WordPress – New Block Editor

Let me start by saying that I am happy with the look and feel of the macbitz website and I don’t want to change it. First up, I wanted to convert the word macbitz above into italic text. There is no toolbar, however when I move the cursor away from the text I’m typing, a minimalist toolbar appears with an italic button on it. Sue enough if I highlight the word macbitz, I’m able to switch it to italic. Assuming I can do bold and underlined text as well then that’s basic feature test one successfully passed.

Starting a new paragraph seems as simple as before, you simply hit the Enter key. What you don’t necessarily notice is that you’ve just started a nex ‘text block’ when you do this. The new block is entirely separate to the previous one, it just happens to sit directly under the previous one, giving the appearance of a new paragrahph. For now we’ll call test two a pass.

iMac Concept (courtesy of Behance.com)

On to test three and that is adding a picture to the page or past. A lot of the time when creating new content, I am adding new images rather than existing ones stored in my media library. So let’s get going by trying to add a picture of a new iMac concept on to this page. Previously I’d just click the Media button, choose ‘Add New’, upload the image and then coose the alignment and any caption I wanted. I’d like the new image to appear at the start of this paragraph and to be aligned left so that the text flows to the right of it. I’ll start by placing the cursor immediately to the left of the word ‘On’ above and then click the + button top left in the editor. Sure enough there is an image icon in the menu that appears and so I click it. Unfortunately the new editor has defaulted to putting a placeholder for the new image directly below the paragraph where I wanted to use the image. Not a good start. Perhaps I can drag the image to where I want it? Well no actually, you can’t do that because the image is a new block in its own right. After a while playing around and experimenting, I find that placing the cursor over the image I see a new mini-menu pop up above the image. If I then place the cursor over that new menu bar, a new ‘cell’ pops out to the left of the menu bar with what appear to be scroll bars on it. Seems this is the way to move your image and trusting to luck I click on the ‘Up’ arrow and my image moves up to the top of the previous text block, which just so happens to be where I wanted the photo originally. This is an extra step for which the thinking is – insert your image, set its properties then move it rather than the old way which was – insert the image where you want it and then set its properties. Not sure why WordPress felt the need to alter this logic but I dare say after using it for a while I’ll get used to it. By the way, thak you to behance.com for the image (linked here).

On to my next challenge – converting the words above ‘linked here’ into a link to https://www.behance.net/gallery/69322509/iMac-Concept. With my + menu open to the left of the editor I start searching for something to allow me to add a link. Nothing. I use the handy search tool and enter ‘link’ to be given 5 results that look nothing like what I’m trying to do! Seems I missed the painfully obvious, it was there on the mini-menu all the time. With the mini-menu showing, highliht the text you want to turn into a link then click on the (-) button on the mini-menu. Not sure why that icon represents a link, it just does. So that’s the third test passed – adding a link. My next challenge is to save this post and publish it on the site. I am hoping that it will appear in the same style (font, size, etc.) as the other posts so here goes.

2013 – Breathe In And Wait…

The time is late 2013 and having used my trusty 2008 ‘cheesegrater’ Mac Pro for some five years I bite the bullet and purchase a late 2013 27″ iMac. Five years of daily use out of the Mac Pro was already a record. As an IT person with a background in hardware and software support, I was constantly building and upgrading PCs that I used at home, but apart from some storage upgrades on the Mac Pro it pretty much stayed the course in it’s original form for five years.

iMac-2013With the new 2013 iMac I opted to max out on the processor with a 3.5GHz Quad-Core Core i7 together with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M 4Gb graphics option. Not much by today’s standards but back then it was all about going for the best CPU and graphics because upgrading those components is screen-off surgery of a type I didn’t fancy. I opted for a 3Tb Fusion drive primarily because space was everything and I needed lots of it for VMware virtual machines I’d be running. Top that all off with 24Gb of user-upgradeable RAM and I was all set. What I didn’t realise was just how long I’d be set for!

Everything was good, the system ran like a dream and rarely if ever gave me any problems. Working with multiple clients was a breeze with each having one or more dedicated virtual machines I could run alongside each other. The consumer iMac was the way to go with that delightful built in 2560×1440 display. Naturally I assumed I’d follow Apple’s consumer desktop roadmap and never return to those dark days of Windows PCs. Roll on seven years and what has Apple been up to?

