2016 Macbook Pro

Apple just released new MacBook Pro’s – So I went a bought a 2012 model.

On October 27th Apple held one of their new product unveiling conferences & I was instantly disappointed. I was sat in a coffee shop in central Manchester watching the stream & almost shouting at Apple in public. Apple hardware has been iOS focused for a long while now & any real innovation in the computing hardware side of things has been seriously lacking. I bought a 24″ top of the line iMac back in 2009 & I’ve used it daily ever since. The new hardware just doesn’t warrant the outlay & the performance gains are negligible in my opinion for the price.

To me, however, this has always been a selling point for Apple. The fact that you invest heavily in their hardware, but expect it to last as long as you want it to without ever breaking down has always appealed to me. My 2009 iMac has a 2.93Ghz dual core processor & 8GB of ram. I also opted for an uprated Nvidia GT120 in this iMac and for the most part I’ve never needed any more power. It’s still on the original hard drive & using SMART shows me that the HDD in the iMac has been in use for 32314 hours. That’s 1347 days of  actual use. I’m just now considering upgrading to an SSD & intend to remove the superdrive & have two hard drives in the iMac.

My wife has a 2011 Macbook pro & again with uprated ram to 8GB and an SSD, it just doesn’t warrant the upgrade. That laptop has also required component changing, such as a faulty keyboard after a water spillage & that can be achieved with cheap parts off the internet and a basic precision screwdriver kit. Repairability is super important to me, and the later Macbook pros & those with Retina displays lack the ability to repair & upgrade which put’s me off. I don’t want my ram soldered in at time of purchase. I don’t want pci-e SSD storage over standard & much cheaper SSD hard drives. I don’t want my batteries glued in place, requiring apple servicing and disposal of big parts of the laptop just to change the battery cells. If something breaks, I want to repair it. I don’t want to pay a fortune for apple techs to repair it with proprietary tools & methods. I certainly don’t want a disposable laptop & a huge price tag. If that is the price to get the laptops so impossibly slim, I’m sorry, I’m not interested.

So after being totally disappointed at the new Macbook’s, with their relatively non pro specs & removal of keys I use daily, I decided to save my money and buy one of the last true Macbook pros. I managed to source a mint condition, used, Macbook pro in 2012 specification for £550, a bargain when you think the new ones are starting at £1449 with a similar spec. This machine doesn’t have hard-wired ram. It has a SATA port so I can put in my own SSD, and the battery can be changed. Along with the Macbook, I have a Crucial 525GB SSD on the way & 16GB of brand new Crucial ram. Combined, that will be a pretty beast spec for Photoshop & web development work. And all for £720. A bargain for sure.

2012 Macbook Pro + Crucial 525GB SSD and 16GB Ram
2012 Macbook Pro + Crucial 525GB SSD and 16GB Ram

I’ll do a post when the machine is all ready to go & I’ll also post some benchmarks. Until Apple stops creating disposable appliances & starts making real computers again, I think most of their engineer customers & professional/hobbyist computer users will steer clear. Plenty of people I know wanted faster GPU’s, faster processors & oodles of RAM. Instead we got thinner, lighter & mediocre power wise. They should lose the Pro moniker on these laptops. They are really just casual consumer grade laptops at an astonishing price. Since Brexit became a thing in the UK, the spiralling pound has driven up the cost of tech & apple have added 20% to their hardware, making mediocre hardware even more expensive. I personally don’t think this will fly with consumers & they will be forced to change tack at some point.

I know a lot of people are switching to PC based machines. For a comparable price you can get a hell of a lot more hardware spec wise. For me, the iMac has always been a solid & dependable daily workhorse & my new Macbook Pro will allow me to break free of the desktop and work on the go. I do hope that Apple will change their minds & start catering to the Pro market, but in the meantime I’m sure most of us will just stick with what we have. Hardware & processors aren’t developing at the rate they once did, so it is much more feasible to stick with hardware for many years. I for one can attest to that, having used my iMac for 7 years solid.

What are your thoughts on the new Macbook Pro’s? Especially the model with the touch bar?

Apple iPhone 7 Plus missing the 3.5mm headphone jack

iPhone 7 & 7 Plus ditching the 3.5mm audio headphone jack – I’m not convinced

This week Apple unveiled its latest & greatest flagship device, the iPhone 7 & 7 Plus. This is the first Apple conference which I haven’t attended or streamed live from home. For me, the magic of Apple is starting to fade. Don’t get me wrong, their hardware is exquisite, but their decision-making & rush of new hardware & software to market is getting a little tedious. Especially on the software side, nothing is quite as polished & flawless. Everything feels buggy & clunky.

It also feels like Apple are innovating for the sake of it. I was majorly put off the new MacBooks for their lack of built-in ports. I don’t want to use a dongle, it’s something else to carry & totally impractical. Not to mention aesthetically void. My plan is to buy a used Macbook with the ports still built into the unibody because I like a USB port & an audio jack, not to mention an ethernet port (WiFi might be fine for most users, but try troubleshooting a network or transferring huge amounts of data without ethernet, it’s painful & totally useless).

Back to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. They have gone down the same route, by losing the audio jack and replacing it with lightning headphones. The lightning port was a pain in the arse to start with. None of my accessories worked with the port. I still have an iPhone 4 in one audio dock & a 3S in another. I now have an iPad mini 2 and an iPhone 6 with lightning so I’m getting used to it. But replacing the 3.5mm jack, for me, is a no go.

For one we have a usability issue. At the moment I can plug my 3.5mm jack into any device setup and pass audio from any app on the iPhone to any amp or device. I can use the aux cable in rental cars that don’t have bluetooth or when riding in a friend’s car. I can use my official headphones, earphones, X-mini speaker or any cheapo headphones I need to use. No restrictions. With the Lightning setup you are limited to Lightning only accessories. If you friend has an Android phone in their car and uses an AUX cable, you are screwed. If you break your headphones, you can’t just grab any generic pair from almost any shop, worldwide, you don’t need a specific proprietary cable.

Imagine, for example, you are travelling in some far-flung place. You break or lose your headphones. The 3.5mm jack has existed since the 60’s. You can guaranteed, anywhere in the world, you will find a pair of earphones or headphones. That simply won’t be the case with a proprietary connector.

Furthermore, imagine all of those people with a specific need for a 3.5mm jack. Musicians, DJ’s, hackers, makers, hobbyists, journalists, teachers with presentations. The list is endless.

Another issue with the lightning & bluetooth (ear pods) approach is DRM. More so over bluetooth with the wireless Ear Pods, but also with lightning I can see a time where DRM is used to stop you outputting audio to certain devices. Lightning & bluetooth are digital, 3.5mm is analogue, meaning over lightning or bluetooth the iPhone can communicate with the device it’s connected to. This could, for instance, stop you outputting Spotify to an amplifier. It could stop you streaming audio and then outputting that audio to recording equipment or a third-party stereo setup. Anyone who has used airplay will understand the frustrations of DRM. Try outputting video over Airplay for certain apps. it just won’t allow it (specifically the Sky TV apps for example).

