16 Years.

I can’t believe it’s been 16 years since I snapped this photo at a roadside hotel in Breezewood, Pennsylvania. I was on a solo trip, exploring the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I loved my old Mac PowerBook.

Looking back, things didn’t seem as complicated as they are today. Please were writing in blogs or LiveJournals. I think MySpace was on the scene but it was before the days of Facebook and Twitter. Folks had opinions, we as a society always have, but those opinions didn’t seem as loud.

Time marches on. Pendulums swing. We live.


I took the opportunity to use a portion of the proceeds from the sale of our condo to purchase a Mac mini. The computer arrived today.

I’ve had a few of these machines over the years and I’ve always been pleased with them. I’ve nothing but glowing reviews of the latest incarnation, which is based on Apple’s new M1 chip. The new chip was designed by Apple specifically for Apple products, as opposed to the outsourced Intel chips that have been in Macs for the past decade or so.

My initial impressions are quite favorable. This little guy is quite snappy, even while it’s downloading my iCloud data and installing apps and the like. While my mid-2015 MacBook Pro would constantly scream with the hum of fans while driving my external monitor, this little Mac mini doesn’t even get warm.

I’ll be putting the new computer through its paces next week, as it’s intended to be my primary work computer. I’ll probably be following up with blog entries once I have a bit more experience with it.


There are many things to love about Apple’s Ecosystem, tying the iPhone and iPad, Mac, and iCloud together. When I use my iPad, each morning I see a photo from that day in my history.

Today my iPad presented me with the photo you see above, taken in New York on this date in 2010. We went a show, had a nice dinner, and had a very pleasant time. We were celebrating my husband’s birthday weekend. It seems like we went on that trip just yesterday; it’s hard to believe it’s been 11 years.

Technology should make us happy and smile. Whether it’s through a great user experience, a strong sense of security, or a pleasant moment, if we’re going to work in harmony with our technology, it has to be an experience that makes us smile.

This is why I always end up back on the Mac.

I have tens of thousands of photos in iCloud. I also have Time Machine backing up my important data on an external drive. I’m not good at organizing photos; I’m thankful for Apple’s Artificial Intelligence that tries to group things together and index things to make searches easy. The system is not perfect, but it’s more than adequate.

With our relocation to the southwest coming up soon, we’ll have a whole new batch of memories being saved to our devices. I feel secure in knowing they’ll endure and continue to delight me over the years.

No News.

We are cord-cutters. This means we have nothing that resembles cable television. We have an external antenna discreetly mounted to the wall; living in the third largest city in the United States affords us 65+ over the air channels for free. We have several streaming services, including Apple TV+, Disney+, Hulu, and Netflix. We also have Philo for the holiday season because, after all, it’s Hallmark Christmas Movies season and this is a reliable way to watch these future classics.

We have no way of streaming news.

There’s an app called CNNgo but it doesn’t really do much other than show reruns. We’re currently watching a free preview of MSNBC over an app but we don’t know what will happen when the countdown clock stops and the preview comes to an end. We can’t even get CSPAN, and honestly, who really wants CSPAN?

Here we have all these news channels and we can’t stream any of them freely. It makes you wonder, do the news channels exist to disseminate the news or do they exist to make money?

I think we know the answer to this.



So I don’t talk about work a lot here on this blog. I usually speak in the vaguest of terms so that nothing can be held against me in the future. But the truth of the matter is, I work for a Fortune 500 Technology company. Said company has its roots in traditional telecommunications; at one time it would have been called “the telephone company” (but it’s not THE telephone company that Ernestine worked for).

I’m the Lead Developer and Staff Manager of a team of nine very capable individuals. Seven of them work for the company and two of them are off-shore contractors working on projects along with the core team through the end of the year. Our official team moniker includes “Tools and Automation”. We write web-based applications to bring a cohesiveness to very dissimilar software applications in use throughout the company. Our tools touch all parts of the company: service and support, order processing, order entry, and communicating with third party providers. It’s a very challenging position with some wonderful opportunities. Our automation and tools make an impact to literally thousands of employees in the company, which in turn improves the customer experience. Writing this makes me realize that I indeed feel like I’m making a difference.

The company has endured its ups and downs over the years. Budgets are occasionally leaner at point A on the timeline versus what we can do at point Z. However, the company tries to make working a pleasant experience within the confines of budgets. We now get an extra week of vacation at three years instead of the traditional five. Tech start-up niceties have been installed in the offices; nicer cafeterias, ping pong tables, and the like. Many have an option to work from home. There’s a strong “remote employee” culture as well; I’m one of the folks who’s official office is actually at home. The company also focuses on Employee Engagement.

