• apple watch,  lifestyle,  refurbished

    Back Market Saves You Money and the Planet Too

    Earlier this week, Back Market – a refurbished electronics reseller – had an interesting ad campaign that really caught my attention. As part of their “Hack Market” advertising effort, Back Market, in essence, AirDrop spammed customer and demo devices inside Apple retail locations with a link to their website that promotes the purchase of used devices.

    Back Market’s purpose is to purchase used electronics, “renew” them, and then resell the used equipment at a substantial savings to customers. By promoting the purchase of used devices is that it keeps perfectly good devices from becoming e-waste and going into a landfill. In my opinion, this is a win-win for gadget fans. It allows you to get a recent device at a great price and helps the planet. But more on that a little bit later.

    According to Romain Dillet and Ingrid Lunden, writing for TechCrunch.com Back Market, based in France, is a marketplace for customers to sell their used electronics and offer them to customers who are looking to save money by purchasing used equipment at varying price points. The company has been established in Europe for several years. Buying used electronics extends the useful life of the device. This use, sell, reuse process has become known as the “circular economy.”

    In 2018, Back Market opened an online store front and began operations here in the US.
    They offer a wide range of electronics including laptops, gaming consoles, cameras, home appliances, and yes, Apple hardware. They even offer a student discount. That’s a pretty cool company if you ask me.

    I hadn’t heard of Back Market before this week. Previously, I had purchased used and refurbished devices either directly from Apple, Gazelle, or eBay. So, I watched the YouTube video that is part of the “Hack Market” campaign.

    Naturally, I had to check out their website and ended up buying something. Mission accomplished.

    I started by looking at refurbished iPads and MacBooks, but I really didn’t have a need for one. I thought that I might buy one and leave it at the office so I had a personal device that I could tether to my iPhone to check email, surf the web, and those sorts of things. But, after some thought, I could just do that on the iPhone 13 Pro Max that was already in my pocket. Then I took a look at renewed Apple Watch Series 6 stock. I immediately gravitated to the Series 6 44mm Stainless Steel Watch. I had been considering trading in my Series 6 44mm Aluminum Nike+ edition towards the purchase of a Series 7 45mm Stainless Steel model. But, wow, the new price even with the trade in was a bit steep given that I have a new Mac Studio and Studio Display on the way.

    Back Mark, on the other hand, was selling an Apple Watch Series 6 44mm Stainless Steel watch in excellent condition for $299 plus tax. The refurbished Stainless Watch was on sale for less than a new Series 7 Stainless with an Apple trade in for my current Aluminum 44mm. I thought about it for a couple of days, and I purchased the new-to-me Stainless on Thursday. I picked 3-day shipping. It arrived the next day from New York.

    The Watch that I received was, indeed, in excellent condition. Looking closely at the used Watch, I was not able to detect any scrapes, scuffs, dents, scratches, or knicks. Clearly this Watch’s previous owner took as much care of their gadget as I do.

    Back Market ships their devices is a standard bubble back mailer. Inside the mailer is cardboard box that has some bubble wrap that contained my Apple Watch, a knockoff Sport Band, charger, and power brick all in inexpensive plastic packing. My first impression was that there was a lot more plastic than I was expecting, but I didn’t think it was excessive. Conversely, Apple’s use of paper packaging is remarkable, however, their refurbished devices are more expensive. I’m chalking up Back Market’s packing methods up to overall operating cost reductions.

    I have purchased a lot of Apple bands over the years since the introduction of the original Watch. I also have at least two Apple Watch chargers and power adaptors. So, I set the Back Market accessories aside. I probably will bring the charger to the office incase either I or one of my coworkers forgets to charge their watch overnight.

    Overall, I’m pretty happy with my purchase and I would definitely buy more renewed electronics from them again in the future. The Back Market website was easy to use. I felt that the prices were reasonable, and as I get older, the idea of refurbishing and extending the service life of our electronics makes a lot of sense.

  • apple,  lifestyle

    Stay Foolish

    Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs overlooking Apple II computers

    In 1976 Apple Computer, Inc. – now officially Apple, Inc. – was founded on April 1 by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne.

