Our Astronaut Friend Is Now Gone

This year on tax day, 4/15/19, the amateur radio community lost one of its most famous members, Owen Garriott, W5LFL, who died at his home in Huntsville, AL at the age of 88. He became famous when he was the first ham to communicate with other hams from space, aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on December 1, 1983.

I was living in Los Angeles at that time, in a neighborhood called Little Hancock Park, just south of Hollywood. My ham station was in a room above our detached single car garage. The ham community in Los Angeles had a very good relationship with the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, probably many who worked there had ham licenses. Very early in the Space Shuttle program, JPL got permission from the FCC to broadcast the live shuttle audio on ham radio repeaters in the Los Angeles area. That meant we could all listen to the complete shuttle audio for those flights using our hand-held transceivers, about twice the size of a large modern smartphone today.

Just being able to listen to the Shuttle audio was cool enough. But in 1983 we got word that the Columbia was going to have a ham aboard and he might make an attempt to talk with hams on earth from the spacecraft while in space. Of course exact timing was known for every single pass of the Shuttle over any given location on the earth. So when we got word of the date and time that he would be passing over, we were ready with our hand-held transceivers below.

The frequency Garriott used was a VHF frequency that works for line of sight FM radio communications. As the Shuttle went by overhead, there were no obstructions of any kind between the space shuttle and the rest of us hams on the ground below. The pass would only last for a minute or two. So we had to have an exact time set on a clock, with our HT’s set to the pre-announced frequency when he came overhead. I was ready when the time came and I was quite shocked at how loud and clear his signal was!! I called him with my two watts of power and I was pretty sure he responded to my call sign, as well as to the call signs of many other hams in the LA area. It was a very very exciting time! And in no time at all, he was gone past our horizon.

It had not occurred to me for an instant to try to record one of these passes. But it did for Steve Yates, AA5TB, in Fort Worth. He made two recordings, which can he heard here and here. And now Owen Garriott is gone from this life. And sadly the Columbia space craft he was aboard back in 1983 was the same one that exploded during re-entry on 1 February 2003 as it returned from space, killing all seven astronauts aboard. We will always remember Garriott and the Columbia as vivid and exciting memories. RIP W5LFL!

This was written in and posted from MarsEdit, my second MarsEdit posting. Ron

Mac Newbie Brag

After a rough start, I have succeeded in getting MarsEdit setup & working with the domain name I use on micro.blog. I tried setting it up yesterday, but got thrown off when it asked for my user name & password. BEEP! Micro.blog doesn’t really have pw’s. SO…. I did a web search in Safari for micro.blog and MarsEdit, which quickly returned Manton advice about how to use an app token in place of a password. I did that and things started making sense in MarsEdit.

I clicked to refresh the list of recent blog posts and soon I had my last 50 blog posts sitting in MarsEdit. But I’ve posted a lot more than 50 posts since 4/26/17, so I poked around the MarsEdit help file and found out how to change the number in the Refresh Scope, did it, hit refresh again and BAM! I now have ALL my own postings in micro.blog sitting in MarsEdit!

I did this without help from anyone, just one tidbit from Manton’s help file and a lot more from the MarsEdit help file. I felt some satisfaction in this accomplishment. It went MUCH more smoothly than my attempt to write a new post in the official Mac app for micro.blog last night.

Adventures With My New Mac Mini

I can now read and/or post to micro.blog using the web interface on my PC, on my Google Chromebook, on my HP Win 10 laptop, or on my Android LG phone, all in a Chrome browser. Or I can use separate apps: Dialog on my Android phone and the official apps on my iPod Touch or on my Mac mini.

For reading (mostly in bed), my first choice is Dialog by a long way. It was obvious how to use it from the start. It is fast, easy to jump between the Timeline, Mentions and Discover tabs and with the large LG Android screen there is plenty of room for easy reading.

At first it would only do replies, which was easy to learn, as you just click on the left arrow in every single message you might read or want to reply to. When they added the ability to create new postings, I recognized the + sign in the big green circle as the obvious way to do that. I had used an editor on the phone (iA Writer) which used the same trick to start a new file to edit.

There’s no Help in Dialog, but I’ve never needed any help with the program! That’s a good sign of a well designed program, in my mind.

