A solution to the frequent Question mark of death for Mac laptops

Greg Hung. SFU MBA Ex IT manager from Vancouver. Aerial Video producer and Digital Nomad in Taiwan learning Mandarin

A solution to the frequent Question mark of death for Mac laptops

I hope you don’t have the same issue as I had, but if you have been getting the frequent question mark of death when trying to boot up your MacBook. I want to give you a solution that has worked for me. I’m happy to share the solution!

solution to the frequent Question mark of death for Mac
My actual laptop with the question mark folder

I was frustrated at the advice that was currently on the web so I decided to once again put on my IT hat and write a post with one possible solution that won’t cost you a lot and that you can do yourself.

Being a digital nomad in Taiwan my laptop is my livelihood, so I was freaking out for the last 48 hours.  I had plans to travel to Thailand, but after this scare I was thinking of an early return to Canada. Yes some drama. I have an early MacBook Pro 2013 15inch Retina currently on Yosemite 10.10.2 I used for creating many videos and on-line courses. I have a 13-year background in IT so I have some technical chops that I could lean on to figure this out

Who is this for?

MacBook Pro’s or MacBook air owners with frequent blinking question mark folders when powering on your laptop. I’m going to write a solution in lamen’s terms that you can do yourself.

Applies to:

This solution should work with most recent MacBook Pro’s or MacBook airs with a thunderbolt connection, the one with the lightning bolt.

What happened?How

I started to get frequent blinking folders with question marks infrequently and then more frequently. The common advice on the web is to hold down the option key, which will give you an option to select the start-up disk. They then recommend you go to system preferences to set the startup disk. Great I did this, but then it started to happen more frequently.

I would hold down option at start-up, but it wouldn’t find the internal storage. I even started to press command R to bring up the emergency options. I would then see a spinning globe call Internet recovery. This would install the operating system from the Internet and wipe out my hard drive. I didn’t want that, and besides the laptop couldn’t find the main internal hard drive anyways.

When did it happen?

I think it happened around the time I installed OS X Mavericks. I’m always weary when it comes to upgrading operating systems. In my experience with upgrading the operating systems whether it ‘s an iPhone, windows desktop, or in this case a Mac laptop there is a high chance that something will not work.

What did I do?

I had a hunch it might be a hardware issue, but there was a chance it might be software related. To make sure it wasn’t a software issue I recommend doing the following

solution to the frequent Question mark of death for Mac
the disk utility to format your external hard drive
1. Turn on time-machine and make sure you have a full-backup

The time-machine back is awesome because it will backup the OSX with all your apps and data unlike the old Windows backup. Make sure you have a successful backup. Disconnect any external hard-drives that you are not going to back up to during this backup otherwise it will take up more space. It will give you the estimated size of back up. If you can’t find time machine search by the spotlight logo and open the clock logo in the top-right.

2. Upgrade your operating system to the latest and backup again

Yes I know I don’t like this, but you have to go in logical steps. Make sure you have a previous back up in the operating system. After upgrading to the latest try starting up your laptop. If you’re still having the problem make sure you back up your system again with the new operating system

3. Replace your hard-drive at the apple store or do it yourself

At this point it looked like my hunch that there were a hardware problem was correct. I found a great resource if you wanted to open up the laptop yourself and try fix the hard drive cable or replace it. This has never been my strong suit so I thought hard for another solution.

I went to a premium apple reseller, as there are no Apple stores in Taipei. They wanted 800nt just to look at it and tell me what the problem was. On top of that they need my laptop for 3 days. This wasn’t an option.

In case you want to do it yourself this site is awesome and provides all the information


MacBook Pro 15″ Retina Display Late 2013 Teardown

4. Restoring your system onto an external hard-drive
solution to the frequent Question mark of death for Mac
make sure to exclude your other hard drives on the backup

You will need to find a space external hard drive. I recommend a 1tb thunderbolt hard-drive, as you need fast access. I’ve always relied on this hard-drive for intense video editing and it has been fine. Thunderbolt is awesome, but expensive.

You will need to Press command and R at the same time at boot up. This will give you the option to access the disk utility and restore using time machine.

