When your old laptop dies at the perfect time

My old MacBook Air is now not only retired but dead. And it could not have happened at a better time.

I had resolved to donate the 2012-vintage laptop I’d finally replaced with an HP Spectre x360 last fall by donating it to the local Apple user group Washington Apple Pi, whose MacRecycleClinic refubishes still-functional Macs for reuse and scavenges the rest for parts. And since I’m speaking at Saturday’s Pi meeting about the state of computer security–the gathering runs from 9:30 a.m. to noon-ish in Enterprise Hall room 178 at George Mason University’s main campus in Fairfax, with my spot a little after 11 a.m.–I could bring the old Air with me to hand over.

So yesterday afternoon, I made one last backup of the Air’s files, signed it out of its Web services as per Apple’s advice, and rebooted it into macOS Recovery to wipe the drive and re-install macOS High Sierra from that hidden partition. Then I followed the counsel of experts for a USA Today column earlier this month and used Apple’s FileVault software to encrypt its solid state drive all over again.

Several hours later, High Sierra wrapped up that chore. I once again rebooted into Recovery, used Disk Utility to wipe the SSD–and then couldn’t install High Sierra, because the installer reported that the drive’s Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (SMART) software had found a problem that left the volume unusable.

After a moment’s irritation, I realized that this timing was perfect. It followed not just five years of trouble-free drive performance but a complete erasure, re-encryption and re-erasure of the volume, so there could be nothing left to recover–and therefore no need to apply physical force to destroy the drive. This Mac has failed me for the last time, and I am okay with that.

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Weekly output: wiping flash drives, Apple Maps to-do list, geospatial privacy issues

Having July 4 bisect this workweek ensured that I would spend much of it checked out of work. I hope that was the case for you as well, even if you didn’t have the additional factor of visiting relatives you’ve missed.

USAT flash-drive wiping column7/5/2018: Ready to ditch your old flash drive? Don’t just erase and recycle, USA Today

The number-one reader question I got after my earlier column on how to destroy a dead hard drive was “what if the drive still works–how do you be sure no data’s left on it in that case?” This column should be your answer, although I’m not sure how many Windows users will go to the trouble of installing VeraCrypt and using that free, but complex open-source app to scramble drives before disposal, resale or recycling.

7/5/2018: 5 ways Apple maps can improve to compete with Google, Yahoo Finance

A report by TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino about Apple’s ongoing effort to rebuild its mapping app on an in-house foundation gave me an excuse to vent about some longstanding problems with Apple Maps. Writing this also led me to consider other ways in which both that app and Google Maps fail to grasp such transportation alternatives as high-occupancy/toll lanes and using bikeshare or ride-hailing services to augment transit.

7/6/2018: GEOINT Law & Policy: A Poorly Mapped Frontier, Trajectory Magazine

I wrote a feature for the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s quarterly magazine about how many of the laws and norms governing geospatial privacy have failed to keep up with advances in the tools that can track us.

Updated 7/10/2018 to add a link to the Trajectory article (it didn’t show up in a Google News search, and I forgot to check the magazine’s site on my own.)

 

Weekly output: MCX vs. NFC, wireless carriers, OS X Yosemite

I completely spaced on writing this earlier tonight, so this post comes to you early Monday morning instead of in my usual Sunday afternoon/evening timeframe.

10/28/2014: Why Some Stores Won’t Take Apple Pay, and How to Punish Them, Yahoo Tech

Did I mention all the clueless anti-Apple rage directed at this post covering the blocking of NFC mobile payments at CVS and Rite Aid? Yes, I did. I’m still shaking my head about all that. I mean, it’s quite the stretch to say that a story illustrated with a photo of my own Android phone is all about Apple; my own brain is incapable of such gymnastics.

10/30/2014: The Best Wireless Carriers, The Wirecutter

I updated this guide to account for a round of changes in Verizon’s pricing, some price cuts in some of AT&T’s shared-use plans and a few other shifts in the industry.

USAT Yosemite-tips column11/2/2014: Yosemite tips: Turn off translucency, tune up notifications, USA Today

The story I wrote this week that actually was all about Apple wasn’t too complimentary either, since it led off with a suggestion that you undo one of OS X Yosemite’s key visual features. (So far, I am pleased overall with this release, but check back in a month.)

Updated 11/5/14 to add the Wirecutter update that I had missed earlier.

Weekly output: laptop, Android and iOS security, spectrum, Galaxy Note (x2)

The lineup of sites that have run my work lately is a little different this week.

2/19/2012: Tip: How to secure your laptop data, USA Today

I was a little worried that some of the advice I was throwing around in this column–using apps like TrueCrypt to encrypt files, adding third-party DNS services to your Internet setup–would be too technically-involved for a general-interest audience. (I rewrote the DNS item to make some definitions clearer because of that concern.) Did more than a handful of readers add OpenDNS or Google Public DNS to their computers after reading the piece?

2/21/2012: Samsung Galaxy Note: Large, Not In Charge, Discovery News

I wondered what Samsung was up to when it splashed enormous ads on the side of the Las Vegas Convention Center during CES to tout this oversized Android device–“Phone? Tablet? It’s Galaxy Note!”–then ran that goofy Super Bowl ad . I’m even more puzzled by its intentions after reviewing the Note itself. Then again, check out all the comments from people professing that they love this phone and would even prefer that it came with a larger screen.

2/22/2012: Samsung Galaxy Note Review, Boing Boing

I’ve been reading Boing Boing for years; this is the first time I’ve written for the site. The piece decries some of the more common problems in Android phones, as exhibited by this device. Note the extensive comments thread: Many readers critiqued some assumptions I made while writing the piece, but they were generally civil about it. I can appreciate that.

2/22/2012: A Change of Channels on Spectrum Policy, CEA Digital Dialogue

The wonkiest thing I wrote all week, this post unpacks the deal the government worked out–contrary to my own predictions of two years ago–to transfer some airwaves from TV stations to wireless services. Everybody seems content with the outcome, which I can’t recall ever happening with a tech-policy issue affecting so many different interests.

2/24/2012: Who Defends Your Phone: Robots or Humans?, Discovery News

I’d meant to write this right after Google announced its “Bouncer” automated screening of Android Market apps for signs of malware, but got sidetracked by other items for a few weeks. That delay allowed me to put a lot more reporting into the piece and broaden it to address some app-trustworthiness issues that have cropped up more recently with Apple’s App Store.