Should I Write A Book?

As evidenced by this ongoing blog, I enjoy writing.  I have never approached this effort with an audience in mind, and most of my articles are mostly journaling personal opinions and experiences.  That said, my current motivation to write more frequently comes from two separate perspectives.  The first is my as-yet unannounced retirement, which I hope to make official a little over a month from now.  The second is from reading a book that is both informative but frustrating at the same time.  It’s this book that forms the subject of this post.

Here’s the back story:  I try to take a 30-40 minute walk every day.  As I’m heading out the door, I engage the “Outdoor Walk” workout on my Apple Watch.  I then open the Pacer app on my iPhone, which I use for its audible messages for time and distance.  I wondered to myself if I couldn’t automate that process, which led me to Shortcuts.

Shortcuts is an app that Apple produced and introduced on iOS (iPhone/iPad) and recently added to the Mac.  When it debuted, I took little notice of it, but I quickly realized that AppleScript and Automator (two other, older Apple technologies) were not available outside the Mac, so my attention turned to Shortcuts.

Another back story:  As a programmer most of my adult life and throughout my career, I’ve constantly looked for ways to simplify my computing experience, and have developed a number of scripts and processes using the command line, HyperCard, AppleScript and Automator.  Each has required a learning curve, and Apple has followed the trend of making programming languages and their syntax complicated and intimidating.  Which I find ironic, as the Mac was originally promoted as the computer for “the rest of us.”  Hmm.

To add insult to injury, Apple keeps breaking AppleScript with updates to macOS, and now I hear that Automator is likely going to be replaced by Shortcuts.

So, maybe it’s time for me to learn Shortcuts.

Shortcuts began life as a product called “Workflow,” which garnered an Apple Design Award in 2015, and was fully acquired by Apple in 2017.  It has since grown added features and in 2021 its availability for macOS was announced.  It now supports the entire Apple “ecosphere,” Mac, iPad, iPhone, Watch.

Even though Shortcuts attempts to be helpful and usable “out of the box,” most of the pre-built “workflows” (or “macros”) available in the product’s “gallery” do not fit my day to day needs.  Time to roll up my sleeves and create my own.

Which is where the dark side of technology is introduced.  In its inimitable way, Apple has tried to make Shortcuts usable without writing any code.  But by so doing, one must learn the “Shortcuts way” of doing things.  Sadly, there aren’t tutorials, and the built-in help is pretty much the only source for information.  That is, until I came across the book, Take Control of Shortcuts, 2nd Edition by Rosemary Orchard (the delightful irony of both Apple and Orchard being associated is not overlooked!).   I purchased it (Kindle version, the only format available) in large part because it even addresses changes and additions to the current version of macOS, “Ventura” (version 13), which I am running on my modern Macs.

Reading the reviews on Amazon, I was prepared for a less-than-ideal reading and learning experience, so I wasn’t surprised that the author, while knowledgeable about the subject, chose to attempt to address the differences between platforms every time one occurred.  And there are many!  I found this distracting and hard to follow.  There’s a lot of good information presented in the book, but I find myself losing track as Orchard follows breadcrumbs here and there.

Which brings me back to the topic of this post:  Should I Write A Book?  I have given this some (but not a lot) of thought.  If I were going to write a book about Shortcuts, how would I structure it?  Since I am exposed to a lot of technical documentation through the course of my work, my thinking is that I would probably write it according to this rough outline:

  • Introduction.  What is Shortcuts?  Where did it come from?  Who can use it, and where to find it.
  • Definition of terms.  It helps to have a clear understanding of terms like “events,” “actions,” “variables,” “triggers” and so on.
  • Core capabilities.  Items and processes that are available on all platforms.
  • Mac differences
  • iPhone/iPad differences
  • Apple Watch differences

It always helps to have examples and even do-it-yourself templates.  Screenshots and clear step-by-step instructions in abundance would go a long way to adding value to the book.

