communicate , but I was very surprised that I could not invite anyone to an appointment in the stock Samsung calendar ( I’ve since found out that Samsung has pushed a fix to address this, but that it’s also caused severe latency issues with a lot of people until they pushed the KitKat update ).  I use my calendar to schedule my entire life, some days thats down to 15 minute increments of client and conference calls. If there’s any one thing that my mobile devices have been a blessing for, it’s been to replace the faux leather appointment book that I walked around with and replaced every year for nearly ten years.

(At the end of the day none of the stock calendars on any device I use are perfectly satisfying .  Though the stock iOS calendar works, it had at the time that I bought it a problem communicating with appointments made in the Google calendar .  I dumped it too in favour of Calendars 5, my OS X calendar is now helped by an app called Sunrise which helps it communicate to the outside world and on my windows computers I’m still on Outlook .)

The stock email program was pretty useless as well. I couldn’t get my personal domain to feed into it without a great deal of trial and error. My personal domain sits on Yahoo! servers.

I’m not even a huge fan of the Mac or iOS stock email either.  I’m someone who cut their teeth on Outlook .  I find the Mac emails use of rich text as opposed to HTML annoying when putting attachments onto emails, 

You have to understand, coming from an iPhone where all i had to do was put in my email address, put in the password and the system setup the email address and al the folders that I had created , it was a bit of a setback right away

It was also filled with stock bloatware , and between the OS and the stock apps there were 8 gigs used on the phone before I even started using the thing- half the space on the phone!   Some of it’s great, like the 50 gigs of free dropbox space I got for buying and Android device. I was more than happy to have dropbox pre-installed. But there were other apps- in fact both my Android phone and Tablet had preinstalled apps on them.  I was able to delete some of them, but other times there were third party apps pre installed that I couldn’t delete . My iPhone came with some Apple crap that I didn’t want (like iBooks), but there are a bunch more that came with the S3 and the Tab3 .

storage

Let me give you another example of why I didn’t like it. My wife doesnt want to see advertisements online, which is terribly ironic given that internet advertisements have put food and clothing in and on her and our kids for the last ten years, but that’s beside the point.

She found an app called adblock. She installed the app, which involved a good deal of customization as you needed to run the web traffic through a proxy server and do a bunch of other tweaks to the settings of the phone and after she had it set up and used it for a while she noticed some lag and latency in her browser.  So, she went and uninstalled it, but the proxy settings that had been installed as part of the app setup didn’t get uninstalled when she deleted the app, and her browser now wouldn’t work at all.  By that time she’d installed a few other apps and had no way to be sure which one was interfering with what, and it took her a few days to figure out what had gone wrong where and to back out of it. She had to go online and figure out which changes had to be made in order to re-set the settings on the browser so that the phone could work again. This never happens with iOS.

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So when people criticize Apple because of the closed off nature of their ecosystem I agree with them, but if I install an app that for some reason doesn’t work as advertised , then the app may not work (and I can usually tell by the reviews before installing it ), but no program has access to the core level of the devices functionality to the point where any app or feature I use on a non jailbroken device is going to make me have to worry about hurting the core functionality of the phone.  The app either does what it says it will do, or it may not do what it says it will do, but my phone or iPad will not be affected in it’s day-to-day performance  by it past that.

I’m not looking for a device that needs to be constantly tweaked in order to work the way I want it to work.  I use my phone and Tablets for business and to help me get stuff done. I felt like the Samsung Galaxy devices I’ve owned both the Tablet and the Galaxy 3 phone were adding an extra layer of work to those processes.

  I also found that i wasn’t able to give it a fair shot while was under the pressure of just having a few days to determine which phone I was going to stay with. I knew that I loved my iPhone 4, and knew for sure that I would love the iPhone 5.  I “thought”  that the Galaxy was impressing me, but I wasn’t really sure if those things that were impressing me were really surface things, or if they were deep things that were going to enable my productivity the way my iDevices  definitely did.

Having just a few days to make this decision was also not letting me give it a chance to stand up on its own, because as I set the thing up, I realized I was also trying to set it up as I would an iPhone and I was expecting it to function like an iPhone, which it wouldn’t do, because it wasn’t one and it wasn’t fair of me to get frustrated with the thing for not performing like one, which I was.

I finally realized that I was at that time not ready to give up the comfort level I had established with my iPhone, and so I gave it back and got the iPhone 5.  Later however I realized that when under a deadline like that, it is in no way fair to give a platform a test .

The way for me to best test Android was when under no deadline, when I wasn’t pressed to lose one device that had proven very useful to me over another that I was unsure about. The thing that finally drove me over to actually buying an Android Tablet was when I was professionally referred to as an expert in mobile technologies. Basically one of my business associates knew that I thoroughly used my iPhone , and iPad and though I had professionally sold products relations to mobile technology before, I didn’t feel like I had any expertise beyond the products I personally used, and I also didn’t feel that I had a holistic understanding of  the unique reasons that someone would use one platform versus another and I was potentially being asked to participate on a project that looked at preferences of one over another.  I think that there are deeper demographics to be gotten past price point and age. There’s a reason why my wife is using Android and I’m using iOS, and it has nothing to do with our availability of money for her devices versus mine. She prefers the Android OS because she has a greater feeling of control over how her device is set up and what it does.

At the end of the day yes, the great divide surely has to do with a price point, but between tech heads, there’s also a preference scale, because there are still people who are paying $800 for a Nexus Android Tablet that could have spent less money on an iPad. What do those people like about the Android experience?

Since I hadnt spent a great deal of time with my Galaxy S3, I needed to understand the Android system better.  Thinking on this line, I went out and bought a new Tablet, from what I thought was the most popular manufacturer, which was Samsung.  Their newest model (conveniently, the one I could most easily afford), was the Galaxy Tab 3.

samsung

When I bought it, in the winter of 2013  it came preloaded with 4.1.2 JellyBean, with an upgrade to Kit Kat 4.4.2 that came out in September of 2014 .

I’ll be honest, as a Tablet owner going out and buying the newest Tablet that Samsung had on the market at the time and finding out that I could not download Kitkat was upsetting. I thought Newest Tablet, newest OS. I was pissed off that not only did it not come with KitKat, but that when speaking to some Samsung people on reddit, they were unsure about if or when Kitkat would come to the Tablet at all.

KitKat was already on the market, So even though I had heard talk, mostly from the people selling me Android Tablets that eventually one day they would supposedly push Kitkat to this device, I was truly shocked when 13 months later all of a sudden my software update showed the Kitkat update ready to be downloaded. I had given up on that a long time before

Now I realize it’s difficult to compare an iPad Air which comes out of the box at a minimum of $399 with a Tablet that comes out of the box at $189 retail price, but I’m not going to be comparing the speed, processors , the pixels or the amount of storage (well, except that the Samsung has the ability to add on a microSD card that can bring the total storage up to 64 gigs, which is far superior to Apple’s refusal to add in any form of user removable/addable storage and which I think shows a much more consumer friendly face).

