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Meet Mr. Gadd, 83, of Fontwell Magna in Dorset

Posted on by Mike Evans

"Meet Mr. John Gadd, 83, of Fontmell Magna in Great Britain. He keeps a diary. He keeps the most incredible diary I have ever heard of. It is huge,  as in 21,000 pages, filling 151 volumes, and also contains some 33,000 photos and ephemera. The diary dates back 66 years to 1947 and contains some four million pages."

These words are written by Nifty the Notebook Addict who writes a fascinating blog about notebooks and all things scribbly. I never cease to be amazed at the quality and quantity of esoteric information that comes into my inbox every day. While the established print media disappears inexorably behind its self-defeating paywalls, hundreds of thousands of individuals throughout the world now have their own voice. And, in the main, they write more interesting stuff than the paid hacks of the press ever did.

  The Parker 51 had a hooded nib which was relatively stiff but wonderfully smooth, quite unlike most fountain pens we are used to. This vintage Parker from  Penhome.co.uk  is similar to mine except that mine has a brushed aluminium cap, a sign of the basic model, which I much prefer

The Parker 51 had a hooded nib which was relatively stiff but wonderfully smooth, quite unlike most fountain pens we are used to. This vintage Parker from Penhome.co.uk is similar to mine except that mine has a brushed aluminium cap, a sign of the basic model, which I much prefer

Nifty's notebook blog strikes a chord with me. I subscribe to several other similar sites because I have always had an interest in journals, notebooks, pens, pencils and stationery in general. In my younger years I could spend hours in stationery shops, back in the days when there was really interesting stuff around.

Nowadays everything is bubble packed and stripped to the minimum; gone are the tooled binders, boxes of carbon paper, gummed envelopes (heaven preserve us from self-adhesive envelopes that lose their stick after a month or two) and paperclips by weight.

Pens, in particular, have been a lifelong passion. In this I follow my grandfather, Harry Evans, who had a rare collection of fountain pens dating back to his earliest days at the beginning of the last century. They were all bequeathed to me, unfortunately at such an early age that I failed to appreciate them. For my part, my first real pen was a Parker 51, back in the 50s when this was the pen to be seen with. It cost me all of £6.30, or six guineas, at Boots The Chemist in the Manchester Stock Exchange building.

I don't know what happened to this paragon of penmanship but it obviously dropped off the perch somewhere along the line. It was replaced with a long succession of Watermen, Scheaffers, Pelikans and Montblancs; but no pen ever provided the sense of satisfaction I derived from the Parker.

Miraculously, only last weekend, I found an exact replica of my old Parker at The Penman in the Portobello Road market. It is reconditioned expertly and writes like a dream; but it cost 13 times more than I paid for the original all those years ago. Of course, six guineas was two weeks' wages in those days, a quite enormous sum to spend on a pen. Now, £80 is almost petty cash. Were it still made, the 51 would probably be priced north of £300.

As a result of this surprise purchase I have made a resolution to write a page of notes every day, just to keep my calligraphy skills in harness. If you don't use it, you lose it: And this applies to handwriting as well as any other skill. Reliance on keyboards means that eventually none of us will be able to write fluently, Parker 51 or no.

I'm grateful to Nifty for reminding me of this. Mind you, I have a long way to go before I fill 21,000 pages with notes. Sad to say, my daily journal is kept in the Cloud via the estimable Day One app. I confess that, unlike the single-minded Mr. Gadd of Fontwell Magna, I have never managed to keep a handwritten journal going for more than a week or so. But with Day One I am now nearing four years of doings, all without missing a day. Sometimes technology helps; it's just that it's nice to have the best of both worlds. Welcome back, dear Mr. Parker 51, the best pen ever made.

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Mac Security: Making life harder for those with evil intent

Posted on by Mike Evans

It is nearly ten years since I abandoned Windows and bought my first Mac. Better security that came with Apple's computers was one of the most compelling reasons for the change and I took some comfort in the fact that in 2005 Macs were still a niche product. There were so few of them out there, relatively speaking, that most of us believed hackers and malware artists were less likely to target us rather than the soft underbelly of the PC world. This could have been so But, even then, OS X was inherently more secure, requiring a password before the installation of any application for instance.