Apple Air Pods
Apple Air Pods

The 3.5mm jack has been a bastion of audio for years. I won’t buy an iPhone 7 for this very reason, unless they produce an analogue converter, but still it would mean carrying an external adaptor or dongle. Rubbish.

Apple Wired Earbuds
Apple Wired Earbuds

I’m no Luddite. I enjoy new technology. I’ve been into tech for as long as I can remember, but sometimes I feel that innovation isn’t progress. The rest of the iPhone 7 & 7 plus is a bit meh! The price tags have gone skywards and the features are actually putting me off. Don’t get me started on the fact that the camera is still protruding. I can’t imagine that camera ever coming into existence under Steve Jobs, never mind persisting model after model. I’ve hated it since I got my iPhone 6, the flush camera of previous models was perfect.

Oh, and why do we still not have Micro SD support & dual sims. We have to pay a fortune for built in, fixed storage while the android boys can infinitely upgrade their storage capacity with cheap micro SD.

While I’m discussing gripes, don’t get me started on the bluetooth Ear Pods. I would lose them without a doubt, not to mention the requirement to charge yet another device. At the moment & for years, I rout my earbud cables from my trouser pocket, underneath my T-shirt and out at the neck. This means if I pop them out, to chat to someone or to do some work, they hang from my T-shirt neck, where I can find them & pop them back in my ears when ready. Also, when riding my bike or being generally active, if an earbud falls out, it simply swings from my t-shirt neck on the wire & I grab it and put it back in. With bluetooth, it would drop to the floor and probably end up ridden over or smashed. Plus the fact I would always be running out of battery in the bluetooth earbuds, it’s just a non starter for me.

Some things are meant to have wires. Networks are supposed to be hard-wired for reliability, security & speed. Earphones are no different for me.

Anker Power Core 20100 charging ports

Anker PowerCore 20100 4.8 amp Mobile Power Bank

Modern smart phones aren’t great when it comes to battery life. This can be blamed on the user as much as the device itself. We tend to use smart phones for everything nowadays. From MP3 playback to calls, texts, social media & maps. The usage is endless. Unfortunately the power life is not.

I often find myself in cities & on trips without access to an outlet & I can be down to 50% before 10AM. I use my iPhone to conduct my business, manage my life, listen to music & take photos. I use it to pay for coffee, to organise meeting friends & reply to business emails on the go. I use it a lot. I don’t tend to kill time with the iPhone, I’m not a Facebook user and tend to limit my social media usage, but I still struggle to maintain battery life.

I was excited when Apple introduced their low power mode, but I’ve mostly found it useless as it manages to save very little power. In the past I’ve used low quality power banks. I had a cheap one from Primark which would give me around a 50% charge on the iPhone 6. I’ve also resorted to dropping into Apple stores in Liverpool, Manchester, London, Amsterdam & San Fransisco on my travels to replace the display iPhones with my own to sneak a charge. It would be handy if Apple provided charging bays at tables for this very purpose.

Anyway, after all of the road warrior action I decided to address the problem. A power outlet isn’t always available. You find them in places like Starbucks, but they normally have someone tethered to them for the long haul. I therefore opted for a high-capacity power bank.

After a search  & reading plenty of reviews I decided to buy the Anker PowerCore 20100 power bank from Amazon. It is currently reduced from £59.99 to £29.99 so it is an absolute bargain. This is a 20,000mAH battery pack and I’ve found it can keep my iPhone 6 charged for an entire week. The power bank itself takes a while to charge on a standard USB port or USB charger. I’ve been using my high-capacity 12w iPad charger to charge the power bank much more quickly & find an overnight charge will fill the power bank.

I do like Anker products, the build quality is second to none & the quality in general of their products is superb. I prefer to buy once & buy well & this fits the bill. It’s made from sturdy, rugged plastic and is quite heavy. It has a charge indicator button and four small blue LED’s to show you the current charge level of the power bank, much like that found on Macbook’s.

This particular model has a single micro usb input for charging (with the supplied cable) and two standard USB outputs for charging any USB device. The Power Bank also comes in a great padded sleeve with a draw cord, which is perfect for travelling & throwing into your backpack.

The Anker PowerCore 20100 can charge two devices at the same time & I find it charges my iPhone 6 as quickly as a mains adapter. On a recent trip, it managed to keep my iPhone 6 charged for an entire week, which is crazy.

The Anker PowerCore 20100 can output 4.8 amps and features something they call Power IQ technology, which optimizes charging based on the device it is charging & can rapid charge supported devices. I feel more confident using a device like this over a generic one as I trust the quality of the cells used & trust it won’t burst into flames or fry my devices.

Anker Power Core specifications
Anker Power Core specifications

I also found this is the maximum capacity I would go for as anything larger can been troublesome when it comes to airport security & carry on luggage. There is a limit on the size of lithium-ion batteries that can be taken on a plane without scrutiny, so to save the hassle I went with an acceptable battery capacity.

Finally the packaging. I’m a bit of a packaging geek & Anker satisfied my geekiness. The packaging is wonderful & even feels nice. You can see just how good the packaging is in the pictures below.

If you use your smart phone or tablet on the go I would recommend you go & grab one of these before the price increases. It has become a staple in my everyday carry & always sites fully charged in my backpack. No more hunting for sockets. I’ve also been able to bail out friends when their devices have died.

Do you use a power bank? Let me know which ones you use & your experience with them. In the days pokémon Go it would appear more & more people rely on them to keep their devices charged.

Anker Power Core 20100 packaging
Anker Power Core 20100 packaging
Anker Power Core 20100 packaging
Anker Power Core 20100 packaging
Anker Power Core 20100 charging ports
Anker Power Core 20100 charging ports
Anker Power Core 20100 & packaging
Anker Power Core 20100 & packaging
Anker Power Core 20100 packaging
Anker Power Core 20100 packaging
Anker Power Core 20100 packaging
Anker Power Core 20100 packaging
Anker Power Core 20100 & packaging
Anker Power Core 20100 & packaging
Anker Power Core 20100 & packaging
Anker Power Core 20100 & packaging
Let's Encrypt free TLS/SSL for HTTPS

Using Let’s Encrypt to enable HTTPS for your website

For a long time I’ve been meaning to sort out SSL certificates for my domains & secure traffic to them. Last year HTTPS became a google ranking factor & since then site wide HTTPS adoption has been on the increase. The problem with HTTPS is that up until recently it required buying an SSL certificate from a vendor & installing it on your hosting.

SSL certificates are not cheap & need renewing on a regular basis. It isn’t just a one-off cost. Furthermore, if you have multiple websites hosted on shared hosting, you need to sort out & purchase a separate certificate for each domain, or buy a wildcard certificate to cover your domains. Not cool.

Enter Let’s Encrypt (visit website). Let’s Encrypt is an SSL certificate signing authority who offer HTTPS (TLS, SSL) certificates free of charge. The certificates last for 90 days but can be renewed indefinitely without any extra charges.

Let’s Encrypt is a Linux Foundation project supported by a lot of big tech vendors including Google & Mozilla, not to mention the fact that is in endorsed by the EFF.

If you have your own server, installation is quite straightforward. You can use the EFF’s Certbot page to find instructions for your web server software & OS with a step by step guide for installing Let’s Encrypt.