Neither am I going to deeply compare the gestures because again that’s something that I’ve been trained in from using my apple devices. I will say this- I find it odd that there arent consistent gestures between Android devices , but I find it even more odd that there are not consistent gestures between Samsung devices. The Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Tab 2 Tablet that I bought for my wife each have different gestures to them. For example, the gesture to take a screenshot on the Galaxy S3 phone is a karate chop motion with the side of your hand over the screen, The gesture for the Galaxy Tab 3 is a simultaneous click on the power and home button that seems to only work 1 out of 10 times, the Galaxy Tab 2 is the power button and the volume down button on a simultaneous click. The way that you take a screenshot on any iOS device is by clicking the power and home button simultaneously.  I understand that this variation might be considered one of the promotion points to some people, however quite honestly I think having different gestures between devices that are within the same family like the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Tab 3 are confusing for the user.

Email & Calendar 

The first thing that I had as an issue was the same calendar problems I had on the phone where I couldn’t invite people to appointments but additionally,none of the swipe keyboards would work inside the email app except the stock samsung swipe app, which was nowhere as good as the official Swype app nor the Google swipe and type app.

I was lucky to get to speak with Erick who worked at Samsung about this in a reddit thread and his comments are here. My Reddit account is not on this page, my comments have been deleted, but his answers are still there with the comments of others.

 .reddit1

 Click image to view

 

 

Erick’s advice was that it wasn’t a Samsung issue, and yet, I was only experiencing the issue in Samsung mail and the other advice he gave me was to use another app which unfortunately as I said before, the only one I could get to work within the email application was the Samsung swipe keyboard,  and that one was not nearly as good as any of the more popular ones. It prompted quite a bit more discussion on the page but all led to an agreement of this at the end

redditshit

But SamsungErick did give me a month of reddit gold for commenting . There was additional discussion about the bloatware I had previously touched on in this same thread , but in association with their more expensive real iPad competing device.

reddit2

Click image  to view

Setting up the Tablet taught me the core differences between people who prefer Android.

This to me was the biggest lesson.  In the process of setting up the Tablet, I and my wife spent a full week downloading launchers, helper apps, configuring the apps that I liked that my wife had, my Calibre library. The difference between an iOS user and an Android user was very clear here.

When I set up my iPad or iPhone, I go into the settings menu, select the options I want, and then from there I go and download the apps I want. The apps work as they are advertised to work, or they do not work the way they are advertised to work. In each Android app that I downloaded, almost in the majority of cases, the most useful apps also took additional time to configure to work in the way I wanted them to work. After my wife had helped me set the tablet up the first time, I then went back to factory default and looked at how much work had to go into resetting what i had just seen my wife assist me in setting up, and again, it took about three days of time of configuring (while also using the thing and working and carrying on with life ) to get it perfectly set up to where I felt like I was happy leaving it as it was and ready to just take it on the road with me.

Additionally however it also required much more ongoing day-to-day maintenance than my iOS devices ever did. I had to periodically clear up Ram from running processes to get it to be less sluggish and reset running background apps. In that way it was much more like a Windows device.  It required that I look at what background apps were running and how much resources were being used, and I had to frequently kill those apps to free up new resources. even though this was something I was continually advised to do by almost everyone who i considered an expert in using the system, when I performed these functions, the Android system still warned me that I was doing something that was contraindicated to how the device was supposed to be run. 

It seems to me that at the core of the people who like Android there’s a personality characteristic of people who like to have an enormous amount of control over their devices and the settings of them, and it also seems to me that part of their enjoyment is in setting up the device and configuring it, while I, and I believe many others who have stayed with the iOS platform get no joy out of the configuration of my device.

I want to download the apps I want to use, and I want the thing to work, and I get frustrated if I have to spend an hour configuring one app to behave in the way i want it to behave, whereas my wife will happily spend hours looking on google trying to figure out why her phone or an app on her phone is not running properly and will also happily spend hours reconfiguring that app in the setting of it to get it to run properly. I want the dammed thing to work, and if I install an app that doesn’t work, then I delete the app and go onto the next thing. Apple devices are made for people who are not interested in and don’t enjoy tracking down the mystery of configuring. These are exercises I expect to have to go through when I’m administrating PC’s, Mac’s and Servers, but I do not want to deal with stuff like this on my mobile devices. As an admin of several databases professionally I’m not someone who enjoys setting up the various details in the configuration of the output that I’m looking to get, other than the times I’m able to solve a problem that no one else can figure out how to solve. 

I’m happy when the software does what it says it will do when people enter their data the way its supposed to be entered and when I can run my reports with the least amount of trouble. As a technology person I expect that while dealing with PC’s or Mac’s or their derivative technologies and the software that goes on them I’ll have to deal with looking up unexpected errors, applications that aren’t performing to spec, and unexpected bugs. These are necessary fights that need to be fought. As a mobile device user (and I’m sure this is as a result of having cut my teeth on the iPad as opposed to having been exposed to the Android OS first),  I just want the thing to work. I want my options to be set up so I can maintain my privacy and so that I can do what’s important to me, but I want the configuration process to be as obvious as possible and in plain English so that I dont have to learn a new language to program the software or hardware to do what I want it to.

Just to be more detailed about the point I made above, I think truly that if Android had hit the market with their mobile OS before Apple did , then we would regard Android as the standard, and all the necessary configuration, and available customization that comes with Android devices would be the norm.  We would likely regard iOS as a much more limited OS in its ability to be customized.

As it is, thats not what happened. The iPhone was released first, sold tremendously and imprinted as the standard OS that all others were judged against. For years each new device has had to suffer not being judged on its own, but as to how it compares with its closest iOS device. Everything since the release of the first iOS devices all other platforms have been compared to either the iPhone or the iPad . It’s one of the biggest issues that still plague the industry, it’s going on  even today. Recently Microsoft paid the NFL $400,000,000 to use their surface Tablets, and yet they continually referred to them as either iPad’s or iPad like devices.   These types of issues affect people and the way people view the technology. Another hit came recently when CNN in their recent election coverage was shown to be using their Microsoft Surface Tablets as iPad stands.

And yet Android has been an operating system filled with firsts. Many features that iOS users are only getting to enjoy now with the arrival of iOS8 and Yosemite have been standard Android features for years. Things like third party swipe type keyboards, widgets, real time dictation, interactive notifications and the ability to transmit texts from phone to Tablet were all Android features or features that were only available if you had jailbroken your device. Even iCloud Drive and the iCloud photo library are concepts that were first explored via the Android OS.

On rooting and the multitude of flavours

So having established that Android users seem to love the challenge of getting into the guts of deep configuration, there also seems to be this pervasive answer to all of my questions that rooting my device would solve all my problems. In fact, almost all the hardcore Android users I’ve been exposed to seem to root their devices. When I make an investment in an OS, I dont want to be forced into rooting or jailbreaking my device, the apps that are out there should work and the device should work the way it comes out of the box, because for me personally, if I muck something up and then need to factory reset, I don;t want to have to factory reset and then have to go through the process of re-flashing the rom. It’s an additional step that I just prefer not to take, and when I’m dealing with iOS devices of course depending where you are Jailbreaking voids the warranty . I’m not someone who enjoys jailbreaking, I’ve seen the benefits it provides to people, and on iOS devices it seems that it makes many of those deep customizations that android users have available to people using iOS devices, but at the same time endangers the device of bricking  and I would prefer not to do it, thats just a personal preference.