For posting, my first choice is the web interface in Chrome on my PC, or lately in the Vivaldi browser. The web interface is the only one I really trust to be able to do anything. I can save drafts, easily look up my earlier posts, jump between Timeline, Mentions & Discover tabs and it’s easy to add an image to a posting. I can even Preview how a posting will look before actually posting it. It’s the first interface I learned, so maybe that gives it an advantage in familiarity and comfort.

In the Apple world, I have read and posted with the iPod Touch, but it gives me a cramped feeling, as it is so small. BUT the interface IS clearly labeled. It’s easy to jump between tabs and it wasn’t too hard to figure out how to create a new posting, but it certainly isn’t labeled or obvious in any way. But in the Timeline tab, the little balloon was sitting there doing nothing (no label of any kind), so I tried clicking on it and eventually it opened a new window for creating a new posting. It works, but I only use it in an emergency, like if my PC isn’t on and I need to post something immediately.

So far the official Mac app is my worst choice, by a long way. It has clearly labeled tabs for Timeline, Mentions, Favorites & Discover. But unlike the iOS app, there is NO tab for Help and the one for Posts only shows my previous postings and has NO label for New Post, as the web interface provides.

Like the iOS app on the iPod Touch, it has the little balloon image in the Timeline tab, but so far I have found absolutely no use for the image. I clicked and clicked on it and never got a new window for posting a new message. So I don’t know why it’s there, unless as some kind of decoration.

When I first ran into that problem, I immediately looked for Help to bail me out. But as mentioned earlier, there was no tab for Help. So I was on my own and eventually gave up for the night having posted nothing.

Later I decided to look at the iOS app on the Touch for some kind of clue. It had the tab for Help, which pleased me, so I clicked on that and poked around. Eventually I stumbled onto a page labeled Micro.blog for Mac. I read down a few paragraphs and found what was apparently the answer. It said, “you can use File —> New Post to start a new blog post.” That seemed really odd, because I hadn’t noticed anywhere in the official Mac app where there was a File button or menu. So how was that gonna help me at all?

I came back to it late the next afternoon (about 18 hours after I had begun playing with the app) and finally noticed the Mac said File at the very top of the screen, well above the window that contained the Micro.blog app below it, a couple of inches down. I clicked on File and there it was, a line to click on for a New Post.

How very strange!!! Later I discovered there was also a Help label up there on top and if I clicked on that, I could get into the help files for Micro.blog. I suppose this is a trick one learns about using a Mac. In using apps with Android, on my PC, and even on the iPod Touch, running any app would open a window that contained all the controls needed for that app. I had never run into a need to use controls of the OS itself to do anything inside an app.

I found this 100% unintuitive, to say the least! Maybe if one is used to using a Mac it would be obvious. But in my defense, I had used an iMac at a client’s office years ago and I just remember doing bookkeeping inside its own program window, not controlling things in the application using controls from the OS itself.

Live and learn, I guess.

//cc: @manton @smokey @Miraz @kulturnation

I have the micro.blog app running on my Mac. It’s fine for reading, but no way found to post a new message with it. On the Touch, I click a bunch of times on the balloon icon & then it opens a window for typing a new message. No joy on the Mac app & no Help button seen. @manton

My Mac mini came with Mac OS Sierra 10.12.5 installed. Should I upgrade it to the latest OS now, or wait until I achieve some milestone in Mac literacy? If I upgrade, will I have to upgrade from version to version, or will it jump me right to the latest version available?

Okay, I’m trying out Smokey’s URL trickery. While I’m at it, I’ll take issue with what he said about Kareem being a pop culture star. Coach Wooden didn’t produce any pop culture star, only a great player, smart, respectful.

Tiger did it! He won his fifth Masters by one stroke, fourteen years after he last won it. He is the second oldest golfer to ever win the Masters, behind Nicklaus. Tiger & Nicklaus were the only two golfers to ever win the Masters in three different decades.

I Had a Great Time Buying the Mac Mini! (You might like reading about it.)

Done deal! I’ll have the new Mac mini at my doorstep by Monday. I made a good friend in the order process, a guy named Marty from Brooklyn, who’s been working at B&H for 11 years. He started there when he was 61 yrs old and has no plans to retire. When I gave him my last name, he quoted a line from Gunsmoke about Chester on that show. Of course the show was very popular when I was a kid, and I often imitated Chester’s limp and speech patterns on the show as I was growing up.

