Mac OS Sonoma Waking from sleep every hour with CSPNEvaluation in logs

I’ve had an issue since upgrading to Sonoma on my 2019 Intel iMac. I have power nap disabled, as every time the computer wakes under power nap, my external drives spin up. My office at home is in the next room to our bedroom, so I hear the drives spinning up & down all night. It has been driving me mad. I’m not a big fan of the new energy saver settings in Sonoma, or the entire settings layout for that matter. When looking in logs using the following in terminal:- Read More....

AMPArtwork Agent 100% CPU Usage in Mac OS Catalina – *Fixed

I held off upgrading to Catalina for a long time. I was hanging onto a few 32bit only apps and also I’ve experienced trouble in the past with new OS iterations. As we have reached 10.15.5 I decided to take the plunge and upgrade. We are running a few Macs in the house. Both MacBooks support Catalina natively, but my iMac is a 2009 model and as such is technically unsupported. I’ve been upgrading my 2009 iMac for a few years using the DosDude patch and it has always worked perfectly. The upgrade of the MacBooks went great, and even the iMac seemed to be coping well.

After a little use I noticed my CPU was constantly maxed out and I could also hear the HDD seeking a lot. Digging in I found 4 processes related to Apple’s new Music app running wild in activity monitor

AMPArtworkAgent and related music processes in Activity Monitor
AMPArtworkAgent and related music processes in Activity Monitor

The four processes in question where AMPArtworkAgent, AMPLibraryAgent, AMPDeviceDiscoveryAgent and AMPDevicesAgent. I assume from the naming of these processes that the first is used to download additional album and artist artwork, the second manages the library, the third looks for devices such as iPhones and Apple TV’s on the network and the fourth manages the wireless syncing of my old iPhone 4 in our kitchen dock which is used for music playback. The one that was causing the most trouble seemed to be the AMPArtworkAgent.

I had a look in my Music preferences and under the advanced tab I noticed that the Automatically Update Artwork tick box was checked. I unchecked this box to troubleshoot but still saw the process was eating up CPU cycles.

So last night I finally found a fix, but first a few caveats before you try this. My own library of ripped music is huge. I have 37k+ tracks stored locally & I used Cloud Music (formerly iTunes Match) to match and store them all safely in the cloud. I keep them locally because I listen to them all the time, I have the storage space, it allows me to continue to sync to my old iPod and iPhone, as well as play them back on my media centres and Sonos over NFS/SMB. Also, my iMac still works perfectly, but it is technically unsupported, so I went into this troubleshooting not knowing if it could be resolved given that the OS shouldn’t really run on my machine.

Anyway I finally managed to fix it & went the nuclear route.

1. Make sure the ‘Automatically Update Artwork’ check box remains unchecked in preferences > advanced.
Automatically Update Artwork CheckboxAutomatically Update Artwork Checkbox
2. De authorize your music app from apple. Head to Account > Authorizations >De-authorise within the music app toolbar.
3. Sign Out your Apple ID within music. Again Account > Sign Out.
4. Close the music app
5. Open Activity Monitor and search AMP. Force quit any processes beginning with AMP (assuming AMP is standing for Apple Music Player/process)

AMPArtworkAgent and related music processes in Activity Monitor
AMPArtworkAgent and related music processes in Activity Monitor

6. Go to your music folder and delete everything. Make sure you either have your own music stored in iTunes match or copy it onto an external drive for backup. This will delete any locally stored music, so if you don’t use match please do make sure you have backups of your own ripped music.
Music FolderMusic Folder
7. Go to the following folder and delete everything. This folder contains the SQLite that seems to control the artwork caches and also stores the artwork which Music caches from the embedded artwork in music files, probably to speed up UI rendering during playback/streaming.
Music Artwork Cache and SQlite folderMusic Artwork Cache and SQlite folder
8. Hold the option key and click on the Music icon to open the app. Keep holding option until a dialog appears regarding your music library. Opt to create a new library and call it Music (if it asks you to overwrite please do).
9. Once music opens, before you sign in with your Apple ID, go to preferences and make sure the checkbox for downloading artwork is still unchecked. This is a must or you will have the same problem.
10. Click on account in the top toolbar, sign in and reauthorise your music app.
11. You should now see your Apple Music start to populate (if you subscribe) and your iTunes match/cloud music start to return. It will take some time for the artwork cache to refill so be patient. AMPArtwork Agent and the other processes will run for a while, but this is simply to extract the artwork embedded in your music files and to populate the cache. Give it time and all of your artwork will come back.
12. If you use iTunes match, start playing your music or downloading your tracks again. The same goes for Apple Music. All should be well.