If, like me, you have a lot of sites on shared hosting, things are a little more complicated. Luckily however, in August cPanel released a Let’s Encrypt plugin. The plugin has been in beta for a while but went live last month & the plugin automatically requests certificates for each domain hosted in cPanel & sets up the keys and certificates for you. It couldn’t be simpler. Whats more the cPanel Plugin will also run a cron job to check & renew the certificates, so it is a perfect turn-key solution for enabling full SSL (TLS) for your domains.

As soon as the plugin became available, I asked my hosting company to install the plugin. Within minutes I had SSL setup on all of my domains.

Once setup, the only task was to set my websites to use SSL over HTTPS be default. I set the domains to HTTPS in wordpress settings, and added rules in my .htaccess files to redirect all non HTTPS traffic to HTTPS. Ensure you set your redirects as 301 redirects to pass on any link juice from old links to your websites.

I added the following to my .htaccess for this site to redirect all

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^johnlarge.co.uk
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https\:\/\/www\.johnlarge\.co\.uk\/$1 [R=301,L]
RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} 80
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://www.johnlarge.co.uk/$1 [R=301,L]


My HTTPS TLS Certificate details
My HTTPS TLS Certificate details

I noticed a few days of SERP drops, but they have now recovered and my rankings are in fact climbing across the board. I also find that a nice big padlock in the address bar is great for reassuring customers & conversions on my e-commerce sites are up. My payment pages have always been encrypted as a third-party payment processor manages payments, but by securing every page of my sites it would seem customers feel extra secure.

HTTPS is also important from a privacy point of view. HTTPS gives end to end encryption between your browser and the server, meaning third parties are unable to snoop on your traffic. What you read & the sites you visit are your business & you are entitled to browse the web in relative privacy. HTTPS goes a long way to protecting your privacy online and I think we will see mass adoption of services like Let’s Encrypt for that reason alone. You can read more about Encryption & privacy over on the EFF’s website.

I must say I’m very happy with Let’s Encrypt. The whole process was straightforward and I now have HTTPS encryption across all of my domains. Any SEO benefits are a real bonus & I’ll do a further write-up on that when I’ve had some time to review the results.

If you manage your own server, I’d recommend adding Let’s Encrypt. Gone are the days of paying to secure your websites. And if your hosting is cPanel based, drop your hosting company an email and ask them to install the Let’s Encrypt plugin. It really is worth it.

Configuring LibreELEC

Migrating from OpenELEC to LibreELEC kodi

I’ve been using OpenELEC for a few years now, having it installed on an older Apple TV 1 (ATV1) and more recently on my Raspberry Pi 2 for use as a media centre. OpenELEC drastically simplified a kodi installation on any supported hardware & by aiming OpenELEC at being an appliance they managed to make a lightweight & rock solid kodi OS.

It would seem over the past 6 months or so, development of OpenELEC and support for OpenELEC has wound down. Maybe the developers have other projects to focus on, but I found that it wasn’t being updated as often as I would like. I then spotted LibreELEC which is operated by a small board of developers focused on creating a system with just enough OS for Kodi. This is excellent news for anyone running Kodi on a Raspberry Pi as the filesystem requirements are small & only enough processes & services run in order to support Kodi, meaning precious resources are freed up on slower hardware.

It would appear LibreELEC is based on OpenELEC and the filesystem appears to be very similar. The update procedure also appears to be identical. To upgrade to LibreELEC, I downloaded the latest release from the Libreelec website and selected the “Manual Update from OpenELEC” .tar file. Once downloaded, open up your OpenELEC shared folder on the network and place the .tar in the update directory. Once you have done that, reboot the Pi and LibreELEC will install in place of OpenELEC.

And with that my Raspberry Pi 2 which is a dedicated media centre was upgraded to LibreELEC. I’ve actually found that the libreELEC install is very stable, and my uptime has been constant since the update. I’m currently running Kodi 16.1 Jarvis and this media centre experiences very heavy usage in our household.

LibreELEC is going through constant development, so if you still use OpenELEC I would recommend updating. Also, it’s nice to get the latest versions of kodi Stable when they are available.

I’ve not had any issues with LibreELEC and it works very well with my raspberry Pi 2. I’ve also found that HEVC x.265 hi def content actually plays on the latest version of Kodi running on LibreELEC. I struggled to get those high resolution/compression files playing on OpenELEC without dropping a lot of frames and jerky playback. LibreELEC and Kodi 16.1 Jarvis seem to handle them perfectly now on my Raspbery pi 2 media centre.

LibreELEC has an almost identical extra configuration menu to that offered in OpenELEC, allowing you to manage wifi connections and stop/start services. It also has a handy little event viewer which allows you to view basic system logs. May come in handy when debugging issues int he future, but so far it has been rock solid so I’ve not needed to use it.

LibreELEC now powers our living Room media centre. This is the only TV we have in the house, as we tend to use Computers in other rooms or Laptops with kodi installed. But as our main media centre it is excellent. I’ve yet to find a format that libreELEC and the Raspbery pi 2 can’t handle, and even streaming over wi-fi on our internal network, we haven’t experienced any issues.

Have you upgraded to LibreELEC? if so let me know how you are getting on with it in the comments below.

LibreELEC kodi home screen
LibreELEC kodi home screen
libreELEC config menu
libreELEC config menu
Configuring LibreELEC
Configuring LibreELEC
Raspberry Pi 2 System Use on LibreELEC Kodi
Raspberry Pi 2 System Use on LibreELEC Kodi

Lenovo thinkpad X200 batteries

Lenovo Thinkpad X200 laptop battery woes

Regular readers will know that I now use a Lenovo X200 for most of my computing needs. It has Libreboot installed and I run Trisquel 7 GNU linux on the laptop. This laptop is perfect for linux, all of the hardware including the updated Atheros wifi adaptor have open source & free drivers available & the machine is truly 100% my own.

The laptop itself is still fairly powerful for an older laptop with an Intel® Core™2 Duo CPU P8600 @ 2.40GHz dual core processor and upgraded ram to 4GB it really is a good mobile workhorse. I only paid £50 for the laptop in September & I installed 4GB of ram I had in my desk drawer from an old Macbook upgrade. I also updated the Intel wifi board to an Atheros to allow me to run Trisquel.

The laptop was in great condition when I bought it used, considering it was 6 years old. I did a full refurb myself & stripped it down to clean and restore it. One annoying thing was that the installed battery seemed to be the original & after a lot of charging cycles it was lucky to run for 40 minutes on battery. I decided to hold off upgrading the battery and carried the power cord with me when feasible.Lenovo thinkpad X200 batteries

Original Thinkpad x200 5200mah battery
Original Thinkpad x200 5200mah battery

Last month however the original Lenovo battery finally died. The battery light on the x200 was flashing orange and as soon as I unplugged the power adapter the laptop would power down instantly. I hit the forums & read that this is common with older batteries in the thinkpad’s. Apparently they have a fuse in them & when a cell starts to die, varying the voltage across them, the fuse burns out and shorts the battery. This seemed to be the case so I hit the Internet to weigh up my options.

