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This was Apple’s product tribute to the new lunar new year. And, yes, it is lunar and not Chinese since one race does not have dibs on it.

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But mine is not a rant on how peoples of other countries also celebrate this event. It is an appreciation of the processes behind the product.

The cynics might say that both videos are advertisements for Apple. They are. But the educator in me would point out how many more focus on the product (like a test score) and how few focus on the processes (like the actual learning).

Here’s to more product and process (P&P) videos over the weekend!

This is a follow up to my wish on Wednesday to replace my 2012 iMac with the recently released 2020 model.

Shortly after I shared my thoughts, I ordered the item online. The process to get the discounted iMac and pay by instalments was not as straightforward as simply getting one at full price and paying in one go.

Given the choice of calling a local number or ordering by online chat, I opted for the latter. I had used the phone ordering some years ago and it was too long and uncomfortable for my liking.

The online chat was smooth because I could copy and paste the URL that led to the exact model and specifications I wanted. That saved a lot of time that would have otherwise been used to get the order right.

The curious thing about ordering via chat was that the payment information and initial confirmation were still by phone. The phone call was the equivalent of inputting my credit card number and expiration details. The difference was that a bank partner handled this part of the transaction. This was still an uncomfortable process because I was taught never to give financial details over the phone!

That part was also out of Apple’s hands. If a bank partner did not have a centre to handle these calls, you could not use that bank’s credit cards to pay by instalments. Two of my credit cards normally qualify for this. However, one bank had stopped this service due to the coronavirus.

The final confirmation was via email. If I had paid full price and at one go, I would have received the same email. But since I wanted the education price, to pay by instalments, and get a free pair of AirPods, I jumped through these administrative hoops.

I ordered the iMac on Wednesday and received it and the AirPods by DHL on Thursday (yesterday). That was a quick turnaround!

If I had ordered normally, I could have chosen a specific delivery window. The hybrid ordering process I described above did not provide this option. However, the courier was considerate enough to give me a call before he stopped by.

I met the courier at my door in the afternoon and set up the new iMac with a Time Machine image of my old iMac. I drafted this blog entry a few hours later in the evening.

iMac 2020 overview.

I am pleased with how quickly the entire process of buying and setting up took. Now I only have to get RAM modules so that I can upgrade the iMac’s memory myself!

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I think that it is time for me to get a new iMac. My current one has been serving me since 2012. It is so old that Apple classifies it as “vintage”.

I had to repair my 2012 iMac twice in the last two years, so I am I not looking forward to another computer hospital visit this year. Better to reward myself with a new one.

Thankfully Apple announced the 2020 version of the iMac about a week ago. While it has lots of performance upgrades, I am looking forward to three seemingly minor changes — an all-SSD storage, user-replaceable RAM, and a better webcam.

The old iMacs had hybrid drives, i.e., an SSD with the operating system and a conventional drive for everything else. Since I rely largely on the cloud and external drives, the all-SSD move is not a problem for me.

The new larger version of the iMac also allows me to change and add more RAM on my own. While this is a mainstay of most PCs, Apple has locked its users out from most user-initiated upgrades. This exception will allow me to buy and install RAM without the Apple tax.

Finally, the new iMac will come with a high-definition webcam. Most of its laptops and other iMacs have subpar webcams that are embarrassing now that video conferencing is the norm.

Macs do not come cheap. I will be taking advantage of my educator’s discount, and since I am planning to get one now, I will get a free pair of AirPods as well. Combine that with a monthly installment plan and the new investment is a no-brainer.

Disclaimer: This was not a sponsored message.

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I am going to share something about Microsoft’s OneDrive and Apple’s AirPods, but this is not a sponsored message.

About a week ago, I accompanied my wife to the Apple Store at Orchard Road. It now has a queuing system to limit the number of people inside. Instead of joining the physical queue, the better way is to make an appointment using the Apple Store app. This ensures a much shorter wait.

My wife has been wanting to replace her Macbook Air for a while, but we waited to take advantage of the back to school offer of free AirPods. As an educator in Singapore, she was also entitled to a discount. There is no shame in taking a freebie and discount given how Apple charges a premium for its products!

We chatted with an exceptionally friendly customer service representative who reminded us that educators have access to a Microsoft license that not only provides the Office applications but also 1TB of online storage space in OneDrive.

OneDrive can be downloaded here. Once installed, it looks like another drive volume. It functions like one, too, if you have a fast and always-on connection to the Internet. This is not only good for synchronising files, it overcomes the limited storage on a Macbook Air.

Optionally, you can also download and install the OneDrive mobile app and/or the mobile versions of Office apps on an iPhone or iPad. These might help with editing and sharing in a pinch.

Again, this is not a sponsored message. I am not compensated by Apple or Microsoft in any way to mention their products and services. I am simply reminding other teachers and educators how to get the most out of their purchases.

No phone battery lasts forever. The battery in my iPhone demanded servicing with this ominous message:

iPhone battery servicing message.

I made an appointment online to have my phone serviced at Apple Store Orchard. I was in at the appointment time of 11.30am and got the device back just 40 minutes later.

This was better than authorised repair places like QCD and other operators like Atomware. Both those places took roughly 2 hours to do the same.

I had assumed that the popularity of the main Apple Store would slow things down. It actually had the fastest turnaround. Furthermore, the Apple service representatives are quick, knowledgeable, and friendly. This is in contrast to places like Atomware where messages go unanswered, expressions are dour, and they demand to know your passcode.

A small outfit should be nimble and change quickly to fill a niche or challenge an incumbent. Normally a large and official entity moves slowly and is mired by policies and bureaucracy. But this time the latter had the right policy — focusing on the customer.

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Watching this video about the original Macintosh and other old computers brought back memories. When I was in secondary school, I joined a brand new computer club that had a few Apple I computers and IBMs.

