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Tom Briant

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

News and Views from the Editor-How to find a new off-site backup plan!

Question: When will macOS 10.13 arrive? I would expect it to arrive by the end of October.

If Crashplan for consumer is discontinued, what are my options?

First of all, DON’T PANIC!! Crashplan won’t immediately delete your archives and kick you to the cyber curb. No, read this PC World article for ideas of what to do next.

For Mac owners specifically, Glenn Fleischmann of Macworld has some ideas for you, too. Regarding your off-site backup options.

If you’ve considered a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for home, consider these options, as shown in PC Magazine.

Many users and reviewers consider Excel as their default choice for heavyweight computation. Should you always use Excel, though? Preston Gralla compares Excel to Google Sheets, the on-line spreadsheet, and finds Sheets superior for collaboration in groups, though Excel still leads in many areas.

Finally, what’s a good second monitor for a Mac? Macworld UK examines the offerings. Prices are stated in pounds, but you can use the technical information now.


Tom Briant

Editor, MacValley Blog


Monday, August 28, 2017

Senior Correspondent Arnold Woodworth's Weekly Web Wrap-up for Sunday 8-27-2017

Steve Jobs interviewed 20 people to be CEO of Apple and disliked them all — here's the unconventional way John Sculley wowed him and snagged the offer
Dear iPhone: Here’s Why We’re Still Together After 10 Years
Here’s a look back at the last 10 years of why the iPhone still has us in its grip — so much that people keep coming back for more.
1.  Support at Apple Stores
2.  Stronger Security
And three other reasons.
Finding Your iPad Backup Files
Where does your iPad backup file live on the computer when I back it up with iTunes?
This article answers the question.
15 apps for your iPhone that are better than the ones Apple made
Apple preloads every iPhone with a slew of its own first-party apps — but thankfully, the App Store is overflowing with alternative apps, many of which are better than Apple's.
Apple breaks new ground in squeezing locals for huge tax breaks while offering almost no jobs
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and the mayor of the tiny suburban town of Waukee (pop. 19,284) basked in the glory of sharing a podium with Apple CEO Tim Cook. They came together to announce that Apple would build a $1.3-billion data center in the little town.

They should have hung their heads in shame instead. Apple took them to the cleaners, and their taxpayers will be paying the bill. The politicians talked as though the data center would put Waukee on the map as a first-class high-tech center. The truth is that it will mark Waukee as a first-class patsy.
To bring the project home, Waukee and the state are giving Apple about $208 million in tax abatements. For that, they’re getting a plant that will employ a permanent workforce of 50 people.
Fifty. That works out to $4.16 million per job.
Leading US community colleges adding App Development with Swift curriculum
Created by engineers and educators at Apple, the full-year App Development with Swift course teaches students how to build apps using Swift, an open source programming language that emphasizes safety, performance and modern software design patterns. The course takes students with no programming experience and enables them to build fully-functional apps of their own design.
You Can Now Learn To Build Apps Through Apple App Development Curriculum
The app is available for free download in Apple’s iBooks Store. Apple engineers and educators have designed the full-year curriculum so that the students can learn about building apps while using the iPhone maker’s Swift programming language.
Apple all set to kill 187,000 iOS apps on the App Store
This is not quite as big a deal as the headline says.
Those apps have NOT been updated to work with iOS 11.
The first look at how you’ll sculpt in augmented reality using Apple Pencil and ARKit is here, and awesome

The demo was shown on YouTube by India-based developer Fabin Rasheed. 

The app, which is called MakerStudio, shows the ability to create 3D objects and paint those objects in AR, all while using the precision of the Apple Pencil. There's no word on when this app might be available to the public, but it's just another exciting glimpse of what iOS 11 users will be able to do once they get their hands on the AR-enabled iPhone 8.
Apple promotes iOS 11 for iPad in new ad series
Apple on Thursday published a series of six iPad commercials to its official YouTube channel, focusing on the new capabilities iOS 11 is set to deliver to tablet users this fall.
iOS 11 has a ‘cop button’ to temporarily disable Touch ID

