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: WWDC (x2), FlightCar, laptop shopping

This week’s worth of stories features a new client, which is a pleasant sort of feeling.

6/2/2014: Apple’s WWDC news, WTOP

I talked to the news station about Apple’s news from its developer conference and took a shot at the line that Apple is somehow stalling out in the market because it doesn’t use its public time for demos of products like self-driving cars that are years from shipping.

6/3/2014: How Apple Sees the Cloud: Not Like You Do, Yahoo Tech

You might have seen an earlier version of this post appear briefly on Yahoo’s site, courtesy of a miscommunication in editing. The version that showed up online later in the day benefited (I hope!) from another round or two of revision.

VentureBeat FlightCar review6/7/2014: Taking FlightCar for a SoCal spin: A smooth ride — mostly (review), VentureBeat

I rented somebody else’s Prius through FlightCar during a recent trip to southern California for a friend’s wedding. At the time, I thought that my using a “shared economy” service would at least qualify me to put the cost on my Schedule C as a research expense, but then I wound up selling a post on the experience to VentureBeat. They do good work there, and I’m glad they saw fit to publish mine.

On Sunday, FlightCar announced that if a renter had coverage denied by a credit-card issuer on the grounds that it’s not a standard rental-car agency, it would cover any damage expenses. The company also looked into my own rental and thinks that the phone-number mismatch I reported was due to a typo on my part. The e-mail confirmations that I received didn’t go into that level of detail, so if I did somehow mistype my area code I never would have known until showing up.

6/19: The travel-news site Skift reposted the story the day after it debuted, if you were yearning to read it in a different design.

6/8/2014: Buy or wait: When to pull the trigger on a new computer, USA Today

An old Post colleague e-mailed to ask what factors to consider when shopping for a new MacBook. That query led to this column, in which I note how the computer industry has progressed to the point that you don’t need to agonize so much over what kind of processor or how much storage is comes with.

Weekly output: flash storage pricing, Tech Night Owl, uninstalling Windows 8.1, Win 8 recovery drives

One of the highlights of my week was not having to write a single story about Twitter’s IPO–a financial story I’m not especially qualified to report, and a financial opportunity in which I can’t ethically participate anyway. I had meant to use some of the time freed up by not blogging obsessively about $TWTR to get another post done… and that didn’t happen.

DisCo flash-memory pricing post11/5/2013: In A Flash, You’ve Overpaid For A Storage Upgrade, Disruptive Competition Project

This post started with some lingering frustration of my own and then seemed confirmed by a Facebook thread about friends about the same topic–but then I had to give the draft another run through the typewriter when it came out as too simplistic and repetitive. (I hope that’s not still the case.)

11/9/2013: Bryan Chaffin, Rob Pegoraro, and Kirk McElhearn, Tech Night Owl

I was one of the guests on Gene Steinberg’s podcast. We talked about Microsoft’s future, OS X Mavericks and its Gmail-sync issues, and the state of the Web-mail market.

11/10/2013: How to uninstall Windows 8.1, USA Today

Reader e-mail after an earlier USAT column about Win 8.1 led to this one. I enjoyed borrowing some insight for this post from my friend Ed Bott, ZDNet’s longtime Windows expert.

On Sulia, I complained yet again about the WinVote electronic voting machines that apparently refuse to die in my county, complimented Apple for posting a detailed transparency report, noted the unexpected emergence of Google+ as Googlers’ favorite place to rant about the NSA, confirmed that an Apple update fixes Gmail synchronization in Mavericks, and revisited HealthCare.gov with unsatisfying results.