I still have the AMPArtwork agent process running, but it doesn’t get out of control. My artwork cache is now fully populated after around 8 hours of idling and use. Music is fast & snappy again and I can use it without issue. I’ve always managed my own artwork for my own ripped music, so I can do without the auto fetching of artwork from Apples Servers.

My own impression is that the process starts to loop. It is trying to extra artwork from the mp3/m4a meta of my own music files & also trying to populate the cache with additional artwork while trying to update my artwork (if the Automatically Download Artwork services is checked). The SQLite database must start to choke and the process runs amok. Mine is purring along again with around 85% idle CPU when using Firefox and music. Even on my unsupported workhorse iMac its working perfectly again.

I hope this post helps some of you out. One thing that drives me mad is wasted CPU cycles & HDD seeks/writes, especially to fluff out meta I’d rather control myself. Let me know how you get on.

Catalina Music - Artwork cache repopulated.
Catalina Music – Artwork cache repopulated.

iOS 12 album artwork missing

iOS 12 Album Art Broken in iTunes Match & Apple Music Fix*

Since updating to iOS 12 on my iPhone 6 I’ve had a major headache. Album art hasn’t been working for my iTunes match (iCloud) music library, and I’ve only been seeing the standard iTunes missing artwork icon for my songs & albums.

I even re-subscribed to Apple Music to see if the problem was iTunes match only, but it also affected most of the music I streamed from Apple Music too.

I’ve managed to find a really simple fix for the album artwork problem.

Head over into settings and click on the music tab. Once there, you need to disable iCloud music & Apple Music by clicking the toggles. Immediately after disabling iTunes Match (iCloud Music) and Apple music, you need to restart your iOS device. Do this as soon as you disable the toggles, that way you will stop iOS pruning off corrupted artwork files.

Once restarted, you can re-enable both the iCloud Music and Apple Music toggles in settings. At this point, it may ask if you want to delete music stored on your device & replace it with that in iCloud. Click yes at this point to force iOS to do a hard reset of the music XML file and cached thumbnails on the device. In this way iOS will delete all previous traces of the corrupted music database file and thumbnails.

When you open music, you should see the Apple Music app slowly start to cache your library & thumbnails again.

This took me a few days to fully rectify but going through the above steps seems to be the only way to force a hard reset of the apple music and icloud music cache.

Fix Note 2 – I also found that only having 1.5GB of free space on my iphone meant that ios wasn’t caching all artwork. By freeing up space, offloading unused apps to icloud & deleting my locally stored podcasts, I’ve managed to get all artwork to show without issue. Make sure you free up any additional space possible, more than 1.5GB seems to be the sweet spot for this fix to work. It would appear ios is reserving that last GB or so for something, so is failing to cache artwork.

Hope this helps to fix your broken album artwork in iOS 12.


Toggle off and restart to fix album art in ios 12
Toggle off and restart to fix album art in ios 12
iOS 12 album artwork missing
iOS 12 album artwork missing


Sonos lock screen controls broken on ios 11 with the 9.0 sonos update

Sonos Lock Screen Controls Broken on ios after version 9.0 update

As many readers will know, I opted to go down the Sonos route of home audio as opposed to the Apple Homepod route. While my devices are generally all within the Apple ecosystem, I don’t yet rate Siri & I do like the option to use third-party music streaming services such as Tidal if I see fit. I also like the Sonos app & the fact that I can control it from the app without having to use voice controls at all.

One of the biggest features of Sonos that I use are the lock screen controls. My device usage has changed dramatically over recent months as I’ve been researching smart phone addiction & the problems caused by too much exposure to social media. One thing to come out of this research is that I tend to leave my iPhone docked in a bamboo dock in my kitchen at all times. This means I don’t pick up the phone at random & my compulsion to check it has diminished.

This also means that I really rely on the lock screen controls for my sonos. The hardware volume buttons are perfect to quickly adjust volume without taking my phone out of the dock or even unlocking it. I use the lock screen skip buttons & I like to view the artwork on the lockscreen. Also, I use the lock screen controls via my apple watch, which makes perfect sense as the controls are always on hand. The apple watch is a great way to control sonos, it’s discrete and the digital crown acts as a volume knob.

Sonos lock screen controls on Apple Watch
Sonos lock screen controls on Apple Watch
Sonos controls on my Series 3 apple watch
Sonos controls on my Series 3 apple watch

The other benefit is that the lock screen controls also appear on my wife’s iPhone & our iPad’s, meaning we normally have a device close at hand to control our sonos system.

