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HP PageWide Printing Problem [UPDATED]

UPDATE Nov 1, 2021: A recent firmware update for the HP PageWide 477 appears to have fixed the printing problem. The firmware is version MAVEDWPP1N001.2142A.00, and it is dated 2021-10-13.

Are you a Mac user who is experiencing a bug when printing from Microsoft Office applications to your HP PageWide printer? Even when you save from Office as a PDF and then try to print that PDF?

You are probably getting boxed question marks instead of text characters.

If so, the this might help.

A Laborious Workaround, But It Works.

This allows me to print without uninstalling my PageWide print drivers. I still need my printer’s scanning functionality, so replacing my PageWide drivers with a simple PostScript driver is not an option.

  1. With an Office document open, click the File pull-down menu and click Print.
  2. In the Print dialog box, find and click the PDF drop-down menu in the lower left.
  3. From that menu, click Save as PostScript.
  4. In the Save dialog box, provide a name for this file (maintain the .ps extension), and save it to a temporary location (perhaps the Desktop).
  5. Once the file saves, find it and right-click it.
  6. Hover over Open With, the click Preview.

The Preview app will open that PostScript file and convert it to a PDF. Print from the Preview app. Important: This conversion process from PostScript to PDF will allow the Office document to print to your PageWide printer. Printing to PDF from the Office app will still print the boxed question marks.

After you’re done printing, you can delete that PostScript file.

My 2 Cents

Dear HP: Shame on you for preventing customers of your expensive printers from printing Office documents. It’s completely unacceptable.

Security is Probably Why: A couple of months back, Microsoft had to completely overhaul it’s print mechanism due to a significant security threat. I suspect this could be the root reason why we poor Mac users are dealing with this nasty print bug. I could be totally wrong, though. But the coincidence seems suspicious.

Lossless Apple Music Prevents Rewind and Fast Forward

Apple Lossless icon with standard play control buttons of which Rewind and Fast Forward are crossed out.

Well, that’s disappointing.

I use Apple CarPlay and frequently play music while driving. Every now and then, I like to fast forward in some music tracks by long pressing the Fast Forward button. Recently, I noticed that I could no longer do this in most music tracks.

Some yes, most no.

On my iPhone and iPad, I was still able to use the Progress Bar to scrub through any track, but long pressing the Fast Forward button on those devices still did not work on most tracks. The Progress Bar is not part of the CarPlay interface, so I can only use the Rewind and Fast Forward buttons there.

I started troubleshooting, and I eventually noticed that Rewind and Fast Forward did not function in any lossless tracks. In non-lossless tracks, the buttons worked just fine.

In Settings/Music, I turned off Lossless and Dolby Atmos, and Rewind and Fast Forward came back to life in all tracks.

Sigh.

Did Apple really release Lossless, Dolby Atmos, and Spatial Audio in Apple Music in a way that kills the Rewind and Fast Forward feature?

For my own solution, I have disabled Lossless and Dolby Atmos on my iPhone. This is the device I connect to CarPlay, so this solves my CarPlay problem. On my iPad, I kept Lossless and Dolby Atmos enabled.

Hopefully Apple will address this in a future update.

Fix a Slow Spotlight on Your Mac

I updated my 2018 Mac mini to macOS Big Sur, and then Spotlight’s performance tanked. If you’re in the same boat I was, here is your answer.

Attached to my Mac is an external drive that I use for Time Machine backups. When this drive is attached, Spotlight slogs through most of my inquiries, especially inquiries for definitions and weather. I would wait 10 to 15 seconds for Spotlight to render its answers. When I ejected that external drive, then Spotlight returned to its spry self with nearly instant responses.

So the Time Machine drive is the culprit, but we still need backups.

Thankfully, the fix is fairly simple. Just prevent Spotlight from looking at the Time Machine drive.

  1. Go to System Preferences/Spotlight.
  2. Click the Privacy tab.
  3. Click the + button.
  4. Navigate to the Time Machine drive and select it.
    (Be sure to select the top-level drive and not any of its folders or subfolders.)
  5. Click Choose.

macOS will reindex briefly, and then Spotlight performance should be significantly improved.

