Little Shop of Horrors

LSH-flyerHot on the heels of a return engagement of The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) (which I sadly forgot to blog about before it happened), is the next show I’m doing: Little Shop of Horrors. I don’t think the show needs any introduction. I’m playing Mr. Mushnik (the shop owner) and details of the show are on the poster (here) and the link (above).

Friends Zone at 20

In early 1994, I was the Manager of Dartmouth’s Computer Resource Center, an artisanal pre-sales and consulting office in Dartmouth’s Computing Services. One morning, the Director of Computing stopped by my office and handed me a floppy disk and told me to check out what was on it. I popped it into my computer and saw that it contained a single application, Mosaic 0.9b. Curious, I launched it and thus began my experiences with the World Wide Web. Within a week, I had created Dartmouth’s first Web site (and one of the first 50 college web sites in the world, near as I could figure at the time). By fall, I created my blog (one of the first ever) and was looking for new, higher-profile projects.

I noticed that TV show websites were becoming a popular and I sought out a show I could get in on. My big obsession at the time was The X-Files so I reached out to the webmasters of one of the better sites offering my help. They told me they had things in hand and didn’t need any help so I cast about looking for other things I could do.

In the fall of 1994, Friends premiered and I noticed that since there was no USENET newsgroup for the show, people were talking about it in, much to the chagrin of the folks there who didn’t care for Friends or who were just OCD about things staying on-topic. It had no website, no mailing list, no newsgroup. And, hey, I really enjoyed the show. So, I sprang into action. I created, a LISTSERV mailing list, and a website.

Soon after, a supervising producer of Friends reached out to me to start providing some information back to us fans on the list. He told me that they put the Episode Guide and FAQ up outside the writers’ room to help with continuity. A thriving fandom had been born.

But by around January 1995, as people on the mailing list began to get to know one another more, topics began to stray from the show to talking to each other about anything. Friends were being made. This upset those people who preferred the list stay on-topic and there began to be some anger running around. I decided to split the list into two lists: Friends-TV for discussions only about the show, and FriendsZone for folks to just hang out.

On February 6, 1995 the list was created and the first subscribers began to appear.

The history of this virtual community is long and storied but the short version is that, 20 years later, it is still around. While there is still a mailing list, it is almost never used. Instead, a Facebook group now carries most of the conversation.

And this weekend, in Las Vegas, a group of these folks are getting together to celebrate the 20th anniversary. I wish I could be there with them but it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I hope they all have a great time and post a lot of pictures.

Happy Birthday Zone!

Fixing “Trust this computer” Problem

I had a strange problem crop up on my iMac running Yosemite and both of my iDevices (iPhone 6, iPad 4). When I plugged either in, I would get a dialog on the iMac saying photos could not be imported because the device was locked. On the devices themselves, I would be asked to Trust this computer. This happened every. single. time.

In the system.log, there were error messages to the tune of:

11/7/14 7:16:52.086 AM usbmuxd[57]: AMDeviceConnect (thread 0x1002fe000): Could not connect to lockdown port (62078) on device 1076 - [long ID number here]: 0xe8000084.

Digging further, I discovered that there is a directory, /var/db/lockdown, that contains a plist for each device connected to the Mac over the years (and since I have been leading an iOS Dev Team for Ozmott, I had a lot of devices listed in there!) and it seems that, for some reason, changes were no longer taking. I am not sure why. There were no errors related to permissions or otherwise.

On the advice of a thread I found online after some extensive Googling, I removed the lockdown directory. Theoretically, it would be recreated by the system. However, it wasn’t. Now when I connected my devices, I got the following errors:

11/7/14 7:22:44.510 AM[57]: WriteDataToPath unable to create file /var/db/lockdown//SystemConfiguration.plist.tmp: No such file or directory.
11/7/14 7:22:44.510 AM[57]: CreateAndStoreBUID WriteDataToPath failed: No such file or directory

So, I created a new lockdown directory using sudo mkdir lockdown. Then the errors changed to:

11/7/14 7:27:09.767 AM[57]: WriteDataToPath unable to create file /var/db/lockdown//SystemConfiguration.plist.tmp: Permission denied.
11/7/14 7:27:09.767 AM[57]: CreateAndStoreBUID WriteDataToPath failed: Permission denied

The directory was owned by root (because I created it using sudo) and clearly needed to belong to the usbmuxd process. Directories belonging to processes are named for the process preceded by an underscore. So I executed: sudo chown _usbmuxd lockdown.

That worked. Plugging in my devices resulted in the same dialogs as before but once I told the iDevices to trust the computer, new plist files were created for each and subsequent connects/disconnects have not had the errors recur. We’ll see if this sticks over time but at least I know how to fix it, even if temporarily.

Update 18 December 2014: The problem routinely returns. After I leave my computer running for a day or so, the problem comes back. I haven’t needed to resort to the fix above as simply rebooting my computer fixes it. It’s safe to say that something I am running on my machine is responsible. Now for the sleuthing…

Update 15 January 2015: Solved! Thanks to this thread on Stack Overflow, I have a solution that works! When this happens, open up a terminal and type

sudo launchctl stop

And it restarts the broken usbmuxd process and things are happy again.

Something is Wrong with This…

In August, I ordered my son’s books for school. His school uses an online bookstore and he wanted digital versions where possible so he didn’t have to carry around a heavy bag. So, I ordered what I could digitally and the rest on paper. After about the first week of school was over, he came to me and said that his history teacher said that he really needed the current textbook (he had been using a loaner of last year’s version). I told him that I’d ordered it and thought the teacher would have the online license code to grant him access because I had gotten an email to that effect. Turns out, that was for his science book.