    It seems fitting that Apple would get its start on April Fool’s Day given the “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish” quote that is often associated with the late Steve Jobs.

    As it just so happened to turn out, my career in the information technology field started today too. At 8:30am on April 1, 1996, I showed up to work, clutching an Apple PowerBook 100, not sure what to expect. Just like someone traveling down that country road Jobs spoke about on the back cover of the final issue of The Whole Earth Catalog.

    Source: VitoaBrusci.net

    In some small way, I’m glad that Apple and I can share this date. The Apple //e sparked my interest in computers and that interest grew into a satisfying career for my family and I.

    Stay Foolish, indeed.

  • apple,  apple //e,  lifestyle,  vintage

    Welcoming Home an Apple //e

    Apple //e with Apple Disk II 5.25-inch floppy drives and green screen Apple Monochrome Monitor

    From January 1983 to November 1993, Apple sold the Apple //e personal computer. It was wildly popular with consumers, educators, and even business professionals. Over the Apple //e’s service life, it saw no less than three major revisions – the original //e, the //e Enhanced, and the //e Platinum – and four motherboard upgrades.

    For me, it was my first introduction the world of computing and set me on a course to be a life-long Apple fan and IT professional. My parents bought me a second-hand Apple //e in the late 1980s as an upgrade to my first computer, the V-Tech Laser 128, an Apple // clone.

    After letting mine go, I still had a soft spot in my heart for the //e. And, while I no longer had my Apple //e, I remained a fan of that early computer and continued to count myself as a member of Team Apple // Forever.

    Now, years later, though the magic of the worldwide garage sale website that is eBay, I officially belong to the Apple //e owner’s club again. I am so excited to have one of these popular computers once more that I posted an unboxing and walkthrough video on YouTube.

    Welcome home little buddy.

  • lifestyle

    Happy Thanksgiving

    This year, I am thankful for everyone who reads my blog. I do appreciate it.

    I am also thankful for the many things that I have, including my family and our health. And, for the COVID-19 vaccine.

    If you still haven’t gotten you vaccine, please consider getting it. If you have already been vaccinated, consider getting your booster shot. It’s safe and it’s free. Help protect yourself, your family and friends, and coworkers.

    For more information, visit the CDC.gov website.

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving! Stay safe. Get vaccinated. Wear a mask.

    -Alan

  • lifestyle,  mac os x,  macos,  web os

    Roast My Spotlight Settings

    A couple of recent segments on Relay FM’s Connected podcast titled Roast My Menu Bar and Roast My Dock had gotten me thinking about a weird way that I like to use Spotlight Search.

    The long standing feature of macOS is described by Apple this way:

    “Spotlight can help you quickly find apps, documents, and other files on your Mac. With Siri Suggestions, you can also get the latest news, sports scores, weather conditions, and more. Spotlight can even perform calculations and conversions for you.”

    Spotlight was added to Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger back in 2005. Back then, I was not a heavy user of of the tool. I would occasionally use it when I misfiled a document and wanted to quickly try and search for it.

    Source: Wikipedia

    Oddly, the tool that I did end up using, a lot, was a feature of Palm’s Web OS called Universal Search (Web OS 1.x), and its successor feature, Just Type (Web OS 2.x and 3.x). With Web OS, you would just start typing what you were looking for and the Palm Pre would look it up for you.

    Web OS 2.x and 3.x Just Type search bar on a Palm Pre, Source: WebOSNation
    Web OS Just Type search results, Source: WebOSNation

    When I moved from the Palm Pre to the iPhone 4S with iOS 5 in 2011, the Universal Search muscle memory transferred over to Spotlight Search.

    While Mac OS X Spotlight and Web OS Universal Search were meant to search for all sorts of things, both on the device and across the Internet, I fell into a pattern of using both technologies as a quick way to launch applications. First on my Web OS Palm Pre and then on my Macs with Spotlight.