This week sonos rolled out Airplay 2 support. This support meant a sonos software update & an app update. To be clear, I have Sonos Play 1’s in my home. I don’t like having alexa in every room in the house & since unplugging the Fire Stick, I don’t have any smart device which is always listening for prompts. It just doesn’t fly with me from a privacy standpoint.

The Play 1’s don’t support Airplay 2, the update only applies to the more high-end Sonos speakers such as the newer Play 5’s and the all new Sonos one’s with alexa built-in. I really wish that Airplay 2 could have been supported, but I may add a Sonos one to my system at some point which will enable it across my sonos system.

Anyway, even though Airplay 2 isn’t supported on any of my devices, the new update broke my all important lock screen controls. After contacting Sonos I was told that basically the Lock Screen controls where never officially supported by Apple & that they had been a bit of a hack (playing a silent song on the iPhone to work).

Regardless, the lock screen controls are what originally sold me into the Sonos ecosystem. I don’t like talking to my devices & it is too hit & miss at present. Furthermore most of my music is in my personal collection & my library isn’t fully supported by Alexa in the newer Sonos speakers.

And the fix for Lock Screen Controls on iOS/Sonos

After a lot of head scratching I decided to experiment with getting the lock screen controls working again. The option was still ticked in my iOS app settings, so I started poking around. I concluded that if AirPlay devices are available on the network, the lock screen controls are disabled as AirPlay takes precedent. I figured this out by unplugging my Apple TV and my Libreelec Kodi media centre on the Raspberry Pi. These two devices are my only Airplay endpoints on the network. After rebooting my iPhone and firing up the Sonos app, I was suprised to see the Lock Screen controls return.

To make the change permanent, I disabled AirPlay on my Apple TV and I also disabled it on my Kodi media centre. For some reason, the iPhone running iOS 11 will now cache any AirPlay endpoints (possibly to allow them to sleep but still be available to iOS). So once you disable AirPlay, you need to restart all of your iOS devices. Also, unplug your AirPlay endpoints until you can confirm the fix works, and turn them back on one by one to isolate any which are still broadcasting as Airplay receivers.

To find out which devices on your network are airplay endpoints, open the music app on your iOS devices (not the sonos app, but the actually music app) and click the airplay button. If you see any devices there, you need to identify them and disable airplay on those devices.

My Lock Screen controls are now working as expected on all of my iOS devices & I hope Sonos can come up with a more elegant solution in future updates.

I would love to introduce an AirPlay supporting speaker to my sonos collection which doesn’t feature Alexa, perhaps something for Sonos to consider for all of us Privacy focused tech people.

Sonos lock screen controls Fixed on ios
Sonos lock screen controls Fixed on ios 11

SoundPEATS P4 Volume Crown

SoundPEATS P4 Portable Bluetooth Speaker review

I’ve been looking at buying a bluetooth speaker for a while now. I tend to keep visiting retail stores & trying technology long before I commit to buying. I had been trying the bose soundlink mini II for months but I was always put off by the price. The Bose speaker is excellent but the price just seems too high for me. After playing with various speakers in airport electronics shops and high street stores I decided to head over to Amazon to take a look.

A speaker that caught my eye right away was the SoundPEATS P4 speaker. The speaker itself is a cylindrical speaker, much like the amazon echo. The product itself looks amazing but the most surprising thing for me was the price. At under £34 delivered it seems too good to be true. SoundPEATS wasn’t a brand I had heard of before browsing Amazon but the reviews seemed to be overwhelmingly good and the speaker itself looked pretty solid. A few days later I took delivery of the SoundPEATS P4.

I was instantly impressed.

The package came extremely well packed from amazon which is always a worry with speakers, as any cracks or breaks in transit will rattle for the life of the speaker. The soundpeats packaging itself was very snug and secure. The speaker was much heavier than I thought, but in a good way. The housing feels robust and well made and the lovely fabric mesh covering reminded me of premium hifi speakers. The speaker feels like a premium product and the finish is brilliant.

The box contains the SoundPEATS P4, along with a micro USB cable for charging, a 3.5mm aux cable for use with older & non bluetooth devices and a concise instruction manual. I didn’t need to use the instruction manual as it was very intuitive to get started. The P4 came with a full charge, ready to go.

When you first turn on the speaker, it plays a harp sound to let you know it is on. Following that, for the first minute the speaker plays an audible beep, much like a submarine sound effect. This lets you know that the bluetooth is in discovery mode, allowing you to pair a new device. If the speaker already finds a paired device when it is turned on, it will automatically connect.