You will need to format your hard-drive with Mac OS journaled using the disk utility. After formatting select the option to restore your system on the external hard drive. Make sure you backup your stuff on this hard drive, as it will wipe out everything.

I tried restoring my system onto an external USB 3 hard-drive. It took a long time, but it worked. The system was as slow as a turtle so I made some space on my LaCie 1tb thunderbolt hard drive and restore it on there. I went for a workout as it takes a while. When I came back I restarted the laptop. Anxious to see if my solution worked I logged it after seeing the Apple logo for a long time. The system was a bit chopping doing things on the laptop, but slow on anything on the actual laptop. My instinct was to restart right away. When it came back up things were crisp.

The benefit of this solution is that I didn’t have to open up my laptop and I can now use my laptop with all your programs. I was asked for the serial key to my MS office, and I tried loading Final Cut Pro X for video editing. Everything has been fine so far. Technically I could select the internal hard-drive, but this would give me random success. I could also replace the internal hard-drive at some point if there was an apple store. I think the internal hard drive at 500gb SSD goes for about $105 on this site. In the process I can still use my external hard-drive, but I’ve lost about 200gb on my 1gb to the system. Whew I can take off my IT hat for now.


MacBook Pro 15″ Retina Display Late 2013 SSD Replacement

Did I help you out? Save you some money? If so please share my post. It let’s me know that the time I took to write this made a difference. Thanks!

Chiang Mai and Taipei Digital Nomad lifestyle

Johnny FD taiwan digital nomad

Chiang Mai and Taipei Digital Nomad lifestyle

Greg Hung. SFU MBA Ex IT manager from Vancouver. Aerial Video producer and Digital Nomad in Taiwan learning Mandarin

In this 4 part video series I’m going to chat with Johnny FD about Chiang Mai and Taipei digital nomad lifestyle. If you read the current blogs on the web in 2015 and recent years there seems to be a consensus that Chiang Mai is the digital nomad capital of the world. Some of the factors include the low cost of living, weather, great food, and large digital nomad community. Taipei offers most of these benefits as well to varying degrees including friendlier visa policies. After my interview I came to the conclusion that the largest difference between the two was the lack of a digital nomad community.

My research about the Chiang Mai lifestyle led to me finding Johnny FD, and American who came to Chiang Mai and built his new life and business.

As March and April are the 2 months to avoid Chiang Mai I managed to connect with him during his visit to Taipei for a 4-part series video interview filmed at the Maker Bar.

I will be traveling to Chiang Mai during April/May 2015 to sample the lifestyle first-hand in Chiang Mai.

In the interview some of what you will learn are:

• Drop-shipping business model
• Cost of living prices of Chiang Mai and Taipei for apartments and foods
• Comparing Taipei and Chiang Mai as ideal destinations for digital nomads
• Where to get cheap flights from Chiang Mai to Taipei
• Food tips in Taipei and Chiang Mai
• Talking about co-working spaces in Taipei and Chiang Mai
• Visa-runs in Chiang Mai and Taipei

Please sign up to receive links to the 3rd and 4th videos as well as great footage and posts on Chiang Mai after my visit.

Resources for Chiang Mai and Taipei Digital Nomad lifestyle

Johnny FD – Our special guests shares his stories, income-reports, co-working space videos, and apartment tours

Neverendingvoyage – A detailed article on Chiang Mai written by a nomadic couple

Sebastian Johnsson – A recent and in depth, but well organized article

Taipei Digital nomad lifestyle – I breakdown the pro’s and cons and cost of living in detail for how to live in Taipei for under about $1000US

Vancouver co-working spaces, India entrepreneurship, & more with Raj

Vancouver co-working spaces
Raj, Revenue Manager from the Loden turned entrepreneur. He is the jack of all trades on what’s happening on the web.

In this interview you will learn the following:

  • How he built an email list to 1000 people
  • Entrepreneurship in India
  • Cafe’s and co-working spaces to work at in Vancouver
  • Why do you want to use co-working spaces?
  • Great tools and real-world practical advice to build your email-list
  • Morning routines
  • Using the cloud to give you location flexibility

Today I’m introducing my good entrepreneurial friend Rajesh Rajan from Rethink Hotels. I met him when he was the Revenue Manager of the Loden hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is very knowledgeable and I consider him the jack of all trades on the web. I apologize for the sound quality. It was Christmas and it just so to bring my SLR and shotgun mic. Raj is a positive laid back guy with a good sense of humor. It’s been 4 months since I’ve recorded this interview and I still picking up new tips!


