I have a really good and close friend who is not a tech geek like I am. Recently, his 2012 13-inch MacBook Pro broke down. I told him it was time he should get a new device. I suggested he get either an iPad Pro or a MacBook Air. I gave him the pros and cons of both devices: on one hand the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and on the other hand either the 13-inch MacBook Air.
Now mind you my friend didn’t do much with his prior 13-inch MacBook Pro. He is a writer. So the most he did with his MacBook Pro is write. He also used the mail app to send and receive emails. He also used the Safari and Chrome browsers to go on the internet. But that was about all he did with it. He didn’t have photos on that MacBook Pro. He never edited videos. As for sending messages or texts? He sent and received messages and texts on his iPhone, not on his MacBook Pro. He did watch videos on the MacBook Pro on the internet. And also listed to some music from the internet. He doesn’t have a tv, so his only movies or audios were on the MacBook Pro.
In the end, he went with a 13-inch MacBook Air. He is very happy with his purchase. It is a great upgrade from his 2012 MacBook Pro. But I think he made a mistake. I believe he should have purchased instead the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Here is why:
Technology-wise, he gets much more technology from an iPad Pro than a MacBook Air.
Cameras. The iPad Pro has much better camera than the MacBook Pro and it has it on the front facing you and also on the back. The MacBook Air has a 720p FaceTime camera. The iPad Pro’s TrueDepth Camera, which is on the side with the screen, has an 1080p camera that shoots 7mp photos. In addition, it has two great camera lenses on the back that can shoot 4k video and photos at 12mp and 10mp. Now why should he care about these differences? Well, during the shutdown, like all of his, he is making many Zoom video calls with people. And if you have a better camera for the calls, then the Zoom or video calls you make are better. So right there for that reason the iPad Pro would be better for him than the MacBook Pro. But the cameras on the back are also better for him. He doesn’t take many pictures and he has an iPhone. But the cameras on the back would allow him to do more things with his iPad Pro than the MacBook Air. For one, he could scan documents with the iPad. You can’t scan papers with the MacBook Pro unless you have a good scanner connected to it. A good scanner can cost an additional $500. I do all my scanning now with my iPhone 11 Pro or my old iPad Pro.
Lidar, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth. These light pulses—combined with other data recorded by the airborne system— generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of the Earth and its surface characteristics.
A lidar instrument principally consists of a laser, a scanner, and a specialized GPS receiver. Airplanes and helicopters are the most commonly used platforms for acquiring lidar data over broad areas. Two types of lidar are topographic and bathymetric. Topographic lidar typically uses a near-infrared laser to map the land, while bathymetric lidar uses water-penetrating green light to also measure seafloor and riverbed elevations.
No my friend isn’t going to be interested in LIDAR technology because he doesn’t know how it it will help him. But the thing is he will probably keep his new device for at least 7 years. And clearly Apple plans to do something with LIDAR on the iPad and also third-party developers will create programs that use LIDAR. Right now, without LIDAR, my iPhone 11 Pro has a measurement app which allows me to measure stuff with the iPhone. With LIDAR, the measurement app will work even better. By purchasing the MacBook Air rather than the iPad Pro, my friend is missing out on all the possible apps that could use LIDAR.
In addition to LIDAR, the iPad Pro has other sensors that the MacBook Pro doesn’t have. It has a Three-axis gyro, an Accelerometer and a Barometer. Plus it has FaceID security rather than a fingerprint security. The MacBook Air does not have these sensors.
Screens. How about the screen? The iPad Pro’s screen is superior to the MacBook Air’s screen. The 12.9 inch iPad Pro has 2732-by-2048-pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch (PPI). The Macbook Air is 2560-by-1600 native resolution at 227 pixels per inch.
Weight. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Air as it weighs 643 grams while the MacBook Air weighs 1.29kg (or 1290 grams). But if you get the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro that combined weight will be about the same as the MacBook Air. But the point is you can have the iPad Pro naked with no cover and you can easily read it in your bed or sofa or when you are on a public transportation because its so light.
Other Differences. There are a couple of other things that are different between the iPad Pros and and all the Mac.
First, the iPad Pro you can get with a cellphone antenna if you pay extra. You can’t get that with any Macintosh. So with the iPad Pro if you have a cellphone antenna, you can always connect to the internet even if you you are not at home and don’t have a connection to a wifi that is connected to the internet.
Second, the iPad Pro has access to many more apps and programs in the iOS App Store than what the Macs have access to in the Mac App Store. In addition, the iPad apps are generally cheaper than the programs for the Macs.
Third, and the most obvious, the iPad screen has touch on it so you can navigate the screen using your finger. This is a big deal because some apps are better to use by using your finger than using a mouse, trackpad and keyboard. Say you are watching a video. Isn’t it better to hold the iPad Pro and use your finger to start the video or to swipe around for other videos? Same with looking a photos. Isn’t touch better for looking at them? I think so.
Fourth, the iPad Pro can work with the latest Apple Pencil. My friend writes. Sometimes you want to write with a pencil and take notes. With the Macintosh you don’t have a choice. The screen on the Macintosh doesn’t have touch screen or the ability to use a pencil. With the iPad Pro you have a choice, touch, keyboard, trackpad, mouse or pencil. Actually also voice control. The Mac has voice control but I don’t think it is as useful or as ingrained in the system as voice control on iOS devices.
Fifth, the Mac has some major advantages but mainly for pros. For example, on the Mac you can use Xcode to create apps for the iPhone, iPad, Macs, Apple TV and Apple Watch. On the iPad Pro you can’t do that. But my friend is not a developer so he should not care about that. The Mac lets you put apps that don’t come from the Apple App Store. That is a big deal for a power user like myself. For example, I have long used the Audio Hijack program from Rogue Amoeba, which allows you to record any audio that comes through your Macintosh. There is nothing like that on iOS as Apple doesn’t let third-party developers fool around with the system underneath.1 Similarly, because your have a Terminal App on the Mac, and because MacOS was built on UNIX, you can put UNIX commands and do crazy stuff on your Mac. On your Mac, you can download Homebrew on the Terminal App and then do additional crazy stuff. Like for example, there are programs that can make your Mac a server for HomeKit so you can have devices that are not HomeKit work with Apple’s HomeKit on your iPhone and iPad. And of course scripting. On the Mac, you can run AppleScript and other scripts to automate your Mac. On the other hand, on iOS, Apple has the Shortcuts app, where essentially you can create your own scripts and automation apps. And iOS now has a finder so you can navigate into the folders for each app pretty much to find the files you need. So iOS is closer to having a finder like on the Mac.
Sixth, the security on iOS is greater than on the Mac because you can’t install non-Apple approved programs on iOS. Also, because the iOS apps are siloed when they run, unlike on the Mac where the programs get closer to the underlying system, your iPhones and iPads are much less likely to get hacked or hijacked. On the Mac, you can still get locked out and have your computer hijacked if you click on the wrong thing form the internet.
What about cost? That shouldn’t be the difference in deciding to purchase the MacBook Air or iPad Pro. The MacBook Air ranges in price from $999 to $2249 if you max out the ram and storage to 16gb of Ram and 2tb of SSD storage as well as bump up slightly the processor speed. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $999 and ranges up to $1649 if you max out storage to 1tb and get the cellphone antenna built in. If you add in the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro, add another $349. If you get the Apple Pencil, add in another $129 for the second generation model. So the prices of the iPad Pro and Macbook Air are congruent on price range. Given that my friend is likely to own this new device for at least 7 years, he could splurge on either the iPad Pro or MacBook Air top price and it would be not very expensive for each month he uses it. For example, take $2000 and divide it by 7 years times 12 months; it totals $23.8 per month.
What about storage? That also shouldn’t be the difference for my friend. The MacBook Air gives you more storage than the iPad Pro if you pay for it. Up to 2 TB for the MacBook Air and only up to 1TB for the iPad Pro. My friend told me he only used 10% of all the storage on his 2012 MacBook Pro. That MacBook Pro had 4gb of ram and a 500mb hard drive. So my friend used approximately 50 mb of storage. The entry level iPad Pro comes with 128gb of storage. That is 256 times more storage than he use don his 2012 MacBook Pro. That entry model would probably have sufficient storage for my friend.