Almost in spite of Orchard’s book, I have been able to create two Shortcuts “macros.”  The first addresses the original desire to automate my workout routine.  Because it is started on my Watch and transfers control to my iPhone, it doesn’t always work.  I’m still looking into that.  The second, which I even added comments inside, I have running as a “service” on my Mac that just uses the Mac’s “Quick Look” capability to display a random photo from a folder I use for desktop pictures.  It doesn’t serve any real useful purpose, but it’s kind of fun during a quick break to pop up and display a photo I may not have seen in a while.  Here’s a screenshot of the Shortcut “code.”

Remember that “learning curve” I mentioned earlier?  Well, I had to find out what a “Quick Action” is (in essence, it’s like a service one can call from the Services menu on.a Mac) and then I had to learn that I needed to “continue” if there was no input.  And, since I’m using folders on my Mac that don’t exist on my phone or iPad, I had to terminate the shortcut if I was trying to run it on one of them, otherwise I’d get an error.

I may never write this book.  But when I finally retire, I should have the time to learn and explore the Shortcuts app on multiple platforms, and maybe put my knowledge into words.

Has Apple Abandoned AppleScript? Automator?

Those who know me know that I’m an Apple Macintosh fan.  I was already fascinated with computers when Apple ran their famous “1984” commercial

and I went, “Whoa, this I gotta see!”

Soon after, I acquired an original, first-generation Macintosh, an ImageWriter printer, and I was hooked!

Awed by the rich, well-crafted graphical user interface (GUI), the “other guys” were suddenly rocking back on their heels.  They had nothing to compare to it.  Since Microsoft Windows hadn’t yet made an appearance, the best argument against the Mac came in the form of the criticism that the Mac had no command line, and no way for the average user to create their own programs, processes and workflows.

The answer to that complaint arrived in 1987 as Apple introduced Hypercard, the first-ever hypermedia system, pre-dating the worldwide web.  Apple pulled the plug on it in 2004 because, as Tim Oren put it, “HyperCard always had a marketing problem of not being clearly about any one thing.”  In other words, Apple didn’t know what to do with it.

AppleScript made its debut in 1993, when Apple was still shipping System 7, the operating system that was replaced by Steve Jobs when he returned to Apple from NeXT.  Compared to the DOS command line scripting language, AppleScript was not only fluid, very English-like in its syntax and language structure, but also leveraged components of the Mac operating system down to its core.  Scripts could be written to automate tasks, could integrate with other scripting languages (the porting of NextStep to the Mac and integrating it with the classic Mac OS added the ability to write Unix shell scripts).

I remember writing an AppleScript process that would

  1. Mute the sound output of the Mac
  2. Launch an Internet stream recorder every weeknight and point it to a radio broadcast
  3. Turn off the recording two hours later
  4. Save the recording to a folder with a date-time specification
  5. Restore the audio level

I could then listen to my replay of the live presentation at a more reasonable hour (for me).  Another feature of AppleScript that I enjoyed was the “folder actions” ability:  Write a script that watches a given folder and when an item is added, changed or removed, the script would take an action (in database parlance this is known as a “trigger”).  Cool stuff!

Eight years later, Apple added to its set of built-in tools Automator.  Building on top of previous capabilities, Automator is designed to create workflows using a point-and-click and drag-and-drop interface.  It can call AppleScript scripts and shell scripts, too.

Since my employment entails working with a lot of the “other guys” (Windows and Linux), I do a lot of shell scripting and DOS batch/command files.  Microsoft met the Apple challenge in 2006 with Windows PowerShell (now made open-source and cross-platform in 2016), but I’ve never taken the time to learn it (every programming language has a learning curve, and I’m pretty curved out).

Which brings me to the topic of this post.  I’m running the latest (as of this writing) macOS, Ventura (13.2).  Apple has made significant changes to its OS under the hood, and in so doing has broken a lot of AppleScripts.  A quick Internet search for “Ventura AppleScript” will reveal page after page of people reporting their AppleScripts no longer work under Ventura.

