Yos A mite

Yosemite Sam

Yesterday, I girded my loins and updated the operating system on my Mac Book Pro.

My Mac is a late 2008 model; when I bought it in May 2009 I hadn’t been informed of that fact, nor of the fact that a new model would be released that summer. It came with Leopard (OSX 10.5) installed, but I updated this to Snow Leopard (OSX 10.6) fairly soon afterwards as I was, at the time, surrounded by folks who could support me should things go awry. It was a smooth process and until yesterday I ran with Snow Leopard successfully and without issues. Also see: http://www.computerworld.com/article/2476004/mac-os-x/why-mac-users-still-use-os-x-snow-leopard.html

Over the last five years I’d avoided the transition to Lion, then to Mountain Lion and then to Mavericks, fearing:
A) my own competence in undertaking the task and
B)more importantly – that my Mac was too old to take a bigger, fatter OS. Both fears have been (apparently) unfounded and I am now proudly running Yosemite* (OSX 10.10). Also see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_OS_X

My brother in law had been using Mavericks on his reconditioned MacBook Air and told me that it was quicker and didn’t drain the battery as much than whatever his machine had when he took it over. Then, last weekend I noticed that he had upgraded again to Yosemite. At the time, I was getting messages from Gmail telling me that my version of Safari was out-of-date and no longer supported, all of which was making me think that my machine was ‘getting on a bit’. So – as I had to stay in the house yesterday – I set too!

First of all (Yorkshiremen note …) the upgrade is free – costs not a jot. The download is about 5.5gig – so it takes some time. I think mine took about an hour to download. But I was working on the machine at the same time so I’m not really sure. Then the time came to INSTALL. I drew my breath and clicked ok.

The installation took quite a while. Once again, I didn’t check the time too closely but I went out for lunch and when I got back it was done all bar the fiddly bits – which are what really took the time.

First of all Safari wanted some TLC. I think because I don’t use Safari as my main browser (I use Firefox and Chrome too)  it was sulking a bit and I had to work out what it was it wanted, before telling it how much I loved it but – no I didn’t want it as my main browser. It took all my bookmarks from Firefox without really asking if I wanted to do that and I had clicked ‘ok’ before I really knew what it was up to. As a result of that I still have a lot of work to do with Safari to make it feel like mine again.

Firefox then threw a sulk and I eventually had to update that too. Which is a good thing. I now feel more in control of my main browser. It settled into Yosemite easily and without changing too much of my interface. I’ve yet to tackle Chrome.

Anything else that needed updating then shouted at me and were easily dealt with, except a couple of Apple things, (3) iLife (products) and iPhoto. The iLife stuff: Keynote, Numbers and Pages are still shouting at me to be updated but when I try they say they are not registered to me (which is untrue – I paid good money for iLife 2009!) – so that’s an ongoing saga. iPhoto on the other hand is simply too old for Yosemite, so i had to go to the App Store and download a new version. Because I have almost 11,000 photos on iPhoto the process of new-version taking over old-version DID take a while, almost two hours. However, when it came out the other side, it did look cleaner, faster and more adjustable.

There are still lots of Yosemite tricks and facilities I have to explore, but I’m happy to have got this far. It promises ‘stuff’ that I can only imagine as I have not yet got a iOS8 phone but I’ll play with the iPad later and see how that goes.

A message fro all this?  Don’t be afraid. Just do it 🙂

*That’s Yos em it ee b.t.w. like the park, not Yos A Mite 🙂

No sound on my MacBook Pro

Picture of a Sound Mirror, with John Rousell

I’m in the middle of a very busy period of work right now and one of the things that helps to save my sanity during lonely nights in a Travelodge is the ability to listen to music or watch DVDs on my laptop.  My laptop is a 15″ MacBook Pro and I wouldn’t swap it for the world.  However, it does have its idiosyncrasies! Idiosyncrasies that often make we want to just chuck it out of the window.

At this moment in time, I cannot load the latest copy of Microsoft Office onto the laptop because it simply won’t read the (official, paid for) DVD. It will however (fingers crossed) read other DVDs so that problem is on the back shelf until I can get to one of the ‘local’ Apple Stores (all an hours drive away).

A much more immediate problem appeared recently.

As I travelled back from Maidenhead last Friday, I continued to work on some documents as I listened to music on my headphones. So far, so normal. Then this weekend, as I worked on my previous blog post, I wished to listen to music without the headphones but no sound would come out of the laptop. I tried everything I knew to cure the problem but without success. So it was ‘on to the Internet’ …

I found this post was probably the most technically correct, but the solution didn’t work for me. However, the author did lead me to this forum, where the cure was really found. My worry about this solution though (it DID work) is twofold:

  1. A) – the forum thread started back in 2006 (so it’s not a new problem – come on Apple, get your finger out) and
  2. B) – a matchstick! Really? A £1,300 laptop has to be prodded with a matchstick!!! Grrr.