We had lessons on BASIC and optionally on COBOL. We learnt from recipes the teacher in charge wrote on a blackboard and we wrote them down in note books.

As each of us had very little time with the shared computers, we wrote our simple programmes on paper in advance and tried to foresee what might happen. When we had actual access, we typed in what we wrote and tried to troubleshoot as fast as we could.

This was one of the first few times I felt empowered to create something, test it, and learn safely from failing. I caught the bug and needed my own Apple I.

But these computers were expensive and I bugged my father for one. Long story short — we could not afford an original so we bought one of the many clones.

I dove into simple programming at every waking moment. I enjoyed being able to start the Apple computer with my own programme running from a floppy diskette.

But my joy was interrupted by a demand from my father. He dumped a pile of unmarked papers in front of me and asked if the computer could grade them.

I was flabbergasted then and the memory troubles me now. Computers, particularly those without any of the peripherals and AI we have now, could not grade homework almost 40 years ago. Despite the advances in computing power and ability, they are still stumped by human nuance.

I was also stumped by wilful human ignorance as well. Older and sometimes well-meaningful folk (like administrators and policymakers) tend to observe technology from a distance. Without an immersive experience and use, they cannot see possibilities or limitations.

Technology makes change seem inevitable. But human change, not so much.

I hope that I will not have a new anniversary to mark. This year was the second year in a row I had to repair my once trusty 2012 iMac.

Last November, my iMac’s power supply blew so I could not start it up. As it was out of warranty, I had to visit an official Apple repair partner to get it diagnosed and repaired for about SGD280.

Almost exactly a year later, my iMac refused to start and the same repair place told me that they no longer supported vintage iMacs. I did not realise that a 2012 item was vintage.

Later I confirmed that Apple did list my iMac as a vintage product, but I was supposed to “continue to receive hardware service from Apple service providers”. Perhaps the repair partner did not receive the memo.

So I looked for a third-party repair place and chose one by proximity to home and projected cost. I found one that claimed it would charge me the same price as my previous repair.

But when I showed up at the store, I was told that the representative read the wrong row item. How carelessly convenient! I ended up paying SGD418 for the repair because of someone else’s misread.

I hope that my trusty iMac will not celebrate its anniversary. As a precaution, I bought a new UPS to counter power dips, surges, or unexpected shutdowns. Keeping my fingers crossed.

I like being able to stream media from a home server to mobile receivers and players. One app that I rely on is Infuse.

Disclaimer: I have not been asked to promote the app nor am I compensated in any way to write this. I am sharing my thoughts just in case anyone else has the same needs or faces the same issues I had with the app.

With Infuse, I can stream media stored on a server or an external drive to my iPad. However, when I updated macOS to Catalina, I could no longer access my shared folders and drives. I discovered that I was not the only one.

Fortunately, someone discovered a workaround.

Unfortunately, it was imprecise, particularly about how to give Apple Samba, smbd, full disk access in Catalina. So I outline what worked for me.

  1. Use Finder’s “Go to folder” and type “/usr/sbin“ (without quotation marks).
  2. Once in that folder, look for the file “smbd”.
  3. Create an alias (shortcut) for smbd by right-clicking on it.
  4. The alias should be copied to the Desktop. (If not, move the alias to the Desktop.)
  5. Open the System Preferences application, go to Security and Privacy, and select the Privacy section.
  6. Unlock this section with your system password and Allow Full Disk Access to smbd by clicking on the “+” sign and adding the smbd alias.
  7. Ensure that smbd is also listed/added in the Files and Folders section.
  8. Launch Infuse on an iOS device and regain access to previously shared folders.

Two days ago I visited the Apple Genius Bar for the very first time. I arranged all my previous device repairs at Apple partners.

For the last month or so, my MacBook Pro shut down randomly and I traced this to a battery that needed replacing. I visited an Apple partner that offered a replacement that would have cost me an arm (service change) and a leg (battery).

I opted to make another service appointment at the Orchard Road Apple store. This required a longer wait for both the appointment date and repair time — a week each — but this came with an unexpected bonus.

The Apple representative who attended to me discussed my case with a manager and gave me a 50% discount. Instead of paying S$288 for the new battery, I will have to pay S$144.

My teaching semesters are practically over, so I do not mind being without my laptop for a while. If I do, I have a first world problem of deciding between using a spare Chromebook or an iPad.

I had to do some serious troubleshooting on my wife’s Macbook Air over the weekend, so I am recording some notes here about:

  • Partitioning an external drive
  • Minimising dongle use
  • Reactivating Microsoft Office


macOS Disk Utility.

To create a two-partition external drive in macOS Mojave, run the Disk Utility:

  1. Set View to Show All Devices (Show Volumes does not allow partitioning)
  2. Select the device at the top level, not at the volume level.
  3. Format the device with the GUID scheme (the other options do not allow mixed partitioning, e.g., one Time Machine, one general storage).
  4. Create two partitions.

The newer Macbook line only has USB-C ports. This can mean investing in several new dongles or a one expensive all-in-one dongle or dock.

But if the only corded peripheral you need is a backup drive, one cheap option is a USB-C to Micro B cable. These can be surprisingly hard to find and range cost anywhere between S$5 and S$40.


After restoring a new laptop from an older one with Time Machine, most applications and their settings will also transfer. One exception is Microsoft Office that needs to be reactivated online.

After several frustrating and time-consuming attempts to reactivate Microsoft Office on the new laptop, I have found this to work:

  1. Visit the Office 365 site and remove the old laptops listed as still having Office installs.
  2. Download the license removal tool.
  3. Install and run the tool.
  4. Restart the computer.
  5. Launch any office application and reactivate the suite with an authorised log in.

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