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.

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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

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 09.51.32

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

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 09.52.56

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.

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 09.53.28

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.

 

 

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.

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!).

2015 in Review

About Bikes

IMG_0035Bike wise I’m missing the VFR. Carrying stuff, commuting is all harder without it. There’s no money to replace it, unless the Daytona goes. And there is still 10 years of riding memories….

The Daytona got some good rides and I really enjoy it, its a fantastic fun bike. Several short rides in Canberra practising skills. I feel as though the latest trip up the Putty was better for that practice. I’m keeping the Daytona unless commuting becomes really unmanageable.

About Mountain Bikes

IMG_2699MTB was a busy year, benefiting from having the car and being in Canberra. I found it a lot of fun but I won’t have as many chances to ride back in Sydney. Squeezing family, work, study, motorcycles and MTB all together is going to be a challenge.

Babes (Family)

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History Time

We moved into our own house this year. My youngest started school and both my girls did great. Proud of them both. I introduced them to some old school games. They also discovered Minecraft, which they have enjoyed but I need to keep an eye on how much they spend playing already 🙂

Bytes

WoWScrnShot_010815_061906Nothing much here at all. Sorry about that. I am trying to get into something to play regularly, but I just haven’t found anything of interest. I keep planning to upgrade the PC and get into something like Mechwarrior Online but I just haven’t. I have managed to break out of WoW. I don’t think its a bad game, but I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. This year may also be a bit bereft of playtime as I get deeply into study.

Oh, and Netflix too, that takes some time up doesn’t it.

About the Site.

Well, ever since I dropped out of WoW, readership has plummeted. The odd one or two posts still garners interest, but they are the same posts every year – the Naga review and the couple around when I was deciding between the Daytona and the GSXR.

There are still a few diehard followers and some random people drop by, mostly seem to come in from Navi’s blog at Frostwolves. By comparison, Cymre over at Bubbles of Mischief had 2600 visits on her busiest day, I had 1500 all year.

h8y2d

So the future…

I’ll just keep dribbling on about stuff, more bikes, less MTB, maybe more bytes. I like to keep this “diary” anyway.

 

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…..

K.I.S.S follow up

OK. I measured out the distance and went out to find some options at the shops. I came back with a long cable and a connector to allow me to have RJ12 on one end and RJ45 on the other. As I was mucking trying to sort out the tidiest route to run the cable I tried one of the other sockets in the house, which also worked.

Then it dawned on me that the socket I had just tried was an RJ12 not the RJ45. I could run the big long cable without connectors (less signal loss) and put the routers exactly where I had planned in the first place.

Bonus was that the cable would run around the rooms in such a way that I wouldn’t be crossing (and likely tripping or pulling them out) the cables very often.

And all was good…..

K.I.S.S

Well after a non-stop drive down to Canberra, I’m finally in my place here… and probably should head to bed very soon.

I spent the afternoon building desks and unpacking, connecting computers, after carrying all of it upstairs. I then spent some time trying to work out why the internet wasn’t working. About 1930 I logged a job on the service desk and waited…

and waited…

and waited…

and waited…

I was just about to turn in for the night (about 2130) when the Tech Support guy rang me back. He was very helpful and we eventually established that the phone jack in the room I have set up as a study, isn’t connected to the phone line in the house.

So now I have the modem in one room, wifi to the iMac here and the server with my iTunes library and Time Machine backup is currently off the network (no wifi card in it).

I see several choices.

  • move rooms (means dismantling both desks and beds and swapping them, then putting them together again and setting it all up….. ugh). Though having the ensuite in my study sounds kinda cool.
  • get a tech in to look at patching the port in the study (I don’t think that would be cheap…)
  • some sort of complicated multiple router setup, I could do it easy enough, and I think I wouldn’t even have to buy anything, but I’d still have wifi to the internet.
  • What about a crossover cable to the server? Or is the iMac port smart enough to switch over itself. Of course that works until the new computer and PlayStation get set up here as well, grrrr…

Hmm, maybe I should just measure how long the phone cable needs to be to reach from that room to this one … heads off to start counting paces around the house.

Remember the principle – Keep it Simple, stupid.

 

 

Canberra – IT setup planning

The Cyclons had a plan --- well so do I.
The Cyclons had a plan — well so do I.

Well I have been occasionally working on my intentions for my IT plan when I move to Canberra. The sketch above is my current favourite. The red lines are Gigabit Ethernet (I have a spare modem/router at the moment)

Mac Mini

  • iCloud stuff (contacts, email, notes)
  • iTunes
  • Syncing with phone
  • iPhoto

Mini ATX PC

  • Games (MWO for sure but BL2, Walking Dead might stay on Mac. I haven’t decided about a WoW return or not)
  • Video Editing

PS3

  • Games (Still gotta finish Tomb Raider)
  • TV watching and recording

NAS

  • Time Machine backup
  • PC Backup
  • iTunes Library
  • Video storage

I think that covers everything. I already have the PS3, the NAS and the router.  I will have to buy the monitor and build the PC but that’s not hard. I’ve got the parts list pretty much sorted now. Get the MacMini later (as I can live with my phone and iCloud for that stuff initially) or I may consider a MacBook Air instead if I find the portability useful.

Later a second 27″ monitor would be pretty sweet 🙂

Home will keep the older i7 PC and the iMac. I’ll move the iTunes library back to an external HDD from the NAS. This will be more simple for them to manage (though the NAS has hardly caused any trouble so far for them) as all are pretty maintenance free.

Look like a good setup?