I have sitting next to me a book I purchased in 1995 by Tom Trinko titled, Applied Mac Scripting, which focuses on AppleScript, Userland Frontier (now primarily a web scripting language) and some other small automation tools.  It’s a huge book of over 800 pages, and originally came with a CD that has long ago disappeared.  I mention this because no one seems to have written anything new about AppleScript in years.  The most recent book I could find on Amazon is dated 2010!  Even Apple’s own Developer site has outdated information on AppleScript, and the “About AppleScript” forum is locked.  That’s not a good sign.

Here’s what brought me to this lengthy screed:  I like to decorate my Mac’s “desktop” with photos I’ve taken (or downloaded).  I also like to have the image rotated randomly at specific intervals. I save all my photos in a folder (not my Pictures folder).  Over the years, I have tried a number of programs that purport to do this, and all fail to meet 100% of my requirements.  The one I’ve used for years is a little freeware program, Change Desktop by Brian Bergstrand (hat tip!), now unavailable.  So, I thought I’d write one myself.  After all, I have all the tools necessary, don’t I?

As a proof of concept, I quickly whipped up a shell script.  It simply reads through the folder, building an array of file names, chooses one at random then displays the filename.  This is the script:

unset p
let x=1
for f in *;
if [ -f "$f" ] ; then
let x=x+1
echo "$f" is not a file
RANDNUM=$(( 1 + $RANDOM % $x ))
echo "There are $x files"
echo "The randomly chosen file is $FN"

Okay, it works.  But the shell doesn’t provide a way (that I know of) to set the desktop image.  I found several AppleScripts that should do the same thing.  But they don’t.  They either throw an error (AppleScript’s errors are as unfriendly as any programming language’s I’ve seen) or they don’t take the right image from the folder specified.  Huh?

Automator seems now to be Apple’s preferred method of creating your own workflows (which is the name Apple gives the processes you create).  At least they’ve updated the documentation for it.  I’ve created Automator workflows, but they don’t seem as “intuitive” as AppleScript.  Well, as AppleScript used to be.  As is the case with most software, “feature creep” enters the picture and what was once a simply, handy tool (like HyperCard) gets burdened down with external functions, libraries, frameworks and no longer is accessible to the common man.



Thank You. Welcome. Good-bye.

Can of Hormel Spam

The original SPAM – Shoulder of Pork and Ham.

Spam has been around almost since the Internet went live.  In fact, I’d probably wager the first spam message was sent the day after the Internet went live! And I’d likely lose that wager.  According to Digital Trends, the first spam message was probably sent in 1978 over the Internet precursor, ARPANET.  Six years ago, in 2015, spam traffic accounted for some 85% of all Internet traffic.  Whew!

Spam email isn’t news and it isn’t new. So, why am I writing about it now?  Simply for the fact that spammers today seem to have adopted a common practice:  Sending emails masquerading as “welcome” messages.  In essence, the unsolicited email arrives in one’s inbox and reads something like this:  “Welcome to the XYZ slimy product and service company.  We value your privacy and respect your time, so we won’t pester you needlessly.  If you wish to unsubscribe from our mailing, please click here,” with the “here” containing a link.  Which one should absolutely not, ever, never click!

The warped humor I find in these mails is the opening assertion – a “welcome” message, as if I’d actually gone to so-and-so’s web site and signed up for something.  Then, as if the message was responding to this ridiculous assumption, the smooth language meant to assuage and fears and calm the recipient down.  Many of these bogus emails contain some sort of “legalese” text suggesting one can read their privacy terms and so on.  Again, never, ever click on a link in a spam message.

The “unsubscribe” offer is exactly the opposite.  By clicking to “unsubscribe” to email one never subscribed to in the first place, is a guarantee that your email address will be validated and then sold to spammers worldwide.  You might as well close your email account now, because if you think you get a lot of spam now, be prepared for the tsunami…

By now you’d have thought most people would understand this, but the mere fact these spam messages continue says two things:  (a) There must still be gullible people in the world, and (b) the cost of sending these messages by the thousands (millions?) is so low that it is made up for by a very small percentage of people clicking on the links in them.