So why did my friend pick the MacBook Air instead of the iPad Pro when the above shows that that iPad Pro has more flexibility and much better technology?
I think he was prejudiced against getting the iPad Pro by a prior experience with an iPad that he purchase many years ago and quickly returned to Apple. Many years ago, when the iPad was in its nascent existence in 2012, the iPad and its operating system couldn’t do as much compared to a Mac. Back then, there were no keyboard covers. You connected a keyboard by bluetooth or lightning back then. Significantly, the operating system for the iPad wasn’t geared for physical keyboard back then. Also, there was no support for a mouse or trackpad. So if you used a physical keyboard a lot, you had to each out to change an app or edit. For someone used to writing a lot on a MacBook Air, the 2012 iPad and its operating system could not really well complete with a Mac. I remember my friend purchase the iPad on my recommendation back then and he promptly returned if to Apple after trying to use it. He doesn’t trust that the experience on the iPad has changed so much since 2012 that it would be easy for him to write and use the iPad Pro.
Second, I don’t think he can appreciate that new things that he never tried could enhance his life. I think most people in the World are like that. It is normal. We live in today. If things are working today, we are happy with that. Something new might not work and it takes additional effort to learn. This is why Apple is careful about how and when it releases new products. Apple knows it has to bring people to the new technology by seducing them with great design that is friendly to people and technology that is so good that people will quickly adopt it. Look at the original iPhone. Most people didn’t think it was a big deal or given its high price anyone would adopt it. Remember Steve Balmer then the CEO of Microsoft. He said no one would purchase the iPhone. RIM, the makers of the then very popular Blackberry said no one would purchase the iPhone because it didn’t have a physical keyboard. iPhones and iPhone-copiers (i.e. Android phones) now completely control the cell phone market. No one purchases cellphones with physical keys or keyboards. I think most people when they start using an iPad regularly will full embrace it as their main computing device. My mom, who is 90, started using an iPad about 6 years ago. She has access to regular computers. But when I see her she is always on the iPad.
Eventually my friend will have an iPad as his main device. Eventually.
Apple isn’t approving Audio Highjack to get into the Mac’s system to highjack audio. Audio Highjack is not sold in the Mac App Store. Instead you download and install it directly from Rogue Amoeba. ↩︎
The cover and keyboard along with the trackpad together with the new operating system for the iPad makes the iPad Pro closer to being like a regular laptop but also like a great tablet. I used it with the 2019 12.9-inch iPad Pro. It works with last year’s iPad Pro along with this year’s iPad Pro.
I purchased the first 12.9-inch iPad Pro along with Apple’s first cover keyboard. I liked that cover keyboard that Apple made for the first iPad Pro but that cover keyboard has serious problems. First of all, the way it it was weighted was awkward so when you opened it up you always felt that iPad will fall out because you didn’t set it up correct. It felt like it was an origami puzzle. In addition, after a while, the connection between the cover keyboard and iPad Pro stopped working. The connection port on that older iPad Pro is on the bottom edge of the iPad Pro and it would connect with a slot on the seem of the keyboard cover. I still have both but the keyboard doesn’t work as the connection on the keyboard covers wore away and no longer work. The same happened to a second Apple keyboard cover I purchased. So it must be endemic for that keyboard model.
Before this year’s Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro, Apple created a new keyboard cover for the iPad Pro that solved a lot of the problems that the original keyboard cover had. The newer keyboard was stiffer. That keyboard is still sold and it is called the Smart Keyboard Folio. Instead of three origami parts that folded like the original, the newer keyboard had essentially two parts with one side slightly bending. Also, the connector port for the iPad Pro was moved to the flat part of the back of the iPad Pro instead of edge of the bottom of the iPad Pro. This makes the connection to the iPad Pro more stable and also less likely (I Hope) that the connection between the iPad Pro and keyboard cover doesn’t wear away easily like the first generation keyboard cover. Apple still sells that older keyboard cover (what I call the origami keyboard cover) for the cheaper and older generation iPads (the non-pro iPads and the 1st and 2nd generation iPad Pros). See here.
This year’s new Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro builds upon that Smart Keyboard Folio and adds additional features that make it much better.
First, the keys are much better. They have more depth and travel so they feel like real keys like the Magic Keyboard that Apple makes for the iMacs.
Second, there is a trackpad. It is a real clicking type trackpad and it is level throughout the rectangle. It works really well and you can swipe fingers similarly like the Magic Trackpad for the iMac, the MacBook Pros and MacBook Air. Apple upgraded the operating system for the iPad so it works well with mouses and trackpads. So this Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro has it all, a keyboard and trackpad.
Third, the keys have back lighting. This means you can now type in the dark and seek the keys. Prior keyboard covers that Apple made did not have back lighting. This is a big deal. Makes it even more like a laptop.
Fourth, the Magic Keyboard has a USB-C charging port on the left side which also passes through the charge to the iPad Pro. It is nice because it frees up the USB-C port on the side of the iPad and its lower to the ground and flat with the desk that you put this iPad Pro on. So the cable will not be up in the air connecting to the iPad.
Finally, the Magic Keyboard has a dock which makes the iPad Pro rock back and tilt up at a good angle to look at when you are typing. Some say it makes the iPad Pro look like it is floating.
This Magic Keyboard makes the iPad Pro an even better production machine. People who use the iPad Pro to do work will find it even easier to produce their work. This includes not only people who write on the iPad Pro, but also those who edit videos or audio like podcasts.
So what are some drawbacks?
First, these keyboard covers are very expensive. The one for the larger iPad Pro is $349. The version for the 11 inch iPad Pro is $299. Are they worth the money? You can use pretty much any keyboard and mouse and trackpad with the iPad Pro. I have a great mechanical keyboard from Keytron which pairs by Bluetooth to the iPad Pro and works well with it. But, Apple’s Magic Keyboard is easy to travel with the iPad Pro. You can close it up and it become like a slim book that you travel around with. You can’t easily do that with regular keyboards, mice and trackpads. And third-party companies that make similar keyboard covers are not as good as Apple’s Magic Keyboard. So this keyboard cover is good for someone who plans to move around and travel with their iPad Pro and also wants to easily work with it using the keyboard and trackpad. But you pay a pretty high price for it. I purchased the Keytron keyboard for under $100 and recently got Logitech’s MX Master 3 Mouse for $100. These are two great devices for working on computers and the iPads. But they are not as portable as the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro. So you are paying for the portability when you pay $349 or $299 for these Magic Keyboards.
Another frustration is you cannot bend one of the covers fully behind the iPad Pro so that it is flush with the back. The original keyboard cover and the second generation keyboard cover allows you to do that. That allowed me to then use the iPad as just a tablet and get the keyboard out of the way when I didn’t need to use it. On the second generation it was awkward as the keys would be facing out on the back so when you held the iPad with one cover on the back your hand would be pressing down on the keys. The original origami keyboard cover for the iPad Pro had the keys facing in on the back side of the iPad Pro. This newest model doesn’t allow you to swing one side of the cover fully on the back. That means you cannot use the iPad as just a tablet unless you completely separate it from the Magic Keyboard. I don’t like that because I rely on the Magic Keyboard as a cover protecting the iPad. So the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro is really less a cover for the iPad Pro then a highly portable and compact keyboard with trackpad. I guess Apple had to make it this way to make the structure of the keyboard cover stronger than the previous models. The origami keyboard cover was frustratingly unstable. This Magic Keyboard is heavy and well balanced. You can more easily balance it on your lap and type on it.
So who is this keyboard cover for? I would suggest it for anyone who is an iPad enthusiast and anyone who uses the iPad Pro as their main work or production device. If you do a lot of work on the iPad, you should definitely get this. Between using the keyboard, touchpad and touch screen, you have complete and easy control of the iPad Pro. Having the backlight and additional USB-C connection on the keyboard (it only charges and doesn’t send data) makes it easier to use the iPad Pro.
I should point out that Apple has three different covers for the iPad Pro.