With fears over access to devices at border control points around the world, this quick trick will at least prevent Touch ID from being used until a passcode is entered.
iPad Pro (10.5-inch) Review
As we all know, iOS 11 is coming soon with a lot of iPad-specific improvements. Once it is out, the iPad Pro (10.5-inch) will be good enough to replace the MacBook for a lot of people.
The iPad Pro is not a MacBook replacement just yet but it is slowly getting there. Apple has built a premium tablet with an excellent display that delivers great performance in a market where there is virtually no competition.
I Just Got into iCloud Keychain on my iPad Air With Phone Breaker
Using a tool called Elcomsoft Phone Breaker, I was able to view data stored in iCloud Keychain—data that’s not supposed to be accessible.
But the recent update—version 7.0—does something previously thought to be impossible, or at least extremely hard to do. It is the first, and right now only, tool that can directly access and decrypt passwords and other sensitive data stored in iCloud Keychain.
Apple iCloud Keychain easily slurped by cops, ElcomSoft claims
Credentials stored in the cloud succumb to forensic software
ElcomSoft, the Russia-based maker of forensic software, has managed to find a way for crime investigators to access the data stored in Apple's iCloud Keychain, if Apple ID account credentials are available.
ElcomSoft's Phone Breaker 7.0 has gained the ability to access and decrypt iCloud Keychain data, under certain circumstances.
In an email to The Register, CEO Vladimir Katalov said this capability is not the consequence of any vulnerability. Rather, it's intended for forensic investigators and law enforcement, given that an Apple ID and a trusted device are necessary.
iCloud security: How (and why) to enable two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication isn’t the be-all to security, but it’s a good step in making your data more secure. And it’s easy to set up.
Two-factor authentication is yet a weapon you can use to keep data secure and cyberthieves at bay. But it’s just one step in a never-ending quest to stay ahead of the bad guys. Apple embraces a variety of technologies to shield data from prying eyes — with the Secure Enclave and Touch ID combo, end-to-end Message encryption, and, as noted, iOS security.
Seven years later, we’re still debating what the iPad even is
Steve Jobs briefly departed from his usual razor-edged storytelling to admit ambiguity about the identity of his latest creation: “[The iPad] has to find its place between the iPhone and the Mac.”
Jobs’ hesitancy proved to be insightful. In fact, exceptionally so: Seven years later we’re still debating what the iPad actually is.
It’s abundantly clear that the iPad will continue to replace the Mac

The latest hint? Six lovingly crafted videos that promote iOS 11 features that were designed specifically for the iPad and iPad Pro.  For example, a Mac-like dock with touch user interface.
Not so fast—the Mac isn’t going away any time soon
Why this cartoonist chooses the iPad Pro over a Wacom tablet
The New iOS Update Could Have a Surprising Impact On Digital Marketing
In September 2017, Apple will release new changes to Safari with Apple iOS 11 called “Intelligent Tracking Prevention.” These changes will have large effects on the ad tech industry and will create new winners and losers.
The Losers:
    Traditional ad networks: Slightly negative impact.
    Large retargeters and demand-side platforms (DSPs): Very negative impact.
    Publishers: Very negative impact.
The Winners:
    Facebook and Amazon: Very positive impact.
    Google: An initially negative impact that will be positive in the long term.
    The iOS 11 changes really help the big guys, are neutral to the
    small guys and significantly hurt the mid-size guys.
Apple iOS 11: Safari turns Google AMP links back to original ones when shared
For those who don’t know, Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are stripped-down, faster webpages from publishers which are designed to be more mobile friendly.
With AMP pages, when users are trying to share it anywhere, you can’t share the full original URL and instead the AMP URL is what gets shared. However, as the tweet by Viticci points out it looks like iOS 11 will ensure that users can share the regular URL instead of AMP ones.
Safari in iOS 11 will finally get rid of Google’s annoying AMP links
When an iOS 11 user on a Google AMP page tries to copy and send a web link to another user, the actual URL will be sent as opposed to a URL with a bunch of AMP data strings in front. As it stands now, all AMP links begin with the following:
Google’s AMP is a standard for stripped-down, faster webpages that Google favors in search results. People have many feelings about it.

See how much time you're wasting on your phone with this hidden iOS trick
AccuWeather updates its iOS app to address privacy outcry
Responding to privacy concerns, AccuWeather is out with a new version of its iOS app that removes a controversial data sharing behavior. Earlier this week, security researcher Will Strafach called attention to the practice in a Medium post and users took to Twitter to announce their intention to dump the app in droves.

“AccuWeather’s app employed a Software Development Kit (SDK) from a third-party vendor (Reveal Mobile) that inadvertently allowed Wi-Fi router data to be transmitted to this third-party vendor,” the company wrote in a statement accompanying the app update.
MacBook Pro 15-inch review
Hands-on with Apple's 15-inch MacBook Pro to see what's been updated for 2017.
Windows users just got yet another reason to get a Mac
Parallels Desktop 13 offers MacBook Pro Touch Bar support and a host of performance enhancements that make it the go-to solution for running Windows on Mac.
Parallels Desktop 13 launched this week. The software makes it really easy for any Mac user to run Windows on their Mac, it even downloads a copy of Windows 10 for you (though you will need to purchase the OS from Microsoft).
Mac users who aren’t used to the ways of Windows should install the Kaspersky antivirus software Parallels provides, and also remember to be more security conscious when working inside the Windows install.
It's a long-held belief that Macs aren't vulnerable to malware, and unfortunately for the overconfident that's anything but true. As Apple's market share has increased malware that targets its products has skyrocketed, and the same has been true for Android devices.
The threats facing macOS are different than Android or Windows, which is somewhat good news. Rather than ransomware and malware, which the report says is the smallest concern for macOS, potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) and adware dominate.
PUPs include adware, clickers, and other apps that perform hidden functions in the background.
How to Kill Active Listening on Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and Google
Some devices are designed to listen to you, but you can axe active listening. Here's how.
Why would anyone trust a mega-corporation that lives and dies off data collected about users to not gather more data?

