Category Archives: CapMac

Product Review: BoomStream Mini Bluetooth Speaker

61saHUmtqjL._AC_SL1010_A few months ago at a CapMac (Capital Macintosh User Group) meeting, I won a BoomStream Mini as a door prize. This is a small, very portable Bluetooth speaker. It is about 3 inches in diameter and 3 inches tall. It also has a 3.5mm input for connection to devices without Bluetooth.

The unit has a 500mA internal battery capable of powering it for up to 5 hours. The recharge time is 3.5 hours. Pairing the speaker with my iPhone was simple. With Bluetooth enabled on my iPhone I powered on the speaker. The speaker went into search mode and I selected it on my iPhone. An audio tone from the speaker confirmed the pairing.

The on-off switch is on the bottom and volume controls on the side as seen in the image above. It is charged through a micro USB port on the side of the unit. A short USB Type-A to micro USB cable is included. You must supply the USB power source.

Once paired, any audio file played on my iPhone is heard on the speaker. The 40 mm speaker produces good volume. I do not think that it is much louder than the iPhone natively produces though. The unit is rated as having a 90Hz to 20kHz frequency response. The speaker specs claim to work with connected devices up to 30 feet away. I did not verify this claim.

I have used the unit a few times when working in the yard or garage. I like to use it in those situations where having an AirPod fall out might result in its loss.

When I looked it up on Amazon today it appears as the ‘SCOSCHE BTSPK1 Portable Bluetooth Wireless Media Speaker‘. At the time I write this post the unit is listed at $29.98 on Amazon.


  • Easy to pair with iPhone
  • Moderate price
  • Good volume
  • Very portable
  • Reasonable 5-hour playtime
  • 30-foot range
  • micro USB charging



  • Poor sound quality – fine or podcasts, not so much for music
  • Slow to recharge – 3.5 hours

Is Your Mac Ready for macOS Catalina?

go64-mac-icon-100801664-large(See my other Tech Tips posts) – Every time a new version of macOS is released we have to consider “Is my Mac ready for the update?”.

Before you begin your upgrade make sure you have a full backup. Run Timemachine to capture any recent changes in your system. If you have the extra disk (and you really should do this), make a clone of your boot drive with an App like Carbon Copy Cloner. These steps will make it far easier to revert back to your current version of macOS if you run into problems after upgrading to Catalina.

This would also be a good time to ‘Tune-Up‘ up your Mac before you perform the upgrade. In particular, remove unneeded Apps and files.

This year there are two factors to consider. The first is whether or not your Mac hardware is capable of running Catalina. Generally speaking the 2012 or newer Macs are compatible. To find out for sure if your Mac can be upgraded refer to “macOS Catalina is compatible with these computers” from Apple.

The second thing to check is if all of your Apps are 64-bit. With Catalina the older 32-bit Apps will no longer run.

You can check your Apps two ways.

  1. The first way is to check in About My Mac. I wrote about how to do this in April of 2018 in “ARE YOUR MAC APPS ALL 64-BIT?“. I will let you check out that article for the details, but the essence is to go to “Overview:System Report:Software: Applications”. A column there indicates whether each App is or is not 64-bit compatible.
  2. A somewhat easier way to check your system is by using the Go64 App. This App is free (though donations are accepted) and can be downloaded from the vendor’s website. This App is recommended by:
    1. Macworld
    2. MacSparky (David Sparks of Mac Power Users podcast
    3. The Mac Observer
    4. Christian Boyce (Christian will be the featured speaker at the October 8th CapMac meeting in Austin)

Screen Shot 2019-10-05 at 3.28.35 PM.pngIf you download the App, then run it. You will get a report (see example above) of all Apps you currently have installed that are not 64-bit. Clicking on those software packages will provide further information. Links are also supplied for the vendors to facilitate getting the latest version of the software. As you can see I still have several 32-bit Apps on my Mac.