My Travails with Xfinity xFi

Stylized image of the xFi Gateway device with a swirl of light around it

The Coronavirus pandemic changed the way my family and I used our Internet service. Spoilers: Our data use went WAY up.

At first, Xfinity (aka, Comcast) lifted data caps, and that was appreciated. Then in July, they reimposed the data limits, so I had to make some adjustments. I decided to dump my personally owned equipment and adopt the xFi Gateway.

It was impressive. And it was terrible.

Adopting the xFi Gateway

In July 2020, Xfinity announced they would charge for data beyond 1.2 TB each month. And we were definitely using more than that. Xfinity offered Unlimited Data for $30/month with your own equipment or $25/month with xFi Complete that included the xFi Gateway which offered mesh abilities.

I’ve always preferred to own my own modem and router for our Internet service. I can access all the router settings, and I can research how to solve issues when they arise.

But I figured I’d give Xfinity a shot. (Cue the foreboding music here.)

xFi Gateway with xFi Pods

I received the xFi Gateway and deployed it easily. The mobile app really is good. I could label devices and assign them to people in our home. This allowed me to set schedules and even unceremoniously yank a connection when a kid became disrespectful. That said, I never set a schedule or disconnected my offspring.

After a week or so, the gateway’s self-diagnostics qualified me for xFi Pods, the mesh network components. They worked really well, too.

Until…

The Unexplained Blips & Xfinity’s Tech Support

Whether wired and wireless, all connected devices would experience about 3 blips per week. These “blips” weren’t just simple bandwidth congestion where the connection would stutter and recover. These instances were hard connection resets. When a blip occurred while anyone was using Zoom or Microsoft Teams, we were disconnected from the meetings completely, forcing us to connect from scratch. This was not conducive for telework and virtual learning.

I forgave the blips, at first. But they became more frequent. So I started calling Xfinity Internet Support.

It went exactly how you’d expect.

I would describe my issue to the reps. I should have recorded this because I repeated more times that I can count.

In the beginning, the Tier 1 techs would vaguely troubleshoot my gateway and pronounce success. And a few days later, the blips would return.

After calling several times, I started getting more advanced technicians who were more transparent with their troubleshooting. But the results were the same: After a few days, the blips returned.

Then I had the Big Conversation with one of the advanced techs. We discussed and troubleshot many things. And then the conversation abruptly ended with his diagnosis.

He claimed I had too many devices attached to my network, and he suggested that I upgrade to a faster Internet package. And then he essentially stopped listening to me.

I respectfully disagreed with him and explained that my 5-year-old non-mesh router had handled the same number of connected devices (e.g., computers, tablets, phones, IoT devices) without any issues. Unfazed, the tech repeated that I needed faster Internet.

My Solution

If the tech can quit on me, then I could quit on the xFi Gateway. I packed it up and returned it.

I dug out my old modem and reconnected it. I enjoyed the call to Xfinity support so they could recognize the modem’s MAC address. I connected the tried-and-true modem to a new Netgear Orbi mesh network router.

Guess how many blips we’ve had…

Zero. Not a single one.

Arris modem with Netgear Orbi mesh router system

So this blog post is an ode I wish I could sing outside the home of that dismissive Xfinity support technician.

Fix: macOS Mail Disconnects from Gmail

I use macOS Mail in Catalina, and I noticed a frequent issue with my Gmail account disconnecting and not updating messages for that account. This would occur at least daily.

My research suggests that this repeated disconnection could be related to the fact that I did not have the Google Calendar synchronizing (I actually use iCloud Calendar for better Siri integration). After I configured my Mac to sync the Google Calendar, the connection issue with Gmail seems to have been resolved.

But what if you don’t want the Google Calendar entries cluttering your macOS Calendar? Thankfully, that’s a fairly easy fix, too.

Sync Your Google Calendar

  1. On your Mac, open System Preferences.
  2. Click Internet Accounts.
  3. Click Gmail.
  4. Verify that Calendars are set to synchronize. If needed, click to add that checkmark.

Hide Google Calendar Entries

  1. On your Mac, open macOS Calendar.
  2. In the upper left, find and click the Calendars button.
  3. In the list, uncheck all the boxes under the Gmail section.

Hope this works for you!

