A.J. Walker



The Black Screen of Partial Death

My MacBook Pro—a 13" 2020 M1—passed away a couple of weeks ago. That’s not to say it has completely passed away as a computer, but as a laptop it has. I noticed as I walked past the spare room where the laptop was that the screen was flickering away with all too dodgy lines and blocks of mess. Before too long with some movement of the laptop the screen was suffering from the all too common symptom: The Black Screen of Death. After too many attempts of ‘Zapping the PRAM’ and all the other associated potential treatments of the Black Screen (i.e in case it was a software issue) it became apparent that the issue was a hardware one. Looking at the .net it is really crazy—and wrong—that this is not an uncommon problem and the issue should have been addressed by design over previous iterations of the MacBook.

Anyway the computer itself is still working when plugged into an external display so I guess I may have simply lost a laptop but been left with a desktop. Glad I bought the external screen a while back or else I would not have even known the computer was still working. To replace the screen on the laptop as far as I can see is around 360 quid—and that would still have the same physical issue as the original one so could fail just as easily over the next year or two anyway. I’m not spending that kind of money with that fear—or likelihood—waiting in the wings.

As far as I can see the issue is a hardware issue purely affecting the screen and there is no reason to deal with it; if I’m happy to use it purely as a desktop. Hope I’ve surmised the correctly. At the end of the day, when I’m out and about, I tend to use an iPad with a portable keyboard rather than take the laptop out anyway. And I use Dropbox to sync with my computer when I’m back home, so I guess I can continue doing that and just use the Pro in my spare room/office if I need to print stuff out and get stuff up on the website etc. I dare say I could print from the iPad if I set that up correctly too, but I wouldn’t be able to update the website (and use various other Apps that only work on the MacBook).

I’m leaving the laptop in clamshell form so I don’t have to face the miserable screen at all, but from time to time I will have to open it up—if I need to use the camera for iMovie and YouTube etc or maybe to use the thumbprint ID. I think I can use the iPad as a second screen if it comes to it, but in the main I guess it’ll just be used in a straightforward desktop configuration.

In short, I am gutted about the Black Screen of Death and my love of Apple leaves me thoroughly disappointed with them (in them knowing about the problem but doing FA about sorting it), but at least it is only a Partial Death and not a Death Death.

AJ On Writing (A Bit)

Have been getting into a bit more writing again lately after a bit of a hiatus. I can thank the return of Microcosms for helping me find my re-find that mojo there. Currently my go to Flash Fiction challenges are the returned Microcosms and Miranda’s Mid Week Flash Challenge over on the Finding Clarity website (some example photo prompts are shown here). For those of you interested the Microcosms prompt is given every Sunday and you have all week to put a story together of up to 300 words. The prompt are three “elements” that should be included in your story. For example last week’s prompt was: ‘Makeup Artist / Kitchen / Horror” and from those three elements you concoct your story. Of course sometimes the selection of elements my not get your creative juices going and so there is the handy option of spinning the elemental wheel and getting three other elements as your story spur. I always try to use the elements given as a challenge, but I dare say if one week they are cuddly cats / sofa cushions / love story, then I may well give that wheel a spin.


At the moment there are not too many people entering the challenge but it can be way to believe that a lot of people that used to do it back in the day haven’t seen that it has returned - what with Twitter being flakey at best currently. If you can, give it a look and if it’s up your street then give it a go.

The 300 word limit is difficult and certainly will make you focus. You can definitely write a four of five hundred word work and then have to get your knife out.


Example photo prompt (Week 277))

Week 278

Week 279

Week 281

If 300 words is too tight then there’s Miranda’s challenge, which gives you up to 450 extra words to play with. Yes, 750 words. The prompt is a photo and there ain’t no wheel to spin if the photo doesn’t work for you. I do it fairly regularly and post the stories on this website (under Fictions), but sometimes the photo doesn’t work for me and I do end up giving it a miss rather than struggle to get a story out that I don’t adequately get behind. In general though 750 is a lot more freeing for you than 300 words. Why not give both a go and see how they compare for you?

