Christmas at the Lockardugan compound is behind us, and we all had a great day together. Finn came downstairs late as is their prerogative as a teen, to a lit tree surrounded by presents and a happy crackling fire in the fireplace. As usual, they had the lion’s share of gifts, but that’s part of the fun of being a parent. We lounged about the house for the rest of the day in our pajamas, enjoying the ability to relax. Jen set up a roast and I helped put together the sides, and we sat down for a lovely Christmas meal together at the table.
I bought Jen a second gallette iron from eBay way back in July or so, and finally was able to give it to her. Last year she made a batch but was complaining about how long it took to accomplish with one iron, so I immediately made a note and set up a watchlist on eBay. This one was priced well below all the others and came in the original box, so I immediately pulled the trigger and hid it in the basement for months. The look on her face when she opened it was priceless.
I also got her a new iPad for Christmas because she typically wanders the house with her AirPods in and something playing on her phone. I figured she would enjoy having something with a larger screen to watch while she’s in the kitchen or at her desk, or merely sitting on the couch. We attempted to merge her settings over from her phone on Christmas day, but her iCloud account has been completely jammed full for months now, and there isn’t enough room to back up her phone, so it refused to merge her account information. This meant she needs to clear data off her phone, and we all know how painful it is to do that by hand on a tiny screen. I used a spare drive to back up all of the photos, but we’re going to need to set up the iPad manually, which is always a drag. When that’s done she can use it to go through her photos faster and easier.
On a side note, for months I’ve been wondering why my Keychain passwords weren’t showing up on my iPad, and while I had some time I looked up the solution: signing out of my iCloud account on all my devices, restarting them, and then signing back into each one in the proper order. Kind of a pain in the ass, especially because it forgets all of my Wallet settings—my debit cards and Maryland ID. Once I’d done that, though, all my passwords appeared on all devices; hallelujah.
While we were waiting in the TSA screening line in Puerto Rico, I noticed a sign that mentioned fliers could use a digital ID on their phone in place of a physical card, and remembered that Apple was offering this service through the Wallet app. I’d tried to set it up months ago but got stuck in a loop, so I made a note to set it up when we returned home.
The process was pretty simple; you shoot a photo of the front and back of your ID and send it through their system for verification, and a few days later get an email that notifies you of approval. Apparently you can bring the ID up and tap it on a smart device to verify your identity. I’d imagine the number of these smart devices is small, but my guess is that this is another look into the future.
On a somewhat related subject, I used my Apple Card to pay for all of the charges for the trip and this new laptop, and through the cash back feature of that account, I’m seeing the balance in my savings account there slowly creep upwards. I’m going to experiment with adding some additional cash into that savings account, as it’s the highest yield account I have (fuck off, Bank of America) and see how things go.
I’m very much enjoying a modern computer running modern software which allows me to take advantage of all of the new bells and whistles. Regular readers will recall that I’m a master of nursing out-of-date equipment along way past its expiration date. What I’ve got now is a laptop with a day’s worth of solid battery life that will recognize my Apple Watch when I’m wearing it, and wake itself up without me needing to log in. For that matter, when I don’t have the watch, I’ve now got fingerprint unlock—something I’ve had on my work machines for several years but never at home. My AirPods are smart enough to know when I’m close to it, and if I start watching a video or sitting on a call, it’ll ask me politely if I want to connect them instead of just taking over. Finally, something I haven’t messed with too much is Sidecar, where I can hook my iPad up to the laptop and use it as a second monitor. I haven’t really been getting my money’s worth out of the iPad, but that’s something I need to double down on, because it is a super-useful tool for illustration.
I’m giving my new MacBook Air a test spin now that I’ve got the basics up and running, and so far I like it. It’s light, it’s fast, the keyboard is much improved over the old butterfly design, and I love having Touch ID on the keyboard. It took a little time to integrate into my Apple ecosystem, as initially my passwords didn’t sync properly as they should have. The solution was to log out of iCloud on my iPad and the Air, and then log back in to each one, which solved the problem. I’ve got a copy of the Microsoft suite installed, Dropbox is humming away syncing my files, and I just have to sort out one email address to get the Adobe suite up and running. Beyond that everything else is working as advertised, which is great. It’s amazing to have more than an hour of battery time again; I’m going to have to buy a spare USB-C to Magsafe 3 connector to have a spare on hand.