An original 5200mah battery manufactured by lenovo was coming in at around £70. This didn’t seem like a great option considering I only paid £50 for the laptop. I was adamant that I didn’t want to buy a used battery as the history of the battery & the life remaining is such an unknown, but I definitely wasn’t going to spend so much on an original Lenovo battery.

I found various sellers on eBay & amazon & decided to opt for a higher capacity 7800mah battery. These have a larger form factor & stick out of the back of the laptop, but apparently they can run the X200 for an extended period of time, so I thought it would be a good option. The battery was also cheap at £23 including delivery.

On receipt of the battery it was quite obvious that it was a cheap & nasty product. It had a small crack in the flimsy plastic case, the locking button was stiff and the copper pins of the battery looked like a dog had been chewing them.

I tested the battery to see if this was just cosmetic, but when plugging the battery in i found that they battery would run the laptop, but would not charge & wasn’t even being detected by the X200 charging circuits. For all intents & purposes, the laptop didn’t know a battery was present & also couldn’t give any indication of charge levels or discharge rates.

Thinpad X200 7800mah battery
Thinpad X200 7800mah battery
7800mah mashed battery terminals
7800mah mashed battery terminals

I contacted the seller who must have known this is a common problem as he refunded the order, without question or return. I was disappointed but relieved to have the refund.

I then decided to head to Amazon. I was determined to find a cheaper third-party battery & decided to look for an item which was held in Amazon stock & dispatched by them. This way, if any problems arose I would be dealing with amazon for a return and not a third-party seller.

I found the battery supplied by a company called TPE. Another third-party brand I had never heard of, but a brand none the less. They had a website & lots of safety certification. They also seemed to have positive reviews so I decided to order from them. This battery was a 5200mah battery which was the same spec as the original Lenovo. I decided to go for this one as I prefer the flush fitting of the standard battery over the extended life battery I tried previously.

7800mah mashed battery terminals
7800mah mashed battery terminals

The TPE X200 battery came within a week and again cost me £23. This one was 100% better. Nicely packaged, perfect anti-static, decent quality casing & stickers & the copper pins where perfect. I plugged it into the X200 and instantly I was running off battery. It was 78% charged and the X200 on trisquel was showing 3 hours of battery life remaining.

Modern lithium-ion batteries are less prone to memory effect than older laptop batteries but I always run new batteries in nicely. It’s a habit now. So I ran on battery until it was critically low & then gave it a full charge. I’ve got to say, I have no complaints with the battery. After a few full cycles it’s holding excellent charge & giving me almost 4 hours without using any specific power tweaks on Trisquel.

This TPE battery seems comparable in quality to the original Lenovo battery & I would highly recommend you have a search on Amazon if you need to update or replace yours.

The X200 takes battery part number FRU P/N 42T4647 or ASM P/N 42T4537 as standard so search for those part numbers if you want to replace your original X200 5200mah battery.

Front veiw on my 5th Generation iPod U2 edition & original packaging

iPod 5th Generation SSD Upgrade with iFlash and Sandisk SD cards

I love my old school technology. While I love all the new developments in tech, I’m still one of these people who wont replace something which is perfectly good just to upgrade to the latest model. My 5th Generation iPod is no exception. I bought this iPod in 2006 from the Apple store in San Francisco. It was my first new Apple device & I opted for the special U2 edition, not because I particularly like U2, but because I loved the black with red click wheel.

This iPod has seen heavy usage since the day I bought it. It has travelled with me around the world, still in its original Belkin hard case & it has never EVER failed me.

I had to replace the battery a few years back as it was holding less & less charge, but apart from that it just keeps going. I think the Wolfson DAC in this generation iPod offers the greatest sound output from any of the Apple music players before or since. It knocks the socks off even my iPhone 6 and all of my previous iPhones.

From the iPhone 3G onwards I’ve been tempted to switch my music to the iPhone only but I have various gripes with that. Firstly, it has limited storage space & is quite a clunky experience. I don’t like streaming as it relies on Connectivity, which eats battery, its useless for international travel and generally gives an interrupted user experience. Secondly, I find myself constantly interrupted by push notifications, calls, texts & distractions. Walking around a city in my own world listening to my extensive music library used to be my way of disconnecting and chilling out. Since using smart phones this is less & less viable.

So I’ve switched back to the iPod. My problem now is since using iTunes match, my entire library is now of a higher bitrate. My music is mostly now in 256kbps AAC. My MP3 collection used to be predominately 160kbps or 192kbps which was pretty normal in mid to late 2000’s. Couple that with my ever-growing library & I’ve found myself needing to be selective about the music I carry on the iPod. I hate that! If I think of a tune I would like to listen to on the go, I like to have it to hand. I therefore decided to upgrade the old iPod, not by replacing it, but by enhancing it.




I researched putting in an SSD and doing an iPod SSD upgrade, which seemed a good prospect, but not very flexible. I then looked at the possibility of using SD or Compact Flash cards to expand the memory & stumbled across the iFlash website & boards. iFlash make boards which allow you to swap out the internal ZIF hard drive on the iPod 5th Gen and replace it with a small PCB supporting SD cards. You have the option of a board supporting one card, a dual SD board or a quad board. To future proof I went for the quad board meaning I could expand it easily in the future.

iFlash Quad back view with 2 x Sandisk 64GB SDXC cards ready to go for iPod SSD upgrade
iFlash Quad back view with 2 x Sandisk 64GB SDXC cards ready to go for iPod SSD upgrade
iFlash Quad front view with 2 x Sandisk 64GB SDXC cards ready to go.
iFlash Quad front view with 2 x Sandisk 64GB SDXC cards ready to go.

The iFlash essentially replaces your hard drive with a board running SD cards which acts as a virtual HDD using JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks) mode allowing you to mix and match SD cards to create one large volume. I ordered the iFlash Quad & two fresh Sandisk Ultra Micro SDXC Class 10 cards. Both cards are 64GB giving me a combined 128GB of flash storage in the old iPod. Compared to the standard 30GB this is a massive improvement, & I can add some more SD cards in the future if needs be.

iPod opening tools. Tweezers, Small screwdriver & iPod opening tool (soft tool or spudger)
iPod opening tools. Tweezers, Small screwdriver & iPod opening tool (soft tool or spudger)

I used the iFixit tear down guide to dismantle my iPod, bearing in mind that I’ve stripped it down in the past to replace the battery. Dismantling is fairly easy, I’d recommend an iPod opening soft tool to open the case. The back cover is metal but the front is plastic so you don’t want to damage the clips or the casing. Make sure to turn the iPod off and use the lock switch to lock the iPod before starting. I find it best to insert the removal tool in the case gap on each side and run it the full length a few times to pop the clips open. I don’t lever it at all, the simple back and forth sliding is normally enough. One is pops open, don’t just pull it apart as the battery ribbon cable needs to be removed. I use a small pair of tweezers to lift up the brown ribbon latch a few mm. Go really easy with this, it only needs to raise slightly to release the cable. Once the cable is removed you can open the case like a book, leaving the other ribbon untouched.