Well the following year in 2014 we got new iPhones, MacBooks, an iPod Touch and iPad Airs. We even saw the 27″ iMac get a new 5K display. The years rolled on with watches, iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, Mac Mini’s, both the ‘trash bin’ Mac Pro and then the 2019 Mac Pro, Air Pods, Air Pods Pro, an iMac Pro (in a very familiar looking body), Home Pods, countless services and other initiatives and Apple’s ecosystem grew and grew. But in one little corner of their empire, gathering dust of amost biblical proportions given their expansion everywhere else sat… the consumer iMac! Still wearing its wide-bezelled, big

27inch-iMac-2013

27″ iMac (late 2013)

chinned display, it’s non-height adjustable stand, its hopeless cooling. Despite one or two minor spec bumps to the CPU/GPU options it saw no new technology. Touchbars, amazing cameras, fantastic sound, Touch Id, facial recognition, all manner of wonders for an eager public. The model of 27″ iMac I bought into was actually launched in December of 2012 so in six months time it will have been more or less wearing the same clothes for EIGHT YEARS. In product development terms that isn’t so much taking your time so much as wanton neglect. I can only assume that Apple has felt like it either doesn’s have the capacity to develop this space or that there really is no market for consumer desktop machines these days. Sure if you’re a profesional with deep pockets and can stretch to the iMacPro (which still looks like a 2012 model albeit with better cooling) or the eye wateringly expensive Mac Pro, then you have options. But as a regular Joe I have been wandering the consumer iMac desert for over seven years now with no oasis in sight!

My once trusty iMac is now becoming as flakey as Windows PCs of old. At least once and sometimes twice a week I’ll have to reboot it because applications stop responding. The 3Tb Fusion drive has started to eat itself and over the past six months the number of errors revealed by DriveDX has been growing, to the point where I wonder if it’ll come back the next time I reboot it. Sure I could blow two to three grand on a ‘new’ 27″ iMac but all I’d be doing is investing in eight year old technology that’s way behind the rest of Apple’s curve. As for the prospect of replacing the Fusion drive to eek out some extra life from this old lady, well I really don’t fancy the surgery this involves.

So what to do next? Can’t say I fancy some sort of MacBook with an external monitor and dongles galore as I’d be paying for portability I don’t want. I’ve dropped a couple of hints to popular Apple pundits, but they’re all so busy covering other aspects of Apple-world that they can’t see the elephant in my room. It really is a waiting game, during which I’m, sure I’ll hear more about Apple Glasses and Apple Cars than I will about a new iMac!

PS – looking back at the last few posts (which I admit have been very few and far between) I can safely say that even in macOS Catalina, Apple have still not sorted out multi-monitor support on iMacs. Every time there is a point upgrade in macOS, screensaver choices and display options get wiped clean for no good reason!!

Mac Multi Monitor Misery

Update – I haven’t updated Macbitz in a while and it looks like my past two posts were also about multi-monitor irritations. What can I say other than “Apple – it’s still a problem!”.

I like macOS. Been using it since 2008 when I bought my first ever MacPro – the tall aluminium (or aluminum depending on the side of the pond you’re on) and that machine is still running today, although as a headless storage machine now. No today I’m sporting a late 2013 27″ iMac and as a legacy of my days in IT it has two external monitors connected to it. Both 27″ monitors, both running at 2560×1440 and giving me a huge expanse of things to distract me.

It all works pretty well, OK the Iiyama monitor which I wrote about some years ago is still a pain with backlight bleed you wouldn’t believe and a very dodgy power switch, but the Dell 27″ monitor more than makes up for it. My only issue is that a 3-monitor setup involving an iMac seems to be a pretty rare thing as far as Apple is concerned, so much so that they probably never test this scenario when developing new versions of macOS. Starting with Leopard back in early 2008 right the way up to Mojave some ten years later, support for three monitors under macOS has been flakey at best! Let me explain. Every time there’s a macOS upgrade, be it a completely new version or just a bugfix update, macOS takes it upon itself to keep things exciting by swapping my monitors around. So what was Display 2 becomes Display 3 and what was Display 3 becomes Display 2. This means that every app that I have assigned to always open on the Dell monitor suddenly starts appearing on the Iiyama monitor and vice versa. It’s then a painstaking task of reassigning specific apps back to the correct monitor. I could just shortcut this swapping the position of my two monitors in System Preferences but the problem there is that as I move my mouse off the left-hand edge of the screen to move it to the Dell monitor on the left of my iMac, the mouse pointer would actually move to the right and appear on the Iiyama monitor which is just confusing. Doubtless macOS has its own internal record of where monitors are and for some reason when an OS upgrade happens this record gets wiped and the old switcheroo happens.

