Scribbles and ditherings

Working it out

It's Been A While

Since I could post in my blog

I’ve been thinking a lot about trying to create and generate instead of just consuming. Going to take another run here at more regularly posting - we’ll see.

I used to to have a volume of output that kept multiple sites going, I’ll see now if I can just keep one getting new content with some regularity.


Smells like teen spirit

Starlight coke tastes like windmill cookies.

Android 12 Notifications

white space for days

I have to wonder when someone thinks it’s a good idea to have something take up twice as much space while showing half as much information.

A Tech Support Tale Deux

Being the second part of the story

OK so part one gives the rundown on the situation. Part two is mildly more technical. But there’s nothing I did that is difficult. In fact maybe you have an issue with your mac and you are at a loss as what to do. This might provide you with an option.

This is a list of startup commands for a Intel based Macs. The one I’m interested in is the first, recovery mode. It allows you to start up your machine running a basic operating system on it. I’m not sure how basic - it can do a lot of stuff. Most importantly it can provide you with a bash shell.

So as I mentioned if I just started my daughter’s machine it would boot, it couldn’t find a drive it could use to start MacOS so it would just give us the folder with a question mark in it. My first step was to boot into recovery and then start up the Disk Utility. That showed me that there were two drive partitions available and mounted. This was good, good news. The drive wasn’t physically messed up or broken. This made sense since her issues came from a failed install, not some kind of apparent hardware failure.

So I exited the Disk Utility and under the “Utilities” menu at the top of the screen there is an option, “Terminal”. This is Apple’s terminal emulator that will give you access to a lot more tools, and the drives. I opened that and then moved over to the data drive. The path to that drive was shown in the disk utility. In the data drive was a directory called Users and in the Users directory was a directory with my daughters user name and in there were all her files.

All I needed to do was to plug in a USB drive, see what the path was to that drive and then copy the files over. It took very little time. If you never worked in bash you can get by with 3 commands. “ls”, “cd” and “cp”. It’s easy to find instructions on how to use these command, with examples, all over the web. They work pretty much just like their Linux counterparts so you don’t need to find MacOS specific instructions. (In fact ls and cp are enough but if you don’t want to keep typing long paths, you can cd down into the user directory and make things quicker to type in.)

My usb drive was called jrtosh. Apple for some baffling reason had the volumes for her drives with spaces in them. Super annoying - just know you escape them with a backslash \ and then basically I would do stuff like cp -r /Volumes/datadrive/Users/username/Desktop /Volumes/jrtosh/folder/ And it would just copy over that Desktop folder with all its contents.

The user folder has a library directory that may contain some files you need. But it will also have massive amounts of stuff you don’t need. If you want to copy the whole thing it may take a while.

That’s it. That’s what the Apple Store people said was impossible and she just had to lose her data or try going to a super expensive data recovery place. It took me maybe half and hour including the time to copy everything over.

If the drive is toast, this wont work. If the machine has deeper hardware issues it may not work. But if it’s just simple corruption of the boot drive due to unexpected loss of power or something, it could be fine.

A Tech Support Tale

In two parts

I was gonna make this one long post but there are two parts that just don’t necessarily fit all that well together. Plus I have a hard time getting anything written down so if I keep it short I figure the odds are better.

So here is the setup. My daughters both have MacBook Air computers they’ve been using since high school and well into university. They’ve been phenomenal machines and I’m really happy with them. My MacBook Pro that I’m using to write this is a 2013 and it runs great. But stuff can happen.

One of my girls was updating hers to Big Sur and the machine got unexpectedly shut down in the middle of the update. When she brought it back up she couldn’t boot. She got the folder with a question mark in it.

One of the hard things was at the time she was in the US going to school and we were still living in Hungary. So it was very hard for me to help her from there. I told her to take it to an apple store, see if they could fix it, or at least get her data off. She’d been thinking about getting a new machine. So I told her if they told her it couldn’t be fixed, then she could just get the new computer she wanted.

She went down and I was online on chat to help her out. Sure enough they said there was nothing that could be done to recover the drive aside from wiping it and reinstalling the OS. So she went ahead and bought a new computer. I told her to hold onto the old one until I got home in the summer, so I could look at.

I finally got a chance to look at it last weekend. It took me not time at all to boot into recovery mode, access the data drive and move all her personal files off of it and onto a USB drive that I have. It was ridiculous how simple it is. The tools that recovery mode provides are very robust. Part two will be a run down of the exact process.

I see two (maybe three?) major lessons here.

The first is that good backups cover a multitude of sins. And nowadays it is so ridiculously easy to backup what matters to you. It used to take a ton of work to do it properly. Now you just pay a service provider a few bucks a month and let your stuff sync. I feel like this was a relatively soft way for my daughter to learn that lesson. All hardware can fail in one way or another - back up your stuff.

The second is that the tech help at retail locations is poor. They really don’t have any motivation to help you properly. And they often don’t know what they are doing. I mean in this case, either the person who helped her was woefully ignorant, or intentionally misled her about the state of her machine. Either option reflects poorly on Apple service.

I guess the third lesson then (maybe it’s just an extension of the second) is either be prepared to learn how to fix things yourself, or find someone you can actually trust. I feel like odds are this will be one of two people. Either someone who’s expensive but really knows what their doing - or a friend who knows what their doing and is willing to help you out. If it’s that last one, you should really go out of your way to show your appreciation. They are coming through for you in a much bigger way than you understand. Even if it looks easy for them, they are giving you a lot of value for free. More than you realize, certainly more than what some retail help desk people will provide at whatever their rates are.

