Crapalina - aka a poor macOS Catalina experience

Since July 2020, my MacBook Pro (Escape key model) had been gradually losing drive space in significant amounts. It worsened in September, to the extent that I'd lost 20 GB of space somewhere. Detailed searches revealed the main Library had picked up cache files in the Application Support folder, I was unable to delete them.

I tried a couple of Time Machine restorations, to no avail. Still the excess was being stored. Apps such as Tech Tool Pro & Clean My Mac X showed the theoretical free space to be 140 GB but I could only access 118 GB of that. Desperation set in.

I cloned the Home folder to a folder on an external SSD then started the Mac in Recovery mode. From there I used Disk Utility to erase the Mac's APFS volumes and restored ti OS from the internet. Much downloading of apps & updates plus copying from other clones let me finish the process in about 18 hours, including sleep time. Then I had to re-enter the credentials for dozens of apps. This is made easier by the use of a password manager, I use 1Password.

I think it's all done, I have my free space back & the thing is running better & starting a lot quicker, too.

Padding along.

I bought my first iPad in September of 2010, it was a 16 GB one with WiFi & a SIM card. It was very useful a month later, my nephew on the other side of the country was getting married & I used it a lot while visiting & touring for three weeks.

This was replaced by an iPad 3, of almost the same spec as the first one but in 32 GB capacity. (A friend bought the old iPad.) This was the first with a Retina display & frankly, it was a disappointment in performance. I added a 16 GB iPad Mini with WiFi only to try that out. It had 512 MB RAM compared to the 1 GB of the larger unit. Both had (admittedly different) 1 GHz processors. I gave them both a shootout on Geekbench, to my surprise the Mini was actually faster, due no doubt to the fact it didn’t have to drive a fancy screen.

Later, the iPad Mini 2 came out, this time with a Retina screen. I took both my existing iPads (in their original packaging) to an Apple reseller who at the time offered generous trade-ins on new Apple kit. They paid me $400 for the iPad 3 & $170 for the Mini. In return I paid $179 and came out with a new Retina WiFi & Cellular iPad Mini of 32 GB capacity.

This lasted me until March of 2017 when the iPad 5 arrived & for a change I went with 128 GB capacity, so I could have all my photos & all my music on one device. It was a WiFi & Cellular one, too. I managed to sell the Mini 2 to another friend.

Then in December of 2019 I won a 64 GB iPad Mini 5, 2nd prize in a Mac User Group annual raffle. Initially I was disappointed not to have won first prize, a top-spec iPad Air 3. Then a bit later I compared the two units & realised the Air 3 & Mini 5 shared the same internals, the only difference being WiFi vs Wifi/Cellular & a bigger battery.

Roll on 2020, the iPad 5 was showing its age, the battery life wasn’t good and it would have been nice to use the Apple Pencil & Sidecar with my Mac as a second screen but the hardware wasn’t good enough, had to be the iPad 6 for that. Or the Mini 5, except it was too small to use as a monitor.

I did a bit of thinking, learned the iPad 5 was worth $230 as a trade-in on a new iPad 8 with a 10.2 in screen, 128 GB & the A12 processor as used in the existing Mini & the old iPad Air 3. I’m well pleased with the decision, as a second screen beside a 13-in MacBook Pro it’s quite useful and the extra screen area (½ an inch more on the diagonal) compared to the iPad 5 make a surprisingly large difference.

I took the iPad 5 to the Post Office with a printed QR code. Scanning this spat out an adhesive postage-paid mailing label & instructions to provide padded packaging to send it to Apple’s trade-in partners. Now waiting for it to arrive at their place where it will be examined for any defects: there are none other than a tired battery. All my iPads, iPods & iPhones over the years have been in durable cases, as I can be somewhat clumsy. The protection has paid off.

Once it’s been checked over, I’ll receive a $230 refund on my credit card. This figure represents 27% of the purchase price of the iPad 8.

Mounting an iPhone as a webcam.

Yes, you can use EpocCam to enable an iPhone/iPad as a webcam on Mac or PC. But how do you mount the thing so you’re not looking up the user’s nostrils?

I took a bit of Meccano and attached it to the top of the back of my iMac with 2M Command adhesive strips & added a powerful magnet from my Sugru with magnets kit.

Then I placed the iPhone into a case that has a steel plate attached to its back (normally used in to car on another magnetic mount). Then I positioned the iPhone in landscape view (the only orientation that works with Epoccam) with its edge sitting on top of the iMac. Then I adjusted the angle of the Meccano plate until a suitable position was achieved.

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EpocCam HD turns iPhone/iPad into a high resolution webcam in Zoom.

The first time I tried this app (invisible drivers on Mac/PC & app on iOS) it just flat out refused to work. An associate also failed to get it working. I requested & received a refund from Apple.