Additionally frustrating, but universally accepted is that there are so many devices out there with so many flavours of Android running on them, its frustrating to find an app that does something that you really want to be able to do, only to find out that the app isn’t designed to work on your flavour of Android or just not designed to run on your device. I tried to put Blackberry messenger on my Galaxy Tab and apparently Blackberry in their wisdom doesn’t feel that Tablets are mobile devices I guess and therefore should not have access to blackberry messenger

bbm scotia

And then there’s the matter of my bank. 

I’m a Canadian these days and because of that I use a Canadian bank,and they in their wisdom have decided that I should not be able to use their mobile banking application from my tablet .. it  isn’t that it’s not Tablet friendly it’s just not friendly with this version. I have no idea what that means- is it not friendly with Kitkat and previously Jellybean, is it not compatible with my version of these OS’s? Is it another word for not compatible with Tablets? But here’s another thing, when you make an iOS app, you may make an iPhone only or iPad only app, but all iPhone apps will work on iPad, and if you make an app chances are it’s going to work with any and all of the devices going back at least 5 years . I used my iPad 1 until right before the holidays of 2013. I sold it then for a respectable $180 close to holiday time on eBay. I would have taken probably half that, but the auction went up and the bidder bid and there you have it , but right up until the moment I wiped it for the new owner, I was hitting some apps for iOS6 that i couldn’t use, but the device was functional and we were already at the iPad Air, 6 versions of the iPad later and I was still using the majority of my apps. I couldn’t download updates that were past iOS 6, but I could still use the older versions. The iPad 2 at the time of this writing is still supported by Apple and can load iOS8. It’s no speedy, but it runs. And for those of my American friends who think I might be banking with some Podunk banks here in the northlands, Scotiabank, while not serving the US greatly, is otherwise one of the biggest banks in the world and yet I cannot use my online banking with them using what was then my brand new Android device, and I still cannot use them. If this were iOS for iPhone I’d be able to use it on my iPhone or iPad . Now maybe theres a way by flashing the rom some of you would say that I could get both of these apps to work, but  I’m uninterested in doing it. At the end of the day it;s just easier for me to pick up my iPad .

What if instead I had an $500  Android Tablet?

Here’s where I think I may have experienced a significant difference in effectiveness. The Galaxy Tab I used was sluggish, and tended to crash. It’s at the end of the day impossible to put performance against performance when you’re comparing an iPad air to a $180 Tablet that can be had for $150 on sale ( in fact what I paid for it) . There are issues of Ram and processing power that are impossible to match. One of the big difficulties I had in doing a fair comparison was making sure that i keep the frustration of having a device that is such a lower cost alternative. If I had bumped myself to to a Galaxy note 10.1

Things I did not compare

The display on the iPad is  due to its 2048 x 1536 pixels , while the Galaxy Tab manages 1280 x 800. The iPad is so far ahead it’s not fair to compare. if I had wanted to compare Android versus iOS on display I would have had to buy an equal Tablet display wise on the Android side which I was not able to d and so have not discussed that in my comparison,

The iPad air has Apples A7 Chip in it, its duel ARMv8 core beats Androids Duel intel Atom Z2560 hands down. Again it’s a matter of me not paying for hardware thats fair to compare, so I’m leaving that comparison out of this. 

Do I like my Android Tablet?

The answer is yes, I enjoy using my Android tablet , I use it to consumer content much more than I use it to produce content. I use it as a reader,I use the browser, I use it to consumer video content, and for a device that cost less than a $160 I think thats pretty worthwhile. I would love to explore some of the more advanced Android tablets that compete processor wise and pixel wise with the iPad so I could do a comparison won system speed, crashes, and stability.

Would I buy another Android product?

 

In the face of the functionality that I get from my iOS devices, right now that answer is no. However as deeply set I am in not exploring Android any further, is as deeply set as my wife is in never exploring the idea of getting an iOS device. I guess it’s really a matter of to each their own.

10.31.14

There is a new album dropping by an old favourite band

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:21 pm by admin

Heres an old track remastered with new video

10.22.14

Please Help My Dear Friends Who Are fighting Cancer

Posted in announcments, friends, help at 7:27 pm by admin

Please help my friend Tom and Susan McAnulty. Sue is battling through a second occurrence of Large b cell non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Plus Tom’s brother died the day before yesterday and they are underwater with costs associated and relating to all of this, I’m asking you as a personal favor to please go to the fundraiser at http://www.gofundme.com/chegak and consider donating a few dollars if you can. Thank you so much!

The System Startup Sound and the Lessons It Taught Me About the Mac App Store

Posted in Computer stuff at 1:24 pm by admin

Editing help for this post by Richard Groff and by Empty Sink Publishing

First let me say that while the Mac App Store is filled with good and helpful software, it’s not always the low-cost place that the iOS App Store usually is, or the monitored ecosystem where most of the information about the apps fully explains what they can do. You also often find outdated apps, and some great examples of this are apps I found while trying to kill the startup sound.

 

Every time you boot up a Mac, it makes this sound: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZ1mpI01evk

 

And it makes this sound loudly, so if someone is snoozing on a couch or a bed near your computer, they’ll be woken up or at least disturbed by it. I thought for sure there was a way to change, delete, or disable the sound (as Windows has allowed you to do forever). When I couldn’t find any obvious way to change this behaviour, checked the Mac App Store for a solution.

 

Here are the results I got in the Mac App Store for apps that said they would turn off or quiet the startup sound. If you look at the reviews, there are a lot of people who came looking for a solution to the same problem I had, only to discover that they work only in OS X Snow Leopard, a four-year-old version of the OS, but nowhere does it say that—except in reviews from disgruntled users. So using the Mac App Stores means hoping someone got burned before you did and took the time to write a review of the app, warning others to stay away from it. It’s not unlike the Android App Store, which often has apps that don’t work with all flavours of Android. Unlike the iOS or Android App stores, however, the average price of a Mac app is much higher than the usual $.99 to $1.99 for your average iOS or Android mobile app. So I was still stuck with this obnoxious sound. Could I simply change the sound? Find a WAV file I liked and stick it in there so the startup sound would either be quiet or something I liked? Unfortunately, no.

quietapps

I called Apple about it and the first thing they did was recommend buying one of the apps (that no longer work with OSX Mavericks). They then give me a piece of code to run in Terminal, but it didn’t work. I found another Terminal command on Reddit that actually worked for a week and then somehow the startup sound reappeared. I still haven’t found any way to get rid of it.

 

 

The Mac App Store as a whole was surprising insofar as so many apps are outdated but still available, as well as the cost of some of the software. Being so accustomed to buying iOS apps, the Mac App Store prices can be shocking. Grand Theft Auto 3 for iOS is only $4.99, while the Mac version will run you $9.99. Some $5 iOS apps go for $35 to $45 for the Mac. Of course, the Mac versions don’t run on mobile devices; they’re full versions of software packages like Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office for Mac. Here is a sample of photography software on the Mac App Store and, as you can see, there are free apps and some for $2.99, but quite a few for $79.99 and up to $129.

 

appstoreWhat you need to be careful of when buying in the Mac App Store is to make sure you aren’t getting a less-updated or less-feature-rich version of the software by not buying it directly from the manufacturer.