The next thing you need to do is flip the hard drive 180 degrees towards the bottom edge of the case to expose the ZIF cable & connector. You then need to lightly flip-up the black connector at the HDD end, it doesn’t lift up, it flips up through 90 degrees or so to release the cable.. Once that is lifted you can slowly ease the ribbon cable out.

iPod 5th Gen Hard Drive removed
iPod 5th Gen Hard Drive removed

Next you need to take your iFlash board & insert your SD cards. In my case I inserted both 64GB cards into slow 1 & 2. Make sure you have removed all of the grey HDD bumpers, I found an extra little bumper at the bottom edge which had to come out to seat the iFlash properly. Slip the HDD ribbon into the ZIF connector on the iFlash and close the lock bar. It works exactly the same as the one you just opened on your HDD. I used tweezers again to make sure the ribbon was fully seated int he connector, be careful not to kink the ribbon. Light pressure only. You can then seat the iFlash and stick one of the supplied sticky pads to the chipset to keep it snug when the case is closed.

iFlash quad with SD cards inserted & ready to go
iFlash quad with SD cards inserted & ready to go
iFlash Quad replaces HDD and sites neatly inside the case.
iFlash Quad replaces HDD and sites neatly inside the case.

Before clipping the case back together, reinsert the battery ribbon and click the lock shut. Place the top case onto the bottom case but don’t clip the case back together yet. First plug your iPod into your computer and check that you can restore it with iTunes and that it boots up & reports your new storage capacity both in iTunes and on the iPod in the settings menu. Once you are happy & have restored the iPod using iTunes, clip back together & enjoy.

iPod switched on after iFlash installed, showing recovery required screen
iPod switched on after iFlash installed, showing recovery required screen
my iPod is now 128GB thanks to iFlash
my iPod is now 128GB thanks to iFlash

So far I’m loving this mod. Battery life is much improved as the iFlash doesn’t have a platter to move like the old HDD. Also I found syncing to be much faster, song seeking much faster and the ability to sync my entire library in 256kbps AAC means vastly improved audio quality. Better clarity and less fuzz.

New capacity on my 5th Gen iPod is 128GB
New capacity on my 5th Gen iPod is 128GB

This mod should be do-able by most competent DIY-ers and hardware hackers. Just be careful when releasing cable release latches, the plastic is now 10 years old in mine & no doubt more brittle with age. Take your time with these parts, treat it as if it where precious. No force, just patience.

I now have a smart phone killer in the mobile music battle. I expect this iPod will keep travelling the world with me for many years. I’m also looking onto running an even higher capacity battery, but right now I can just run it off my Anker PowerCore 20100 power bank if required.

Below is a picture of my upgraded iPod & my original packaging. This is now 10 years old (was 10 in June this year) and I still treasure it like the day I bought it.

Front view of my 5th Generation iPod U2 edition & original packaging
Front view of my 5th Generation iPod U2 edition & original packaging
Back view of my 5th Generation iPod U2 edition & original packaging
Back view of my 5th Generation iPod U2 edition & original packaging

If you have carried out any hardware hacks on old iPod do let me know & as always if you need help, just ask me in the comments.

Turn Off iCloud Music Library

iPhone storage full when using iCloud music *fix*

I’ve been having major issues with my iPhone 6 running out of storage capacity. I have a modest amount of apps installed on the iPhone & I have the 16GB version of the iPhone 6. I was constantly receiving the storage almost full banner on my iPhone and even when looking at the storage & iCloud usage in settings I couldn’t figure out what was taking up all the space. This tutorial will also apply to iPad as it’s an iOS issue and not an iPhone specific issue. Works well if you keep receiving the message “iphone storage full” and you use iTunes match or iCloud Music Library

I first tried deleting old apps and app data. This helped a little. I then deleted all of the music off my device which freed up some space but not a great deal. Next I opened the Battery Doctor app and ran the clean up scripts included, which clean out old cache and orphaned files. Again, this gave me a few extra MB but nothing noticeable.

The final thing I tried was to disable iCloud music under settings > music. As soon as I returned to check the storage space available I could see I had quite a bit more free. I checked back 5 minutes later and I had gone from almost full to 2GB free. It would seem that the caching of music on the iPhone with iTunes match is very inefficient on smaller devices. I see the benefit of caching music files for quicker retrieval & a reduction in cellular usage, but on smaller devices this really doesn’t help and I do wish they would include a way to disable caching, or a cache time-out.

If you use an Apple iPhone or iPad along with iTunes match/iCloud music I would advise giving this trick a go. Turn off iCloud music and watch your free space return. I now do this on a regular basis to free up space & delete the cache. It has really helped me free up space & made my 16GB iPhone much more useable.

If you are having the same issue please do let me know. I would love to hear your own fixes for storage issues on smaller iOS devices. iTunes match & iCloud music library seem very under-optimised in iOS 9 & I do hope they invest some more time & effort into improving this, especially on 16GB devices which I assume they will phase out in future iPhone & iPad models.

 

iCloud Music Library Enabled

Turn Off iCloud Music Library
Turn Off iCloud Music Library
iCloud Music Library toggled off
iCloud Music Library toggled off
Almost 2GB free space on iPhone. Previously it was as low as 200MB free
Almost 2GB free space on iPhone. Previously it was as low as 200MB free
Firefox ends support for OSX 10.7

Can’t update Firefox on OSX 10.7 Mountain Lion – Mozilla ends Firefox support

This evening I was greeted with a message from my trusty firefox installation that OSX 10.7 (Mountain Lion) is no longer supported and as such won’t receive any future updates. This contradicts the message over on the Firefox support site which states that support will continue to August 2016. I, like many people still run an old iMac. This machine is fast (faster than my brother in laws brand new iMac running OSX El Capitan) in real life even though the hardware is in no way a match.

I’ve tried all new versions of OSX on this machine and the last fast version to work is OSX Mountain Lion. I cannot replace a machine due to bloaty software and I in particular hate it when an OS gets bloaty. OS’s should be light & fast and allow each user to customise the system with software based on their needs. I don’t like all the new & faddy features to be baked into the OS. It’s harder to tweak and generally performs badly.

Firefox ends support for OSX 10.7
Firefox ends support for OSX 10.7

Chrome recently ended support for 10.7 so I switched to using Firefox solely on this machine. It would now appear that Mozilla have brought forward ending support for older versions of OSX and in turn ended support for people wanting to run older hardware.

I run older hardware because ethically I can’t justify replacing a perfectly serviceable machine. I don’t like planned or forced obsolescence. It feels like Apple are forcing people’s hands more and more with bloated ios updates and slow software. The hardware is still fine but the software cripples it.

I’m disappointed that Mozilla would also end support, especially as the open source community is made up of a lot of people with lower spec hardware, especially in the developing world. I refuse to update working hardware with software which will make it slow & useless. As an example, I currently have Dreamweaver, Firefox with 12 tabs, Mac Mail, iTunes, Illustrator, Photoshop & trillian running on my machine, with plenty of power to spare.

Current Memory usage on OSX 10.7
Current Memory usage on OSX 10.7
Current CPU usage on OSX 10.7
Current CPU usage on OSX 10.7

If you have hit this snag with Firefox you can opt for the Extended support release to buy some time, or start looking for another browser. Many open source projects are based on Firefox so it might be time to look into those. I use various firefox derivatives on my Trisquel Linux machine so I’ll start to investigate this further.