If you are a hardcore iPad Pro user it might make sense to purchase not only the Magic Keyboard Cover but also the Smart Folio. The Smart Folio has no keyboard or trackpad. It is just a cover for the front and back. What is good about it it automatically shuts down the screen when you close the cover. Also, you can swing the cover on the front to the back and it is thin. So if you just want to use the iPad Pro as a tablet this Smart Folio will protect it. So I can see someone purchasing both the Magic Keyboard Cover and the Smart Folio. When they don’t need the keyboard and what to travel with the iPad Pro they may put the Smart Folio on it. When you need the keyboard and trackpad you take the Magic Keyboard Cover. Yes, you could get the Magic Keyboard Cover and just take out the iPad Pro naked when you want to use it just as a tablet. But some people, like me, would be afraid that the iPad Pro will be damaged it you don’t have a cover.
One thing to point out is that the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro is pretty heavy:
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard weigh in at 3 pounds (1362 grams), more than the 2.8 pounds (1290 grams) of the 13-inch MacBook Air but the same as the 13-inch MacBook Pro.
(The Verge). For that reason that is also why you can’t really hold the iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard as a tablet. It is heavy, heavy as a 13-inch MacBook Pro. That is why I may purchase the Smart Folio to use the iPad Pro as a tablet when I want to be more mobile and protect it.
To sum it up, though it is expensive, the Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro is the best keyboard and trackpad when you want to be mobile with the iPad Pro. If you are never leaving your office with the iPad Pro, I would think about getting another keyboard or trackpad and a stand for the iPad Pro. But if you are ever going to move around and leave your home or office with the iPad Pro and want to type and do work on your iPad Pro, this is the device for you.
Many of you following Apple have heard of this gentleman named Jon Prosser who has a YouTube channel called Front Page Tech. His channel for many years have been essentially a comedy tech news channel. He seems like a nice guy. But lately, his channel has gotten very serious because it looks like Apple employees are leaking to Prosser various secret products. For example, recently he leaked that Apple has glasses coming out at the end of the year or in 2021 and he claims he has seen the glasses and knows the price, around $500. See this episode. Earlier, about one month ago, he leaked the iPhone SE coming out. See this episode.
I have listened to him on various podcasts he has been a guest on. First, I heard him on iMore’s podcast here. iMore podcast April 26, 2020. On the iMore podcast he goes on at length at how he gets his information from sources at Apple. He basically admitted he is getting the information straight from Apple employees who are leaking to him. But it also looks like he is inducing the employees to leak to him. For example, on the iMore podcast, he admits that he asked the Apple employee to let him get a picture of the product. See this part of the podcast
I heard Prosser today also on the CultofMac podcast cast. See the CultCast’s May 21, 2020 episode. Prosser seem like a nice guy. He is also somewhat young. He mentioned before he built up his YouTube channel (he has about 247,000 subscribers) he used to work for Chris Pirillo, a longtime character on the Internet. Prosser mentioned on the CultCast podcast that he had a really hard childhood as is parents died when he was young. He also joked about being worried about Apple coming after him.
Many years ago there was another young tech person who got secrets from Apple’s employees. The website was called ThinkSecret.com and the owner of the site was a young tech person named Nick Ciarelli (aka Nick DePlume). Apple sued him and his site and in 2007 he settled and that website has been vacant since then. See Digital Media Law.
What Prosser has to be careful of is that Apple could sue him for inducing employees to violate the confidential agreement. Just getting sued by Apple could be incredibly expensive. And Prosser seems to be baiting Apple on his videos and podcast appearance. He knows that Apple is trying to find who is leaking to him. I feel that I am seeing a slow automobile accident happening right in front of me. I feel bad for the Apple employees who are leaking and for Prosser. I don’t think they know what they are dealing with here. Apple has a large legal department and it hires some of the top law firms. If Apple feels that Prosser is inducing its employees to leak, I could see Apple suing Prosser. Apple eventually will also find the employees who are leaking to Prosser.
My advice for Prosser is to be very careful and not do anything that looks like he is inducing leaks to him.
Many years ago, I had a podcast on itunes: MacsFuture and and iPad podcast. Also had it on YouTube. Well, I have decided to again try to podcast and have a YouTube channel. Here is my first podcast episode.
Ep, 1 Staying Mentally Sharp Through the Pandemic with Tech Projects –
I went on a an adventure during this pandemic shutdown. I kept my brain sharp by learning technology and working on tech projects. Listen to my adventure. You may then be inspired to try various projects. Lex McFarley. I worked on WordPress site, learned Apache, learned UNIX and Ubuntu. Learned static sites with Hugo and Swift Publish. Learned to set up my own Jitsi video service. And also created my own cloud service with NextCloud. Check it out.
Engst and his wife were at Cornell University as students when they first got into the Macintosh and Apple. Same with me. I was there also as student and also got into the Macintosh. While I can reminisce, and appreciate how amazed I was in the past, I don’t miss the old technology.
The original Macintosh came out in 1984. I got my first Macintosh in 1986. My first Macintosh was the Macintosh Plus, which was the third version of the Mac.1 The big feature of that Mac is that it came with a whopping 1 megabyte of RAM, four times the amount of the original Macintosh. That Macintosh, also known as the Macintosh Plus, retailed for $2,599. Looking back, that was a lot of money. In today’s money, that is $6,114.2. It is funny that I now hem and haw about replacing my broken-down 2010 iMac and whether to spend more than $2500 on a replacement and whether to get a dream machine like the Mac Pro which costs at least around $6000. But back in 1986, when I was a student, I got that Macintosh Plus which in today’s money is more than $6000. Now back then I purchased the Macintosh Plus through the school. So I got a big discount. I think around 30% discount. So I think I paid around $1,819 and with tax, over $1,900. In today’s money that is around $4,500. Back then my family helped me out and purchased it.
I was thrilled to have that Mac. It was my first personal computer. Earlier in school several years before, I had taken a computer course where I worked at a terminal that was hooked up to some mini-frame computer or mainframe computer. I took a course where we learned the Fortran language.. I don’t remember much about that computer language but I remember it was supposed to be helpful for scientific classes and economics. I remember I could send a message to other students on another terminal in the room. There was no internet at that time. Sending a message to another terminal in the same room was considered pretty amazing back then. The key thing about that terminal computer course is that you typed out the instructions to the computer. There was no mouse and there was not Graphical User Interface.
The Mac was totally different. First, I didn’t have to go to a room in school to use it. I could use it in my apartment. Second, it it had a GUI and a mouse. No computer I used prior to that Mac used a mouse. The mouse was revolutionary. You could just click and point and move around on it. It seemed so easy. The way I first felt about it about how easy it was to use is similar to how people who first used an iPhone felt compared to a regular computer. That is how revolutionary it was. In 1986, Microsoft had just come out with Windows 1.0 in late 1985 but it could not yet compete with the Mac’s operating system. It wasn’t until later after several generations of Windows that Windows was as good at the Macintosh’s operating system, and then with Windows XP it passed the Macintosh.
Back in 1986 I was excited by several software programs. First I was amazed that you could print out documents that looked like what you had on the screen. Prior to the Mac, printing of course didn’t look exactly like what you had on the screen, because there was no GUI. The Mac had the first GUI (for everyday people) that let you create a document on the screen like what you wanted printed. Seems crazy now that prior to the Mac you couldn’t do that. No the printer I had for the Mac, which came from Apple, was a dot matrix printer. It printed slow and put dots on the paper. It wasn’t sharp. Not by today’s laser print standards. But it what you printed looked like what you had on the screen. You could among other things, print rudimentary graphics with your texts. At the time, that was mind-blowing. It spawned a whole industry of desktop printing.