 

Programmers can sell their apps in the Mac App Store, with Apple getting a 30% cut of the sale price.  Software producers will often put a version of their program in the App Store with some of the features stripped out, so it pays to compare the App Store version with the version the manufacturer sells on its own webpage. You might lose the ability of software automatically updating itself, but you’ll often gain a few dollars in savings or more features. All in all, the Mac App Store functions as a distribution centre for fully functioning software packages that you’d often be paying full price for regardless of where you buy.

 

 

 

The Camera

I’m not that comfortable talking on video, but when I do, it works fantastically well and it makes me feel like I’m on the Jetsons. jetsons
I’ve got exactly three people who I regularly FaceTime with and two of them are my mom and my brother. No matter how uncomfortable I am with the idea of someone seeing me as I sit there fidgeting, you can’t say no to your mom.

 

Getting back to the camera, it’s easy to use, works well in low light, and it’s the first webcam that I’ve actually ever used. It’s amazing how well it works, even if I am uncomfortable with people seeing me twitch and tic, and it works equally well on my Mac, my iPad, or my iPhone—even when I’m using bandwidth data with my cell phone instead of wifi. I’ve had conversations with people that seemed as if they were standing next to me and only rarely had a lag or connection issues. It’s funny because I’ve been paranoid about accidentally broadcasting myself for years. Once, early in my career, I was using my laptop during a Webex conference, and because I was working out of my home office and it was summer and I was in an non air-conditioned room, I was working shirtless in my sweatpants. I was exploring the Webex interface and hit a button and WHAM! Suddenly I was there looking at myself, shirtless and bedraggled, on the webcam that I didn’t even know my laptop had. Nor did I know that some offices were broadcasting to other offices via webcam. Luckily, I hadn’t actually appeared on their screens. The software thankfully stopped with a dialog box asking me to confirm whether I wanted to broadcast via cam or not. I hit “no” as quickly as possible and then for years afterwards kept a piece of paper taped over my laptop’s webcam, both to prevent me from accidentally broadcasting myself and to prevent hackers from enabling my camera without my knowing it, not that there are packs of hackers who are looking to get footage of mid-forties nebbishy Jewish guys working on Excel sheets!

 

iPhoto is fun to play with and easy to use. Editing pictures is a breeze and the effects are pretty much automatic. You can really explore the creative side of owning a Mac without having to know a lot about image manipulation and editing. It also creates great videos. I made one for YouTube to help out some dear friends.  Made in low light and very much off the cuff, I did only a slight bit of editing and it worked fantastically well. Exporting the video was fast and the USB 3 connection makes moving large files around a pleasure.

 

USB 3

In one word—WOW! I’ve never had a USB 3–enabled device before and the difference in speed from USB 2 when moving data is amazing. I moved 100 gigs of media files from a drive through a USB hub onto my desktop in about ten minutes.

 

Antivirus?

People who are Mac users swear that you don’t need to use antivirus software with a Mac, but that’s not something I’m ever going to be comfortable doing.   Just weeks after putting this thing online, in fact, the largest exploit ever affecting Macs was discovered. Though there are generally fewer viruses out there coded for Mac, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t out there, or that there’s stuff in the wild that hasn’t been found yet.   Because I’m running Windows in a virtual machine, I have to be careful about malware or viruses cross-contaminating when sharing folders between the Windows virtual system and the Mac.   Just last week a buddy of mine got caught out when one of the largest ad networks was distributing ransomware. In this attack, he had his entire hard drive encrypted and was using an external drive to back up to, and was  using a hot backup, meaning that the backup drive was  connected to the computer at the time of infection.

Usually this means that the external drive will also become encrypted along with the primary drive. The goal of the ransomware encryption virus authors is to do everything they can to get to all your data encrypted, so that you have nothing left to install a backup from . This is supposed to leave you with two options , you pay them the ransom to decrypt your drive, or you live with losing all your data. However if you’re smart, and you’re backing up your files to a drive that’s not “hot” set up in a way so that the virus cannot get to your backup, then you have a third option, and that is to format your drive, and then to reinstall from your most recent backup. .

If you have a perfectly up to date backup of your system you can reinstall the operating system from the point before the infection and simply go about your business . However the virus writers know something, and that is that even the biggest companies often don’t have good digital hygiene, and aren’t always as responsible as they should be about about backing up their systems, I recently had a friend who was affected by this same ransomware, and he ended up paying the ransom , because his company was smart enough to run a drive imager  ( cloner) on their main system, along with a another time machine like backup so they had a redundant secondary backup to rely on as I do ( I run time machine and  I clone the drive), but unlike what I do, they kept both of those backup’s on the same external drive , and when the infection hit, it sought out the external drive, and it wiped out both of his backup’s and he was left with nothing to restore from

 

So if it can get at your external drives where you’re likely storing your backup’s it will , and it will encrypt that as well. Either you pay €300 or you have an encrypted drive that you can do nothing with. One way to avoid this as I’ve mentioned is to image or clone the drive. for Macs  something like Carbon Copy Cloner will get the job done.  This program run an image of your hard drive  daily or weekly, however often you’re comfortable with it, and you store that on a different, removable drive that your Apple Time Machine backups are on, and if the worst case scenario comes to pass, you simply  format the infected drive clean as factory fresh ,take the cloned hard drive image and lay in back over the drive and all your data is back.

 

Why am I worrying you about windows infection vectors when you obviously are here to hear about Macs?

Because almost all the people using Mac these days are also running Windows in some form or another. Windows viruses , especially infective ones like Ransomware that encrypt your hard drive, can and do leak through and infect Macs. When my buddy wanted to see if his infected computer’s backup was ok to use, he couldn’t trust looking at the file on his windows machine. Even though he was pretty sure that all the virus itself was gone and only the encrypted files were left over, he couldn’t be 100% sure.

None of the antivirus software is able to catch ransomware signatures as they aren’t carried like classical viruses.  This encryption occurs by having the virus creator send you a file that looks like one type of file, say a PDF file, but that extension is another type of file that essentially makes you the agent of infection by having you execute the command on your computer that tells it to run the script,  and if that was the case and he plugged in the drive with his last usable backup into it, it would promptly encrypt that too.

So he brought it to me, as I run windows on a virtual machine, as if for some reason the infection is present on that drive and makes it’s way onto my virtual windows desktop, no big deal, I nuke that instance of windows off the virtual machine and create a new one, two minutes later I’m back in business. But what people often do when setting up a VM for windows on a Mac is that they allow file sharing between the two systems so that one can move files downloaded on one OS  through to the other. When this file sharing is set up, if the infectious agent was present and activated on the Windows side,and I did not take steps to completely and totally isolate the Windows virtual machine from my Mac folders it could have and would have gone right on and encrypted my mac hard drive, as well as any external drives that it found connected to that  and I would be left in the exact same helpless state as my friend. As it was , all I had to do was view the drive on my computer to the extent that I needed to , in order to see that it was not  encrypted, and once we saw that we knew that the crypto ransomware had not affected that backup and he wouldn’t have to either pay up or start from scratch again losing all his backed up material. We initiated the operating system and complete drive reimaging from the backup drive, it took about 4 hours that were terrifying as at any moment we could have gotten a message saying that one tiny element had gotten corrupted and therefore made the backup useless, but in the end it worked..

 

Even though there’s about only one mac virus for each 99 windows virus.

