.the ramblings of a radman.

Category: Random Acts of Technology (Page 1 of 3)


This morning, my Clay app suggested I “reconnect” with a rather surprising email address: a long-defunct Google Group I setup for the Apple Stores in Kansas City to use as a social organization tool to plan group events, share news and info, or otherwise connect with our peers. When I left the store, the membership of the group stagnated and grew stale, as did its use (I didn’t know the new people to add to the group, and no one else seemed interested in maintaining the group).

Eleven years ago, two years after the group’s creation, it stopped being used. Until today, I had forgotten it existed (honestly, when I got the notification today, I assumed it had been shut down by Google). I was surprised to discover that it’s still out there, sitting dormant (much like some of the friendships I made at Apple).

I look back fondly on those years as some of the most enjoyable of my life. The people I worked with remain some of the most dear to me. I wish life hadn’t dragged us so far apart, but I’m grateful I can remain connected with some of them in various ways.

Anyway, for those interested, the Clay app is a personal CRM I use that runs on my iPhone and Mac and connects with various social media accounts and emails to help me manage personal connections. I prefer it just for helping me remember birthdays and to be mindful of relationships that need rekindled. My ADHD means that a long-dormant friendship feels just as fresh as the day it started, so there are a lot of friendships needing rekindled. It has been really helpful in managing those relationships I sometimes forget need attention. I highly recommend it.

And who knows? Maybe you’ll find a long-forgotten group chat or relationship or two, as well.

Canadian Hug, or Mama’s Maple Mounty Mix

A few weeks ago, I created another Jumprope explaining how to make a new cocktail. But, I only just found the time to sit down and actually post it here. So, if you are looking for a way to keep yourself warm during this frigid week we’re having in the Midwest, give this a try.

As always, follow me on Jumprope to see my other tutorials or go make your own!

Fix for connecting to Mac file shares from Windows 10 via SMB

Saving this here, because the site where I used to personally access this data (technocreativo.com) when needed appears to have gone online. Fortunately, I found a copy on the Internet Archive and was able to extract all the necessary info from it.

While Apple has eliminated a number of features from their macOS Server software over the years, there are still a number of instances where using a Mac as a file server in a Windows-friendly environment is necessary. Unfortunately, those using a Windows computer to connect to the Mac file server often face connection issues due to some out-of-the-box security and communication incompatibilities between the two systems.

If you need to get a Windows computer connected to a Mac file server quickly, these tweaks below will solve the problem.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Press the Windows key and “R” together on the keyboard and enter secpol.msc in the run dialogue.

Navigate to Security Settings / Local Policies / Security Options.

Find Network Security: LAN Manager Authentication Level, and set it to Send NTLMv2 response only.

Finally, ensure that Network Security: Minimum session security for NTLM SSP Based (including secure RPC) Clients is set to Require 128-bit encryption.

You may need to restart your computer for these changes to take effect, but once they do, you should have no trouble connecting to your Mac server from Windows 10.

The disaster that is Disney+ and Disney’s online account management

UPDATE: After nearly 3 hours on hold, I got through to a very helpful customer service representative that helped me cancel the bundle subscription that was created on a new account, request a refund, and explain-like-I’m-five how to make sure this didn’t happen again. The server is having sign-in issues now, so I will have to follow-up with signing up tomorrow, but at least I have made some progress.

Before I begin this diatribe, let me be up front by saying that I realize that I could have prevented all of this disaster by simply not signing up for Disney+ on day one, waiting until I could find detailed answers to all my questions. But, I didn’t, because I was excited to watch The Mandalorian, the first Star Wars property since Rebels to make me feel like I’m watching stories set in the same universe as the original trilogy.

That said, the cascading failure of my Disney online services experience is worth noting for anyone else out there in a similar situation.

On August 23rd, I received an email from Marvel telling me that my Marvel account would soon (as in, 4 days, soon) be merged with my Disney account. Unfortunately, the Disney account that they were going to merge was not my active Disney account, but some account that had likely been created by accident years ago when trying to sign up for some service or another. Instead, I wanted to merge my Marvel account with the Disney account I had been using with the Disney Movie Rewards program for years.

I emailed Marvel support to ask how to merge the accounts correctly, but got back crickets. With the pending merge date looming, I tried to trick the system by changing the email addresses for the accounts so that the account I didn’t want to use had an unused email and the account I wanted to keep had the email address for my Marvel account. Turns out, that was a colossal mistake.

The merge date comes and my Marvel account merges into the Disney account with an unused email address (we’ll just call it Email U from here on out) and my other Disney account containing my Disney Movie Rewards goes right on living.