Turning off active listening isn't always an option, or it's difficult to find, in large part because that's often the point of having such a device. But if you'd like to exercise more control over how Siri, Cortana, Alexa, or Google listen in on your life, read on for the details.
Apple’s Wrong Turn
The self-driving car was a dead end.
The New York Times reportedthat the company has narrowed its focus from building an autonomous vehicle to building autonomous driving software for an employee shuttle. That shuttle won’t even be built by Apple, according to the Times’ anonymous sources: It will likely just be a commercial vehicle purchased from a major automaker.
In October, Bloomberg reported that an Apple-made iCar was no longer in the works, and in June, CEO Tim Cook basically admitted as much.
The age of AI surveillance is here
For years we’ve been recorded in public on security cameras, police bodycams, livestreams, other people’s social media posts, and on and on. But even if there’s a camera in our face, there’s always been a slight assurance that strangers wouldn’t really be able to do anything that affects us with the footage. The time and effort it would take for someone to trawl through months of security footage to find a specific person, or search the internet on the off-chance they’ll find you is just unrealistic. But not for robots.
Today, computerized neural networks that mimic how the human brain works can be trained to learn what a person’s face looks like, and reliably identify it again and again.
US governments are already beginning to use the technology in a limited capacity. Last week the New York department of motor vehicles announced that it had made more than 4,000 arrests using facial recognition technology. Instead of scanning police footage, the software is used to compare new drivers’ license application photos to images already in the database, making it tougher for fraudsters to steal someone’s identity.
So what’s a privacy-minded, law-abiding citizen to do when surveillance becomes the norm? Not much. Early research has identified ways to trick facial recognition software, either by specially-made glasses to fool the algorithms or face paint that throws off the AI. But these often require knowledge of how the facial recognition algorithm works.
Raising a Son with Autism — With Help From Siri
Judith Newman’s twins, Gus and Henry, were born prematurely, after a difficult pregnancy. In the hospital, shortly after giving birth, Newman was visited by a friend, the editor of a parenting magazine.

“She told me she knew immediately that Henry was extremely intelligent. She said nothing about Gus.”

Years later, enter Siri. The voice-recognition software performs a wealth of functions for the autistic community: conversationalist, babysitter and elocution trainer. Like Disney animations, Siri provides a comforting commercial sameness. She has enabled Gus to have real, sustained conversations, albeit ones about turtles.
Steve Jobs Took This (Surprising) Class in College, and It Helped Inspire One of Apple's Most Important Features
Steve Jobs audited a calligraphy class in college, which he later credited to be the inspiration for Apple's beautiful typography.
This article has an interesting list of 25 web sites with the Wealthiest Audience
Twitter Alternative Gab Is Worth a Second Look If You Slept on It Early
When I first signed on to, I was skeptical. Things have improved a bit since then, enough that I think it’s worth a second look.
Yes, there are several areas for improvement.
Well, they now have an Android app, although Apple has so far been stonewalling them.
Still, with prominent people getting kicked off Twitter left and right (Mister Metokur is the latest high profile victim, as well as TRR contributor Christi Junior), Gab has now grown into an even more viable option.
Interview of Andrew Torba, CEO of
Here's the web site for Gab:
Free Speech Twitter Alternative ‘Gab’ Now Open for Public Registration
Gab, a free speech Twitter alternative, has finally opened to the public after nearly nine months of beta testing.
Users will now be able to sign up for the platform without waiting on a list.

Native image hosting, GIFs, quote posts, private messaging, and live streaming are all recent additions to the social network, as well as a unique payment model which allows users to optionally pay a fee monthly for extras in an attempt to keep Gab ad and investor free.
“Gab is the only social network that is 100% supported by the community, not by advertisers or venture capitalists,” the company declared in their statement. “In under nine months, 170,000 Gabbers have 7.6 million posts and raised $145,000 to help us expand our team and cover operational expenses. Make no mistake about it: we are The People’s underdog in the multi-billion dollar social networking landscape.”
Meet the CEO of Gab, The Free Speech Alternative to Twitter
Andrew Torba, CEO of, a new freedom of speech-focused social network. Though the Twitter-style network was only launched last Monday and is still very much in early beta, thousands of people are currently waiting in line for an invitation to the service, which aims to act as a shelter for freedom of speech and expression.
Gab Just Went Live And You Should Be There Too
Google’s app store has banned Gab — a social network popular with the far-right — for 'hate speech’
How To Keep Your Online Browsing Unfiltered By Political Propaganda
Facebook joined Twitter in censorship by putting forth initiatives to combat what they called fake news, and began implementing a fake news detector funded by the notorious left-wing election meddler George Soros.
The Left’s Big Tech corporations have had near-monopolies in their respective services for a long time, with competitors unable to gain traction simply because of the overwhelming amount of users who had already settled into these services. But by pushing so hard against the values of half of the country, these companies may have shown an Achilles heel, allowing for a number of freedom-centric competitors to get their feet in the door.
Founded by former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, Brave is the first browser created with the user in mind instead of what data can be mined from its customers. Like most modern browsers, it blocks ads, but it also stops trackers from getting data from what you browse. It’s made to streamline websites so they load faster, and even keeps a running tally of all of the ads and trackers that it’s removed.