Moving on – I don’t change my wallpapers much but one thing I do is to have the same wallpaper across all three monitors. However… when macOS upgrades happen, the wall paper on one or more monitors will be reset to what it was previously. By that I mean if I have a picture of a sunset on all three monitors and I change it to a different picture, when macOS is upgraded from say 10.14.1 to 10.14.2, the wallpaper reverts back to the sunset picture. I don’t know if macOS retains a history of what wallpapers you’ve used but if it does then it is jumping back to a previous entry.

As if that wasn’t enough, the same happens for screensavers. Perform an OS upgrade and you’ll be treated to the previous screensaver you used.

Anyway, moving on from the trials of OS upgrades, there are a few problems that just manifest themselves on a daily basis. The first is random screen choice for apps where I haven’t manually assigned them to a specific monitor. Now one would assume that when opening an app it would default to opening on the last screen it appeared on, so if Spotify was last open on the Dell monitor then when reopening it, Spotify would again open on the Dell monitor. Not so, it will revert to opening on the iMac or sometimes the Iiyama monitor. The only solution is to manually assign it to a particulr display (then enjoy the fun when that gets reset by an OS upgrade).

And so on to my final bugbear… the Dock! Now it seems that macOS has this handy feature where the Dock will move from the main display (my iMac) to a different display so that it is close to hand when working on a different monitor. Great, however the trigger for this is completely random! Sometimes all I have to do is move the mouse from one display to another and without so much as a click the Dock will jump to that monitor. The only way to get the Dock back to Display 1 (the iMac) is to:

  1. Move the mouse pointer up to the menu bar on Display 1.
  2. Click on the menu bar on Display 1.
  3. Click anywhere on the wallpaper on Display 1 (clicking on an open app on Display 1 doesn’t work).
  4. Finally move the mouse right to the bottom edge of Display 1

..at which point the Dock will return to Display 1. Why it is necessary to go through this rigmarole to get the Dock back to where it was when macOS moved it to another display merely because the mouse pointer was on that display is a complete mystery to me! Actually what would be nice is if there was a System Preference under the Displays section where you could tick a box that says ‘Do NOT move Dock when using multiple monitors’.

I have submitted bug reports to Apple but I dare say the number of macOS users out there using more than two external monitors with an iMac is fairly small and thus these bugs don’t rank high on their list of priorities. Shame really because macOS is supposed to be the pinnacle of ‘Ease Of Use’ when using a desktop OS and these flaws just detract from the overall experience.

Mavericks and multiple monitors – I assume they didn’t test it?

Since buying this 27″ iMac and adding a second external monitor, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that Apple simply can’t have tested multiple monitor setups under Mavericks.

My reasoning behind this is that the behaviour of Mavericks on a 27″ iMac with a 24″ 1920×1080 external monitor attached seems to be completely random! Let me give you the evidence:

Case 1 – Any monitor will do. You would assume that when launching an application it will do one of two things. Firstly, it will try to open itself on the monitor it was last using, thus if I had Firefox open on Monitor 2, then when I lunch it again it will open on monitor 2 again. Secondly, it will observe whatever you have configured it for in the Dock. E.g. if I specify in the Dock that Firefox should use Desktop 1 then it should do just that. So far. my experience has been that the monitor on which an application opens is COMPLETELY RANDOM! Most days Firefox will open on the iMac, but about 30% of the time it will open on the external monitor for no reason that I can fathom. It’s not just Firefox, it’s 1Password, Readkit, Jump Desktop, you name it.

Case 2 – Window placement optional. Often when I open an application it opens with only half the window visible, i.e. half the window is off the edge of the screen. Even though when the application was last used the whole of its window was visible, next time around Mavericks decides that it’ll position the window half way off the screen!

Case 3 – Size is not important. Again, why is it so difficult for Mavericks to remember what size a window was when it was last open? I frequently find when launching an app that the new window is a tiny rectangle on the screen, rather than the size it was when I was last using it.

Case 4 – Out of sight, out of mind. Mavericks seems to have no idea where the boundaries of the screen are. I opened iFFmpeg only to find that its window opened completely off the screen. I could see it in Mission Control but no way could I get the iFFmpeg window on to a monitor where I could interact with it. Quitting the app and restarting it didn’t help and in the end all I could do was to reboot the iMac.