Firefox Ending support for 10.7 early and extended support release
Firefox Ending support for 10.7 early and extended support release

If anyone from Mozilla reads this, I would love it if you could extend support for older versions of OSX. I’m pretty sure you will get lots of requests for this & many more people will just run out of date & insecure browsers.

Really disappointing.

Apple Macbook repaired & working

Apple Macbook Pro water damage – fixed

If any of you guys follow me on social media you will be aware that a few weeks back we had a disaster in our household. I brought a cup of tea to my wife while she was working in bed, and as I handed it to her I dripped a few drops on her Apple Macbook pro. We quickly dried it off and thought no more of it. It worked all morning & she closed the Macbook when we went out for lunch.

On our return the Macbook refused to startup. On pressing the power button it would make the startup chime, the grey apple screen would appear with the apple logo and then with a click of the hard drive the machine would shut down. This happened every time we tried to boot the laptop. The liquid had done damage. I inspected the Macbook where the drops had landed, mainly around the top right of the keyboard & the power button. I couldn’t see any signs of moisture at all. I suspected a fried logic board but refused to give up on the machine & testing.

I decided to lay it keyboard down on a towel and let it dry out for 12 hours. This did nothing. I then tried sitting the laptop in the sunlight to dry even further. Again nothing. I even pondered a huge bag or rice, but it seemed overkill for a few drops of tea. I thought long & hard how a few drops of liquid could have made it past the keyboard & backlight & down to the logic board. It was almost impossible due to the low amount of drips on the keyboard. At this point I decided that it must be a faulty keyboard or power button. As the laptop would boot a little surely the logic board must be OK.

I then tried booting the laptop holding the command key. It booted without issue, but as soon as I released the key it would shutdown. The shutdown was exactly the same as when you force shutdown the Macbook by holding the power button for 4 seconds. Eureka! It must be a short in the power button circuit. Probably due to the sugar content in the tea or corrosion caused by the moisture.

Macbook with bottom plate removed
Macbook with bottom plate removed
Hard drive removed
Hard drive removed
Power button location
Power button location
Power Button Location
Power Button Location
Power button ribbon sliced & lifted with spudger
Power button ribbon sliced & lifted with spudger

Next I opened up the Macbook, pulling out the radio board, battery, Superdrive and other bits getting in the way. I revealed the power button and noticed that the power button is part of the keyboard assembly and runs on a ribbon to the rest of the keyboard circuitry. As the keyboard was fried I decided to take a knife and slice off the ribbon for the power button. Surely if the short was in the button itself this would isolate it & allow the machine to boot. It didn’t. No big deal, the keyboard was thought to be faulty anyway so next I decided to disconnect the keyboard ribbon cable from the logic board, isolating the keyboard. As soon as I did this & reassembled the Macbook booted & worked perfectly. Due to the fact that I had disconnected the power button I had to start the Macbook up by shorting the power pads on the logic board. I did this with a screwdriver. I then replaced the bottom cover and had a fully working Macbook, without a keyboard & power button.

The power button wasn’t an issue as the Macbook always uses sleep as opposed to a cold shutdown. I plugged in an external keyboard and the Macbook was once again functional. What a result. We had gone from a destroyed Macbook to one with an obviously faulty internal keyboard. I enquired locally with Mac repair specialists who quoted between £200-£300 to replace the keyboard. Ridiculous prices, so I headed over to eBay and ordered a brand new official apple Macbook pro keyboard & brand new backlight for £24 delivered. The keyboard arrived next day and I set to work dismantling the Macbook. It’s a complicated laptop to dismantle, but only because of the sheer number of steps & screws involved. The keyboard assembly alone is held in by about 80 tiny little screws.

Water damaged Macbook Pro ready to tear down
Water damaged Macbook Pro ready to tear down

To disassemble you need to remove the bottom cover, followed by the battery. I then removed the hard drive mount, the superdrive & radio board, followed by the logic board fan, ribbon cables & logic board. There are model specific tear-downs over on ifixit so check those out for your model.

Macbook with logic board removed & keyboard backlight removed, ready to reomve keyboard. Note all of those little screws
Macbook with logic board removed & keyboard backlight removed, ready to reomve keyboard. Note all of those little screws

Removing the old keyboard & fitting the new one is time-consuming & fiddly, but not overly difficult. The hardest & most scary part for me was refitting the ribbon cable for the keyboard. It’s hard to get it seated properly, so I used a bit of sticky tape on the ribbon to create a tab, allowing me to pull the cable home in the bracket without kinking or bending it. Reassembly is the opposite of disassembly. When disassembling I’d advise that you keep components & their screws together so you know which screw belongs to which part. For the logic board screws I laid them out on a piece of card board in the same pattern as they came out of the logic board (see above picture), that way I could quickly see which hole to put them back into.

Once reassembled the MacBook worked perfectly. It had a brand new keyboard & backlight, which was all new & matte finished (the old one had gone shiny). This fix is well worth it if you think you have water damaged your MacBook, at least try disconnecting the keyboard to rule it out. If it boots, you can work with an external keyboard until you get around to replacing it. The Apple Macbook in question is 4 years old but perfectly good & used heavily, so this fix was a lifesaver. What’s more I managed to save a perfectly good bit of tech & a load of money in the process.

 

Apple Macbook repaired & working
Apple Macbook repaired & working
iOS 5.1.1 lock screen

iPad 2 downgraded from iOS 9 to iOS 5.1.1 – So much Faster

I bought my iPad 2 back when it was first released. I bought it on release date back in March 2011. I remember driving a 150 mile round trip from my new home in Cornwall to Exeter to visit the apple store and pick one up. On arrival, the only iPad 2 left in stock was the most expensive 64GB version with GSM cellular built-in. I really wanted a 3G version so I could use it anywhere so I jumped at the chance and paid the hefty £659 price tag. I loved the iPad 2 when it came out. I loved reading books on it, working & writing on the go. Browsing the net on a big screen anywhere & watching media on it. I really did fall in love with this device. Over the years as it has become older & with each iOS update the iPad 2 has gone from being a speedy device for all of my mobile computing to a sluggish and painful device to use. In my opinion, Apple should have stopped supporting the iPad 2 at iOS 7. They need to make better efforts for apps to support older version of iOS. But they won’t. This is perfectly useable tech & it seems so wasteful that software can make useful hardware obsolete.

In a perfect world, devices that apple deem end of life should have the option of easily selecting any older version of iOS depending on a users needs. On iOS 9 my iPad 2 went really unloved. I wouldn’t turn it on for weeks on end as it was too slow for even basic web browsing. If apple had any sense they would allow downgrading on older devices as standard. I guess it’s a good way of making us keep upgrading. But I couldn’t live with the fact that this machine which was ludicrously fast only a few years ago was no obsolete.