Anyway, many thanks to everyone who bothers to post solutions to techie problems on the internet. You are the salt of the earth. Thank you.

Adding Windows to a MacBook Pro

Subtitle: MacBook Pro 4

At Christmas, I began to install Windows onto my MacBook Pro.

I’d bought Parallels Desktop 5 earlier in the month and set myself up to carry out the installation. Being a chef at heart and a user of technology, I liken my ability to carry out technical computer tasks to a good driver not knowing or caring how the car works: fill it up, check all levels – drive away. So I left myself the entire holiday period to go through the installation. I’d guessed (rightly) that this wouldn’t be a simple put it in > click go > installation.

The guy I spoke to at Apple said that I could easily ‘migrate’ my Windows computer lock, stock and barrel, and the Parallels installation literature didn’t shake that belief. But that didn’t happen. To cut a long, frustrating story short; the migration cannot be completed if your Windows computer (lock, stock or no barrel) has OEM software installed. Hey ho. Time to move on.

My idea has been to just carry one laptop with me wherever I go. Most of my training work is with Windows based products but the machines I own, which run Windows are not as reliable as the MacBook Pro. And of course, Windows takes an age to get itself going on a morning. By having Windows working through Parallels, I’d hoped to solve that problem.

Anyway – time passed (I was too busy to be bothered) and I managed to get a (what turned out to be dodgy) copy of Windows XP. Of course, you cannot buy XP anymore and support for it finishes this year; but that’s the version I wanted. So I deleted my part-migrated version and started from scratch. This went OK until I got to the Microsoft Validation page. Oh-no, I’m caught bang to rights. But for £95 I could purchase a validation code. So I did that and away I went.

XP loaded easily after being given a kosher validation code, then I had to go and find the various service packs. It took me back a fair bit to see Windows Movie Maker in its original (pretty bleak) clothing and to then see it as it should be – well dressed and ‘cool’. It all took a while (luckily I was able to do this whilst working on another machine and just clicking ‘go’ every now and again).

  • I downloaded Cam Studio easily enough and it worked (yippee).
  • I downloaded Photo Story 3 and it didn’t work until ….
  • I downloaded Windows Media Player 10 (I hadn’t planned this but PS3 needed it)
  • I downloaded AVG (although I wasn’t sure I needed it – I did!)

So now, all being well I can have a laptop that works when I want it to, as well as a laptop that can do Windows-based stuff – all in one machine! But do I need to install Office 2003 (which I have) or just cope with my Mac version of Office 2008 … Perhaps I need to check and see how the clever interactive stuff works (which doesn’t normally work in Apple!)


Last week I was involved in a MoLeNET ‘boot camp’. The premise was simple: we all get together and thrash out pedagogical issues which are to be included as part of a resource/activity creation tool, which is being developed on behalf of the MoLeNET community.

We spent two days sat around our laptops in a smallish room at the excellent Novotel in Leeds. Although this post isn’t about the food, it would be a crime to mention the hotel and not mention the food. As always the lunchtime buffet was a delight, with a huge variety of seafood, cold meats and salads to start with and the usual carvery type fayre for mains – but served up in an interesting way. The first day we also had bacon sandwiches (with croissant, ham, preserves and fruit), which was a delightful surprise. Thank you Novotel.

Anyway – they also brew a passable (not great, but passable) coffee. And there’s the rub: we were all free to get tea and coffee whenever we liked. Each morning we had a selection of biscuits to soak up the drink and on both afternoons we were presented with a selection of cakes and buns. So the tables in our small rooms gradually filled up with the usual long meeting detritus.

So let this story be a warning to everyone – cakes crumbs and coffee do not go well with laptops.

We’d almost finished our two-day meeting and I was returning from the bathroom to begin packing up, when a cup of coffee was accidently knocked over my (I still think of it as new) MacBook Pro. I think I went into an instant ‘oh it’s only a keyboard’ form of stasis. It had never seemed a big thing before, keyboards on college machines had always been the cheapest of the cheap and any lasting damage from spills could only be caused to the PC itself, often hidden right away under the desk or sat at the back of the desk – a fair way from potential damage. But the Mac (or any laptop) is much more vulnerable than that – potentially £1,200 of vulnerability.

Luckily, the MoLeNET Mentors are such a stellar team that they instantly sprang into action. Instructions were being shouted from all over the room: the main one being ‘remove the battery’. I’d already pulled the power cable and the machine was by now being held upside down so the ‘remove the battery’ instruction was probably a laptop saver, as I would not have thought to do that. Paper towels and serviettes were coming from all over the place as colleagues rushed to help and the mess was eventually cleaned up. Apart from one person’s ashen face, my otherworldly stasis and an upside down MacBook Pro with an overwhelming smell of coffee, things soon settled down to the normal goodbyes and see-you-laters.

