Everything needs a reset button

I don’t think I’m an Apple fan boy but I definitely like their stuff. That said, everyone could stand some improvement. One place Apple could improve is resets, and general controls.

The Story

I used to run a desktop machine 24/7 as an NFS server for backups. During the summer this heats up my office almost to the point where I can’t use it. I decided to change the Desktop to only be on when I need and to be suspended or off when idle. something has to be a target for the backups though. I chose a Mac Mini that I had. I brought the mini to my office and refreshed the machine with a new Operating System. Then I moved the NFS service to it. Finally, I turned off the desktop.

The Mini runs headless. At somepoint, Apple decided to be “helpful”. they changed OS X so that machines without any keyboard at all will plead for a bluetooth keyboard and mouse at periodically. The keyboard that connected to my work laptop obliged and connected and paired without a pin code exchange.

This morning I spent 20 minutes of my time trying to figure out why my keyboard didn’t work before I realized that pairing without a pin code was even possible.

I get that pairing in this manner reduces support calls and I understand that my use case of a Mac Mini running headless is a corner case by far but decisions that theOS X UI team have made lately really don’t help me. I disconnected the keyboard and turned off bluetooth on the mini but I’ll be surprised if that’s the end of things. Apple’s in the midst of a war on wires these days so if you connect your computer using ethernet and turn of wifi, your machine will pester you forever to turn the wifi back on. I’ll see if bluetooth is the same.

Oh, that was really easy…

I just bought an Apple Magic Keyboard. My initial reaction is awesome. This is because of the ease of pairing with another Apple device. To pair this you literally turn it on and then plug it into your computer with the supplied lightning cable. No passcodes, no discovery mode, just plug it in and it works. Given that Bluetooth and USB go hand in hand these days, I really think that nearly anything that requires bluetooth pairing should work this way.

Why buy the keyboard?  I’m one of  the many software developer/devops engineer/sysadmin guys who’s avoided upgrading to the latest generation of Apple laptop mainly because of the new keyboards:

  • Forcing me to use the touch bar for the Esc key is honestly a complete non-starter.
  • and, the reduced travel of the butterfly keyboard, combined with the fact that if you get a crumb in it you need to take it back to apple to get it repaired. This is another non-starter.

So, I’ve been slogging through life with the top of the line 2015 15″ MacBook Pro for quite a few years. To pull me over the hump, a new MacBook Pro would have to be:

  • Quad-Core i7 or better
  • 32GB of RAM
  • 15″ Display

If such a machine had the keyboard from the the 2015 MacBook Pro, I would have already bought it.

But my current laptop is starting to show it’s age. I have to recondition the battery before a long flight to maximize battery lifetime. The current machine’s dusty enough inside that the fans have lost some of their efficiency.

For $99.00, and even less from Amazon, I can try out the new mechanism and make a better evaluation of my ability to use the new laptop. I’m typing this blog post with the new machine and I have to admit that the new mechanism is nice. And, in the worst case, this would always be a good media center PC keyboard.


As I write this I’m listening to Squeeze’s Argybargy which I ripped from vinyl to MP3 a while ago. After doing this with a couple of albums, Argybargy, The Pretenders Learning to Crawl, I’m really happy with the results. Vinyl ripped to MP3 sounds very good. In some cases better than CD. It’s been a good experiment but wonder if I couldn’t make things even better by upgrading my equipment. I’m using an old technics direct drive turntable with a grado cartridge and a reasonably good Denon integrated amp. I wonder how much better it would be if I upgraded to a low end Music Hall Turntable like an MMF 2.1 or a Rega RP-1 and exchanged the Denon for the Adcom Pre-Amp that’s filling in for my broken A/V amp downstairs. On the other hand I wonder how much I would use a new turntable.


My biggest problem with the latest MacBooks is Apples insistence on selling them without user serviceable batteries. To me that means that the battery life is what it is and you can’t do anything about it. I own an older MacBook Pro with the replaceable battery. And I have a pair of batteries for the machine. What a pain in the neck it is to have two batteries. The webs advice on battery storage is to keep Li-Ion batteries in a cool place at about 40% charge. Also, under no circumstances let your battery discharge to nothing. I have two batteries because I don’t want to be stuck on a trans-continental flight with no laptop but more and more airplanes have empower and a trans-continental length flight is only 5 hours of laptop time when you add it up. The new Apples advertise a 7 hour battery life. Mine does slightly better than 5 on each battery depending on the workload. So in the past few trips I’ve never gone on to the second battery. Given all these things the Empower to Magsafe charger is probably a better investment than a second battery.