Anyway, it’s nice to flex your writing muscles a little if you’re not currently working on more substantial pieces. Maybe see you over there.


To that end I picked up a great little portable keyboard to go with my iPad. It's really freed me up to write more whilst on the hoof. I've written several stories this week and some blogs (including this one) using the keyboard and iPad option. For less than £30 it has been fab: much better and quicker than typing on the screen and t'll get me writing significantly more. This is a MoKo foldable Bluetooth keyboard but there are plenty of others to choose from. If you are out and about a bit I can thoroughly recommend getting one - and it's lighter and safer than lugging a laptop around.






Finding Clarity

Multi (Social) Media


So how many Social Media accounts do you have? I’ve got too many to keep on top off at the moment. This is largely down to Mr Musk periodically and all too often setting fire to Twitter. My core social media accounts (once I deleted Facebook a few years ago) have been Twitter and Instagram for my personal general use and for the real ale one (Reale). As Twitter seemed to keep announcing their very public desire to self immolate I registered my accounts for several of the new kids on the block or those who seemed to be positioning to step into the Twitter shaped hole should they succeed in no longer working for their users. o I’ve got apps and accounts for Mastadon, Hive, Discord, and Telegram. And now I’ve a Spoutible account too.

I’ve used Mastadon and Hive sparingly, whilst I have tried to continue with Twitter. It seems daft to use so many to post or search for content - and time is eaten enough as it is. In the last couple of weeks Spoutible, headed by Christopher Bouzy, has arrived and within that sphere I’m there once again with my @zevonesque username. I’ve only been on it since February 1st of course, so it’s very early days. So far I have been on it most days (okay, there’s only been 9 days in that time) and I must say it seems to work pretty damn well. I’m not sure how many Brits are on there yet - it seems to be mostly bods from the US. I’ve not found any of the Flashdogs over there yet. But I’ve put the flag up for them with a hashtag in my bio. I’m sure if Spoutible does become a success it wont be too long before I see some of them joining in due course.


Haven’t used it yet to search for flash fiction challenges but I will do soon. I’m busy enough with the weekly Challenges from Miranda (Mid Week Flash Challenge) and Microcosms at the moment anyways, but it would be good to see if there is a seed of a community over there. It’s difficult for everyone to know where things are up to with people on or off Twitter and Facebook (I ain’t ever going back there). It maybe that a website somewhere would be a better point of contact rather than shouting into the voids and hearing nothing bounce back to us.

There’s not much to learn for Spoutible if you’ve used Twitter you’ll be fine with it in no time. In fact the main terms can be summarised as:

Spout = Tweet
Echo = Retweet
Making Waves = Trending
Spout off = Send Tweet

And that’s about it. If you’re over there already give me a
shout (or spout even). If you're over there later then I look forward to seeing you. Come to the party, people, when you can. It’s an open invite for all the good people. That said, I registered my interest early so I could create an account early doors. I'm not sure when they are open to new registrations as they get the gubbins of the system up and running.


Updating the Website

Eventually I bit the bullet and replaced my old MacBook Pro with a shiny new one. The most obvious thing of course is that it seems quite small – as I've moved from a 15" to a 13" (must be an age thing). Once turned on and copied everything over from my old mac it was time to delete the old files and applications that don't work on the new system. Didn't loose much. But copying over the photo albums was time and Gigabyte consuming. I definitely need to go in and cull many thousands of photos. Won't get to it quickly but every few days I'll make sure I delete a couple of hundred or so. There is a mind boggling 37k photos on there at the moment. I need to at first – at least – get it down to 30k. At the end of the day I dare say I should ask the question 'would I ever use this photo' and 'would it deserve to find its way into a photo album?' and if the answer is no; then delete the buggers.

Of 495GB available on the hard drive currently 120GB is taken up by my photos so losing 7k of photos that'll get used it will free up about 20GB. I need to take some time to work out how to deal with saving items on the hard drive and how to save things externally on other drives or in one cloud or another…

Now I have a decent computer which should be less prone to crashing I may finally use GarageBand to help me play and record songs – and I hope write some of my own. That's the plan anyway. Incidentally the sound from the speakers is unbelievably good moving on from an 11 year old computer.

