El Capitan and the insanity of trying to obtain a handbook

My last MacBook Pro was purchased in 2012 and was starting to really age. Not only were the keys worn down on the keyboard (letters scratched off), it was restarting itself at inconvenient times and disk space was getting rare. Also, since I was running Mountain Lion on it ("Never change a running system") it was so outdated, that many applications were refusing to cooperate with it. So it was time for a new laptop.

It was a hard decision: Do I spend lots of money for another MacBook Pro, or do I go back to Windows? Can I jump to tablets (for programming? Are you kidding?) or do I stay where I am? I hemmed and hawed for months, and then decided to stick with Mac. I have tons of slides in Keynote that I would like to continue using, I have old (but to me still useful) applications such as Photoshop and Dreamweaver that I paid a lot of money for. So let's do it!

I picked up the box on Friday so that I could spend the holiday weekend fussing with it. First order of business was to buy a little 1 TB external disk to make a bootable copy of the old Mac. If anything went wrong, I could still use that to teach in the coming weeks. There were some good instructions at Guiding Tech, and they suggested using SuperDuper!, so I did. It was stress-free, and made a bootable backup while I was out Saturday afternoon. In the evening I tested it to see if it would boot on the old machine. Sure, it booted, but the operating system on the Mac would not boot (even though I selected it) until I removed the external disk.

Bright and early Sunday morning I unboxed the MacBook Pro, and started it. Since it can set itself up from an external disk, that's what I did: I used the backup to set up the new machine. Sure, it took a few hours, but I could still use the old one to surf around while it was chugging away. It's so quiet (SSD disk), I kept checking to see if it was alive. Yup, sure thing!

There was no handbook with it, that was available online. Okay, will get to that later. When it was done setting up I tried a few of my applications. The first scare was Dreamweaver. My old Creative Suite 5 wouldn't work with El Capitan, they offered me use of CS 6 for a free trial.

Hmm, alright, some quick math shows me that if the trial does last for 32767 days (quick, students, what is this crazy number?), I won't be around to see the end of it. So I started my trial. And was able to use it to access my teaching sites. Good. Photoshop was okay, too, and Excel, Word, and Open Office were reusable after some recovery issues.

Keynote warned me that any changes I make will make it impossible to go back, and warned me that I needed updates. So I started updates on everything El Capitan thought I needed, and then started a new Time Machine backup instead of taking over the old one. Two backups are better than one, and it was time for Tatort anyway.

Bright and early this morning I started to want to work with the system. First shock: a clean calendar. Now, I'd love to have one, but I know that I have lots of appointments the rest of the week. It turned out that for some reason, El Capitan doesn't set up Calendar right. I had to turn off my WLAN access point, restart the old Mac, turn OFF the WLAN there, put the WLAN access point back on, and try and figure out what to do. I didn't want the old one downloading emails or starting a backup or any of the fun things it does automatically.

I have all my calendars in Google Calendar, as does WiseMan. I fussed around for quite some time until I got my calendars put in (I have two different email accounts, one for work and one private). I had to add both by hand, uncheck the ones that showed up twice, and then try to sort out WiseMan's calendar. It would only show "busy", not what he was planning, although I could see it all on Google Calendar. I tried playing around with "delegates" and what not, and gave up after 2 hours. At least I could now see my calendar....

I started to work, and then El Capitan started interrupting me with fun, new things I could do with my new Mac. I let myself be led astray to look at "iBooks", a digital reader thingy. Oooh, they have free books, and that's where the handbook for my Mac is. Let's try it out and see if it works! Hmm, nice mixture of German and English here, good job I speak both languages.
Over here on the left, we have English, and on the right German. Great job of internationalization, Apple!

In order to "get" the book (on the German language site), I have to use my AppleID to "buy" it. I made one years ago, but did not connect up a credit card, as I don't trust Apple. Nothing against Apple, I don't trust too many sites online with personal information. I gave it my AppleID, and then it requested "verification". I needed to put in a credit card number and my title. I chose "None" and "Prof.". There was an error, could I please put in a credit card number. For a "free" book??? No. It was adamant. So I put in a made-up number. It replied that I should contact support.

I started over, this time I put in the credit card number I use when I have to buy something online. Nope - that credit card is not valid in Germany. Well, who cares? It's a credit card, it is valid world-wide! I was now curious, as one class this week is about people being at the mercy of algorithms. So let's see. The support pages say that all I have to do is put in my credit card number and then disable it.

