Last Legs?

The iMac is starting to reboot often. Started this afternoon sometime. It seems to realise that it can’t wake from sleep so it reboots (and then can’t find the bluetooth keyboard). Happened about 4 times this evening.

I’ve removed the BT keyboard and I’ll see how that goes.

Next, I’m going to duplicate the Time Machine process on a new HDD.

Then I’ll look at a full rebuild, it’s probably well overdue anyway.

After that, if it is still occurring, I’ll have to consider retirement. Considering it’s a mid-2009 iMac, having lasted 8 years isn’t too bad.

Update: So after removing the BT keyboard and the Magic Trackpad (so now its the normal keyboard andMagic Mouse) the iMac has been behaving properly again. She fights on….. I wonder when the next iMac update is, 6 months away at least I expect. Not going to look at the iMac Pro, not required.

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Paperless Study on iPad

I stumbled across the following YouTube channel, Paperless Student, while I was looking for a solution to a problem with PDFs on the iPad. It inspired me to write this post describing what I do to organise and carry out my study. This is a really long post so go ahead to the next page in your RSS feed if this isn’t of interest to you.

I am studying my degree via distance learning, with all of my lectures and assessments provided and submitted across the internet. I wanted to be able to study wherever I went, without having to lug textbooks or spending much money on stuff,  like a new laptop. I already had an iPad and wanted to see if I could use that as a focus, with minimal expenditure. I generally DO NOT use the iPad when I’m at home as I use a multiscreen iMac there. Though sometimes I use both at once, you can never have too many screens!

BUT, I have not been able to go completely paperless. I am studying Teaching, so that has required me to do some things on paper, visual arts, for example. In these cases, I have had to use paper or create objects, outside of the computer, but these have ended up in videos or images which have been submitted online.

Distance Learning

In some ways, it’s a little easier than if I was attending University as all of the information is already online for me. I view and respond in my own time. The teachers have generally provided a list of readings, usually including the textbook, perhaps some links to videos or websites of interest. I don’t know how I would go trying to take notes in class, live. Though the Apple Pencil and Stylus has already worked well in work meetings.

The university uses a system called Blackboard to provide these lessons. Alongside the pages providing each week’s topic, or assessment details etc, there is also a discussion board and the provision to join live tutorials (or view the recording). It is a little behind in its design and layout, however, it is pretty functional.

 

Assessments are submitted through this portal, and it also provides access to the university’s library. Obviously, library items that are physical cannot be read through the portal, but thousands of articles and readings are available online.

My Setup

I use the following software on the iPad. I’ll list them with a brief description, then give you some more details on how I use them further down.

  • Safari – Used to read all of the lectures.
  • OneNote – This is the core note-taking software that I use.
  • Word – This is used for writing my assessments.
  • Vitalsource Bookshelf – here are my textbooks
  • Stylus – this is a software keyboard that you can write and it converts to text (OCR)
  • Apple Pencil
  • Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard.

Using this and one or two speciality applications for particular assessments I can do 90% of my work on the iPad. The little bit left, I can still remain paperless, but I usually switch to my iMac. I expect that I could get the appropriate software (mostly creating PDFs and editing video) on the iPad, but it is already on the iMac and these are uncommon tasks.

OneNote

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Microsoft provides this free. This links in well as the university provides us with an Office365 subscription and OneDrive space. I use a single notebook for each course (in this case Master of Teaching). I split that into a tab for each unit (so Practical Placement 1, Teaching Arts in Primary School, etc). Then pages as I require, including subpages. Usually each week’s notes, lectures and questions get a single page.

I copy the weekly lesson information from the Safari page into OneNote. This allows me to access it offline and it means I have it saved for after the unit is completed. It also allows me to write notes immediately alongside or below questions posed in the text. This is just copied straight from Safari. OneNote also allows the inclusion of links to videos and webpages so these are not lost when I copy.

I did use the Bluetooth keyboard almost exclusively, but since switching to an iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil, I’ve started to use the Stylus system more. I will still use the keyboard when I want to do lots of typing, but sometimes I can’t or don’t want to have as big a setup as this (such as doing some study when I’m in a work meeting!), or I just have a couple of things to write I will use the Pencil.