Soviet Toys

When I was younger I read an essay that told how the leaders of Soviet Russia enforced a standard of low quality in the creation of their toys. The reason for doing this was to instill  low quality expectations from future Russian Citizens. While this was obviously a propaganda piece designed to make me think less of communist Russia, it resonates with me because I’m forced to do tech support on my son’s toys. The toy provoking this blog entry is the EA Sports Voice Command Pitching Machine. I’m going to put a new set of batteries in the thing and give it one more chance but given that it started out with new batteries in the first place I’m not holding out much hope. Now, this is in contrast to the Nintendo Wii and the Easton Junior Pitchback Elite. The problem with the Wii is that it’s made so well that he cannot unplug the Nunchuk attachment. The pitchback is a solid toy  that does one thing but does it extremely well.

Jay’s growing up in a Mac/Linux/TiVo world so when toys disappoint like this it really bugs him. When I look at his face I have to ask if we are doing our children any good when we provide them with poor quality toys. In consumer goods I believe that your choice is: cost, feature set, quality: pick two. It’s hard watching my son learn  this.

— Chris


If you’re expecting something about the latest Transformer movie, I’m sorry to disappoint. This venting of my spleen concerns or societies move towards a deception-ocracy. I’m coining a new word o describe a system where the market protects those producers who do the best job of deceiving their customers. The credit card companies have been doing this ever since they discovered that they make more money from customers who cannot pay of their bills. There entire business model now is to deceive people into getting in so deep that they can’t pay off their balances. They live fat and happy on the finance charges. It used to be that credit card companies were happy to make money from yearly fees they charged consumers and the convenience fee that they charged merchants. But that changed when they started offering consumers cards with no annual fee as a means of boostin customer retention. It wasn’t long before Jack Welch famously called the people who paid off their GE platinum cards in full each month “Dead Beats” because they didn’t make any money for the GE. The financial analysis is spot on but I can’t help but think that Jack’s got something wrong there.

I’m currently dealing with a PC from eMachines. If you know me you know that as far as windows recovery goes I’m with Ripley, Hudson, and Cpl Hicks on the recovery of Windows machines that have been hit with viruses: “I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.” In a normal world when you spend $400.00 on a PC the manufacturer includes recovery media at a cost to him of about $2.00. Apparently, eMachines is so starved for cash that the extra $2.00 is the difference between staying in business and not. It’s too bad considering that the overwhelming majority of Windows boxes would benefit from a periodic re-install even if there were no viruses. And that re-install process changes the recovery media from a luxury item into a must have. Or, perhaps Acer/eMachines has found a way to turn the $2.00 recovery media into a profit center generating $18.00 in “handling fees”.

Pantone Huey/MacBook success

A while ago I found the Pantone Huey on closeout at my local Circuit City. At $80.00+ I didn’t consider it much of a bargain but at $25.00 it didn’t look like such a bad deal. I fired up the device on my MacBook and began the disappointment. It turned my display Green. On my Mac Mini with my Samsung Display it was pretty good. If you don’t know it the point of this device is to tune your display’s color so that when you process a photo and then print it you don’t get surprised by the difference between what your monitor and printer consider to be fully saturated blue. At $25.00 I figured that it would be ok with the Mini. I was on vacation for a while and would have good access to the Apple Store and Genius bar so I packed the Huey along. But that was still no news. Then I ran into this link.    a At the bottom they discuss the Huey and it looks like it doesn’t like the polarization of the MacBook Screen. On calibration it wants to be oriented vertically but I found that it gave me a good calibration oriented horizontally.

Trackback Spam

Someone is attempting to spam my blog pretty heavily through trackbacks. This is stupid. It’s never going to work since I have so few comments here anyhow that I moderate all of them. It only serves to annoy me by generating an email saying that I have comments to moderate. My original thought was to block inbound packets from the offenders. It would be pretty simple. Add a table to my firewall config and then use a little shell script magic (grep, awk etc) to pull the addresses from the log an load them into the table. But a quick pass through sort confirmed that these attacks were coming from mostly different addresses. For now I’ve disabled trackbacks by disabling the php file that supports them. Next up change my mail filter to quarantine the emails appropriately. Sigh.