    On the Mac, Spotlight had gone from being a skinny search box in the upper right of the screen to a fully centered search tool that lives at the center of the Mac’s display. As the types of content that Spotlight could search, the search results became longer and longer. But for me, Searchlight would be considered an application launcher first and foremost as a quick way to launch applications without having to take my hands of the keyboard.

    Spotlight Search in macOS Big Sur 11.x

    In recent versions of Mac OS, now known as macOS, I found myself fighting with Spotlight Search for some system apps, like Snapshot, which also has an alias of ‘grab’. (The ‘grab’ alias also works in Microsoft Windows 10 and 11.) I’d want to quickly ‘grab’ a screen capture, pop open Spotlight with the keyboard shortcut Command + Space and type in grab. Rather than getting the Screenshot.app, Spotlight would often put a reference to something ont the web as the fist hit in the list. In past versions of Mac OS, applications would show up first in the list, but that wasn’t always the case in late version of macOS 10.x and Big Sur (11.x).

    Spotlight Settings: Uncheck to declutter search results

    In a recent fit of the machine is working against me rather than helping me, I opened the the Big Sur Settings app, clicked on the Spotlight preferences control panel and unchecked everything in the list except Applications and System Preferences. I may turn on the option to search for definitions in the Dictionary app, but for now, that option remains off.

    So roast my Spotlight usage and preference settings. But for me, this is one time where I chose to customize my Mac to work for me rather than against me.

    And I’m happier for it.

  • lifestyle

    Memorial Day

    On this Memorial Day 2021, let us set aside politics and be thankful for those women and men who service in the United States Armed Forces and, really, all those who protect the citizens of our country. Especially keep in mind those who have given the ultimate sacrifice to protect our way of life.

    Thank you.

  • cause analysis,  information technology,  lifestyle

    The CDC’s COVID-19 Test Design Failure as a Lesson for IT Pros

    David Willman, writing for the Washington Post on December 26, 2020, in an article titled: The CDC’s failed race against covid-19: A threat underestimated and a test overcomplicated:

    “We at the CDC also have the ability to do that today, but we are working on a more specific diagnostic,” Messonnier said, indicating that the agency was seeking a more sophisticated test.

    “We had a conversation with [Stephen Lindstrom] and [Julie M. Villanueva] and asked, specifically: ‘Lots of members are asking if we can drop N3 and just keep N1 and N2,’ ” recalled Kelly Wroblewski, director of infectious diseases for the professional association, based in Silver Spring, Md.

    “And their response at that point was: ‘FDA isn’t going to go for that.’ Both of them were like, it’s a non-starter.’’

    Government officials later told The Post that the FDA would have considered proposals to remove N3.

    Some CDC scientists also were questioning among themselves the need for N3.

    “Why are we trying so hard? . . . We know there’s a problem with it,” one of them recalled asking.

    Instead of dropping N3, the CDC set about trying to manufacture a new batch of reagents in hopes of eradicating possible contamination that had caused the false positives.

    What I find most interesting about this article is CDC’s insistence on keeping the N3 test as part of the testing protocol to see if a patient is COVID-19 positive or not. As I kept reading the article, I was thinking about my own blind spots and biases when working on complicated information technology solutions. Can IT’s insistence to have a complex solution, such as a PowerShell script, C# code, or a SQL stored procedure, cause a CDC-style 46 day delay in testing when a more streamlined WHO-style solution is readily available? Can technologists, like the scientists in Willman’s article, get caught up in the “we are going to solve this” tide? When we get swept up in a fast moving production issue, do we have the wherewithal to take a step back and decided that “good enough” is indeed good enough to solve the issue? Or do we take extra time to take a deep dive into the issue to develop an overly complex solution?

    As information technology professionals, we all need evaluate our unique production environments. What tools are available to us? How much time is available to diagnose the problem and identify a most probable cause? How much time will it take to test and evaluate the performance of the fix? Often times, there is no one size fits all solution. The key takeaway from this article for IT professionals is to be mindful the problem we are trying to solve and to balance “good enough” verses “perfection” when developing technology solutions.