A lot has changed in those ten years. Mac sales are booming, there is no longer an "Apple premium" and Macs are now reasonably priced, albeit at the higher end of the market. With this success has come more danger as criminals find it lucrative to target OS X as well as Windows. Despite this, many Mac users still do not use virus-protection software because it is intrusive and can undoubtedly cause unpredictable problems.

That said, Mac users tend to be more technically aware and take other steps to operate in as safe an environment as possible. There are some things that every Mac user should do to protect themselves and their computer; they are simply implemented and should be high on everyone's list.

Topher Kessler, writing in Macworld, highlights four security options that we should all know and implement:

While OS X is relatively secure by default, there are some additional steps you can take to ensure the data on your Mac is only accessible by you, even if your Mac is stolen.....Overall, while Apple can do very little to prevent your computer from being stolen, OS X does its best to protect the data it holds as well as offers a chance that you can pinpoint its location. With these options enabled, you can be sure your Mac's data is as safe as possible, with little to no inconvenience for you

You can read the full article here. But Toby's four points are all absolutely essential to your computer's wellbeing and your protection from identity theft or worse:

  1. Enable the OS X firewall
  2. Enable FileVault
  3. Manage your passwords effectively and securely
  4. Lock your computer and enable Find My Mac

Most readers will already have taken these steps, as I have. In particular, FileVault, which encrypts your internal disk (or connected external disks) is an essential protection. It means that even if your computer is stolen and the disk removed for inspection (to circumvent the login lock), data cannot be viewed. I've been using FileVault for many years and have not had the slightest problem. It just works, silently and efficiently.

Similarly, password management is vital. I employ 1Password, as do most savvy Mac users. Not only does it encourage you to create really secure and unmemorable passwords, it manages the whole kit and caboodle brilliantly. All you need to unlock this potential is, as the name says, one password. This should be secure but something you can remember and it should under no circumstances be used elsewhere. 

In addition to Topher's four cardinal precautions, you need to be aware of the security risk that comes with using your Mac in public, particularly on free wifi networks. "Free" often means unmanaged and, if you leave the door of your computer ajar, nasty people could gain access to your data while you are sipping your latte. 

Christopher Breen addresses this problem in another Macworld article. He discusses ways to exclude intruders, particularly by turning off sharing that you might have enabled for a specific reason in the past, and the nuclear option of paying for a VPN (virtual private network) account.

These days, though, I tend not to use public wifi because of the various security scares. With fast 4G cellular networks available in larger cities, it now makes more sense to stick with your phone or iPad's mobile service and enable a hotspot to feed your Mac. In most cases, 4G is actually faster than most public wifi services. Christopher also recommends this and you can read all his advice here.

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Squarespace 7: Blogging just became a whole lot more enjoyable and productive

Posted on by Mike Evans

Anyone starting a weblog such as Macfilos from scratch faces a daunting choice of platform. When I developed this site I knew absolutely nothing about web design or blogging but I had heard of Wordpress, the default choice for most newcomers. It is by far the largest blogging system with a plethora of templates and loaads of independent add ons. But it does require a degree of knowledge, particularly in initial setup. I eventually settled on Squarespace, a New York-based hosting platform founded in 2004 by Anthony Casalena in his University of Maryland dorm.

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iCloud: Apple storage costs slashed in UK

Posted on by Mike Evans

Apple has now posted the new, cheaper iCloud storage costs and you can upgrade or downgrade at any time. I was on the old 50GB package (55GB including the free initial 5GB awarded to all iCloud users) and paid £70 for the year, equivalent to £5.84 a month. The new rates are:

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Dropbox bluffs users into paying for more storage than needed

Posted on by Mike Evans

Existing Dropbox Pro users are being asked to pay the same high fees in return for 10x storage. But they are being told if they opt to reduce to the 1TB package they will not be able to reapply for a higher package in the future. This is pure bluff and is a blatant attempt to ring fence current subscription levels. Don't fall for it.

