All I Want For Christmas

is a nice easy to remember password that works for every site I visit, and for all the internet places I go to everyday. One would think this is an easy request, but it seems to be damn near impossible to achieve. Among the worst password requesters are Google, and Apple. Both companies demand using passwords, and that they be changed often. In the process they drive users nuts. Probably even worse than Apple is Norton password manager which requires it’s own password to enter before you can access your passwords.

Being memory challenged makes this particularly difficult to navigate. Just try reading the instructions offered by Google. They might as well be in Egyptian hieroglyphics as far as I am concerned. I am an Apple person, but if a simpler system becomes available I’ll dump everything Apple in favor of simplicity. I have an Apple user-id, but it seems that Apple can not recognize that id in any of it’s many discrete applications like iCloud, Apple Store, iTunes, iPhotos, iMovies, etc. Compound that with devices like iMac, iPad, iPhone, iWatch, and many more. I would think a simple droplet of blood applied to a device would solve the problem. I may go anemic or worse yet die because of a lack of blood, but it might be easier to use the devices.

Last week my internet service took a crap, and stopped working. In order to get it up and running I decided to reset the system by shutting everything down. I went too far, and shut off my iMac as well. That was a tragic error on my part. The most tragic was trying to re-enter my own computer after a shut down. It has been three years since the machine has been shut off, and that time gap caused me to forget the Apple id, and password for the machine. It took a full four hours of watching, and listening to Youtube videos made by two different guys from India who spoke a mile a minute with a strong Hindi accent, and tons of trial and error efforts using their recovery steps to finally get into this Mac which sits on my desk unused by anyone but myself. Success was finally achieved and unlike the woman who gives birth and forgets the pain immediately upon seeing her child my pain continues. Now, for whatever reason, in the great wisdom of Apple the Mac acts just like my iPhone. If it is unattended for a few seconds it requires, you guessed it, a password to enter again. I am positive that this useless feature can be turned off, but I may not live long enough to learn where the switch is. I will sleep easier now that I am protected from my wife getting into my computer when I’m away.

Man typing on the keyboard trying to log into his computer forgot password

In trying to understand why all this is necessary, I vision the workplace where every colleague takes over your keyboard when you turn your back, or go to the john. I would sooner booby trap that individual and spray him with indigo blue ink than have to reenter the password every time.

Throughout all this I keep hearing about how smart artificial intelligence has become, but in my opinion this problem is beyond the capabilities of AI. Maybe in another hundred years after electric cars rule the planet, and the air is thick with the smoke of hydrocarbon fueled electric power stations, AI will be smart enough to solve the password problem. However, there is no incentive for Apple, Google, Norton, and the others to solve it because they are making too much money selling updates to newer machines that need more passwords. Like I said above, I’ll reward the company who solves the pw problem permanently with my cash. In the meantime, I’ll keep asking Santa for a solution. His elves suffer from the same malady and may be able to make the miracle happen.

Apple Going the Way of Microsoft


My experience with personal computers goes back to a machine called the Sinclair. I bought it mail order through Popular Science magazine for seventy dollars as a kit. Needless to say there were no programs written for it, and I had to learn to program in basic to make it do what I wanted. It was fun for a while. I learned that I was lousy at programming, and it was easier to buy canned programs to do work. The company I worked for was slow to get into PC’s, but eventually succumbed to the revolution. They went through several generations of machines before finally settling on the IBM. The logic was that IBM would stay in business longer than any of their competitors. We had a few Apple Macintosh but they fell out of favor because of the limited software availability. Everyone was writing software for the PC. Microsoft won big by providing the operating system, and they are still big.

I bought a used Apple IIe for my son to learn on, and he did well using that. I bought a Dell machine for myself long after the company put one on my desk and forced me into using it. I say forced because I had to learn how a spreadsheet program worked, and the peculiarities of the word processor. Skip to today. I am proficient in Microsoft Word, Word Perfect, and finally forced myself to learn Apple Pages. They all do about the same thing except they shuffle the windows and the menus thus forcing a user to learn where everything is. I climbed onto the Pages wagon when I became an Applephite. I own a Mac, a Macbook, and a smart phone. I still have two old Dell laptops for special work only. I have an ancient scanner whose software is only recognized by my oldest laptop.