Analogy: A Backdoor to Encryption

There is a lot of discussion around device security and using encryption for data storage and transmission. Security and privacy are good things. However, recent investigations into homicides and terrorist activities have led law enforcement officials to seek assistance to break encryption on alleged perpetrator’s smartphones. Specifically, US federal government officials have pressured Apple, Inc., to assist in breaking encryption on iPhones owned by alleged domestic terrorists.

I think a lot of people jump to a quick conclusion that breaking encryption in these instances is a good thing. Further, they feel implementing a government backdoor to easily bypass encryption is probably a good idea, too.

Unfortunately, these people are wrong.

Here’s an analogy:

Let’s say you have a door lock on your house with a 4-digit code to unlock it. Now, let’s say there is one code that only law enforcement can use to gain access to your home. You are not given that secret code, of course. It’s only for law enforcement officials. Even if you fully trust them, how comfortable are you with this scenario?

Once criminals know this code exists, how long would it take for them to learn that code? Answer: Not long. And then your home is vulnerable, and you have no way to update your lock to prevent criminals from entering your home whenever they wish.

So, we can increase your security by going from a 4-digit code to a 16-digit code (this is analogous to implementing stronger encryption). Now, it is much more difficult to guess your home’s door lock code. Meanwhile, law enforcement still has a single 16-digit code that can gain entry into your home.

How long before criminals would learn this more complex code? Answer: Again, not long.

So before you conclude that a backdoor to encryption is a fine solution for trusted law enforcement, think about this analogy.

If we find backdoors acceptable, then it defeats the entire purpose for encryption and security. And if that is acceptable, then we should abolish encryption and be comfortable with the lack of privacy.

I’m not being facetious. We can exist without the privacy and security afforded by encryption. But let’s not live with the illusion of privacy and security when it isn’t authentic.

[Photo by Sebastian Scholz (Nuki) on Unsplash]

Did Snoke Preview the Whole Sequel Trilogy Back in 2015?

I recently re-watched The Force Awakens, and I found a couple of lines from Snoke very interesting.

At the 49-minute mark, he is addressing General Hux and Kylo Ren about allowing BB-8 to be returned to the Resistance.

I’m not going to quote the movie’s villain verbatim, but he basically complained that if the Resistance can locate “the last Jedi” then “the new Jedi will rise.”

I did a double-take. Did Snoke preview the entire sequel trilogy back in 2015?

The 2017 episode was named The Last Jedi, and the final episode of the saga is named The Rise of Skywalker.

Back before Episode VII, I remember reading that Kathleen Kennedy and JJ Abrams essentially laid out the story for the sequel trilogy early on. And when I read about the departures of creators who took too many creative liberties with Star Wars (Gareth Edwards, Colin Trevorrow, Lord and Miller), I think Rian Johnson might be getting a lot of undeserved flak over The Last Jedi. I suspect he wrote and directed the movie with careful oversight from Kennedy and Abrams. And I, personally, don’t think The Last Jedi was a bad movie, at all. Remember, not everyone liked The Empire Strikes Back when it was originally released.

Anyway, I don’t want to turn into a Star Wars apologist here, so I will just end this article here.

Jony Ive is Great but Not Perfect

Jony Ive flourished under Steve Jobs’ leadership. In those days, Jobs was focused on simplicity, and Ive was masterful at creating it.

Some achievements were clearly great. Others arguable. A few were hamhanded.

There’s a saying that art can be whatever it wants, but design has to work.

The Misses

The mouse puck, the original iPod shuffle, and the Apple TV remote are exercises in forcing art to design.

Beauty Meets Stink

The mouse was an ergonomic disaster. The third generation iPod shuffle lacked buttons (yes, really). The Apple TV remote is the manifestation of a palindrome: Which way is up? (I always, always grab the thing incorrectly.)

In the pursuit to achieve thinness, Ive drove the effort to re-engineer the key mechanism on MacBook laptop keyboards. Thus, the traditional scissor key mechanism was eschewed, and the butterfly key was developed. This new invention reduced vertical space requirements from 1mm to 0.5mm. The butterfly keyboard has gone down in infamy as a true liability for Apple. The widespread reliability issues has spawned a multi-year warranty program to quickly replace failed keyboards for customers. One new MacBook hardware update was introduced and added to this warranty program on the same day. All to shave a half millimeter of MacBook thickness.