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Dropbox drops prices dramatically in move to compete with Apple, Google, Microsoft

Posted on by Mike Evans

In my opinion Dropbox has always been the best of the cloud synchronisation services. I've been using it for over five years and never once has it let me down. In fact, on several occasions it has saved my bacon, allowing me to recover otherwise lost previous versions of vital databases. Now, in addition to reliability, Dropbox is good value for money.

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Dropbox: Overpriced and over here

Posted on by Mike Evans

Dropbox is to open an office in the UK So it is now a case of over priced and over here, to borrow a second-World War metaphor. Come on Dropbox UK, let's have some pricing action.  If you still want to woo me with your American charm, better reduce the cost of the nylons and the chewing gum.

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iOS Extensions and TouchID freedom will be big for Apple

Posted on by Mike Evans

The big news this autumn will come directly from Apple’s decision to introduce Extensions and free the fetters surrounding Touch ID. Already developers are working on making iOS life easier by extending their apps to talk to other applications and services. And the opportunities for Touch ID are virtually limitless. 

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iDroop: And the cure comes from Zagreb

Posted on by Mike Evans

No sooner do I start fretting over iDroop and searching for a safer pocket for the iPhone than in sails the solution from Zagreb, Croatia, of all places.

Bye bye worries over phone-induced impotence. A pair of WTF jeans from the Balkans is likely to be all the protection you need. These radiation-proof keks could be just the ticket, despite the hefty price tag. Pedja Pusela and his extensive coterie of colleagues aims to nip the modern scourge of iDroop in the bud.

The jeans even come in V1 and V2 versions just like the German's secret rockets which rained down on London at the end of the second world war. With copper-bottomed protection like this, what man could resist? I'll take the V3 please, for ultimate protection.

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Hiding iOS apps from inquisitive eyes and fingers

Posted on by Mike Evans

One of the big problems with iPads and iPhones is the absence of multi-user facilities. I hate friends asking to use my iPad because all the apps are only a finger press away. How much worse must it be if you are pressured into letting children use your tablet. My brother, who manages IT in a large school, tells me that he has a constant battle to preserve the integrity of the stock of iPads, both to stop children downloading Candy Crush or worse and to prevent them changing the password. No sooner has he closed one loophole, the ingenious small people find another. 

One solution for your own iPad or iPhone is to hide apps. Mike Wehner at  tuaw.com has detailed how to do this by nesting folders. It sounds like a lot of fuss over nothing but, if your iPad is in demand by friends and kids, the time spent could be worthwhile.

Find out how to hide your apps here.

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My Passport Pro: Thunderbolt advances, cheaper too

Posted on by Mike Evans

Last year I was not alone in worrying about the future of Thunderbolt. Despite Apple's wholesale change to the new interface, peripherals have been slow to appear and prices have been surprisingly high. Meanwhile, the slower and cheaper USB 3.0 standard has been making great headway.

Western Digital has now introduced a portable drive that, for the first time, gives hope that Thunderbolt is here to stay. With a capacity of up to 4TB and a starting price under £300, the My Passport Pro is an attractive external drive and is one of the cheapest Thunderbolt storage devices I have seen. It is also unusual in not requiring an external source.

The most exciting feature, however, is that this is a dual-drive system which can be set up in RAID 0 (for maximum storage) or RAID 1 (for maximum security). The drives also support Apple Time Machine. With a short built-in Thunderbolt cable, the Pro is sure to be an excellent travelling companion for any Mac power user. 

The 2TB My Passport Pro with twin 1TB 2.5in disks retails at £299 (including VAT) while the larger capacity (and 14.5mm thicker) 4TB configuration costs £409.

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Crack Safari and win $40k from Apple

Posted on by Mike Evans

Well, that's nice to know. At a recent hackers' conference, Apple's Safari was defeated by Chen Liang, one of a pair Chinese Keen Team hackers. And he earned himself $40,000 in the process. Said Chen:

For Apple, the OS is regarded as very safe and has a very good security architecture. Even if you have a vulnerability, it's very difficult to exploit. Today we demonstrated that with some advanced technology, the system is still able to be pwned. But in general, the security in OS X is higher than other operating systems. OS X is harder to attack than iOS 7.0 because Apple issues security updates for its desktop operating system more frequently than for its mobile OS.