Brave also offers Brave Payments, in which a user can allocate donations to favorite websites.
Where Can Users Get Unbiased Reference Information?
Infogalactic launched as an alternative to Wikipedia during the height of the toxic political climate of 2016. Wikipedia moderators at the time began deleting information that could paint conservatives positively, and replaced those articles with information from editorials with notorious left-wing biases. Vox Day, founder of Infogalactic, said these problems stemmed back to Wikipedia’s beginning.
Where Can Users Find Free And Open Social Media?
The mantra of since its opening day has been #SpeakFreely. CEO Andrew Torba saw the many controversial bannings of vocal Trump supporters across Twitter, how left-leaning pundits could get away with saying far worse than their right-wing counterparts, and finally said enough is enough. Torba wanted to experience social media without censoring from the other networks, and the only way he saw to do that was to create his own platform.
Here’s and interesting discussion about Brave (the web browser) and Gab (new alternative to Twitter).
"De-Google-ify Yourself" - video with recommendations
Look for the phrase “the password is …”
You need it to download the video.

For years, an online speech battle has played out on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. It typically goes like this: Activists pressure the company to crack down on content they consider offensive. In some cases, they call for a user or organization to be banned outright. The social media company then has a choice: Take action, or disclaim responsibility for the content.

Cutting off domain hosting is a potent weapon against the purveyors of objectionable content—and it could be double-edged.

the structure of their platforms plays an important role in shaping the way we communicate online. For example, Facebook’s news feed, as I’ve explained, inherently prioritizes certain types of speech and interaction over others. In other words, it can’t credibly claim neutrality with respect to content when its algorithms are already tilting the playing field.

The argument that web hosts and domain registrars should refrain from policing the content of the sites they serve, however, seems like a stronger one. GoDaddy’s service doesn’t distinguish between “high-quality” and “low-quality” content the way Facebook’s or Google’s algorithms do. Cloudflare may serve hateful or violent clients along with laudable ones, but it isn’t in the business of recommending or suppressing their content.

Moreover, if Facebook or Twitter bans a group, it can still take its message to any number of other social networks, or start its own. When domain registrars blacklist it, they effectively banish it from the public internet. It’s a far blunter instrument, wielded by a company with no experience or expertise in passing editorial judgments, and little track record of public accountability for its actions. 

Those back-end service providers may look like attractive targets for progressive activists today, when they hold the power to exile a noxious and violent white supremacist group to the web’s shadows with the flick of a switch. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that concentrating editorial discretion in these companies’ hands is a gambit that will eventually backfire.
Government Agents Admit Stealing Silk Road Bitcoins Seized By U.S. Marshals
Two rogue U.S. Secret Service agents, Shaun Bridges and Carl Mark Force, were caught and sentenced to prison for stealing Bitcoin funds that were seized in the Silk Road raid in 2015.
Bitcoin Is Not A Bubble, Will Continue To Grow Says John McAfee
AW comment:
I still think “investing” in BitCoin is speculation, but McAfee makes a very interesting case.
YouTube Removes Videos Showing Atrocities in Syria
In an effort to purge extremist propaganda from its platform, YouTube has inadvertently removed thousands of videos that could be used to document atrocities in Syria, potentially jeopardizing future war crimes prosecutions, observers and rights advocates say.
If YouTube takes these videos down, Keith Hiatt said, the platform risks losing “the richest source of information about human rights violations in closed societies.”
A Hunt for Ways to Combat Online Radicalization
The first step in combating online extremism is kind of obvious: It is to recognize the extremists as a threat.

