[solved] Mac OS X Won’t Erase USB

The usually painless process of creating a bootable linux usb was rather sucking today.

First, I’d get the “disk you inserted was not readable by this computer” error (below) but I wasn’t worried.


Then, when trying to erase it using Disk Utility, I’d get the “Erasing process has failed”.


Once, I think, it actually started to erase one of the USBs I tried before failing.

It was only after a couple tries that I clicked “Show Details” but that didn’t help Google help me find any answers. Not the answers I needed anyway.

I saw more than one post online about Sierra (I have High Sierra) failing to erase USB flash drives. The solution was using Disk Utilities > First Aid but that didn’t work for me.

As it turns out, the problem was the USB sticks in question were formatted as FAT-32 which, apparently, Mac can format to but not read from. So I did this (step-by-step instructions below screenshot):


In the terminal, type:

diskutil list

Carefully and accurately determine which disk is actually the one you actually want to actually erase — the 8GB size was the clue I wanted /dev/disk3. Using that information to erase the USB — not my hard drive — I typed:

diskutil unmountDisk force /dev/disk3

I’m not sure how much that step mattered for me as I don’t think my USBs were even mounting.

Lastly, type:

diskutil erasedisk MS-DOS UNNAMED /dev/disk3

Your formatting type may differ as might your disk identifier.

I went back to Disk Utility and, right away, it looked different.

BEFORE fixing it in the terminal. Note the 2.5 MB capacity with Zero KB available.
AFTER fixing it in the terminal. Note the 7.81 GB capacity with 7.79 GB available.

Finally, I went through my usual process to Create a bootable USB stick on macOS.

First, because I’m a stickler for following directions (follow the link for simple and easy instructions), I erased it in Disk Utility which, this time, gave me a happy, green checkmark.


I then used Etcher to, most triumphantly, create my bootable USB.


This is all an example of why MacOS rules and Windows drools. In the rare occasions something goes wrong, you can fix it easily. For the time being. Apple is, slowly but surely, f***ing that up on both counts and that is an example of why I increasingly use Linux instead.


Fixing iMac WebCam

I keep meaning to post about anything that breaks and I learn to fix. I do that a lot but nowhere near as often as I learn and fix things. My latest issue was my iMac‘s webcam not working. I’d just get a black “screen” where my face usually is.

Fortunately, the fix was less scary (sometimes, just typing stuff I don’t know or understand into the terminal is frightening but I’m so desperate, I can’t wait) and much easier than usual.

If your iMac webcam isn’t working in PhotoBooth or FaceTime, for example, type the following into the Terminal:

sudo killall VDCAssistant

You’ll probably have to type your administrator password.

I didn’t even need to restart PhotoBooth.

Well, Looky Here …

MacHTTP-Js Preview for MacOS Released (from MacTech.com) and MacHTTP.org, an “open source organization supporting the MacHTTP family of web servers made for the 21st century.”

Releases for Windows and Linux coming soon …

When Apple Stickers Meant Something

Just read “The difference between iPhone users and Android users” by Zach Epstein.

I can still vividly remember the moment in 2000 when I decided to buy a Macintosh computer. I’d used them in my college computer lab and, once in a while, taught in the “mac room” where I taught software classes like MS Office, Adobe apps (even before CS), Quark Xpress, and Macromedia products. My employer allowed us to buy computers and have it taken out of our paychecks over time so I could finally afford one of my own.

I was teaching in the Mac room that day and one of the students asked something to the effect of, “You’re getting a Mac, right?” I said I honestly didn’t know what any difference might be other than the UI.

“Let me show you a couple things,” he said.

In less than five minutes, I was convinced and hungry for more.

After several years, I upgraded from a G4 to a G5.


The Macs in our mac rooms at various locations were a couple models behind — especially once OSX was released. Over time, I pleaded for the company to upgrade but their answer was always, “Demand for Macs is dying” followed sometimes by predictions of the company dying as well. Try as I might, I couldn’t get them to see that demand for our classes was dying because every day our equipment and software was more out of date.

The iMac seemed to revive interest a wee bit for a while but cars wearing an Apple sticker  like mine were rare and I think only other Mac users really recognized it.

I faithfully bought magazines like MacAddict, MacUser and MacWorld every month and, sometimes, more expensive graphics magazines as well, photocopying the most useful articles for my students. I also loved finding the few great Mac websites and passing them along.

Then a funny thing happened. I’ve never bought an iPod, but received an iPod Mini as a gift and I liked it quite a lot. I miss it but I’d never pay for a such a thing. That same person bought me a Droid which I honestly thought was superior to the iPhone (and I could hack around with it) except for the fact that it wouldn’t sync with iTunes.

A couple years ago I bought a used iPhone 4 for approximately $100. I needed a new phone and I couldn’t tell you what ever happened to my iPod Mini. I no longer use it (or anything else) for a mobile phone. I’d still use it as a music player if my “new” car had an auxiliary jack. Sometimes I’ll use it as a camera.

I just don’t really have a use or desire for Apple iToys.

Now I have an iMac. It’s like owning a minivan. I miss being a “real” Mac user. I bought the stupid thing when I hadn’t upgraded in a long time and Apple had seemingly abandoned their line of desktops.  My lust for the yummy new PowerMacs turns my skin a deep slimy envious green when I covet the ones I see on friends’ desks.