Another advantage of OneNote is that it syncs quickly and completely across every platform I use. I can access my notes on iPhone, iPad, iMac, PC and I think even Online (but my work systems don’t let me access OneDrive at work – still I suppose I should be working anyway!)

Vitalsource Bookshelf

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WOW, eTEXTBOOKS are so awesome. So far my success in finding the correct ebook version of the prescribed text has been 100%, but I dread the day when this doesn’t work. So far they have also been compatible with Vitalsource’s Bookshelf application. Currently I have about 9 texts in my iPad and my iPhone. Imagine carrying that pile of books to work everyday! I’d need a second motorcycle (I need one anyway though!).

The next two advantages of etext are ease of searching (and Bookshelf allows you to search each book or your entire library) and highlighting/notetaking. Just as you might (I was NEVER one to do this) get out your highlighter as you’re reading – you can do just that in Bookshelf. Then you can read through the list of highlights/notes and find what you were looking for, without having to read the whole book. And these sync across devices/web access.

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 09.53.06This is great for writing assignments. You can quickly find references, even across multiple textbooks. And by having other books available, you can build a better assignment by providing multiple sources. For example, even while using the Creative Technologies text, I can quickly switch into searching and referencing a text on Educational Psychology or Assessment Techniques. And I can do this even when I am not at home as I have all the texts with me.

Lastly, eTexts tend to be cheaper than purchasing new. Most are lifetime though I’ve noticed a couple are 5 or 10 year “rentals”.

Other Pieces of the Puzzle.

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The Apple Pencil was initially pretty disappointing actually. I found that I was only using it to make the selection of text in texts easier. It was also handy for sketching and brainstorming in OneNote, however by adding Stylus OCR Keyboard, it’s really starting to shine. I almost feel as if the iPad is finally as easy to use as my ancient Palm devices were (I really got used to writing quickly in Palm’s Graffiti)

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 09.53.15

Blackboard, the system the university uses, has recently updated its applications (I suspect the impending release of iOS 11 and it’s lack of support for 32bit applications was the catalyst). I really only use it if I want to join in the online class discussions when I’m not at home (where I would do it on my iMac).

Difficulties, Current Issues

Submitting assessments – I’ve only done this once on the iPad. Blackboard’s submission portal would only accept files from the PC, or from Google’s Drive or Dropbox. Not the OneDrive that they provide for us (go figure that!). The iPad doesn’t have a “Files” (wait and see with OS11 and the Files application), but you can select things from your iCloud. I can’t remember exactly how I did it, but I saved my OneDrive file to iCloud (I think through Pages on the iPad) and then uploaded from there into Blackboard. It was complicated, but the assessment was due (on Christmas Eve no less!) and I was on an overseas holiday, so I couldn’t just get onto the iMac.

Highlighting PDFs – Currently, if I open a PDF in Safari (from the university library) I can save it into iBooks. However, once there, I can’t highlight any of the text. I’m writing this on the 17 September and on 20 September (I guess 21 September down under) iOS 11 is released and one of the new things they have added is the Markup feature. In iBooks, it appears that you will be able to highlight text. I will pause my hunt for a solution to this until after I upgrade to that.

*this is how I stumbled across Paperless Student in the first place.

Word on iPad vs Word on Desktop – There are a few formatting features that are either not available on the iPad version or just more difficult to use. Subsequently, I tend to finalise my assessments (usually it’s about formatting the reference list, they have a particular indent setup they require). This is where I also convert to PDF and sometimes put several PDF together. I think that there are probably ways I could do this on the iPad, but I don’t (haven’t yet anyway) need to. I am still paperless, but just not locked into the iPad. It also links into being easier to submit from here too.

Last words

I may not have headed down this path if I already had a light notebook but I haven’t owned a laptop for about 8 or 9 years. I’ve occasionally considered it, but I converted from Palm to iPad (long before I had an iPhone) with the release of the first iPad and haven’t really been convinced to go back to a laptop. I will admit that in some cases, if I’d had a MacBook (or Air) I would have found things easier, but then somethings, such as built-in cellular, and the stylus input are a distinct advantage for the iPad.