For the Islamic State, that began to happen in the last few years.
In many ways, researchers said, white supremacists are even more sophisticated than jihadists in their use of the internet.
Engage directly with potential recruits to prevent radicalization.
Consider The Redirect Method, an anti-extremism project created by Jigsaw, a think tank founded by Google.
Jigsaw curated a series of videos showing what life is truly like under the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The videos, which weren’t filmed by news outlets, offered a credible counterpoint to the fantasies peddled by ISIS — they show people queuing up for bread, fighters brutally punishing civilians, and women and children being mistreated.
Then, to make sure potential recruits saw the videos at the right time in their recruitment process, Jigsaw used one of Google’s most effective technologies: ad targeting.
How Hate Groups Forced Online Platforms to Reveal Their True Nature
White supremacist marchers had not yet lit their torches when the deletions began.
Facebook banned a range of pages with names like ‘‘Right Wing Death Squad’’ and ‘‘White Nationalists United.
Several different web sites banned The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi site that promoted the march and celebrated its fatal outcome.
The platforms’ sudden action in response to an outpouring of public grief and rage resembles, at first glance, a moral awakening and suggests a mounting sense of responsibility to the body politic.
In the process of building private communities, social media companies had put on the costumes of liberal democracies. They borrowed the language of rights to legitimize arbitrary rules, creating what the technology lawyer Kendra Albert calls ‘‘legal talismans.’’
Despite their participatory rhetoric, social platforms are closer to authoritarian spaces than democratic ones.
Social media offered strong mass participation; a means for affinity groups to find one another and mobilize, gain visibility and influence. This felt and functioned like freedom, but it was always a commercial simulation. This contradiction is foundational to what these internet companies are. Nowhere was this tension more evident than in the case of Cloudflare, a web-infrastructure company. Under sustained pressure to drop The Daily Stormer as a client, the company’s chief executive, Matthew Prince, eventually assented. It was an arbitrary decision, and one that was out of step with the company’s stated policies. This troubled Prince. ‘‘I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the internet,’’ he wrote in an email to his staff. ‘‘No one should have that power.’’
A community of trolls on an internet platform is, in political terms, not totally unlike a fascist movement in a weak liberal democracy: It engages with and uses the rules and protections of the system it inhabits with the intent of subverting it and eventually remaking it in their image or, if that fails, merely destroying it.
The U.S. Senate is considering a bill that would classify WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” bundled as part of the 2018 Intelligence Authorization Act. Presumably, that classification would authorize the use of force against WikiLeaks.

“It is the sense of Congress that WikiLeaks and the senior leadership of WikiLeaks resemble a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors and should be treated as such a service by the United States,” a section of the Act reads.

The Act almost unanimously passed a Senate panel last month 14-1, rejected by only one man, Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who staunchly opposed the measure due to the provision that was snuck in about WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks, an international non-profit whistleblowing organization, has leaked at least 10 million classified documents to date from various governments including the United States.
DARPA Commits $65M To Brain Implant Program For Super Soldier Project
The U.S. military is disclosing a super soldier project, revealing to have allocated funding of $65 million dollars for a program to develop a ‘Brain-Computer Interface’ that would allow participants to plug into a computer like the movie The Matrix. No this isn’t science fiction Neo, this is the future that the MIC wants for its soldiers.
The goal of the project is ‘developing an implantable system able to provide precision communication between the brain and the digital world,’ DARPA officials said.
The military industrial complex has been trying for years to develop robotic exosuits and mech robots to increase a soldier’s strength and make their wearers stronger, have an increased agility and endurance like a superhero.  In other words, a real life “Iron Man” suit.
The United States military is making substantial investments to develop technologies that would enhance the ability of warfighters to complete their missions safely and effectively.
As with other emerging military technologies, such as robotics and cyber-capabilities, human enhancement technologies challenge existing laws and policy, as well as underlying ethical values.
The enhancement goal of creating a super-soldier is not unusual: that is essentially what we are doing with military robots, but from an engineering or mechanical starting point rather than a biological one. Indeed, we are beginning to see a conver- gence in the two approaches where robotics and computer interfaces are integrated with the human body.
human enhancement technologies are more than mere tools: we are drawing in these tools so close to our bodies that they become internal to us or, for all practical purposes, integrated with ourselves.
The human enhancement debate is a deeply passionate and personal one, striking at the heart of what it means to be human. Some see it as a way to fulfill or even transcend our potential; others see it as a darker path towards losing our humanity.
Catherine and George Annas argue that soldiers should not be compelled to use enhancements but only do so voluntarily and with the advice of a physician who cannot be ordered to prescribe them.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Best Mac Apps

The Best Mac Apps: ""


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Fixing your old computer the easy way and saving some coin, too!

My brother’s computer went blank yesterday. He e-mailed that the screen was broken.

When I got home I looked at the screen. No apparent physical damage, no distorted picture, just ….nothing.


To cut to the chase, I resolved the problem and saved him visiting a repair shop by simply removing the memory modules and then reseating them to ensure a firm physical and electrical connection. 

After doing so, the computer came back on and went through the cyber equivalent of “spectacles, testicles, watch and wallet, “ for several minutes before returning to normal operation.

I have had this happen to three different computers, where the On/Off cycling causes tiny metal parts to flex microscopically and work its way out of their sockets. 

Now for the details. You’ll need a appropriate sized screwdriver, some good sense, and a bit of patience. Oh, and wash your hands! 

Now lay the computer on a clean cotton towel to ensure small parts don’t roll away and get lost on the floor.


How I tested the computer

I tested the video output by plugging in a VGA monitor. I’m a full-on nerd, so I’ve got a couple of extra monitors. Nothing, though, came up. I pressed all the buttons on the side of this Samsung monitor and nothing, but nothing, came up! “It’s dead Jim” 

So the problem went beyond a problematic LCD screen. So I thought through my experiences from the past 30 years of working with computers. An old Windows 2000 computer sprang back to life when I moved its single 64 Mb memory chip to another socket 3 years ago. My own late 2011 Mac mini came back to life after I reseated the hard drive’s connections. So I figured it was worth a shot on my brother’s computer. 