 

With every new user like me the system becomes more attractive to virus writers. If the current level of arrogance with Mac users believing that they are above being fooled into clicking on a hidden extension that looks like something harmless and innocuous like a word document or a PDF or JPEG file that turns out to be an executable or script of some sort continues , the Mac system is only going to be a riper, juicier target, and as careful as you are, no one looks at every incoming email that looks legitimate. I’ve seen infection via UPS tracking links in email, what looks like efax inbound faxes, voicemail to email, a PDf that says .PDF but when you look at the full extension by right clicking for the source there’s actually another extension ending, and that’s only associated with one virus- the Cryptowall virus. It’s not that Mac users are as careful as they say they are or more in tune with what links are good and what links aren’t, it’s that the numbers are with us-  as of this moment it doesn’t make sense to target Mac users because the vast majority of computer users aren’t using OS X. in fact, only %6.36 of all computers are running OS X worldwide  but that doesn’t mean that as they become better technology and the fan base grows that some industrious person won’t leverage the next huge virus on mac users. If your computer isn’t significantly slowed down by running an AV, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t in my  mind  be running AV software, for peace of mind and to prevent yourself from becoming a transmission vector.

 

All in All

I’m impressed and happy with my purchase. I’m interested in becoming a power user and learning the ins and outs of the OS, and I’m tremendously looking forward to Yosemite and its interoperability with my mobile devices. Do I think it’s worth the 2K? I’ll have to see how long I’ll be using this computer, how much it costs in upkeep, how much goes wrong with it after AppleCare runs out, and how many of the future operating systems this computer will be capable of running. I’m also interested in seeing how functional it is to use as a business machine in group settings when everyone else is using Windows. Will I end up just booting into Windows the majority of time I’m doing office work, or will I be able to simply export whatever it is I’m working on in a format that’s usable by Windows? There have been a few times when I’ve had to find alternate versions of software that I usually use in Windows. I found this great link which led me to a lot of the starter apps that I would need and I found it to be a great place to start figuring out what apps I needed to get started that I could get for free.

 

BUYING DECISIONS AND TESTING APPS!

Posted in Computer stuff at 1:13 pm by admin

Deciding What to Buy

The first thing that put me off and almost scared me away from Macs altogether, is that there’s no getting into the guts of the current line of Macs (unless I went with the Mac Pro, which was out of my economic reach). There’s no swapping out components, and if there was one thing that still held me back besides finances, it was this. It was likely that for the first time I was about to make a major investment in a piece of technology (aside from my cell phone and tablet) that I myself couldn’t personally maintain if I wanted to. If it got dusty inside, I wouldn’t be able to blow it out. If a cable became disconnected from a drive inside, I wouldn’t be able to pop it back on.

 

Even though Steve Jobs said, “It just works,” that little line of propaganda still wasn’t enough to not scare the willies out of me when buying a Mac. I realized that not only was I unable to service the Machine myself because it would require specialized tools and a specialized skill set, but just by removing the back of the computer, I would void the warranty. I wouldn’t be able to swap out a new hard drive, upgrade the graphics card, or fix a minor issue—everything has to be done by Apple or Apple-certified technicians.

 

One thing that served as a lifeline in keeping me in the purchasing mode was the idea that for a couple of hundred dollars I could buy into Apple Care and for the first three years, at least, anything that broke because of wear and tear would be covered. But for the last ten years, I’ve become used to replacing, upgrading, adding, and fixing my own PC. I doubt that there are any current components in my Windows desktop Machine that were there when I got it ten years ago. It’s probably not at all the same Machine it once was. I doubt there’s anything I havent switched out at least one time. I’ve been able to replace parts as they needed upgrading or as they broke, and I’ve never had to take it to someone who said it was going to cost me $500 to $1,000 to repair it. Not that I’m an expert at fixing my own equipment, because I generally buy the components and use other people to do the dirty work, but I’m sure that if it ever came down to it, I could do the work myself (and have on some occasions, actually).

 

Aside from that fear, I was worried about finding the software I needed, getting used to a bunch of new keyboard shortcuts, and learning how to use a whole new operating system. Would I be buying a $2,000 box and end up booting into Windows all the time, using the Mac OS merely as a novelty? I decided that if I was going to do take the plunge, I would use Windows only for opening files that couldn’t be opened by the Mac for at least six months (other than when I needed to use Windows for business reasons). Otherwise, I would be learning and using OS X. If I had to use Windows, it would be dual-booted in Parallels, running alongside OS X. I also looked at Vmware, which looked just as good, and there are other more complicated but free alternatives out there.

 

I knew I wanted an iMac, but I really couldn’t afford to buy one with all the RAM I knew I would need to effectively run Windows in a virtual Machine and not have a sluggish system. I needed a minimum of 16 gigs, and maxing it out to 24 or 32 would be best.

 

I was struggling, because what I could afford was the 21-inch, but maxing the RAM out to 32 gigs would add another $600 to the starting price, and I wanted a terabyte drive, too. I didn’t want to even think about buying all of that without Apple Care, and I was working with Canadian dollars. I had a small discount through my business, but it wasn’t enough for me to go the way I wanted to. It was then that I remembered about Apple’s certified refurbished computer program. I’d already bought refurbished iPods and iPod touches from them. so I could take the same money that would have bought me a new low-end 21-inch iMac with 16 gigs of RAM (and I wouldn’t be able to add any additional RAM) and use that savings to get a 27-inch refurb, which was suddenly affordable. This would allow me to buy the minimum amount of RAM (8 gigs) configuration and supplement it with store-bought RAM at my leisure.

 

 

So, after talking it over with folks in the Apple and Mac communities on Reddit ad nauseam, I eventually settled on a refurbished 27-inch iMac with a 3.2 Ghz quad-core Intel I5 chip and a 1-terabyte ATA drive. This was the only version of the iMac that had user changeable RAM. Not paying for Apple’s $25-a-gig pricing for RAM made buying store-bought RAM an affordable alternative to get me where I wanted to be. I added a SuperDrive and Apple Care and, with the discount for the refurb and a business discount on the drive, the whole package ran me about $2,064.00 Canadian. So on my next payday, when I had a little more money to spend, I went to cruicial.com and ordered an additional 16 gigs for less than half what Apple would have charged me.

 

The Mac Itself and OSX Mavericks

The computer arrived about four days after I ordered it. The screen is big, beautiful, plays high-def movies (it may not be a retina screen, but I’m not that picky; it’s certainly better than any screen or TV I’ve ever owned). The clarity is fantastic and the amount of screen real estate allows me to run both Mac and Windows software each in nearly full-sized Windows. Plus, as a media consumption device, it’s amazing watching movies on it! And since it’s an Apple product, it naturally came with iTunes preinstalled. It also came with Garage Band, iPhoto, Photo Booth, iMovie, Keynote, Pages, Numbers, and iMessage, as well as FaceTime. I’m not using any extra disk space since my music, TV shows, and movies are all in the Cloud. And I’ve got home sharing set up so anyone in the house can view or listen to any of the media I have.

 

It’s been quite an experience. The keyboard shortcuts are, as Johnny Ives might say, very familiar but at times still entirely different. It’s taken a while to get used to pressing the command key instead of the control key.