One thing that stopped working was the
Stacks plugin for Rapidweaver (which I use to produce this website). This meant much of the website couldn't even show itself in Rapidweaver. It gave me some cause for thought in terms of whether I paid to upgrade from Stacks 3 to 4 or whether I should maybe get another bit of software to use for my website. After considering a few things out there I almost went for Sparkle. But then again it would have meant learning a new app whilst downloading my entire site into it to reproduce some of it – and the risk of losing a lot of links; including comments to existing blog items. There are not that many, but it would have been a shame to lose them. In any case getting Sparkle would have been more expensive and time consuming than upgrading Stacks. So – a bit like the consideration of updating my laptop – I ended up going full circle and retaining (albeit updated) Rapidweaver with Stacks.

The whole transfer of data and updating of software has been a pretty much painless operation – assuming you consider thinking about things not too painful.

The next thing is to consider what changes I may want with the website. So far I've made sure the changes with the Stacks have updated (initially the upload deleted all the boxes I had around text, but this has now sorted itself out). I deleted the section I had on 'Class Song of the Day' which was bit sad, but it was an old feature which I dare say no-one ever went back to. I'm thinking about turning this into another new series of pages. Obviously the main sections are this general blog, the writing bits & bobs, and the health section (which thankfully I haven't had to update recently). Considering adding a section to do with pubs and beer which I could use either to highlight local (Liverpool & its Environs) or national things. Just consideration at the moment. Watch this space.

So Many Varieties of Apple

Looking to replace my ageing laptop soon. I've had a long and happy relationship with my mid-2010
MacBook Pro, it cost a pretty penny back then (about £1k); but with it lasting eleven and half years means it's been a bargain at less than £1.70 a week. If my next computer can last ten years I'd be very, very happy – and amazed.

It's still working but crashes intermittently and has for some time now, which is time consuming – and makes me worry about when it will stop for good. Of course with it being so old it has had its systems updated regularly; it's currently up to macOS High Sierra and can't go beyond that. This means lots of current apps I use can't be updated anymore and may soon be useless (as companies stop supporting their old apps), and of course new apps won't run on this old system.

So it's been time to think about what to get to replace the Pro. I've been considering the new iMac which looks amazing. I had a couple of iMacs back in the day including the famous Blueberry one. Of course one of the things I would use it for is writing and I can't take a desk top about with me so I'd really need an iPad as well as a desk top.

Yes, those are the considerations which bring me back to a laptop. In terms of cost vs the iMac I could get an iMac Air and an iPad, but that'd be pointless – if you've got the Air you couldn't justify the need for an iPad. But I need more memory than the base version which makes it quite expensive and then when you consider the costs the 2020 MacBook Pro 13" (M1) looks a better buy. The bigger versions of the Pro (2021) look absolutely incredible but I can't justify the cost of those.

So I've basically gone round and round in circles and come back to getting a 512GB MacBook Pro (which is exactly what I have now). How was it so difficult to decide to replace an excellent MacBook Pro with a new MacBook Pro? I mean it is heavier and bulkier to travel around with than an iPad and all and maybe I'd rather have an iPad and an iMac but all things considered I can't justify that.

I'll probably end up not putting music on it which will free up loads of space but mean that I can't update my old iPod anymore; but after all when was the last time I used the iPod? It's sad but my phone and Spotify has made me say farewell to the old faithful, beautiful beast. I'll continue to use the computer for writing (using Scrivener), doing bits on the website (currently use Rapidweaver), and some YouTube vids.

A MacBook Pro it is then. I'll sort that out sometime in the coming weeks. In the meantime I hope this old friend isn't reading this and planning on committing a final spiteful act and crashing for good (I better back this up today…).


Time for Some Old Fashioned Writing

For the website I use a couple of external sites for providing information and permitting comments. For the latter I use Disqus, which I remember at the moment. But the other day I forgot what the site was I used for monitoring the website usage - e.g. number of visits, type of device visiting and operating systems etc. I mean clean forgot, couldn't for the life of me remember it. It's one of those things that usually shows up on my webpage frequently visited but for some reason had disappeared and wasn't showing up as one of the go to short-cuts.