It took me several years to learn how to use mail merge using Word. I loved it because I could finally send personalized letters to my friends without the letters appearing like form letter ads. The biggest problem I always had with my PC’s was the machine could not keep up with the software. A new version of software often worked well only on the newest largest memory machine. Freeze-up was another problem. My Dell machines froze too often, and unwanted malware caused endless slowdowns. It seemed like all I ever did was spend time waiting, or fixing problems related to security leaks in the operating system. Microsoft sent updates almost daily. Many times when I updated my older programs, they were no longer functional, and fighting viruses became the number one issue requiring my time.

When I switched to the Apple, I chose to avoid firewalls and virus protector programs. My days spent fixing Microsoft related issues were over. The IMac has been in my house for four years, and I have never had a virus. Only recently have I had to reboot the machine. Since the arrival of ICloud, I find myself rebooting more often.

Last Christmas, I wanted to use Pages to make my own Christmas card, and to address envelopes. That is until I realized that Pages no longer has a merge function for envelopes. Evidently Apple believes that the world no longer needs Snail Mail functionality. I worked around the problem by reloading an old version of Pages that still had the mail merge function. This year, I used Microsoft Word. It still works.

More recently, I contracted with my grand-daughter to edit the manuscript of my book. She asked me which program I wanted her to use. I told her that Pages is what I used, and Pages is what it should stay in. She sent me edits in groups of five chapters via email five times and they have been flawless. On the sixth group of chapters I could not open the file. I replied to her that she should resend it because I couldn’t open the manuscript(required index.xml file is missing). She did, the same thing happened. I suspected a snake in the woodpile, and Googled the error code; here is what I found:

Reply Helpfulby PeterBreis0807 on Mar 29, 2014 8:54 PM
You have 2 versions of Pages on your Mac.

Pages 5 is in your Applications folder.

Pages ’09/’08 is in your Applications/iWork folder.

You are alternately opening the wrong versions.

Pages ’09/’08 can not open Pages 5 files and you will get the warning that you need a newer version.

Pages 5/5.01 can not open Pages 5.1 files and you will get the warning that you need a newer version.

Pages 5.1 sometimes can not open its own files and you will get the warning that you need a newer version.

Pages 5 can open Pages ’09 files but may damage/alter them. It can not open Pages ’08 files at all.

Once opened and saved in Pages 5 the Pages ’09 files can not be opened in Pages ’09.

Anything that is saved to iCloud is also converted to Pages 5 files.

All Pages files no matter what version and incompatibility have the same extension .pages.

Pages 5 files are now only compatible with themselves on a very restricted set of hardware, software and Operating Systems and will not transfer correctly on any other server software than iCloud.

Apple has not only managed to confuse all its users, but also itself.

Note: Apple has removed over 100 features from Pages 5 and added many bugs:

Archive/trash Pages 5, after exporting all Pages 5 files to Pages ’09 or Word .docx, and rate/review it in the App Store, then get back to work.


I searched my Pages work file for a clue and found the file my Grand-daughter sent. I opened it and it worked. What happened? I looked for my older version of Pages in the Applications file, it is not there anymore. Who made it disappear? Like I said there is a snake in the woodpile.

Apple made a change to Pages without regard to a customer’s usage. In their infinite wisdom to force an electronic vision upon us they created a Microsoft like need for updates. I guess staying ahead of your competition is no longer considered a good thing at Apple, instead they want worms just like their competitors.

Apple has the similar problems with IPhoto, and IMovie. They insist on making their pc’s act like the IPhone.

Arrogance Kills

English: President Barack Obama's signature on...

English: President Barack Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine the New York Stock Exchange rolling out a software system loaded with trouble like the Affordable Care Act did this week. I think the NSE would allow the program about ten seconds to exist before it shut down, restarted their previous program, and told the developer to not come back. In ten seconds any stock exchange can make millions of trades worth billions of dollars, In fact, traders program automatic trades be made based on algorithms designed to buy or sell based on trends and instantaneous data. Ten seconds of mal-functioning software causes billions of dollars of loss and millions of angry customers.

