Friday, October 20, 2017

This is how the story got started, with an email to Janet.

It is a story I hear pretty often:  “I am in desperate need of advice/help. My blue and white G3 tower (yes, still using it) was being flaky - the USB was intermittently working and not working. So I unplugged the power, opened it up, took out the battery, pushed the SMU button, waited 20 minutes, and put it all back together. But I forgot that the front power button stopped working a while back. So I tried booting it up from both the ADB keyboard and the USB keyboard and … nothing. I have a project I'm in the middle of that I need to polish up for tomorrow and finish next week. Do you have advice and/or know someone who might be able to help me make it come back from the dead?”

After going over all the steps this person had done I recommended that he 
1. look for a different computer that could run the same older system he is using.
2. renew his PMUG membership 
3. recheck and reseat everything in the computer. 
However after talking to him and hearing that his USB ports stop working after awhile I’m pretty sure that getting it started up again is only a temporary solution and that finding a replacement computer should be his best solution. By the way, the problem of the USB ports dying really sounds like he has a bad solder joint on the motherboard.

Shortly after I talked to him, we got another email. “If you can thank Charles for his help please do! I went through the computer one more time and just wiggled all the connections and re-seated the battery, and lo - it started up from a USB keyboard! So I'm back in business for now, will try to find a backup plan computer since this one's obviously seen better days.”

Many of you out there are facing or will face the fact that 10 to 15 year old computers are at end of life. In fact most computers do not live such long healthy lives. My best advice is to look for a replacement before you are in stress mode and can’t find some type of replacement. There are folks out there that really do not need a full computer; an iPad or even an iPhone will do them just as well. However for those of you who do need one, start asking what people are doing with their old computers. You may get a really good deal on their old one or they may point you to a electronics recycler who fixes up old units and resells them. Free Geeks may even have something that will fill the bill. I have seen people bring computers to PMUG meetings and ask for a $10.00 donation to the club for them. This is another great reason to come to the meetings. 

This will get you started on hardware, now you need to think about software. Saving most of the data as Text or Rich Text file format means that just about anything will open it up and allow you to make corrections. If you are worried about fonts, spacing and formatting then you may want to save it as a PDF although corrections are harder on PDFs. Keep in mind that those old ClarisWorks documents may need to be opened and saved by old computers, then transferred to other computers to be updated and saved again before they can be used on current programs. It’s harder than you think to save it so that it can be read. I have a Macintosh 8600 that I use to read old documents off of floppies, then they are saved to an external SCSI hard drive and moved to a G4 tower because that Mac has a SCSI card inserted in it. In the G4 I upgrade the document to an old version of Microsoft Word, then move it to a USB drive and transfer to a 2007 iMac where the Word document is saved off as RTF and docx formats and then copied to whatever format the people need. Yes all this takes time and the right equipment along with the knowledge of what to do next. So that great American novel you were writing 10 years ago need not be recreated from scratch if you pay attention now.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

No more MacWorld/iWorld

IDG announced that it has cancelled Macworld/iWorld conference in San Francisco for now and that
they need time to think about what they can or will do in the future. They have also killed the printed version of Macworld magazine. This leaves only the web versions up and running. Many good writers and editors are now adjusting their lives to other ways to make a living. I wish them all luck but I’m sure most are back to work by now. 