Read more here

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iCloud: A service to trust

Posted on by Mike Evans

Ben Bajarin:

Given the beating Apple’s cloud services often take, I am sure you will be surprised at what I am about to say. I like iCloud. I rely on it quite a bit. What’s more, I trust iCloud. My expectations for iCloud have always been centered on synchronization. This has always been the killer cloud value proposition in my mind. Even during the days when many in the industry stated with confidence that the killer app of the cloud would be backup, I was confident it would be synchronization.

Read more here

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FaceTime Audio best app for Apple users

Posted on by Mike Evans

A few years ago I used to spend a fortune on calls to other European countries and further afield. All that changed with the arrival of VoIP apps such Skype. WhatsApp, Google Voice and Fring all have their followers and all have had their moment in the sun. But I do have some concerns over security. In the past I have given several of these apps permission to access my contacts book and I now sort of regret that. In order to use them efficiently you do need to allow them to get inside Contacts but none of us has control of what other use is made of the information. 

I have come to the conclusion that I can trust Apple, probably alone, with the information since it is already sitting on their server farms dotted around the world. All my stuff is up there in the iCloud whether I like it or not.

This is not the only reason I have come to rely exclusively on Apple's FaceTime. It so happens that almost all my regular contacts use an iPhone and many also have Macs or iPads. Up to now, thought, the snag with FaceTime was that it offered only video communication―leading often to broken calls and constant "redialling". Last week, with the must-have update to Mavericks 10.9.2 we can now use FaceTime Audio. I've been giving it a run over the past few days and can report that voice clarity is exceptional most of the time, especially on my fast home network, and the reliability of calls is much improved over the more bandwidth-hungry video. If you haven't already tried FaceTime Audio, Jonny Evans at Computerworld has put together a mini guide to get you started.

With all these advances in communication, the poor old landline is nearing extinction. Mine seldom rings and when it does I get something of a shock. I confess to some irritation at having to pick up the phone and the first question that pops into my mind is why the caller didn't use the more convenient cellphone number. This is especially annoying when I am out and messages are left on the landline when I could have been contacted at any time on the iPhone. There is now no overriding need for landlines in the home and I expect them to be extinct within ten years. If I were to move home in the near future I would have to think hard about the need for a landline¹ and thousands must be in the same position. 

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¹ I acknowledge that a landline is still essential for many as a means of accessing the internet, so it will have a purpose until other means are found to deliver broadband services. In my case I am lucky enough to have Virgin cable broadband running at 120Mbps, shortly to be boosted at no extra cost to 152Mbps. So I could cut the landline and live happily.

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Mavericks gets much-heralded security update

Posted on by Mike Evans

Following a week of scathing criticism, Apple has finally updated OS X to close the notorious "gotofail" vulnerability. iOS 6, which also suffered problems, was updated last week. It is strongly recommended that all Macs and iOS devices are immediately upgraded to the latest operating-system versions. Here is Apple's crib sheet to help you on your way.

Updating your system

  1. You should back up your system before installation. To do this you can use Time Machine.
  2. Do not interrupt the installation process once you have started to update your system.
  3. You may experience unexpected results if you have third-party system software modifications installed, or if you've modified the operating system through other means.
  4. Choose Apple menu () > Software Update to check for the latest Apple software using the Mac App Store, including this update.
  5. Other software updates available for your computer may appear, which you should install. Note that an update's size may vary from computer to computer when installed using Software Update. Also, some updates must be installed prior to others.

