Writing is a core part of the services I offer. Enjoy a selection of long-form articles and shorter blog posts covering a variety of topics. If you’d like to talk about your own content needs, get in touch.

MacOS Monterey broke FreeMind. Here’s how to fix it.

Screenshot of a Freemind mind map showing the fonts are unreadable in MacOS Monterey

I'm a long-time user of FreeMind, an open source mind mapping tool. It works on both Mac and Windows, is easy to use, and I've amassed more than a decade's worth of mind maps.

The latest update MacOS - Monterey - looked like it had trashed all this knowledge.

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MacOS Monterey: how to fix the latest upgrade

Stylised graphic of a MacBook Pro keyboard

A heart stopping moment as the MacOS Monterey upgrade brought my MacBook Pro to a halt. A restart was necessary, and as the screen flickered into life, I knew there was an issue. The menu bar was missing. Everything I did induced the familiar "bong" sound of clicking outside a dialog. Force Restart (the CTRL+ALT+Delete of the Mac world) was unavailable. Several reboots brought me back to the same place, and I feared this machine, with all its touch bar and butterfly keyboard faults, had died.

Through a somewhat elaborate series of measures, I restored the machine to full working order. These are the steps I took.

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Kobe wishes you a safe voyage

Black and white photograph of the signal tower in Kobe Harborland against a cloudy sky with the flags signalling Kobe Wishes you a Safe Voyage

For decades ships arriving at the port of Kobe were greeted by the most sophisticated signal tower in East Asia. Humans still put the right flag on the lanyard and ran it up, guiding ships in and out of the bustling docks. Yet at its heart was this amazing new technology: an elevator. As far as I can tell it was irrelevant to its operation, but it got bragging rights.

By the 1990s flags were going the way of the Dodo as the Wireless became the defacto standard for communicating from shore to ship. The signal tower was decommissioned, but what to do with this once-marvel of the maritime world?

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Constructivism: an influence on my graphic design and art

Abstract artwork with the skyline of kobe represented beneath a clock

I was in my early teens when I first became aware of Constructivism. The geometric shapes and subdued colour palettes fascinated me, and I began to incorporate elements of it into my own work. Then I discovered surrealism, and for a while at least it took a back seat.

Constructivism is one of the many art movements to emerge from the Russian Revolution. It was formed in 1915 by Vladimir Tatlin and Alexander Rodchenko, who evolved a theory harmony could be found through geometry, abandoning art's traditional focus on composition with one of construction. Art would express the dynamism of the Soviet Union and the continuous revolution it promised.

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An Electric Suzuki Hustler?

Photograph of a green Suzuki Hustler in front of a hill with a house on top of it

In 4-and-a-bit years I'm planning on swapping my Suzuki Hustler for a full EV.

Which is a shame.

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Harborland in black and white

Black and white photograph of Kobe Port Tower from across the harbor at night

A routine has developed for Fridays. In the morning I go for a walk with my camera. In the evening I go to Harborland to collect my wife and have a meal. I usually have some spare, so the camera gets to come out and play.

Thing is, I've probably photographed every square centimetre of the park. It makes it a challenge to shoot something new and fresh.

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Did we break consumerism?

Photograph of an empty shopping mall in Harborland Japan

The Umie shopping mall, Harborland, Kobe, Japan. 19:12 on a Friday night.

When I’ve been here in past years, it was a bustling and noisy time. Friends and family out, heading for the food court before a film, shopping, hanging out. Now it’s quiet and peaceful.

Every Friday I come here to meet Takako after work. Every Friday it’s the same.

Maybe we ended our love affair with consumerism?

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Subbed, dubbed and the wider question of what gets lost in translation

Graphic of the outline of Major Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell

Subbed or dubbed? It’s an important question for those of us who enjoy “Foreign Films”. On the one hand, dubbed is easier to watch as the audio is in a familiar language. On the other, dubbing often sounds forced and lacks the nuance of the actor’s delivery in their native tongue.

My first encounter with foreign media was through dubbed translations. I saw many films, from classic Godzilla to Das Boot, with English voice actors speaking the dialogue. Sometimes it felt stilted, but I accepted this as a small price to pay for enjoying a well-made piece of entertainment.

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Photograph of an entrance to the temple in Myohoji

An unexpected treasure in Myohoji

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I have dozens of cables. Forcing a common standard won’t stop me getting more.

Photograph of a USB charger with various cables, beside an Apple power block

If the EU gets its way, there will be a common charging port on your mobile devices soon. Plans are afoot to standardise and do away with the pesky variety of cables and chargers clogging up our lives. The justification is to reduce waste. A noble cause.

Yet I'm not convinced plans to "force" phone companies to adopt a single port technology is the right answer. Over the past 3 years I've bought several mobile devices for testing and personal reasons, and the charging ports all fall into 3 camps:

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A walk along the river plain

Photograph of a river plain with tall green grassed in the foreground, a ridge with houses in the midground and mountains looming in the background

This is where I live. If you squint hard, you can see my house.

I’ve been looking out across the valley every morning for the past 9 months. My ambition has been to walk around along the river that winds its way from a lake up in the mountains to meet the Myohoji river. I tried it once, only to find my way blocked by Japan’s obsession with turning every riverbank into concrete.

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Can Japan’s Digital Agency overcome a lacklustre start and transform a nation?

Japan's digital agency has launched to much fanfare. The agency is tasked with transforming the country's archaic bureaucracy into a streamline, fit-for-the-21st-century administration. It should make participating in society and doing business far easier than the current world of paper and hanko stamps.

The launch was less than inspiring. Digital is renowned for being bright and energetic. The press conference was a dry, dull and dreary affair. It wasn't helped by the distinct lack of digital inclusion. No fancy launch for this digital agency: the minister held up a card with a text logo, looking distinctly 20th Century in the process.

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Black and white photograph of a shopping alley in Japan with bright lights and no people

Memories of Osaka

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A Walmart candy bin, a meme and a big lie

Graphic showing squares of an image of a boy by a sales bin in a supermarket

"A lady took her son to the supermarket..." starts the post. I'm sure you've seen it, and variations of it, as it does the rounds. It explains how the son organised a messy candy bin, and how better companies could be if they hired people with "Asperger's Syndrome".

A noble cause. Perhaps. Only there is a small problem.

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Photograph of the cruise ship Diamond Princess taken in August 2016 at Yokohama pier

Diamond Princess: august 2016

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About Ross Hall

Freelance digital editorial designer and content creator.

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