Snow Leopard to El Capitan in one easy step

My iMac is getting a bit long in the tooth. I got it in the spring of 2010. It is thus a late 2009 vintage iMac. It came with OS X Snow Leopard. And although it has done some updating of its operating system over the years, as of this morning it was still running Snow Leopard, version 10.6.8.

I’ve never had any problems with this machine.

Wait. This is closing in on six years, so maybe I’d better repeat that.

I’ve never had any problems with this machine.

Nevertheless, Snow Leopard is nearing the end of its natural life. Google Chrome will soon no longer update on it. I’m already a number of versions behind in LibreOffice. And even the program I use most, i.e. Scrivener, has been hinting that I’m well behind the times. So I thought it might be time to make a little change.

Of course OS X El Capitan has lots of cool features. Unfortunately, hardware of this vintage can’t exploit some of those. So my motivation was primarily to gain access to current and ongoing security and stability updates for my operating system. And there was also the nice carrot of potentially being able to download the latest version of LibreOffice as well.
But new(er) operating systems usually come with higher demands than whatever your computer came pre-installed with. It didn’t take much effort to learn that for a machine like mine, I would need to first upgrade my RAM. This is the main culprit in the poor performance many have experienced when they upgraded to Apple’s later OS Xs. The 4 GB of 1067 MHz DDR3 memory I had on board just wasn’t going to cut it in the brave new world I’d be entering. Perhaps for this reason Apple have provided an incredibly straightforward page for people to determine precisely what memory modules their machines can take and simple instructions on how to install them.

I was able to track down a nice 8 GB kit (2 x 4 GB modules) from Crucial. I got it at a good price as well. And it came in the post in only a few days.

Before the new RAM arrived I took the opportunity to audit the software on my machine and see how much of it would be immediately compatible with El Capitan. As noted, Scrivener was the key program and I already knew that it was El Capitan ready. I also use a program called iBank on a regular basis. It too was ready and waiting for the upgrade. So nothing was obviously holding me back.

But what about peripherals? I had come across a case of someone upgrading without adequate preparation only to discover that he could no longer access his printer after the upgrade. Well, there was probably more going on there than I knew, but better safe than sorry. Fortunately I was quickly able to discover that there were El Capitan compatible drivers for my printer. So all that was left was to wait for the postman to arrive.


It would be churlish to describe the installation of the new RAM as easy. It was in fact idiotically easy. In less than 10 minutes I was up and running with, now, 12 GB of 1067 MHz DDR3 memory. And with that in place I quickly moved to download El Capitan from Apple’s app store.

It turns out that El Capitan is a 6.8 GB download. So that took some time. But once it was downloaded I clicked one button to initiate the installation. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. Installing El Capitan is a good time to read a book, or go grocery shopping. When you get back, you are ready to go.

I logged in to the new system and voilà. I’m good to go.

Of course I took my time going over all my programs to make sure everything actually worked. All of them did. Well, all but one. Apple has discontinued iPhoto. That was a bit of a shock since I do use that for all of our pictures. But Apple has replaced it with Photos, which after a lengthy incorporation of my photo library turns out to be just as good.

I’ve tested the printer. I’ve upgraded to LibreOffice (I’d previously been using 3.0). And here I am writing this blog post using Scrivener. So I guess I’m done.

It was all pretty painless, really. And now I’ll see if I can keep this nearly 6-year-old iMac in shape for another few years.


Reading – a year in review, 2015

2015 was a good year for reading. I discovered new authors whose work I enjoyed: Willa Cather, Tom Drury, Edward St. Aubyn, and Jane Gardam. I continued my affection for authors with whom I had already been acquainted: Jane Austen, Elena Ferrante, Colm Tóibín, Richard Ford, and Elizabeth Hay. I also wrote short reviews of each book I read this past year and posted them on LibraryThing, a few of which I re-posted here on this blog. I’m already looking forward to another great year of reading ahead.