You can also download the manual update installer. This is a useful option when you need to update multiple computers, but only want to download the update once. Standalone installers are available from Apple Support Downloads

About the update

The OS X Mavericks v10.9.2 Update is recommended for all OS X Mavericks users. It improves the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac. This update:

  • Adds the ability to make and receive FaceTime audio calls 
  • Adds call waiting support for FaceTime audio and video calls
  • Adds the ability to block incoming iMessages from individual senders
  • Includes general improvements to the stability and compatibility of Mail
  • Improves the accuracy of unread counts in Mail
  • Resolves an issue that prevented Mail from receiving new messages from certain providers 
  • Improves AutoFill compatibility in Safari
  • Fixes an issue that may cause audio distortion on certain Macs
  • Improves reliability when connecting to a file server using SMB2
  • Fixes an issue that may cause VPN connections to disconnect
  • Improves VoiceOver navigation in Mail and Finder
  • Improves VoiceOver reliability when navigating websites
  • Improves compatibility with Gmail Archive mailboxes
  • Includes improvements to Gmail labels
  • Improves Safari browsing and Software Update installation when using an authenticated web proxy
  • Fixes an issue that could cause the Mac App Store to offer updates for apps that are already up to date
  • Improves the reliability of diskless NetBoot service in OS X Server
  • Fixes braille driver support for specific HandyTech displays
  • Resolves an issue when using Safe Boot with some systems 
  • Improves ExpressCard compatibility for some MacBook Pro 2010 models
  • Resolves an issue which prevented printing to printers shared by Windows XP
  • Resolves an issue with Keychain that could cause repeated prompts to unlock the Local Items keychain
  • Fixes an issue that could prevent certain preference panes from opening in System Preferences
  • Fixes an issue that may prevent migration from completing while in Setup Assistant
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WhatsApp "a bargain at $19 billion"

Posted on by Mike Evans

I don't pretend to understand trillions or even billions. I'm more comfortable with £49.50 at Marks & Spencer and a bagful of stuff I can eat. But Mark Zuckerberg seems to be delighted with his purchase of just-another-comms-app WhatsApp using Facebook's small change. To me, though, this sounds like a lot of money for not a lot. I remains to be seen. Zuckerberg, meanwhile, admits to a bit of doubt: "I could be wrong."

WhatsApp, just like all similar "free" services, politely asks for your permission to access your contacts list. Invariably you agree because there isn't much sense in using the service unless you can readily find numbers. Some of these contacts-grabbing apps reside in very foreign climes with little control over your data. To avoid temptation, I've deleted WhatsApp.

Via The Telegraph

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Backup Strategy: Choosing a RAID or separate disks

Posted on by Mike Evans

  The Seagate Backup Plus USB 3.0 drives can be mounted on the two-port Thunderbolt Adapter to provide a very flexible expansion solution

The Seagate Backup Plus USB 3.0 drives can be mounted on the two-port Thunderbolt Adapter to provide a very flexible expansion solution

After writing about my photo archive backup strategy two days ago I did spent more time investigating RAID back-up options. While I did not change my conclusion about the effectiveness of the 6TB LaCie 2big Thunderbolt drive, I did acquire severe misgivings about the noise level from this unit. While reading a number of independent reviews, I decided I would more than likely regret having such a noisy drive near to the computer. Until we get longer (optical) Thunderbolt cables at a reasonable price, this is always going to be a factor. Instead, I settled on two 4TB Seagate Backup Plus USB 3.0 drives and one

Seagate Thunderbolt Adapter .

Although these drives are billed as USB 3.0, it is possible to add the Thunderbolt adaptor to increase data transmission speeds. The adaptor features two Thunderbolt ports (unlike many single-disk Thunderbolt drives such as those from LaCie) so additional drives can be daisychained. I would never again buy a Thunderbolt drive with just one port because it always has to be end of the line and kills expansion opportunities.

The three items, two drives and one adapter, work out at £50 less than the cost of the LaCie 2big Thunderbolt but there is no Thunderbolt cable included (as it is with the LaCie). So price is more or less on par.

I will use the Thunderbolt adaptor with one drive, thus establishing a fast storage location for my photo archives, while the second drive will be used for mirroring (a daily Carbon Copy Cloner backup) via USB 3.0. This works for me because my photo archive files seldom change (bearing in mind the current files are on the MacBook Pro's internal disk). If you are looking for an external drive for live use, perhaps for storing most of your computer's working data which changes from minute to minute, then RAID 1 configuration offers the most secure option.

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