It wasn’t my intent to make a product recommendation, but it occurred to me now, so here it is:  I have been using a software program called SpamSieve since it first came out in 2002!


Rein in your spam with SpamSieve

I’ve run it on every Mac I’ve owned since, and it has never failed, never caused problems, and continues to be updated nearly twenty years later.  It cost $30 and has paid for itself many times over.  Macworld called it a “must-have spam filter,” and I agree.  One can “train” it to a wildly specific degree, or set it up to use its defaults.  Either way, it’s unobtrusive (starts automatically when the email program launches) and never shows its “face” until an update is available.

All in all, in this day of inboxes overflowing with spam, it’s nice to have something that will just stand guard and move it aside until one is ready to give the junk a once-over and delete it permanently.  Maybe that’s why I find these “welcome” messages less than unwelcome.

An Open Letter to Apple

Dear Mr. Cook:

I am dismayed at Apple’s decision to remove the Parler app from the App Store. In many ways, this seems contrary to Apple’s founding and original character.

The Mac Team and the Pirate Flag

My love for Apple and its products began in the late 1970s. I had first an Apple //e, then a IIc. When I was able to get my hands on a Macintosh, I replaced the IIc quickly. I’ve read all 122 stories by and about the Mac team at When Steve Jobs raised the skull and crossbones flag and declared, “It’s better to be a pirate than join the navy,” the tone was set. Apple wasn’t going to “go along,” Apple was going to be a challenger. A trend-setter.

I remember the “dark days” of Apple after Steve left. I remember Michael Spindler and Gil Amelio and the horrendously complex line of boring, tan computers. I remember the rumors that Apple was going to be acquired by Sun Microsystems. I remember Microsoft, considered to be Apple’s staunchest rival, infusing Apple with $!50 million to keep the company solvent. I remember buying Guy Kawasaki’s book, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, and buying and proudly wearing a “Mac Evangelist’ shirt (which I still own).

The one and only MacWorld D. C. occurred in 1989, and I attended gleefully. I won a copy of Informix’s Wingz program which was completely ahead of its time. I belonged to several Macintosh user groups. I bought the first three volumes of Inside Macintosh (hardcover!), and the first edition of The Macintosh Bible, and I still revere its First Commandment: “This is the Macintosh. It’s supposed to be fun!”

This is a Second Edition cover; I couldn’t find a First Edition.

Owning and using a Mac, and then later Apple products was a pleasure and filled with satisfaction. A quick inventory of Apple products I own shows Macs (6), iPads (2), iPods (7), Airpods (2), iPhone (1), Magic Mouse (3), Apple Watch (1) and assorted cables, cases, connectors and keyboards. On top of that I have five shirts, including the Mac Evangelist shirt mentioned above and two coffee cups.

I became a shareholder 20 years ago. Apple’s stock has been one of the best investments I have made! I cheered when Apple became the first company ever to exceed the $1 trillion market valuation.

Somewhere along the line, Apple became the “establishment” as we used to call it. That same establishment that Steve Jobs so despised. I’m sad to say the products don’t work the way the old ads used to claim: “There is no step three.” I have experienced software glitches with macOS security updates, my new iPhone didn’t automatically transfer data from my old iPhone, and crashes are now more frequent than the “sad Mac” one would rarely experience.

And now, Apple has put the icing on the cake with its decision to remove the Parler app from the App Store. Personally, I don’t like and have little use for “social media” (which is anything but, in my opinion), but this move seems capricious and divisive. I’ve been to Parler, and I have never read any article or posting there inciting anyone to violence. I have read and seen worse on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Those apps are not banned from the App Store, which makes me wonder about selective indignation. If Parler were offering pornography, weapons building instructions or clearly illegal content, I could understand it. But this strikes me as a move to silence voices you don’t want heard.