I was advised not to use the machine again for a minimum of three days to let it dry out completely, before being allowed to cross the fingers of one hand whilst turning it on with the other. All the advice was coming from people I trust; long-term Mac users, so my stasis would continue into Sunday – only 48 hours, but my fingers WERE already very tightly crossed.

When I finally turned on the MacBook Pro, it worked. I opened as many windows as I thought fair and breathed a slow sigh of relief when nothing ‘blew’.

Then, later, I noticed that the keys were sticky. We’d wondered whether the coffee had had sugar in it, but not knowing whose it was made that impossible to know – I’d hoped not, as the sugar would have made it nigh on impossible to fix without some kind of surgery. But all of the keys eventually came unstuck and now, 24 hours later, they seem to be working fine.

I’d looked on the Internet for sticky keys advice and two helpful addresses were sent to me by Simon Finch on Twitter: http://bit.ly/6SATq8 and http://bit.ly/4qiBmw. Apparently you can carefully lift off the keys (which I didn’t do) – James Clay suggested cleaning them with baby wipes; Mick Mullane said cotton buds and distilled water. In the end I loosened the sticky keys by tapping them and then blowing compressed air across the keypad. I’m sure that this practice is frowned upon as it may move debris into more corruptible areas of the machine – but it worked for me.

LATEST NEWS – somehow, the video-out slot has become faulty. I’m not sure yet whether the coffee is responsible but at the moment, the only way of connecting to an external source is to keep pushing the plug right in – sadly there’s no way of keeping pressure on.

So three things to say as I wrap up this post:

· There are many sites out there aimed at helping you in times of technological stress:

· Thank you to all those of you who volunteer to help people in need – Simon, James, Mick – thank you.


Don’t leave coffee (or tea, or biscuits, or food/drink of any kind – and while we’re on it – all pets, young especially – but older are not immune to walking all over the keyboard) anywhere near your laptop!

MacBook Pro 3

Since my last posts concerning the MacBook Pro [see http://is.gd/2LEq9 and  http://is.gd/2LE7E], I’ve moved on quite a bit. I’ve sort of mastered iTunes, iMovie and iPhoto and I’ve also delivered three sessions using it as the main machine. So – what have I learned and how does it feel now?

(Before moving on, I must thank all those of you that commented on MacBook Pro 2 – your comments have been tremendously helpful. Readers, please view the comments on that post.)


Snippy I opened an image in [Preview] the other day: just why it didn’t open in iPhoto, I’m not quite sure yet; but found that there is a [select] function – a sort of crop-tool. However, it allows you to freehand select tool [lasso] – in much the same way as Snippy and the Snipping tool in Vista. So if you like funny shaped pictures – use Preview and its select tool. Shift + Command + 4 to capture a standard still image of screen (thanks Di). This image defaults to the desktop b.t.w.

I used iPhoto big time on my American holiday [http://is.gd/2LGqu] but it took some time to ‘get’ it. All images the machine comes across find their way into an EVENT folder. You can then add the images to folders of your own choosing. But: If you delete them from the EVENT folder, they disappear from everywhere else you might have put them (you can easily drag them from EVENT to a folder of your own choice but the dragging only copies – it doesn’t move).

Troubles with iTunes.

screenshot - iTunes view icons

It also took me a while to ‘get’ iTunes. For someone used to yellow folder icons populated by file icons and the ability to view these hierarchically iTunes has been a steep learning curve and the bends are still making me dizzy. I can ‘view’ my music ‘albums’ in Album view (the chess board-like icon above) and easily see which album is which. I can even select different views within this view (!!) I can view albums, artists, genres and composers and each set of icons will be re-ordered and re-presented to aid my viewing/searching. But – and here’s where it took me a while to ‘get’ it – when you choose the lines icon (on the left above) you just get one HUGE list of individual tracks. Which I find alarming – almost scary. And then there’s the Album Art …

Screenshot - default iTunes album iconIf iTunes can’t find the cover image for your ‘album’ it grants you the use of its own generic music icon, which is dark and dull and if you have more than two albums; wrist-slashingly dull. To overcome this you have to be patient and committed (don’t all shout at once!!). You have to double-click the (dull) icon to open the album and see the track list. The (dull) icon will appear on the top left. Right click (or Control + right pad click) this and choose ‘get info’. Choose ‘artwork’. Now – open your favourite browser and go to: http://www.albumart.org/ to search for your album and a link to a CD cover image you can then copy and paste into the ‘artwork’ window you have left open in iTunes. Of course this may not be legal – so I may never have done it. But it is nice to see an image replacing the dull, generic icon. You could of course compose an image of your own – if you have the time. Oh – there’s another ‘beware‘ before I sign off this post.