 

Turning it on for the first time was stunning. Instead of the crunching sounds and array of screens when a PC boots up, it booted to the registration screen in 12 seconds for its first boot (yeah, I timed it!). After completing the registration, which pretty much involved associating it with my existing iTunes account, I powered down and then back up to see how long it took for a full boot to the normal operating screen and again it went from off to ready-to-use in about 10 seconds. The system came clean, with no bloatware preinstalled; just the Apple apps as noted above. After a few brief online tutorials about using the interface, I found I was able to negotiate my way around the system with ease. Setting up my WiFi connection was no problem. Internet connectivity was great, if not better, than my Windows box. I found it easy to keep the desktop neat Although Spotlight is a great way to search the computer, I found Alfred was even better. (If you’re interested in Alfred, I suggest that you buy it from them directly, since the App Store version has less basic functionality. I haven’t found much to dislike about either the Mavericks version of OSX or the Mac itself.

 

What Is “Other”?

One thing that took a little figuring out was finding out what exactly was on the hard drive. At one point I looked and discovered that in only two months I had already used 236 gigs of the 1,000 I had had available, and I got a little nervous that I was eating up hard drive space so quickly. I hadn’t done a great deal of hard-core work on the computer and didn’t have nearly the amount of files I had on my Windows laptop and here I was suddenly looking at almost a quarter of my hard drive space gone within eight weeks of turning the thing on. What I wanted to know was what all those files were.

 

Apple has a decent way of visualizing how much space is available on all drives.

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 11.44.11 AM

 

 

As you can see, accessing “About This Mac” and clicking on “Storage” shows how much space is being used and by what type of file. But what do they mean by “Other”? It could be software that wasn’t downloaded from the App Store or zip files that you’ve downloaded and extracted but are still sitting in your Download folder. It could be stuff that has file extensions that don’t fall into any of the above-named categories. Apps like Disk Doctor can help to flush out temporary and trash files, but what if some of the “Other” files are things you need to hang on to or can safely be deleted? I found an app called Disk Inventory X that looks at your drive and
gives you a visual, colour-coded representation of your files.

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 11.44.30 AM

 

Clicking on a colour shows exactly what files are hogging space. In my case, it was relatively easy to discern what was needed and what had to go. Over 100 gigs were media files, most of which came from an old iTunes account I had before I immigrated Canada from the States. I don’t remember why I didn’t just move the iTunes account to Canada. At the time I probably didn’t realize that I could, or it could have been that iTunes didn’t have that functionality back then, but I had a bunch of purchased and downloaded TV shows that I couldn’t play through my current iTunes account unless the actual media files were present. At some point I must have copied them into my iTunes library when I could have simply pointed iTunes to my external drive and allowed them to play from there without using up my valuable Mac primary hard drive. So I deleted them and remapped their locations to the external drive where i had space to burn, and suddenly the “Other” files were only taking up about 100 gigs and that seemed much more manageable. I still have 55 gigs of “Other,” but at least now I know how to figure out what they are, so it weighs on my mind a lot less.

 

Pages

I found Apple’s word processor, Pages, easier to use than Microsoft Word. Its ability to export documents in Word, PDF, Plain Text, ePub, or a Zip file is extremely helpful, especially when you need to supply a file to someone with an alternate OS. I found it easier to insert media with Pages than with Word, but also found it a bit limiting in that you can’t simply import a picture sitting on your desktop. Instead, it must be imported into iPhoto first and then placed from their into the document. Images are easily resized and moved within the document. Pages opens and saves Word documents, retaining all formatting, pictures, links, and video, so you can hand the file back to someone using Word and they won’t see a difference. Instead of the incredibly cluttered top bar in Word, Pages keeps it simple with a small set of options on the top and a sidebar that has a few other options. I have yet to run into anything that I could do in Word that I can’t do in Pages, and the interface is much cleaner and easier to use.

 

Mail

Apple’s stock mail program is functional but disappointing, and it’s disappointing not only compared to its iOS version, but also compared to Outlook. It writes in what Outlook users will recognize as Rich Text as opposed to HTML. which means that when you add an attachment, you have to be careful about where your mouse is, because from the sender’s perspective the attachment goes inside the body of the text as opposed to neatly attached near the subject line. While iOS Mail easily recognizes complicated e-mail set-ups Apple Mail does not. An example of this is my personal e-mail account, blei.org, a business e-mail account that resides on Yahoo! servers. In other words, I have a special place within my normal Yahoo! e-mail centre that allows me to check blei.org e-mail and there’s a special IMAP or POP ability to have those e-mails sent separately as their own account. In any of my iOS devices I simply put in my personal e-mail address, atbleidotorg, under the Yahoo! e-mail section of the iOS Mail setup, and put in my password. iOS Mail automatically recognizes that this is an account that resides on Yahoo! servers (even though the domain isn’t yahoo.com) and automatically sets up my incoming and outgoing e-mail accounts without my having to do anything extra. Apple Mail does not recognize this. I had to get the specific IMAP settings for the account through Yahoo! business e-mail, and they were well hidden. Yahoo! has specific IMAP settings for Apple, and it isn’t just a general IMAP setup address. You must use “Apple.imap.mail.yahoo.com” and “Apple.smtp.mail.yahoo.com.” If someone on Reddit hadn’t been kind enough to ping me this information, I might still be looking for it today. That’s more a criticism of Yahoo! than Apple, but if you’ve found your way here through a search and happen to be looking for these settings, there’s your answer!

 

When I set up the e-mail account for iOS Mail, it automatically set up the Notes feature (that I love!) on iOS, and those Notes sync among all my iOS devices, which at the moment are two iPhones and an iPad. When I set up the account on my Mac through IMAP or POP, at no point would it give me a Notes account, nor would it allow me to import the ones I already had on my iPad or iPhone. Since this is my primary account, it means all the Notes I’ve used on my iOS devices are essentially missing from the Mac. When I sync a gmail account to the Mac, those Notes accounts come through just fine, but any of my other non-gmail accounts do not.

I decide to make the move to mac, and I try my hand at the peripherals.

Posted in Computer stuff at 12:54 pm by admin

Editing help for this post by Richard Groff and by Empty Sink Publishing

I still don’t know exactly the moment I decided that I was going to go for a Mac, but I remember when I verbalized it. I did it in the most stupid and stereotypically Apple fanboi–like way to maximize my wife’s future opportunity to deride and mock me over this moment, when during a discussion/mild argument that accompanied the announcement that I was to be the proud owner of a bouncing baby Mac—along with the costs that would be associated with this pronouncement—my wife said something along the lines of “Do you know what sort of Windows computer you could buy with half that amount?” I looked at her and said, “I’m not putting another Windows computer in this office,” saying it like a political activist talking about population control. “I won’t bring another Microsoft child into this world!” God! I can be obnoxious! But I did move to a Mac. It’s been four months now and, looking back, I’m sort of checking in with myself on how I’m doing with the technology.

 

I started using Windows at version 3.11. Before that, I mostly played on a Commodore Vic 20 and all my programs were in BASIC. So I go back a ways using technology. I remember my dad Gary and I sitting up for hours programming the VIC 20 to make a bird flap its wings and fly around the screen. When I say hours, I mean literally five to six hours sitting in the bedroom in front of the VIC, typing in commands as we watched on the monitor: our 17-inch colour TV.

