Category Archives: Rants

Why Backups Matter (even when they don’t matter)

Apple continues its multi-year assault on my beloved “late 2011” 17 inch MacBook Pro. First by shipping it with a famously defective logic board, which I learned to repair by periodically baking and now by stymying my efforts to to restore backups to it.

When the 17-incher’s hard disk started to suffer from an “invalid fsroot tree” as reported by Disk Utility, I migrated my account over to a new 15 inch MacBook Pro and started using it as my primary computer. But the 17 kept chugging along and I continued to use it mainly for designing and slicing 3D prints for my awesome Prusa MK3S.

It wouldn’t support any OS after High Sierra and occasionally I was unable to open documents but the laptop performed well enough for its current purpose.

All the work I was creating on the 17″ Mac was either one-off stuff or stored in the cloud. So I saw no point in wasting storage and backing the laptop’s increasingly corrupt file system. When the time came, I would just reformat or replace its SSD and restore from the 15-incher’s backup. Easy peasy.

So the day finally came when ‘Ol Seventeen just kept crashing and I replaced it’s 1 TB SSD with a 2TB disk. I fired it up in Internet Restore mode (Command-Option-R), formatted the SSD, and installed High Sierra.

So just use Migration Assistant to restore my account from a Time Capsule backup, right? Nope, that didn’t show any valid backups to restore from. No problem, I could use Migration Assistant to push the account from the 15-inch to the 17-inch, correct? Um no, Apple wouldn’t have any of that either.

Backups from the 15″, which is running Catalina, could not be migrated to the older High Sierra OS. So instead of restoring my account the easy way using Migration Assistant, I will need to manually copy my stuff over from the 15″, reinstall applications, re-set preferences, re-enter passwords and all that kind of fun stuff. Uck.

So don’t assume that the migration tool that makes it so easy to move from an old to a new Mac works the other way around. In retrospect, I can understand why this isn’t just a diabolical plot to get me to buy another new Mac. There’s no practical way for an OS to know what incompatible applications, features or documents could be added in future operating systems, so no way to determine what stuff is compatible and what isn’t. Lesson learned.

Williams-Sonoma Smart Thermometer FAIL

WS Smart Thermometer

We recently got a Big Green Egg ceramic charcoal cooker at the RatRanch.  I have nothing but praise for the BGE.  It lights fast, cooks evenly and consumes a surprisingly small amount of charcoal.  In preparation for cooking a big pork shoulder, I picked up the new Williams-Sonoma “Smart Thermometer” so I could monitor the temperature of the meat, which needs to cook at 225° for several hours.

I happened to be at a Williams-Sonoma store on the day they got their first stock of Smart Thermometers.  Perhaps I should have been suspicious when the sales clerk offered to print a receipt for me instead of emailing it like they usually do?

The best feature of the Smart Thermometer is its packaging, which is thoughtfully designed.  It deboxes a lot like an Apple product.  The thermometer itself is crafted from stainless steel and feels heavy and solid.  However, the included charger and cord are flimsy and feel like they wouldn’t last for long.  Fortunately, it accepts a standard mini-USB cable.

So I charged up the thermometer and hit the power button.  Nothing.  Nada.  Dead on arrival.

So back to Williams-Sonoma I went.  When I said that I got a defective unit, I was pointed to the retail display and told to grab another one If I wanted.  No paperwork.  Were they exchanging a lot of these?

I headed back home and charged up thermometer #2.  This one turned on and I went through a clumsy setup routine to pair it with my iPhone so I could use the remote monitoring app.  I turned off the thermometer, which appeared to be ready for my big pork cookery the next day, and left it charging overnight.

In the morning I fired up the Egg and put my pork shoulder in.  Hooked up the thermometer and turned it on.  But the iPhone app no longer recognized the thermometer.  Since the pork was already  cooking and I didn’t want to open the Egg, I continued cooking it without the app, periodically running outside in the cold to check the temperature display.

Battery Fail

Yes, that’s an extension cord.  Adding insult to injury, the battery died five hours into the cook!

I found that the only way to make the remote monitoring app work was to repeat the cumbersome setup process every time the thermometer was turned on.  I tried calling tech support, where a courteous but untrained rep couldn’t solve the problem either.  According to several reviews posted to the Williams-Sonoma website, others have had similar results.

Error Message

So back to the store went thermometer #2, for a refund this time.  A week later my friend attended an in-store cooking class, where they demonstrated the Smart Thermometer.  It didn’t work.

BTW, I ended up ordering a Maverick remote read wireless thermometer from Amazon for $60, which I’m satisfied with.  It doesn’t look as elegant as the WS thermometer and it doesn’t connect to my iDevices, but it’s cheap and it works.  Plus, this thermometer comes with two probes, so you can remotely monitor both the food and grill temperatures.

Problem solved.


The philosophical ramifications of old age present themselves to me in a stark, and bitter confrontation with my neighbors. I live in a home for the elderly on Long Island. The morning hallways are filled with the jellied flesh of those who died in one of many pitched battles with the neighbor hood youths who will break a finger off to get at some dime store ring that one of the old hags stole from a catatonic during a marathon bingo game. Yes, there is entertainment the staff brings us outside during one of the countless over 90 degrees days that make up life after the apocalypse. Yes, the pale rider has started his ride through the sky of our lord. But back to bingo, we play in a field abandoned by all life, except the junk yard dog who awaits his last victim, before he falls into the heat and expires. With this cheerful ambience we play the game, a game without number since  no could hear them being called out anyway. We are somewhat hard of hearing but no matter. The game is for the staff who watch the heat cook, and implode brains. The screams fall into the dead air, and people who never went out of their way to help any one during their youth, now beg for water, for relief. As the day wears on the surviors are brought back to their apartments to hunt for rats and the dead litter the ground. A sight not unlike a Mathew Brady photograph from the civil war. I crawl up the stairs and grab my bowie knife ready for a night of home invasion………….