I quickly realized you could other crazy things with the GUI. I was into music. I quickly purchased software that came out that allowed you to control keyboard and music devices and record music onto the Mac. It used a technology that is still used now: MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface). I remember I had Opcode’s MIDIMAC Sequencer which came out in 1986. You have MIDI now in every iPhone, iPad or Mac you purchase. It is built into Garageband, Apple’s free music creating app. Opcode’s MIDIMAC was rudimentary and limited compared to Garageband today. Essentially, you could arrange notes on the MIDIMAC which would then use Apple’s limited sound synthesizer chip. The sounds were very cheesy and sounded nothing like real acoustic instruments. It took years for computer to become powerful enough to record audio directly from microphones into computers. Back then, the only recording of sound was highly limited into dedicated samplers where you could only record a few seconds. That didn’t come to the Mac for many years. Instead, back then one purchased a separate “Sampler” device.
Finally, the third category of programs that made my early Macintosh fun were games. There were crazy graphic games. At colleges and universities these Macintosh games flourished. I remember going to a computer room in a university I was at and finding many Mac games on a common Mac in the room. I copied them and then had many free games on my Mac. This was revolutionary. Prior to that, purchasing a game, like a video game, was expensive and you needed a special console for your tv. With the Mac, you could copy games from another Mac and share them with your friends. That is until copy protection came out.
The only thing I really reminisce about those days is just remembering how impressed and blown away I was about that new technology. Looking back, that technology looks like a joke. My first Mac had 1 MB of RAM. My current Mac that I am writing this on has 16 GB of RAM. I know have 16,000 times more RAM than the first Mac. My first Mac didn’t even have internal storage. I had to put floppy disks into the Mac to run a program and save files. Nothing was stored on the Mac. That didn’t come for me until a few years later when I upgraded to the Mac SE/30. That first hard drive totally changed the way I used that Mac. It made it so much easier. No longer did I have to use a floppy disk to load a program and save a file. With the hard drive, I could use a program just by starting up my Mac. No floppy disk needed to first be loaded.
But get your mind around this. That first internal hard drive I had was 30 MB in size. That was considered a large amount of storage at the time. The floppy disks I used prior to that were 512k or half of that in storage size. That 30 MB hard drive size is now not large enough for basically one photo file that my camera shoots. And at most, it would hold just a few of the photos my iPhone 11 Pro shoots. I can purchase a MacBook Pro now with 4 terabytes of storage. Think about that difference. One gigabyte is 1,000 MB. One terabytes is 1,000 GB. So a 4 terabyte Mac today has more than 1 million times storage than my Mac SE/30.
My reminiscing is really just limited to remembering how I felt when I saw the technology that the Mac had back in the 80s. It was the future for me. But back then, I could only compare the Mac with what was the technology then or before then. I couldn’t compare it with the future. And what I found out was that compared to the near future, the Mac I had in the late 1980s was not great. By today’s standards its a joke. Because technology goes forward very fast. Everyday I see new technology that blows me away. And by tomorrow that technology is average or old.
Proof of this is Apple’s recent upgrade to Logic Pro which came out yesterday, May 12, 2020, just as I am finishing this post. Take it a look at its features and then go back and see what the music making program that was on the Mac back in the late 1980s could do. You can’t even compare it. It you went back in time with the Logic Pro from today you would freak out anyone back then and they would think you were from another planet. Imagine then what the Logi Pro app in the future in 20 years from now would be like!!!
Okay, so what can you do during a pandemic to keep sane and mentally sharp? Answer: work on some technology projects. Even though that’s not your business and you’re not a technologist, working on some technology projects can keep you sane and positive during the shutdown when you are at home all the time. After all, you can’t go out, you can’t do much. You can’t travel. You can’t really walk around very much. What’s going on right now is that if you have a computer and it is connected to the Internet, this is your lifeline. But it is not enough to just consume. You can’t just watch Netflix all the time. You can’t just play video games all the time. You can’t just read news all the time. You have to do something to work your brain. You have to do something to grow. And one of the things that you can do without leaving your house, your place of shelter, is work on various technology projects. You can take on projects that will be helpful to you. And if the project isn’t helpful at the very least you learn a lot of about technology.
And it’s important to learn about technology because technology is everywhere. It has seeped everywhere in our lives. And one thing for sure, in this pandemic, technology is something we can rely on. Technology ultimately is going to be the thing that saves us. It will be some scientist or company using the latest technology in biology or chemistry or both who will make a breakthrough and create a vaccine that protects us.
In terms of what we’re relying on. Just look at companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft. They’re the backbone of our survival right now, because they’re not going down. We are relying on them more and more. And because of that, it is helping us survive. We can communicate better with each other. We can do our job using technology. Look how Zoom has taken off for everyone, not just for businesses, schools are using Zoom. People are having private Zoom parties.
So over the last few weeks, I went on an epic adventure where I learned tech about the Internet and created projects.
So what kind of projects can you work on? Well, one thing to do is work on creating your own website. And I don’t mean do it the easy way where you go to a site like Squarespace or WordPress where they will host your website, and they will just make it easy to create a website through a few clicks. Don’t do the easy way like that. There are a number of reasons why not to do it the easy way. First it’s more expensive to create a website like that. Squarespace costs at least $12 per month. WordPress starts at $4 per month but quickly goes up if you want to add stuff to help your website.
I found a way to host multiple sites for a total of $5 per month. More on that later. But the main reason not to use turnkey services like Squarespace or WordPress hosting is that you can learn to do it yourself with any server on the Internet. That way you understand what is underneath your website, the server itself.
What do I mean by that? Well, everything on the Internet runs on something you’ve maybe heard about called a “server.” A server, just like a butler server at a party, “serves” you something. But a server on the Internet serves you digital data when you go to that server. So when you go to an Internet website, a server somewhere is sending you digital data to your browser.
A server is nothing more than a computer somewhere connected to the Internet that is hosting the data that comes to your browser. Some servers actually are sending not digital data to your browser, but sending digital data to your app on your iPhone or iPad or Android device. Also, when you talk to Amazon’s Alexa device, the information that Alexa is giving comes from a server that Amazon has hooked up to the Internet. When you make a Zoom call, a server somewhere is making the connection for you with the people that you are calling on Zoom.
Now you could have a server at home. After all, your Windows computer or Mac is a computer. So your home computer can be a server. But if you want your server at home to serve digital data outside your home, you are in trouble. Trouble because the companies hooking up your home to the Internet, like Comcast and FIOS, they are making your address at home unstable for guests in the outside world to find it. That is because you have a dynamic IP address. You see all devices hooked up to the Internet have a unique IP address. The problem with trying to run a server from your home computer is that your Internet provider, i.e. Comcast, FIOS, etc, gives you a dynamic address. Your unique number changes. You need a “static” address for your server.
So if you really want to serve digital data to the outside world, it is best to get space on a server outside your home that is specifically set up to give you a static address so people can find you on the Internet. Now when you go to a company like Squarespace and open an account, that is what Squarespace is doing. It is giving you space on a server. But is also giving you other things, like services to make it easy to design and have your own website.
Once you have a server and a static server address, you also want to have a domain name. Now this you probably know. Right? Facebook.com is a domain name. Cnn.com is a domain name. Every website name you know on the Internet is a domain name. Now a domain name is not a server and a server is not a domain name. You have to pay an annual fee, usually around $10 to $15 per year, for a domain name that isn’t already used by someone or some company. There are various companies that can help you register and get a domain name. Squarespace does it as part of its service for hosting your website. But there are companies that do nothing but register and sell you the domain names. The company I use because it has a decent reputation (i.e. not trying to up-sell you all the time or making it hard to transfer your domain to another site) is Hover. You go to a service like Hover, and you try out different domain names to see if they are available. And you can also get domain name suffixes other than the traditional .com. They have .tv, .blog., even .poker and .bet. Be careful though. Some of those suffixes are very expensive annually. Go for the traditional suffix: .com. That is a classic.
Multiple sites for $5 per month on Linode
So how did I do it so cheaply? Well what I found out is that there are various companies which give you a good server that is cheap, but you don’t get the service that holds your hands to create a website. Think of it like this. When you buy food, if you go to a store that does wholesale rather than retail, you get a better deal. That is why Costco, e.g., has such good prices. Well regarding selling servers on the Internet, there are companies selling server services wholesale. Their market is not selling retail to you and me. Their market is really selling to developers and companies that need a lot of Internet servers. The biggest company doing this is of course Amazon.