So, I checked the online bookstore (Follett) and found the order was incomplete and that one item was backordered and would ship when available. You guessed it, the license code for his history book from Pearson. I wrote to Follett and said that I’d never heard of license codes being back ordered. It takes a second to generate a new code and email it to someone. They gave me a polite brush-off reply that, indeed, codes can be backordered and they would ship when available.

Last week I got an email that his license codes had shipped. Via FedEx. And would arrive late the following week. Again, I boggled that license codes had to be shipped.

2014-09-18 10.38.25

Then they arrived yesterday. They came in a ridiculously large, flat package. Inside where two sets of codes (for two years of access). I felt like redirecting the package to the school just to complete the absurdity of the whole thing but texted him the code for the first year instead.

In 2014 unlock codes for digital books have to be mailed in a package via conventional shipping. The mind boggles.

MyMac Book Review of Take Control of Podcasting

Elisa Pacelli over at writes a very nice review of Take Control of Podcasting On The Mac.

Robin Williams

Reality+What+A+ConceptWhere do I begin? How do I attempt to capture (let alone encompass) what I am feeling right now? I’m currently running sound for Swamp Meadow’s Children’s Theatre production of Annie Jr. During the big song and dance number, NYC, someone shouts “Keep it down out there” (or something to that effect) and all I can think of every time I hear it is Robin Williams from, Reality, What a Concept, and his bit:

And Now, a New York Echo:


“Shut the fuck up!”

We were just about to start the penultimate run through (the show  opens Wednesday) when my wife texted me the news.  My heart sank. I sat there staring at the mixing board trying to form thoughts in my head. All I could think was, “No. No. No. NO! Do NOT let this be true!”

I was about 9 when Mork first showed up in an episode of Happy Days. I remember loving that episode and the character and was overjoyed when I heard they were spinning him out into his own show. I watched every episode of Mork and Mindy and loved every minute of it. When I was in fourth grade, probably a year or two into Mork and Mindy’s run on TV, I did my first play. It was because of Robin. He showed me that I could take this crazy energy I had, this need to entertain my mother’s and sisters’ friends, my friends, my teachers (ok, maybe more drive my teachers crazy) and I could get onto a stage and harness that power for good. I act today because of Robin. In fact, so much of who I am comes from the influence of Robin, Steve Martin, Firesign Theater, Monty Python and more. But Robin was there first. And he was a blazing star to me.

MV5BMTkwMjQ3ODY2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzMwOTc0NA@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_I don’t generally get upset at celebrity deaths. But a few have really hit me hard. Carl Sagan and Jimmy Stewart, to name two, did hit me hard. But this is the cruelest cut of all.  I will always love Robin for the laughs and also for his more heartfelt moments. The Fisher King has always been one of my favorite movies for his inspired performance. And I haven’t seen Good Morning, Vietnam recently enough and need to watch it again.

I wanted to write this last night when it was fresh in my mind but I was just unable to get the words out. Even now, it is hard and I find myself tearing up. I’ll leave this here and just say that the world is a far better place because Robin was in it and rather than be sad he is gone, I will focus on celebrating what he has left us to enjoy and that I am very much the person I am today because of him. Thank you, Robin and rest in peace.

Positive Comments Make My Day

Louis Trapani wrote a wonderful blog post about my book, Take Control of Podcasting on the Mac, 3rd Edition. The reception the book has received has been very gratifying and I am thankful to everyone who has bought it and gotten back to me.

I have taken a bit of a hiatus from podcasting as I have been busy starting a new job but am planning on resuming my podcast for Swamp Meadow Community Theatre and possibly starting one or two other projects I’ve been thinking about, as time permits.

In the meantime, please drop me a line if you’ve read the book and have questions, comments, or even just want to say hi!

Subtle Humor

There was a post recently on [insert name of geeky blog site I forget here] with one of those link-bait titles like, “The Best Joke in Back to the Future you Never Noticed!” I read it and was amused. Mainly because I did notice it. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I tend to pick up on those jokes in movies that most people don’t notice outright. The Back to the Future joke in question is the fact that the mall at the start of the movie is called Twin Pines. When Marty goes back in time to 1953, he crashes into one of two pine trees. At the end of the movie when he returns to the mall, it is called Lone Pine.

Another good example is Airplane. In a movie filled with jokes (just this morning I was thinking about the soldier who thought he was Ethel Merman who was played by Ethel Merman singing Everything’s Coming up Roses) my favorite joke of all is the fact that through the entire movie (a movie that takes place on a jet plane) the sound effect you hear constantly is that of propellers.

What are other good examples of this kind of thing? Drop me a line on [insert social media thing here].

Take Control of Podcasting on the Mac is out!

TCoP CoverThe 3rd edition of my book, Take Control of Podcasting on the Mac, is now out! If you have ever wanted to start a podcast, or take your current podcast to the next level, then my book will help! I had a lot of fun writing this over the last few months and hope you find it useful.

A Podcast is Born

Swamp Meadow Community Theatre LogoI am in the midst of revising Take Control of Podcasting (a fascinating venture given that Apple has gutted GarageBand of all the useful podcasting features) and in order to actually be able to speak from knowledge (rather than from memory) I needed to start podcasting again. It so happens that Swamp Meadow Community Theatre, where I have been acting, directing, and doing tech these last four years, is in some need of social media marketing. So, I proposed starting a new podcast to promote theater activities.

A few weeks later, I have produced two shows with another two planned. I may only do this in the run up to actual shows but we’ll see how much content there is to be had in the quiet times between productions. At any rate, it’s great to be back to podcasting. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed it in the last few years. I doubt I will start a new one up for just myself. But I enjoy producing one for others and may even look to expand on that.


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