Now to the details

First, read the manual. “When all else fails, read the instructions,” is an old part of the Murphy’s Laws. You want to advance past fumbling amateur to Grand Nerd Extraordinaire? Read the instructions first!

If you have access to another computer, open up the search engine, whether Google, Bing, Yahoo, or DuckDuckGo, and enter the following “service manual <name of your broken computer>” You can skip the quotation marks and arrows. In my case, I entered service manual Inspirion 6400 and up popped where to go for the Dell service manual.

It’s a PDF that I downloaded. So opening it up, I found the section for Memory Modules. I read that before doing anything. It kept referring to the first steps you should always take when fixing the computer. So like an intelligent person, as you are too, I read them. Unplug the computer, touch a metal surface to discharge any static electricity, and remove the battery. 

So I removed the Dell battery, which proved even easier than removing an Apple battery. Just push a latch to one side and pull up gently (!) on the battery to remove it. Set it aside and see if it displays signs of bulging or leaking. Those are not good and fortunately, I didn’t see them with this computer’s battery.

Now to open the memory module bay, you’ll need a teeny-weeny Phillips head screwdriver to unscrew the captive screws holding the bay’s cover in place. Go to Fry’s to get a computer repair kit if necessary. From earlier work on the Mac mini, I had the necessary screwdriver (thank you, Other World Computing!)

1 teeny weeny Phillips head screwdriver


Here is the teeny-weeny little Phillips head that I got from Other World Computing while doing a project.


2 computer repair kit at Frys

Here is a computer repair kit that I found at Fry’s. It costs about $24 and should cover 99% of situations you encounter. 

I unscrewed the captive screws and laid the plastic cover aside.

One side piece of advice, use an old cotton towel on your desktop if you have small screws to keep them from rolling on to the floor.

Now for the money shot!

I looked at the memory chips or modules. Nothing unusual about them. I read the instructions again, which said to GENTLY use your fingers to spread the clips holding the module(s) in place and pull out the module. Oh, and make sure to discharge any static electricity by touching a metal object first!

I looked at the memory module. Hmm, nothing special, just a stock DDR2 memory module. No signs of corrosion or damage. So I reinserted the module into its socket GENTLY and made sure of a firm physical fit. 

3 DDR2 memory module at Frys


I reattached the memory bay cover, reinstalled the battery, flipped the computer over, and turned it on. Voila! The Windows 10 boot up sequence began. As I wrote before, Windows goes through a self-diagnostic procedure if it detects something drastic happened. Soon the desktop appeared with my brother’s user name. He sat down and logged in. 

He was ecstatic! He didn’t need a new computer, he didn’t need to track down a computer repair shop on Saturday, and he could get back to work.

As my reward, he fixed me dinner. Yum!

And that’s all there was to it. 


Tom Briant

Editor, MacValley Blog





Sunday, August 6, 2017

Xnconvert solves the problem of converting old graphics files to new formats

I needed to convert several old graphics files in MacPaint and PC Paintbrush format. I needed to do this with macOS, Ubuntu Linux, and Windows.

I bumbled around looking for solutions. I figured out awkward workarounds in each case, but I believed someone must have arrived at a better solution.

Someone has, and that solution is the graphics batch converter Xnconvert. It easily converted my old files into the contemporary Windows .bmp format, which has been around since at least 1992 in Windows 3.1.

This product reads 500 different formats (!) including some even rarer than MacPaint, such as Atari ST’s Neochrome. It writes to 70 different formats.

The developer asks for a donation to help defray costs. He wants $6.48. Perfectly reasonable and I paid it as quick as I could.

Xnconvert has versions for Windows, macOS, and various distros of Linux. I got it up and working on macOS and Ubuntu Linux quickly and easily. It converted the old files quickly and easily. It displays the progress of each conversion and its success or failure.

I wholeheartedly recommend this product to anyone faced with converting old graphics files in a plethora of formats into a common contemporary format usable across Windows, macOS, and Linux.


1 Input for Xnconvert

This shows the input. I’ve selected the folders that I want to convert. You can convert nested folders. 

2 conversion process is fast


This shows the speed of the conversion process

3 output folder settings



This shows the output settings, where you select the output folder and format.

Tom Briant

Editor, MacValley Blog

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Senior Correspondent Arnold Woodworth's Weekly Web Wrap-up for Tuesday 8-1-2017

Apple’s Silence in China Sets a Dangerous Precedent
A year ago, Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) decided to fight the FBI demand to make a hackable version of the software that runs all iPhones so they could get inside a dead terrorist’s iPhone.
The fight paid off. On the eve of a courtroom showdown, the F.B.I. rescinded its request. It is worth underlining this point: When Apple took a public stand for its users’ liberty and privacy, the American government blinked.