Case 5 – Sleep… all change. I have all my windows arranged across the two monitors and everything is finally how I want it. I step away for a while and Mavericks puts my iMac to sleep. On waking the machine, some windows have been minimized to just a title bar! Only way to rectify the issue is to quit the app and start again.

My guess is that Apple changed the rules surrounding multiple monitors and maybe didn’t tell the developers because the way Mavericks handles windows across two screen seems to be completely random!

Pick a screen, any screen…

For the past six years I have been using Macs and OS X as my primary way of computing at home. I used to build my own Windows PCs and must admit that I derived a certain amount of enjoyment from choosing and then assembling a bunch of parts into a working machine, however there was always a hidden cost to this… keeping the thing working. With Windows you always seem to have to work at maintaining the thing, keeping drivers up to date, keeping anti-malware software up to date and so on and so forth. Then there were the times when something that worked fine one day, refused to the next and having worked in PC Support I remember just how often I’d be faced with a machine that would bluescreen on reboot for no apparent reason or just lock up entirely. The joy of the Mac world was that things just seemed to work and you no longer had to worry about nursing the machine and OS along. The cost of time and stress saved by not having to try and figure out how to get the thing working… immeasurable. It’s fair to say that until I added a second graphics card to my early 2008 Mac Pro and installed Mountain Lion, I had a good five years with a machine that not once crashed, froze or panicked.

27" iMac (late 2013)

27″ iMac (late 2013)

So I was pretty confident that when the time came to upgrade and I purchased a late 2013 27″ iMac, I was going to enjoy a similar pain-free experience. After all, OS X Mavericks, installed at the factory on the latest greatest hardware – what could be better? Well seems not all is sweetness and light and this current setup doesn’t know that Macs should just work. For starters there’s Mavericks odd support for multiple monitors. I have the iMac hooked up to a BenQ 24″ monitor using an Apple Thunderbolt to DVI cable and for the most part it works just fine, except that Mavericks will randomly decide to open certain applications on the iMac screen one day, then the BenQ screen the next. You’d think it would always open the app either on the screen it was last open on, or on the ‘Desktop’ you specified on the application properties. Unfortunately not! For instance, I use Jump Desktop and under the Dock Options I have it assigned to ‘Desktop on Display 1’ i.e. the iMac’s built-in screen. For about 80% of the time it opens on the iMac main screen when I launch it, but often it opens on the BenQ monitor for no apparent reason other than it seems bored of doing it how I want. Sure, assigning it to a desktop has helped – before I did that it would seem to just pick a monitor at random, but why doesn’t it respect the setting I’ve given it?

Then there’s the windows that open half way off the screen. Certain apps like ReadKit and 1Password do this a lot – not always, but often enough to be irritating as I have to drag the window back into view, and this is after previously closing the app with the window fully on screen. It’s one of those problems that seems to have no obvious solution other than to wait for a fix from Apple. A quick search shows that it’s quite a common problem for Mac users using Mavericks and multiple monitors, so I shall keep my fingers crossed that Apple know about the problem and will be sorting it sooner rather than later.

Now as they say on all good TV stations… coming up in a future episode of Macbitz – an iMac that hangs on shutdown/restart and a DIY USB 3.0 4Tb external drive with UASP support (who needs Thunderbolt anyway?).

To Buy Or Not To Buy

2008 Mac Pro

2008 Mac Pro

My 2008 Mac Pro has done sterling service over the past 4 years 9 months. I bought it back in February 2008 with a single Quad-core 2.8GHz Xenon CPU, single 500Gb internal hard drive, 4Gb of RAM and a single nVIDIA graphics processor. Since then I have upgraded the RAM to 12Gb (primarily to support running multiple Windows VMs under VMware Fusion), have upgraded the internal storage to 2 x WD ‘BLACK’ 1Tb drives and 2 x WD ‘GREEN’ 2Tb drives, and have added a second graphics card to support three monitors in total. The icing on the cake is that Mountain Lion supports the 2008 Mac Pro, so I’m running the latest OS on a Mac that’s nearly 5 years old!