Okay.... I used the card that has the least validity, put it in, and got: Please contact iTunes support.

Do I really want to do that? I click the link, except it isn't a link. I copy the link and surf around, down at the bottom is the possibility to have them call you. Well, let's check this out!

And my phone rings almost the next minute. I am about to praise Apple, except for what happens over the next two hours....

Ireland calling, the first guy listens to my story, suggests giving my credit card information to get the free book. I pointedly tell him that I don't want to give my credit card info, that's the point, but that I tried it and it doesn't work. He asks for my serial number and sends me an email with a link to the handbook. The page is in German, fine, I bought it in Germany. I click on the pdf-Link (iBooks doesn't work yet) and it downloads. I open it up and start laughing: it is the DANISH version of the handbook!

Lucky me, I can read Danish, but now I'm irritated. I want the German version. Legally, they have to provide me with one free of charge if they are selling it in Germany. This guy puts me on hold so that he can contact the next level support. Although I selected "no music" at the beginning of the call, I am now subjected to what the younger generation apparently considers to be music today. I put the phone on loudspeaker and start reading the Danish version.

After a bit someone else is on the line, I patiently explain my problem. Apparently, their ticket system does not let them note down what the problem is. He puts me on hold, and we wait for the next guy, with terrible music. When this guy gets on, I have to explain my problem again. I point out that legally, they have to provide me with a German handbook. He says: but we just gave the link to you. I point out that even though the link SAYS it is in German, it is in Danish. He says he needs to check with someone, but instead of putting me on hold, he hangs up.

I start to fume. I make some snarky comments on Twitter, and amazingly, @AppleSupport does answer on Twitter within a few minutes. They suggest that I call iTunes support......

So I start again, get a call from a woman this time. I give her the old ticket number, she looks it up. I say that I was hung up on and didn't like that. She promises that if that happens again, they will call back. We start the same round of escalation, and when I speak to the third person and again note that Apple is legally bound to provide me with a handbook in German, the line goes dead again.

I wait a bit, but there is no call back.

A DM to the AppleSupport gives me a link to this page where you can for yourself see, that the PDF link under "Grundlagen" is to the DANISH version of the handbook.

I schedule another call, and manage to get through to someone in billing who actually seems to understand the system. She says that it is a security issue.  An algorithm has flagged my account as having a security problem. They will look at it, but it can take up to 24 hours for someone to investigate. So apparently, wishing to download free books without giving a credit card number is a security risk. I ask why the security issue has been raised. She can't tell me that, because that is a secret of the security system.... She wishes me a pleasant day.

AppleSupport on Twitter gets back to me and explains that they use a credit card to "verify" that this really is me using the appleId (to purchase free books?). Now, either they illegally stored an old credit card number for me (and so this would not match any of the credit card numbers used), or they didn't, as they say that they do. If they don't have an old number, what are they "verifying"? Running the number through a machine and deducting money, then putting it back?

This is insane.

A customer in Germany should be able to quickly obtain the handbook in German about a new device without handing over personal information and spending hours explaining things to support people. I was lucky, as it is a holiday in Germany and not in Ireland, so I was able to raise someone. Apple needs to thing through their "security" system.

And I have a nice example for being at the mercy of algorithms for class tomorrow. I would rather have been doing something else, however.

Update: just got a note from @AppleSupport on Twitter:
You can use your MacBook Pro anonymously by not signing into your Apple ID in the iTunes, Mac App, or iBooks Stores and by not signing into iCloud.  A free book is free, but requires that you log in using your Apple ID so that they know who owns the free book in the event you ever want to find and download it again. 
So this means that I can use my MacBook Pro anonymously, but that means that I can't obtain any free books like the handbook? Then they shouldn't be called free, because I am paying for them with data.  The DM continues:
Verifying payment information confirms for your iTunes account that there is an actual person who owns the account, which prevents others from adding their payment methods to your account, or using it in the store to make purchases you did not authorize.  This is a standard process for the first use of all new devices.  You can remove the payment method after adding it (within minutes of doing this so that the information will neither be stored nor used for payment). 
The point of not giving them a credit card is to prevent others from making purchases I did not authorize if they manage to crack their way into the database!

Update 2: If I click on the picture above the link (that does not actually demonstrate the affordance of being a link anchor), then I get the German version of the handbook which is non-canonically called _d instead of _de. I've waded through the Danish version in the meantime and learned two new shortcuts....