Yet in China, when faced with a broad demand by the Chinese internet authority, it was Apple that blinked.
Apple pulled down several VPN apps — programs that allow iPhone users to bypass the Chinese government’s censorship apparatus — from its Chinese App Store.
Apple’s silence may be tactical; the Chinese government, the conventional thinking goes, does not take well to public rebuke. Yet Apple’s quiet capitulation to tightening censorship in one of its largest markets is still a dangerous precedent.

“Apple’s response is tremendously disappointing,” said Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation
So what was Apple supposed to do? Jeopardize its operations over a few apps?
Rather than play out these scenarios, other tech companies such as Google have opted to withdraw from China altogether. Some of Apple’s critics have suggested that by not doing the same, it not only loses the moral high ground but also sets a precedent that other governments, including the United States, will seek to exploit.
It’s too soon to say what Apple’s decision on VPNs will mean for the future of its business in China, or for its policy battles elsewhere. But China appears more committed than ever to clamping down on freedom of information, and as long as it remains a growing market, foreign companies will have to grapple with those policies.
I mocked the Apple Pencil. Now my iPad productivity depends on it
I am a professional engineer, not an artist, and I struggle to draw stick people. I was hesitant to purchase an Apple Pencil because I couldn't see how I would use it.
There is much more you can do with an Apple Pencil than draw pictures, create cartoons, and develop electronic masterpieces. One of the first things for those of us with no artistic bent, is to start taking handwritten notes.
Color Splash and Affinity Photo are two of my favorite apps for editing images. Without the Apple Pencil, you could never achieve the same results in these apps thanks to the fine selections you can make with the Pencil tip.
The Apple Pencil is a very useful instrument, for both artists and those of us that cannot draw well.
Concepts, a digital design sketchbook app for iPad Pro, released a new update that focuses on the Apple Pencil
After nearly 16 years on the market, more than 400 million units sold, and one Cupertino company launched into the stratosphere on its back, Apple quietly pulled the iPod Nano and Shuffle out of its virtual stores.
Why the death of the iPod nano is also the end of a gadget era
Apple has killed off the iPod nano and the iPod shuffle, the remaining music players in its lineup that were solely dedicated to playing music.
Devices dedicated to one thing are so every-decade-before-this-one.
So the iPod touch is now the standard-bearer for the iPod name — an iPhone in every respect except for its lack of a cellular connection.
iPhones take better pictures, says former Google exec
Former Google executive Vic Gundotra said "I would never use an Android phone for photos!”
The problem, he said, was Android.  When Samsung puts an improved camera in their latest smart phone, Google is slow to update its Android OS to take full advantage.
When Apple puts an improved camera into its latest iPhone, Apple updates iOS to use the camera from day one.
I play the security odds in Las Vegas by rolling the Wi-Fi dice
Who hacks the hackers? An inside look at hunting for insecure connections at the largest cybersecurity gathering in the world.
It's worse than the Wall of Shame. It's the Wall of Sheep. 

If your device gets hacked, you end up on the Wall of Sheep.
Being called a sheep means you didn't take enough care or simply didn't see a hack coming. 

Thankfully, the hackers aren't after your identity or your money or anything else that could do you real harm. But they don't mind publicly shaming you into being more thoughtful about your security.
To avoid getting hacked, I followed the digital hygiene regimen that experts advise. For example, if I want to go online, I use a wired connection. If I must go wireless, I use a cell connection through my phone or a hotspot. 

When I'm surfing the web, experts say I should use a virtual private network, which routes all your information through secure computers. It's also good to use multi-factor authentication, meaning I get sent a password by text or a special code in an app to be able to log in.
Alex Goldman, co-host of the Reply All podcast, allowed somebody he knew to be a scammer take remote control of his computer. Of course, he did it for a story for the podcast, which is available to download.
The scammer in question was running a grift that tried convincing people their iCloud accounts had been hacked, and the only solution was to pay $400 in tech support. But he didn’t know any of that yet. He only knew that he had received a robocall from a random 800 number and wanted to find out who was behind that particular scam.
Audio of interview with scammer.

iCloud Keychain encryption bug exposes iOS passwords, credit card numbers
A largely unreported iOS security flaw undermined iCloud's end-to-end encryption capability, and could have allowed attackers to steal passwords, credit cards, and any other information on file, according to security firm Longterm Security.

"The bug we found is exactly the kind of bug law enforcement or intelligence would look for in an end-to-end encryption system,” Alex Radocea told ZDNet.
The flaw was addressed in the iOS 10.3 update—demonstrating again why it's important to stay on top of updating your device.
Did you get a robocall about that iCloud account you don’t have? Here’s what to do

DON’T call them back.
DON’T trust what caller ID says.  Scammers know how to fool caller ID.
DO hang up the phone when you hear a recorded message.
DO report your experience to the
Backups vs. iCloud vs. Time Machine – Mac Geek Gab 668
New TSA rules force iPad, Kindle, Nintendo Switch into X-ray bins
The Transportation Security Administration said it's boosting security measures by requiring any carry-on electronic larger than a cellphone to be screened separately at U.S. airports.
The new rules apply only to "standard" screening lanes and not TSA pre-check fliers.
How to print from your iPhone or iPad using Bluetooth
Many of us wouldn’t even consider printing from our iPhone or iPad, but it is surprisingly easy.