I store all my assessments and work on OneDrive, however I also keep a copy on my iMac (which is also backed up through Time Machine). I figure that between me and Microsoft, I’m unlikely to lose an assessment in those critical panicked few minutes around submission!

Paperless wasn’t the goal, having all my notes and references available in a small package that I could easily take to work or on travel was the goal. Paperless is a happy side-effect.

 

 

Scala Rider Freecom4 – first 24 Hours

I have finally gone out and replaced my Bluetooth headset. I was tempted by the Sena series, however, I have seen lots of problems on the internet with them. I have used the Scala Rider, mostly successfully, for a few years now, and a quick search didn’t bring up any problems, certainly not to the scale of the Senas.

scala-rider-freecom-4-duo~699913The Freecom 4 is new to Australia – when I went looking about a month ago they weren’t in any of the stores. They are the more budget series and miss out on the Mesh grouping set up that the more expensive PackTalk and SmartTalk get. I never ride in groups, so it was of little interest. Besides, the last time I rode with someone else with a Bluetooth, they had a Sena anyway.

I think that they are basically my old Q3, repackaged. Software a little updated too. First impressions opening the box was, smaller and slimmer. I bought the Duo as it wasn’t much less than a single SmartTalk and meant I could attach it to the second helmet if my kids wanted to come riding. And with discounting, wasn’t a whole lot out of my pocket. It turns out it was an astute decision.

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The mount has changed significantly. It now just slides up into the helmet. This was super easy the old unknown brand my wife uses, but in my AGV was a little more difficult and required some cutting of the pad around the bottom of the helmet. In both cases, there was plenty of cord length and the application of a couple of velcro pads and it was installed. This setup is going to make it super easy to remove at a track (sometimes the track staff don’t like things attached to your helmet, at least at SMSP anyway). It does come with a stick on version as well, but I’m not a fan of doing that.

Switching them on and connecting them to various devices was easy, and they start and connect MUCH faster than the older ones. I’m also not required to fuss about in order to have the music play when I hit the button. I suspect that was caused by several phone OS updates with no Headset software updates, but it was nice to have that working properly.

First ride, a commute, and initially the music was very quiet. I remembered on arrival at work that I hadn’t turned up the Bluetooth volume on the iPhone, so it was much better on the way home. The speakers aren’t going to set the world on fire and do seem to struggle when the music is very full (?) like crescendos and big parts of the song. But they are clear and loud.

The next day the Mrs and I rode into the city and apart from a delay a couple of times, when the connection had gone to sleep, they worked excellently.

Overall I’m very happy and would certainly recommend them as an option. It’s also fantastic after the past 3 months of trying to keep my earbuds in my ears as I don my helmet and not being able to answer calls etc.

Dying of the Light

I said I had two WoW problems (of course, there is the unspoken – I have resubbed to WoWcrack problem as well). The second is of course the iMac. Levelling with Miss 9 means running the PC and the iMac (any thoughts of an iOS version of WoW, lol) together. Normally not a problem. The PC, an ancient first gen i7 with a 9500GT – it’s pretty noisy but still running ok. As it boots from an SSD it’s very quick to start up actually. And then there’s the iMac.

So I talked somewhat about the problems a couple of posts ago. Even WoW is enough to push it too hard. It can be as long as an hour, or as little as ten minutes before bad things start happening on the screen and I need to quit. As long as I quit before a complete failure (with usually a mostly blank display) it seems to be able to carry on doing word processing etc after I’ve quit.

Otherwise, a reboot gets it back running. Still, that won’t last forever.

The case, the main heatsink for these computers gets very toasty. It always has, but it seems if this cools down then I get a bit longer out of it than if I try to start WoW when it’s already warm. I’m sure that’s either the root cause of the problem (heat stressed components failing over time, it’s a late 2010 model after all) or a symptom of it (the dying video card working harder than it needs to).