Would you have silenced Steve Jobs because of his pirate flag?

Does Everything Have To Live In The Menu Bar?

Using the term “Menu Bar” should be a dead giveaway that this post is Mac-oriented.

I don’t want this to appear to be a whiny complaint, so I’m going to try to make it “constructive criticism” mixed with a call for ideas.

First, a brief history: After Apple introduced Mac OS X (“ten,” not “X” and now known as macOS), a major upgrade from the “Classic” Mac OS9, many new features began finding their way into the operating system. One of those features is officially called “Menu Extras.” According to Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines, the left side of a Mac’s menu is occupied by “traditional” icons (Apple, File, Edit, View, etc.) and the right side is where these menu extras go. Apple has its own set, but developers have been busy at work.

Apple Menu Extras

Looking through the MacUpdate web site, where I check every day for new and updated Mac software, it’s become more and more obvious that a lot of utility programs present themself to the user via a menu extra — usually an icon the sits in the menu bar.

I confess, I like the handy availability of these items. I like seeing the time, weather, memory usage, network connectivity and a variety of “quick-look” items I would otherwise have to open an app or utility to view. I also like the ability, no matter what I’m doing, to click and view my calendar, do an Internet search, check my clipboard items, configure a Bluetooth device, activate AirPlay, and a number of common activities without having to put aside work I’m doing.

The problem is — and I’ll admit to being part of it — is that my menu bar is getting crowded. I purchased a very helpful utility called BarTender 3, that lets me toggle the visibility of my choice, but even that only masks the issue. At this writing, I have 15 visible and 16 “hidden” items. That’s 31 items that have taken roost in my menu bar!

Now, I wonder. My creative mind isn’t what I’m known for, and it certainly isn’t paying the bills, but here’s a suggestion for any developers who might be reading this and looking for a new project: How about a single menu extra that when clicked, reveals all the others, and lets one click on a selected item? Parallels Toolbox paves the way for this, but it only offers the tools Parallels includes.

Parallels Toolbox, Mac version 3.9.1

There are a number of useful utilities included, and I may begin replacing my single-purpose utilities with it. A new feature, shown in the image above, is “Hide Menu Icons.” Parallels Toolbox has the ability to identity an action I’m taking and can suggest using one of its features. For example, when I am giving a training, I use a Mac to display my presentation on a large screen TV, and Parallels Toolbox automatically offers to use Presentation Mode (muting alerts, popups, etc.).

In a way, I’m currently playing a juggling act using Bartender. Its own menu extra is used to toggle between “visible” and “hidden.” It has some other options I won’t go into here, but it’s one of those programs I feel is worth every penny I spent on it. Another one is TotalSpaces2. But that’s another topic, for another day.

I’m Losing Confidence In Apple

It pains me to write this. Really.

I bought my first Mac in 1984. It was one of the original 128K, 9-inch black-and-white screen computers that had the names of all the designers and programmers etched inside the cover.

Apple Macintosh, circa 1984

Boxy mouse, chunky keyboard, power button on the back, it was then, a marvel of technology. Today, it’s a bit anachronistic, and what was Apple Computer is now Apple Inc. and the Macintosh is now simply a “Mac.”

Before I got my first Mac, I had already been familiar with Apple computers (lowercase “C”). I had a //e and a //c. The //c was a very sleek computer then, and I think would still be considered so today. But the Mac, with its graphics and advanced technology was for me, the game changer!

Over the years I’ve owned more Macs than I can possibly list. “Fat” Macs, Performas, Duos, PowerMacs, PowerBooks, iBooks, MacBooks and so on. Currently, I have FIVE Macbooks running at home, serving a variety of purposes.

To add to the list, I have three iPads and two iPhones. I have multiple iPods of every generation, a set of AirPods (and another, newer set on the way) and TWO Apple TVs!