Once you have a list of your non-64-bit Apps you have a few choices:

  1. upgrade all the Apps you regularly use to a 64-bit version
  2. find 64-bit Apps that will replace your current 32-bit Apps
  3. delay migrating to Catalina until you do 1 or 2 above

See my other Mac posts


Product Review – Texas Historical Marker Guide App


(See my other 2019 Road Trip and iOS related posts) – On our recent road trip, my wife and I passed several Texas Historical Markers along the roadside. We were curious as to what they said but really didn’t want to take the time to stop and read them. That made me remember a book my father had “Why Stop?: A Guide to Texas Roadside Historical Markers“.


This book was published in 2013 and contains the information of more than 2500 Texas roadside markers. They are still available on Amazon for $15.76 (paperback) and $9.59 (Kindle) at the time I write this.

Of course, the information in that guide is dated and I didn’t have a copy with me on our trip.

I checked to see if there was anything on-line about the markers. What I discovered is the “Texas Historical Marker Guide” App for the iPhone. Not only does this App have more than 16,000 Historical Markers included in its database, but it also has the ability for users to contribute updates.

The App can be purchased through the App Store for $2.99. Per the App website:

Texas is home to over 15,000 historical markers. And now there’s an app to help you find them!

-Onboard marker database means you can browse markers without an Internet connection.
-Browse markers by geographic locations including cities and counties.
-Browse markers by type, size, and subject.
-Browse attractions where markers can be found including cemeteries; state parks; historic districts; etc.
-Uses Location Services to find your current location and display markers in the current county. (Internet connection required)
-Check-in at markers to keep track of visits!
-Update marker coordinates! (Device with GPS radio required)
-Record marker conditions!

-Includes conditions of marker where reported.
-Includes text for many markers with more being added frequently.

-Take pictures with an in-app camera or import from camera roll! (Pictures are not included with app.)
-Share your favorite markers via FaceBook, Flickr, Mail, and iMessage!

-Texas Centennial markers and monuments from 1936!
-Old San Antonio Road markers erected by DAR and the State of Texas in 1918!
-San Jacinto Battleground markers erected by DRT and the State of Texas in 1912!
-Complete Texas works of Pompeo Coppini!
-Selected Texas works of Waldine Tauch, Frank Teich, Elisabet Ney, and others!
-Blue Star Memorial markers (all the ones we know about.)
-New markers erected since 2012!

This is an App that we will use almost every time we are out on the roads (not the Interstates) of Texas.


If you and your family drive Texas, this might be an inexpensive App to help pass the time on the road while learning more about our state.

In the 34 county Hill Country region of Texas, the App shows more than  2300 markers. More than 25 markers show up in the App within 5 miles of my home location.

I used the location of the CapMac (Capital Macintosh User Group) meetings (red arrow) I attend monthly in Austin and found all of the markers shown in the image to the left. You can literally find markers all over the state.

If you really like the App, follow them on Facebook.




  1. Inexpensive at $2.99
  2. Automatically tracks your location
  3. Nearby markers pop up on map
  4. User can easily drill down to details of marker


  1. Text is a little small and can be challenging to read in a moving vehicle
  2. More of a desire than a Con: it would be nice to be able to touch a button to have the details read to you
  3. More of a desire than a Con: it would be nice to have a setting that would automatically read you every marker within a set distance

See my other iOS articles


Product Review of the “ParcSlope”


Product Reviews – I had been thinking about getting some kind of a stand for my MacBook for a few months. I mostly wanted to provide a cooler operating environment. Luckily, I won a ParcSlope from Twelve South as a door prize at the July CapMac meeting.


The ParcSlope is a heavy duty aluminum stand that will work with just about any tablet or laptop. I am using it with my 2010 MacBook Pro and it works perfectly. It isn’t something I would carry around with me to a coffee shop as it weighs 2 lbs. and measures 2.8″ x 8.3″ x 9.6″. It is great though setting on the table in my apartment while I create my Blog posts.