Every quarter, a handful of employees are recognized as “MVP Employees”. With the award comes a cash bonus and an extra day of vacation. I was selected as one of the MVPs for this past quarter.

It’s nice to be recognized for the work I’m doing as well as the work my team is doing. For all the extra hours that are worked, for the moments of accomplishment and the moments of frustration, it’s a nice feeling to be recognized by the leadership team. In a particularly pressing time in the realm of deadlines and expectations, it was quite nice to receive the recognition.

It was the morale boost I needed. I once again feel like I can conquer the world.


Growing up I loved sitting on the screened in porch on the back of the house. It sat about 25 feet from the woods and it was peaceful and quiet. Breezes from Lake Ontario would make their way inland and they’d be accompanied by crickets and frogs making noise and the sounds of an approaching train way off in the distance. The cats would strategically place themselves about the back lawn, our dog would settle in under her house for the night. It was summertime and it was peaceful. I loved it.

Fast forward 38 years and I’m sitting on the balcony on our fifth floor condo in the city of Chicago. The breezes are blowing from Lake Michigan. The rumble of the ‘L’ visits periodically. Overhead lights indicate passengers on their way to and from O’Hare and farther in the distance, Midway. The ambience is different. The sounds are different. The vibe is more electric but I feel very relaxed.

Growing up I always loved being home because it was home. I still feel the same way. The place is different and I’ve moved from a little bit country to a little bit rock ‘n roll, but I love being home because it’s home.


SnazzyLabs: macOS Tricks

As a Mac boy I’m always looking for exciting ways to trick out my macOS experience and be super geeky. Quinn Nelson @SnazzyQ (Twitter), who produces excellent, information tech videos, has some super cool tricks for macOS in his latest video.

Have fun!

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The iTunes Conundrum.


This is one of my very first iTunes purchases. If you’re not seeing the image above, I’m referring to “What Did I Do To You?” by Lisa Stansfield. It’s the original album version, which encompasses the complete “vision” Ms. Stansfield had for the track. It was purchased in 2003 using my old iTunes username (I don’t think we called them Apple IDs back then). I’ve been looking for the track for ages and was deleted when I finally found it on a backup CD-R with “2004 backup” scrawled in Sharpie across the label side of the CD.

Eager to listen to this track again, I fired up an old iMac and imported the file into iTunes. I was prompted for the password of that forgotten account. Unbelievably, I remembered the password. The file was imported successfully but with a few caveats.

* iTunes Match wouldn’t recognize the track
* I couldn’t add it to a playlist
* The track would propagate to my other Apple devices. No iPhone, no iPad, No MacBook Pro.

I ended up copying the file by hand, using Dropbox, to my MacBook Pro. I imported it there as well after going through the password rigamarole.

Hunting around in Finder, I found the actual file and discovered that it was an m4p file, Apple’s old proprietary format that has DRM (Digital Rights Management) built into it. I converted all of my m4p files to m4a years ago using the iTunes Match service. The track is apparently not available in Apple Music today, as I can only find the edited down 7-inch version. Clicking on “Add to My Library” makes iTunes crabby.

I really want this song to be included throughout my Apple devices. It’s suppose to “just work”, right? Does anyone know how to get this song to become part of a playlist in iTunes? How do I convert it to a friendlier format without spending $40 on a piece of software that I’m going to use only once?

I know that I’m a huge Apple geek, but I’m at a loss on this one. If you have any suggestions (other than telling me to get Windows or something), please feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.



One of my goals in 2015 is to have a neat, well-organized office both at home and at work. This is my part of a greater effort to reduce clutter from my life in general, but I figured the offices was a good place to start. With the reduction of clutter, I am aiming to take another step toward going paperless.


I have been on a paperless kick for years. When I worked for DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, one of the goals of the company was to bring the paperless office to fruition. As the second largest computer company in the world at the time, it seemed like they had the might to do it, but they stumbled and the company was eventually scooped up by Compaq, which in turn was scooped up by HP. I did learn a lot about the paperless office and today’s technology has made it easier than ever to achieve this goal.

