WISE Tech Tip – May 2023

Twenty-five years ago this month, Apple introduced the iMac and, with it, changed my mother’s life for her last couple of years. (She lived with us for five years until she passed in 2000.) We bought her a Bondi Blue iMac.

With it, she discovered Amazon. She was a voracious reader and buyer of books. Packages with obscure books showed up at our door.

Google gave her new worlds of  news from folks such as the then-feisty Ariana Huffington as well as websites on psychology, sociology, history, art, and, of course, books.

She planned and paid for her own trip to Bermuda because she could.

Yes, the operating system on that early iMac was unsteady, requiring frequent attention from the in-house IT support. Mac OS X wouldn’t be available until after her death. Nevertheless, it was neither too soon nor too late to hop on that rickety raft of a computer, pretty and bold like her, to find new worlds.


Update; in the past month, there have been several articles about the 25th anniversary of the iMac.

From August 15:

Apple TV 404

Somewhere in a box of stuff in our storage room lies a sleek Apple TV remote control. Nice. simple, and hard to find.

Apple provides an app that lets you control your Apple TV from your iOS device. It works reasonably well, except after a software upgrade. When the device restarts, it wants to confirm its network connection and device name.


You cannot, however, use the iOS app  to do this. Even though Air Play mirroring works, the app can’t find the Apple TV device.



At the Mall with Apple and Microsoft

We’ve seen this before, but it seems worse now. On a winter’s Saturday, a trip to the Natick Mall showed two very different retail experiences.

The Apple Store is lively with people of all ages. The further into the store you go, the more customers will you see, excitedly playing with, learning about, and buying stuff.

The Microsoft Store employees outnumber the customers. The liveliest place is not in the store, but out front, where a two-year-old girl is dancing to the big XBox video.

It’s no wonder that Apple, with but a sliver of the desktop computing market share, is worth twice what Microsoft is worth.

iOS ease-of-use? Ha!

For inexplicable (or, at least, unexplained) reasons, Apple doesn’t allow browser extensions on iOS (iPad and iPhone). Browser extensions are small apps that allow you to things such as save a link to a service such as Pocket.
Pocket, formerly Read It Later, allows you to save links for later reading. It also provides a cleaner version of the web page so that you can read it without ads and other cruft that accompanies most web content. I’ve been using Pocket/Read It Later for years and recommend it to anyone who uses the web a lot.
Installing the extension on all browsers on Windows and OSX is easy and fast. You get an icon on the browser toolbar.

On Windows, Mac, and Android, you can then save a link from your browser to Pocket. Clicking the icon saves the link to Pocket.
On Safari on iOS, however, here’s what you have to do to set up a bookmarklet so that you can save to Pocket. (For the record, Chrome on iOS doesn’t support extensions, either.)

How to Save to Pocket on iPad

For people new to or not adept with computing devices in general, this is onerous. For the record, Pocket isn’t the only one afflicted by this Apple limitation. Other apps such as Instapaper and Evernote have to provide the same gnarly work-arounds.

You can save links to a Reading List that is synchronized with Safari elsewhere, such as on your Mac. You cannot, however, get at your Reading List from other browsers, via iCloud, or on an Android device.
In a word, pfft.

Toward a theory of technology education

Impressive title for a blog, eh?

Well, I’m nowhere near that full theory, but I’ve got a few pieces that are starting to take shape. The ideas are based on my experiences providing technical support for many people over many years.

Smart, good people call themselves stupid because their computers and telephones block them from doing a simple task. We’ve created a culture of disrespect that’s the result of bad user interface and bad  software release practices (unannounced changes so that something that worked in one way yesterday doesn’t work today).

A generation was mocked by the flashing 12:00 on their VCR clocks because a) each VCR had a different way of setting the time and, more importantly, b) the manufacturers were too fricking cheap to include a 50¢ battery that would preserve the time setting when you unplugged the device momentarily.

It’s not likely that the industry is going to change its ways, so it’s up to us. That’s where this nascent educational theory is coming into shape. It has a few core principles that I’ll be developing over a series of blogs:

  • Language
  • Expectations
  • Community of learning
  • Context

I’ll touch on the first one, language, today.

If you don’t know how to spell a word, look it up in the dictionary.

How many of you, as nine-year-olds, stared blankly at your teacher when she told you to look up a word that you didn’t know how to spell? This moment may have been the beginning of your understanding that adults are nuts.

Second only to English language usage, English spelling rules are nonsensical and contradictory. (The phrase look it up, for example, uses the verb look in an archaic fashion as a transitive verb and sends us looking upwards. Perhaps a grammarian could help me diagram the sentence Look it up in the dictionary.)

The other day, a Mac user tried to explain her problem, that the thing with the pointer was missing from her desktop.

“I use it to navigate,” she said.

I asked about the mouse pointer, which seemed to be ok.

“I click on it to read the New York Times,” she said.

The icon for Safari was missing from her Dock.

If you saw the Safari icon in the wild, how would you describe it? A compass, right? How does that correlate with web browsing?

Once you make the association between an icon and the idea or activity, you’re most likely just to forget that you even know it. Trouble surfaces, however, when the icon disappears. Is the program gone? Probably not.


  • An icon dictionary that explains what each icon represents – what program it runs and what you do with the program. In the previous example, describing that icon as Safari wouldn’t have helped much.
  • People who work on the computer must document what they’ve done and why. The reason that the Safari icon was gone was that the Mac owner’s son preferred Firefox and wanted to make it the default browser for his mother. He didn’t tell her nor did he set it up so that she could get to the New York Times website as she’s previously done.