First thing I did was try looking on Google for sites that did website monitoring, thinking I'd recognise it when I saw it. Of course Google produced lists and paid for adverts for lots and lots of sites, but inevitably not the one I used. Sod's Law.

Realised today that of course I've got Keychain on my mac and can look up the sites I log in to through that. I was a bit slow coming up with that bit of genius. Next time a similar thing happens I must remember to look there first, instead of wasting time Googling random stuff. The other thing I should do is go old school and hand write some of these things down in a notebook.

Oh, and the site I had failed to remember was GoSquared.

Ho hum.

Updating Software: Bah!

After updating the website from http to https protocol on Monday the comments on the website, including most significantly the Seedling Challenge, disappeared. The comments are via Disqus, and on their site it suggested that changing the protocol shouldn't have had an impact. However patently it did. The reason for me making the change was that the website written on the old version of RW kept showing up on some (most?) web browsers as 'unsafe' because it was using the older http:// protocol. Little did I know it would fuck it up and stress me out.

I'm not completely sure why they went but my suspicion is that it was my old version of Rapidweaver 5.3.2 (about 7 years old). I think it kept changing the automated site name to http within the webpages where Disqus was specified.

I've ended up spending a couple of days trying to get it sorted. In the end I've bitten the bullet and bought the new RW software - which incredibly is now 8.1.7.

Unfortunately it wasn't a case of importing the old website into the new software - oh no! No, I had to download a newer version of RW5 (5.4.1) and save in that format and then open that in RW8. So I currently have THREE versions of the software on the laptop.

Unfortunately I'm also going to have to buy a Plug-In for the software (Stacks) which is going to cost me a bit more too. But it is a necessity really for RW. Really it should be integrated into the thing (you'd thing RealMac and YourHead could do a deal and sort that) as not many people wouldn't use it.

Anyway, as soon as saved it into RW8 and uploaded it the Disqus comments worked again. Painful, but hey ho I got there in the end.

ARGH!: IT Issue Two: Flickr

Read a shocking email the other day saying Flickr was limiting the free account to 1000 photographs. Then my computer went down. So I hadn't been able to see how many photos to see if I need to do anything (ie if I had more than 1000 photos).

This morning I check. Oh dear, 4761. This is going to take some serious editing.

Flickr 1

And I've two days to do it.

Oh dear.

Flickr 2
Flickr 3

Yay! Zevi's MacBook Lives!!

Well it's cost me £75 but my MacBook Pro is working again: mother board issues. At least it didn't need to be replaced wholesale (would have been more costly) or even worse be unsaveable. The main thing is the MacBook is going again. It's old in computer years but it has been very good to me. Other than this the only thing I've had to do is to replace the charger - standard cable issues for all electronic items let's face it.

It was amazing when I suddenly didn't have a computer I realised how much I rely on it. On the day it died I was intending to; write circa two thousand words on my WIP, write a blog, issue my weekly invoice and do something on online banking. Of that the only thing I ended up doing after rushing my laptop up to A&E was issue my invoice which was very fiddly on the phone (requiring me to download two apps I didn't already have on the phone). If I'd had to buy a new (second hand computer) I'd have had to go for a mac again and it no doubt would have taken me some time to get everything back to how it is on this one - which would have put the kibosh on my website blog for a while and of course the Seedling Challenge; which I've only recently started so that would have been a real shame.


At least I do back up the whole thing every now and again (I'll definitely be doing that again today!). I think I'd 'only' have lost about a month of writing (and of course all my website updates; though I could have downloaded them back of the server) so it wouldn't have been disastrous, just a wee bit painful.

Anyways, I'm hoping I'll get a few more years out of my old reliable. And I'll be backing up at least once a week from now on.

Lastly, thanks to the guys at FixIt on County Road FixIt - Liverpool, who sorted it for me. Great, quick and efficient service. Thanks boys!

And thanks to anyone who crossed your fingers for me or prayed for Zevi's MacBook. ;-)

Some Computing and a Bit of WoW!