Seems January went by in a flash, I did see some films and finished off a lovely book by Elizabeth George, but I never got around to writing about them.

WiseMan had some students over this evening to watch Scandinavian films, and they chose Kraftidioten ("Power Idiots", in German Einer nach dem anderen, one after another, the English title given is "In order of disappearance"). This is a brutal film that is quite funny at the same time, mostly poking fun at Norwegians. It was shown at the Berlinale in 2014, but it had been impossible to get tickets, they sold out within seconds.

"Immigrant" Nils (he's from Sweden) has been chosen citizen of the year. His son gets mixed up with some cocaine dealers, and is killed by mistake. Nils was planning on killing himself, but by chance he hears the name of one of those involved, and he decided to mete out justice himself. Each one gives up the name of the next (one after another) one, just before getting himself killed.

We counted 22 murders before the credits rolled, but maybe we missed one or two. Bruno Ganz plays the elderly Serbian mafia boss Papa, Norwegian actor Pål Sverre Hagen is the vegan Norwegian gangster "The Count", and Stellan Skarsgård (who has played in half the Swedish films released since the 70s) is Nils, all three are great actors. But even the minor characters get a chance to shine, usually just before they are offed.

And then there were the snowplows. We lost count, but there are magnificent scenes of snowplows spraying billows of snow (and the odd car or body) off the roads.

As one of the students noted, this is a film to watch at least twice so that you catch all of innuendos!



The Norwegian band Katzenjammer (Wikipedia) was in town and celebrating their 10th birthday, so WiseMan organized tickets for us to attend the concert with some friends. I don't remember now how I happened upon a video of these four very musical women, but it was so cool to see how they could switch instruments in the middle of a song! They also sound faintly like Dixie Chicks, a group I like very much, so I got their CD Le Pop.

They were playing at the Tempodrom, which is easy to reach, but on the tickets there was a disturbing little notice: Freie Platzwahl, free choice of seats. That meant we had to be there as the doors opened at 6:30 pm to have a chance at good seats. We were pretty proud of ourselves to have scored pretty good seats (even if they are painfully uncomfortable) and waited until 8 pm. The evening began with a guy on guitar (Sivert Høyem) who had a good voice and played well, but I wanted folk-rock and not this melancholic singing. Oh well, it passed the time. It took another half an hour until the stage was set up and the poor security people had shooed everyone from the stairs and found (bad) seats for them.

They started rocking at 9 pm, but oh my, who did the light "show" for them, some 14-year-old who just discovered that he can turn lights on and off and move them? They were constantly blinding us! We wanted to see the artists, otherwise we could have just bought 2 CDs apiece for the price of the tickets. Oooh, the lights could go blue and purple and yellow and blind us in any color! And they could move, not in the rhythm of the song, you understand, but in some crazy pattern that gave me a headache.

There was quite a wild mix of music and styles, not to mention the array of instruments that must need their own truck or two. I like the country/folk rock, some of the more metallic stuff was not my cup of tea. But there was always a surprise coming in the next song. So from a musical point of view, it was an interesting evening. 

The "experts" sitting behind us who just loved every single song that was better than the ones before were kind of irritating, too. I did find it amazing that so many men were in the audience (about half!) and they were rocking away! There were also a lot of grey-haired people like us, as well as many twenty-somethings.

Do come back, Katzenjammer, but hire someone else to do the lights. I want to get a good look at that contrabass balalaika with the cat face and see which of the artists is behind the drums on each song. 


The Man from U.N.C.L.E

The only night we found time to see a movie with our friend in Lund was tonight, so we couldn't see Jag är Ingrid, which starts tomorrow, drat. As WiseMan or I have seen this or that movie (Woman in Gold is fabulous, didn't manage to write about that one, it's a must-see), the only thing left was The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I wanted to see it because I loved the series as a kid (boy, that dates me, doesn't it?) and WiseMan has vague memories. Our friend was curious as there were so wildly different reviews of the movie, from crap to fantastic.

So we, and 12 others, found ourselves in the 120-seat theater in the early evening to see what was up. And hey, it was fun! Okay, maybe because we got lots of the references (we really raised the average age in that room....), but the dialogue was downright witty at times. Of course everything was implausible spy stuff, but hey, that's what the TV series was like, too! The only real bitch I have is them calling the computer tape a "disk", but whatever, can't have everything. I don't want to give away the twists and turns of the plot, but there is English, German, Russian, and Italian spoken, much was shot on location, and there's a bit of silly World War II footage in there that doesn't really make sense, it's the Cuban Missile Crisis, for crying out loud!