Up until iOS 8 I was a fanatical jailbreaker. I had the ATV 2 jailbroken & running XBMC, I had my iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS jailbroken along with my iPad 2. I liked being able to run homebrew tweaks & software, especially XBMC/Kodi. I’m glad I used to jailbreak as it got me thinking about downgrading. I have all of my old SHSH blobs backed up so I looked at older versions of iOS. Due to the changes made in the way apple sign ipsw’s post iOS 5.1.1 it looked increasingly difficult to downgrade to iOS 6,7 or 8. I therefore decided to go for 5.1.1 which looked like the most straight forward thing to do.

redsn0w downgrade screen
redsn0w downgrade screen

Luckily redsn0w supports downgrading of the iPad 2 easily so long as you have SHSH blobs for iOS 5.1.1 and any version of iOS 4. I downloaded the correct iOS 5.1.1 ipsw and also a 4.3.5 ipsw and let redsn0w retrieve my SHSH blobs from cydia and start the restore. The restore itself was painless, let redsn0w do it’s thing, throw the iPad 2 into DFU mode and let it restore first to iOS 4.3.5 and then to 5.1.1.

Second iPad 2 home screen on iOS 5.1.1
Second iPad 2 home screen on iOS 5.1.1
First iPad 2 home screen on iOS 5.1.1
First iPad 2 home screen on iOS 5.1.1
iOS 5.1.1 lock screen on iPad 2
iOS 5.1.1 lock screen on iPad 2
Settings page with About tab
Settings page with About tab

A word of warning, a few apps will not run at all on iOS 5.1.1, most notably Instagram and BBC iPlayer.  For other apps an older version will install but I’ve found all the apps I need, to work in one version or another, including Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr, Plex etc.

The next step for me was to head back to redsn0w and jailbreak. The jailbreak for iOS 5.1.1 is so simple. It’s known as Rocky Racoon and takes a matter of minutes. Once installed & cydia was setup, I added the Kodi iOS repository to my list of sources and installed Kodi.

Kodi 15.2 Isengard splash screen on iOS 5.1.1
Kodi 15.2 Isengard splash screen on iOS 5.1.1
Main kodi menu with touch screen friendly skin
Main kodi menu with touch screen friendly skin
A quick look at my TV library
A quick look at my TV library

This iPad 2 now has a new lease of life. It’s so fast. I will admit it takes a little getting used to after using iOS 9, but it’s so fast it’s worth it to resurrect your old tech. Kodi works a dream on this thing, with incredible battery life it’s the best portable media centre by far. The fact mine has 64GB of storage means I can keep loads of media locally on the iPad and playback using Kodi. The facebook app is an older version but so much better. The content is concise and not cluttered like modern facebook.

Safari is super fast & I’ve installed Adblock via Cydia to block ads iPad wide, not just in Safari. This means no annoying ads in videos. All in all I’m really impressed. I also love the fact that I can now airplay any video to my Kodi media centre running on the Raspberry Pi. The latest iterations of iOS changed airplay encryption & broke airplay to Kodi for everything but Audio. However on 5.1.1 I can airplay any video, meaning I can use safari based TV catchup services such as Quest TV and airplay the video to my Kodi media centre. I can also airplay the video from the YouTube app which is a huge bonus.

All in all I’d say this is the best decision I’ve made for the iPad 2. Whilst I do lose some functionality, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. The difference in speed is incredible and it’s now a device I use daily again. If you have one I would recommend running a backup and trying this, you can always restore back to the latest version if you aren’t happy. I for one will be sticking with iOS 5.1.1 on legacy devices.

I’ve also got my eye on an iPad Air. The price are pretty good for a huge leap in technology. Speeds are now much better and even weight has been drastically reduced.

And Finally the working My Subscriptions page with working thumbnails

Kodi YouTube plugin broken – *FIX*

Recently Bromix, the developer of the awesome YouTube addon for Kodi decided to quit the project & concentrate on other things. This quickly lead to the addon breaking, days after he announced he was leaving the project. As yet nobody has taken up the reigns on this plugin. Over the past few days the plugin has been broken, with the My Subscriptions tab breaking and thumbnails failing to load. If you use this addon like me you will rely heavily on the My Subscriptions tab. I subscribe to a lot of YouTube channels & tend to watch this in the evening with my wife over watching traditional TV. The My Subscriptions tab essentially brings together all of the latest videos (in order) from every youtuber you subscribe to.

It would appear that since Bromix has left, there are issues with api keys. The initial fix was to generate your own keys and hack together the plugin to get it working. More recently, the awesome Raspberry Rabbit has taken up where Bromix left off and started adding his hacks into a zip, which can be installed from kodi.

Raspberry Rabbit is putting his fixes up on YouTube and as of Feb 23rd, I’m using his mod & everything is working as it should. Today he has added a bunch more of generated API keys into his zip, so this should work in the interim until a more elegant fix is implemented. I’m going to look into this myself as I didn’t realise how much I rely on the YouTube kodi plugin until the past week.

If you want to grab the latest Raspberry Rabbit version, head over to his github page at https://github.com/rasberryrabbit or download the addon itself directly from https://github.com/rasberryrabbit/plugin.video.youtube/archive/master.zip

If you are interested in getting this working there is a lot of chatter over on the Kodi forums so go & check them out at http://forum.kodi.tv/showthread.php?tid=200735&page=218




Steps I used to get this working.

1. Go to your kodi profile folder, go into addon data and delete your youtube folder
2. Download the Youtube Master version linked to above
3. In kodi, go to video addons > Get More > use the … button to go back two folder levels and install from zip
4. Select the Youtube Master zip downloaded above & let install
5. Open your new YouTube addon via Video Addons and click sign in.
6. Authenticate twice with the codes shown over at https://youtube.com/activate
7. Enjoy your working version of YouTube for Kodi.

If you run into any issues let me know, I’ll update this post as things change. Like I said, I use this addon daily so I’ll always be up to date on the latest developments until it becomes stable again.

The initial YouTube sign in screen on Kodi
The initial YouTube sign in screen
Once signed in, this is the main YouTube addon screen in kodi
Once signed in, this is the main YouTube addon screen
And Finally the working My Subscriptions page with working thumbnails in kodi
And Finally the working My Subscriptions page with working thumbnails

Twitter

Twitter, hatred & the Stephen Fry vigilantes

I’ve been using Twitter since the very early days. I started using the service in early 2007 as a young Web Developer & recent Web Development graduate living in Manchester. At the time I was preparing to go back to University to study a Computer Science masters degree with a strong emphasis on the internet and social computing. Back then the huge buzzword was The Semantic Web. Basically an internet made up of user curated & generated content. Twitter even influenced my Masters thesis & I studied it in-depth. I also built an academic social network in the process incorporating social media and virtual learning environments.

Twitter was great in these early days. I actually remember having Conversations with some of my favourite people who happen to be in the celebrity arena. Those included Jonathan Ross, Robert Llewellyn and Stephen Fry. It was so good to pick their brains and interact in a positive way. I agree with Stephen’s latest blog post where he compares early twitter to swimming in a beautiful tropical ocean and soaking in all of the beauty & goodness. Nowadays it is a cesspool of hatred, trolling and self-righteousness.