Many years ago, Amazon realized it was really good with having servers on the Internet and having services on the Internet for its own Amazon website. After all, Amazon was selling zillions of books and then selling zillions of other things on its website. Amazon realized it was so good with servers for its own business that it realized that it could sell services to third-parties. Amazon created low-priced servers on the Internet for developers. That business is called AWS: Amazon Web Services.. AWS took off; particularly with developers making apps for the iPhone. They needed services on the Internet to send digital data to the their apps on the iPhone. AWS was a very good and cheap service to do so. You probably don’t know this, but many of the web services and apps are hosted on AWS. It is a huge business for Amazon.
Well others are competing with Amazon on that wholesale business. Microsoft pivoted from just focusing on Office and Windows to now providing Internet services for developers through its Azure service. Google has its Cloud service..
Now there are Internet hosting companies that are much smaller than these big three. Several years ago, I found a good deal at one called A Small Orange (ASO).. I got 5gb of server space for $5 per month. I purchased this originally to host a website for a relative who was a doctor because my relative didn’t have website. The website was just to have straight forward information about my relative’s office.
I created the website with what some would consider a non-traditional app to create websites: Hype by Tumult.. Tumult was created by some guys who had worked at Apple. Hype was created to create animations using HTML5 technology. Do you remember Steve Job’s April 2010 “Thoughts on Flash” announcement?. It is still on Apple’s website. Flash was that technology that created all those animations on the web starting back in the 1990s and continuing to a couple of years ago. Adobe owned that technology. Apple refused to allow the iPhone and iPad to run Flash on those devices browsers. This was a big deal back in the early days of the iPhone and iPad because some sites and content on the Internet could not be accessed because of the lack of Flash support. But Steve Jobs was adamant that Flash sucked. In his lengthy polemic against Flash in April 2010, he listed many reasons Flash was not good, including that is was proprietary and chewed up battery life. Jobs and Apple pointed out that HTML5 technology, which was open source and part of the backbone of the web, could work better and replace Flash.
Tumult was created to create an app on the Mac which could create HTML5 animations that could replace Flash animations. So I dabbled in this great app when it first came out. Using this app, I created a website with buttons and menus for different pages which I uploaded to ASO and linked up to a domain name I purchased at Hover.
After I created the relative’s website, I realized that in my ASO account I could create additional sites on the same 5 gb space. I also discovered I could do this through an interface app that ASO had for my server space called cPanel. cPanel is a graphical user interface app for your the server space so you can navigate easily your server and install apps. It is not free, but it came part of my ASO account. ASO must have paid the cPanel company that leases or sells that app. So why is there this cPanel interface?
It is there because pretty much all these servers run on an operating system called Linux. It was created by this guy back in 1991 named Linus Torvold. Practically every server on the Internet runs on a version of Linux. Since it is open sourced, developers and business have created “forks” of Linux over the years. On most servers on the Internet Debian or Ubuntu is used. The most famous fork of Linux is Android, which run the smartphones and tables competing with Apple’s iPhones and iPads.
So through this cPanel interface on ASO, I created two more websites using WordPress. One for my website MacsFuture.com and the other one for my kids’ sports. I wanted to created WordPress sites because for many years I read and heard how a big chunk of the web was WordPress sites. WordPress is so successful because it’s an open program. This is what Wikipedia says:
WordPress (WordPress.org) is a free and open-source content management system (CMS) written in PHP and paired with a MySQL or MariaDB database. Features include a plugin architecture and a template system, referred to within WordPress as Themes. WordPress was originally created as a blog-publishing system but has evolved to support other types of web content including more traditional mailing lists and forums, media galleries, membership sites, learning management systems (LMS) and online stores. WordPress is used by more than 60 million websites, including 33.6% of the top 10 million websites as of April 2019, WordPress is one of the most popular content management system solutions in use. WordPress has also been used for other application domains such as pervasive display systems (PDS). Wikipedia on WordPress(footnotes omittied).
So I had never tried a self-hosted WordPress before so I went for it. Because ASO had a cPane, in cPane there are different server apps that you can put into your server. It was pretty easy. And then, I hooked it up those two sites with domain names from Hover.com. So great, I then had two websites and my relative had one website on a $5 per month server from ASO. Everything was going well. Until …..
Last year, I realized that ASO was charging me more than $5 per month. Here is how much they were charging and the increases over the years.
So you see it went from $40 to over $90 in a few years. But that isn’t what got me to finally switch my sites to another company that leases servers. It was SSL.
What is SSL? SSL is that lock you see on the domain address when you go to various websites.
That lock tells people going to your website that there is security on your site; particularly that you are who you claim you are. This is important if the people going to your site are putting private information on your site. For example, a bank which has customers logging in would want such security. Or if your site was collecting email address from people signing up for your site. You may have seen these locks on website address popping up a number of years ago. But the practice of having ssl certificates on sites took off and practically every site has that lock because Google says if you don’t have that lock then it would lower the score for your site:
Thursday, February 8, 2018
For the past several years, we’ve moved toward a more secure web by strongly advocating that sites adopt HTTPS encryption. And within the last year, we’ve also helped users understand that HTTP sites are not secure by gradually marking a larger subset of HTTP pages as “not secure”. Beginning in July 2018 with the release of Chrome 68, Chrome will mark all HTTP sites as “not secure”.
The “s” after http is what makes the lock. What is going on is that the connection to your site is being encrypted and a third-party service is giving you a certificate certifying that your site is encrypted. Over time, particularly since the summer of 2018, I realized my sites looked poor without being “https:” and having the corresponding lock. I Googled around and found that some hosting sites for servers, particularly ones that helped host self-serving WordPress sites, provided free SSL certificates. I checked with ASO, and they didn’t provide any free SSL service. In fact, they charged a substantial amount.
As you can see, an add on service for an SSL would cost me $40 annually at the very least and a wildcard SSL even much more. The thing is I looked around and there is a free SSL certificate service called Certbot that is provided by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The EFF is a highly legitimate nonprofit organization which among other things, protects the free use and free speech on the Internet. I looked around the web and found out that some server providers which had cPane installed provided an app on cPane to allow users to easily install a free Certbot SSL certificate for the self-hosted WordPress site. I checked ASO’s cPane and none existed there. I emailed ASO support and they confirmed they didn’t provide such a plug in for the free service.
The fact that ASO was charging me more than $90 per year and not even providing me with an easy way to install a free SSL certificate really bothered me. Then I took a look at Linode. For years I heard about Linode on podcasts as Linode sponsored a lot of tech podcasts. Linode I realized was for customers who are developers. Linode was really competing with Amazon’s AWS, Google Cloud and Microsofts Azure. The thing about Linode that caught my eye was it was cheap. Linode’s cheapest plan gave me 25 gb of storage on a server and 1000 Mbps out in speed all for $5 per month. By comparison, ASO only gives 500mb of space for $6.51 per month. $8.80 per month would get you just 5 gb of space. That was the plan I was on at ASO that was originally $5 per month when I signed up. Linode wasn’t offering me a cPane app for free with the server space I would lease. It turns out if I wanted a cPane I would have to pay extra. And that is part of the reason that ASO was charging more than Linode. Nor did Linode offer a free SSL certificate.
I decided to try Linode because. It had a community and answers on its website where you can find out information on how to set up a Linux server without using a cPane program. I had to figure out Linux commands to set up the Linode server. Then I had to figure out how to put SSL certificates on those severs.
I did it. I was able to transfer my sites from ASO to Linode. It wasn’t easy. It took time. But here is the important thing: It was really satisfying as I learned how to:
SSH communicate from my Mac to the Linode server.
Use the Terminal App on the Mac after SSHing to the Linode server to download and set up apps on the server using Linux commands.
Set up Apache on the Linux server to create virtual servers given I had only one LInode server and wanted to have more than one website on that server.
Download and install three WordPress sites from scratch.
Navigate in the server files and folder structure for WordPress.
Use Nano on Linux to edit and change the config documents for WordPress and Apache.
Configure MySql on the server as the databases for the WordPress sites.
Configure the DNS on Hover and Linode to set up the various domains I created on one Linode server.