Make sure you use the Pro or HD version of EpocCam on the iOS store, it costs $13. If you get the ordinary app you can select the update path from that version.

However, last week, another friend mentioned it worked for him, so today I tried it again. First, open the app on the phone & select your connection method. You can choose between wifi, USB or NDI (Network Device Interface). You can choose different video bitrate per pixel between 1.0 & 10, the default being 3.0. As the bitrate per pixel increases or decreases, the bandwidth increases, from 2 Mbps at 1.0 per pixel to 19.8 Mbps at 10 per pixel.

Then open Zoom & select EpocCam in the Video Settings section of Zoom.

Make sure you have quit using EpocCam Viewer app on the Mac. This is why I failed to get it working that time a few months ago, I thought I had to be using the a dedicated Mac app. Instead, the Mac uses the drivers downloaded from here: https://www.kinoni.com.

Once connection has been made over wifi or USB, make sure to swap from the iPhone's rear iSight camera to the front FaceTime camera. The control for that is in the top right corner of the phone's display.
Note: EpocCam only works in landscape orientation. EpocCam also works in Skype & QuickTime X.

There are hardware issues involved. All plain iPads (including current 7th gen), Minis prior to the current 5th gen, 1st & 2nd gen Airs, iPod Touches "feature" 1.2 MP FaceTime cameras. Therefore, with the FaceTime camera selected the experience is horrible unless the rear camera is used.

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iSight insight.

Fascinating. The original Firewire 400-connected Apple iSight (VGA) webcam works after a fashion in macOS 10.15.6, with the right adaptors, that is. The microphone part is no longer operative but the camera does work, but in Zoom it's best without virtual backgrounds active.

The connectors I used are the Thunderbolt 3-to-Thunderbolt 2 adaptor, the Thunderbolt 1-Firewire 800 adaptor & a Firewire cable with the 9-pole 800 connector at one end & the 6-pole 400 connector at the other.

Being only a VGA camera, the quality isn't great but it is usable.

iMac Specifications boost

Apple have released new 27-inch iMacs & tweaked the 21.5-inch models a little. With the latter, no HDDs are available, only various sizes of SSD or a 1 TB Fusion drive.

The action is with the 27-inch iMac. There are 3 tiers, 3.1 GHz 6-core i5; 3.3 GHz 6-core i5 (or 3.6 GHz 10-core i9) & 3.8 GHz 10-core i7 (or 3.6 GHz 10-core i9). All processors are 10th gen Intel.

Some blurb from the website: Faster processors and graphics, expanded memory and storage, enhanced audio and video capabilities, and an even more stunning Retina 5K display with Nano-Texture Glass (AU$750 option) first seen on the Pro Display XDR. Finally Apple has added the 1080p FaceTime webcam that was previously exclusive to the iMac Pro.

The 1st-tier 27-in is restricted to 256 GB SSD with no upgrade available; 2nd-tier 27s have 512 GB, 1 TB or 2 TB SSDs & the 3rd-tier 27s start with 512 GB & have SSDs of 1 TB, 2 TB, 4 TB or 8 TB. I find in incomprehensible that Apple should ship these things with less than 16 GB of RAM, however by not doing so, it's cheaper for the owner to upgrade the memory using non-Apple branded RAM modules.

The 1st-tier is apparently pretty basic, no upgrades to processor type, drive capacity or graphics card. WYSIWYG, aka What You See Is What You Get. However, testing shows that the 3.1 GHz 6-core i5 processor now sports 12 threads, compared to the 6 threads for the 3.0 GHz 6-core i5 from the 2019 base model. The newer graphics card & new processor combine to give greater performance under Cinebench testing that the previous year's high-end 27-in iMac. It also comfortably out-performs any 16-in MacBook Pro.

More info on the Apple website in your country.

In reality it’s just a significant spec-bump.

The bloggers' rumour mill still suggests a new design for the current 21.5-in 4k range with a reduced-bezel 23 or 24-inch size but using the same chassis. Also a 12-in MacBook, a 2-port MacBook Pro, a Mac Mini are rumoured to be most likely to get the first Apple Silicon processors as super high performance is not the aim of such devices.

Stay away from Gippsland

I found the original on a friend’s Facebook page, clearly taken from an American spoof article and (poorly) modified to suit Australian times & conditions.

My friend is not the same grammar & spelling nazi that I am. I’ve been told my level borders on OCD.

Anyway, here it is:

FYI: If you’re planning on visiting Gippsland, we’re doing OK here right now with COVID cases. We watch in horror as the rest of the country spikes and wonder how long before it makes its way here.

So if you plan on vacationing at our rivers, lakes or on our waterfalls this winter, I think you should know that red ants and bedbugs have infested hotels, motels and cabins across the area due to an unusual Autumn.