No big deal, I decide. I’ll just change the email addresses back and lose the Disney Movie Rewards. There’s not much there, and the Marvel digital comics library is worth more anyway.

Except that I can’t. Now, for some reason, the account that I changed to Email U won’t let me go back to the email address it had been because it says that email address is already in use. And when I log in to the merged account, it still uses my primary email for the login, instead of Email U.

Fast forward to today: Disney+ launch day. During the sign-up process, I tried to sign in to my existing account using my primary email, but instead it created a third account, completely separate from the other two. Worse, since the email address I used to create a new account didn’t match my Hulu+ account, I’m now getting billed full price instead of receiving my discount on the Disney+, Hulu+, ESPN+ bundle.

Strap in, because this is the part where I make things worse.

In an attempt to fix the issue myself, since support had egregious wait times, I tried deleting the account that I had inadvertently created this morning. At first, this didn’t seem to do anything. I could still log into disneyplus.com and see my account. I could still try to contact support to submit a ticket about my issue. Then, once I got home from work, excited to finally dig into the Disney+ catalog, I saw that I had received an email. My billing process had been completed. Turns out that, since my Hulu+ account had a different email than my Disney+ account, it had been determined that I didn’t have one and I was not getting the discount.

Again, I wasn’t too worried. I figured I could just watch The Mandalorian tonight and deal with this tomorrow or the next day, when support wait times came down a bit. At the very least, I’ll see if I can start a chat session on my computer while watching a show. So, I signed in to disneyplus.com and… this:👇🏻

So now, even though I’ve PAID for Disney+, Hulu+, and ESPN+, I can’t actually sign into my account and use it while trying to get this whole mess sorted out, because logging in tells me I have to contact customer service by phone (which I’m currently trying to do, but have been on hold for nearly 90 minutes and counting). So, yeah… happy Disney+ Day, everybody. I’m gonna go watch Netflix like a plebe, I guess…

How to protect your iCloud account and Apple devices from hackers both real and imagined

Last week, a news story at Motherboard revealed that a group of hackers claimed to have gained access to nearly 600 million iCloud accounts. Apple has responded to the report saying that there is no breach of their servers, rather the attackers appear to have used the rather large password cache obtained from the massive Yahoo breaches of the last two years. It is likely that the hackers used other data sources to line up those passwords with Apple IDs belonging to the same people. While this means that you may not be at risk if your iCloud account was using a unique password, to be safe, you should probably change your password and enable two-factor authentication.

Why is this security measure important? Well, aside from attackers having access to potentially private information stored in your account, iCloud contains a security measure that allows you to remotely erase your iPhones, iPads, and Macs if they are ever lost or stolen. This feature is called Find My iPhone (or iPad or Mac). If your account has been compromised, and Find My iPhone is enabled on any of your stuff, then your devices can be wiped remotely, against your will. This is what the hackers have reportedly claimed to do if Apple does not pay their ransom by April 7th.

News flash: Apple will not pay the ransom.

So, for your protection, I suggest following these steps to allow you to keep your accounts and devices safe. Because no one wants lose all the pictures of their food they’ve taken for the last 10 years. I stole these instructions from Apple’s own support pages, so if you feel like you need more details on these, check out the original links by clicking on the links below.

Change your Apple ID password
  1. Sign in to your Apple ID account page.
  2. In the Security section, click Change Password.
  3. Enter your current password, then enter a new password and confirm the new password.
  4. Click Change Password.
  5. Sign in with your new Apple ID password to access Apple features and services.
Turn on two-factor authentication for your Apple ID

Two-factor authentication is currently available to iCloud users with at least one device that’s using iOS 9 or OS X El Capitan or later. Learn more.

You can follow the steps below to turn on two-factor authentication.

On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with iOS 9 or later:

  1. Go to Settings > iCloud > tap your Apple ID.
  2. Tap Password & Security.
  3. Tap Turn on Two-Factor Authentication.

On your Mac with OS X El Capitan or later:

  1. Go to Apple () menu > System Preferences > iCloud > Account Details.
  2. Click Security.
  3. Click Turn on Two-Factor Authentication.

If you already use two-step verification, turn it off, then turn on two-factor authentication.



That’s it. Hopefully, everything will work smoothly and you can move on with your life, stress-free. If not, give Apple a call and they can help you ensure that Two-Factor Authentication is enabled, as well as confirming that the only devices confirmed with your account are those you own and trust.

There are, like, a crapton of iOS sales right now

Like, so many that I don’t even have the strength to write a paragraph about each of them. I’m just going to link to them here. You should find the ones you’re interested in and check them out. Or just buy them all. That works, too. Whatever. They’re all on sale, possibly through Christmas, but you should probably buy today, just to be safe.

