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Message From the Founder, May 13th, 2023


Computers, smartphones etc are supposed to make life easier. But they have also made life easier for scam artists. As a consequence, Big Tech has introduced draconian security hurdles that rely on use of at least two electronic devices for (2-step authentication). It is a given that there also has to be reliable broad-band internet/ phone system and a stable electrical supply.

In November of 2022, my almost 10 year old Apple 27 inch iMac started to give trouble and eventually died as it would not start up.  Almost at the same time, my iPhone 6S plus also went down, due to swelling of the battery that broke to screen.  I have had to rely on the people of Majuro Computer Services (MCS), who eventually managed to get the iPhone sort of working again with used parts.  A used battery had to be used, since it would take two months to ship a new iPhone battery here by sea. Purchase of a new iPhone was out of the question since I had insufficient funds due to loss of sales income. I have to stay with Apple because of all the photos and other data backed up on their iCloud servers. Also, the Everweb app I use for making websites was only available on  Apple devices.

At first, I was not unduly worried about the computer, because I had Apple’s “Time Machine” automatic back-up on an external hard drive that I had used twice before to restore an earlier iMac with a broken hard drive and then when migrating everything to the 27 Inch iMac.

Out here in Majuro, the local phone service and 4G LTE service is OK, but connection to the outside world is totally dependent upon Satellite connection.   Long distance calls to the USA are prohibitively expensive, so I use the “Magic Jack” internet phone app on my iPhone. This  usually works well if there is sufficient local network space.

At the time, my iPhone was still not working, but one of the staff from MCS installed Magic Jack  on her phone and let me use it for 2 step authentication, calling Apple Support etc. I used this and (later) my own repaired iPhone to retrieve orders directly from my Shopify E-commerce site. I then used a notebook and olds tyle hand-written invoice books to process  any new orders. These that were dwindling fast, due to a lack of chemical supplies for replacing product inventory.  An additional hurdle was that “2-step” authentication had to use a “trusted phone number”. This meant that each phone number had to be “authenticated” by Apple.  Too many failed tries resulted in up to a 30 day (but usually only 4 day) wait for approval. Talk about Kafka style run arounds!

Meanwhile back to the iMac problem: I called “Mac Made Easy” in Hawaii where I had originally bought the machine and they suggested it was the hard drive problem like before on an earlier machine. The people at MCS opened up the the back of the machine to check the make of hard drive and saw a burned out component on the mother board.  They were not sure if they could still get the mother board for the machine that was now almost 10 years old but would be about $600 minimum for replacement that had to be done by an authorized Apple technicians i.e an. Apple Store or Mac Made Easy both located in Hawaii. A  Problem was getting the machine to Hawaii: and back. Unless taken as luggage by a passenger, freight charges would be very steep and there was the element of timing and lack of sales income.

I noticed that there was a 2020 Macbook Air on display at MCS remaining from when the borders were sealed during the Covid Pandemic.  So, I used most of my Social Security Check to buy it.

We used the borrowed iPhone to call Apple support who were very helpful and showed us how to check the “Time Machine” back-up drive using the disk utility function on the new MacBook lap top. This was taking a very long time (at least a day ) when a disk utility message appeared saying that there was a corrupted segment on the drive!  The people at MCS had software to recover data from damaged hard drives but it would take several days of continuous uninterrupted effort.  Out here it is difficult to get 3 days in a row without a mains power outage! so they had to keep starting over, and then try different recovery software while weeks went by.

Finally (sort of obvious) the solution was to remove the still functional hard drive from the iMac and use IT as an external drive using a specialized cradle. .  A remaining problem is that that simple data migration could not be done, since the iMac hard drive (1 Tb) was 4 times the capacity that of the MacBook Air (250mb). I would have to cherry pick the essential items to be transferred, potentially weeks of work!. It has  been 6 days so far and I still cannot find the Everweb project files for my websites which take many days to search.  Then a new problem: Due to billing problems (First Hawaiian Bank charges $30 per day overdraft fees), I had lost my original Magic Jack account that had expired. Now this has been fixed so I could finally call  Everweb’s Tech Support. These guys are wonderful and are working in Ukraine during a war! Fortunately, they did have a complete project file for (my main 65 page website) from 2020 and Emailed it to me three days ago.  It is this copy that is the basis of this latest website update. Hooray!! Then Microsoft 365 office software (Excel, Word etc).had to be downloaded and a new copy of Accountedge accounting software.

As of today, it is again possible to place online orders through  our main website that transfers the prospective customer to the Shopify E-commerce site. I tried a test purchase, and the newly installed Accountedge software automatically generated an invoice, and took the product from inventory  just as before. In 2022.  

Remaining tasks are  to continue finding and sorting the apps and files onto the MacBook, especially the Everweb files.  I DO miss the iMac with its huge screen. Repair of the old machine or purchase of a new iMac 24 inch machine is a future option when I again visit  Hawaii and have sufficient funds.

Timely and cost-effective shipping of chemical and other supplies to Majuro is still a problem to be solved as iare my recent  health issues ( three bouts of Flu) and eventual mortality. I have noticed one thing that is really terrible: Old fashioned verbal phone support is going away and being replaced by STUPID so called artificial intelligence with multiple security hurdles to use.  It is is very stressful to deal with!  However, on a brighter note, Gin and Tonic is again available at the local restaurants!

Apologies to existing and potential customers. We ARE still in business!


Anthony L. (“Jim”) Willis Ph.D

President of Island Girl Products

PS: I forgot to mention these  additional sources of effort and stress:

Following the relief of purchasing the MacBook Air, I was able to take it to my moored 32 ft yacht to watch movies using a 120 Volt inverter connected to the 12 volt battery system. Then this lap-top stopped working because its battery could no longer  be charged.

The people at MCS called Apple and it was to be replaced under warranty This would take weeks unless I took it with me on a plane to Honolulu and back.  Then a miracle occurred -  a few days later the MacBook started working again (some sort of automatic reset?).   I now use a surge-protector with the inverter and the problem has not returned.

Even more harrowing was the time that I was late rowing back to my boat moored in the huge Majuro lagoon   I couldn’t find the boat in the pitch black (no moon) conditions. I rowed for 6-7 hours trying to make to shore  against the wind and waves.  I  ended up at the well-lit US Embassy that borders the shore. This  is about 20 miles (by land) from my departure point. The waves were so rough that I was worried about the dinghy capsizing and/or getting the new laptop ruined by splashing with sea water.