Stats from my 2015 reading list:

  • 29 were borrowed from our public library
  • 15 have Canadian authors
  • 12 were chosen due to personal recommendations from friends
  • 13 are by authors who appear more than once on the 2015 list
  • 3 were being reread
  • 1 was read aloud by my wife and me
  • 11 are non-fiction
  • 0 are ebooks

Books read in 2015 (80):

  • Birkerts, Sven. My Sky Blue Trades
  • Bausch, Richard. Peace
  • Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks
  • Koch, Herman. The Dinner
  • Snyder, Carrie. Girl Runner
  • Modiano, Patrick. Suspended Sentences
  • Ferris, Joshua. To Rise Again At A Decent Hour
  • Mandel, Emily St. John. Station Eleven
  • Smith, Ali. How to be Both
  • Herbert, Frank. Dune
  • Crummey, Michael. Sweetland
  • Bechtel, Greg. Boundary Problems
  • Modiano, Patrick. Dora Bruder
  • Howe, Gordie. Mr. Hockey: My Story
  • Tóibín, Colm. Nora Webster
  • Nabokov, Vladimir. Laughter in the Dark
  • Veronesi, Sandro. Quiet Chaos
  • Sedaris, David. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
  • Petterson, Per. Out Stealing Horses
  • Smith, Ali. There but for the
  • Ware, Chris. Building Stories
  • Li, Yiyun. Kinder Than Solitude
  • Ford, Richard. Wildlife
  • Davis, Lydia. Can’t and Won’t
  • Chast, Roz. Can’t we talk about something more Pleasant?
  • Grossman, Lev. The Magician’s Land
  • Drury, Tom. The End of Vandalism
  • Ayoade, Richard. Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey
  • McCracken, Elizabeth. Niagara Falls All Over Again
  • Franzen, Jonathan. Freedom: a novel
  • St Aubyn, Edward. Lost for Words
  • Flanagan, Richard. The Narrow Road to the Deep North
  • Gardam, Jane. Old Filth
  • Oyeyemi, Helen. The Icarus Girl
  • Modiano, Patrick. Missing Person
  • Szabó, Magda. The Door
  • Baxter, Greg. Munich Airport
  • Smith, Ali. The First Person and other stories
  • Daoud, Kamel. The Meursault Investigation
  • Grant, Rickford with Phil Bull. Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux
  • Blum, Richard and Christine Bresnahan. Linux Command Line and Shell Scripting Bible
  • Bradbury, Ray. Driving Blind: Stories
  • Gibb, Camilla. The Beauty of Humanity Movement
  • King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
  • Gardam, Jane. The Man in the Wooden Hat
  • Helm, Michael. In the Place of Last Things
  • Gardam, Jane. The People on Privilege Hill
  • Gardam, Jane. Last Friends
  • Bernhard, Thomas. Correction
  • Murakami, Haruki. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle
  • Tyler, Anne. A Spool of Blue Thread
  • St. Aubyn, Edward. A Clue to the Exit
  • July, Miranda. The First Bad Man
  • Ferrante, Elena. The Story of the Lost Child
  • Eisenberg, Jesse. Bream Gives Me Hiccups and other stories
  • Cotterill, Colin. The Coroner’s Lunch
  • Oyeyemi, Helen. Mr. Fox
  • Egan, Jennifer (ed.) The Best American Short Stories 2014
  • Schofield, Anakana. Martin John
  • DeWitt, Patrick. Undermajordomo Minor
  • De Sa, Anthony (compiler), Rideout, Tanis (compiler), and Snyder, Carrie (compiler). The Journey Prize Stories 27
  • Bostridge, Ian. Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession
  • Oyeyemi, Helen. Boy, Snow, Bird
  • Wood, James. The Nearest Thing To Life
  • Rachman, Tom. The Rise and Fall of Great Powers
  • St. Aubyn, Edward. On The Edge
  • Zentner, Alexi. The Lobster Kings
  • Hay, Elizabeth. His Whole Life
  • Cather, Willa. My Ántonia
  • Drury, Tom. Hunts in Dreams
  • Cather, Willa. Death Comes for the Archbishop
  • Drury, Tom. Pacific
  • Hardcastle, Kevin. Debris
  • Bicknell, Jeanette. Philosophy of Song and Singing: An Introduction
  • Fitzgerald, Penelope. Innocence
  • Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility: An Annotated Edition edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks
  • Cather, Willa. The Professor’s House
  • Berger, John. A Fortunate Man: The Story of a Country Doctor


Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility by Jane AustenOn rereading Sense and Sensibility slowly and with immense pleasure, as befits this beautiful Belknap Press annotated edition edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks, I am awestruck by Austen’s maturity and delicacy in this her first published novel. The opening two chapters which set the scene with the death of Henry Dashwood and then set the plot ticking with the magnanimous ungenerosity of the sole heir, John Dashwood, toward his step-mother and his three step-sisters are so finely polished that you might imagine Austen writing and rewriting them for years on end. Indeed, much of the first volume is near this level of concentrated effort. The second volume, less so, and the third more sprawling still. But by then the reader hardly notices being so caught up in the all too real lives of Elinor and her sister, Marianne. And the horridness of John Dashwood and his wife is equalled, or possibly surpassed, by the self-serving self-love of the faithless Willoughby.

Apart from the mixed characters of Elinor and Marianne, who partake of both sense and sensibility in different measures, the reader is struck by how generous Austen is with the less than perfect men, Edward and Colonel Brandon. These are specimens not on a par with Mr. Knightley from Emma, though clearly gentlemen. They are sad men, stunted in some ways. And it isn’t until their happiness is realized at the end of the novel that the possibility of their being more than they seem can even be considered. Or take a character like Mrs Jennings, who is comic in many respects yet in Austen’s hands becomes the very essence of generosity, kindness, and fellow feeling. These are characters who are determined to think well of and do well by others. If only the same could be said of all of us.

The lengthy opening essay in this edition by Patricia Meyer Spacks is wonderful. After an entire career teaching and writing on Austen and related authors, Meyer Spacks still writes with verve and economy and real interest. Proof, if any could be given, that Austen’s novels have enduring charm and bear repeated readings. By all means, if you are planning to reread Sense and Sensibility, do consider this lovely edition.

See also


In the autumn, my wife and I attended an “experimental” jazz performance held at the Kitchener Art Gallery. It was a lead guitarist (and composer), electric bass, sax, synth, and drums. The music was scored but I think the “experimental” bit was that they were all playing their own thing with no reference whatsoever to the others. The drummer was off in her own world totally drowning out everyone else. But no one seemed to mind. They all seemed to be having fun. At the end of it I turned to my wife and said, “You know, I think I should take up an instrument.” (Because it is unportable, I never really think of the piano as an’ ‘instrument’; it’s more like furniture.) “You should,” she said. “Maybe I should get a guitar,” I said. We often have scintillating conversations like that.

I set about doing my research. I did a fair bit of comparison online in terms of quality at various price points. I settled on either a Seagull S6 Original or a Simon & Patrick Woodland Cedar. I arranged for the local music shop in uptown Waterloo to order both in for me to try out. As it happens both of these guitars are made by Godin in Canada. They are sold at exactly the same price point. And they both have exceptional features for the price. So the decision would largely come down to how they feel.
Simon & Patrick Woodland Cedar
Having tried them both, I decided to go with the Simon & Patrick Woodland Cedar. There was a noticeable difference in the width at the nut and with my smallish hands I liked the smaller dimensions. Although the bodies vary marginally, I couldn’t really find a preference. Both are full size guitars so for me they are rather large, but still manageable.

Along with the guitar I also purchased a hard case so that I can transport it easily and safely in my car. I got a capo and I got a guitar stand because, well, this guitar looks beautiful just standing there in our living room.

Of course once I’d selected my instrument, I needed to relearn how to play the guitar. I had originally learned how to play in school in a guitar group organized by our grade 5 teacher. But I’ve never played very well, and mostly just cowboy chords. These days, however, you can get any amount of teaching you desire on YouTube. And there are dozens of really good intro books in the library. So in what seemed like no time at all I was up and playing better than I ever had before.

Since then I’ve even learned some new songs, including some Billy Bragg tunes and a Hey Rosetta song that we love. And I’m looking forward to many a pleasant hour in the year ahead.