 

That’s pretty much all I can remember about programming the VIC, but we it took 15 pages of code to get that bird to flap its wings around the screen. Games like Asteroids and Poker were loaded from a cassette in a modified tape recorder. There were no disk drives yet, no USB ports, or, if there were, they were being used by DARPA and not mere mortals in Flushing Queens, New York!

 

I used MSDOS for a brief period, and then took the jump into Windows 3.11, staying with Microsoft though Windows 7. I was a firm Windows user as far as my computers went, and for over 20 years I never considered moving to or testing any alternative operating system—not Linux, not Ubuntu, and not OSX.

 

While the use of Microsoft Windows products didn’t extend to my mobile work (as neither my tablets our phones used any version of Windows (more on that later), I’ve worked for a number of large corporations with extensive online presence for the last 17 years of my career, and they’ve all been on a Windows/Outlook standard, and so have I.

 

Let’s face it: Corporate America is Microsoft territory. Microsoft Word, Outlook, and (most frustratingly) most of its accounting, time-sheeting, and invoicing systems run applications that are functional only through Internet Explorer, an applicationt hat the tech world almost universally agrees is a bloated dinosaur, a Typhoid Mary in its security holes that allow viruses and malware to creep in and allow hackers access to your network, all the while stealing precious IT minutes that turn into hours and days in its continually obsessive updating that many users universally ignore or turn off.

 

In fact, one of the most ironic things about my move to the Mac is how much time I still spend updating Windows. And although I’ve moved to a Mac, none of the rest of my family has, nor has my company, and since I’m the administrator of our little home network and everyone else is on Windows (and although my company finally had to move from Windows XP to Windows 7 when Microsoft stopped supporting it), not only did I have to install Windows in a virtual Machine on my Mac, but I’m the only one in the house who isnt on XP. I’m running Windows 8.1. So no one else in the house is getting updates to their copy of Windows except me.

 

Here I sit, now a Mac user since July, and yet every day I still load Windows, find an update or three waiting for me, and sit by while updating my virtual Windows that cost me a very real $109. My IT guys went through the trouble of upgrading the entire company, so I didn’t want to be the guy who connected up to the work servers from his personal computer that didn’t have the latest security update or patch and then dump a load of malware or viruses on it, making me the enemy of every IT person who works with me.

 

I hate to admit it and I’m only now, after years of therapy, willing to admit this, but at one point I had gotten so deep into the clutches of Microsoft that I actually went out and bought—and used—a copy of Microsoft Bob!

 

My previous exposure to Macs was limited to sleeping over at someone’s house where they used a Mac, a series of girlfriends who used Macs, and my brother, who uses a Mac as well, and my exposure was limited to checking e-mail or doing a quick web search, and I have to say that, even considering myself an expert in technology, the most I thought about it was “How can anyone work using a mouse with one button on it? How can you operate a point-and-click based OS without the ability to right-click and the functions that gives you?

 

I wasn’t sure who was the bigger snob: me for thinking like that about an entire operating system that obviously did quite a bit more than just have an annoying mouse or Apple for their hubris of building a system that could function with just one giant button, and that at the time couldn’t run a good 75% of the software that people were using for business on a day-to-day basis? There was a Mac version of MS Office, but it seemed like a mere nod to interoperability. But I realized that, having never given it a fair shake, I was probably missing something. Macs back then were used mostly by people in visually creative fields. It has always been the computer for graphic artists, not business people, as I was at the time, having held an executive position for ten years with a media research firm in New York.

 

Along the way, however, a few things happened that got me leaning towards Macs. The first was a gift from my company of a first-generation iPad not long after they came out. This faintly Star Trek–like device had so technologically advanced that my grandparents would have found it indistinguishable from magic. By the time I got it, the App Store was teeming with applications that actually did useful things, not just cutesy widgets, but dependable tools that could serve your every need in a small mobile device, most notably those that deal with learning disabilities. I have dyslexia, and it manifests itself not only in math, spelling, and writing, but—to the annoyance of anyone who’s ever had to work closely with me—my organizational abilities. It’s called executive dysfunction, but the iPad makes dealing with that much easier. I have one place centrally located for my schedule and communications, keeping me more organized and allowing me to structure my day better.

 

To say I was enamoured of the iPad wouldn’t do it justice. To say that my wife hated the thing would be like saying that the Wicked Witch of the West was only mildly perturbed with Dorothy or that The Terminator was “slightly prone” to violence. When it comes to operating systems and technical things, how much I like something is usually inversely proportional to how much my wife dislikes it. I’m still not sure to this day if the OS wars in my house began because of my goat-like bleating over how in love I was with the iPad or my wife’s incessant harping about its “closed” system, Apple’s child-labour issues, it’s insane intellectual-property litigation, and the cult-like obsessive nature that Apple users have about their devices. In fairness, I’m pretty sure I didn’t so much drive my wife to using Android, as much as I catapulted her into it. Many people say that opposites attract, and with my wife, it’s not so much a case of being opposite as much as being being oppositional. For two people as much in love as we are, you’d never guess it by our technology and how much we vehemently disagree on our platforms. She is the tomayto to my tomahto. As much as I like the Kindle, she became disenchanted by hers and started using Kobo. She eventually got her first tablet, a Samsung Galaxy Tab, and then a smartphone, also a Samsung Galaxy. If you’ve got a good thing going with a tablet, it only makes sense to get the phone that goes with it, right? And not long after the iPad came into my world, I found myself explaining to her about why, with 6 months left on my BlackBerry contract, I absolutely needed to get an iPhone that would work in conjunction with the iPad.

 

There still weren’t enough reasons for me to consider moving to a Mac computer, though. I still had the a Windows bias, and I wasn’t aware that Apple had moved away from the single-button mouse and now offered both a Magic Mouse and a Magic Trackpad (lots of magic floating around Apple).

 

It was with the announcement of the release of iOS8, watching Tim Cook talk about the future of the Mac—specifically Yosemite, and how it would bring a seamless integration interconnecting all Apple devices—that I knew I’d finally be able to do some of the cooler things that my Android-using wife had been able to do for years. Widgets would finally be coming to Apple mobile devices, and I’d finally be able to use a Swype keyboard with them. With Yosemite and iOS8 communicating with each other, if a call comes in on my iPhone, I’ll be able to pick it up on my iPad or Mac. I’ll finally be able to answer texts on the computer, not just from other iOS users who are using iMessage. And with my iPhone on the same WiFi network as my other Apple devices, I can have a word processing page open on one device and immediately pick up the same document on any other device. I also knew that Apple had been using Intel chips in their computers for a while now, making them capable of also running Windows. Being a corporate lackey, I knew there was no way I’d be able to make a clean break from Microsoft, and I didn’t really want to. With my Mac, I can dual-boot Windows and Mac OS X using Parallels or VMWare. I decided I wanted to run Windows simultaneously along with OS X, but that meant an additional investment in RAM—not an insignificant amount in the Mac world.