My MacBook Pro is still periodically having its panics, but not too often to scare me completely. In any case it meant I took a little time to look at some of the stuff I have on it. Included finding apps that no longer work or that I don't use any more. These included: Logic Express, MacJournal and Montage. Decided it made sense to delete them, which of course it does. The fewer apps on the device the less potential for issues; perhaps.

I've never used Montage which is an app for formatting for screenwriting. Looked quite neat. I even wondered about getting it upgraded before I came to my senses and thought a) I've enough other writing on my plate at the moment to warrant not getting involved with another learning curve and b) I've got Scrivener which will do the job along with all the other things it can do. So if and when I want to write a screen or radio play I can go straight to Scrivener. Huzzah!


trashed apps
Apps: Trashed

It frees up some memory too but in the grand scheme of things only about 1GB. Now thats nice to have in reserve, when I see how much memory my photos takes up it pales into insignificance (173GB). I really need to spend more time deleting photos.

55GB free (173GB used up by photos)

It doesn't help that I am now using iMovie and recording things now I've rekindled my love for the guitar. That really does eat up some memory. Will need to keep on top of photos and movies now. Ho hum.

In other news I managed another 1300 words today for TWO* which keeps me on track for finishing the first draft by the end of March. I really don't know what is going to happen next to the guys. Seat of the pants writing. I am considering working on the first chapter and submitting it for Pulp Idol. Now that would be a first for me. I haven't really done much for Writing on the Wall since Dragon's Pen; which was the scariest thing I've ever done. They've had the odd flash fiction competition but they haven't taken it that seriously in recent years as WoW itself has got bigger, but Pulp Idol has gone from strength to strength. If I've got the thing written then I should at least fling it their way. It can't do any harm.

* The Wobbly Odyssey (aka Project Jaipur)


After getting the new microphone for the computer it made me consider the software I've been using. I haven't really be looking at that which is daft. The little practice vids I've put up on YouTube were recorded using PhotoBooth, which is one of the bundled pieces of software with the Mac and then I've edited it using iMovie to get the clip length right, flip the view and add appropriate titles.

As it is I've looked into the recording now and it seems at the very least I should be recording it straight into iMovie rather than using PhotoBooth. The picture quality would be better - not sure about the audio (haven't found a reference to that yet). To that end the version of the software on my 9 year old MacBook Pro is 9 years old itself (iMovie 9). Found that iMovie 10.1.10 was issued in November 2018 AND importantly is FREE; which is always a nice price point.
Downloaded and installed the new software. The key thing will be how stable the software is on my computer. If it is then it could be a winner. It has already automatically updated all the previous videos I'd recorded with the old software. Proper Mac. Easy.

Though let's see if I've spoken too soon...

Snowball's Chance

Ordered a Snowball ICE USB mic from Amazon today. It's currently reduced by £12.50 off at £42.50, which I think is probably a mighty fine bargain. One of the organisers of the Sanctuary Open Mic (Bobo from the Vapery, Waterloo) had put on Instagram that he'd ordered it and I couldn't not jump on that bandwagon. I think that the reduction is because they are about to release a new mic. But if this one does the job, well then it's worth dipping in.


Should get it in a few days and by the weekend I hope to be giving it a try out to see what the difference is from the MacBookPro's internal mic. I assume it will be significantly better and prove well worth the money. It has 4.5 stars on Amazon from over 335 reviews, which is pretty good for tech. The specification and the reviews certainly look positive.

Will do some recording of both guitar/singing and narrative and see what it comes out like. Will report back on here. So if any of you out there are considering podcasting or recording (or just Skyping) then I'll let you know what it's like.

Colonel Panic

Had a few time consuming issues with the scary Kernel Panics shutting down my computer at random times over the last few days. I haven't been able to identify what the issue may be. Assuming it's software and not hardware. Could well be memory issue when I'm using iMovie and other programs at the same time. I had just started removing photos again to help. Will hopefully happen a little less the more I remove. The iMovie files themselves are pretty large and I've only been using them with the messing about with my guitar recordings; I currently record using Photo Booth then edit in iMovie. May look at alternative options at some point.