Infinity Blade – $0.99

Infinity Blade II – $0.99

Infinity Blade III – $0.99

Waking Mars – $0.99

Transistor – $2.99

Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition – $2.99

Prune – $2.99

Attack the Light – Steven Universe Light RPGFREE!

Space Age: A Cosmic Adventure – $0.99

868-HACK – $2.99

Banner Saga – $4.99

Tales From Deep Space – $1.99

Til Morning’s Light – $1.99

Lost Within – $1.99

The Martian: Official Game – $0.99

Hitman Bundle (Hitman GO & Hitman: Sniper) – $0.99


Also, pretty much every Tin Man Games gamebook is on sale, so if you’re a fan of Gamebook Adventures or Fighting Fantasy, you will probably find something to love here.

Silence, Facebook!

Or, wait… Is it “Silence Facebook”? Are they silencing Facebook or telling Facebook to–what? They’re here? Oh! They’re here!

Hello, reader!

Did you recently update to the latest version of Facebook on your fancy, schmancy iPhone only to discover that it plays annoying bleeps and bloops every time you do anything?
Well, talk about a first-world problem! There are kids starving in… somewhere. I forget where kids are starving these days. When I was a kid it was either India or China. But I’m pretty sure they’re starving elsewhere, too. Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is, you want your $800 pocket computer to just SHUT UP when you’re busy trying to see if the girl you had a crush on in high school is finally single so you can finally get up the courage to—oh, come on, who are you kidding? You’re not asking her out. You’re pathetic. But, hey. You still don’t need to broadcast to the room that you’re Facebooking when you’re supposed to be paying attention in the HR meeting that is only happening because you (once again) made inappropriate comments to the receptionist.


Anyway, here’s how you turn it off. And since I know you barely read, I put the instructions in picture form. And made it all one picture, because I know how hard it is for you to click or tap on more than one without getting bored.


Fountain City Sazerac

Fountain City Sazerac

Studio Neat released Highball, their latest iPhone app, today. It’s a cocktail app with an emphasis on sharing. As a result, recipes are designed around beautiful cards: visual recipes that are easy to parse and can be imported into the Highball app to save the recipe and even edit it to fit your own tastes.

To get a feel for the app, I went ahead and made my own Sazerac recipe, with a Kansas City twist. And yes, I know that KC is technically the City of Fountains. However, this recipe name rolls off the tongue much better.

Be sure to check out Highball – free on the App Store.

Amazon Echo first impressions

When Amazon first announced the Echo and the accompanying promotional video, I was torn. The aspirational concept at work was great. A precursor to Jarvis, the digital butler from the Iron Man movies. Tony Stark’s AI-powered smart house is what I think the dreams of virtual assistants like Siri and Cortana hope to one day realize. However, we’re not there yet, and the cost of adding “intelligence” and automation to one’s home is far more than a middle class family can reasonably expect to afford. But, that doesn’t mean that certain aspects of this  ambitious future can’t be achieved today. Voice recognition has come a long way, and virtual assistants are getting more capable every day.

Enter Amazon Echo. By now, nearly everyone in America has access to some sort of smartphone or tablet that includes a virtual assistant. Whether it’s Siri, Cortana, or Google Now, users can simply speak or type a natural language request and receive desired results. Even devices that don’t come with a virtual assistant built-in can almost always install apps that provide some, if not all, of the same features. But, when your hands are otherwise occupied, getting your phone out to do some menial task can be aggravating. And while, yes, iPhones and Android devices are capable of listening for a “wake word” to trigger voice actions without pressing a button, the results are often hit or miss (and, at least on the iPhone, require it to be plugged in and charging).

When the Echo arrived, I was struck by how much smaller the box was than I expected. It had been some time since I watched the reveal video and had forgotten just how compact the device is. But I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the packaging. Amazon has really impressed me with their Apple-esque attention to packaging detail. When I purchased my Amazon Fire TV Stick, I noticed the same attention to detail for beautiful packaging. While I still think Apple does a better job of not wasting any space in their package design, I had to admit that unboxing the Echo was a very delightful process: something that has long-been Apple’s forte (almost exclusively so).

In Space, No One Can Hear Your Echo

The Echo box bears a striking resemblance to the Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The first thing I noticed, of course, when I set the box on the table and prepared to open it was how much it resembled the Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey: a comparison that places no small amount of pressure on the contained device to assist its users in their technology-assisted evolution. I carefully removed the outer shell and laid the box flat to get a look at the subtly embossed product logo on the box.