Meanwhile I bought and installed a tiny wireless repeater and installed it in the den, where it should be widening the range of our wifi out to the driveway and beyond. One of the most annoying things about setting off on a trip in the car has been having to drive out the driveway and down the street to pull over and then get directions from Google; the signal out there was just strong enough to stay connected but weak enough that it never loaded. It took a couple of minutes to set up but now that it’s in there, there’s much better coverage on that side of the house, as well as upstairs.
I drove up to Hunt Valley on Saturday morning with a box containing my Powerbook 160, tools, and new parts. I bought all the components needed to repair the LCD screen and get it back up and running, and talked to the guy who handles Mac repairs for the Computer Museum housed in the building I used to work in. Walking in the door, everything looked the same up until I got to the big open area in back which used to be filled with cube squares from one side to the other. Now, the front half is an extremely impressive museum filled with computers of all shapes and sizes, and the middle section was lined with worktables covered in electronic gear of all shapes and sizes, and men milling around with tools and puzzled expressions.
Where my old cube had been now stands a display wall with the entire line of colored iMacs, under which a huge assortment of other models sat: a 20th Anniversary Mac, lampshades, portables, and original 128k Macs. Funny to think that back then I was the only guy in the building who insisted on using a Mac to build websites, surrounded by men selling PCs over the phone.
In front of that display sat an original Lisa, and next to that is an original Apple I, hardwired by Woz and probably worth more than my house. The rest of the museum is amazing, with everything from closet-sized UNIVAC units to tiny calculators and everything in between. I ran into my old boss Bob, who runs the place, and we caught up briefly.
Then I found the fellow I’d talked to and he showed me how to replace the bad capacitors on the LCD board, deftly removing them with a precision soldering iron and replacing them just as quickly. He had to repair one contact pad with a jumper, but within about a half an hour he’d put all of the new components in and handed me back the board. I found an empty table and reassembled the unit, then plugged it in to hear the happy Mac startup chime. After a moment I saw the screen come up but then saw that the backlight looks like it’s faulty, as I could see the display when I adjusted the contrast but it wasn’t as bright as it should have been.
So I’ll have to do some research on what could cause that problem, and chase down a fix. Then the next step will be to swap out the ancient spinning hard drive with a solid state CompactFlash card, and possibly a hand-wired battery. Next time they have a workshop, I’m going to bring my Powerbook 1400 up to see what he thinks about the display on that one.
I’ve got a long car ride coming up this weekend and knew I was going to need to prepare some music for the journey. Driving up to Mom’s house on Thursday evening I fortified myself with a strawberry mint lemonade from Panera, which also happens to contain 260mg of caffiene. I have to avoid coffee anytime I’m out these days because the diuretic in it tends to work all too well; I’m clearly getting old. But the music situation was also key—after awhile podcasts get boring and I need something to keep me awake. Before you ask, I’m resisting cloud services because they chew through our data plan, and I’ve got a shit-ton of music catalogued on the server downstairs.
I’d ordered a new battery for our ancient iPhone 4, which has been my primary iTunes device for years, and when I went to install the replacement the four-prong connector soldered to the motherboard snapped off neatly in my meaty fingers. So I drove up with my decommissioned iPhone 6, which I’d spent less time filling with music, and which suffers from an annoying display bug that doesn’t group music in albums together in albums.
Back at home today I went through some different hoops to try and connect it to the server in the basement, which is running OS 10.7.5 (the last one compatible) and iTunes 10 in order to add more music. Both of these date to about 2015. Predictably, the iPhone 6 was not compatible. I dicked around with trying to restore the iPhone to an earlier iOS but that went nowhere. I tried a few apps that claimed they would transfer music to the iPhone, but that went nowhere ($40 to move files off the phone, but not to move music to it. What happened to all those handy file management apps back in the days of the iPod?) Finally I hooked it up to my old work tower and found a way to get music moved over through iTunes there—but none of this should have taken this long.
I guess time has made all of my home infrastructure completely obsolete even though it’s still functional. I’m going to use the old work tower as a server now that it’s decommissioned, and eventually I’ll have to figure some other solution out—a NAS or other more modern disk storage unit. But for now, it’s still humming along down there, waiting for a 2nd gen iPod and a couple of CDs to rip.