People feel both the desire & right to berate anybody in the public eye if something they say or do offends them. They even feel the need to get involved in something that doesn’t require their input. The thing with the BAFTA’s was a joke, banter between two friends which seemed to offend many people. They took to twitter to direct their rage at Stephen without thinking that they are attacking a person directly. This is a man who has publicly acknowledged a lifelong battle with depression and bi-polar. Yet people feel they have the right to vent their frustrations directly at him. If you have a complaint, you put it in writing to BAFTA or the BBC.

You wouldn’t feel the compulsion to call him on the phone to vent your anger, or to email or write to him. This is because this would take time & you would feel some sort of social conscience. You would think objectively and realise it wasn’t worth a complaint. You would also have time to see Stephen Backstage laughing & joking with the woman & friend he was supposed to have offended, Jenny Beavan. With twitter, a few taps of your smartphone in a moment of rage & you have corresponded with your intended target. No time for reflection, no time for context and no debate with like-minded people. This is bullying of the highest order.

The holier than thou attitude of modern social media users is astonishing. Imagine, for one second, if everything you did in your place of work was filmed & broadcast to the world. Just think about that, I’m sure you have said & done things which would annoy almost all minority groups. Someone will always find a reason to be offended.

It’s the real-time witch hunt mentality which is scary. People spout such hate at people from the relative safety of the internet. A twitter handle is much like any other personal contact information such as a phone number, email address or postal address. Your comments are directed straight to that person. Some of them will be read & some of them can have profound effects on a persons mental state.

Imagine if every time you did something which could be deemed offensive in your daily life you were attacked by complete strangers. People calling for an apology, or for you to be sacked or shamed. It would be awful. We all have told a joke which maybe a little close to the bone, we all have said something which could be classed as not very politically correct, but amongst friends & colleagues it can be dealt with & very often laughed off. We are all only human & when put on the spot or under great pressure we all can say the wrong thing. This instant reaction is leading to the sanitizing of all personal opinion. Free speech is dead in an online world.





Far worse than the comments of someone like Jeremy Clarkson, Stephen Fry or any other person in the public eye is the public reaction & instant crucifixion of people. You see it daily on twitter, users are militant and without remorse. This is the modern twitter & I don’t really want to be a part of that. The early twitter was like nirvana. Users would share intimate parts of their daily lives, twit-pic’s and anecdotes like they where talking to their friends. It was a progressive & friendly platform. We used to text in our updates, hence the character limit. It was known as micro blogging as you would say something meaningful in very few characters. It was a joy. Now it is a churn of corporate interest, advertising, teenage angst & hatred. It feels disjointed & overcrowded. People share absolute drivel & it has largely replaced the person to person text message. Conversations played out in public for the world to see.

It has lost its essence and with the adoption by the masses it has suffered irreparable damage. Stephen Fry was one of the original tweeters. He was a joy to interact with and we got a real glimpse into his life. Now the haters, the vain, the teenagers and the morons have chased away our father figure and taken away the soul of the service. In a way I hope he doesn’t reactivate his account. I’m sure the original twitter users will move onto another service. As soon as the people migrated from Facebook to Twitter it was ruined. I just hope we experience that wonderful openness of original twitter again.

Twitter
Twitter
Apple Devices I own

Apple Error 53 & tech repairability

I’ve been considering this for a long time but over recent weeks the ability to repair my own technology has become far more important to me. Only a few weeks back, I was unfortunate enough to splash a few drops of coffee onto the keyboard of our Macbook Pro. We cleaned it off & thought nothing more of it until later in the day, when the machine failed to switch on. This was such a stressful thing to happen. The Macbook is 4 years old but is still in great condition & used constantly. It doesn’t warrant an upgrade.

I looked online & the tear down guides & forum posts looked complex. By all accounts, the liquid had fried the logic board and it was toast. I enquired about repair which was starting at many hundreds of £££. I then considered a refurbished machine which would have been £500+ for the exact same laptop (age & spec). I then snapped back into my old ways & started troubleshooting.

Out came the screwdrivers & apart came the unibody. After carefully removing the keyboard ribbon cable & starting the laptop using the diagnostic power pads on the logic board, I was surprised to see it boot up. I plugged in an external keyboard and the Macbook was fine. This instantly pointed to a faulty keyboard. As the power button and keyboard are on the same circuit it would appear that the liquid had bridged the power circuits permanently and that’s why it wouldn’t power up. It was like permanently holding the power button down.

I headed over to eBay & a new keyboard & backlight was only £24.99 delivered. This was for a brand new, official apple replacement. I bought the keyboard & the next day installed it in the Macbook. The dismantling was tedious, over 100 screws most of which are tiny. But I installed the keyboard, reassembled the machine & it’s now better than it was before. Brand new, grippy matte keyboard and backlight.

Apple Devices I own
Apple Devices I own

This is why the ability to repair an item is so important. The laptop would have been scrap, like I’m sure many are, for the sake of a simple replacement keyboard & a bit of labour. Without this I would have been unable to replace the laptop due to cost & would have likely gone into debt to acquire a new one.

I’m not one to throw things away, technology lasts a lot longer in my household than it does in most. I had an original Xbox 360 for 10+ years which became a Frankenstein of a machine, most components repaired or replaced. The same with my old iMac which is my main machine. In fact I’ve always been like this.

The fact that technology is now being crippled by software updates is worrying. Apple have essentially ruined my old iPad 2 with iOS 9. It’s slow & laggy and the ability to downgrade to a useful iOS has been removed. This is forced obsoletion. This week in the news we are learning that Error 53, caused by the replacement or damage of the home button/finger print scanner in modern iPhones, essentially causes the handsets to brick on update. This is wrong. Apple say this is a security measure, but surely the software should disable the fingerprint scanning capability and not the whole handset. I’m sure people would still be angry about this but at least they could use a pass code and still use their phone.

This sounds less like security & more like apple clamping down on unauthorised repair of their products. Everyone will know that apple repairs are far more expensive than a local repair shop, or even self repair. I’m glad to see this is being investigated legally, as it sets a dangerous precedent for us as consumers of technology. If an item we own can be made redundant by a software update, surely that can be classed as criminal damage. At the very least it can be classed as a perfectly usable product not being fit for purpose.

Can you imagine if your car needed repair & you took it to a normal mechanic (not affiliated with the manufacturer) only to find your car had become a useless hunk of junk. I for one pay more for Apple Products than I did for my car so this analogy is not that far out.

This corporate control of devices after purchase needs to stop. I’ve always been a hardware hacker, I like to see what technology can be pushed to do. The way I see it, when I buy hardware, I want to be in charge of what I can do with it.

For this very reason, I’m now actively seeking out repairable tech. Companies like Fairphone are challenging the corporate attitude to closed systems. They offer an easily repairable smart phone & will supply all the parts & help required. They are also ethical & transparent. This pleases me greatly. Smart phones are expensive. If anyone told you 15 years ago that you would spend £600+ on a mobile phone you would have laughed, but here we are. Convergence of technology means we rely on them more than ever & so pay the high price tags. Surely that means that if we are so invested, we should be able to at least attempt repair.

Fairphone 2 - Fully repairable & open
Fairphone 2 – Fully repairable & open

If you have any views on this I would love to hear from you. I’ll do a full write up of the Macbook repair & diagnostics as soon as possible.