I connected the P4 to my iPhone 6 via bluetooth and instantly I was up and running using the P4 as my audio output device.

The first thing that struck me as soon as starting music playback was the level of bass. This speaker produces a lot of bass for a device of its size. I found that I had to turn off my bass boost EQ setting on the iPhone and I opted for the rock EQ to level out the bass and allow for a little more treble. I would suggest you have a play with your EQ settings as the natural bass this speaker produces is a little beyond even my expectations. It has a lot of low bass grunt.

The SoundPEATS P4 has very few external buttons, making it very easy to operate. It has a power button on the base which also allows you to answer bluetooth calls via the speaker. On the top of the speaker is a volume crown, allowing you to increase & decrease the volume. The P4 has its own small amp built-in, so the volume on your bluetooth device and the volume on the P4 work independently. I would recommend max volume on your device & then controlling volume from the P4 crown, but you can see which you prefer. Controlling volume from your music device might be prefered if, for example, your phone is in your hand and the speaker is mounted on a table.

The crown also features a touch sensitive skip button for skipping to previous and next tracks. This controls your device over bluetooth and is very responsive.

The battery life of the P4 is exceptional. I’ve been using it off & on all day and haven’t yet had it run out. The Micro USB for charging means you can charge the speaker from almost any USB port. I’ve been opting to charge using a spare apple USB wall charger and the supplied cable. The P4 has a 2000mah battery built-in which is rated for at least 6 hours of continuous playback. I’ve yet to find out how long it will actually last as it just doesn’t seem to run out in my regular every day use.

The P4 features Bluetooth 4.1 so is very low drain on devices such as smart phones, and allows for the extra features such as track skip and call answering. The cylindrical design allows for 360 degree sound and the two built-in speakers along with bass cavity allow for decent clarity & very thick bass.

The official stats are as follows


  • [360° omni-directional premium stereo sound]: Cylindrical design with dual opposite facing speakers offers a clear, 360° stereo sound from all directions. Enjoy HD stereo sound with an impressive volume whether you’re lounging around the house, partying, walking around, camping, hiking, or even biking
  • [Unique touch and rotate control]: The built-in touchscreen and volume dial make switching between songs and changing the volume easy. Simply swipe across the center display with your finger to change tracks, or rotate the dial to adjust the volume of your music
  • [Long Lasting Usage]: 2000mAh battery capacity provides you with up to 10 hours of playtime. It also features a great built-in micro USB charging port, which can even be charged by a power bank at any time during an emergency.
  • [Portable and Light Weight Design]: The speaker measures 6.85*2.83*2.83 cubic inches and weighs only 17.98 ounces, making it portable and easy to carry anytime and anywhere – especially when you are out bike riding, hanging out at the beach, camping, or even showering indoors
  • [Built-in Microphone]: Enable this function to use this Wireless Bluetooth Speaker as a speakerphone, so you can enjoy hands-free calling as well
  • SpecificationsBluetooth Version: Bluetooth 4.1Output Power: 10W

    Frequency: 180Hz-20KHz

    Maximum Working Range: Up to 33 feet (10m) in open space

    Battery Lithium battery: 2000mAh

    Working Time: 6-8 hours

    Charging Time: 4 hours

    Dimension (L * W * H): 6.85 x 2.83 x 2.83 inches / 174x 72 x 72 mm

    Weight: 17.98oz / 510g

    Package Content

    1 x SoundPEATS P4 Bluetooth Speaker

    1 x Micro USB Cable

    1 x 3.5mm AUX Cable

    1 x User Manual

  • Read More....

    U2 iPod Video 5th Generation

    iPod 5th Generation logic board replacement

    As regular readers will know, I love my 5th Generation iPod video. I bought this iPod back in 2006 while on holiday in San Francisco & it has seen heavy usage daily since. The iPod has always been kept inside a protective hard case, a Belkin case, and generally well looked after. Over the years it has required a new Battery to be fitted which I did myself & also I’ve replaced the original 30GB hard drive with an iFlash Quad unit. The iFlash Quad allows the use of cheap Micro SD cards for storage & mine currently has 256GB worth.

    Over the last few months I’ve had a crackling over the headphones when playing music, which steadily got worse. And only a few weeks back I lost all audio. I was gutted!

    It turns out that the very reason I love this iPod, the wolfson DAC, was also the culprit. Over time, the audio chips de-solder from the logic board. This could be due to changes in temperature when using the iPod in hot conditions, such as in a car. I tried to reflow the logic board but to no avail. It was time for a new logic board.