Old docs need to be kept updated

Try as I might, convincing people to update their documents as they move machines and versions of software forward is a never-ending nightmare. There are always those who are stuck in time. What do I mean when I say stuck in time? Let’s say you write your life story and make several versions of it.
You are meaning to get back to it, but it always gets pushed onto the back shelf. Then you change from a Macintosh to a PC and many years go by. One day you’re sitting there thinking about how you should really finish your work. This is where it gets hard. You thought it was saved in Word 4.0 format. But the file does not show up on your PC. So you ask for my help. 
My first thought was that you had transferred the information over to the PC. Old style Macintosh documents will self destruct when moved to a PC formatted drive due to the fact that Mac documents
are two “forks” of information, one being data and one being resource information. Putting these files on a PC rips the resource and data apart, basically destroying the file. So I would need the original Macintosh floppies with the data on them and a machine that could read older data. People laugh when I tell them I have an 8600 Power PC tower sitting next to my computer desk. It runs several different versions of OS 7, OS 8 and OS 9 with software for data recovery. I also have a G4 tower running Tiger, plus an iMac with Leopard and Mavericks. My first attempt was on the G4 tower and a USB floppy reader which did not read the files. They came up with damaged resource files; so it was time to fire up the 8600 and see if it could read the files. (For those of you who haven’t cranked over your old computers in a long time, you’re in for a shock, as few things are what you remember.) I double click on what looks like a ClarisWorks 4 document and MacLink Plus fires up and converts the data to AppleWorks, with the option to save it as aWord file. I save it as both and now I have to get the information to a computer that is connected to a USB drive. Now as it happens, I have a SCSI drive connected to the machine that I can copy the files to. My G4 has a SCSI card in it so I copy the file to the drive then shut down the 8600 and move the drive to the G4 tower. There I can open the files in AppleWorks but cannot move them to a current machine without damaging the resource fork so I then convert the files to Word .doc and .docx files. If I can open them in Microsoft Word for OSX then I can move to the iMac using a flash drive to convert to Office 2004 .docx files. Just to be on the safe side I converted them to Word 07 (PC) files and .docx, plus .RTF just in case. The point I’m making here is that it took several hours plus having to check the files each time I saved to be sure they were readable. Having made sure they could be opened I burned the files to a hybrid CD that both PC and Macintosh computers can read and to a PC only CD in case the story editor had a problem with the hybrid. I created two copies of each disk and gave instructions for the extras to be archived in a safety deposit box. So far I have only heard from the editor once and that was to find out why I used the naming system. Hopefully my old machines will keep chugging along but every thing is slowly aging. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Refurbished is a option

If you're looking to buy a computer and you don't care it's new or refurbished you should check out Apple certified refurbished stock. Now it's not easy to find because they want to buy the new stuff. If you are indeed interested here's how to get there. When you go to the Apple Store online select something like shop Mac. When you get to that page click on something whether it be Macintosh, iPhone or whatever. Then scroll all the way to the bottom of the page you will see a bunch of small lettering on the second column from the left the first item will be refurbished. Click on that you will be given a selection of refurbished Mac refurbished iPad refurbished iPod and clearance items. Click on the shop now button on the item that you're interested in and you will be presented with the refurbished units that Apple has listed. Over in the left-hand column you should be able to choose whichever device you're actually looking for say if you're looking for a 15 inch MacBook Pro click on that and it will present you with a list of the refurbished 15 inch MacBook Pro's Apple has in stock.

Surge protectors

One thing that almost everybody has is a surge protector hooked up to your household power and your computer plugged into it. What most people don't understand is that surge protectors wear out over time. Every little spike in the line, every little surge, every brownout takes a little bit out of that surge protector. So if your surge protector is 3 to 5 years old you might want to consider replacing with a new one. These items do not cost a whole lot of money, so spend the $20 to replace the old surge protector with the new one and hopefully it will protect you when that lightning strike finally does hit. Stepping it up a bit from the plain old surge protector is the uninterruptible power supply. Now you're putting in a surge protector with a battery that automatically switches on if the power drops below a certain point to help protect your equipment. It like everything else will indeed wear out and so you would have to replace that device probably every 3 to 5 years. If the battery in that device wears out, the charge to replace it at someplace like Batteries Plus would probably be somewhere in the vicinity of $40. And in fact if you were to take that uninterruptible power supply to Batteries Plus most likely they would change the battery for you and recycle your old battery. You do have to keep in mind even when using a uninterruptible surge protector that it will only keep your devices running for a certain amount of time. The more devices you have plugged into that UPS the less time that you will have to shut your computer down before the battery dies when the power is out. My suggestion to most people is to buy enough battery backup to power your computer for at least 10 minutes. This will give you enough time to save all your work and shut down your computer. I need to point out that most UPS units have some power outlets that are surge protected but not powered by the battery. This way you can have a device plugged in that is not critical to your computer needs but will have the protection provided by the surge protector. So things like your computer, your monitor and your hard drives should all be plugged into the ports that have the battery backup. Things like an iPod charger, radio or a set of speakers can be plugged in to the surge protected ports that are not connected to the battery. This way devices that your computer doesn't depend on to get information from are protected but are not running the battery down if the power goes out.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Passwords when you have passed

