On the Passing of Steve Jobs

Ottawa Apple Store
Ottawa Apple Store memorial

I am sad to hear about the passing of Steve Jobs. But it was not unexpected news. After seeing how thin and weak he appeared at the Apple 2011 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), I had told my co-workers and friends that he would likely not make it to the end of the year. He was just too thin. You could see it in how he walked, like his sneakers were too big for him, and in his energy levels; he didn’t have the same vibrant ebullience.

I have been an Apple owner since 1984. That’s when my parents bought an Apple IIc. Since then, I have been a continuous owner of various Apple computers and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.

I even programmed on a NeXTstation for the psychology department one summer at Acadia University, although I used standard C, not Objective-C.

Steve was more than just Apple, and Apple is more than just Steve. It’s also the people who make and create the great products makes Apple Apple (and Pixar Pixar). Someone who can turn a vision into a product. Steve produced the vision of course, and had input at every step. But he was surrounded by those fantastic engineers who could implement the designs that he tweaked to perfection.

I’ve greatly admired how Steve could do his presentations. Without a doubt, Steve Jobs did the best keynote speeches and product presentations ever. I have done many presentations in my career, and was never as smooth or practiced.

All people, great or anonymous, will follow this same path. Steve Jobs was a person just like everyone else, no matter how much his will would seem to warp reality.

I have a theory about loss and grief. I think that the feeling one gets, that profound sense of what was lost and cannot be regained, is actually the human brain attempting to cope with its own subconscious awareness of the one-way arrow of time. Normally, we are not aware of this, or are even able to comprehend why time is unidirectional. It’s just the way things are – time moves forward. When dealing with loss, the brain cannot understand this forever forward tic-toc of time. The feeling of loss is our brain not being able to comprehend why we cannot go back in time to when the person was still alive. It’s a very deep feeling, below our conscience, and it is expressed as this vague and painful emotion.

iPhone on vacation

I had not planned to take my iPhone on the trip to Europe as my phone is locked to Rogers. The roaming rates are too expensive to use the phone in Europe. But we needed the phone in Montreal to call our travel agent to help book the connection in Madrid to catch up with our tour. So I had to bring the phone.

While I could not make any phone calls, it has served as a way to send and receive emails and surf the web using Wi-Fi in airports or hotels.

It also came in handy to type in our travel journal each day. This way I can import the journal as soon as I get home. It is better to write notes each day than trying to remember it later. Typing it on the iPhone each day is much better than trying to transcribe my hand-written notes a few weeks after we return.

I have an iPhone!

I have an iPhone 4!

iPhone 4
iPhone 4

After a team lunch today, I drove to Kanata Centrum on a physical hunt for an iPhone. Even though I wasn’t expecting to find anything, I thought that if I found a store that had some, I could get in line.

I tried the Rogers Wireless store, then Best Buy. Of course, neither had any. I was about to leave and thought, well maybe Future Shop might have something. I should stop there just in case.

Success! Future Shop had two iPhones. I almost started jumping with joy! I got the 32Gb and bought an LG KM555R for Rosa, as we are moving from Telus. The wireless salesgirl also moved the phone numbers over too, so we didn’t have to get new numbers.

Still Looking for an iPhone 4

Out of Stock
Out of Stock

I’m still looking for a Rogers iPhone. I’ve been calling all around the city. Two stores said they just got some in but both already a lineup of people waiting.

I call everyday. Today, I figured I needed to get better organized. I created a spreadsheet of every location that carries the Rogers iPhones. Then I called all of them (of course none had any in-stock) and asked what days they normally receive shipments and what time of the day the shipment usually arrives.

Now I have a spreadsheet with all the delivery times and phone numbers. I’ll keep cycling through the list each day, focused on the stores that are likely to receive a shipment that day.

I want an iPhone 4 so badly!