    This iPod is now 11 years old & spare parts aren’t easy to come by. I managed to find a Canadian seller on eBay who had a refurbished iPod video 5th generation logic board for sale. The board was £55 delivered & took around 4 weeks to arrive after getting stopped at customs (without extra charges).

    Fitting a logic board into a 5th Generation isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires stripping down the iPod into its component parts, including un-pealing ribbon cables which are attached with glue & completely dismantling the chassis. It’s not an impossible task if you take your time, and I’d advise you take pictures along the way to keep track of component & cable locations.

    Once I had the logic board in place I reassembled the iPod and plugged it into my iMac. I instantly had an issue. After restoring the iPod software in iTunes I found the iPod stuck in a reboot loop. The Apple logo would display on-screen, followed by the screen flashing and the iPod rebooting. This would happen indefinitely.

    At first I suspected a faulty logic board, but I managed to get the iPod into Disk Mode and the screen displayed fine & was recognised by the iMac. This demonstrated that the logic board was fine. I then entered the diagnostic secret menu on the iPod and ran some self tests. Again, all came back as normal. I suspected a formatting issue, so I plugged the iPod in to the iMac in disk mode & used Disk Utility on my mac to format the disk. After formatting the disk iTunes again wanted to restore the iPod, I let it do its thing & the iPod booted first time. This could have been an issue with iFlash quad, or it could be that the storage device is somehow paired to the logic board. Either way, formatting in Disk Mode using disk utility, then restoring in iTunes fixed the issue.

    I was happy to see my Ipod boot up quickly & I started to sync my entire library (over 140GB) over to the iPod. This takes a long time as the USB interface on these old iPods is slow. I let it sync overnight and came back to it the next day.

    As soon as I started scrolling through the menus it felt different. Only slightly, but I noticed a search option. To my surprise I had been sent the logic board from an iPod 5.5 generation. These where the last of the 5th Generation iPods, the last with the Wolfson DAC which is so sought after, and the one with many improvements. We now have search & brightness controls, and the menus feel snappier.  This now means I’ve got a 5.5 Gen iPod with 256GB of flash storage and a fresh battery. Gone are the days of not carrying all of my music. No longer am I bound by 3G/4G signal for my music. This iPod is perfect for travel, ideal for the airplane. Last time I flew to Berlin when the iPod was broken, I only had my iPhone 6. To my dismay I only had 12 songs stored locally, which meant a long travel time with only a handful of tunes I hadn’t even chosen.

    I generally hate streaming over cellular. It’s unpredictable, costly & dependent on Signal. It also ruins battery life. I’m so glad to have my iPod up & running again & I can see me using this for another 10 years. If you have a 5th Generation iPod & still use it, let me know in the comments.

    openPGP decrypted email

    PGP encrypted emails on Mac OS X/Sierra using GPGtools GPGsuite

    As part of my cybersecurity posts I’ve decided to write briefly about PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption of email. We will use GPG which stands for GNU Privacy Guard and is a compatible free software equivalent of Symantec’s proprietary encryption algorithm. Both PGP and GPG are interchangeable so you can use either protocol. These keys use a high level of encryption. I Use RSA 4096 for my keys which is possibly a little overkill, but I like to future proof when learning.

    GPG is important for emails as it means that an email remains encrypted between the sender & the receiver. It works on the principle of key pairs. Each user generates a pair of keys, one private key remains secret and on the user’s computer, the other, known as a public key is free to distribute on the internet and allows you to pass it on to those you wish to communicate with.

    It is important that your private (secret) key always remains private & you never share it with anyone. The keys are paired so that both are required to encrypt & decrypt emails. I won’t go into the technicals of it, if you are interested there are a lot of free resources which will guide you through the technology.

    Encryption also requires a password to be set when creating your key pair. This password allows you to unlock your keys & use them to encrypt your email. Both sender & receiver need to set up a keypair & share their public keys with each other. This allows encrypted communication between both parties.

    On OSX/ OS Sierra you can use the free & open source GPG Suite to install the tools required to start encrypting email. The suite includes the GPG keychain which allows you to create your key-pair for your email address, and it also allows you to store the public keys of your recipients & to upload your public keys to public key servers. It allows you to manage & store your keys.

    Also in GPG suite you have GPG mail which integrates with the native mac mail client. Much of the encryption process is automated once you setup your keypair, including downloading the keys of recipients you address your emails to. You can also sign your emails with GPG Mail which confirms your email as authentic to the recipient.

    First, install GPGsuite using the .DMG file available on their website. If you are using Sierra or require cutting edge enhancements, opt for the beta package.

