MacBook Pro cannot see WiFi router – change wifi channel

Apple MacBook Pros stacked to show size comparison.  Neat, aren't they?
Apple MacBook Pros stacked to show size comparison. Neat, aren’t they?

I have more kit than you can shake a stick at – MacPro, iPad, iPod Touch, a couple of Sony tablets, an HP laptop, iMac – all of which have no problem connecting to my Wifi network (Zyxel router).  Add to that list any visitors’ equipment and you have a wide portfolio of machines that function seamlessly with the network.

So why on earth wouldn’t my early-2011 MacBook Pro always see the network?  It had no problem seeing the fifteen other networks in my building and the restaurant in the basement, and sometimes it would see my router, but 95% of the time it just wouldn’t appear in the network list.

I had hoped that upgrading the OS from Lion through Mountain Lion and Mavericks to Yosemite would sort it out, but sadly not.  System diagnostics showed everything hunky dory.

Searching t’internet produced the usual troubleshooting guides such as that at http://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202068 but they were all generic and didn’t address the specific issue with the MacBook Pro.  Why the problem with that specific machine and no other?

Solution

The answer was, it turned out, simple.  Log on to the router as administrator and change the wifi channel.  This is often recommended for slow or dropping connections – it avoids interference between routers using the same channel.  It solved my problem, anyway.  The MacBook Pro sees the router 100% of the time (so far) and I face no problem with any of my other kit.

It doesn’t explain why that particular machine had a problem, mind.

Christmas delivery problems start early – again

The world descends further into a delusional madness of acquisition and consumption that once came at Christmas but now is promoted by such artifices as ‘Black Friday‘ and ‘Cyber Monday’.

Yodel, the UK’s second largest home delivery company (only Royal Mail is bigger) has told its customers’ customers that their deliveries are going to be late.  In an interesting piece of sophistry their web site tells us, reassuringly, that, contrary to reports, deliveries are not suspended.  It’s only collections from the supplier that are suspended.  Of course, if the product isn’t collected the delivery cannot be made, but I’m sure someone falls for that.

Of course this reflects a real challenge that delivery networks regularly face.  The networks are designed with finite capacity and flexibility comes from throwing additional resource at the problem.  But sizing the network is the challenge. and it has been around at least since commuter rail operations were designed.  Size for the peak and you’ll have lots of spare capacity sitting around doing nothing for extended periods of time; size for the average and when the peak comes you can’t handle it.

That is the reason that automation (of which there is surprisingly little in the logistics business and which has a poor reputation) works best in steady and predictable businesses.

The problem is exacerbated by social changes and retail developments.  We now want it all and we want it now.  Retailers like Amazon promise very high service levels but do little to educate consumers’ expectations.  And the blame, of course (and consequent bad press), is always laid at the feet of the logistics operator, not the retailer whose procurement people have driven the sourcing.

Royal Mail gets a great deal of stick, much of it deserved, but it does deserve credit for the service it provides – a universal service – at this time of year.

Solved! The mysterious case of page 36 of the November 2014 Lufthansa magazine

WARNING – unsuitable for those of a nervous disposition

In an earlier post I drew attention to the peculiar censorship of page 36 of Lufthansa’s November in-flight magazine.  After literally minutes of detailed research I am now able to reveal – exclusively – the origin of the fuss.

Most of the copies I encountered after boarding a flight had the corner of the page cut off and removed, but on a couple of occasions paper had been stuck over the offending image.  Say what you will about the Germans, but they sure know how to source sticky glue.  Nonetheless, twenty minutes with a sharp knife and patience enabled me to reveal the picture that caused all the fuss.

Come hither cakes, apparently
Come hither cakes, apparently

Despite my best efforts I was still unable to overcome Lufthansa’s special glue fully, but I think there is enough detail there to see the origin of the issue.

What is most disappointing is that someone somewhere decided that this picture was so shocking and offensive that it merited such drastic action.  Sense of humour failure, sadly.

LG 34UM95 monitor USB hub draws too much power; use Thunderbolt

Simple, robust and bloody fast:  Apple Thunderbolt cable
Simple, robust and bloody fast: Apple Thunderbolt cable

When I started using my LG 34UM95 monitor it was effectively a secondary display, my principal one being an Apple Thunderbolt 27”.  I have been sufficiently pleased with the LG to promote it to a primary role to make use of all that glorious screen real estate.  I used the supplied HDMI cable to connect monitor and computer.

The LG provides three USB ports (one 3.0, two 2.0) and I not unreasonably wanted to connect my keyboard (why Apple doesn’t offer a wireless keyboard with numeric keypad is beyond me) and Apple DVD drive using the LG’s ports.  That’s when the problem started.

I connected one of the Mac Pro’s USB ports to the LG’s USB up port, but my keyboard just would not work through the LG and after a short while I observed a dialogue advising me that a USB device was drawing too much power.

The answer was simple, though.  I dived off to my friendly Apple supplier and got a Thunderbolt cable.  I connected up and bingo, USB ports all working, monitor and Thunderbolt connection recognised and automatically configured.

Mind you, I thought thirty-five quid for a 2 m cable was a bit steep, but Thunderbolt cables are not exactly ubiquitous.  Imagine my surprise when I saw on the Apple Store an optical Thunderbolt cable at the bargain price of just a quid short of a grand.

A grand's worth of optic fibre:  Corning Thunderbolt cable
A grand’s worth of optic fibre: Corning Thunderbolt cable

That’s right, £999.  It is 60 m of the finest optical connection, to be fair, but I would love to know how many of those get sold each week.