I have been using it for a few weeks and I not only like the fact that it keeps my Mac running cooler, but I also find that the sloped (18 degrees) keyboard is more comfortable and easier to use.  The elevated screen is also more comfortable to view. It is advertised on the Twelve South website for $49.99 and can be found on Amazon currently for the same price.

While a little pricey, I think this is a great accessory for your MacBook or iPad.



  • Solidly made
  • Works with almost any tablet or laptop
  • Cooler laptop operation
  • More comfortable keyboard access
  • Higher screen for easier viewing



  • Heavy and cumbersome, not something to carry in your computer bag
  • Price


See my other Mac and macOS articles


Product Review – Pluto TV

Screen Shot 2018-07-13 at 5.13.52 PM

Product ReviewWeb Tools – I categorized this as a ‘web tool’ as it has a web component, but it is really more than simply that. I have known about Pluto TV for a while, but I was reminded of it at the July CapMac meeting where it was mentioned in the presentation on “Streaming TV” services. Many people are ‘cutting the cord’ and doing away with cable services and choosing a streaming option. Pluto TV is one of those options.

Pluto is a free streaming service that has been around since 2013. At the time of this article, it has more than 75 content partners, with over 100 free channels to choose from. Estimates are that more than 6 million use it every month. Pluto TV generates revenue through advertisements displayed to viewers.

A few of the current channels are shown in the image above. Channels are grouped into categories such as News, Sports, Movies, Entertainment, Comedy, Chill Out, Life + Style, and Geek + Gaming. There are also several internet radio stations offered. Some, mostly movie, on-demand content is available in addition to the scheduled programs. You can check out what is currently playing here.  The programming available through Pluto TV is included in the listings within the Apple TV App in the US.

You can view programs from Pluto TV through your web browser, or by downloading the Pluto TV App to your Apple TV or iOS device. Pluto TV can also be viewed via several other devices: Roku, Visio, Samsung, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Playstation, and Chromecast.

I do recommend this service/App – I have the App installed on my iPad and Apple TV. Since it is free, I think it is a good option to add.


  1. Free
  2. 100+ channels
  3. Available on many different platforms
  4. Has on-demand content


  1. Limited current content
  2. Content partners are, for the most part, not mainstream

Review of “Working Smarter for Mac Users”


Book Reviews – “Working Smarter for Mac Users” eBook was published in 2017 and was written by Bob Levitus ( Mr. Levitus has published more than 75 non-fiction books.

I purchased this book from Bob when he spoke to the Capital Macintosh Users Group ( last spring. He gave a short overview of his book that night and it intrigued me.

As the name of this book implies, it focuses on techniques and software to enable Mac Users to work more effectively. Some of the tips are very Mac-specific, but there are other tips that anyone can use.

I have been a Mac user since shortly after it was introduced. I have also read and posted about Mac software for several years. That said, I learned a lot from Bob’s book. It is not something I will read once and set on the shelf. I know I will be looking back through it for his recommendations as an on-going reference.

Bob has set up a website ( and offers a newsletter as well as a full course on how to “work smarter”. If you use a Mac or procrastinate, you might want to take a look at this book. I thought it was well worth the $25 price. The book is available in both print and eBook format from Amazon. I personally chose the eBook version. With this version, all of the photos in the book can be blown up to study in detail. The eBook also contains videos that cannot be included in the print version. I give this novel a 5 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (

Happy “Ada Lovelace Day”


It is the second Tuesday of October and that means that it is again Ada Lovelace Day. The day has been identified (per The Guardian) to:

. . . celebrate inspirational women in science, technology, maths and engineering, in the hope that by shining a light on such people and increasing their visibility, they can inspire future generations.

Ada Lovelace Day was founded in 2009 by Suw Charman-Anderson, and part of her reason for doing this was a worry that women in tech were invisible. The idea was a positive one – rather than highlighting the problem, highlight the unseen women and shout from the rooftops about all the amazing things they’ve achieved. Ada Lovelace was an obvious choice of mascot for such an endeavour.