After completing the set up of the various sites and setting up the domain connections, I still had to solve another problem: getting SSL certificates so I would have that lock symbol and the https addres for my sites. The great and free solution I eventually came across was to install the Certbot certificates using command line instructions on the Linode server through ssh connection through the Terminal app on my Mac. These free certificates only last three months but Certbot comes with commands where you can set up a “cron.”. Cron is a service on Linux where you can automatically run commands. So I set up a cron using Certbot so that Certbot will renew the certificates a week or two before the certificates would run out. Pretty cool.
So here you can see my https://macsfutures.com site all set up on Linode. But the fun and my learning did not stop there. I continued to explore.
Static Web Sites
While researching installing WordPress on Linode, I came across a trend that has been going on over the last five years or more: static sites. A number of bloggers and developers are arguing that static sites are faster and better on the web than dynamic sites. A dynamic site in contrast to a static site changes based on who goes to the site. So Facebook is a dynamic site because based on who goes to that site, the site changes. WordPress is a dynamic site because it uses a database, MySql, behind the website. It turns out, a number of geeks and others on the web figured out the websites that are static run faster on the Internet.
I learned that one static site publishing platform is called Hugo.. There is a website at https://gohugo.io where it says that Hugo is “The Word’s Fastest Framework for Building Websites.” It is written in Google’s developer’s language called Go. I was curious to try it because 1) it claims to be much faster, 2) you can write your posts as simple “Markdown” text files,” and 3) Linode’s new “Object Storage Plans,” can host static websites.
So let’s go through each of these. First, faster website. This one is easy. Why wouldn’t I want a faster website? If it’s quicker to load for users, users will like my website better. I hate going to websites that are slow. I hate websites that load all sorts of videos and crazy stuff and adds. Nice simple websites are the best.
Second. Hugo works with Markdown files. What is Markdown?
Markdown is a lightweight markup language, originally created by John Gruber and Aaron Swartz allowing people “to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML).
The fact that Hugo worked with Markdown files appealed to me. I had played around with word processors that use Markdown for many years. On my Mac and my iOS devices I have long used Byword.. There are many apps on iOS and on the Mac that use Markdown. The beauty of Byword is that there isn’t hidden code and formatting such as in Microsoft Word or even Apple’s Pages program. You write in simple text. And if you are going to format it the code is simple and easy to read so it isn’t confusing. Hugo treats each Markdown text file you create as a blog post or a page on the Internet depending on what folder you put it in. It is a really simple concept. So writing in Markdown really appealed to me and is a plus for using Hugo.
Finally, if I can host a site on Linode’s Object storage, that is a great deal for website hosting. Linode gives you 250 GB of storage for just $5 per month. That is 10 times as much storage for the same price as its regular storage that can host dynamic sites like WordPress. Hosting sites cheaply on the Internet is pretty amazing after all. And the cheaper you can do it the more amazing it is. Technology is all about bringing efficiency and reducing the cost.
Think about how hard it was to publish anything so other people could see it. In the early 1700s, a young Benjamin Franklin wanted to run his own printing press and newspaper. He had worked for a press in Boston when he was a teenager. After he fled from Boston to Philadelphia, to get away from his domineering older brother, he wanted to use his experience in running press to create his own press. Franklin obtained significant funds, a fortune in todays funds, and travelled by boat all the way to London to purchase an old press and then transport it by boat to Philadelphia. The rest is history. He became a prominent publisher, inventor, legislator and founder of the United States. Read more on Franklin here
Today, you can run hundreds of sites each for under $20 day using Linode’s 250 gb Object Storage program for $5 per day. You could have all the static websites you create share the $5 per month storage on Linode. $60 per year divided by 100 sites is 60 cents per year. A domain for each site would be $15 per domain. This brings the cost to $15.60 per year for each domain. In terms of a device to set up the sites, you can get a cheap computer (like a chrome book) and use your phone’s hotspot or free Internet connection in a library or park. The friction to publish now is 1/millionth the friction that young Benjamin Franklin faced.
Getting back to Hugo. You can install the Hugo publishing platform on your server or you can publish on your Mac and then have the static website it creates sync with your website. I decided to run it on my Mac. Here is how I did it.
First, it involves using your Terminal App on your Mac. Remember what computer screens looked like before the Mac was created and Microsoft copied the Mac and created Windows? It looked like MS-Dos.
(Credit to the Interface Experience for the MS-Dos Photo.) Giving instructions by text is called using the “command line.” All of you using iOS devices, and Macs, Windows and Chrome computers may be oblivious to the subterranean world underneath the user interface. On Macs, the user interface is built on an older technology called UNIX. The operating system for the Mac is running on a relative of UNIX. UNIX was created by the telephone company’s computer lab back when there was one telephone company for the entire United States. The Terminal App is using UNIX like commands. Those commands are very similar to the Linux commands on a Linux server as they are both related to UNIX. Read more on Unix here.
For installing it on a Mac, the people behind Hugo suggested to first install Homebrew.. Homebrew is a package manager that allows you down load development software on your Mac or even Linux. The idea is once you install Homebrew you can then more easier install other things on your Mac. Here is the command on the Terminal App to do so. It is not for the faint of heart if you have never used the Terminal App before.
/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install.sh)"
Then after you install Homebrew, you use that to install the Hugo package on your Mac.
brew install hugo
Once it the Hugo publication system is on your Mac, you create a Hugo command in the terminal to create a new site, and it creates a folder on your Mac for the site with various folders. (Look here for various Hugo commands.)
This is what the folder looks like after you generate a site on Hugo.
The folder that is labeled “Public” is the web documents you put on your server. The rest of the folders are what Hugo uses to make the website. The folder Content is where the content you create, i.e. writing, photos, and videos, go into. And the Folder called Themes is where the different themes you can use to make your website are put. In Content folder there is a folder called Posts. This is where your blog posts go. Take a look at mine. What you see below are separate Markdown files. Each one is a separate post.
These Markdown files for each post take up hardly any storage space as they are pure text files. They are easy to back up and use if you change where your website will be.
As for themes, you download different Hugo themes people created and put them into the Themes folder. Then you open the config file and reference the theme you want in your Theme folder for that site. It’s a simple word reference. See:
I found this crazy Hugo.386 theme that makes your site look like the old 386 PCs, i.e. the ones with MS-DOS commands. I created a subdomain that shows off this Hugo theme here.. Here is a screenshot of this Hugo site.
To add posts to this site, I add a new Markdown post file in the post folder. Then I run a command in the Terminal App to remake the site in the public folder, and then sync that folder to the server. If you run Hugo on the server, you can just add the Markdown file on the server’s Hugo content post folder and it will rebuild the site on the server.
Swift Static Site Publisher
After I successfully created a Hugo site, I then got interested in another program to create static websites. What caught my eye about it is that it used Apple’s Swift language to create a static site. It is called Publish by John Sundell and you get it on something called Github.com.
First thing first. What is Swift? Swift is Apple’s code language that Apple developed for developers creating apps and programs for IOS devices and Macs. Back on June 2, 2014, Apple announced Swift at the WWDC conference it holds every summer.. No one saw it coming. For years Apple and developers for the iOS devices and Macs used a language called Objective-C. Swift was supposedly to be simpler to use and be more powerful. Apple has been pushing everyone to use Swift and created an App on the iPad many years ago for kids and everyday people to use Swift, called Swift Playgrounds. Over the years, I have dabbled in learning Swift through that Playgrounds app.
During the last year, one of the podcasts I have been listening to is called Stacktrace, which is hosted by two developers, John Sundell and Gui Rambo. These two young developers are very entertaining. Rambo is from Brazil and he helps out the website 9to5mac.com by looking deep into beta IOS systems for clues for what Apple is working on in the future. Sundell is a Polish developer who also runs the great Swift website Swift by Sundell. He gives tips on the Swift language and it is a great resource. It is John Sundell who during the last year created an application called Publish which uses the Swift Language to create a static website. His own website, Swift by Sundell is built with that Swift language tool. Having had success building a Hugo website, I thought what the heck, let’s try building one with Swift.