I have three main parts to my approach. Now remember, I am an Apple dude but I always look for ways to use my tools cross-platform. Two out of three of these tools are able to be used on Mac, Linux and Windows:

After messing around with plain text files, Apple’s Notes and Microsoft OneNote, I have re-embraced Evernote as my “Vault”. If I want to write something down, I put it in Evernote. If I need to give Earl a receipt (as he does the accounting in our merry little household) for a gas purchase, I snap a photo of the gas pump with Evernote. If I find a little tidbit online that I find interesting, it’s in Evernote. All of my meeting notes, project plans and doodling of ideas for work are stored in Evernote. In fact, this what I worked on accomplishing this morning: scanning all of my handwritten notes and such into Evernote. An iOS app called Scannable gives me the ability to scan a document and easily import it into my Evernote and/or share it with whomever I’d like with plenty of sharing options (email, etc). The crumpled up receipt from the car wash turns into a decent looking document using Scannable.

Evernote also let’s me search on keywords, tags or whatever, so finding things is a snap. It takes me about five minutes a day, usually at the end of my workday, to organize everything I’ve captured into Evernote through the course of a workday into my little buckets I’ve created for myself. Approaching my notes at work this way also affords me the opportunity of readdressing my notes as second time, which lends to me remembering things a little better.

Dropbox is my file vault. The application is basically an extra folder on my computer, which syncs with the cloud whenever a change is made. Any computer that has access to that Dropbox folder, including mobile devices, instantly has access to that file. It’s a great way to save backups of your stuff and it’s a great way to access your stuff from anywhere.

Originally I was keeping everything in my Dropbox, however, I decided to favor Evernote because of the improvements they’ve made to the Evernote interface and because I can group similar things together in one document, especially at work, for example, if there’s an attachment on a meeting invite, I can drag that to my meeting notes I’ve typed up and everything is together in one place. I like this much better than using folders in Dropbox.

OmniFocus, the Mac-only application from the Omni Group, is a very robust productivity application. While a glorified “to do” list, OmniFocus’ flexibility is amazing. Based on the GTD or “Getting Things Done” approach to productivity, I’ve been using OmniFocus for a number of years (it was originally a goal of 2011) and I can say that I have been better organized and less stressed since adopting my own spin on GTD with OmniFocus. Anything I have to do, I throw it in OmniFocus and like cleaning out my Evernote Inbox everyday, I spend a few moments each day reviewing my OmniFocus Inbox and curate each item so that I have a clear understanding of what I have to do and what I want to do.

Walking into a clean office has done wonders for my mood and I’m happy that I’ve reached this first part of this goal that I set for myself in 2015. I’m determined to not leave my well-being to the fates this year, and every little step in a positive direction has done wonders for my mood.


iTip: Find My Friends.


Earl and I use Find My Friends on our iPhones quite frequently, including when I’m out on a long distance cycling adventure, he uses the app to find my whereabouts when I’m ready to be picked up. Since upgrading our iPhones to iOS7, Find My Friends’ functionality has been spotty at best.

This irritates me.

I think I have found a solution to the problem via the Apple Forums. I know that others are having issues with Find My Friends (Erik, Mark), perhaps they will find this helpful as well.

The suggestions in the forum post I have quoted below worked for me, but I needed to have the Find My Friends app running in order to make these things work. Once I got everything set the way it’s described below, it stayed that way.

(or at least something that some people may have overlooked)

In iOS 7, if Find My Friends is working for you WHEN THE APP IS RUNNING, i.e. you can see the Locations of family members and they can see you as long as everyone has the App running, BUT it doesn’t work once the App is closed (or wasn’t launched since the last restart,) then check the following:

Make sure the app is listed in Background App Refresh under Settings > General … In my case the FMF App was NOT listed there. I chatted at length with an Apple Support Rep trying various things (reboots, Airplane Mode on and off, etc.) She was unable to explain to me how Apps qualify to show up in that list, or how to get an App onto the list. What finally worked for me was DELETING the Find My Friends App and then reinstalling it from the App Store (Purchases.) It then showed up in the Background App Refresh List, I confirmed it was turned On, and FMF instantly started working as expected! I was afraid I would have to re-enter Follower information or re-send Invitations to Friends after reinstalling, but those settings were retained.

Note: I also happened to update to iOS 7.0.2 earlier today, so I’m not sure if that mattered or not.

Find My Friends also MUST be listed under Settings > Privacy > Location Services, and must be turned On, obviously.

When upgrading an iPhone there are lots of things to do, so it’s easy to answer a screen prompt about Location Services or Background App Refresh the “incorrect” way (at least incorrect with respect to Find My Friends working properly.) Sometimes it’s not easy to go back and find the specific Setting where that function is adjusted…

I hope this information helps other families get FMF working for their devices. Ours are all now working reliably.