    Once installed you will have an extra option in your settings preference pane called GPG Preferences. This allows you to set your GPG preferences, such as update checking and the public keyserver you would like to use. Most people can just leave this set with the default values.

    GPGpreferences icon in your Mac OS settings
    GPGpreferences icon in your Mac OS settings
    GPG Preferences pane
    GPG Preferences pane

    The first thing you will want to set up are your keypairs. Make sure you have added the email account you want to start using with encryption as one of your Mac Mail accounts. If you use a free account such as Gmail you can still add it to your Mac Mail software & encrypt emails using that account.

    Next, head to your applications folder & select the newly installed GPG keychain application. Open the application and click New in the top left corner. You will be presented with the following screen, showing you your Mac Mail email addresses. In these settings, select the email account you would like to use with GPG encryption, select the box to upload your public key (makes it much easier for people to correspond with you) and enter your passphrase.

    The passphrase is a vital part of your encryption as it unlocks your keypair for use. Make sure it is a strong password & one you can remember. Also, my advice is to use a password you only use for encryption. This password is never for use with any online services such as websites. A single hack of any of those sites could reveal your password, so encryption passwords are only for local use.

    Once you are happy with your passphrase, click generate key. Your GPG key pair will be generated & public key uploaded to they keyservers.

    Setting up a GPG keypair in OSX using GPGsuite
    Setting up a GPG keypair in OSX using GPGsuite

    You should then see your newly created key within GPG Keychain. You are now good to start creating encrypted emails.

    My GPG Keychain.
    My GPG Keychain.

    My advice, if you are going to start encrypting emails between friends, family or colleagues is to first send them an email with your public key attached. This way, they can import it into their keychain to allow them to email you. They can also send you theirs back. This isn’t a requirement if you have both uploaded them to a keyserver, but it’s always a good idea before you start encrypting communications between you. It’s also a friendly way to allow the other party to know that you want to encrypt your emails & to expect future emails to be encrypted.

    Now, fire up Mac Mail and compose a new email, you will see a new OpenPGP option in the top right of your compose window. This will be green if using an email account for which you have created a keypair & will be greyed out if composing from an account without a keypair. In the screenshot below I’m emailing between my own account & my unused gmail account which also has a keypair. As you can see the OpenPGP button is green which means a keypair is present & I can encrypt on this account.

    OpenPGP options in Mac Mail
    OpenPGP options in Mac Mail

    You will also see in the above screenshot the two blue icons. They are blue if they are enabled, but are greyed out if either a public key isn’t present for your recipient or you have opted not to encrypt. If you do have a public key for your recipient in your GPG Keychain you can activate one or both of these buttons. The left one which is a padlock is your encryption button, the right one is your GPG signature to securely sign your email. If sending to someone with whom you have a public key, I would always sign & encrypt.

    Once you are setup, emailing is just as straightforward as before. Write your message, your subject and add any attachments you would like. Note that only the body of the email is encrypted, the subject line is not so be careful what you use there as it is publicly viewable. Once you are ready you can hit send, at this point you will be given an OpenGPG prompt for your pass phrase. This is your encryption pass phrase which you setup at the time of creating your key pair. This password will be required every time you encrypt or decrypt an email. You can opt to save the pass phrase in your keychain but I would advise against that. The whole point of encryption is to make email for your eyes only (and your recipient of course) so keep the passphrase to yourself & commit it to memory. It’s just good practice.

    Enter your OpenPGP passphrase to encrypt & decrypt emails
    Enter your OpenPGP passphrase to encrypt & decrypt emails

    The last part of the puzzle is decrypting email. Below is a screenshot I took of the email I just sent between my two accounts. When opening the email you will be asked for your encryption passphrase, this is to unlock your own keypair to decrypt the email. You will see from the screenshot that the email looks like any other, with the exception that it has signature and encryption details. The padlock shows that the email is encrypted.

    openPGP decrypted email
    openPGP decrypted email

    If you follow these steps you will ensure any correspondence sent between you & your friends/family can’t be read by any third-party. This means that if your email account is hacked, the contents of your messages remain private. Perfect for family photos, private information and general personal chatter. It also means that companies such as google can’t read your emails for advertising & data collection purposes. The message remains scrambled with encryption across the whole internet, no matter who intercepts it.

    Once you get used to this process it will become second nature. I like the ‘at rest’ security of encrypted emails. I’m less worried about personal emails being hacked or stolen in a data grab. If my server is compromised, my emails are not. I also like the fact that using a completely unique password for my encryption means that my encryption password is never in the wild online. I’ve committed a complex password to memory & I’m not likely to forget it after typing it so many times.