Publish by John Sundell
So John Sundell created this Swift language Publish program. You have to download it from Github.. Similar to Hugo, you can download using commands on the Terminal Program on the Mac. There is one difference though. Because this Publish program uses Swift, you need to make sure you have Xcode on your Mac. Xcode is Apple’s program for developers to create apps on the IOS devices and also programs on the Mac. So similar to Hugo, after you use Publish together with Xcode it creates folders on your Mac. It looks like this.
Like with Hugo, the Content folder is where you put the content for your website. And again like in Hugo you put Markdown files to create your posts.
This is what the content folder looks like.
What goes onto your website is in the “Output” folder. This is where it differs from Hugo which calls it its “Public” folder. Now I don’t think you can run this on a server unless the server has Xcode or something that executes the Swift language. Most servers run on Linux. There are places you can rent Macs as servers. For example there is Macstadium where you can rent a Mac as a server. But that is much more expensive for a minimum plan compared to Linux as MacStadiums cheapest plan is around $80 per month for a Mac Mini. So publishing a Swift static website would require you to sync the Output folder on your Mac with your server. 
So I created a Swift static website successfully and I am hosting it as a subdomain. You can see it here.. It has a rather simple looking design , which you can see here.
The adventure didn’t stop there. I kept stumbling upon things to try out on the $5 Linode server I rented. Now during this pandemic everyone is using live video programs to connect with each other. People are using FaceTime and Skype. But Zoom became very popular because it is easy to use. Then I heard about this service, Jitsi, which is open source and is supposed to be very secure. So what is Jitsi? In the open source entity’s own words:
Jitsi is a set of open-source projects that allows you to easily build and deploy secure video conferencing solutions. At the heart of Jitsi are Jitsi Videobridge and Jitsi Meet, which let you have conferences on the Internet, while other projects in the community enable other features such as audio, dial-in, recording, and simulcasting.
So why should you install Jitsi on your own server? You can make calls for free using Jitsi’s own website. It works with the Jitsi app on the iPhone which you can get here. They also have an Android App.. The reason to get Jitsi installed on your own server is 1) it is more secure, and 2) how cool would that be? It is more secure on your own server because you control your server. You don’t have to worry that someone at Jitsi is eavesdropping on you. With Zoom or other services you don’t control the server that your calls are going through. Same with FaceTime or Google Meet. They are all going through a third company’s server. Here you can install Jitsi even on a server in your home. The Second reason to install it on your own server is it is cool to do so. You can tell people you have your own video calling service. So I decided to go forth and install Jitsi.
It wasn’t that hard to install Jitsi. The Jitsi website gives you the instruction to install it on a Debian or Ubuntu server here. I installed it as a subdomain on one of the sites I had on Linode.
One of the problems I had after I installed it is that the initial set up allows anyone to make a video call. I didn’t want that as I have a small server and if people I didn’t know were using it it could rack up my server bill. I found this video from early April 2020 from Nerd on the Street on Youtube very helpful for configuring Jitsi after I had it up and running.
His video showed me how to configure Jitsi so that a call could only be initiated with my password. So Jitsi works on the server I am leasing. But because it is the cheapest server and is small, I don’t think it can take a lot of calls at the same time. I would have to upgrade the power of my server if I want to make many calls.
The adventure didn’t stop at Jitsi. I was recently listening to this podcast. Release Notes. One of the hosts runs a business on the Internet where he makes websites for professionals, tax accountants. I realized listening to him that his business involves creating WordPress sites on a Linode server. I heard this after first transferring my sites to LInode. On this podcast, I heard he created for his customer a service on their website where their customers could upload documents to them. In other words, his tax accountant customers could have their own Dropbox or iCloud built into their site. The way he did this was using an open system called Nextcloud.. As stated on its website:
Share and collaborate on documents, send and receive email, manage your calendar and have video chats without data leaks. As fully on-premises solution, Nextcloud Hub provides the benefits of online collaboration without the compliance and security risks.
Basically, Nextcloud is an open source system taking on big players like Microsoft, Google and Apple and allowing anyone to host cloud services on their own servers. You can use what ever you want.
So I installed Nextcloud on my own site as a subdomain. It is really cool. When you open it, feels like you have your own Microsoft company on your website. Here is a screenshot.
Next Cloud has apps for the Mac and iOS and other devices. After I downloaded the Nextcloud app on my Mac it created a folder named Nextcloud. That folder on my Mac automatically syncs with my Next Cloud app on the server. So I have my own iCloud or Dropbox. This is really cool. You can invite users. According to Nextcloud, it is really popular in Europe particularly Germany and a lot of universities and companies use it. I don’t know why schools and companies don’t use it here. They could save so much money that they are paying to Microsoft and Google.
Finally, I should mention the one purchase I made during this crazy adventure: Panic’s Transmit 5 program for the Mac. For most of this technology adventure, I was mainly using the Terminal App on my Mac to navigate the folders and files on my Linode server. It was a real pain as you have to type out commands to get to the right folder. Then I remembered that for many many years, the bloggers and podcasters who love Apple and Mac always praised the Transmit program. I checked it out and purchased it. It was a godsend. It is basically a powerful Graphical User Interface for connecting to servers with SSH connections and navigating and editing files on servers. On its fifth generation, It is a well polished and beautiful app.
Once I started using Transmit to connect to my LInode server, it made life much easier. Transit has a feature where if you have to use the Terimal to make commands on the server, you can go straight from a folder on Transit app to the Termina and put the path from from the server on Terminal. This makes navigating the server much much quicker than doing it with command line instructions on Terminal.
There are many adventures in technology. Our ancestors like Ben Franklin went on their own adventures with tech. It is unfortunate that we are living through this virus pandemic that is destroying lives and taking away our normal life in the outside world. But many of us, with decent computers and Internet connections, are lucky. There are adventures and learning available on our finger tips. Use this time to explore what you don’t know. Take on a project. Take it on just to learn something and see if you can build it. Having set up various WordPress sites, created a Hugo static site, created a Swift static site, created a Jitsi server, and created a Nextcloud server, and all the while reduced my server cost by going to Linode and most importantly, got those SSL locks on my domain addresses, I am now at the end of this adventure.
Aaron Swartz is the genius on the Internet who was prosecuted for trying to make public research university publications that are subsidized by the Federal Government. He committed suicide when the prosecutors insisted he go to jail. Read more on Swartz here. ↩
Github is a famous website for developers. There you can work on codes for programs and apps or web development and work with other developers. It has been around for a long time. Microsoft purchased Github in 2018 for $7.5 billion. That is how popular it was. ↩
You probably can’t run this Publish Swift program on a non-Mac like Windows as you need something to compile the Swift language which requires Xcode from Apple. ↩
I found out that Nextcloud is an off shoot of OpenCloud, and that both were created by this man, Frank Karlitschek, a highly talented German developer. He is a big believer in open systems and individuals taking back control of their data. ↩
Today, April 1, is Apple’s birthday. It was created on this day by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in 1976. One of the things I love about Apple is the community that has been built around it. One of the best people in the community is Rene Ritchie. For the last 11 years on the iMore website, Rene has been a reporter, columnist, and editor covering Apple and other technology. But the thing I really like about Rene is he has always been incredibly positive and never says anything bad about anyone. He a great citizen in the Apple Community. During the last year, he has been on YouTube for iMore on a channel called Vector. His videos are straight forward and no-nonsense and they are filled with great facts. I really enjoy them. Well yesterday, he quit iMore and decided to go on his own. He has his own channel called Rene Ritchie. Please check him out if you never watched him. I wish him the best luck and I look forward to watching him.