Take this opportunity and join in some activity to recognize the contributions of women in technology. This would also be a good time to introduce or encourage a girl you know in STEM careers.

CapMac – In Austin, our local Capital Macintosh User Group is having a special program this evening. The featured speaker will be Rhonda Childress, the only Female IBM Fellow in Austin, the CTO of Security Services, a Sr. Certified I/T Architect, and an IBM Master Inventor.

Documentary – While not available today, there will soon be a documentary series, the Chasing Grace Project, about women in Tech.

The Chasing Grace Project is a documentary series about women in tech. It includes six episodes, each focused on a different topic within the women in tech narrative. From the pay gap, online harassment and female entrepreneurship to access to the best jobs, the decision to leave or stay in tech and the role of male allies, the series illustrate how we pave the way forward. Through story we can call out the adversities women face and illustrate how they’re navigating their own paths. The result? A series of blueprints for other women to find their paths, their way.

This may be something you will want to stay aware of

Some Features of iOS 11

Tech Tips – A friend of mine from CapMac, Nathan Lott,  just published this video on some of the new features of iOS 11. If you have updated your iPhone or iPad, or are considering it, you will find it well worth your time to view this 12:29 video.

I saw a lot of new features there that I can immediately put to use.

See my other iOS articles


FOSS Software for macOS


I came across this and had to share it with my fellow macOS users., is a volunteer organization  in Australia that “acts as a central location for the Committees, Editors, Web Masters and other Leaders of Australian Apple User Groups to find useful resources.

Rather than try to put it in my own words, let me quote their press release:

As part of the celebrations of Software Freedom Day 2016, has compiled a selection of some of the best, yet totally free, software that’s available for the Mac, collected together on a single DVD, called “Spotlight on FOSS 2016” plus a bonus video and a copy of The AppleUsers Spotlight “Software Freedom Day 2016” Special Edition are included.

Apple User Group Leaders and Organizers of Software Freedom Day events can download the Golden Master (and support files including a DVD Label and Promo Flyer) free of charge from Copies of the DVD can then be burnt and distributed to Apple User Group members and to attendees of Software Freedom Day 2016 events – again free of charge.

A five page flyer, supplied as a PDF, which details the DVDs content is also available for printing out and displaying at Apple User Group Meetings and SFD Events. Feel free to expand it to A3 and use it as posters to promote the DVD contents.

The “Spotlight on FOSS 2016” DVD contains:

Audio: Audacity

eBooks: Calibre, Jomic

Education: Celestia, Moodle, Stellarium

Games: Aleph One – Marathon, Armagetron Advanced, BZFlag, Cube 2: Sauerbraten, PrBoom, PySol Fan Club Edition, Scorched 3D, Wesnoth

Graphics: Blender, GIMP, Seashore

Internet: Adium, Cyberduck, Firefox, Kompozer, RSS Owl, SeaMonkey, Thunderbird, Transmission, Vienna

Office Productivity: Apache OpenOffice, FormulatePro, FreeMind, LibreOffice, Skim

Utilities: Burn, ClamXav, MAMP (Macintosh, Apache, Mysql and PHP), Quicksilver,, SheepShaver, The Unarchiver, VirtualBox

Video: HandBrake, Miro Video Converter, Miro, Plex, Video Lan Client (VLC)

Bonus Video: Happy Birthday to GNU, by Stephen Fry

I am a big advocate of using FOSS on the Mac. Check the list here to find the Mac User group near you that is distributing the DVD. Capital Macintosh User Group (CapMac – in Austin, TX will be among the distributors.

National Volunteers Week

I just saw that this is National Volunteers Week. I work with many volunteers and have tried to send them some thanks for  efforts. All of the volunteers in leadership positions within the IEEE (particularly in the Central Texas Section (; volunteers with Capital Macintosh User Group (CapMac –; volunteers with Discover Engineering (; and Neighborhood Sports (

Take a few minutes this week and recognize the volunteers in your life.