 

So I’ve been a Mac owner for about three and a half months now, and here’s where I stand:

 

The Dreaded Mouse

The iMac now comes with the “Magic Mouse,” an interesting piece of kit that is a completely multitouch-sensitive device in the shape of a mouse, that has a set of unique gestures. If you happen to be someone who rests more than one finger on the mouse, that’s actually a gesture that brings you to another screen on the desktop, and it’s something that I’ve had to train myself not to do. Even though it’s still one big button, it’s quite configurable, so you can have left- and right-click. Unfortunately, about only 4 out of 10 times will it fully recognize that I intended to right-click, and that gets really annoying when you’re clicking a link, meaning to open a new tab or window versus clicking a link as a left-click and losing the page you’re on. I may just end up putting a normal Windows mouse on this.

 

The Apple Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard

This is another interesting bit of technology, but if you get one, first spend a few dollars and get a protective silicone cover so crumbs and spills don’t get in the keyboard. I found some very inexpensive keyboard covers on eBay. It took me a few shots until I found one I was happy with, but at an average cost of $1.99 to $3.99, you can afford to be choosey.

 

It doesn’t have a numeric keypad on the right hand side for number entry, but Belkin has a bluetooth wireless numeric keypad you can pick up for about $49 (more on that in the next section).

 

The keyboard has a much lighter touch than most keyboards and I actually find it difficult after a few months of using it to migrate back to a normal, big-button keyboard.

 

You do have to keep an eye on the battery life of both the keyboard and the mouse. They do last a good long time (about two months on the mouse and at least three months on the keyboard). I’ve had to change the batteries on the mouse twice between July and October. When the battery starts getting low (about 15%) the mouse starts functioning very strangely.

 

Belkin Wireless Keypad

This is the numeric keypad “missing” from the keyboard. It matches the design of the keyboard with the same brushed steel finish. I’ll be honest with you: this is one where I should have read the reviews before purchasing it. I’d used it for a while before checking them out, and they are quite dismal. Although most product feedback tends to come from people who are unhappy, some reviews are from people who had great success with it and others are from those who have had lingering connectivity issues and data entry errors, as well as a short battery life. It’s working fine for me so far, but I’ve used it for less than a week, and being forewarned, I’m not leaving it powered up when not in use. One of the tricks I discovered from the Mac Help pages is that you have to set it manually to a US ANSI keyboard type for OS X to recognize it. In order to be as productive as I can be I’ll either use this, something like it, or I’ll end up getting a full keyboard, since I’ve come to rely heavily on a numerical keypad when doing actual data work and programming. I simply can’t do this with the number keys above the letters on the main keyboard. Changing how I type data is too drastic a change for this old dog!

Going from PC toMac. What it’s like to make the big leap after 20 years of being a Microsoft compatible user.

Posted in Computer stuff at 12:26 pm by admin

In the next few posts you’re going to see me discuss moving from PC to mac. This is a decision I made around June 2014 when some dedicated computer funds came through my life. I had been using PC’s exclusively for 20 years, since MS DOS went to Windows 3.11, I was a Windows user, however I had been using an iPhone and iPad for years already, and then I saw the  summer 2014 Apple keynote  where they first announced OS X Yosemite, and the functionality that would be coming with Handoff and Continuity .

The next few posts are going to go over the decision and experience of making that move. So the whole design to buy this computer and to move to a new and unfamiliar operating system was predicated on the side that in three to top four months this new operating system would come together that would tie my iOS devices to my computer, and some of the cool things that my wife had already had access to for awhile through her android phone and tablet would come to pass on my side. Meaning SMS bridging to taking phone calls from my iPhone on my iPad and computer. Finally the day drew near and I knew that the next afternoon after the fall event to announce the iPad Air 2 Yosemite would be dropping from beta to an approved available OS on the app store. This was the big day, this was why I had argued with my wife over spending $2,000 on a mac computer when a quarter of that would have put together a very perky PC.

If you’re going to be buying refurbished mac. Beware. Sometimes the soul of the last owner is still in the machine.

 

What I didn’t get a chance to cover in my forthcoming posts was a little glitch that came up along the way, and which caused me to have to bring the computer into a certified Apple repair place. I only became aware of it as I was readying my system to move from OS X Mavericks to OS X Yosemite. Getting Yosemite you’ll soon see was the whole Yosemite  concept that brought me to thinking about buying a mac and tipped me over the edge to finally make the costly investment and to adapt to a new OS for my personal user.

As I was trying to do some disk diagnostics in anticipation of loading Yosemite the next day I tried to boot into any of the diagnostic option’s that require you to hold the option button while booting, and when I did, all I could  see was this .

firmware

What this is you may wonder is an indicator that there was a was a Firmware password on the computer. Of course I didn’t understand what it was at first, at first. My mac has two types of passwords that i set up when i got the computer. One is the password for my personal user account which is an admin account and is the password I use to log into it, and then there’s another password that I set up when i first activated the computer, and this is an overall master master password that i created that could be used to reset any user profiles password if any user who had a profile on this computer forgot or lost their password . I put in both of these passwords to see if it would unlock whatever the hell this was, but none of them worked.

I then called apple support and asked them what I should do. It was then that they informed me that even though Apple has a very stringent and well regarded refurbishment process there is nothing done in the refurbishment that would clear out a firmware password set by the previous user.

That was surprising, and disturbing, Surprising because you would think in the process of making the computers set to like new condition, the drives are wiped clean and a new operating system is installed removing any trace hypothetically of the previous user and set to factory default settings, however  there’s nothing apparently in the refurbishment process that wipes away any previous firmware password setup.

It was disturbing because with the firmware locked out , other than operating the computer in it;s normal user mode , I could do nothing administratively. I couldn’t perform any data rescue if  disk went bad, I certainly couldn’t upgrade the operating system to Yosemite , I couldn’t perform any diagnostics , and without getting this fixed I’d also forever be locked out of the settings to deal with the hardware programming and configuration settings. Apple told me the only way this could be taken off my computer was by an Apple repair technician. The nearest one to me had a 4 day wait, though Apple told me it was about an hour of work. I had no choice, I had to pack it up and send it on it;s way.

There was nothing to be done from my side. There was an old fix for this that involved pulling out some of the ram sticks and rebooting the computer, but as the operating system had been updated, that little trick had been taken away.  The only way to take it off was I was told with a tool that Apple kept pretty securely locked down and gave technician’s on a case by case basis

I found this quote which explains it well

“Only Apple’s engineering staff can truly remove the lock (each firmware lock has a unique code attached to it, and the engineering team generates a separate boot disk image to match that .”

I got my computer back and fixed, and have been subsequently able to load Yosemite and do all the great things I wanted to do with it. But beware, when I found out the thing with the firmware password, i thought outloud  to the Apple phone support person that this must be a very rare thing to occur, and she told me that it wasn’t as rare as I thought, as not only was I not the first person that had ever called her with this issue, but that there were very clear instructions in the Apple intranet for support personal directing support people who had users with this issue to take their computers in for repair. So Apparently if there is a firmware password and you have a refurb, more than likely this will occur,. This still hasn’t turned me off from the idea of buying refurbished products from the Apple Store, but I would definitely check for this in the future.  

10.13.14

Hi There!

Posted in announcments at 6:33 pm by admin

We just moved from a static web page to a blog format, and are developing content for the blog right now. Please check back here soon, we should have some content up within the week!

If you’re here looking for my resume, you can find it right HERE 

Thanks,

Mark