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ARM’ed And Dangerous

Well, Apple did it again.

In 2013, Apple upgraded the MacOS to Mountain Lion MacOS 10.8). At the time, I was using the original Mac Pro from 2006.

To my chagrin,  I found that the new OS required a 64-bit Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) module. The Mac Pro 2006 supported 64-bit instructions, but, for some reason, sported a 32-bit EFI. Go figure.

So, I retired my Mac Pro; replacing it with a new 2013 27″ iMac.  But the replacement came after an extended struggle wherein I added hardware and performed customizations that allowed MacOS Mavericks to debut on my Mac Pro. I was happy at the moment, but this happiness dissipated when I had to contend with maintaining compatibility with OS updates. I surrendered to the inevitable and purchased the iMac. Now I could run the latest MacOS and the reduced power draw lowered my monthly utility bill by $50. Problem solved…until now.

In the fall of 2020, here comes MacOS Big Sur with a bevy of new features… and a bevy of older Macs that fell off the support table, including my 2013 iMac.

I toyed for a while with the “customization” that would allow the installation of Big Sur on an unsupported Mac. I even downloaded the tools and made an attempt, but could never get this or that to download. In addition, the “customization” would have to be re-applied every time Big Sur pushed out an update. I did not want the hastle.

Apple taketh away, but also giveth in the form of the new ARM-based Macs introduced at the end of 2020. I chose the get a new MacBook Air with upgrade to 16 GB RAM and a 1 TB SSD. I traded in my 2018 MacBook Air to cover the costs of the upgrades.  I did not like the 2018 MacBook Air, too noisy and too little power to do much more than surf the web and read email.

Now, I am ARM’ed And Dangerous. I am using the M1 MacBook Air both as my desktop and laptop. The iMac is still hanging in there due to lack of support by the M1 for OS virtualization; Parallels, VMWare, VirtualBox, etc. I require the support for work-related operations. I am hoping the virtualization comes to the ARM-based Macs. At present, I use the iMac via Screen Sharing to run virtual OS sessions.

A new era has started.


An SSD Makes A Difference

Mac Pro Tower
Mac Pro Tower

In January, I retired my 2006 Mac Pro. Still a good workhorse of a computer, but Apple had left it behind as support for the hardware ended with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion.

In June, 2013, I acquired a taste for a new desktop in the form of a new MacBook Air. While not really a desktop, I put the MBA through it’s paces as a replacement for my Mac Pro. The MBA was fast, especially the 256 GB solid state drive. The system booted quickly and programs launched with imperceptible delay. It could be my new desktop; except for one drawback. The laptop was equipped with 4 GB of RAM, not the 18 GB in my Mac Pro. For normal operations, the 4 GB did the job, but when I launched a series of Windows and Linux Virtual Machines, the memory limitation was evident.

My next foray was to use the Chameleon boot-loader trick to spoof the old 32-bit EFI hardware so that OL X 10.9 Mavericks could find a new home on the machine. This worked with limited success, but was tedious to say the least and never felt just right; kind of a “hackintosh” taste with visions of disaster around each corner.

Workspace 2013
In stepped a new 2013 iMac. I upgraded the original 8 GB of RAM to 24 GB. All was well…except I had failed to learn the lesson of the MacBook Air and SSD technology. I succumbed to an enticing price at my local Best Buy and purchased a unit with a traditional 1 TB, 7200 RPM spinning piece of “sloooooow” regrets.

Don’t get me wrong, the iMac is a great machine, but, it would have been greater if I had skipped the bargain basement price and opted for a unit with an SSD. Well, there are silver linings. I run my desktop on a 24/7 basis and I have noticed that my electricity bill has dropped since I unplugged the old Mac Pro.

And then there is that nagging “Pssst” sound every time I walk by a new Mac Pro in the Apple Store.


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Amazon vs. Apple: Whose E-Books are Better?

There are several sources for free e-books on the web. I would like to compare four of them.

Project Gutenberg (
PRO: It has the largest selection of old literature, with over 40,000 free ebooks available in PDF, Kindle (Amazon), and ePub (Apple) formats. The books have surprisingly few misspellings, given that they are proofread by amateur volunteers.
CON: The books often lack working tables of contents, or page breaks at the beginnings of chapters, and the books always begin and end with long, annoying licenses.

Amazon (
PRO: They offer many of Project Gutenberg’s books, with those long licenses removed, as well as many books from non-Gutenberg sources, for free download using Whispernet, which is the easiest way to download onto Kindle devices. You can also read them on the Kindle app on Apple devices and sync between devices.
CON: But they make no attempt to fix the tables of contents or add page breaks to beginnings of chapters.

The Apple Bookstore
PRO: This is the only source I’ve found that always makes the extra effort to assure that the table of contents works and the chapters begin with page breaks. You can also sync these between Apple devices. Not surprisingly, this is the most convenient source for downloading onto Apple devices.
CON: But you can only buy and read these books on Apple devices, not Kindle.

