August 16, 2020 at 5:51pm

International Mac Nerds

Martin Feld, Jason Burk and I recorded a pilot episode’ of a podcast idea we had been germinating.

Martin has been kind enough to host the episode on his site.

podcast link
June 19, 2020 at 5:55pm link
June 18, 2020 at 8:31pm link
May 25, 2020 at 10:05pm

My Story of Installing Windows with Boot Camp on an External SSD

The developers of Civilization 6 - and specifically Aspyr who are responsible for the Mac port - have cost me time and money, but have provided me with a sense of satisfaction from being able to complete a new IT project.

The latest update to the Civ franchise was deployed to the PC version of the game but not macOS (or Linux). As a result when I tried to play an online game with my friends, no dice. The two versions are now incompatible with one another. Aspyr has said nothing about an ETA for a Mac update.

Proof of concept

I enjoy playing online games with my friends. I enjoy it enough that I was willing to use Boot Camp on my iMac to create a native Windows partition. Boot Camp is annoying in that it only works with internal drives. This had me kicking myself that I saved myself some money when I customised my iMac build - selecting just a 256Gb internal SSD. Ah, hindsight. I definitely should have paid the excessive money for the bigger drive.

Anyway, I pared down my files, offloading some to my ThunderBay RAID enclosure, and deleting some others so I had enough to create a Windows partition. The Boot Camp system worked well enough, and I was able to install Steam on it, then the PC version of Civ and have a good gaming night with my friends.

External and better

In the cold light of the next day, though, I knew this was an unsustainable solution. By partitioning my internal SSD I had two Operating Systems neither of which had enough breathing space on their respective drives to be happy.

By some strange twist of fate and timing, this very same morning my RSS feed contained the exact article I needed to read. Riccardo Mori published an article, one part of which included details of his transition to being a part-time Windows user. He wrote:

For the past eight days or so, I’ve been using my iMac booted into Windows 10 in the Boot Camp installation I managed to perform on an external SSD.

Hang on. That’s what I want to do. How did he do it? I fired off a tweet:

and Riccardo responded rapidly:

Note that he provided a link to a previous article of his that provides insight into how to fool Boot Camp into thinking it’s installing to an internal drive, when it’s actually an external SSD in use.

I trucked off to my local Officeworks store and bought myself a 500Gb USB-C connected SSD drive.

I followed along with the steps outlined by Riccardo and the other source material - a slightly out-of-date article written by OWC (incidentally the manufacturers of my aforementioned ThunderBay drive array).

You’re not successful yet, mate

Things went well, until they didn’t. I was on the home stretch as Windows was doing the first part of the install onto the SSD. I forgot the next step though - which was to stop the installation at its reboot point (part of the fooling BootCamp’ process). I realised too late, and so I had to quit the installation and start over.

That created a new problem. The SSD now had a number of NTFS partitions on it, but macOS apparently cannot reinitialise a drive with a very small boot partition such as the one that Windows 10 puts on the drive. Turns out the resolution, as is often the case, is found from the command line. I give credit to Priyank Sharma for detailing precisely how to eliminate this partition problem and get the drive back to a point where I could start over by reinitialising it. Before finding his post, I was worried I had turned my new SSD drive into a small and inelegant paperweight.

Drive restored, I started over, this time remembering to follow all the steps.

Success, with thanks to the open web

I now have an iMac that has its full 256Gb internal SSD to itself for macOS, and a 500Gb external SSD with Windows 10 - what I can now refer to as my gaming rig’.

The thing that amazes me is that USB-C appears essentially fast enough to facilitate an operating system’s data throughput requirements.

It’s also so great that people document their experiences on blogs across the internet. Without the three articles I have referenced, none of this would have happened. This is what the open web is all about, and why it is so much better than Facebook, et al.

The last step in this process is to now wait for a time when my friends want to play Civ again. Come on guys, I’m ready!

macOS boot camp windows
April 17, 2020 at 12:58pm

Writing for the Web

Why Word documents are not great for the web, and why plain text files written in Markdown’ syntax are the way to go when writing anything destined for online delivery.

Microsoft Word was designed for writing in an era when the finished result would be a printed page. There is still a place for that - and often the printed page is now a generated PDF.

The web, however, is of different origins. By its nature, web content needs to be:

  1. Flexible
  2. Semantic

Let’s consider each in turn. Flexible’ means that it needs to adjust to the capabilities of the renderer. In the early days, this was a text-based browser versus a graphical one. Nowadays, it’s about viewports - how big is the window and screen, or what device is it being displayed upon? The text needs to sensibly fit and flow to whatever display is being used. Word documents only need to look good on the pseudo-page it has been designed for.

Semantic means that there is meaning within the content. Word has the concept of styles, which few people use. The web uses line definitions, so you can nominate a line to be of Heading 1’ type, or unordered list’ type (i.e. bullets). When you do these in Word, you are changing an appearance that is specific to that document. On the web, you can’t trust that everybody has the same fonts, resolution, or display capabilities. So instead, you semantically describe the text, and let the end device decide how that will look.

That Sounds Complicated, I Don’t Want to Write HTML

I agree, that is complicated, and that is why Markdown was invented - to make writing for the web easier than writing in Word!

To write for the web, use a plain text editor. Forget Word - that’s not the right tool for the job. There are some brilliant editors available that are optimised for writing Markdown, but you can use the most basic editor, such as NotePad on Windows.

My favourite Markdown-focused text editor which is available for all platforms is iA Writer. It’s awesome.

Writing in Markdown

The best way to explain Markdown is to show it.

Each Heading is preceded by a #. So my major headings are written as # My Title. Next level headings are written ## Next Level Heading. Your text stays text. Later, it gets converted and rendered as HTML.

Want a bullet? Use an asterisk.

* First point.
* Second point.
* Third point.


  • First point.
  • Second point.
  • Third point.

Let’s get fancy and add a link. Just type a link to [my website]( which renders as a link to my website. See, all you did was add brackets and braces. Everything is readable, there’s no fancy technology. It’s all plain text.

The image below is a screenshot of me writing this article in iA Writer. I edit in the left frame, and get a live preview of the rendered article on the right side.

iA Writer in UseiA Writer in Use

Google Markdown

This is not esoteric stuff. This is base-level knowledge for the modern worker. Google markdown’ and you’ll see what I mean.

This is your chance to level-up - it’s not hard; it’s your chance to move with the times.

I Love it, Tell me More!

There’s more to the Markdown syntax than what I’ve shown here. This is a nice cheatsheet showing the broader range of syntax available.

April 13, 2020 at 9:36am

Will Coronavirus Change Society Forever?

Will our giant monuments to mass transportation soon appear as white elephants dedicated to the god of hubris? Gigantic airports, ocean ports for cruise liners, and all the planes, trains, ships and automobiles that use them - will they all become stranded assets slowly losing the war against entropy?

Will our stadiums and shopping centres, designed to pack people into shared experiences, point to an irrelevant way of life?

Will our next generation of people wonder what it was like to have global experiences be the norm, and consider the way we would gather en masse to watch sport and entertainment a strange and incomprehensible way of life?

Are we moving back to a local lifestyle? Is this the beginning of the end for the global village? Was this era of multi nationalism and free global movement a blip in the history of mankind, rather than part of the continual upward trajectory we had assumed it to be?

Are we about to enter a modern version of a dark age?

thinking covid society