So come on Apple, announce MacMini updates if you’re going to so I can decide what to do. I’m starting to lean back towards the cheapest MacMini (second hand?) I can get and spend the money on a PC instead. Either way, I have 2 keyboards, 3 mice and a display all ready for whichever box I head down. I may be dual boxing on one screen.

Of course, I have all my fingers and toes and eyes crossed hoping I won’t get a total failure of the iMac before I am ready. Heck it’s hung on for a year already (more than 2 if you count back to when my original problems started occurring!)

NOTE: I am not considering the smaller iMacs (21.5″) as there is no advantage over the MacMini. None of the smaller ones run a discrete video card, only the larger Macbook Pros and 27″ Macs do. So I would be paying extra money for a (nice) screen.

If/When the iMac died!

I’ve mentioned it a couple of times, that I am seriously worried about how much longer this iMac is going to last. Being awkward to fix, both through age (mostly) and the way they are constructed I’m not really intending to look at fixing it again.

Currently I can’t use full screen for videos or games. Anything that pushes the card too hard soon ends in no picture at all. Now I am also suffering errors that seem to be related to the hard drive. Though admittedly the evidence actually suggests a bug in Microsoft Word is possible.

So making plans.

Again (I’m always making big IT plans that don’t happen)

I also want to shrink the mid-tower case that the other PC uses, and see if I can make it a bit quieter. So here is my current set up.

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Study set up with the Mac and screen. PC to the right (smaller screen). The PC itself is on the lower shelf to the right, under the printer.

My plan is to get two mini-itx cases. They can sit side by side on the shelf, replacing the mid tower. That case is mostly space anyway. I don’t use any expansion cards and the DVDRW installed aren’t used (but I can always get cases for them if required).

Doing it this way will look really nice and tidy. I just need really long cables for one, to reach across to left side of the desk.

And to convert myself back to Windows.

Unless I also get a MacBook at some point.

I do have some technical specs sorted for both new PCs. One will be a complete new build and the other is currently in flux, with a bit of the old and a bit of the new. Though I have changed the cases since I took these pictures.

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This is the plan for the new one.  I need to get Win10 as I missed the upgrade window for my other Win 7 copy which isn’t currently installed anywhere. Its not going to win any races, but it will work and I’m sure playing WoW or MWO will be fine. Who knows, maybe I could even try getting through some of my Steam list. If I didn’t spend all the time studying, netflixing, with family, at work…..

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 03.46.59

And here is the bitsa. Basically I’ll keep the SSD and GPU (for now anyway) and shrink everything else.

So let’s see if this goes anywhere.

Airport Express troubles

No, the Apple one, not an actual airport.

I have one of these…..

1403012745331It is really handy when you are travelling and they have free wifi, but only on the cable. If you use the hotel wifi, it costs. With this you have a small device that creates a wifi network for you to use. Pretty cool.

Another cool trick is that it also has a stereo 3.5mm socket. If it is on the same network as another Apple device, such as an iMac or an iPhone, you can connect a stereo through the 3.5mm and the Airport will let you use the stereo as an Airplay receiver.

In Queanbeyan I had it set up with an olde stereo and it was pretty cool. When I moved back to Sydney I didn’t get around to setting up the stereo until a few weeks ago. Then I plugged in the Airport and …

Well nothing.

I have been trouble shooting ever since. I can create a new wifi network with the device, but I cannot get it to join my home wifi. I don’t have ethernet close to where I have the olde stereo setup so that isn’t an option.

I have tried resetting it and returning it to factory options. Each time, I can connect to it and manage it. I can create its own wifi network, but not join the existing one. I even tried it when there was no security on the home network (that was a nervous half hour!).

No luck yet. No ideas left either. I’m just repeating my steps hoping something different will happen (isn’t the a definition of crazy/stupid somewhere!).

Progress is a funny thing

So when I was about 10, if I wanted to listen to music, I put a tape in my Walkman, put the headphones on and pressed play. If I wanted to listen in the lounge, I moved the tape in the Hi-fi in the lounge and pressed play.