The scary 'Problem Report'

Seen a recommendation to keep 20% storage memory free and I'm only just around 11% at the moment. It's largely photos and music. Not much I can do about the music so I better get back on to tidying the photos up.

Current state of storage

Will see how it goes... fingers are crossed.


Today's game involved writing, sausage butties and fixing the printer. First up was the sausage. There were no problems there at all. Then came the Printer...

It may save you £20 and a day or two waiting for a fix to read this:

The printer is an Epson WP: 4535 and the error message read 'Maintenance Box is not recognised'. The maintenance box collects the waste ink produced during the cleaning of the printer heads etc and once full the box needs replacing. Looked it up on the net and most the searches came up with how to replace a maintenance box and nothing to do with the message. Saw a couple of references which all were 'solved' by online questioning with the answer 'replace maintenance box'. Cheap boxes (including shipping) are around £20 (and obviously include a wait of a day or two to arrive). Frustrating in view of the writing I want to do today. Got to the point of ordering but thought I'd quickly check out the box a few more times.


I turned off the printer and switched it on a few times. Same result. Switched off and took out the box and put it in again. Same results. Not looking good.


Took out box, wiped finger over the chip on the box and put it in... and hey presto! Problem solved. Err, so dust or dirt on the chip? FFS. Anyway, sorted. I can print again. And edit/write.

Now for the writing. Dang, I've got no excuses for attempting Calendark now.


Class Song of the Day

Started 'Class Song of the Day' last week on Twitter and to do that have started using Buffer, so that it's timetabled and consistent.

One week in and the songs have been:

Natalie Merchant: San Andreas Fault
Mark Knopfler: Going Home (Local Hero)
Pixies: Here Comes Your Man
Arctic Monkeys: When the Sun Goes Down
Belly: Feed the Tree
REM: Imitation of Life
Diesel Park West: All the Myths on Sunday

Have already lined up the next couple of weeks.

Buffer' is dead easy to use. Neat and simple. Using the FREE version I can only line up 10 tweets at a time, so I'll still need to remember to update it every now and again. But once every ten days? Then yeah, I can keep that up.

In theory.

Main risk later in year is repetition. And I don't want any of that going on. So I've
set up a spreadsheet. A spreadsheet I tell you! Is there no end to my morning of computing... Tweets, 'Buffering', Blogs, Hard Drives, Spreadsheets...

Yeah, but no fiction writing AJ. Okay, that's enough. Talking to yourself in the third person. Step away from the computer. Step away. Put the kettle, make a coffee, pick up a pen and a pad.

I said, 'Step away from the computer, you Sunday morning procrastinator.'


Find the songs on Twitter as #ClassSongOfTheDay where it gets tweeted every morning at 8 BST

As Exciting as Shoes

The Reassurance of Shoes

I don't like shopping for shoes, they're just things that sit on the end of me legs keeping my feet warm and dry. And I never like buying them, they're just 'things'. How boring, but how essential? And that's how I feel about buying a back-up Hard Drive. It's one of those things that you have and hopefully never need, but it's as essential as insurance or a battery recharger (or shoes*).


Let's face it as a writer most of us just use computers to write and store our bits and bobs (or hidden genius epics) on them. It's like our digital photos though; we don't print them out. So if the worst happens and your computer goes down how much of your writing will be lost? 50% 70% 95% it's all too scary to think about, isn't it?

My current portable Hard Drive is supposed to back-up by overwriting the older copies on it using the macOS Time Machine. Some time ago (I dare not think how long ago) my drive stopped backing up as there wasn't enough working space to do the deletion. Eek! So all my unprinted work and unused photographs are at risk until I get that new bigger drive and get Time Machine up and running again.

I've picked out a 1 TB WD drive (plenty big enough) and it's all of £55. It'll be good to get it. I'll get it tomorrow. Lovely to know that all my stuff will be saved. But still, like shoes, I won't be excited by it.
Hard Drive
That said, make sure you make your back-ups; or even print some of your most important bits off. If the worst happens and you haven't it doesn't bare thinking about.

* I realise that those of the female persuasion may be confused by this entire blog.