Major take-aways from this interview

  • Using sumome tools to build an email list and the amazing share buttons
  • The ideas of using co-working spaces to work from and meet entrepreneurs in any city
  • How to warm approach someone to building your network and the importance of the network
  • Keeping an eye on entrepreneurship in India
  • That I need to improve my audio for in the field recordings perhaps with a Zoom H6 handy recorder


rethinkhotels on twitter
Social Triggers
Mailchimp Blog
Pat Flynn
The Networkhub
Trey Ratcliffe


Q1 Passive income report 2015

q1 2015 Passive Income
Q1 Passive income report 2015

Q1 Passive income report 2015

Okay I can’t believe it’s April 2015 already. The first quarter has completed and I’ve summed up my Internet Passive income streams. I admit I’ve been delaying writing this. I’ve been summing the totals in my head and I know I failed to reach my Q1 goal. However, I thought I would follow through and take stock of how far I am off.

I made some forecasts as some revenue streams have different pay cycles and haven’t been calculated yet.  For example, my income for Pond 5 will accumulate until the 15th of April and be paid out that day. So I have to forecast how many sales I will make from now until then. However, the total is roughly $2313 US. In my Vision 2015 blog article I was aiming for $3000US a month. I’m about $2000 US short of that. Lets examine what I was up to in Q1 and what worked and what didn’t.

My goal was to find a 3rd and 4th stock agency to supplement Pond 5 and Shutterstock. The positive was that I managed to get a couple of sales from Pixta. A sale on stock footage varies from $20-40 US so it is a small victory. I have 3000 approved clips with Shutterstock and 1258 approved video clips on Pixta so there is opportunity for me to improve earnings here by increasing my approved clips on Pixta. Interestingly enough the 2 clips I sold on this Japanese stock footage agency are Australian. This is good news as my Australian collection is strong. I met with the Pixta team in March during my Tokyo visit. I went to their Shibuya office and as a contributor I had suggestions for improvements to their system. The team was really receptive, which is a good sign. I was surprised to see how large their team was. The team saved me some time by giving me some tips on what to shoot. Lets see if I can get some sales from my Tokyo collection.

I also managed to get my first sales from Dissolve. Jan I sold a clip from South Africa for $24 US. In Feb I made $48US from the same clip plus one in South Africa. This report has revealed some quick wins. I’ve got 2432 clips on-line and approved with Dissolve. There are several sets uploaded, but missing some metadata. This is a quick win for me to add 204 clips quickly. I also have room to add another several hundred clips.


Other agencies like Stockgiant or 123RF have not paid a cent. Videoblocks is a new player with a really easy to use system. I have about 1000 approved clips and with this site going live April 10th there is potential for additional stock footage revenue. I was recently was contacted by Nimia after they were impressed with my aerial footage. They offered to help me by letting me use their agency plan that allows me to showcase my collection on my site, but with a professional agency experience. The footage can also be sold on their marketplace. After my brief testing this system works, and I am excited as I’ve been looking to do this for some time. With this partnership I have ramped up my ability to sell my clips.

This year I wanted to double down my efforts on stock footage. I believe I can make adjustments, and it is very realistic to bring my stock footage income up to $1500-2000US within the next quarter. Now that I’ve set up with 4 agencies that pay regularly, and 2 more on the horizon any additional footage has a larger impact. My goal is for these revenue streams to become a river. Stock footage is making up about 71% of my Internet passive income.

Resource links
Stock footage PIXTA
Royalty-Free Stock Video at Pond5 Pond5 Stock Footage


On-line Teaching

The combined on-line teaching income for Q1 was $396.55. It’s roughly about 20% of my passive income. In my earlier courses I could have produced high production courses with higher quality sound. I think this hurt the overall quality. However, my most successful course “Making money with your Travel videos” brought in $505.98 since being released in September 14. The Gopro course has brought in $292.71 since an October 14 release. The Art of Travel video has brought in $161. Since I started on-line teaching it’s brought in $1182.77 US income in 7 months. However, my highest yielding course is $505 US. Is it worth it to continue to pursue the teaching? I’ve seen other people such as Rob Cubben that are making $5000US a month primarily on on-line teaching.

