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.

Tidal Desktop Spinning Disc GUITidal Desktop Spinning Disc GUI

Apple 256kbps AAC Vs. Tidal HiFi Lossless

Before I get into this, let me just say that this is my own opinion, based on music that I like & using the kit that I currently own. I’m by no means an audiophile & I don’t pour thousands of pounds into my home hi-fi kit. I’ve been trying to find the best combination of streaming & local storage of AAC to suit my needs & these are my findings.

Over the last few months, I’ve been trying out Apple Music, Spotify Premium, Amazon Music Unlimited & Tidal. I also have my own music collection which is ripped to iTunes. My own collection is around 26,000 tracks, ripped from CD in Apples 256kbps AAC codec format using iTunes. I combine this with iTunes match both to backup my collection on apples’ servers in case of a disk failure & also to give me access to my music on my Apple & iOS devices. For years this has served me well & is a habit I will keep, but I was definitely interested in new music discovery so ventured into the world of streaming services.

I’m not going to write much about Spotify, Amazon or Apple Music. After trying all three I’ve got to say I found Spotify the best for music discovery but Apple Music the best for sound quality & overall experience. Bear in mind that I use iMacs, MacBooks, iPhones & iPads so I’m heavily into the Apple Ecosystem already.

I did find however that Apple Music offered no significant benefits over my locally stored AAC, so I cancelled that subscription & went back to sourcing & curating my own library.

On the whole, I’ve been very happy with 256kbps AAC. I mostly listen to music using my iMac and Creative Inspire 2.1 2400 speakers with bass sub (these powered speakers with sub are ancient & connect via a 3.5mm jack).

Creative Inspire 2400 2.1 Speakers
Creative Inspire 2400 2.1 Speakers

These speakers are pretty old now but they’ve always sounded great & as an average consumer I’ve never felt the need to upgrade them. I’m sure many people reading this will have fancy monitor speakers & separate DAC’s, but this is aimed more at the home user so you could probably skip the rest.

Last week I decided to give Tidal a go on their free trial. I’ve always played with the idea of Tidal, but with only a one month trial & a £20 a month price tag I’d always dismissed the service. I don’t personally know anyone else who has a Tidal account so it’s just not been on my Radar. After visiting Bang & Olufsen in Truro and hearing the most amazing sound, only to notice the owner was running tidal off his own iMac for that sound, I just had to give it a go.

What can I say, I’m blown away by Tidal. I signed up for the Hi-Fi account which offers 320kbps AAC, but also all tracks are available as lossless quality FLAC files. The FLAC streams sound incredible, even on my modest setup. I can hear aspects of favourite songs I’ve never heard, such as plectrum scratches in Steven Wilson tracks & high-frequency percussion in Porcupine Tree tracks.

I can hear a lot more high-frequency sounds, and vocals sound much crisper and cleaner. When compared to my AAC the sound is a lot more clear & less muddy. In comparison to my 256kbps AAC, it’s like listening to normal audio and listening with a towel over the speaker.

I’ve got a few albums in FLAC, but storage of my entire collection has never appealed to me due to the time it would take to manage the files & the various backups I’d have to keep. I’m now keeping my music collection in AAC for personal use & use on the go, but predominantly listening to tracks on Tidal if they are available.

Then we come onto the Tidal Masters. I could probably get even more out of them with better monitor speakers & an external DAC plugged into the mac, but as an average consumer listener, I’d rather hear the best I can with the kit I’ve already got. Masters do sound wonderful even on my kit, and although the MQA streams will be software decoded & downsampled slightly for my sound card in the iMac, there is no doubt the audio quality is sublime.

I’ve had no issues with buffering of the streams & I even love the Tidal interface, especially the spinning disc effect on full-screen mode.

Tidal Desktop Spinning Disc GUITidal Desktop Spinning Disc GUI
Tidal Desktop Spinning Disc GUI

I’ve got no problems at all with my personal collection staying in 256kbps AAC. The Matched tracks on iTunes match are deleted from my machine & re-downloaded so I have Apple’s own iTunes store copies/rips of the tracks. I’m not prepared at this point in my life to spend thousands on pro audio gear or a listening room. I just like to get the best out of the stuff I have & mixing my own collection in 256kbps AAC with a Tidal subscription seems to be a great compromise.

At £20 a month it is quite expensive, but well worth it if you listen to more than a few hours of music every month. I’m really enjoying the Tidal experience & the extra boost in sound quality seems to be worth it. I can cancel at any time & fall back on my own vast collection, but I’ll play it by ear month on month.

Tidal Desktop User Interface on apple iMac
Tidal Desktop User Interface on Apple iMac

Tidal also sounds great played in hi-fi on my iOS devices, even when outputting to Bluetooth speakers, there is a definite improvement over my AAC tracks.

In the living room, we have a stereo pair of Sonos Play 1’s. We live in close proximity to neighbours & have a modestly sized living room as I expect most of my readers will, and the Play One’s in stereo are more than sufficient in terms of both sound quality & power output. I’ve added My local music library to the Sonos system & I’ve now added Tidal as a music service. Tidal works really well with Sonos & again it’s a definite sound upgrade from my AAC. Sonos will only support the Hi-Fi FLAC streams at the moment, but these are of CD quality on the whole so it’s a clean and crisp sound.

The Tidal App for iOS also supports Sonos as an output device so you can use the Tidal App and output your audio to your Sonos system. This is great for music discovery or to resume your listening when you come from outside listening on Headphones or in the car.

When using earbuds on my iPhone 6 with Tidal, the improvements are more subtle. Tidal tends to have a little less bass than Apple AAC files, but the sound on Tidal tends to be more rounded & a slightly nicer experience. When listening to my Sony headphones, there is definitely an improvement over AAC.