Looking for iPhone 4

Out of Stock
Out of Stock

I’ve been wanting to buy an iPhone for months now. I waited until the iPhone 4 was announced, rather than pick up the previous model. Once it was announced in Canada at the end of July, I started to look but then I had some unexpected repairs to my BMW, so I held off until I knew how much it would cost to repair (oil level sensor on the oil pan).

Today, with the BMW repairs done, I started calling around seriously looking to get the iPhone 4. I called over 20 dealers in the city, including Rogers, Best Buy, Future Shop, Wireless Wave, Telephone Booth and Shoppers Drug Mart outlets. No one has one.

The push is to buy one before Rogers ends the $30 for 6GB/month deal on September 30th.

My current cell phone is a Telus Sanyo SCP-5000. It is 13 years old and I can’t get service outside of the city of Ottawa – it’s just so old. I bought it when I was 27 years old; I’m 40 now.

I’m switching from Telus to Rogers because we will get a discount on our Rogers bill because we have cable, internet and soon (I hope) our mobile with Rogers.

My backup strategy

Because of the problems with loosing my MBP, I am glad I have a solid backup strategy, which is detailed below.
I perform the backups on the first Friday of every month. While my MacBook Pro is running, I will clean out all of the browser caches, as it is not neccessary to backup cached data. As I switch between Google Chrome and Apple Safari, I sometimes need to clean up the caches for both browsers. If there are any temporary downloads that I don’t need to backup, I will delete them, or move them to an external drive. I also do this for any in-progress iMovies, as they can be many many gigabytes in size. I will also delete the Aperture rejected photos; if any photos are deleted, I will also sync the Aperture vault (see more below). All of this will reduce the disk usage, meaning that there is less data that needs to be in the backup.

software icons

Next, I boot to an external WD My Book, using the firewire interface. I have installed a bootable copy of Snow Leopard on the disk. I have also installed TechTool Pro 5, so once I have rebooted to the external hard drive, I will use TechTool to do a hardware and software check of the system, and then perform a file system check or repair of the internal MBP drive.

software icons

Finally, just before going to bed, I will launch Disk Utility and make a disk image of the internal drive. I keep the last 2 images, plus I might keep an image from before any particularly important change (such as upgrading from 10.5 to 10.6 or upgrading the internal hard drive). I create the image as a read-only image. This backup image creation will take a few hours, which is why I start just before I go to bed. Should I require information from that image (such as when I needed to grab files when my machine died), I just double-click the image file to mount the image. I can then just grab any file I need.
Between these monthly images, I will also copy any updated files to two external drives. I keep one drive at work and one drive at home. I also keep a large number of files on these two external drives that I do not need to keep on the laptop. This would include all my race videos, as they take up a lot of space. For these videos, I also burn a DVD copy – meaning I have three copies of all my race videos
The most important files are my photos. I use Apple’s Aperture software to manage my photo library. I use the built-in vault function to keep backups. I have created a vault on both external drives (plus the original on the internal drive). Meaning I keep three copies of my photos, which are stored in two different locations so that a fire will not destroy all the copies.
I also own a PC with Windows XP. There is very little valuable data on that machine. In the past, I have just burned it all to a single DVD. However, with the various external drives I have been collecting, I think I will start doing backups to a small external drive over USB. I will do this once a month too, as I am not regularly doing a backup on the PC now. However, the backup tools I have for Windows XP are far from ideal. I will be moving to Windows 7 x64 Professional in the next month, so perhaps there are better backup tools I can use.
One last backup I do for both machines is to keep the most recent copy of the installers for all the software I use. Should a machine fail, I should have all of the latest installers ready to start restoring the software. This only really impacts me if I need to perform a clean installation of the OS. This has happened three times on my Mac in the last 20 years but I’ve needed it many times on the PC. I keep local copies in case I am not able to connect to the internet when performing the restore.
In summary, for most of the important files, I keep two or three backups in two physically different locations. Once a month, I will also perform a cleanup of the system and then a full-system backup. I will keep multiple backup copies.