So then I told him about the song, The Weight, with the line about Crazy Chester, which led to a 20 min discussion about Bob Dylan and then Patti Smith, singing Hard Rain at Bob’s Nobel Prize ceremony.. And please, if you watch the video of her performance, you must also watch the video where she describes her experience in the performance and its aftermath.

Now my friend, Marty, is gonna read Patti’s book, Just Kids, on my advice. He thanked me for the order, but mostly thanked me for the really interesting discussion. I think we both ended the call feeling like it had been a marvelous experience. Even in something so mundane as ordering something on the Internet, a joyful experience is possible, if you’re open to it.

A Live Nest Cam in the Scottish Highlands!

This morning at 4:38 am my time, Adam Tinworth @adders posted a link to an extraordinary live cam in the wild which monitors the lives of a pair of Osprey raptors at a lake (Loch Arkaig) in Scotland. This is their third spring there, having recently returned from their winter location in Africa. You just never know what you might find on micro.blog!

Of course I immediately thought of Mike Hendley @Mikehendley and his extraordinary drawing skills of nature. Perhaps these birds could be some new live models for him. The live cam website even has a section that describes the markings that are unique to each bird in this pair. They seem to be verrrrry popular on the Internet, with lots of people following them and commenting upon their behavior.

Due to the time it was posted, it occurred to me that many people might have missed this amazing posting. The website about these raptors, which starts here is terrific. And if Mike were to do some drawings of these birds, he might find a lot of people interested in getting posters of them. But the whole activity is monitored by a nonprofit organization, so they might not approve of any commercialization of the activity. But I wanted to at least call it to Mike’s attention, as well as to everyone else who might have missed Adam’s original posting.

Strange two hour gap in the Timeline, from @amit posting about barbers at 5:19 am to @dodi posting about Monument Valley at 7:18 am. I’ve never noticed a gap in time that long before. CC: @manton

Backward Compatibility: Not So Much

Discouragement has turned to some hope about my bargain Mac Minis. My general policy since my early Apple II+ days has been to steer clear of getting too mixed up in the Apple hardware world, my impression being that it could be a very expensive diversion, especially when my accounting career required Windows. But when two Mac Minis appeared in a local thrift shop, I thought it might be fun to play around with them, at a huge bargain, about the price of a ham sandwich for each one.

I discovered they’re pretty old, but I figured even old should be able to do rudimentary things like text editing, the main requirement for my needs. Then @Smokey gave me a very helpful overview of the Mac lineup, the bottom line being that macOS 10.9 might be the minimum requirement, as anything below that might be shunned now in the Apple world. Interestingly, the key seems to be the big push for an HTTPS world. Dave Winer has been saying for a long time that killing off access to HTTP sites will eliminate a huge amount of the older web. I appreciated Dave’s ardor on this subject, as the Dylan bibliography I created decades ago is a static HTTP site. And now the same issue seems to be popping up again, only this time as a barrier to getting anything useful done with my new bargain Mac Minis.

I was actually kinda shocked that a 2007 Mac machine could be useless. It was feeding my pessimistic view that it’s all about money, that Apple kills off older OS’s quickly, to encourage people to buy the newer product lines. A similar thing has happened to me this year in the PC world. I have to buy new tax preparation software each year, because tax stuff changes each year of course. That is not cheap, over $1K each year, but a necessary cost of doing business. But to my surprise this year, the software for 2018 returns now requires Win 10 for the first time ever. So I had to buy a new PC, a bit under $1K for a verrrrrry powerful machine.

Now tax season is in full swing, so I probably won’t have any time to upgrade the Mac MInis for the next couple of weeks. In the research I had done, it seemed like I could get them up to macOS 10.7, no higher. That being less than 10.9 it seemed like I would need to keep the Minis off the Internet, where browsers might consider an upgraded 10.7 machine to be a pariah. But maybe I could still use them for a text editor at home only.