This article provides step-by-step instructions.
iPad Pro 10.5 Review: Is Apple's Goldilocks Tablet The Best Yet?
Slide Show:
How I ditched my laptop for an iPad Pro
My iPad Pro is lighter weight and easier to carry than a MacBook Pro.
Editing photos on an iPad is wonderful.
The iPad is not a laptop computer. Don’t try to make it one.
I didn't miss my laptop at all.
Apple iPad Pro 10.5-inch Review
Gboard for iOS now supports Maps and YouTube
Google has released the latest update for Gboard on iOS, which brings Maps and YouTube to the keyboard.
These features are currently exclusive to the iOS version of Gboard, continuing Google’s streak of making independent features for each platform (and giving iOS the good features first).
Users are biggest impediment to Apple iOS security
"Educating people is more effective than any security software you can purchase,” Erik Lightbody said. "If people know what they're doing, they won't do things they shouldn't be doing."
Windows 10: Five reasons to avoid Microsoft's flagship OS
1.  Uncertainty over support for older PCs
2.  Removal of your favorite features
3.  Windows 10 tries to railroad you into using other M$ products
4.  There's no need to use Windows — this article recommends Linux
5.  Better to stick with what you know — Windows 7 is good enough for most people.
DON’T watch the video.  It’s a waste of time.
MacBook vs. MacBook Pro:  How to Pick
Even after three weeks with these computers, I find choosing between the two of them to be difficult.
Reviewed: A used, year-old MacBook Pro from Apple's Refurbished Mac store that saved me $450
Apple MacBook Pro 13-Inch (2017)
This Is the MacBook You're Looking For
Top 10 best workstations of 2017
Apple’s Mac Pro is in fourth place, according to this article.
Nine things you didn’t know your Apple Watch could do
Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know your Apple Watch could do.

1.  Unlock your car doors
2.  Measure your lover’s heart beat
3.  Act as a TV remote
Just to name a few.

Cardiogram, a startup working on algorithms to make the Apple Watch’s heart rate data clinically actionable, is launching two new features for the Apple Watch that aim to help people stay more active this summer: Leaderboards and Workout Zones.

Leaderboards is geared toward those who want to inject some friendly competition into their active lifestyles.
Workout Zones allows users to track the intensity of their workouts.
“Perverse” malware infecting hundreds of Macs remained undetected for years
A mysterious piece of malware that gives attackers surreptitious control over webcams, keyboards, and other sensitive resources has been infecting Macs for at least five years. The infections—known to number nearly 400 and possibly much higher—remained undetected until recently and may have been active for almost a decade.
Google’s New Parental Control App Has a Flaw: Puberty
At the age of 13, a child can choose to “graduate,” as Google calls it, or lift restrictions, getting the keys to the internet kingdom and all the good and bad things that come with it.
… Google’s decision to let children remove the restrictions the instant they become teenagers.
“The fact that the kid can graduate themselves is just preposterous,” said Jesse Weinberger, an internet safety speaker who gives presentations to parents, schools and law enforcement officials. “It takes the power out of the parents’ hands, which is a big no-no.”
Low-Cost Micro Satellites Are Spawning A Global Surveillance Arms Race
Google has received vast criticism for its Google Earth, Google Maps and Google Streetview systems that have essentially removed the inherent right to privacy and transferred it to the whim of corporate terms and conditions. However, this pales in comparison to what has been launched by the world’s largest defense contractors as well as newer providers of commercial space imagery.
Next-generation global imaging satellites such as Lockheed Martin’s WorldView-4 was spawned from a partnership with commercial space imagery vendor, DigitalGlobe. The largest customer of DigitalGlobe is the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, also known as GEOINT.

The incredible scope and applications of GEOINT is laid out on the .mil website’s About page but their image collection from DigitalGlobe can best be described as … penetrating…
“ intelligence professionals were better able to exploit and analyze imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess and visually depict physical features and human activity on the Earth. Today, NGA continues to deliver these vital intelligence products in responding to, and anticipating, our nation’s most critical national security challenges.”
How would one know where to launch specific surveillance? Well, of course the solution is to have pervasive surveillance that blankets the planet and stores all of the images for later retrieval.
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency web site
From a speech by Robert Cardillo, Director, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency:
With help from the Gates Foundation, Oak Ridge created a map of Nigeria based on satellite imagery and more than 2,000 on-the-ground neighborhood surveys. Through this partnership, they identified settlements that didn’t exist just a few years ago. So, when Nigeria distributes the measles vaccine next year, they’ll save a billion dollars and countless lives because they won’t use flawed, 10-year-old census data. And it’s all thanks to the unique combination of imagery, automation, human geography and mapping technologies – and most importantly – strong partnerships.
NGA helped track down al Qaeda leader Osama bin Ladin.



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