    No security is perfect, but this is by far the biggest bang for your buck with regards securing your communications on a day-to-day basis.

    You must keep your key pair secure. You can back them up using GPG keychain, both your public & private key, but you must keep them safe. Never put your secret (private) key online or into cloud storage. If you ever lose control of your keypair, someone could pose as you and send emails masquerading as you, not to mention decrypt emails if they guess your passphrase. GPG Keychain has the ability to revoke keys if you feel they have been compromised. You can then generate a new keypair & upload to keyservers as required.

    This is just a brief outline of how to get started with OpenPGP using GPGSuite. If you would like to know more, you can read up online. A good starting point is the GPGtools site itself.

    If you would like to send your first encrypted email, drop me a message at john AT using my public key which you can retrieve from the keyservers or download by clicking here. If you want to add to this post or correct please do let me know, like my other cybersecurity posts I’ve kept it as simple and non technical as possible to make it accessible. The post will evolve over time.

    Insulation Tape over webcam

    Apple Cybersecurity basics – Securing your hardware

    I’ve been planning on writing a series of posts on cybersecurity for a while now. I’ve been interested in computer security for decades & have always tried to secure my machines, data & online profiles. In the modern computing landscape, many aspects of basic cybersecurity have been lost. When I started out online, perhaps in the early 90’s, there was a strong culture of using online handles as opposed to your own personal details. We had an awareness that the internet was a public sphere which is universally accessible.

    The internet is a public place, but it is also a place where you can’t control data flows. As soon as you upload information or data to the internet, you need to assume it is now on public record. Even if you believe your account is private and secure, there is a good chance that at some point, the data will be used, resold or even hacked & released into the wild. If you approach the internet with this in mind it is very easy to secure your information. I’ll come to internet security later, but let’s start with your hardware itself.

    I personally have a lot of computers. I have two Macbook Pro’s and an iMac, I also have Raspberry Pi’s running various versions of Linux & also an old IBM Thinkpad X200 running Trisquel Linux. All of these machines use full disk encryption.

    With apple products, make sure your software is up to date. All of my machines run OS Sierra which is a free upgrade. Sierra has a very good version of full disk encryption known as Filevault 2. Filevault 2 allows you to encrypt the entire contents of your hard drive with a password. This means that without the password, the contents of the Hard Drive can’t be read by a third-party. File Vault requires the disk password as soon as you start your machine, so anyone who steals your hardware will be unable to boot your machine to access information & also unable to wipe the hard drive to reinstall the OS on your hard drive. This is vital in case of loss or theft of your devices. We store so much personal information on our devices & their security is as important as securing your own home. Perhaps more important.

    The same goes for iPhones. Make sure you use a strong passcode or passphrase to secure your device & consider not using fingerprint access. Your fingerprint is very convenient, but a strong passcode is much more secure. Also, backup your iPhone or iPad to an actual computer and not to iCloud. If someone hacks your iCloud, they could clone your iPhone from one of your own backups & access your entire iOS environment.

    The passwords you use should be unique & strong. You should also ensure that your encryption password is never stored or used for any online accounts. Your encryption password should be unique from any other password you use. You can choose a way of codifying your password, for instance take your favourite book (paper back or hard back) and use your birthday to select a page and a line. For instance, pick up a copy of Harry Potter, go to the page number which relates to your day of birth and then on that page go to the line number which relates to your month of birth. Use the text on that line for your password.

    You can use any method to code your password, that is just a single example. Whatever you choose, make sure you have a way of reminding yourself which is not obvious. Without your encryption password your data would be lost forever.

    Also, on Macs, make sure you disable any guest accounts in Settings > Users & Groups. Turn on the Firewall in Settings > Security & Privacy. This menu also contains the settings for turning on Filevault.

    While in Security & Privacy, make sure you choose to require a password after sleep or screen saver. This means that if you need to leave your laptop or desktop unattended, you can put it to sleep to lock the machine or set the screen to sleep after a certain amount of idle time. These are basics steps to secure your machine but will make a vast difference to the physical security of your Mac.

    Set your mac to automatically lock
    Set your mac to automatically lock

    With my iMac I use a Kensington lock to physically lock the machine to my desk. Make sure any external hard drives for your mac are also formatted with encryption & set your encryption password on each of them. This means if any are lost or stolen, for example your time machine backup drive, they cannot be accessed by anyone but those with the encryption password. I encrypt all media including USB flash drives. It only takes seconds to mount them & enter a password, but it does mean that your data is always much more secure. Get into the habit of encrypting & you will massively reduce your exposure to hacking & identity theft.