Crocs have eaten all domesticated animals and some smaller people.

We have had rabid dingo sightings at every park and town.

We have Yowies* INVADING OUR PARKS.

Echidnas "stabbing" small children should they dare to enter the bush!

Drop-bears have made their way over and multiplied at unprecedented rates and wander the local campgrounds in packs.

Murder hornets!?! We’ve got SHITLOADS of murder hornets. Not to mention the nasty redbacks.

Head lice now fly… right beside the bats.

So stay where you are, in your own state or country where it's safe!

Seriously, PLEASE DO NOT COME HERE… ✋🏼 🤗
and we also have NO TOILET PAPER!!

*A Yowie is the Australian equivalent of the Yeti or Sasquatch.

Old display doesn't cut it

While it works, it’s not a solution. Using a 20-inch 2005 Apple LED Cinema Display as a second screen with a 4k iMac is insufficient. The resolution at 1650 x 1050 is too low & the refresh rate so slow as to leave ghosts of previous images behind the new ones, quite inadequate for use with Zoom. And on Saturday we have our monthly Apple User Group Meeting, a second screen is desirable. I can use the iPad Mini via Sidecar but that display is far too small to be of any use.

So I've bought a replacement, an Acer 21.5-in LED display with a triple interface: HDMI, VGA & DVI. It ships with a VGA & a DVI cable, so that's one more VGA cable I'm unlikely to ever use. I bought a Thunderbolt 3 to DVI adaptor so I could connect the MacBook Pro to the Cinema Display but now I'm using that device to hook up to the iMac.

A couple of weeks ago I tried using a spare 20-inch Acer LED display but when I hooked it up, I could see it had suffered some impact & the screen was cracked & quite unusable. Had I checked a week earlier I'd have been able to put it out with a bi-annual hard waste collection. As it was, I was able to dispose of three dead printers & a 55cm CRT TV in the e-waste section of the pickup.

The ghosting or retention of faint images of windows previously closed windows is NOT evident when connected via a DisplayLink USB video adapter.

Lucas Torpedo

From Randy Cassingham's now-defunct JumboJoke forum:

Jumbo Joke: Humor the Way You Like It

Never Buy Version 1.0 Torpedoes

From my files dated May 1994. Anyone who has owned a car with a Lucas-made electrical system will certainly relate to this one.

Some years ago, I worked with a fellow with the very British name of Ken Appleby. He had a Spitfire, I had my '74 B, and we used to motor out to Pickwick's Pub and throw darts after work on occasion.
Ken used to work for Lucas in the UK, specifically for a division of Lucas that did military electronics. My favorite of his stories was about the time he had been working on a computer-controlled torpedo. It used magnetic core memory to store the programs, which had the advantage of being very non-volatile as well as not susceptible to EMP discharge.
So Ken got to ride on the boat for the first test of the torpedo that used the computer with his program in it. Somewhere out in the North Sea, on a Royal Navy cutter, Ken and his crew launched the first ever run of this new weapon, and Ken learned a new respect for debugging.
The program was supposed to make the torpedo shoot off the boat, dive to a depth at which it couldn't be easily detected, then circle toward the target, climb to striking depth, and hit the target. There were on-board sensors to detect sea level, and the torpedo was supposed to travel at a preset distance below sea level, with constant feedback keeping it on track.
Somehow, somewhere, Ken had multiplied one of the 3D coordinates by a negative number, and this error soon propagated through the transformation matrix (the mathematical construct that models 3D space), with predictable results.
Within instants of hitting the water, the torpedo -- instead of sinking out of visible range -- blasted up and out from the water in a great silver fountain, then continued skipping across the surface of the blue like some sort of deranged wingless flying fish. Worse yet, instead of circling toward the target, it circled all right, but began to return to the ship that launched it. Fortunately it was not armed, but they still detonated the self-destruct on it rather than let it slice through their ship at 50 knots or whatever rate it traveled. Because of the non-volatile core memory, Ken was able to debug the program from what the Royal Navy frogmen could recover from it, and he fixed the problem for Rev 2.0.
But I must admit that the image of the torpedo, splashing happily above the surface of the water like an aroused porpoise, is one that returns to me in idle moments such this. What else would a Lucas torpedo do but try to fly?

Posted October 29, 2012 8:00 AM

Numb

Fifteen years ago I was perched awkwardly on a telephone exchange ladder for too long in one position, identifying faulty circuits in a cable replacement job. This resulted in permanent nerve damage to all toes bar the big one on each foot.
I've done something (unidentified) today to trigger major numbness in the toes of my right foot. It's not sciatica, I know that sensation of old, this is quite different and feels plain weird.