The film is entertaining, you get some laughs, and not too much blood-and-gore. And some smashing dresses the women are wearing! Go for it!


Cutting down trees

Where did July & August go? Okay, end of semester, then vacation with the princesses in Japan (which should have been worth lots of posts) and diverse other excuses for not writing. Back in Sweden, I have some time to write.
This afternoon our neighbors had some trees taken out. It should have been only 6, but it ended up being 8. WiseMan and I stood around with the neighbors watching in fascination how the process works. Here's a picture book story:

The truck has a lift arm on it with grabber pincers that grasp the tree.
Right below the pincer there is a chainsaw mounted, that cuts off the tree.

The lift arm is controlled by the truck driver with a little
remote control thingy that looks like a big Wii control.
This is an actual job that you can do
if you are good at computer games, I suppose!
Grab and saw

And lift that branch up and over the telephone wires!

Bang it on the ground to break off the branches.

And now go back for more.

This is the prize piece - a 3 meter trunk that can be sold for building wood.

All neatly packed on the truck flatbed and ready to go.
In about four hours, he was done. He then had a look at our trees, we have many old birch trees that could possibly fall on the house in a storm. I love the trees, but I also like the house. So tomorrow he's coming to take 4 trees in our front yard. To think that another neighbor spent and entire summer and fall taking down some 35 trees in his yard all by himself with a chainsaw. This is much faster - and safer.


Those foreigners....

At the hairdresser's this afternoon the woman to the right of me started complaining that there just aren't any German restaurants in the area anymore. Thai, Greek, Italian, Turkish, Chinese -- all sorts of foreign stuff, but you can't even get a good Currywurst here. The woman doing my hair said that she had heard that the foreigners get a special deal on their taxes for the first year or so, so that's why so many open up and then close after a year, in order to get the special deal for every shop they open. The woman to the right muttered "those foreigners, they get all that special treatment."

I rather exploded (although I was in the process of getting perm liquid washed out of my hair) and pointed out that this is a very typical rumor that people pass around that supposedly supports the arguments of those who are against all these "foreigners" in Germany. I explained that every person who starts a business gets a special deal the first year to help them get their business going. And that those restaurants that go out of business mostly have trouble generating enough business to pay the sky-high rents.

Oh yes, the hairdresser had seen the sign down the street, a landlord wants 2100 € a month for a 70 square-meter store that's been empty for a few months. That's 300 € a month that has to be generated by every square meter, in addition to paying for the merchandise and for the store owner and sales tax and what have you. It's the greedy landlords, I noted, curious to see if they would pick up on this and continue bitching.

They didn't. Silence, as the water kept rushing through my hair. Then the elderly lady on the left changed the topic: when she was young, you used to get a schnapps with your perm instead of just a cup of coffee.

And then they both went back to their gossip magazines.

These are your average Germans, I'm afraid.


It's me now

While spending a few days with my son, his girlfriend and their daughter, some poetry assembled itself in my mind and needs to be written down.

It seems.

It seems that I am now the mother-in-law
Who cooks and cleans and smiles and doesn't say much.
My world and theirs of YouTube and What'sApp and TV just don't
   have much in common.
Their conversations about rappers and TV starlets don't interest me
So I speak with the grandchild.
No deep conversations, but I do get smiles and kisses out of it.

It seems that I am now the mother-in-law
Who is there to push the pram and buy ice cream and drive the car.
My views of the world are so antiquated and out of touch that they just don't
  fit well with their modern way of life.
So I mind my tongue
And spend my time thinking.

Thinking that maybe my mother-in-law was just the same.
She cooked and she cleaned and she smiled and didn't say much.
Her world and ours, a political world, and intellectual world just didn't
  have much in common.
Her interests seemed to lie with TV singers and stars in the magazines instead
So she spoke with her grandchild.
No deep conversations, but she did get smiles and kisses out of it.

I do wonder though.
Did she spend her time while silently smiling
Doing math problems or writing poetry in her head
As I have been doing these past few days?

Driving home

Driving home after a swim -
son, his girlfriend, granddaughter -
are all sound asleep.