In this time of the pandemic, my 10 year-old 27 inch iMac finally broke down. So I am trying to decide what kind of Mac I should purchase. On one hand, I would love to purchase the 2019 Mac Pro that Apple came out with at the end of 2019. It is incredibly powerful and more importantly its the easiest Mac to upgrade. Over the last 10 years since I purchased my 2010 iMac, Apple has made it almost impossible to upgrade Macs. My 2010 iMac was easy to update. MacSales.com would sell you a cheap kit to open that iMac so you could take out the hard drive that came with the iMac and then put a fast SSD drive. You could also open up the iMac and add a second SSD drive or another larger hard drive. Same with the MacBook Pros and old MacBook Airs. You could open them up and replace the hard drives with a better SSD drive or a larger SSD drive if it came with an SSD drive. But no more. You can’t really upgrade the SSD drives in the MacBook Pros and the MacBook Airs and its much much harder to now upgrade the iMac. But the 2019 Mac Pro you can easily upgrade. Apple designed it for pros to make it easy to take out and put in hardware in it.
But the problem is that Mac Pro is very expensive. Without the monitor, it is roughly $6,000 with tax for the cheapest configuration. That is a lot of money. How can I justify getting it? I am not some pro who makes videos or a musician producer who needs the power of such a an amazing Mac. And the 32-inch screen for this Mac Pro is close to $5,000. So if you want to get the Apple monitor for that Mac Pro, you would pay at least $11,000. That is nuts, right? But the thing is, this Mac Pro will last a long time. Because it is easy to open up, it will be easy to upgrade. So let us say I own it for 10 years. And 10 years is easy for the Mac Pro. After all, I used my 2010 iMac for 10 years easy. Monthly payments spread out over 10 years for $11,000 come to $91.66 per month. That isn’t bad when you think about it. Having a tremendous computer in your life for under $100 per month makes sense. I am trying to think of all the things I pay more than $100 per month which I would never enjoy as much as a Mac Pro with Apple’s 32-inch monitor. I pay a whopping $450 per month to park my car indoors in New York City. That is crazy. But I pay it because its convenient to have my car so close to where I live. I drink a lot of Diet Coke and probably average $2 per day on Diet Coke. Well that is $60 per month but that is still a big chunk of the $100 per month for the $11,000 Mac Pro and 32 inch monitor. My lunch during the work week is at least $7 to $10 per lunch. Let us say its $8.50 for the average lunch. That is $170 for lunch during the work week every month. And I don’t even really enjoy those lunches very much. If I made my own lunch and brought it to work I could probably average $4 or $3 for lunch every day. If I saved $5 every day for lunch at work, well that comes to about $100 per month which is what over ten years would be the cost of the Mac Pro and 32-inch monitor.
What Wonderful Things Could I Do With the Mac Pro?
So what would be some of the wonderful things I would do with the Mac Pro? Well, I love to edit videos as a hobby. And I would never really run out of processor power with the Mac Pro. The other great thing with the Mac Pro is you would have so much storage that you could easily make it a Windows computer with Boot Camp. Boot Camp runs off the same drive as the Mac OS. But with a Mac Pro, you could put another drive with a Mac OS on it but partition it so 90% of the drive is Windows. Then when you need Windows you boot the other Mac OS with with Windows on it rather than partitioning the drive that is your main Mac OS drive. Also, after many years go by, you can use the Mac Pro to be your server because it can hold so many drives.
But seriously. With a pandemic going on, and the economy being destroyed because no one can leave their home, am I really going to purchase an $11,000 computer? I would probably wait for Apple to upgrade the iMac. There are rumors Apple will soon update the iMac. When you get the iMac you also get a great 5k monitor. And you can pay just somewhere between $2.5k and $4k to get a really good configuration of a 27 iMac.
So there you have it. Don’t know what Mac to get. Do you?
I have been playing around a lot with Siri Shortcuts on the iPhone. Recently I set up two shortcuts to use the SSH script in Siri Shortcuts to wake up my 2010 iMac and to also put it to sleep. It sends a terminal command over the ethernet port to wake up and sleep the Mac. It is really cool. Makes you feel like you are in the future.
Here is the video
Apple’s September announcement event is like a holiday for me. It is tech Christmas for me. For many years now, I look forward to September because that is when Apple announces a new iPhone. And many people in the media or my friends always say Apple’s new iPhone isn’t that much better than last year’s iPhone so why should anyone upgrade? But I point out to my friends that Apple’s iPhone is much better upgraded every year. Compare it with PCs. Back in the 1990s, everyone would get excited every year when company’s like Dell, HP, IBM, Compaq, etc would upgrade every year with a better processor from Intel. You would get a more powerful PC. And the processors would be maybe 20% more powerful. But then it leveled off.
But Apple has been killing it every year upgrading the iPhone. Most people don’t understand that. They look at the design and say Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 looks just like the iPhone XS or XR from last year. Big deal. But the real magic is the technology in that rectangular slab. With the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11, Apple has updated 4 things that are much better than last year’s phone: 1) the camera, 2) the processors, 3) the battery, and 4) the screen. The Camera (Cameras)
The cameras are upgraded from last year. The iPhone 11 is the price of the XR (actually a lower price than iPhone XR), but it now has 2 cameras on the back of the iPhone compared to 1 last year. And the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max now have 3 cameras on the back compared to 2 on the XS and XS Max.
The front-facing camera now has a 12 mp camera rather than a 7 mp camera. And the front camera now records video in higher data, like 60 frames per second and 4k.
But don’t forget the processors that work with the cameras. I won’t go into the details about the camera processors but the bottom line is they have been greatly updated from the XS and XR iPhones. And those new processors in all the iPhone 11s do things the iPhone XS and XR cannot do. 2 Video Recording at the same time!
Among the things they can do is record videos at the same time from 2 cameras. FILMIC, which has a great professional app in the iPhone for video recording, showed on the stage during Apple’s event that its app will be able to show what all 4 cameras on the iPhone 11 Pro is showing and on the fly you can record 2 of the video streams at the same time. This is a big deal. Before with devices, you could record two videos at the same time but then you would have to sync them. Now the syncing is automatic.
So this will be great for sports and event recording and vlogging. I record my kids playing tennis. But it’s hard to record the entire court. If you go to one end you get the back of one player and the other player is far away. But now you could stand right at the net and record both half’s of the court and show it split-screen.
Similarly, vloggers will love this. They can record them talking and recording where they are and quickly edit the back and forth view or do picture in picture.
The new processors and extra cameras allow the iPhone 11s to take great pictures in low light. Apple calls this tech “Night Mode.” This is what Apple says about it on its site:
Major Upgrade to the screens for the iPhone 11 Pro.
Another major reason to upgrade if you use the phone a lot is that the screens for the iPhone 11 is not much much better. Without going into the technology, the screen can get much brighter than the iPhone XS. Why should you care? You should care because when you are outdoor in the bright sun the screen will be easier to see. Also, whey you watch movies on your iPhone 11 Pro it will look much better.
Another key reason to upgrade to an iPhone 11 from last year’s phone is the battery. All three iPhone 11s have much better batteries. In particular, the iPhone 11, which is the upgrade from the iPhone XR, now has a battery that lasts 1 hour more from the XR. The iPhone 11 Pro, which is the upgrade from the iPhone XS, has a batter that is 4 hours more than the XS. And the iPhone 11 Pro Max? That phone now lasts 5 hours more than last years iPhone XS Max. If you use your phone a lot during the day, you might want to upgrade alone for the better battery.
Processors and other technology
But another reason to upgrade is the processors. The processors are more powerful, And when they are more powerful, you can do more with them. You can edit videos quicker. You can edit photos quicker.
But it’s not just batteries. Apple has upgraded the wifi technology so you can get faster data from wifi. So if you use your wifi at home or at work to stream video or transfers large files, it will go faster.
But other technology: The A1 chip. Apple added a chip, that makes the iPhone 11 more location-aware. It can be used when you do Airdrop on another phone. One problem now with Airdrop is when there are a lot of iPhones around with Airdrop, you see many iPhones in your Airdrop screen. But now with the A1 chip, if you point your iPhone to the iPhone you want to Airdrop, it will bring that iPhone to the top of the iPhones you see on the screen. But this technology is what Apple is going to use when it comes out to tokens. It will allow your iPhone to quickly find those tokens in the room.
Overall, if you are a heavy iPhone user, it is worth upgrading to the iPhone 11, in particular the iPhone 11 Pro. You get a better camera for taking pictures and video, you get a faster processor for all the work you do, you get a better screen, and you get a much better battery. That alone is worth upgrading.