Frankenstein MacBook Air

Al pat each with our Mac to tear apartLast July I told you the story of my neighbor’s 2012 MacBook Air that suffered an early death when her baby daughter knocked a glass of water over into the keyboard. The power key was shorted out such that shortly after the Mac successfully booted up, it would shut itself down. I tore that thing down to the bare metal and couldn’t fix it because you can’t disassemble the keyboard from what they call the top case.  It’s an odd name, but it’s the top half of the bottom half of a laptop. At the time, prices for a replacement top case were so high it wasn’t worth fixing the Mac. It was only a 128GB model and an i5 so not worth too much. My neighbors said they had a friend who would sell it for parts for them so I gave it back, but it really bugged me that I had to give up on it. Continue reading “Frankenstein MacBook Air”

CES 2016: Beam Smart Presence System

Allison interviews Arika Bunfill from Suitable Technologies about their new Beam Smart Presence system. Beam allows you to interact with remote locations by coupling high-end video and audio with the freedom of motion to move about a space. The Beam App connects you to all of your Beams, wherever they are, to call into and drive any Beam. The BeamPro (shown here) and the Beam+ are available for purchase now. The setting is the CES 2016 show floor in the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Learn more at

Using a Screen Reader? click here

Behringer U-Control UCA222 Digital Audio Interface

Hello Allison and NosillaCastaways. Allister here again from New Zealand with a short review of a product recommended to me by another NosillaCastaway.

First, the problem to be solved. I just bought myself a brand new 27″ Retina 5K iMac. It is a beautiful machine and I am very pleased with it. No, that’s not a problem in itself, but if I look around the back of this beast, I see only one 3.5mm audio jack and it’s marked with a headphone symbol. It turns out it will support a headset with microphone, but that’s not really going to cut it for recording high quality audio.

Continue reading “Behringer U-Control UCA222 Digital Audio Interface”

What Would Make TWO Macs Go Black Screen?

Incase ICON sleeve for 12I had a HUGE problem with my MacBook this week. A lot of people mock the MacBook because it only has the one USB-C port and for a while there I thought they might have been right. For Christmas Steve got me a new USB-C dongle that would give me an SD card reader and 3 standard USB ports. It’s a nice form fitting device that just sticks to the side of the laptop instead of dangling off the side like my old one. We celebrated Christmas at Lindsay’s house and I was super excited to give it a try.

When I plugged it in, disaster struck. The screen on my MacBook went black. It was weird because the light came on on the dongle, and sometimes the keyboard would light up, but the Mac display was dead. I was so sad! I finally closed the MacBook up and took it into the other room for a time out.

A few hours later I opened it up, and it worked just fine! Yay! Forget that new dongle, I plugged in my old dongle to bring in some photos from an SD card…and the screen went black again. I fiddled with it like crazy, shut it down, reset the SMC (system management controller that controls power stuff), even did an NVRAM reset but no joy. Again I closed it up in the other room and when I opened it back up later it was fine.

I was afraid that now the USB-C port itself had gotten damaged, but the MacBook charged just fine overnight via USB-C.

We drove back home and I wrote a couple of blog posts while in the car and had no problems at all. We got on the road again the day after Christmas to go to Steve’s sister Linda’s house and again I used the MacBook in the car to do a bunch of writing and nothing went wrong.

At Linda’s house I had planned to record a few segments with Bart. My plan was to use my ATR-2100 Mic plugged into one of the dongles to record while sitting in a back room next to her router to get good speeds. I plugged everything in and just as I got Bart on Skype…the screen went black again!

Well the Sheridans are not without a backup plan, right? Steve had his MacBook Air with him and so he let me borrow it to Skype with Bart. Steve didn’t say anything but I know he believes this single USB-C port thing is just silly so he was probably happy that his multi-port MacBook Air would be there to save the day. No dongle needed, I plugged the ATR-2100 into the MacBook Air and called Bart. Everything was fine, and then I slightly moved the MacBook Air…and the screen went black!!!

Seriously. There’s nothing in common between these failures at all, other than ME! I briefly got the MacBook Air to come back up and again I moved it slightly and again it went black. Unbelievable!

As you’ll hear in Dumb Question Corner and the other segments we recorded, I ended up having to do the calls with Skype on my iPhone using Apple earbuds (even though I had plugged in my ATR2100 to the phone using a USB to 9pin adapter it didn’t recognize the mic). In addition I used my iPad Pro to read the shownotes Bart had put together. We managed to muddle through but it wasn’t what I had in mind!

On the way home in the car, again I was able to use my MacBook with no problems of the screen going black. When I got home I decided I’d better get a genius bar appointment right away because I really need my MacBook when I go to CES the second week in January. Right before setting the appointment I thought maybe I should take a gander at the Apple discussion forums to see if there are any reports of this black screen problem.