The Mad Pursuit of Hardware Thinness

Amazing that Scott Forstall lost his job for not apologizing for Apple Maps, but Jony Ive stayed completely under the radar on this one.

Painful But Good

Anytime he could, Jobs tried to advance the computing industry in many ways, and Ive realized many of those goals.

The iMac lost its floppy disc drives and then its CD-ROM/DVD drives. Apple lost these features first, and the industry eventually followed. Now that these things are gone, no one misses them.

These days, the pinch in convenience is the Thunderbolt 3/USB-C port. The evolution to this port is inevitable and comes closer to reality as each month goes by. Like before, Apple was the first mainstream hardware maker to unceremoniously dump all other ports for this new one. In a few years, no one will miss USB-A and the mini-USB, micro-USB, etc., ports and cables.

The Hits

Ive’s design skills were a vital part in Apple’s return to prominence. The industry-standard beige box was disrupted by colorful iMacs.

The iPod liberated our music from our immobile desktop computers with a revolutionary interface to access thousands of tunes in a device that literally fit in Jobs’ back pocket.

Inarguable Hits

And then there was iPhone.

A truly momentous device that revolutionized the awful mobile phone and personal info manager industry. It went on to conveniently bring communication technology to millions across the United States and billions around the world.

Now, that is a real legacy. So thank you, Jony!

Use AppCleaner to Really Uninstall an App

Price: FREE
Developer Website

Removing apps from a Mac is very simple. You just move it to the Trash.

But what about all the supporting data and settings your computer uses with that app? Surprisingly, these little tidbits are usually left behind. And after a while, these little tidbits add up and can create performance or storage issues. And manually removing these small files requires rooting around in a set of very unintuitive folder structures that are actually hidden by default.

AppCleaner makes all this drudgery unnecessary.

Open AppCleaner. Open the Application folder in Finder. Then just drag and drop the app you want to remove onto the AppCleaner window.

AppCleaner will generate a report that includes the app and its supporting elements. Oftentimes, AppCleaner will not include the supporting elements that hold your custom personal settings. These elements would be beneficial if you were to install the app again later. If you don’t plan to install again, you can just check those remaining items to be included in the removal process.

Click Remove. Provide your Mac password if prompted. And you’re done, and it’s gone.

I’m getting rid of an outdated installation of Reeder

Identify Suspicious Email Messages

I have family members who are sharing concerns with me about alarming email messages they receive from time to time. They’ve even admitted interest in messages that congratulate them for winning unexpected prizes.

Oh, boy…

I’m hoping this post can help people examine these messages and avoid negative consequences. Please share or discuss this matter with your friends and loved ones who could be vulnerable to these sorts of exploits.

As a seasoned email user, I can usually spot a suspicious message quickly. Poor grammar. Choppy sentence structure. And poor quality images of company logos.

Recently, I received a phishing message that impressed me with its design. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t the usual mess, either.

Let’s examine impressive parts of the message:

  1. The message begins with a decent PayPal logo image.
  2. The overall design layout looks professional. The white message body and gray footer area are typical of professional designs.
  3. Most of the text reads fairly well, especially if you are skimming because you’re alarmed.
  4. The last paragraph encourages the reader to seek assistance by clicking Contact on PayPal web pages. This is subtle. You might drop your guard if the message clearly states you can seek assistance in a way other than clicking links inside the message.

Let’s look at the suspicious parts of the message:

  1. The “Your Payment Processed Has Been Declined” is the first indication of a bogus message.
  2. I am addressed as “Dear Client”. This is not immediately suspicious, but if you look at the footer, you’ll see that my correct email was used. If PayPal had my email, then they probably know my name and would use in the message greeting.
  3. The first paragraph has odd sentence structure.
  4. The second paragraph includes a capitalized “Please” in the middle of a sentence.
  5. The blue button reads “Review Your’s Accounts”. And it is not properly vertically centered between the paragraphs.
  6. The third and fourth paragraphs do not have white space between them like that between the first and second paragraphs.
  7. The salutation “Sincerely” seems more personal than professional given the message’s subject matter.
  8. Here’s the biggest clue for me: I don’t actually have a PayPal account.

Don’t fall for this stuff. Think twice or even three times before you take an action on a message designed to frighten you.