Technical Interlude

During the summer, I was inspired by a friend in England to get back in touch with my inner geek. The result was both surprising and predictable.

Powerline Network

Somewhere along the line I missed out on the news about powerline networks. A powerline network uses your existing home electrical wiring in order to convey network access to, potentially, any electrical outlet in the house. The network connection is hard-wired rather than wireless and thus both more stable and able to support a higher throughput. In theory.

Also in practice, as it turns out. I chose to use a TRENDnet Powerline 500 AV Nano Adapter Kit with Built-In Outlet, TPL-407E2K in order to set up my system. Our house does not have an over-abundance of electrical outlets, so I could not afford to sacrifice any in order to “play” with adding a powerline network.
powerline adapters
I installed the principle adapter in our kitchen where our router is located. The other adapter I installed in my office upstairs. Then I hauled out our old Dell computer that was languishing in the basement in order to have something useful to plug into the network. (Everything else in the house runs off the wireless, but that old Dell has no wireless card.) I was delighted to discover that this worked exactly as promised. I appear to now have a wired network running at 100 Mbps.

Installing Linux (again)

With a solid wired network connected to my old Dell, I took the opportunity to bring my Linux skills back into shape. The first step would be to install the latest version of Ubuntu. That old Dell is a 32-bit Pentium with 1GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive. It’s got a nice monitor as well. And it had Ubuntu 13.04 installed on it. So the first step was to do a clean install of Ubuntu 15.04. It was certainly a pleasure to have a wired network connection here in my office thus avoiding the need to set up this computer in the kitchen so that I could plug it directly into the router for the inevitable raft of software updates that follow any new Linux installation.

One of my intentions in re-exploring Linux on this Dell was to see whether it could be used as a potential media storage device on the network. My thinking was that I might follow my friend’s lead and install Freenas and then, potentially, connect to the media via Raspberry Pi devices. (Yes, his setup was very nerdy and very cool.) Alas, this Dell is underpowered for such work. So the Freenas option was quickly ruled out. And that scuppered my Raspberry Pi envy as well. So instead I decided to try to solidify my working knowledge of Linux. And that gave me the opportunity to exploit our local public library’s fine collection of geeky books. I started with Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux by Rickford Grand (2012) in order to ease my way in. But what it really aided was pointing me toward Linux Mint, which is an Ubuntu derivative that is allegedly more user friendly, especially for those not afraid to work on the command line.

Ah yes, the command line. As it happens, I’ve never been a real adept. So, back to the library. This time I got out Linux Command Line and Shell Scripting Bible: The Comprehensive, Tutorial Resource by Richard Blum and Christine Bresnahan (2015). Now I felt like I was definitely learning something. I even hauled out my rusty knowledge of GNU Emacs and burnished it. Clearly I was having too much fun.

The end result of all this is less satisfying. Since I don’t use these skills on a daily basis, I find that they very quickly drift away. I did take notes this time, but whether I’ll even be able to comprehend my notes come the next time I get my geek on, who knows?

Rethinking Music Options

As mentioned, part of the motivation for both the powerline network and for re-igniting my love of Linux was to potentially mirror the media setup that my more technically able friend was deploying. Although that wasn’t possible, I did continue thinking about whether or not we ought to transform our music setup in the house.

At the moment we have an excellent stereo (amplifier, cd-player, receiver) purchased back in 2000. That does seem like a long time ago now, but these are solid pieces of kit. Yes, they still run on UK voltage, so I have to use transformer. No big deal. And yes, the receiver is calibrated to UK frequencies which do not match up with North American frequencies. So the receiver is less than wonderful. But really we only ever use the cd-player anyway. We also have two Boston Acoustics radios which have fabulous sound for their size. All of our cds are ripped in iTunes (sigh). And we don’t ever merely purchase digital downloads of music. So, is there a game changer out there that could transform our listening lives?

There might be. I’ve recently been enticed by the heavy promotion of SONOS, at least enough to have a salesman walk me through a demo. Impressive. No doubt. But at the moment I (and more importantly my wife) remain unconvinced. I’ll keep thinking about it.