If one of the albums you are importing into iTunes is a compilation (say ‘The Best of Eric Clapton’) it may (9 times out of ten for me) ‘split’ itself into two or three different albums (album icons). I had Eric on his own, Eric with John Mayall and Eric with Cream – which was space-takingly annoying. I just wanted one album, like I have in my CD rack. To repair this, Right click (or Controlright pad click) the previously (perhaps still?) dull icon and choose ‘get info’ and then ‘info’. Make sure that the artist name is the one you want and where there is a difference between the different splits (gosh this is confusing, sorry), ensure they become the same (?) and lo – your three (or more) albums will become one again, just like you wanted in the first place.

Phew. iMovie next time and other ‘stuff’

MacBook Pro 2

I know that I will have to list other idiosyncrasies as time goes by – and I know that I finished last time on keyboard shortcuts (or, [sorry Gail] long-cuts in this case) but this time I want to start with the things that have helped me to be productive on the Mac.

The first thing was Flip4Mac WMV http://www.telestream.net/flip4mac-wmv/overview.htm. Flip4Mac WMV allows you to play, import and export Windows Media® files from most QuickTime applications including QuickTime Player, iMovie and Final Cut Pro. Well I don’t have Final Cut – but I do have the rest. As most of my work up until now has been on Microsoft products, it had been annoying not to be able to play .wmv files. The download also includes an Internet plug-in that plays Windows Media streams within Safari and other web browsers.

I also needed a Cam Studio like tool that worked on the Mac – but couldn’t find one. I’m sure that there’s one out there but I haven’t found it yet. So I used Screencast-o-Matic. This worked perfectly and in many ways (although I don’t know why) better than on the PC based machines. So capturing mouse movements on screen along with audio voice over, is no problem. I could do with a Mac based version of Microsoft’s Photo Story 3 though – any ideas?

Another thing that helped productivity was Firefox for the Mac. The Safari browser is ok and seemed to do ‘stuff’ without complaint, but I couldn’t get it to work on Moodle! It would show me pages and let me interact but wouldn’t let me ‘author’ – which was a nuisance (b.t.w. – is Nuisance THE hardest word to spell?)

My next MacBook Pro post will discuss my trials with iTunes – a journey I’m just beginning. Also my feelings now that I know I was sold an end-of-line product and missed out on a seven hour battery (image above explained next time)

Where will June go?

Laptop, garden and pond - early Sunday morning

Laptop, garden and pond - early Sunday morning

Sunday: I’m writing this in the garden, under the shade of our willow, listening to the calming sound of our (newly installed- last week) cascade of water. And it’s only 10.00am. Brilliant. Why can’t all work (half work, half play today) be like this? Because I’ve decided to learn how to properly use the Mac Book Pro before it becomes my main machine, I’m using the Vista jobbie today. Which was confusing to start with because the touch pad (like all touch pads before it and for the entirety of my laptop experience) needs to be ‘double-tapped’ to replicate the left-mouse-click. Because the Mac Book Pro has a sweet ‘click‘ feature, where the entire touch pad becomes a left-click, I’d forgotten to double-click and was (doh) confused when the pad wouldn’t depress (double doh!).  However, there are many ‘Apple’ idiosyncrasies I need to master too. Like – why is there no delete button (the forward-delete I mean, not the back-delete – which exists)? Only last Friday did I find the shortcut (Fn+backspace) to delete to the right one character at a time. Hey ho.

Another noticable feature of the Vista laptop today is just how tenuous its connection is to the WiFi. V. Slow, whereas the Mac ‘just does it’.

Tomorrow sees the beginning of a very hectic period for me. It starts tomorrow with a fairly long Skype meeting about material development and hopefully future work, then there’s the RSC Yorkshire and Humberside summer conferecne on Tuesday – where I’m helping Lilian to ‘man’ the ‘interactive corner’ (or something like that). We’re both working together then on the Wednesday (if that’s ever confirmed) and on Thursday I’m working at Ashton 6th Form College. Friday is a ‘phew, where did the week go?’ day. Next Sunday I begin my week-long European venture with Khawar Iqbal. That week fills me with some trepidation because I’ve never delivered to non-native English speakers before. Much of my delivery is based on anecdotal humour (along with sound common sense and good training techniques) and it’s a worry that I can’t easily fall back on that skill (?) But Khawar assures me that I will be fine. Watch this space.

The rest of the month would need me to look at my diary but I know that I am going to be at the RSC Northwest conferecne in Southport and at the RSC Southwest conference in Weston-Super-Mare, where I am working with Weston’s Super-James Clay!

Yesterday was a fabulous day too. Because the weather forcast had been so good we decided to invite the family round for a BBQ. Ben couldn’t make it because he was going to a stag party in Manchester but my mum and dad, Emma, Charlies and the girls and a couple of friends came along. We had a brilliant time.

Amy and Charlotte with their babies

Amy and Charlotte with their babies