Randall @rmcrob suggested there might be a way around having to buy an expensive monitor, which was a new glimmier of hope. Both he and John @JohnPhilbin suggested MarsEdit as a possible candidate for software I might be able to use. And now the designer of that software has offered an earlier version of MarsEdit that will work down to 10.6. Hey, that sounds like real hope. Thanks, Daniel @danielpunkass !

All of this has strengthened my love for my original high technology world, amateur radio. Hams have been inventing huge technological advances all my life. But my favorite mode of operation, Morse Code, has always been available on any fancy new equipment. And the old machines still work fine for that. I can still use the same Heathkit transmitter I built in 1960 to communicate with hams all over the world. In that respect, ham radio is far more powerful than this crazy Internet universe.

When I have more time, I will dig in to see if I really can get at least one of these machines in service with MarsEdit. Maybe connect it to my DX-20 to send out Morse Code? Ha ha

Today I downloaded my Google+ takeout zip file, 746 files to begin to look through. Some of the stuff will probably find a new home over here. The first one I opened in Chrome was called RIP Steve Jobs with some memories about my Apple II+ and a link to Death Is Not the End.

Suddenly I own TWO Mac Mini Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz (T7200) Mid 2007 Macs. They each have a power supply & seem to turn on OK. No accessories. S/Ns say they are 1 GB RAM, 64 MB VRAM, 120 GB HDD, Optical 2.4X SuperDrive, Mac OS 10.4.10. Can they do anything useful, like MarsEdit?

In the QSO Today podcast a ham in Israel interviews other hams about their experiences in amateur radio. In Episode #237 he interviewed a friend of mine & the President of my favorite radio club in Palo Alto. She’s an Apple engineer & some of you might find it interesting.

Would it be a good idea to have software put up postings from new people on the Discover tab throughout the day as they post them? Why stick Jean with having to put up everything there? It puts a burden on her and ensures that new stuff only goes up when she can afford some time.

A question for my readers. Have any of you heard of or read any books by James W. Loewen? I would really appreciate hearing your answers about this! To reveal my own bias in this regard, Jim is one of my friends and was my older brother’s best friend while growing up.

About Blogging Technical Advisers

I’ve sworn off micro.blog social media chatting, as I was wasting way too much time and had one especially bad experience with it. One of those goes a long way! But I still scan through my Timeline, because sometimes I find something useful. I do it as a form of binge reading. I follow over 400 people on the platform, but I can still scan through tons of postings pretty fast. That’s because I’m mostly looking for what I think of as real blog postings, not the twitter-like short ones, which on micro.blog are mostly about Apple devices, apps, and fiddling with Manton’s dozens of configurable features (for web engineers and experts). That is, I’m looking for the longer postings, where the writer knows something about a subject, has something to say and so she/he writes something informative and interesting about it. Being longer, a Manton hosted blog requires these postings to have a title and then the reader has to click on a link to read the article. Of course as Dave Winer pointed out a long time ago, people don’t click on links. I find this insanely ironic, because the key invention with the Internet was hypertext, meaning you could click on a link and go somewhere else entirely! This was a major turning point in my life when I discovered it. But I guess modern people these days like to scroll, rather than clicking links.

Anyway … in my blog scanning, one that I nearly always stop to read is Brad, another Midwesterner like me. His stuff nearly always requires a click, but I still remember how to do that from the old days. Brad is my Blogging Scout. He’s really good at finding & testing out all kinds of services for blogging, and he doesn’t focus on Apple stuff, so he might find something I could use. I don’t have the patience or technical chops to try out things for myself, like he does. And now after trying everything except the kitchen sink, he’s using a Manton hosted blog, which is how I started out here and never dared to change!

One day I’d like to have a Blogging Technical Adviser, someone I pay to setup my blog with Manton features I like, instead of just a Scout. Intuit set up a network of QuickBooks ProAdvisors in their early days, and that’s how they came to dominate the bookkeeping industry for small businesses.

I even sent a long email to Manton suggesting this could be another source of revenue for him. His robot immediately thanked me for sending my email to help. Then nothing at all from him, for weeks. I noticed others run into this problem, then send a public message to him on micro.blog, then he quickly responds and they get their question answered. I’m not gonna do that. Maybe I’m old and ornery. I’m a tax accountant and get lots of emails from clients. My policy is to respond to their emails within 24 hours. That’s a pretty universal standard used in the tax accounting business.