The Mises Institute (
PRO: While the other three sources provide very few free books published after 1922 due to copyright laws, the Mises Institute has been granted permission to offer over two thousand more recent books about history, economics, and philosophy for free, in PDF and ePub formats.
CON: But if you’re not interested in revisionist history, Austrian economics, or libertarian philosophy, never mind.

iPad vs. iPod

There is a sentence in Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne that perfectly captures how I feel about my iPad and iPod Touch:

Pooh is the favourite, of course, there’s no denying it, but Piglet comes in for a good many things which Pooh misses; because you can’t take Pooh to school without everybody knowing it, but Piglet is so small that he slips into a pocket, where it is very comfortable to feel him when you are not quite sure whether twice seven is twelve or twenty-two.

The Magic is Gone from my TrackPad

Last August 7th, i proclaimed the arrival of my Apple Magic TrackPad. And, I have been happily gesturing away since that day; until today.

Over the last two days, the TrackPad had become increasingly erratic ;

  • Inconsistent cursor movement
  • In and out detection of gestures.

At first, I wondered if the recent update to Lion 10.7.1 was the culprit since the behavior seemed to coincide with the update, but, this evening, when I touched the TrackPad surface to wake up my computer, nothing happened. Clicking the TrackPad still worked, but the mouse cursor did not respond.

Applying due diligence, I removed the TrackPad from the Mac Pro and paired it with my MacBook. Ah yes, the TracPad has gone to another place, hopefully a better world that the surface of my desk.

The TrackPad turned into Pad just after the warranty period. Don’t misunderstand, I have suffered through failures of various electronic devices in the past; a number occurring just after the warranty period, but, I must admit, this is not the norm for Apple devices.

I now find my Magic Mouse is just not the same. I can’t even find a mouse pad in the house. I will be visiting Best Buy tomorrow afternoon. Will I walk out the a new TrackPad or a new mouse pad…. Perhaps both…bone burned you know.

Scorecard for ZAGGmate

In a recent post, I announced the arrival of a ZAGGmate case for my iPad. In the past few weeks, the ZAGGmate has followed me to work. How did the ZAGGmate perform in an office environment?

First of all, the ZAGGmate created quite a stir among my colleagues and fellow meeting attendees when I popped the iPad out of the case and set up the ZAGGmate keyboard. But, other than it’s good looks, what was the bottom line?

The primary reason I wanted a Bluetooth keyboard capable case for my iPad was to improve my ability to capture important topics during meetings. Since April of last year, I have been using my iPad with different handwriting applications such as PenUltimate, First with my finger as the pen and then later with a stylus.  By far, the stylus performed much better than my finger, but still, my penmanship is “temporal” to say the least (I can read it after I write it, but that ability degrades quickly as time elapses).  I had attempted to use the on-screen keyboard, but my touch typing technique was replaced by a hunt-and-peck which was cumbersome and slow.

In this area, the ZAGGmate performed much better than I anticipated. Although small in size (think Net-book keyboard), I was able to acclimate quite nicely. In no time, I was touch-typing away. The tactile feedback was excellent.  I was concerned with the raised outer rim of the case, but that proved to be a non-issue.

When typing, there was no noticeable lag between the key strike and the appearance of an on-screen character. And, since the iPad is not locked into the case when in use, it is quick and easy to grab the iPad and stylus  when a handwriting task pops up such as sketching out a quick  graphic to get an idea across. The ZAGGmate provides a solid typing base with just the right angle between keyboard and iPad. As I stated in the earlier post, I like the keyboard flat and the screen at an angle.

One concern is the plastic flip-up clip used to position the iPad in a upright position within the case.  I don’t know how durable this movable piece will be. For that reason, I use great care when positioning the clip.

For storage, the iPad is mated to the ZAGGmate by placing the device face down and pressing into the case. A “gasket” inside the case edge does a nice job in holding the iPad. I admit that I was a little skeptical at first, but the case convinced me that it had everything under control.

Battery life is excellent. More than once, the ZAGGmate saved me by placing the keyboard in sleep mode when I failed to turn it off. The downside to this is that I failed to turn the keyboard off because there is no visible cue other than the position of the power switch as to the on/off state of the device. A power light does come on when you first power it on, but that light goes off one or two seconds later. A blinking LED at some slow cycle rate would be nice.

I would not classify the ZAGGmate as a true iPad case. It is more a bluetooth keyboard enclosure that allow the user to store the iPad when not in use. For that reason, I purchased an inexpensive slide-in case into which I place the ZAGGmate-iPad combo.

Another non-case aspect is  access to iPad controls. When stored in the ZAGGmate, the only iPad port available is the 30-pin connector. No access is available for other iPad controls. One of the other jobs my iPad has is a portal to internet radio and music sources, but lack of access to the headphone jack puts a crimp in that activity. I have started using a bluetooth stereo headset, but I miss direct access to the iPad controls.

All in all, I give the ZAGGmate an “A” for keyboard functionality and battery performance. As a case, I give it an “A'”for looks, but a “C” for  iPad protection and access to iPad controls.