Today to listen in the lounge I used my phone app to switch on the amp, and then remote control my iMac to select the playlist and play over the network.

The iMac dutifully fetched the songs from the NAS, then AirPlay across to the Amp, which played it out the speakers, while displaying the track info on the TV.

So, including the switch and the router (for the Wifi), that’s SEVEN devices, just to play a song.

It sounds silly like that, but then when you think that I can

  • play the same music upstairs or in the computer room (I can actually play different music in both if I get the Apple TVs involved) at the same time;
  • play music outside;
  • play a movie inside and music outside;
  • play a movie on the computer, a different one upstairs, another different one downstairs, while listening to music outside.;
  • and only have 1 copy of the music or movie on the NAS.
  • and listen to music on the phone on headphones.

maybe it isn’t so silly???

 

Good Morning Windows 10

Wow. I’ve used & installed (usually several times) pretty much every Windows version since version 2. Except I never used 8 but apparently no great loss there. 

Now that I am home I let 10 have its way with the PC, kicking off the upgrade from 7 as I went to bed. 

This morning I woke to find the upgrade complete bar a couple of setting requests (sending info to Microsoft and Favourites Importing type queries) and logged in. 

All the software seems to be running, Office didn’t need reinstalling, neither did Skype or well the new Edge of course. Actually that’s about all the PC gets used for.  Log in to a few websites like Facebook and TFC and its sorted. 

That was by far the best ever Windows upgrade or install in nearly 30 years. Very impressed. Can’t say much about the OS itself as I really haven’t used it in anger yet. 

Not the right colour :(

My iMac has been showing symptoms that I think may be terminal, or at least probably very expensive.

In the past couple of weeks there has been the occasional flashes of pink/orange/green squares appearing randomly on the screen. This Sunday, when I returned from Sydney, the screen was covered in them. And the iMac seemed to be running slowly.

I am fairly confident in diagnosing a graphics cards in its last days. There are always other possibilities, but that is the most likely. The iMac is about 5 years old and the card is pretty tight in there. Yes the aluminium unibody would act as a heat sink, but it still gets warm. Running a second screen (also 1440 27″) may have hastened it’s demise.

So I’m struggling to export and back up. That’s to add to the 2 other backups I have of course. Perhaps I am being a little paranoid, but there is the possibility that I won’t return to a Mac at the end of this. So stuff has be available in a format that Windows can also use.

A couple of hiccups in the copy have me doing some direct shell work on my NAS. Seems the most reliable way to delete things from the server (there are some duplicates of the iPhoto Library I’m trying to get rid of).

It is also screwing up my study. I have an essay due this week and I’m not looking forward to having to sort it out without a computer!

Telstra.. you almost sorted it

So on 2 July Telstra actually got it right. Well at least mostly. Almost 3 months to the day, they managed to line up a phone number they issued me and the physical connection to the house so that the Tech could actually connect the two and hence us.

I got home on Friday and set up the ADSL and…. we’re back on the Internet.

I also set up the switch so that all of the ports in the house are connected (there’s 13 and the modem/router is only 4 port). Initially this was troublesome as the default Switch IP was the same as the existing Modem/Router IP. It also forgot everything I set it up with when I unplugged it the first time. But eventually I had it on a different IP and the entire house was live with ethernet and wifi all connecting to each other and the internet

TVs asked for updates, phones could AirPlay to the Amp it was a wondrous weekend. I still need to go around and actually ID all of the ports, but I have enough leads to have them all connected at the same time.

I said Telstra almost got it right. Well in the throes of screwing it all up, they made up a new contract, without my consent and created a whole new account and email address for me. I’ve fixed the first one, and will have to live with the second. They also sent me a new modem.

They also decided that I wasn’t entitled to the Federal Service Guarantee fees as there was a “Extreme Weather Event” in my area. Its one of the ways they get out of paying this fine and after checking with the Ombudsman they may have something. Scum, but not a surprise.

But I have internet and so Mrs can watch her TV shows. And you know what they say about Happy Wives…..