OK, part two will be all the steps I took to get on her machine, identify that the data was accessible and then copy it off.


The changes have been coming, fast and furious

I haven’t posted in a long time but life has been a whirlwind. We knew we’d be moving to the USA this summer. The plan was to live in Orlando for a year, working at the world headquarters of our organization, and then we’d use the year to sort out what would be next.

Instead an opportunity popped up, we looked into it, I was offered a position in Phoenix and now we live here. Since then it’s been a wild ride. So many of our plans had all been built around living in Orlando, having a place all ready for us there. In a couple of weeks we found a place to live, got new jobs, and got our son to his university so that he could start school. We still don’t have our stuff, international shipping is a mess after the pandemic.

So we haven’t really processed it all yet but we are ready for this new phase of life.

When I Get Home

boy you better not be there, you're long gone

I flew from Budapest to Orlando yesterday. Couple small observations. First off - the 6 hour time change is a lot easier to manage than when we do 9 going straight to AZ.

The second is more complicated. I constantly catch myself thinking about the trip back to Hungary. Then I remember there isn’t one.

The Roots the Roots

the roots of America

Last night I was cooking a big dinner for 14 people. It was pretty simple and I had some help. I cooked potatoes (with onion and bacon. I cook the bacon and onion then add cubed boiled potatoes to the frying pan and cook it all up), green beans (whole with bacon and onion - one batch without bacon), plates of fresh vegetables ( radishes, celery, carrots and little tomatoes), grilled peppers, grilled onion and a bunch of grilled meat.

The help came in the form of a salad and a carrot cake that were brought by friends, as well as fresh bread from the bakery.

Based on how much was consumed I feel like it was a success. As I did the shopping and the cooking it got me thinking about our impending move the US and things I will miss. (A lot of things do that as we get closer to leaving.)

Of course food is a huge part of it all. I’ve lived in Hungary for 10 years now and one thing I’ve never really fully grasped at a gut level is just how compact Europe is. There are a ton of very unique cultures that all live in a relatively small space. And so each place has their own culinary specialties and preferences but all of the others are so easily available as well. Historically the movement of peoples (peaceful and otherwise) has also encouraged this mixture.

One of our guests brought a salad at our request. We love her salads. She’s Albanian and Albanian food makes me think of Singapore. Not in the taste but the fact that Albania sits as a kind of nexus between the Turks, Greeks, Italians and their many Slavic neighbors. Of course they have their own spin that they add but there is such a wonderful mix of all these influence. I find it as no surprise that often a bakery or restaurant I love turns out to be owned and operated by Albanian families.

The US is diverse to a point. And there are a lot of flavors there - some that I have missed in our time here. But there will be so much from Europe that I will miss. And it’s much more affordable to eat well (read healthy) here. In the US much of the most affordable food is the worst for you. So I’ll need to work on finding good sources and just accept that it’s going to cost more.

Heaven's River

Civil war is coming to the Bobiverse.

I came to the Bobiverse late in the series. I found the series recommended online (probably reddit - but not sure) and once I started reading the books I was hooked. Heaven’s River is the first book in the series to be published since I got into the series. So I’d been able to power through the first three books pretty quickly.

When this book came out I had some time between reading the first three and getting to this one. I was eager to get to another book in Taylor’s Bob universe. It did not disappoint.

I think with Taylor’s writing (and I found this to be true with “Outland” as well ) is that he takes existing tropes and ideas and does two things that make for compelling stories. First he creates some really interesting characters. This is increasingly important to me the older I get. I just don’t run across too much any more that I find to be truly unique in terms of plot. Almost everything I read at this point reminds me of something else I’ve read in some way. Space ships that are alive - well Anne McAffrey nailed that a bit ago among others. So characters matter. I find Taylor’s characters to be people I’m interested in. Now part of this is probably somewhat narcissism on my part. The characters he writes are often people who have things in common with me. They are nerds, interested in learning, well versed in US geek pop-culture (the books are no RP1 - but they’ve got plenty of references) and so on. I’m rooting for myself in a sense. I guess you could call the books in many ways wish fulfillment for nerds. Regardless of the psychology as to why - I love the characters.

That said the second important thing is that while Taylor may not be breaking truly fresh ground, he’s putting a spin on things with some new ideas and plot points. Regularly as I’m reading his stories I find myself thinking “Oh - that’s interesting, I didn’t see that coming.” I really enjoy that aspect. Some books establish the rails for the story quickly and then it’s a straight forward ride. Taylor throws in some curves. In fact, I once ended up riding Space Mountain with the lights on. It was pretty awful. It’s just not a very good roller coaster when you can see the tracks and what’s coming. Some books are like Space Mountain with the lights on. Taylor’s writing is Space Mountain with the lights off. It’s not some crazy new thing that just melts your mind, but it is really fun and exciting at times.

I feel like Heaven’s River is a solid extension to the series. Actions make sense and the history of the series means something. It feels free to explore while at the same time staying grounded enough in what has come before to make sense.

If you are a Bobiverse fan and haven’t read it yet, I would jump on it. If you have never read any but enjoy fun scifi with great humor and clever plot lines - you should give it a go. The first book is “We are legion (We are Bob)”. The title alone got me interested and I’ve been happy that it did ever since.