Daily work includes running the aforementioned Windows VMs as well as email, web surfing, hosting a very large music collection (around 250Gb of mp3’s), photo processing and graphics work as well as some iOS development. For the most part this all works pretty well, however I have noticed that in the last few months the machine hasn’t been quite as swift as it once was. iTunes takes a while to load as does iPhoto and this is despite me doing a clean install of Mountain Lion a couple of months ago. What’s more, over the first four and a half years I’ve not once had a single kernel panic, freeze or crash which is pretty remarkable for a computer that has all sorts of rubbish thrown at it. However, since upgrading to Mountain Lion about 3 months ago I have had two kernel panics and some other odd behaviour, e.g. Notification Centre freezes, some ‘double-take’ reboots and a few other miscellaneous app crashes. I get the ever so slight feeling that destruction testing Mountain Lion on the 2008 Mac Pro was probably not the focus of their attention when developing it, and that perhaps there are one or two Mountain Lion bugs with this hardware.

The launch of the new ‘slim’ iMacs has got me wondering whether now is the time to invest in a new 27″ iMac to become my main workstation and relegate the Mac Pro to being a workhorse machine for storage and running VMware? The one thing I have learned with iMacs is that certain parts (e.g. CPU, GPU and storage) can be very difficult or even impossible to upgrade at a later stage, so it’s best to go for as high a spec as you can afford up front. So that would mean opting for the 27″ model with a 3.4GHz Quad-code Intel i7 CPU, 16Gb RAM (Apple RAM prices aren’t nearly as scary as they used to be!), 3TB Fusion drive, 2Gb  GeForce GTX 680MX graphics processor. Unfortunately that little lot together with 3yr AppleCare comes to a whopping £2,597 and while Apple are currently offering 10 months interest free credit, that is still a huge amount to spend on a computer. Admittedly I could sell the Mac Pro and the going price even for a Quad-core 2008 model seems to be around £1,000, trouble is it’s been such a good machine for nearly five years that I’d find it difficult to part with! 2012_iMac

Alternative would be a new Mac Pro and it’s rumoured there’s a new one in the pipeline as drivers for it (or its likely GPU) have been spotted in recent builds of OS X. Main considerations here are firstly how far off is the new Mac Pro and secondly what will it cost seeing as the entry-level prices for Mac Pro’s seem to be much higher than they were back in 2008 – i.e. they have gone from enthusiast money to professional money.

Decisions decisions… I wouldn’t even be considering a new Mac if it weren’t for the special interest free finance deals (which probably won’t last beyond Christmas), but given how much I use the Mac and assuming I’ll get a good five years of service out of a new one, it’s mighty tempting. And yes I realize that for this kind of money I could buy some massively fast and highly spec’d Windows machine and still have money left over for a holiday in the sun, but I parted company with Windows as my main OS back in 2008 and I haven’t looked back since. Maybe that’s the price of being a Mac user, but the peace of mind for five years has probably been worth it alone 😉

Giving Google Chrome the heave-ho

Google Chrome Logo

Like it or hate it?

I won’t go into the reasons why you might want Google Chrome on your Mac in the first place, or the reasons you might have for wanting to remove it other than to say this app is a good example of the sort of junk that can get let behind if your way of uninstalling apps is simply to drag them to the trash.

This is just a short post for those who don’t have an OS X application uninstaller (like CleanApp) and who may want to remove as many traces of Google Chrome as they can from their Mac. So without further ado, here is the list of files that you will need to look out for and remove. Note than in the list you will need to replace <username> with whatever id you use when logging on to your Mac.

 

  • /Applications/Google Chrome.app
  • /Users/<username>/Library/Caches/com.google.Chrome
  • /Users/<username>/Library/Preferences/com.google.Chrome.plist
  • /Users/<username>/Library/Saved Application State/com.google.Chrome.savedState
  • /Users/<username>/Library/Preferences/com.google.Keystone.Agent.plist
  • /Users/<username>/Library/Application Support/Google
  • /Users/<username>/Library/Caches/Google
  • /Users/<username>/Library/Caches/com.google.Keystone
  • /Users/<username>/Library/Google
  • /Users/<username>/Library/Caches/ksurl
  • /Users/<username>/Library/Logs/GoogleSoftwareUpdateAgent.log
  • /Users/<username>/Library/LaunchAgents/com.google.keystone.agent.plist

If you use Little Snitch or Hands Off! then you can also go and delete any rules relating to Google Chrome for good measure, such as:

  • Google Chrome.app
  • GoogleSoftwareUpdateAgent.app
  • ksurl

The only thing to watch for is if you are using other Google software on your Mac such as Picasa or Google Earth as these might be sharing some of the common folders and agents. If in doubt, leave it alone is always a good motto!