Caitlin and Macintosh

Caitlin and Macintosh

Caitlin and her dad’s Macintosh at The Forman School, Litchfield, Connecticut, around 1986

I was scanning some other old photographs and came across this one, had to scan it and once done, had to tell the story of it.

In 1985 I was hired by a small boarding school for dyslexic high school students to put in a Macintosh lab and design a writing curriculum using Macs for the particular needs of those kids. The person who hired me was Caitlin’s mother Laurie and for the next two years Laurie and I built that early program together. In the process, I got to know her family well and her oldest daughter Caitlin and I became close friends.

Laurie’s husband, Eric was also an early Mac geek and so they had this Mac Plus in a small office that they all shared. When her dad was off at work Caitlin took over.

Caitlin’s family left the school shortly after I did. They moved to Kyoto, Japan for Eric to join a telecommunications laboratory doing research on the physical aspects of making language (he’s a research linguist). Caitlin and her two sisters became fluent in Japanese. We visited them there (pre digital photography) and I have yet to scan the pictures but I hope to at some point.

Caitlin came back to the US for college before the rest of her family and, well, the rest we’ll leave for another story.

Here’s a post I did on her in between these two images: Caitlin laughing.

Of course time marches on and Caitlin and her husband are building a homestead in North Carolina where they live with their sons, dog, chickens, and at least a few iPhones if not a lot more geekery.

Note: I’m guessing I took this with an Olympus XA. Even though I brought a MacVision and surveillance video camera with me from Oregon to Connecticut, it was a rather awkward setup for still photography.

Caitlin and Axton

Caitlin and Axton, New Woodstock, New York, 2013

My friend Caitlin Bateson and her son Axton at her grandfather’s memorial gathering in upstate New York.

Talk about an “arc of time.” Put the previous picture together with this one and it’s a mind blow.

I’ve known Caitlin since 1985.

Apple needs to slow down: surface appearance vs. underlying form

Declining iOS and OS X quality imperil Apple’s future growth and retention


I’ve been waiting for someone else to post about this for me to let go my rant.

It seems that Jony Ive spent a lot of time on the way things look, but very little time on the way things work (or don’t work). This reminds me of the Robert Pirsig’s epic rant about his friend’s loose handlebars in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (his friend was concerned with surface appearance instead of underlying form and usability and wouldn’t let Pirsig fix the lose handlebar with an aluminum beer can shim instead wanting to get a BMW official part, etc.).

As far as I’m concerned, my Mac, iPhone and iPad all look great but have loose handlebars and Apple needs to get things tightened up. Too much concern with form, not enough with function. I don’t know where the problem lies but these issues started at about the same time Jony Ive took over the entire software enterprise at Apple and he’s a designer, not a software guy.

This is a very bad omen going forward. With a growing installed base for Mac OS, there should be fewer and fewer system level bugs in the OS. There are more than ever now.

I’m very pro-Apple so don’t take this the wrong way, but in the past few years the quality of Mac OS, iOS and iCloud and iTunes services has gone downhill.

I’m running a brand new (newest model) MacBook Pro 15″ retina, everything maxed out. I have plenty of hardware power. I’m running the latest version of Yosemite which I clean installed on this new computer.

The computer freezes pretty regularly in the Finder.

Wake from sleep, wifi connection needs work to get connected. Restarting computer solves this but even with an SSD, I’d rather not do this.

The Finder main window opens in a different place on my screen at odd times, with different layouts chosen (I prefer column view, but don’t always get it).

I have Apple’s external CD/DVD burner but it gets confused every now and then about whether I’ve ejected a CD.

I bought a book in iBooks on the Mac and it came down corrupted. I noticed that a few of my other books, that I’d had a while were corrupted since Yosemite. I called Apple and 4 hours and 4 people later and after reinstalling Yosemite, the problem wasn’t fixed and I felt trashed. Apple support has also gone downhill. I started a long blog post about this but trashed it. This was the single worst support experience I’ve ever had with Apple and I’ve had great ones over many years. Apple support is not what it used to be.

The relationship between iBooks and iTunes used to be easy to understand. Now there is no relationship. And, iTunes has also gone downhill in terms of usability.

Location manager on all of my three Apple devices thinks I live two houses south of where I actually live. This is new with Yosemite/iOS 8. Location manager gets confused in the field at times (away from my house).

When I click on a link in Reeder and expect Safari to open, it sometimes freezes. This never happened in Mavericks. I do this often. I often cringe when I do it. This is not the way I want to feel using these great tools.

Finder freezes at times when copying a lot of image files onto a CD to burn. Drag them on, everything freezes up while copy happens (no screen feedback), then, either system hung or copy completes.

When I move my computer downstairs it struggles to continue to find my Apple Magic Mouse (bluetooth) sitting upstairs on my desk and reconnects and drops the connection numerous times before it releases it. This never happened in any earlier OS.

I’m asked for passwords by things connected to iCloud way too often. My iPhone, for no reason I can understand turned iCloud off by itself the other day. I turned it back on and put in the password but I’m not confident this will stick.

I’ve had so many problems with iOS 8 on both iPad Air 2 and iPhone 5S that I can’t list them here. It’s the most bug-ridden release yet for sure.

I could go on, but why bother.

This is incredibly depressing. While Apple is doing better than ever: selling lots of stuff, stock doing well, those of us who have been using Apple products for years know that things are not right, there are too many bugs and problems and it’s getting worse as Apple grows more quickly.

God help us when the Apple Watch ships. I’m delighted they’re making it but it’s an entirely new device with it’s own issues, it’s own software, it’s own support. Ugh.

I would be happy if Apple did not release any more new systems, new features, or new anything until they got all of this stuff working correctly and reliably.

I had such a bad experience with AppleCare with my small iBooks problem I’m not anxious to call them again, and this is not good as I’ve already paid for it for every one of our six Apple devices.

Get your act together Apple.

Update on RSS

I started a post a few weeks ago after reading Dr. Dang’s piece: The RSS mess and his follow up piece: More RSS mess but I got distracted and never finished the post. These are excellent pieces of thinking and writing on the current state of RSS aggregators and clients post Google Reader.

Reading the good doctor’s two posts assured me that I’m not the only one still using RSS as my primary way to get updates from a variety of web sites I follow, and that not everyone has abandoned this excellent technology for the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

Even though this site is running on I’m not in the habit of using WordPress’ internal “Reader”, preferring to use ReadKit on my Mac and Reeder 2 for iOS (iPhone and iPad). I used to use Reeder for Mac and in writing this decided to download and test it again, we’ll see. I use Feedly as my cloud aggregator and for the most part this is all working well for me.

Since the Mac OS X.10 Yosemite upgrade, my entire computer including my RSS setup has become a bit more unstable but I’m pretty sure Apple is now releasing software with more bugs in it than in years past and this stuff will hopefully be cleaned up with a Yosemite update.

For me, RSS and my feed reader remain the most used and most important technology and application on my computer and on my iPad (Air 2), to a lesser extent on my iPhone (5S) simply because the screen is too small for me to follow things I want to read to their host web site.

Here’s a list of the various posts on RSS I’ve made here over many years:

AirPort issues with Yosemite

In the old days (a few years ago) I’d be among the first to do Mac OS system upgrades. And, over the years Apple has gotten a lot better at making the process easy and reliable. These days I take a bit more time because I depend on various applications that don’t always get upgraded with the system. Best to protect your core applications until you’re sure their various developers have versions that run with a new version of the OS.

All of that said, I upgraded to Yosemite a few days after the free update went live. The process was painless and easy and on the first day I upgraded my various printer drivers (HP LaserJet 1022n, Epson Stylus Pro 3880 and Dymo LabelWriter 450) and never missed a beat on printing.

I heard that some had problems keeping their wifi connections working but I never experienced that.

Today, however, I decided to go through both my applications and utilities folder and run everything to see if and then how Apple changed their core applications (they haven’t really updated the Keychain Utility, too bad). When I ran Airport Admin utility it showed that I was connected to the internet but would not bring up my AirPort Extreme base station. So, I was connected to it but could not see it in AirPort Admin.

I ran AirPort Admin on my iPad and the base station showed up, so, this was a problem with either my new MacBook Pro and/or, the Yosemite upgrade.

It seems others are having similar problems: OSX Yosemite Wifi issues.

My friend Edward (and others) sent me an article that contained numerous possible fixes, here’s the one that worked: Intel-based Macs: Resetting the System Management Controller (SMC).

The SMC controller is a chip that holds settings that sometimes needs to be reset. For new MacBook Pros with non-removable batteries, holding down: Shift + Control + Option (on the left side of the keyboard) and the power button at the same time for 10 seconds, then letting go, then powering up, will reset the SMC.

Once that was done Airport Admin recognized my AirPort Base Station.

This is less of an issue for me as I never had problems connecting to wifi, but if I had a Time Capsule (an AirPort Base Station with built in hard disk running Time Machine) I’d be out of luck for backups and many are having that problem.

I don’t know if this SMC reset will work for every instance of the problem, but it worked for me.

Connecting to a new MacBook Pro

My last post on things I’m learning during this transition to a new computer buried some interesting ideas in a long-winded story: Update on New MacBook Pro.

Here’s my executive summary on external storage, and ways to connect it to a modern Macintosh.

External storage speeds and interfaces

When I ordered the new MacBook Pro I ordered a Thunderbolt to Firewire Adaptor because I have Firewire 800 external hard disks and new Macs support Thunderbolt and USB 3. In order to use my old external drives with firewire I needed an adaptor. Two of my drives also have USB 3 but I bought the firewire adaptor because I had no experience with USB 3 and my experience with USB 2 has been less than wonderful. This “baggage” about USB has now changed (read on).

I’ve also been shopping for some new drives and wasn’t sure what to get. In doing my research here’s what I’ve learned.

1. Thunderbolt is faster than USB 3 which is faster than Firewire 800 which is faster than USB 2.

2. Thunderbolt and Firewire 800 are daisychainable at the device: an external hard disk/SSD could have two ports (or not) for a pass through connection to another device. USB 2 and 3 are not although multiple drives can be connected to a USB (3) hub. And there are Thunderbolt hubs as well so one might have multiple single-port Thunderbolt drives connected to a hub.

For a MacBook Pro user the pass-through/hub thing is a non issue: the machine has two Thunderbolt ports and two USB 3 ports so one could have multiple single-port external storage devices connected simultaneously.

3. External storage might be a hard disk spinning at 5400 RPM, a hard disk spinning at 7200 RPM or an SSD (solid state drive). There is a significant speed difference between 5400 and 7200 RPM but an even bigger one with SSD which is extremely fast.

When you put all of this together you end up with some general ideas:

1. If you have a 5400 RPM external hard disk, Thunderbolt isn’t any faster than Firewire or USB 3, the limiting factor is the speed of the hard disk which is slow relative to the connection speed.

2. If you have a 7200 RPM hard disk Thunderbolt doesn’t get you any more speed than USB 3 or Firewire but USB 3 is faster than Firewire so if you don’t need to use Thunderbolt for some other reason, its is probably overkill and USB 3 is the thing to use on modern Macs.

The bottom line is that Thunderbolt, while very fast, is probably overkill for most spinning hard disks and if you don’t need some other aspect of Thunderbolt, USB 3 is fast enough and a lot cheaper and more widespread in use in external enclosures.

3. If you have an SSD in an external enclosure Thunderbolt will give you the fastest throughput although USB 3 is close enough so that the extra expense and rarity of a Thunderbolt interface may or may not be worth it. And, buying a 500GB or 1TB SSD is a lot of money. At this point, spinning hard disks are still the way to go for backup or large storage needs until the cost of flash memory comes down more. It will, just not quite yet.

Thunderbolt, USB 3, and Firewire 800 can boot a Macintosh so if you’re making SuperDuper backups that you’d like to be able to boot your computer from in an emergency, any of them will do (provided the external drive controller can do it). Again, the limiting factor on performance will be what’s inside the enclosure: spinning hard disk of one speed or another or SSD.

What I’m doing

I have a 1TB SSD in my new MacBook Pro and I like to have two SuperDuper backups in rotation and one Time Machine backup so for this I’ll need two 1TB drives for SuperDuper and one 1TB or 2TB drive for Time Machine.

I’ve got a number of 500GB and a few 1TB Firewire hard disks (some running at 5400 RPM) and I’m going to start slowly replacing them, mostly with external hard disks running at 7200 RPM with USB 3. Here’s the first one I bought:

G-Technology 1TB G-Drive Mobile Hard Drive with Thunderbolt (and USB 3, 7200 RPM).

I have to say, it’s a great external drive: solidly built, fast, with all cables included. I’m using it for Time Machine and I used the Thunderbolt interface for the initial (2 hour) backup but now I’m using USB 3 for daily backups and it’s extremely fast. I think I could have probably gotten by with this drive which is the same thing minus the Thunderbolt:

G-Technology 1TB G-DRIVE mobile USB Portable Hard Drive (7200 RPM)

The latter drive will be the next one I get although I’m in no rush now because I’m using my older LaCie Rugged drives with USB 3 and they’re working fine.

I bought an inexpensive USB 3 enclosure for the SSD that was in my old, dead MacBook Pro and it’s working very well:

Anker 2.5 Inch USB 3.0 Hard Drive Disk External Enclosure Case for 9.5mm & 7mm 2.5″ SATA HDD and SSD

I just had to take some brackets off the SSD for it to fit in and once off, it snapped in in a few seconds. It’s now in my SuperDuper rotation and at 500GB, I’ll keep it in rotation until I outgrow it.

The bottom line is that USB 3 seems to be fine for everything I’m using it for. At this point I’ve not attempted to boot and use my new computer from any of the external drives although I plan to do a test with the external SSD later today. I’m quite sure it will be fine. I’m hoping that by the time I need to replace it with a bigger capacity SSD the prices of 1TB SSDs will come down and that’s what I’ll get.

The new MacBook Pro is wonderful: extremely fast to boot and shut down, extremely fast launching applications, extremely fast moving around in Lightroom (where my older machine was showing signs of age) and the retina screen is easy on the eyes with very little (if any) reflection.

The only bumps in moving from old machine to new were the limitations of Apple’s Migration Assistant and my incorrect understanding of what was needed to migrate and the speed and interfaces on my hard disks.

Hopefully these notes will be useful for anyone about to go through something similar. I can’t emphasize this enough: if you’re not backing up your computer you need to get on that, today. If you are backing it up, make sure your backups are working and doing what you want them to do. In other words, test them from time to time.

Update on New MacBook Pro

As some of you may remember, my 2011 MacBook Pro died a little over a week ago while I was away from home. I posted about it here and then an update here.

I determined that the problem was the video card in the computer and that the internal SSD with my data on it was secure. When I got back home I removed the SSD from the computer, put it in a spare firewire enclosure and booted my wife’s 13″ MacBook Pro from the SSD. It worked well while I waited for my newly-ordered 15″ MacBook Pro to arrive although I must say, it would be rough to run my life on a 13″ screen and that’s nice to know.

My backup scheme

I’ve been backing up various Macintosh computers using this scheme for many years now.

I use SuperDuper to make a complete backup of the internal SSD or HDD of my computer onto a portable external hard disk. This backup is bootable so that if something happens to my computer I can boot another computer from the backup. I’ve been using various vintages of LaCie Rugged drives.

I have two of these external hard disks and rotate them from one day to the next keeping one in our basement in a fireproof box. We heat our house with wood and if it burnt down, well, I’d be in trouble in more ways than one but at least I’d have data from the day before.

I also use Apple’s Time Machine to back up my computer onto a large hard disk. I’ve never used Time Machine to retrieve an earlier version of a file I’ve mistakenly thrown out or modified but in fact, that’s exactly what it’s for, among other things.

All three of these drives are spinning hard disks of various vintages with various interfaces although for the most part Firewire 800.

So, when my computer died I was well backed up. I had:

1. My computer’s internal SSD which I removed from its “dead” shell and put in an enclosure with two Firewire 800 ports on it.

2. Two SuperDuper Backups, one of them left in Connecticut when I went to LA, the other in LA with me and current to within an hour of when my old machine died and could not be used anymore. Both Rugged drives with two Firewire 800 ports, one USB 3 port.

3. The Time Machine backup in Connecticut which was, at the time of “death” a few days old. It’s in a LaCie Little Big Disk enclosure with two Firewire 800 ports, an eSATA port, and a USB 2 port.


I’ve had all of these hard disks for a few years or more now and since my dead computer is from 2011, it seems the world has moved on from what I’ve been using.

New Retina MacBook Pros have two Thunderbolt ports and two USB 3 ports on them. It seems the the world of USB has changed considerably since I last looked. In the old days, USB (2) was a slow and at times rather flakey Intel standard for connecting peripherals like mice, printers, and such. A USB (2) hard disk was not something many of us ever got into. USB was just too slow and not reliable enough for data transfer like that. And, we had Firewire, first 400 and then 800 which was fast and reliable.

But, time marches on and Apple has adopted USB 3 for slower speed connections and Thunderbolt for high speed connections. If you shop around, external hard drives or SSDs with Thunderbolt ports on them are not all that plentiful and they’re expensive.

Shop around for USB 3 external hard disks or external SSDs and the price comes way down.

In terms of speed, USB 3 is supposed to be considerably faster than Firewire 800 and not as fast as Thunderbolt. However, for my purposes: backing up my computer, I’m guessing that USB 3 drives and/or SSDs will be great. That’s a guess, I don’t have any experience with them yet.

I’ll know later today when I do my first SuperDuper backup onto one of my older LaCie Rugged drives via USB 3 for the first time. I may come back and write a bit more here.

Here I am, later: the backup was very slow but it’s tough to know exactly why. There was a lot of new stuff on this new computer: a completely new system and more. So, another USB 3 backup test is in order on the same drive tomorrow (I won’t swap this time, preferring to see if USB 3 will work for this application).

Update: Next day and I just did another SuperDuper backup to the same external LaCie Rugged drive via USB 3. It took 6 minutes and 42 seconds to complete the entire thing. I don’t think Firewire 800 ever came close to that. Granted, not a lot has changed on this machine between backups but I’m guessing USB 3 is faster than Firewire, probably fast enough for this kind of backup and occasional boot situation.

My plan is to buy at least one if not two new drives: one for my Time Machine backup and another to rotate into my SuperDuper backups. I’d love it if they could be USB 3 which will be a lot less expensive.

I’ll reformat my old SSD and put it in my wife’s computer which will turn it into a sports car.

New MacBook Pro

My new computer arrived yesterday (Monday) and before opening the box I did one last backup of my SSD (primary drive running my wife’s computer) to one of my backup drives just to be on the safe side. My plan was to boot the new computer, go through the setup process and during initial setup do the migration so as not to have to do it after the fact, possibly creating an extra user in OSX (which I’m told happens more than not).

Before opening the box of the new computer, I completely cleaned off my desk, removing my older USB (2) hub and everything associated with the old computer. I knew there would be some setup and possibly some bumps and I wanted to not have too much legacy stuff around to have to sort through. Also, good excuse to clean things up around here and sort through the wires hanging behind my desk.

I had ordered a Thunderbolt to Firewire adaptor from Apple but it was not listed on the email invoice they sent me so I figured I must have unchecked it when I placed the order. So as not to have to wait, I bought one from Amazon and had it overnighted here. I had also ordered an Apple external CD/DVD drive as the new MacBook Pros don’t have built in drives and I still rip DVD movies from time to time. Yes, I could have bought an enclosure for the drive in my old machine but in my panic out in LA I just went for it so I have the new drive. It’s very pretty, worth having.

When I opened the box of the new MacBook Pro Apple (in China) had placed the Thunderbolt to Firewire adaptor under the little package that contains the print instructions and cleaning cloth. There was no mention of this anywhere and initially I thought maybe they include this with all new computers. Odd really.

The new machine is spectacular: the ports are much better placed (and on both sides of the chassis) than the older models and the screen is, well, it’s a new Retina screen and while the screen on my old computer was a higher resolution matte screen (not the glossy one) this one is far better in every way. For those of you concerned about the older reflective screen Apple had on MacBook Pros, this Retina screen is flat, no reflections at all which is a great relief for me as I’m very distracted by reflection. The machine has a very nice fit and finish and is sleeker and lighter than the old unibody chassis models.

I have absolutely no regrets about this purchase. It was expensive but this machine is the center of my life so well worth the investment.


Turned on the new machine, chose language, network, etc. and got to the screen that asks about migration.

Listed on this screen are:

1. Migrate from another Macintosh computer
2. Migrate from a Time Machine backup
3. Migrate from a Windows computer
4. Migrate from a networked server

Given that I had the internal SSD, still named “Macintosh HD” in an enclosure I chose “from another Macintosh,” plugged in the cable and nothing happened. The SSD turned on, its light flashed, and Migration Assistant said it was looking for a drive but it never found one. Had the drive been in my Mac, I’m remembering that Migration Assistant sends a code to the old machine that one must type in to make the connection. Of course, my old machine had no working screen so this was impossible.

I disconnected the SSD/Enclosure and connected my latest SuperDuper backup, a Firewire hard disk. I would rather have used the SSD as it’s considerably faster for this long process but no problem, I have a backup for a reason.

The drive spun up, the icon appeared in Migration Assistant but the “next” arrow never lit up which means it was never recognized correctly. I waited 10 minutes, nothing happened. Maybe if I’d waited 11 minutes it would have worked, I’m not sure.

Now I started to get worried.

Consider this: If your computer dies it matters not a bit if the screen is any good or the keyboard or the motherboard, the part of your computer that you need for your new computer is the internal storage, in this case the SSD. I had that but in fact, it was useless without the computer’s shell for doing this migration. This really is short sighted on Apple’s part and even after talking with an AppleCare support person I’m less than happy about it.

It very well may be that there’s a way to force Migration Assistant to recognize a backup drive or an internal drive in an external enclosure but the AppleCare support person didn’t know how to do it and I could not find mention of it on the internet (I was frantically using my iPad to try to sort this out).

In fact, what the AppleCare support person told me is that I’d need a Time Machine backup to do the migration from an external drive. I had one, although it was now a week old.

So, I reconnected the SSD to my wife’s 13″ MacBook Pro, booted it, then daisy chained my Time Machine drive onto it (a reason Firewire and Thunderbolt are useful, USB 3 without a hub is not), went through a few setup bumps as Time Machine didn’t recognize this configuration and finally got it started. It took a few hours to do its thing and I left the room, frustrated but hoping this would work or else I was really in trouble.

Here’s Apple’s white paper on this: How to migrate data from another Mac using Mavericks.

Once the Time Machine backup was complete I connected that drive to the new MacBook Pro and initially it didn’t look like Migration Assistant was going to recognize it either but after five minutes the “Next” arrow lit up and I was able to get to the screen for determining what needed migrating (everything).

Migration took about 2.5 hours and went fine. I’ve not poked into every nook and cranny on the new machine but it looks like everything is in place as it should be.

Settling in

Unfortunately doing a complete migration from an old machine to a new one is not the end of setting up a new computer. What migrates is your collection of applications in the Applications folder, your user folder and any odd stuff you have scattered about. But, the actual system folder does not migrate which is good in that you get a fresh system to start out with, less than good in that you have to reinstall a bit of stuff.

I have three printers:

Dymo LabelWriter 450 that I connect to my computer via a USB 2 cable. I went to the Dymo site and downloaded the latest Macintosh drivers and application. My saved templates were migrated with my user folder so it was relatively easy to get this printer back in business. A thermal label printer is an incredibly useful device to have and I’ve been using one form or another of this printer for a very long time.

HP LaserJet 1022n connected to our AirPort Extreme base station for wireless printing. Very simple to use Apple’s Printers and Scanners Prefs Panel to add the printer and get a new version of its driver.

Epson Stylus Pro 3880 which is the printer I use for doing fine art photo printing. This printer is excellent but Epson tends to not be very Mac friendly. I got the driver reinstalled and got the printer working fine but in the process I found that there is a firmware update for the printer. The utility they offer to update the printer’s firmware continuously crashed on my computer. So, I still need to get that sorted or forget about it as the printer has worked well for many years.

I use Apple’s Pages and Numbers applications and occasionally Keynote. I use Numbers as my main spreadsheet and Pages to construct the templates for my fine art notecards. I have a lot of work committed to those applications.

When the new versions were released I tried them but they were missing features I wanted and so, up until yesterday I had continued to use the old versions. However, the new computer comes with the new versions pre-installed and the older versions did not migrate over. So, I could copy the older versions over or try (again) the new ones. It seems Apple has been listening to users because the new versions of these applications are excellent and I’ve already converted a lot of my important files to the new file format. Plus, if I’m of a mind (at the moment I’m not) I can easily share files with the same applications on my iPad or iPhone via iCloud.

Passwords and such

I usually forget to tell iTunes that my old computer is dead/gone and it needs to be “de-authorized” so that I don’t use up the five authorization slots with computers and/or devices that no longer exist.

The easy way to deal with this is to run iTunes and de-authorize everything, then authorize the new computer, which is what I did today.

I’ve been using 1Password to redo all of my important passwords making each of them complex, different, and hopefully impossible to hack. It’s been a chore I’ve been working on for a month now and while I’m not finished I’ve got the important stuff done: Apple ID, iCloud, Gmail, among many others.

These passwords are what I call “garbage.” Not because they’re no good, but because they’re seemingly random letters in different cases, numbers, and a bit of punctuation. Impossible to remember which means once you go this way you are completely reliant on 1Password.

One of the reasons I avoided this for a while is I was scared that if 1Password failed or I got locked out of it somehow I’d be in trouble. And, what about sharing your passwords with your other devices? My 1Password password (the one I use to get into it) is not a garbage password but its complex enough so it would be tough to hack.

So, I’ve been using both iCloud Keychain and 1Password on my Mac, on my iPad, and on my iPhone and while they’re not perfect, the entire setup is working well and I feel a bit safer than I did before.

Here’s a tip (thanks Edward) for anyone who’s read this far: How do you get the “garbage” password you’ve set as your Apple ID into Apple TV? Copying it from your iPad and “typing” it onto that awful alphabetic keyboard on your TV is a real drag. Download Apple’s free Remote app for the iPhone or iPad and then, open 1Password on the iPhone or iPad, copy your Apple ID password, then open Remote while you’re connected to Apple TV and its asking you for the new password and paste it into Remote. It’s fast and simple and if you use Remote for no other purpose, this is worth it. You can do this with Netflix passwords as well.

After the migration was finished and I started using the new computer various apps I had previously bought from the Mac App store wanted my Apple ID password to run so there was a bunch of that. And, the mess that is iMessage (please, fix this mess in Yosemite Apple) required passwords for each of my three messaging accounts, and so on.

I’m sure I’m not done with this password settling in process but the bulk of it is over and I must say, 1Password was extremely helpful.

I love the new computer and while the entire migration wasn’t as smooth as it might have been, here I am, hopefully on the other side of the bulk of it.

I’ve learned quite a bit in the process, didn’t get too worked up when what I thought was going to happen didn’t, and during all of this was able to keep up with my digital life on various other computers and iOS devices.

Life is good, again.

Update on MacBook Pro issues

While I was in Los Angeles earlier in the week my 2011 MacBook Pro started showing signs that it was suffering from a well-documented video card failure and I wrote about it here: MacBook Pro issues.

The best description of the problem can be found here: Owners of 2011 MacBook Pros report critical GPU failures, system crashes.

Just as the AppleInsider report states that others have done, I reset the Power Manager, reset the PRAM, reinstalled the system via Safe Mode and the problem continued intermittently and then as things got bad there was no way to get an image on my screen. It seemed like the SSD was fine although I had no way to know that without a screen.

When I returned home I used an Apple HDMI cable to connect my computer to our HD television, thinking this would show me if the problem was my LCD screen. Our TV showed video noise when the machine booted which told me that in fact, I had/have a video card problem in my computer. I then used Target Disk Mode to boot my wife’s 2011 13″ MacBook Pro with my computer (using my computer’s SSD) and the SSD was and is intact.

I’m religious about doing backups and so I’m covered and am running off a hard disk backup I made in LA just before I couldn’t use my machine anymore. I’ve booted my wife’s 13″ 2011 MacBook Pro off my backup hard disk and while it’s not the same experience as using my own machine, it’s a good stopgap until my new machine arrives on Monday (from China).

My plan is to use the instructions on iFixit to take my machine apart and get the SSD out of it, then put it in an old FireWire enclosure I have and make sure the few things I’ve updated on my backup hard disk are updated on the SSD, then boot this machine with the SSD. At least I’ll have a bit more speed here until Monday.

I’ve learned a lot of things in this process, I’ll list a few below.

The importance of a bootable backup

Having a backup is important and I have three: two SuperDuper clones, and one Time Machine. I know it’s possible to use a Time Machine backup to migrate data onto a new computer, but in fact, you can’t boot from a Time Machine backup so anyone reading this who relies solely on such a backup may want to consider another method in addition or instead. I rarely dig back into my Time Machine backup and frankly I’m not sure I need to use it since I’m very disciplined in my other backup method.

I’ve always wanted bootable backups so I can do what I’m doing now: run another machine as if it was my own from the backup in case something happens.

It’s been a bit bumpy with Keychain and 1Password because they use machine IDs as well as usernames and passwords so I’m having to sign into things again. But, at least I have that option running from a backup.

Once you go SSD there’s no going back

In 2010 I put an SSD in an older MacBook Pro MacBook Pro SSD upgrade and it made such an amazing difference that I swore I’d never go back to using a hard disk to run a computer.

The MacBook Pro that just died has an Apple-supplied 512GB SSD in it and it was a joy to use and would still be a joy to use if the video card hadn’t died. In other words, while the entire machine was slower than what I am getting on Monday, it was fast enough for almost everything I do on it. A three year run on storage is pretty amazing and my recommendation for anyone reading this is to not balk at spending the extra money to get a large SSD in a new computer, it’s a worthwhile investment and will make a huge difference in performance. The Retina MacBook Pro coming on Monday has a 1TB SSD in it and that large SSD was a substantial extra cost. For me, that extra cost is well worth it and once you experience running on an SSD my guess is you’ll agree.

Note: Apple only makes one portable Mac with a hard disk anymore, a low end 13″ model.

I have no problem with hard disks for backup and if I ever buy an iMac I’d consider an Apple Fusion drive (SSD and HDD combined) but in fact, I’d rather go all solid state.

13″ vs 15″

I thought I might be able to run my life on a 13″ MacBook Pro and was considering downsizing to it, but after spending last night and this morning using my wife’s older 13″ screen, I can say without a doubt that I could never do it, even with the higher resolution on the newer Retina models. If I had a larger monitor I’d consider it but in fact, the 15″ models of MacBook Pro come with higher end processor and RAM options and these things are important to me. Portability is less important to me. The 15″ model is a sweet spot for me: I can carry it around the house or back and forth to LA in my pack and it has enough screen real estate to do real work on. I like multiple windows showing on screen and 13″ just isn’t enough for me.

Mac OS vs iOS

I cannot use an iPad Air or any iOS device as a complete or even partial substitute for a computer. This is a big thing and I’ve sort of known it all along but this recent experience underscores it because the iPad Air is such a capable iPad.

It isn’t just the differences between Mac OS and iOS (which are huge) but it’s text editing, the use of a mouse, and frankly, familiarity. Some serious Mac users have tried to use the iPad as a complete substitute for a laptop and some with great success but for the mix of things I do, and the fact that I touch type, by the time you’ve bought and connected a bluetooth keyboard to an iPad, you might as well have a MacBook Air.

Even though I do have Pages, Numbers, and Keynote on my Mac and on my iPad, I tend not to use them on the iPad. The things I do on the iPad are reading, a bit of research, reading RSS feeds, and watching ripped movies. I could do most of what I do on the iPad on a MacBook Air and at some point, maybe that’s the way I’ll go. The rumored 12″ model is attractive to me (in addition to a 15″ MacBook Pro).

But, what I’ve noticed over time is that for me, the integration of all of my various applications and identities works better on my Mac than it does on my iPad, even though I have iCloud Keychain and 1Password running everywhere, I find my MacBook Pro easier to use to do what I do than my iPad Air.

What’s coming

The new Retina MacBook Pro that’s coming will not have a Firewire port on it, Thunderbolt replaced Firewire a while ago so I ordered a Thunderbolt to Firewire adaptor from Apple so I can continue to use my backup drives until I get newer Thunderbolt drives at some point.

Apple has taken the CD/DVD player out of the chassis of newer machines and so I ordered their USB CD/DVD drive so I can continue to rip movies and music as I need to.

No doubt there will be some bumps although I’m hoping migration goes smoothly and it should be fast if I can get the SSD set up in an external enclosure.

Dark Sky (on my iPhone) just told me it’s going to start raining soon, the perfect day to take my old computer apart and salvage its SSD and get it set up in a case.

I’ll get that done in the next hour or so and I’ll get some new images posted here and do a few other things.

But, the bottom line is, I feel bad that I don’t have my computer in front of me to work with. My computer is such an important element in my life that losing it is more than just a small inconvenience, it’s like I’ve had an “insult” to part of my brain.

Monday can’t come soon enough.

Update: I’ve taken the SSD out of my old 15″ MacBook Pro, put it in a Firewire enclosure and booted this 13″ MacBook Pro from it. Working quite well and while it’s not as fast as it was on the internal bus of my older (faster) machine, it’s a heck of a lot faster than the built in hard disk. When all the dust has settled on this I’ll put the SSD in this computer for Anne.

Rooster Rock, Julia King, and a climbing trip that changed my life


I recently scanned over 400 slides. I shot most of them on movie reversal film I bulk rolled to save money. The upside was I saved money. The downside was and is, they’re not in great shape compared with the (few) Kodachrome slides I shot. I recently had them all scanned with ScanCafe and while my slides were a mess (very dirty) the service did a good job on them.

This is the first of many posts telling some of the stories the slides illustrate. What I’ve learned in looking at these scans is that in order to tell a story you don’t need a perfect image, just a good enough image to illustrate the story. Of course, it’s only in retrospect that a story can be built out of images like these. Interesting to think about going forward.


In the late 1970’s I got deeply into rock climbing. I started small and local in Eugene, Oregon and eventually did quite a bit of climbing all over the Northwest and in Yosemite Valley, California. Those were great years and I’ll be posting lots of images from many of the climbs I did back then. I shot most of them with one of two Olympus XA cameras I had back then (a fixed prime lens clamshell compact rangefinder camera).

I taught climbing classes for the Eugene, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and did a bit of private guiding on routes too remote or difficult for classes. In 1981 I dropped out of the climbing scene and pretty much everything else for a while to try to get to the bottom of a problem I’d had my entire life: dyslexia. In those days I wasn’t much of a multi-tasker: I found it difficult to do the work I was doing researching my reading and writing problems and at the same time carry on the rest of my life, so, I stopped everything until I got a handle on the reading and writing problems.

Richard and Olympia typewriter

Richard writing on his Olympia manual typewriter.

One of my most significant early tools was an Olympia manual typewriter. It solved my handwriting problems completely and for the first time in my life I could read my own writing. And, it allowed me to write without pain in my hands from bearing down too hard. But, the typewriter was just the beginning.

Julia King

When I came up for air in 1982 I decided to put an ad up at the local climbing spot that I was guiding again. I needed money and for me, this was a way to make some.

Richard's climbing instruction flyer

Richard’s climbing instruction flier.

Not long after I put up the ad I got a call from a women named Julia King. She had been on a mountaineering expedition on Mt. Jefferson in the Oregon Cascades and had watched as her then boyfriend slid down a snowfield to his death. That had shaken her up so badly that she got out of climbing. She wanted back in and wanted a gentle instructor to take her up a climb to break the ice.

We made a plan to drive up to a climbing spot called The Menagerie which is a collection of odd shaped rock formations in the western foothills of the Oregon, Cascades. The formations have names like Rooster Rock, Chicken Rock, and Hen Rock. The most well known climb there that I’d done numerous times was on Rooster Rock and that’s what Julia and I planned to start off with to see how she did.

Rooster Rock

Rooster Rock

We drove up to The Menagerie and hiked in to Rooster Rock. To be honest, even though I made this trip many times I have no memory of the various logging roads, trails, or route finding to get to this place. But, in those days I knew it all well. I carried a rucksack with a small rack of gear and we probably only brought a single rope as the rappel off of Rooster rock is short on the uphill side.

I have no particular memory of this but it’s a long enough drive so after picking Julia up, we had a few hours in my VW bus to get to know one another. Knowing what I know about her now, my guess is the conversation was wide ranging. Even though I’ve not seen Julia in 25 or more years, she remains one of the most interesting and brilliant people I’ve ever known (my wife has met her and agrees), but, I didn’t know any of this then, just that we were off for a climbing adventure and I was hoping to make it as much fun and as easy as possible for her.

Julia King under Rooster Rock

Julia King sorting slings and flaking rope under Rooster Rock.

The climb was uneventful as I remember it thirty two years later. Julia had climbing experience and knew about rope handling and belaying. Still, she was nervous and that meant I did a lot of talking to reassure her that I was well aware of her and taking good care of us while I led and she followed.

This climb was probably two pitches with a belay on a ledge between them although there are many routes on Rooster Rock and I don’t really remember which one we did. No doubt an easy one.

My foot and Julia King on Rooster Rock

Looking down at Julia belaying while I led the first pitch.

Julia King belaying on Rooster Rock

Julia setting up the belay for the second pitch.

At the top we sat on a ledge and had some food and water and talked both about her experiences climbing in Oregon and trekking in Nepal and my experiences of the past few years coming to terms with dyslexia.

Julia King on top of Rooster Rock

Julia on top of Rooster Rock.

The connection

In our discussion Julia mentioned that she thought that given the types of problems I was having with writing, writing with a computer would solve some problems for me. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard about the effects of editing text electronically, but Julia explained what she thought would make it work for me in a way that was both clear and convincing. She said that her then boyfriend Greg Estes had an IBM PC and I should stop by their house when we got back to Eugene to try writing with it.

I don’t remember talking much more about this on our walk out and drive home. Climbing is an exciting thing to do and the purpose of our trip was to get Julia over her fear and it seemed like we’d done that. She was extremely happy which made me happy. And, I was happy that after a period of time away from climbing I could still climb well and safely lead someone up up a moderate climb. Most importantly, I’d met an amazing person who would remain my close friend for many years to come.

programmer's journal

I can’t remember if I went to their house and tried Greg’s computer that very day or a day later but it was very soon after we returned to Eugene. Greg Estes was a DBase programmer who wrote and published a magazine called Programmer’s Journal which Julia helped edit and lay out. They’d both trekked extensively in Nepal where they met and they were both my kind of people: informal, well informed, easy going, and worldly.

After meeting Greg, he booted up his IBM PC (no hard disk or PC AT yet) and put in a disk with a simple writing program on it. He typed in the command to launch the program and backed away from the computer, leaving a green screen with a flashing cursor and a keyboard.

He told me to sit down and type something out on the keyboard. At this point you should know that even though I could tell right away that there was little chance of humiliating myself in front of these people, I was petrified, not of the computer, but of exposing anyone else to my spelling and writing. Even though I’d spent the previous two years hunting and pecking on a typewriter and my writing had improved tremendously during that time, it was still crude and I was still sensitive about it.

I wish I could remember the first sentence I wrote but it might have been something like, “hello my name is Richard.” Whatever it was I made a few mistakes which was good as it gave Greg something to teach me with. He told me to use the arrow keys to back the cursor up (the term cursor was new to me at that point) and put it just after the problem I wanted to fix, then use the backspace key to delete the problem letter and type the correct letter, fixing the problem.

Anyone reading this in 2014 takes all of this for granted and has for decades, but back then only a small number of people had experienced electronic editing and they tended to be of the nerdy persuasion. Greg talked me through a bit more writing and editing doing a few different things, then he sat down and demonstrated some other things which blew my mind.

We’re talking rudimentary word processing here, nothing fancy. But in those days just a “block move” (cutting and pasting) was a big deal.

Then he and Julia walked out of the room to fix dinner leaving me with the computer and writing software. I continued to experiment and pretty soon formed a thought that has stuck with me to this day:

Writing with a pen or a typewriter is very much like sculpting stone, the consequences of making a mistake involve a complete rewrite. Writing with a computer is very much like working with clay because writing/editing and printing are separate pieces of the process, the consequences of making a mistake are eliminated because the writing remains plastic and editable at all times.

Note: I have both a BFA and an MFA in ceramics and while I was pretty much done with ceramics at that point, working with clay remained and remains an important piece of my life.

I would later go on to write numerous articles about “mistake tolerant tools and processes” comparing older analog tools with their newer digital counterparts. I had a gut feeling about this that very first day but it was unformed, just excitement and wonder.

We had dinner, talked more about it and about lots of other stuff and Greg offered to help me if I decided to get a computer. It was an incredible evening.

In the next few days I went to my local bookstore and did some research and poured through The Whole Earth Catalog which was just beginning to mention computers and got a copy of Peter McWilliams’ The Word Processing Book. In the end, I decided to get an IBM PC, MS DOS and WordStar mostly because I had Greg as a local resource and I really liked him.

Richard and IBM PC

Richard writing with his IBM PC, image by Gary Sharp

Writing with my computer

Once I got set up using my new computer one of the first things I did was a lot of enthusiastic writing on what it was like to write with a computer.

whole earth software reviewsoftalk for IBM PC

I did a piece for The Whole Earth Software Review, Issue #1, Spring, 1984: Word Processing Computers as Remedial Writing Tools. I also did a piece for the June, 1984 issue of Softalk for the IBM PC Personal Computer: Bridge to Clarity, the computer as a compensatory writing tool. And I did various software review pieces for Greg and Julia’s magazine, Programmer’s Journal reviewing various writing and editing software for the IBM PC.

I did a lot of other writing as well, some of which was published in both tech and learning related magazines I’ve long since forgotten.

Here are two later pieces that were posted online describing that early process:

Tools for People With Writing Problems

How computers change the writing process for People with Learning Disabilities

Greg was a member of the Eugene IBM PC user’s group (he may have started it) and I joined up for a while as well.

During this time a woman named Norma Fuller who lived near Anchorage, Alaska read one of my pieces and called me up to see about bringing me up to Alaska to do a series of workshops for a group of dyslexic adults there. I taught there numerous times and made a great connection with her and others in Alaska (that will be another post with more scanned slides).

During the first few years I got involved with computers I was not only writing about my experience as a dyslexic writing with a computer, I was also trying out lots of writing and spelling/grammar support software which was pretty crude in those days compared with what it’s like now. During one of my trips to a computer store in Eugene, I got to play around with Apple’s new Lisa computer. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it but it was definitely interesting. At $10,000 it was far out of my reach but it did get me thinking about another way of using these new tools.

IBM PC to Macintosh

In mid-1984, Greg and I decided to go down to San Francisco to attend the West Coast Computer Faire. Greg was trying to drum up new subscribers to Programmer’s Journal and I was always up for a trip to San Francisco and I’d never been to a computer trade show which were relatively new.

I don’t remember much about the trade show except that at some point I lost Greg and stumbled into Apple Computer, Inc’s booth which consisted of a fifteen foot 128K Macintosh with a projector in it such that a person operating a real Macintosh on a podium off to the side could demonstrate on it. The Macintosh had recently been introduced so it was new but the booth, amazingly, wasn’t all that crowded.

The person running the demo was Andy Hertzfeld and much of the first Macintosh team was hanging out in the booth, including Steve Jobs who I recognized immediately.

I watched the demo for a bit, then I walked up to Jobs and told him I was planning another trip to Alaska to work with adults with learning disabilities, I was taking twenty Compaq computers and I thought it would be great to have a Macintosh along so that we could see what LD adults could do with its mouse and graphical user interface.

Jobs loved the idea, called Mike Murray over (Murray was the first marketing manager for the Macintosh at Apple) and told him to send me a Macintosh immediately. Jobs gave me his card (with AppleLink email address) and told me to get back to him with whatever happened in Alaska.

I eventually found Greg and told him what had happened. In those days it was still possible to meet Steve Jobs in an Apple trade show booth and while it sounds amazing in retrospect, I did have small a sense of how important that encounter was. But, I had no sense of what was to come: my eventual migration from PC to Mac, starting the Eugene Macintosh User’s Group, presenting at numerous conferences for Apple on the Macintosh and LD in the next 6 months, moving to Connecticut to start the first Mac lab in the country for dyslexic high school students (with Apple’s backing), writing, editing, and publishing The Macintosh Lab Monitor with international circulation (also with Apple’s backing), meeting my wife at that school, continued consulting for Apple for the next twenty years, a few more meetings with Steve Jobs, many hundreds of workshops and presentations on the Macintosh in education all over the world, and much more.

Julia King, Richard Wanderman

Julia and Richard after the Rooster Rock climb.


Looking at these pictures of Julia and me on that climb brings back a flood of memories and what’s almost telescopic about it all is that the tool I’m writing this on and viewing the digital images on (a computer) is one that she helped lead me to and one that she and Greg were very early adopters of. They were both out in front of the digital revolution. I caught up fast but these two people were my introduction.

Julia also taught me how to make “sherpa tea” (she guided treks in Nepal before we met) and to this day I think of her when I make it. Of course, like many things, she was out in front of the wave: now chai is everywhere but back then…

Wherever you are Julia, thank you. You too Greg.

Craig Hickman

The Macintosh computer is 30 years old today and Apple has some great images and stories up at their web site commemorating this birthday: Macintosh at 30.

My old friend and colleague Craig Hickman who’s a professor in the digital arts program at the University of Oregon (where I taught) and wrote the popular program Kid Pix, was featured today on the Apple web site as an important contributor to the Macintosh’s evolution.

Making art kid-friendly

Kid Pix was and remains incredible, but Craig wrote lots of software including an amazing virtual camera that ran on the 128K Mac. Here’s Craig’s online version of Virtual Camera.

For more on the evolution of Kid Pix check out: Kid Pix – The Early Years.

Congratulations Craig.