I found a thread started by alexmac27 that sounded like the exact same symptom. He later posted that he figured out what went wrong and it fixed my problem. Believe it or not, he and I were both putting the laptops on top of a sleeve case that had a magnetic closure on the short side! I tested it out and it’s 100% repeatable. I can move my MacBook or Steve’s MacBook Air so that the charger port is near the magnet and instantly the screen goes black. Move it away and it comes right back. Can you believe that???

Since I was sitting on the bed when I was trying to record, I had used my Incase sleeve to stabilize both of the Macs on the bedspread. You should have seen me dancing around the house after reading alexmac27’s explanation!

I had just recently gotten the Incase sleeve but Steve had one for ages that he always put under his Mac when on travel so I wondered why his didn’t cause the same problem. Turns out the magnet on the 13″ sleeve is on the long edge in the middle which doesn’t affect the Mac at all. By the way, these sleeves are fantastic and I wouldn’t get rid of mine for anything. They fit super snug but give great protection on all four corners and have really nice soft padding inside. I just won’t ever set my Macs on it again! They’re called ICON sleeves from Incase and you can get them for all sizes of MacBooks for around $70 on Amazon or direct from Incase.

One more tidbit. During the débâcle at Lindsay’s house, when my MacBook wouldn’t wake up, I resorted to using my iPad Pro with the Apple keyboard but even THAT stopped working. Since the iPad Pro has a magnetic attachment for the keyboard AND a magnet to put it to sleep, it looks like the keyboard doesn’t like the magnet in the sleeve either.

I love this story because it was so weird and then having the solution be 100% repeatable makes me giggle with delight.

If you want to see this in action, Steve and I put together a video showing the repeatable effect of the magnetic closure on the MacBook.

Using a Screen Reader? click here

Create Cute Address Labels on the Mac – New and Improved

Cute address labelSome of my most popular tutorials over the years on have been the ones explaining how to make address labels during the holidays. Years ago it involved using Excel to organize the labels, exporting them to a csv file, and then using Word to do a mail merge to make the labels. I remember my friend Diane and me spending HOURS getting this to work each year.

A few years ago Apple simplified everything by making it possible to print labels right from the Contacts application.
Continue reading “Create Cute Address Labels on the Mac – New and Improved”

Use Custom Fields to Tell Your Contacts Apart

The Apple Contacts application isn’t really designed to handle how many different ways we have of contacting people these days. In particular it’s awful at handling couples in a single card entry. Let’s say you’re friends with Bob and Sally Schwinkendorf. You send them a holiday card every year so you want both of their names in the same card. But then when you go to call one of them, you’re faced with two mobile numbers and you can’t tell which one is which.

Most people create three cards, one for Bob’s cell, one for Sally’s cell and a third with them together for the holiday card. It’s a mess! This quick tip will help you keep them in one card and yet still tell them apart. You can use this tip in OSX or iOS and of course it works in both when you’re done.

Full credit goes to Steve Sheridan for this awesome tip! Follow the link below for the tutorial:

How To Set Up a VPN Server Using a Mac

These instructions may seem arcane and complex but they’re really easy if you just follow along step by step. Donald Burr of Otaku No Podcast ( created all of these instructions in text form, Allison just created the ScreenSteps tutorial!

I’ll be focusing on using a Mac on your home network using an Airport Extreme Router (of course any router will work but the screenshots will be for the Airport). If you have a router capable of installing the Tomato Router Firmware, you should look at Donald’s full instructions because you may not need to use a Mac at all for this, your router can do it all. See Donald’s notes for other options.

Read Donald’s instructions ===> here.

If you’d rather download this manual for easy off line reference, click here.

If you’ve installed the VPN Server but would like to UNinstall it, click here for instructions.
If you can connect to your VPN server but can’t get outside your network, click here.

Let’s get started already!

SECTION 1 – Setting Up a Static IP for the Server on the LAN Side

These instructions should be completed on the machine that will become the VPN server.

Open Network Preferences


Select Advanced


Copy the Mac Address


Open AirPort Utility


Click on your router, in my case it’s called White Dart.

Select Enter Router Password


Enter your password when prompted and click OK.

Select Edit


Select the Network Tab and Click the + Button


Paste in the Mac Address You Copied Earlier


Select Update


Select Continue


Quit Airport Utility when this operation completes.

SECTION 2 – Creating Account at


Navigate to and select Sign Up.

Create a Username and Password


Enter your Email address. Note the host name shown which is free, but if you want to pay you can get more options. Scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Select Sign Up


Email Confirmation Will be Sent


Click the Link in the Email


Download the Update Client


This client will run in the background and check to see if your IP address has changed, and if it has, will send it to

Download and Install the Client


Enter Your Account Info You Just Created


This menu should pop up automatically.

Click OK


Click on Hosts and Check the Box Next to the Host Name You Chose


It may take a few moments for the host name you selected at to show up. Make sure you note this name, you’ll need it later.

Select Update Now


Turn on the Daemon


I chose this rather than running the application in the background all the time.