But somewhere along the line, and only recently to my consciousness, I’ve become unhappy with Apple. It’s difficult even now to pinpoint the source of unhappiness.

Let’s start with Siri, Apple’s voice-enabled “assistant.” This is technology that is supposed to respond to voice queries, providing quick searches, calculate math formulae, find locations and offer directions.

Siri may work for others, but I’d say my measure of success using Siri is around 10%. In fact, I get so frustrated with Siri responding to my entries with absolutely nothing related to them, that I have disabled it (her?) on my iPads.

Now comes Touch ID. Two years ago, I bought a top-of-the-line MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. One of the features with the Touch Bar is Touch ID: register your fingerprint and instead of using a password, let the computer recognize you by your fingerprint.

More and more, this feature doesn’t work. When new, it was a fabulous experience: sitting in an airport boarding area, just press my finger on the Touch Bar pad, and presto! Except now, the screen just shudders, and after repeated attempts, tells me I need to input my password. But that’s what Touch ID is meant to bypass! I have reset (deleted and added) my fingerprints, to no avail. What gives?

Similarly, I had a problem with my keyboard. This turned out to be a known problem that Apple would repair at no cost to the consumer. Dutifully, I took it to an Apple Store, and the Genius there said Apple would have to repair it. I left it, and when I received it back, the entire hard disk had been erased. WHAT??!? How in the world does repairing or replacing a keyboard require wiping a hard disk?

No company is perfect, not even Apple. Maybe it’s me, but I think maybe Apple has let some cracks develop in its product design, development and testing processes. That disheartens me, but I still consider Apple’s products superior to the competing products out there. For now.

HomeGEEK Update

I have now completed (or mostly completed) the update and modifications to two new/refurbished Macintoshes. During the process I made several key decisions.

The first is that I’m going to make the 11″ MacBook Air my primary travel computer. Yes, I like it that much! I made it a Mac-Linux dual-boot and added the nifty rEFInd boot manager to make the startup choice a piece of cake. The diminutive laptop is capable of running macOS Catalina (10.15) when it ships, so I’m current with the technology. I chose MX Linux as the other OS because it’s a clean, well-crafted Linux, based on Debian, and it has a terrific support ecosphere, too. On top of that, I purchased a perfect laptop carry case for it from eBags, an Everki Advance iPad/Tablet/Ultrabook 11.6″ Laptop Bag!

The older MacBook has also been converted to a dual Mac-MX Linux machine, with a disk partition available for yet another OS, should I choose to add one. I was first going to keep it running Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6.8) because of the add-ons included by the vendor, Operator Headgap Systems, but then I realized I could use it to replace a similarly-aged MacBook Pro whose CD drive and trackpad have gone the way of the Dodo. So, I laboriously labored to upgrade it — through necessary stages — to High Sierra (macOS 10.13). This required purchasing Carbon Copy Cloner to create a bootable copy of the Snow Leopard volume — just in case. I bumped up the RAM to 8GB (it will support 16GB — maybe later…) and added rEFInd, and with some tweaking and preference setting, I should be good to go.

Now it was time to look at my home networking. I’m not unhappy with my setup, but I feel I’m not getting the value for my money. I have a number of devices on my network, including security cameras, a smart thermostat, smart TVs, and computers. To make it all work, I’ve added Powerline Adapters (PLA) and a wi-fi extender. But wi-fi is limited to 300Mbps, and I’m paying for gigabit Internet, so I figured going cabled was the answer.

Network DIagram

I purchased two additional PLAs (Zyxel PLA5456, to be precise) and added them. They use the electric cabling of the house instead of Ethernet.

Supposedly, one can get megabit speeds in the right circumstances. Sadly, that’s not been my experience so far. The best I’ve seen has been just slightly faster than my wi-fi, and the worst is… well, the worst. I still have some tweaking to do.

It’s been a fun (for me!) exercise. My next project: Adjust the truss rod on my Taylor acoustic guitar. I’m more nervous about tweaking a guitar’s settings than I am a computer!