Creating a course takes a long time and is a lot of work. However, once it’s up on the on-line platform with built-in audience it’s relatively hands off. I have started development of a Go Pro 4 course. One major change is that since I started working at a co-working space in Taipei. I now have access to a space and meeting room to work on the courses. The space provides a professional atmosphere and the production value of the course will be higher than previous courses. I’m optimistic that it will do well. I also have plans for a couple of more courses. I plan to release the Go Pro 4 course and I expect it to sell yield at least $300US or more a month. Based on the success of the Go Pro 4 course I can access whether on-line teaching is worth more time and effort.

I’m optimistic about the on-line teaching. Why? I enjoy it, it is in line with my values of sharing and passions for travel, video, and business. Having my courses on the Udemy platform has had some indirect benefits. It’s helped with my SEO and helped me as an established authority as an on-line instructor in the stock footage , video production, and business space. It has opened up some further opportunities.

A company in France discovered me on Udemy and contacted me to become the exclusive teacher in the video domain. This becomes another opportunity to sell my courses on their platform, which would extend my reach into France and Europe. We are close to finalizing a deal.

They also gave me the idea to bundle my courses, which I thought was a great idea to create new value with minimal effort. Rob Cubben is an authority in the on-line teaching space bringing in about $5000 US on Udemy in the last quarter. He also suggested bundling. The issue is that Udemy doesn’t allow bundling any longer. However, I can package my own digital products and create and sell my bundle through Gumroad. What I like about this is that I need to backup my course files anyways. I like to use dropbox, and Gumroad allows you to link to your dropbox files. This makes creating a course very quickly as you don’t have to re-upload the files. I haven’t tried learning on Udemy, but I can imagine the experience is not as good as Udemy.
Another company discovered me through Udemy called Zenler.com This company has the platform to create your own on-line video school leveraging your own courses. I need more time to look into it, but it looks promising. This would allow me to leverage my courses as it is non –exclusive and distribute my courses on their platform and create bundles.

Another development is that I recently got approved as a premium instructor called Skillshare. Skillshare was endorsed my Rob Cubben as another platform to create another viable revenue stream and an article posted my Techcrunch said Skillshare received 6 Million in capital. In other words, it is legit. It’s still a question mark as to how much revenue that this platform can help me generate, but it would be a quick win to get my courses. To play you need 25 students enrolled in your course. I just met this quote last week, and found out that your subsequent courses don’t need this quote requirement. This was the news I needed to hear to start getting my other courses on here. As their membership rates are low to protect the value of my courses on other platforms I could offer a scaled down version of the course.

Honestly I feel I have some opportunities I can follow to increase my passive income doing what I love. This is a lot of work for one person, and hopefully I can hire some help to assist with video editing, on-line copy, and key wording. I would like to focus on creating new courses, growing the business, and creating new opportunities for the business. I’m still working on fine-tuning the systems for the business stage. I think a reliable and trustworthy video editor and keyworder would go a long way. I would be able to focus on producing and turn the footage over to the editor and move on to the next thing.

Ok that’s the report. I’ve got the big decisions to make in the next couple of months. I’m a bit disappointed in not reaching my goals. I do see steady improvement. A year ago I was only making $146 US a month. I’ve been thinking more about trying out Chiang Mai not only for the cheaper cost and change of scenery, but this is where the digital nomad community is.

On the other hand I could return to a corporate job that pays 70-85k cdn a year. I’ve already built a foundation that could potentially continue to pay me $800-1000 US at the current rate. Okay I better stop here.

What can you learn from this?

The main take away here is that I’m revealing how I’ve made money on-line and what platforms I’ve used to do so. A friend recently asked me how do I make money from my blog. I told her that I don’t. I make off of these platforms. I’ve also share new platforms and tools that I’ve discovered along the way. I don’t know everything, but I try to share a lot of what I know to save you the struggles that I’ve been through.

If I could share some advice with myself one year ago it would be this


Rob Cubben