Obama has accused Apple of having a glitch in the i-phone, but claims Apple didn’t give up because it had a glitch. He is correct for once, but he failed to tell you that Apple fixed the glitch within days after its discovery, and that 99% of the iPhone worked during the glitch period. Imagine having to wait hours to get your IPhone to work, mine would be smashed into the nearest wall and I would be headed to buy a Samsung, Motorola, or Sony. I venture to guess that the Obama Care software will need months if not years to fix, and guess what? There is no competition you are stuck with it. The software is not ready for prime time, it is not even ready for a beta test.

It is my prediction that Obama will have to extend the sign-up because there is no way in hell his people will be able to fix the problems in time to allow us to enroll within the 180 day deadline spelled out in the law. It is also my prediction that the disastrous rollout gives us a glimpse of the service we will get from government controlled healthcare.

The Republicans threw Obama a lifeline by proposing a bill that would delay the individual mandate by a year. If he were smart, like all his lovers claim, he would have jumped at the opportunity to buy time. Instead he has to live with a software system that will kill his legacy bill.

Who do you think will fix a problem like this faster, the government or the private sector?

Remember this debacle?


We Need Good Paying Factory Jobs

Lathe operator machining parts for transport p...

Lathe operator machining parts for transport planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant, Fort Worth, USA (1942). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The fashionable  rhetoric today involves a lot of BS about bringing high paying jobs back to America. This seems like just another ploy to feed the masses with what they want to hear. Libs love unions and unions like high paying factory jobs. The problem is that the unions have driven high paying jobs out of the country. Where did they go and why? Talk to Government Motors and they will tell you it is the unfair practices of their competitors who do not have to pay union benefits. They claim that benefits add $1500 of cost to each car. The UAW argues the high cost resulted from stupid business practice by the management. Meanwhile the American car makers go bankrupt and foreign car makers build factories in the USA. Hello! Is there a message here? The foreign companies settle in states with right to work laws, and away from large metropolitan areas teeming with anxious workers ready to unionize at first chance.

During my career as an engineer, I saw many factories. They made things like construction equipment, farm equipment, heavy presses for the auto industry, mining equipment, thermostats, airplanes, and electrical components. Yes, there were many good jobs in these industries. All of them suffered from the same malady, high labor costs. One of my jobs was to calculate the cost of a machine. It was a rigorous analysis dealing with making parts, applying the time to complete an operation and to multiply the time by an appropriate labor cost. When I finished, the cost went to the accountants and they began adding administrative costs, benefits, sales, inventory, and whole slew of other things which I didn’t really understand. Finally, they added profit. The machine I was so proud of turned into something no one could afford.

Cutting cost became my mantra. Each penny I could cut from a part meant the product may become salable.

After a number of jobs in heavy equipment, I settled in the electrical component industry. Over the course of forty years, my job was to cut the cost of an electrical component. The owner began by hiring people to run molding machines. He designed and made small molds to keep his investment low. As sales grew, he made bigger molds and bought larger molding machines, but they were still operated manually.

During the nineteen eighties the government  reduced capital gains taxes and the fun began. We couldn’t buy machinery fast enough to expand the business. Another thing happened. The owner shared his vision of a totally automated factory with us. It became my job to help him build a “lights-out” factory. That is a factory where there are no people just machines making product in the dark.

When I began work at this company, there were people running molding machines, handling product, inspectors examined the product for defects, people put product into plastic bags, they sealed the  plastic bags, applied labels, put the bags into shipping boxes, taped the boxes, and moved them to the shipping department. There were people tripping over themselves in a very busy and noisy environment.

In the beginning, the company had two competitors, one in the USA and one in England. When I left the company, the number of competitors was over two hundred, and most of them were in the far east. On one visit to China, my boss visited a competitor’s factory. He examined the part and could not differentiate the competitor’s from our own. The Chinese factory owner told him “we copy you because you have the best product.” The man ran a factory in a two-story building. He lived on the second floor above his factory. His molds were simple low cavitation tools. He did not use any machinery other than a molding machine, but he did use many workers. He paid them about a dollar an hour,, which was good pay in their country.

When I finally retired, I left an automated factory that was just a few operations short of  lights-out. The investment cost required to produce a single part cost between $500,000-750,000. The man in China invested $50,000 and used dollar an hour labor to do the rest.

When you here the politicians and unions demanding high paying jobs think about this: What kind of job is a high paying factory job today? What kind of people do we have ready to work? Do they have the credentials to work in a high paying jobs factory? Will those factories compete with Chinese labor?

Here are some videos to show you the difference between high paying factory jobs. The first one is an Apple factory in China, the second is a stamping plant in China (our stamping plants were never as crude or unsafe as this one), and finally a modern car manufacturer in Germany. When you watch the third video pay attention to the number of high paying workers assembling the cars.

1. Apple Factory ( a little long, but worth watching.)

2. Chinese stamping plant. Notice the six guys sitting around the die and ducking heads when the press comes down. During my 55 years of visiting factories I have never seen anything as crude or unsafe as the operation in this video in any US plant.

3. German car maker. The kind of jobs we envision when we talk about high paying union jobs.

The high paying jobs in the German factory involve skilled tradesmen far beyond the education level of the people we hope to use in our factories.

The USA is capable of matching the level of automation in the VW video above, I know, I worked to make such a process. We have the tool making, electronic, and engineering skills needed. What we don’t have are enough people who know how to read, and do simple math well enough to work on a complicated factory floor.

An Apple Atta Boy

Yesterday, I did something really stupid. I was in a hurry, and I paid for it in time. The night before, I had attended my Lions Club 70th Anniversary party, and took about a hundred photos. I promised to post them on the club website, “WE SERVE.”  In the past twelve months, I have observed a trend on this website. The day after a major Lion event the number of views jumps. It happens because people want to know what transpired at the event. They are looking for news while it is still hot. It was my goal to capitalize on that observation.

The first thing after breakfast, I whipped open my trusty little red point and shoot Nikon and removed the media card. In one smooth move my hand went to the computer and shoved the card into the media card slot. Or, at least, I thought it was the media card slot. It wasn’t. I missed that slot by three-eighths of an inch and shoved the card into the CD drive slot instead. My pictures were swallowed by the iMac, it iAte my media card.

Don’t panic, I said to myself, just figure out how to open the thing and pick the card out. The iMac design is a thing of beauty as well as function. I looked everywhere for a screw or tab or anything that would give me a clue as to how to open the case. I found nothing. Don’t Panic. I shot off an e-mail to  my son Mike who owns the same model. I asked him for the key to opening the box. His reply was not encouraging. He didn’t know, and he reminded me that the warranty is probably void if I attempt to open it myself. Smart kid I thought. Don’t panic. I went online and found an Apple Service Center in Orland Park. They didn’t open until ten and it was still before nine. I called anyway, they were closed. Don’t Panic.

Grandma Peggy tried to console me. I reminded her that every time we visited an Apple Store in Illinois, Arizona, and California, it was the only store in the mall to have people. I’m sure this will take forever to fix. The last time I had a laptop fixed by a local service known for its great response, it took two weeks to get it back. That is, after I paid a premium to have it placed on their “look at it” within 24 hours service special. They didn’t say “have it fixed” in 24 hours.

After what seemed like eternity, ten  rolled over on the clock. I dialed the Apple Store. Amazingly, I got an answer after listening to Apple commercials for a minute. A real live human answered the phone, and he sounded like a bona-fide U.S. of A. all American kid. I expected to hear a heavy Indian dialect. Phew! the panic began to subside. I took the first appointment they had open. It was at 11:40 a.m. on the same day. I didn’t even know if I could get there by then, but I took the appointment.

Grandma Peggy helped me wrap Baby in a blanket to keep her warm and from getting scratched in transit. It was seven degrees yesterday.

I didn’t want to hear Peggy’s lecture on asking for directions so, I printed the instructions for getting there before we left. I parked exactly according to the certified instructions. I told Peggy to wait in the car as I ran into the mall to find the store. Baby is very heavy, and I didn’t want to carry her far. It is a good thing, I did the scouting trip. We parked at the opposite end of the mall from The Apple Store.

As I expected, the store was crammed with customers. Most played with iPhones, some played with MacBooks, others sat with blue-shirted staff receiving one-on-one instructions. They gave me  instructions over the phone to check in with a staff member. I crossed over the line and ran head on into a blue-shirted kid with headphones, a microphone, and an iPad in hand.

This blue-shirt met me with a body block as I crossed the line. Within ten seconds he had me checked in and arranged for another blue-shirted staff member to meet me at a specific entrance to help unload and carry Baby to the store. Then, with my  problem noted, he alerted the service staff  to look for a guy with a heavy brown jacket and a plum-colored shirt. All of this was done while we stood within four feet of the line.

I rushed back to the car, and we drove to the opposite side of the mall. Within a few seconds a blue-shirt with bleached white spiked hair popped through the mall door pushing a cart. He gingerly lifted Baby out of the back seat with the blanket intact. I parked while Grandma Peggy escorted the blue-shirt and Baby to the store.

Grandma Peggy and I stood around looking lost and wondering what happened to Baby, she disappeared. A completely different blue-shirt saw us looking bewildered. He asked if he could help.

“What’s your name?”

“Joe,” I responded.

He searched his iPhone.,”yep, you are checked in.”

“Thanks,” I said. “Is this the best spot to wait?”

“Actually, no,” he replied, the front of the store is best.

“Good, I will look over the MacBook Air while we wait, but how will I know when it is my turn?”

“Someone will find you.”

The blue-shirt escorted me to a MacBook Air, and  quizzed me on how I wanted to use it. I told him, and he began to steer me toward an iPad when I felt a light tap on the shoulder.

“Are you Joe?”  asked another blue-shirt, this one with tattoos from his wrist to his elbow.


“Follow me.”

I looked at my watch, it was 11:40 a.m. He led me to Baby. Blue-shirt with the tattooed arm asked what was wrong with her. I explained my stupid move.

“Don’t feel bad, lot’s of people have done  the same thing.”

“I’ll be right back.”

He disappeared with Baby in his arms. Peggy’s blue blanket was on the floor. I picked it up before she saw where it was. I handed it to her and she smiled, “I saw that.”

Within minutes, blue-shirt with tattoos came back with Baby in arms; the  media card clenched between his fingers.

“Oh thank you,” I said. He handed me the tiny card and I stuck it into my wallet with my credit cards.

Blue-shirt with tattoos, and I had a technical discussion about how to get the computer open. He graciously explained the process. I was glad that I hadn’t been brave enough to attempt it. We kidded back and forth as he tested the CD drive to see if it had been damaged during the fishing process. They do this so often that they developed a fishing tool to find media cards without opening the computer. I can see why. Opening an iMac would have taken them much more time than it did to fish the card out.

Blue-shirt with tattoos arranged for another blue-shirt to assist me with transport back to the car. This guy was built like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and carried Baby under his arm.

I looked at my watch as we drove away. It was 12:15 p.m.

This was my first Apple Store experience. I bought the computer on-line to avoid the crowds at the Apple Store.

I cannot say enough great things about the Apple blue-shirt staff. Every one of them was courteous, and treated us with the greatest respect. They all had one goal, to make certain the customer was satisfied and being taken care of. They have something that is missing from other major stores,” SERVICE.”  When I was a  kid, most stores had great service and attitude toward customers. Sears was one of them, but they succumbed to the competitive pressure of K-Mart , and now they are owned by K-Mart. Had they remained a service oriented organization they may have done better. Apple has found that service pays. As my son often tells me, when you buy an Apple product you pay a ‘Apple Tax.’  Apple can charge more for its product because  of two things; Quality, and Service.

I give Apple and the Orland Park Apple Store five stars for their best practice of treating the customer right.

Last night, I finally got back to reporting on the Frankfort Lions Seventieth Anniversary party; only twelve hours off schedule.