Is the Amazon logo smirking at me?

Every picture from here on out will pale in comparison to the first. Like an echo.

And then I opened it up and was actually pleasantly surprised by what I found inside. The Echo was placed gently into a curved cradle that protruded from both the front and back (or top and bottom, depending on your preferred spacial orientation) of the box. Where many tech companies would have been content to just place the Echo in a recessed space, Amazon went the extra step to ensure that the front of the Echo was protected during transit. At this point, I took one last photo of the box and then proceeded to the fun times.

And I thought it smelled bad on the outside

A place for everything and everything in its place.

The instructions in the box were incredibly simple and easy to follow, though they omit the ability to setup your Echo using a web browser on your Mac or PC, a feature worth noting for anyone wishing to use an Echo without one. I simply plugged the power outlet into the wall and then into the Echo, fired up the Echo app (which I had already downloaded on my phone as soon as it became available), and the app walked me through the setup process. The only part that wasn’t seamless was when I was required to connect my phone to the Wi-Fi network the Echo created to create the initial sync before telling the Echo to which wireless network it should connect. I have been spoiled by the use of Bluetooth to quickly pair and set up Apple TVs with your iPhone. But, this seems to be the most effective method for the setup of a device that needs to work with several different platforms, especially since the Bluetooth features of the Echo appear to be limited to streaming audio from a smartphone, tablet, or computer to the Echo’s speaker.

And then, just like that, the Echo was ready to use. The app walked me through several example queries and commands to get me comfortable with the device and then I was off and running. My children were enamored with her, though perhaps the most adorable moment was when my daughter tried to activate her by calling her Siri, rather than Alexa. A few more taps inside the app itself and I had paired my iHeartRadio account and set off a stream from a local radio station via TuneIn. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed to discover that there is not currently support for Audible content (though I have been informed by Amazon support that they are working hard to bring more audio sources to the Echo). My son has recently become quite persistent in his requests to listen to the Star Wars radio drama and I must admit that I would love the ability to stream them to the Echo while I’m working in the kitchen. Fortunately, a workaround exists: simply redirect the audio from your iPhone or other smart device to the Echo via Bluetooth. However, I have not yet had the opportunity to test it and see if Echo can remotely pause audio playing from a third-party device.

As with Siri, much of the fun of the Echo comes from trying to get her to respond in entertaining ways. For example, my son asked her to “Set phasers to kill,” to which she replied “That’s a feature for a later version!” The Echo also includes a voice training feature, which I’ve not yet tried. I am hoping that it can be used to improve understanding of my children, as they’ve not yet learned to articulate. However, she already does a remarkable job of recognizing my requests. In fact, the only issue I’ve had so far with the Echo is that I don’t know what else to do with it. It makes for an excellent Bluetooth speaker and Internet radio device. But, I hope for so much more.

One exciting feature of the Echo that I’m hoping gets better over time and with usage is the Flash Briefing. This particular feature is one of the key things I want from a digital assistant: the ability to quickly get brief news snippets, the weather, and other info about my upcoming day while I’m getting ready in the morning. Unfortunately, I was so tired this morning, I completely forgot to ask Alexa to give me one. I suppose I’ll just have to do it tomorrow. There are several other 1.0 features that I’m hoping to see get better in 1.1, 1.2, or even 2.0. For example, the Echo has the ability to set an alarm for you. However, there are no options for configuring alarm repetition (I would love to have an alarm that goes off every weekday, but not at all on weekends).

Part of me hopes that Amazon decides to go all out with the Echo and eventually allow you to sync it with an iCloud or Google calendar so that you can be notified of upcoming appointments, find out what the roads are like on the way to the movies or date night (currently, it can only give you information on your daily commute), or even schedule events for you. While Amazon may have their own ecosystem that they want you to use, it’s clear that the Fire Phone is never going to be popular enough for features like that to exist as an Amazon exclusive. But if the Echo can outdo Siri and Google Now in convenience and tie into their respective ecosystems slightly, they might be able to carve out a nice niche in the home before the battle for the smart home truly heats up.

This is not a coffee mug

The top of the Echo has a ring that adjusts volume, and has just the right amount of heft to feel awesome.

Until then, I’m happy with my Echo. As Amazon adds features, I hope to discover that I like it enough to have several in my home in different places for different purposes. I also look forward to the day when I can rename my Echo to Jarvis, give it a male voice with a stuffy, British accent, and ask it it power up my Mark IV armor. A man can dream, can he not?

Stop looking at me, swan!

If you squint just right, the top of it almost looks like a face.

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