Dead Macbook Pro

Today, I had to turn in my MBP 2.4Ghz for servicing at The Mac Group. It looks like a hardware failure, possibly in the video card. It would freeze and there would be video artifacts. When I attempt to reboot, it will often fail with what looks like a kernel panic.

Today, I managed to boot it successfully once, which allowed me to grab a few files I needed and wipe out the caches, history and passwords. I took a full system backup last weekend.

To the right is a photo of the screen showing some of the video problems. There are two blocks above and to the left of the Finder icon (the happy face icon). Most of the time, these random blocks of artifacts are much larger (up to about a third of the screen size), but I didn’t have my camera when the bigger artifacts were visible.

Once I reboot and start getting the kernel panic messages, it will continuously stop at the same place during the boot process with the kernel panic message. It’s very frustrating. Sometimes, if I just power off for a few hours, it will eventually boot (which is how I copied off the files I needed and cleaned the caches).

There is a known issue with the NVidia cards in this model of MacBook Pro, and Apple has extended the replacement policy to three years. I am hopeful that this will be shown to be the NVidia issue, which would mean that the motherboard will be replaced at Apple’s expense.

Hacking the Macbook Pro

I have a 2.4Ghz Macbook Pro (2007) with a 160GB internal drive. However, I only had 2GB free disk space left. My Aperture library with my 7495 photos was taking 80GB of the 160GB. And I knew I would be bringing back another 20GB of photos from London this July. ITunes took another 20GB.

So, to treat myself after a depressing week of rumors at work, I bought a new 320GB internal drive. I planned out the replacement carefully, gathering all my passwords and serial numbers so that I could quickly build up the system from scratch.

There were only two hitches. The first was that I never got around to buying any Torx screwdrivers. In the past, I was able to get around this limitation with a flathead screwdriver that would fix in the star pattern. However, once I had the laptop open, the final two screws would not come out using this method. I was in my office at work, and it was after 7:30pm on a Friday. I ran down to all of the labs in the building to see if anyone was still around, or if there were any obvious open toolboxes where I could borrow a Torx T-6. It took my 30 minutes before I found one soul still in the lab working late, and he loaned me his Torx T-6. I completed the replacement (and put the old drive in an external USB enclosure) and closed up the computer.

Next was to reinstall MacOS X 10.5 (Leopard), and then all of the software. Everything went smoothly until I hit the second problem when installing Adobe Photoshop CS3 (which was one of the last applications to install). I found out that Photoshop CS3 does not support the MacOSX Extended case-sensitive filesystem, which was the format I choose at the very start of the MacOSX installation. I still can’t believe that the CS3 installer chokes on a case-sensitive filesystem – in 2009? Good Grief!

So Saturday morning, I had to start from scratch again by re-formating the drive, installing MacOSX, all of the applications, patch everything, put in the serial numbers and finally copy over some of my old preferences and email databases.

I was finished Saturday night. I also bought a set of Torx screwdrivers at Canadian Tire. Aside from the two snags, the replacement went very smoothly.

Safari 4

So the new Apple Safari 4 is awesome. The coverflow of the history items (except for auto-refresh pages – I’m looking at you Contivity VPN), the Top Sites, it’s all very neat.


The new tab paradigm is awful! Putting the tabs at the top of the window (in-line with the window close, maximize and minimize widgets) is a terrible design. The tabs should be a child of the overall window controls, including the forward and back buttons and the search box, and below bookmark information. The tabs should not be the parent of the window, but should be children widgets. And not including a preference to change the tabs back to the old location is a major gap.

Plus, the new Javascript engine does not handle the WordPress pop-ups when editing. I have to use the raw HTML to add links instead of using the nice Visual text tools.

I don’t understand why Apple so often breaks their own existing paradigms. No other tool in MacOSX puts children widgets like tabs in the Title bar. It’s just wrong.