Another aspect of computer security that you may not have thought about lately is how to get those passwords out if you do need to share them. There may come a time when you are ill and not capable of accessing your computer. You need to have some written information that will allow a friend or relative to access the information that you have on your computer. We don't think about it but a lot of what we do on the computer has to be accessed with passwords. All of this is fine and good as long as we are well. But when we get sick, have an accident, or even pass away, not having passwords really does leave a mess. Having a sealed envelope to be opened in case you're incapacitated or have passed away is a great way to help those that you have left behind. Then they can access the information to close accounts, inform e-mail accounts, stop automatic payments from your bank account, and inform your friends that something has happened. Now you may never use that information but if needed it is there. You can place this information with a good friend/relative, however I do not recommend putting it in a safety deposit box. The reasoning behind this is the same reasoning you should not put your will into the safety deposit box. By law your safety deposit box is sealed after your death until it can be opened in front of witnesses which makes any of the contents in that safety deposit box sort of worthless till it can be opened.

Passwords get your passwords here

An interesting new tactic from Internet thieves. Because so many sites have been broken into and allowed passwords to be taken, there is a good chance that your password and username are being passed around on the Internet. The thieves have found new ways to use this information. If you're one of the unfortunate people who use the same password on every website that you go to, you could indeed be contacted by one of these individuals threatening to destroy your reputation. One person who was contacted by the Internet extortionist was asked to pay over $20,000 to keep the extortionist from destroying his credibility on the Internet because they had managed to hack into his account. Little did they know that the account that they hacked belonged to a professional computer consultant who actually knew more about the systems that the hackers did. After being contacted the hackers and finding out the exact information of what they wanted and how they wanted their $20,000 delivered, he then went on the Internet and put up a webpage offering $20,000 bounty for the culprits arrest and prosecution. It seems that was enough to frighten off the extortionists who contacted him and said they were only an intermediary and that they would make sure that he was never bothered again. Now of course this type of tactic won't work for everybody out there. You need to get out there and make sure that you have fresh passwords on your accounts. If you have not changed your password in several years it may be time to go through and change the password to a new one on any site that requires one, whether you visit regularly or infrequently. There have been people who have broken into Apple accounts and used iTunes accounts that they do not own to buy software. There have been people who have broken into Amazon accounts and charged things to accounts that they do not possess. You really don't want to be the one arguing that you did not make those charges and changing your password is a simple way to prevent such action. I highly recommend that your password be at least eight characters long with at least one capital letter and one number within that eight characters. Don't just think about it, go out and protect yourself. If something funny occurs on your account, be it a charge appears that you did not make or you get word from friends that they got a strange e-mail with your address on it, it may be time to go in and change that password even though you just changed it recently. Waiting around to see if something else happens may indeed make it a lot messier than just changing one password on one e-mail account. Just as a word of warning, please don't use things like your first name and your birth year as a password. It's not going to take people very long to put two and two together and come up with the right answers. However if you were to take your name, capitalize any letter but the first, break the name in two with the birth year and put something else on the beginning - then you have a password that at least stands a chance of not being easily broken. So "rent1954" is not likely to be a great password. Things like "69caLamari34" stand a lot better chance at surviving a password test.