Dual Boots

If you thought this post was going to be about hiking or outdoor sports, prepare to be disappointed!

I have recently renewed interest in some of the older computers I have lying around. Over the years I have accumulated computers that, for one reason or another, have reached the end of their usable life. Or so they say. Specifically, I have an Asus eeePC 900A – a “netbook” as they were popularly known then – and a 2004 Apple iBook G4, commonly referred to as an “iceBook” because of its white polycarbonate case. Both computers are diminutive by today’s standard: the Asus has an 8.9-inch screen and tiny keyboard, and the Mac has a 12-inch screen. The Asus is powered by an Intel Atom processor, and the Mac by a PowerPC (hence the G4 appellation).

More than anything, the processor is what is the limiting factor. The Atom is slow by today’s standards, and the PowerPC chip has been abandoned. A few years ago, I updated both of them by installing new operating systems – A fresh, lightweight Linux on the eeePC, and I turned the iBook into a dual-boot computer by partitioning the hard drive and installing Ubuntu Linux on the second partition.

But the Asus suffers from battery exhaustion, and replacement batteries are nearly impossible to find. The Mac is really a dead end, as neither Apple nor the Linux community offer modern OSes for the PowerPC chip. If all I wanted to do is play, I’d be set. But, I’m a geek…

Looking to the refurbished computer market, I found a small company named Operator Headgap that specialized in refurbishing and selling old Apple computers and peripherals. After conversing via email with the owner, I finally decided to purchase a late 2009 MacBook 13″ “unibody” (white polycarbonate) laptop. For under $300, it seemed it would make a great “project” computer for turning into a dual-boot Mac-Linux machine like my old iBook.

At the same time, I found a refurbished 11.6″ Macbook Air, circa 2014. My “working” MacBook Air is a 13-inch model from 2012, and it’s been nothing short of fabulous. I’m typing this on it!

I’m waiting for delivery on the MacBook, but I have received the MacBook Air, and have already made it a dual-boot computer. I updated it to macOS 10.14.6 (Mojave), partitioned its hard drive into roughly a 60-40% split, installed the rEFInd boot manager, and installed the popular MX Linux 18.3. Everything works well, and now it’s time to “personalize” it.

When the other Mac arrives, I’ll do something similar. I kind of like having the ability to travel around with a sub-compact notebook computer that, with two OSes, can seemingly handle anything I can throw at it.

A final note: I’d like to give a nod of appreciation to the sites EveryMac and LowEndMac. Both of these provide in-depth data on the entire line of Apple computers since the very first Mac, introduced in 1984! They are indispensable sites for researching older Macs. I’d also like to mention Other World Computing (OWC), a division of MacSales, for providing not only upgrade parts, but quality instructions for the do-it-yourself hobbyist.

Strike Three. Arghhhhh!!!

The God of the Universe apparently doesn’t want me to have a new mp3 player.

I rarely get upset about things, but this is one of those times when I’ve just about reached my limit.  

I’ve been around long enough to see technology replace technology.  Remember floppy disks? From 5-14″ to 3-1/2″ to CDs to DVDs and now to “cloud.”

As the late Paul Harvey used to say, “Not all that we call progress truly is.”

When I first started running a few decades ago, I liked to listen to music while outside, giving me some relief and distraction from the sometimes-boring miles I was putting down.  Believe it or not, I started with a Sony Walkman, a cassette player, strapped around my waist in a neoprene holder, earbud cable poking out of the back. When the cassette gave way to CD-ROM, I tried those, but the bouncing of the running movement made it impossible to track music smoothly. Then came mp3s.

Technically, mp3 is a shortened form of MPEG-3, the Motion Picture Experts Group standard (3) for coding digital audio (see: ). It has become the ubiquitous format for audio files. Pretty much everywhere (there are other formats, but they aren’t the subject of this post). A whole new industry took off, with pocket-sized devices designed to store and play audio files. “Mp3 players” they were called.