All of my kit is pretty standard and consumer level. It’s by no means audiophile quality, but most people I know are not that interested in investing thousands to listen to their music. I have a few Audiophile friends who have spent upwards of £20k on kit, and while it sounds wonderful, it’s a little bit of a diminishing return for the size of the improvement.

For now, I’ll enjoy all of my favourite tracks on Tidal and keep my own curated library in AAC to supplement and archive my music. It’s not a great deal to pay out each month & the quality improvement is of tangible value. 256kbps AAC to FLAC is a big jump in quality. Anything above that on consumer kit just seems like overkill for the size of the improvement you would see.

If you decide to give Tidal a go on a Mac, make sure to adjust your streaming settings to max out at Master, and also give Tidal exclusive use of the built-in audio device. This way Tidal will adjust your soundcards sample rates to take advantage of the improved audio streams. This really helped Masters to sound better on my machine (yes I know so downsampling will occur as my sound card can’t support that maximum sampling rate) But it does seem to max out my sound cards abilities & sound as good as it can on my current kit.

Tidal Masters MAC - Settings for best audio on an iMac
Tidal Masters MAC – Settings for best audio on an iMac
Tidal Masters Mac - Built In Output for best quality
Tidal Masters Mac – Built-In Output for the best quality

I know I’ll get a million audiophiles telling me I’m doing it wrong, but after reading all of the reviews & What Hi-Fi magazine I was still struggling to figure out what would sound good on my relatively primitive & low-end setup. I expect most people will want to maximize what they have rather than invest heavily in a lot of extra audio gear. If that is the case, I suggest you give Tidal a go on their free trial. It has definitely changed my music listening & I’m even seeking out awesome sounding albums like Led Zeppelin & Talk Talk.

Let me know your thoughts on this post & be nice.

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....

    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.

    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.

    Apple Earpods

    Apple EarPods with Remote and Mic

    This week a good friend of mine gave me a pair of Apple EarPods with Remote and Mic. He was sent a replacement iPhone 5S to replace a faulty unit and they sent it retail boxed with another set of EarPods so I was given the new pair. The ones I currently use are the ones that shipped with my iPhone 4. They are now pushing 4 years old & still in perfect working order. In fact since my first iPod in 2006 I’ve never had a set of Apple Headphones go faulty. They are great quality & pretty much indestructible (I still have that original pair from my iPod I bought in San Francisco back in 2006).

    Apple Earpods

    I love how the apple earphones integrate with iPod and the Ipod music app for iPhone. The play/pause & volume controls are great when I put my music on Shuffle. I use iTunes match so I stream my entire library to my iOS devices. My library has over 15,000 songs in it so I use the skip button quite often & it’s great to be able to do it via the cable remote. I also like to answer my calls while I’m on the go, walking around cities. It seamlessly mutes my music so i can take the call using the built in cable mic and then resumes playback at the end.

    The new EarPods are a revelation. The positioning of the bass and treble speakers are perfect. The bass essentially plays into the cartilage/bone around your ear so it’s full bodied & not deafening. It’s so much richer. The small treble speaker gives great definition to higher notes & the whole experience is a major improvement on the older earphone design. They come in Apple’s infamous rubbery finish and the parts of the cable that meet the ear buds & the 3.5mm audio jack are perfectly reinforced to stop bending and splitting. They come beautifully packaged in a plastic wrap box. These are well worth the money & I would recommend them to anyone. I also find that they sit in my ears much better & feel far more comfortable.

    Apple Earpods Box

    As someone who listens to really heavy music (I tested these with Down, Lamb Of God & Kyuss) I really recommend them. The bass is incredible for in earphones and doesn’t leave that horrible muffled hearing when you stop listening.

    You can buy them directly from Apple or Amazon. Amazon have them for £10.95 delivered. Absolute bargain! <a

    Apple airport extreme – a worthy purchase

    We finally took the plunge & invested in an apple airport extreme. We have been having a lot of problems with our normally rock solid Cisco router and e crappy salem router supplied by Sky. The problem is while we are in between houses we are living in an apartment. It’s not ideal as we are used to living in a larger space. The key to where we no rally live is the lack of wifi interference & channel overlap. Before we moved out of our last house there where no wifi networks in range of our property, not one. Now we are in the apartment there are over 30 picked up with weak antennas such as the iPhone and over 50 if scanning with the MacBook pro or iMac. This interference causes havoc.

    As an example of the interference, no matter which channel we select we are clashing with a couple of other networks. Throughput is right down and stability awful. I would normally hardware with cat5 and a gigabit switch but that’s not really feasible when we don’t own the property. I decided to invest in the pricey airport extreme and what a difference.

    I’m not sure I’m 100% happy with using the airport utility to configure the router, but it actually did pretty much everything I needed out of the box. One thing that wasn’t activated out of the box was the 5ghz antenna. It was running on plain old 802.11n. I instantly activated the 5ghz band on the router and what a difference. The iMacs, iPads, MacBooks all connect at 450Mbps. There is nobody within range using the 5ghz band so all the interference has gone. The only issue being the reduced range but within an apartment it hasn’t been an issue.

    The apple tv 2’s stream all of our 1080p mkvs with multiple DTS audio stream without any buffering in XBMC and the whole home cinema/media centre experience has been greatly enhanced. In fact the whole network performs as fast as most wired networks I’ve setup so for a £140 investment I’m very happy.

    Next time I’ll update you all with the automation of my XBMC using couch potato & sick beard with usenet. It’s like a PVR but much better. Until then a few pics. 20120213-154201.jpg20120213-154146.jpg20120213-154218.jpg20120213-154236.jpg