I miss feeling unique. Macbooks, iPads, etc. have turned … there’s really no more “Mac users” as such because those with Apple stickers on their cars are now just … consumers.

It’s been over a decade since I bought a Mac-related magazine … there’s nothing new to learn. Honestly, the thing I now love most about my Mac is making use of the web server and unix environment while becoming a more serious coder. Even then, I prefer my Ubuntu laptop.

My next new computer (way in the future) will reflect that … something I make myself or buy without much investment that I can put Linux on.

Why isn’t Mac OS the best anymore?

Who’d have thought trying to hop between a Mac and Linux would be such a pain in the butt? It probably wouldn’t be but I don’t use Mac 100% of the time. My laptop is Ubuntu and my desktop is an iMac. This means I don’t have to deal with Homebrew, for example, all the time and don’t have little, basic things committed to memory. I could use the laptop even when I’m home but I much prefer having my giant screen available so I can see everything I need to at a glance without switching, minimizing, and maximizing windows. And, of course, the non-existent people who have read this blog from the beginning know that my Mac’s webserver became a mess almost instantly. When all I knew was Mac vs. Windows, Mac was clearly the winner–even as the Mac OS got less awesome over time … but now that Linux is part of my world, even Mac just gets on my nerves.

Learning VIM and Stuff

At some point during your Linux learning experience, you realize you must do some file editing in the command line because your editing app of choice doesn’t have permissions to save the file in question and you really, really don’t feel like looking up the commands for opening that app with sudo in the command line again.

Like me, I’m sure you dreaded each time you had to choose which of the intimidating command line editors you’d open, then search for a web page that clearly explained how to use that app (re-learning what little you learned and forgot the last time), and mutter/curse to yourself as you screwed it up but, hopefully, eventually finished the tiny task that should have taken you a tiny fraction of the time you spent on it.

A couple days ago, I stumbled upon this:


Honestly, I’m more impressed with the concept and execution than I am the learning experience. So, there you go, sometimes a great “user experience” doesn’t mean a great “learning experience.”

Fortunately, I then stumbled on THIS:

Just type "vimtutor" in your terminal.
Just type “vimtutor” in your terminal.

An even better (far superior, in fact) interactive tutorial you already have.

Adobe CC and El Capitan

Illustrator CC started running increasingly slower until it just started crashing.

Then the whole computer started freezing in an ugly way and crashing like I’d never seen a Mac do in my 16+ years of using them. After blaming Apple in general and Tim Cook specifically for a perceived decline I decided to take my “late 2013” iMac to the Genius Bar which is always a humiliating experience.

Then I thought, “F**k that,” and started Googling and troubleshooting until I found two things that solved both problems.

Illustrator CC, Specifically

As it turns out, Illustrator freezing was (at least partially) related to another frustrating Illustrator problem–all shortcuts and menu options for “Fit In Window” stopped working! Here’s a more detailed description of the problem and the solution (I love that I supplied my own correct answer):

Deselect Application Frame under the Window menu
Now, if only I could get my Adobe avatar to change. Of all things, a football is the worst–my sole reason for not using Dribble is it’s named after a sports reference. Ew.

El Capitan (and Adobe CC), Generally

El Capitan by itself, and especially with Adobe CC, has caused people lots of grief. I’m not entirely sure which of the following (perhaps a combination of them all) cured my system, but it runs perfectly again. Personally, I agree with those who say the Permissions are–despite the Apple party line–the culprit. It’s quite possible Apple’s message that El Capitan verifies and repairs Permissions automatically (including during install) and regularly so we don’t have to is true BUT upgrading a Mac with Adobe CC to El Capitan or maybe even upgrading to Adobe CC (by the way: Don’t, if you can avoid it … buy some used discs … SASS is a crime) in El Capitan cruds up your Permissions. Regardless, it was after I did the Permissions bit below that cured my Mac’s ills.

Many discussions and forums advised users to reinstall Illustrator or the entire suite, which I didn’t want to do and, as it turns out, didn’t have to. These easy steps (maybe not even all of them) were all I needed.

  • Access Disk Utility in the Recovery Tools (allows it to do things it can’t while you’re logged in) by restarting and, when you hear the startup chime, holding down the Command and R keys (or just Option … apparently, for some Macs, it’s different). Open Disk Utility and, under the First Aid tab, run Verify Disk and Repair Disk.
  • According to one article, repairing Disk Permissions, (not the same as Repair Disk), “can profoundly increase your Mac’s performance or just do nothing.” Restart the Mac as described above (for the same reason). Choose Terminal from the Utilities menu and, after typing the code below, restart using the Apple menu.
    sudo /usr/libexec/repair_packages –verify –standard-pkgs /
    sudo /usr/libexec/repair_packages –repair –standard-pkgs /
  • Reset SMC (Systems Management Controller) by turning off the Mac, unplugging the power cable, wait at least 15 seconds, reconnect power cable and wait at least another 5 seconds, and restart.
  • Zapping the PRAM is now resetting the NVRAM. Restart the Mac and, before anything appears, start holding the Command, Option, P and R keys together. Release when you hear the chime (one article says to wait until it chimes twice).