Fast-forward (you can read my previous post if you want more background on my experience). The state of mp3 players is nothing short of an unmitigated disaster, in my opinion.

I am about to return the third — yes, third — mp3 player I bought to replace an iPod that finally gave up the ghost. All three were manufactured by different vendors (although they’re Chinese, so maybe not). This last one, a SanDisk Clip Sport Plus, I thought was going to be the winner. Each device I’ve bought has cost a bit more. The SanDisk tipped the scales at $50. And I didn’t buy it through Amazon. 16GB of storage, Bluetooth, and FM radio. All of the features I wanted in a portable music player. And I’ve been quite satisfied with other SanDisk products I’ve bought!

For the third time, I waited for delivery, then removed it from its shipping container, plugged it in to charge it, and then plugged it into my computer.


Well, even though the box and SanDisk’s web site claim it’s compatible with macOS X 10.3 and higher, I’m always a bit skeptical. However, I have two Macs, and neither would see the device, I decided to take it to work and plug it into a Windows PC.

That’s when it all went south. No device recognized there, either. Sigh.

I’ve sent an email to SanDisk and to Adorama, where I purchased it. SanDisk says they will “get back to me,” and Adorama says they’ll contact me regarding a return. This is where Amazon shines — they’ll take an item back without question. Yes, it’s going back.

And this is really the last time I’m trying this. I have an iPhone, I have an Apple Watch, and I have several iPod Shuffles. Neither the watch nor the Shuffles will hold 16GB, but I’m just going to have to play “swap the files” when I want to update the music on them.

I’m so disappointed in the state of manufacturing these days. I think the time of carrying a portable music player are going the way of the Dodo.

The Ambient Zone

I first created this site in 1995 as a way to learn the concepts of this new medium called The Internet. What started as a way to self-teach myself HTML quickly became a way to store my favorite hyperlinks for quick and easy access. Of course, those links were to music sites and musicians, primarily. One day, the snowball affect occurred, and I started getting requests to have links added to my site. For a short while, this site was on the Google landing page when “new age music” was the search term. The dormant site still exists at the base URL, but I haven’t updated it in what, twelve years?!

My interest in music has never waned, and neither has my interest in things technological, so I simply transformed this site into a personal journal — a web log, or “blog” as the term has come into being..

Nowadays, there isn’t as much need to keep bookmarks of record companies, radio stations, artists and streaming audio sites, as those can be found by using one of the many search engine sites (Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.). That doesn’t mean I don’t still have interest. I do! And that’s the reason for this post..

Some time in 2005 I came across a new offering. Something called “podcasts” had been introduced by Apple in their iTunes product, which made it possible for Mac users to subscribe to broadcasts, have them downloaded to their computer, and listened to at one’s leisure. One of those podcasts was hosted by a Dutchman who called himself “TC” (or, as I came later to find out: // TC //). The music was an astounding blend of mixes from artists whose names I had never heard before! I was hooked!


For a number of years, TC podcasted under the title of his domain: (a full history of his early days is available through the link). Somewhere, on one of my computers or drives I have most of them still intact! Some of the older podcasts may still be available through iTunes, as well.

The podcasts ended after nine seasons. There was “radio silence” for a number of years, and then TC announced the arrival of “The Ambient Zone.” An extension of, the new shows featured all-new content, and offered a subscriber option, that let paid listeners download the programs (in several formats) for independent play.

The first means to do so was through the horrid (my opinion) Patreon site. Despite my reluctance, I signed up to pay TC for his shows. I like them that much! Earlier this year, TC embarked on creating his own member site, and The Ambient Zone was launched. I signed up as a premium member!

TC has moved to Cyprus, quit his job so he can be a full-time podcaster, and continues to present fresh, tonal peace for those like me who love listening. I realize few people come across this blog, but I’d like to support TC and The Ambient Zone by spreading the word. So, give it a try: