A number >1 is 1 too many

 

 

My hard drive on my Mac was acting a little strange lately. More specifically I was getting spinners and sometimes beachballs when I tried to open a folder. This hard drive is the Users storage area for all the accounts on this Mac so I can’ afford to have it fail. Through a lot of careful planning I was able to create a new RAID1 disk on the Mac from the old RAID disks recovered from the Ubuntu servers (a topic I’ll cover in another post). SmartReporter displayed nothing and Disk Utility still had the hard drive’s SMART status as verified. Being cautious about the last “verified” hard drive that is sitting in a drawer waiting for me to save enough to take it to a recovery service I decided to be a bit more proactive and get the actual SMART results. Using SmartReporter again, I had it read out the SMART attributes and this is what I saw.Screen Shot 2012-12-16 at 6.49.30 PMFor hard drives you need to pay attention of a few things: Reallocated Sector Count, Current Pending Sector Count, and Offline Uncorrectable. The first will tell you that the media is failing so be cautious; you can continue to use the hard drive but it will fail, soon. The second will tell you if data is being copied from that failed sector to another currently (flashing yellow lights). The third is saying it’s already too late, you are losing data as we speak. The first 2 are critical, the last can make backups a nightmare because the OS will try to read a bad sector, fail, and stop any operation including backups in progress.

Knowing what was going down I immediately started an rsync
sh# sudo rsync -av /Volumes/Data/Users /Volumes/RAID\ Drive/

What proceeded was hours of frustration as things got progressively worse. Rsync would start the files would begin to copy and after a few minutes or hours the drive would disconnect. Figuring the drive might be overheating I isolated it from the others and installed another fan directly in front of it to keep cool air moving over it. Every few hours I would have to restart the Mac because the drive would stop responding and the only way to get it back is to reboot. Eventually, I started triaging data, deciding what needed to be copied right away and what could be done later. The wife and kids folder went first, they were smaller and took just a few minutes. My Library, Photos, and Documents folder was my priority; Dropbox was safe since it was in the cloud. My music folder was backed by iTunes Match (which expired a few days later) and Videos folder was the lowest.

After many hours (a day I would say) I was finally able to transfer the entire volume onto a RAID-backed array. With everything back where it belongs I relinked the Users folder and all is right in the world. I was planning to copy the data to this drive so I could format the SSD into a Fusion Drive. For now, it will have to wait while I create a new strategy to backup, format and restore to the SSD.

 

Apple TV, IPv6, and a problem

For the past month I’ve been beta testing the DNS services of playmo.tv to access my Netflix account while outside the US. It’s very simple, sign up, and change the DNS settings on your compatible devices. In the network settings of the Apple TV I switched the LAN configuration from DHCP to manual, kept the IP and subnet but updated the DNS address (originally pointing to the router which was downstream from my ISP DNS) with the DNS servers provided with my playmo account. After rebooting the AppleTV I was surprised to find I had no internet service at all. Clicking on the network configuration again should that it was manual IP, Subnet, and router, but now the DNS was changed not to the one I specified but to the IPv6 DNS of the router.

I repeated this 2 more times hoping it was some kind of error but the results were the same. DNS I entered was gone, replaced by the automatically completed IPv6 DNS address. My family was starting to get bothered (since they only complain when things break) and as a quick fix I disabled the IPv6 DHCP service on the router. Rebooting the Apple TV one more time got me connected to the iTunes Store and now Netflix.

So in summary if you want to use the Apple TV with a DNS forwarding service like playmo you’ll need to disable IPv6 services on your router. For the moment it isn’t a big problem but I’d like for Apple to fix this bug in their network stack.

An all new iPad, iOS 5.1, and Apple TV

 

Yesterday Apple released a new iPad and it was just as amazing as everyone thought it would be. First, there is the Retina display that exceeds the resolution of just about every laptop monitor on the market. The memory has been bumped to 1GB. Up from the iPad 2’s 512MB. And the rear camera has been upgraded from the grainy POS it was to a new 5MP sensor with autofocus, face detection, and true HD. The weight has gone up a little by 50grams. And finally the mobile version has an updated radio that now supports LTE.