SECTION 3 – Installing Xcode and Running Command Line Tools

Find Xcode in the Mac App Store

Install Xcode


Install Java


Xcode only installs the standalone Java, and it does NOT include the Java Web plugin that has been the subject of so many security vulnerabilities lately.

Select Install Next to Command Line Tools


Wait till the installation finishes and quit X-Code

Type xcodebuild -license to Open the License Agreement


Start Hitting the Space Bar to Scroll Through the EULA – A LOT of Times


Type Agree


Type agree

Joy of Agreement


SECTION 4 – Installing MacPorts


Navigate to and scroll to the bottom to download the installer file for your OS.

Install MacPorts


Enter These Commands in the Terminal


To run the self update to Macports enter:

  source ~/.profile
  sudo port -v selfupdate

and enter your administrator password



Open the VPN Software



  sudo port -v install openvpn2

and watch a lot of glop go by…

SECTION 5 – Installing Tuntap Drivers


Open the Package File (in the folder after tuntap expands)


Gatekeeper won’t let you just double click on the installer package (it will complain that it is from an unknown source), you have to right click on the installer package and choose “open”.

SECTION 6 – Donald’s Nifty Scripts of Doom

Download Donald’s scripts from:

Type These Commands to Unarchive the Scripts


cd ~/Downloads
tar xvjf openvpn-mac.tar.bz2

Setting Up OpenVPN Server


We’re now going to run Donald’s scripts. Enter this command:

  cd openvpn-mac && sudo bash setup-openvpn-server

Name your Server (I’ve entered kyles-mac-vpn)
Enter the dynamic dns host name you noted back on (you DID note it, right?)

Keep Answering Questions


The first time through you need to answer these. These steps will be duplicated MANY times, but after this the answers will be there and you can simply hit Enter for each questions.

Hit Enter for All These Questions for an RSA Key


And Again for Some Reason


Keep Answering…


And Again


And Again…




Enter passphrase and password as many times as they ask for it!

Finder Window Opens Showing config-files


Copy this file to Dropbox. It will be the first connection file you test. It would be good to name it something associated with the device on which you’ll use it (you’ll be creating one of these for each of your devices).

Create a New VPN Connection Document for Each Device You Have

In Terminal, enter:

  sudo setup-openvpn-client connection-name

where connection-name means something to you for each different device you’ll want to connect to the VPN server. Move each of these files to Dropbox to be picked up on your devices.

SECTION 7 – Opening up UDP Port 1194


Open Airport Utility again, select your Airport again, Select Edit again. Select the Network tab, and select the + under Port Settings

Enter Information As Shown


Select Update


Wait until your Airport updates.

SECTION 8 – Install VPN Software on iOS


Download OpenVPN Connect from the iTunes App Store.

Open Dropbox


Find the file you created and moved into Dropbox and tap on it.

Select the Open In Button in the Bottom Right


Select Open in OpenVPN


Click the Green Plus Button to Import the File


Enter the Password


Enter the Password you created in the creation of the file, and tap the Save switch to turn it on. Finally tap the Off Switch to Connect to the VPN.



SECTION 9 – Install VPN Software on OSX


Two options for a VPN application on the Mac. Donald recommended Viscosity from which is $9 per Mac.

After the show Dr. Matt suggested the free TunnelBlick from I installed both and they both work well. This tutorial will be for Viscosity, but if you try Tunnelblick you have to do one thing to make it work. In the Settings, Configuration tab, select Advanced and then uncheck the box to use TunnelBlick’s tun/tap drivers.

Let’s keep going with Viscosity as our example.

Install Viscosity


Click on the icon for Viscosity in the menubar and choose Preferences.

In the Connection Tab Click on the Plus Button at the Bottom


Select Import Connection From File…


Navigate to the File You Created for This Device


In my case I called it alsmac so I could tell which one to open

Connection Imported


Connect Using Menu Bar App


Enter the Password You Created


No clue which one of the 198 I entered, luckily I typed the same one over and over again.

Fleeting Notification of Connection


To test mine at home I used a Mifi so I was on a different network.

Use the Menubar Icon to Disconnect When You’re Through


If you want to prove to yourself that you’re on VPN – go to before and after you VPN and you’ll find that your IP changes to your home IP. Congratulations!

#195 Slau, DVDpedia, Cha-ching, Encrypted Disk Images

Sessions from Slau at, Dumb Question Corner reveals laser-specific search in Spotlight from DVDpedia from goes up against Delicious Library and wins for only $18 from In Chit Chat Across the Pond, Bart explains that Adobe has patched their services and he does a review fo the $40 personal finance management software from Midnight Apps at Then Bart and I discuss how to get offsite backups without taking forever but still being secure, and he walks me through how to make an encrypted disk image to protect my offsite backup. I created a ScreenSteps tutorial on in the right sidebar on how to make an encrypted disk image too.


Listen to the Podcast Once (52 min)
Continue reading “#195 Slau, DVDpedia, Cha-ching, Encrypted Disk Images”

Posts navigation

1 2 3 4
Scroll to top