    Something else I always do is use a small roll of black insulation tape to cover up the webcams on my laptops and desktops. You can peel it off easily if you require the webcam for facetime or skype, but most of the time I tend to leave the cameras covered. The camera can be used for spying by both governments & criminals & there have been many cases of people being recorded on their webcams & then blackmailed. For the sake of a few pence, always have a roll of insulation tape and cover your webcams. You can even colour match the tape to your black Macbook/iMac bezel.


    Insulation Tape over webcam
    Insulation Tape over webcam

    With regards to securing your iPhone my main advice would be to set a fast timeout on your automatic screen lock. Never leave your phone unlocked & make sure you get into the habit of locking the screen whenever you put the device down. Also make sure under your Touch ID & passcode options in iOS settings, that you opt to require the passcode immediately & that you opt to erase the device after 10 failed attempts. This means that in the event of loss or theft, the device will likely wipe itself before anyone can get your information & identity from the device. You can also use iCloud to remotely message & wipe your Mac’s & iOS devices.

    iOS Touch id & Passcode.
    iOS Touch id & Passcode.

    Mac’s & iOS devices now increasingly rely on cloud services to sync & store your data. Ensure that you setup two factor authentication on your iCloud account, to make sure only someone with access to one of your physical devices can login to your iCloud account. Also, be aware that if iCloud is ever hacked & the encryption keys that Apple hold are accessed, your iCloud data can be decrypted. Ensure that anything you offer up to the cloud is information which isn’t personally identifiable or potentially damaging. The cloud is ideal for mundane documents and data which isn’t specifically personal, but if it is something you want to keep private, don’t ever upload it to cloud services. I’ll cover this more in my next post regarding securing yourself online.

    Finally, never give out your encryption password, it is the key to all of your data. Never use it for anything but encrypting, never use it with an online provider. If you do need to make a note of the password, codify & hide it in a way that it can’t obviously be identified as a password. Always aim to physically keep hold of your devices. It is much harder to compromise your devices if they are always in your possession.

    Never give out any passwords in email or over the phone. If someone calls asking for your account details, don’t give them out or ask them for their details and phone number & offer to call them back. You can then check the number & details online & call a verified number.

    Finally keep software up to date. There are zero day exploits being discovered and utilised daily. You massively decrease your attack surface if you keep software, services & devices patched & up to date.

    I will add to this post as & when I think of tips to help. If you have anything to add, please let me know in the comments. There will be loads that I have missed & I expect this post will constantly evolve. I’ve also tried to keep the post as straightforward and non technical as possible. I want the basics to be adopted by everyone, so I’ve left out the in-depth discussions on things like AES & encryption bit sizes.


    Stop speakers buzzing, hissing and popping in OS sierra on iMac

    OS Sierra external speaker pop & hissing/buzzing/humming noise fix

    Since upgrading to OS Sierra on my iMac, I had noticed a horrible buzzing noise coming from my external desktop speakers. The pop would occur after a short timeout and seemed to indicate that sierra had put the audio driver to sleep, leaving no output to the external speakers. The initial switching off of the speakers would cause the pop and then the speakers would buzz until a system sound woke up the audio driver & played a sound.

    This hissing & buzzing of the external iMac speakers was driving me mad. A few years ago I remember a fix called Antipop which was a small Daemon which would play a system narration consisting of no actual sound, but enough to keep the sound driver from sleeping.

    Antipop has not been updated for years & didn’t seem to work with El Capitan & Sierra, so I decided to make a quick fix using the same kind of empty narration speech and Sierra Launch Control. This fix will persist after sleeping the system & also after a reboot. On my system it has eradicated the annoying pop of the driver going to sleep & also stopped the speakers buzzing by maintaining power through the aux cable and my externally powered & amplified speakers.

  • Open Terminal and use nano to create our plist file for launchctl using the following terminal command:

    sudo nano /Library/LaunchDaemons/com.antipop.plist

  • Paste the following text into terminal (nano) using ctrl + v

    <?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
    <!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC “-//Apple Computer//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN” ““>
    <plist version=”1.0”>
    <string>while true; do say ‘ ‘; sleep 10; done</string>

  • Press ctrl + o to save the file and hit enter to confirm.
  • Exit nano with ctrl + x
  • To start the plist and set it as a persistent service use the following command in terminal

    sudo launchctl load /Library/LaunchDaemons/com.antipop.plist

  • Read More....

    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.

    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 traveled 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 onward 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.