Of course the iPad wasn’t the only thing Apple presented even though it was what everyone came to see. There was the upgrade of iTunes to 10.6. This new version now supports 1080p videos. And iTunes is furthering the Cloud as the backend with iTunes in the Cloud. Now you can watch your purchased videos on all your devices; no synching necessary.

 

With the upgrade of the iTunes store comes the upgrade of Apple TV. It’s still the same black puck with a new processor; a single core A5 processor. It’s like the same processor in the iPad 2 just with half the cores. The UI has been upgraded with a wall of buttons interface similar to the Nintendo Wii. You can now sign up and pay for Netflix using your iTunes account (now if it doesn’t do region checking that would be great). The same shitty prices still apply. $2.99 to rent a TV Show and $3.99 for a HD Movie. compared to Netflix it’s a bit pricey.

With the conclusion of MWC just a week and other tablet makers showing off their wares before this event 2012 is looking to be another great year for users, developers, and Apple. Other tablet makers are going to have to do something truly amazing to stay competitive. Adding more cores simply won’t be enough.

1955-2011

If you haven’t heard by now then you’ll be sad to know that Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, has succumbed to cancer. There are a lot of words that are paraded in sentences before and after his name: CEO, pioneer, visionary, entrepreneur, Jesus. And yet, at the same time, so many other just as notable people have passed at the same moment, like Nobel Prize recipient Ralph Steinman, and civil rights activist Fred Shuttlesworth. Each of these man contributed greatly to the human conscious and yet only one retains the headline in the news (at least in the Western World).

So what is it about Steve Jobs that draws strong emotions from so many people that have never met him. His inner circle of friends is quite small and still diverse. Being a multibillionaire means you have armed escorts and an almost paranoid entitlement to privacy, yet there are stories after stories of meeting Steve in the mall, at a sushi restaurant, in the Apple store, on 1 infinite loop, etc. He was the best type of salesman, he sold the products he believed in, and he was very prophetic. To him the idea of 2,3,4 button mouses were stupid, computer specs were stupid to a population that didn’t care, blu-ray discs were also stupid (and as an owner of a PS3, I tend to agree).

He was the catalyst in breaking into new markets. There may have been early pioneers but their technology wasn’t very good. He saw what was possible, went into it, and made it better. No one remembers smartphones before the iPhone. There are some (yours truly) that were early adopters, but we paid for it in price, bugs, and stupidity. Competitors love him and loathe him at the same time. If Apple has entered your territory it meant 2 things, you have some serious competition and you have a much larger market. The former meant you were on a countdown to get your products up to snuff, the latter meant that users that didn’t consider your product before are all of a sudden interested (see Roku, Archos, Nokia smartphones).

In business Steve was aggressive, to his enemies he was wiley, to his family he was dad.

Detours. The app that alters your Mac’s hosts file

The hosts file is a little text file on your Mac, Linux, or Windows PC that is allows you to bypass certain domain names. This is usually found under /etc/hosts. For those not really wanting to drop into command-line to edit the file there is an app for that. Detours is an application by Jerod Santo @sant0sk1 that allows you to easily modify this without having to be root and doesn’t change your hosts file.

For developers this is a handy tool in case you want to bypass a connection from going out to the internet and reroute it to, say for example, a testing or development server.

Greenp0ison released

It certainly took long enough but chronic-dev has released greenp0ison for the Mac (and eventually windows and Linux). The server was down earlier so I’ve added a link in the bottom of the page to store a copy here until they get their servers together. This works on the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad, and AppleTV2. For now it only does jailbreaks so if you are needing to unlock the phone you’ll have to continue waiting until a new version of ultrasn0w (or whatever it will be called) is released.

greenp0ison_mac_rc4

If it’s so blatantly obvious now, why didn’t anyone think of it before?

It’s been a few weeks I’ve been playing with the AppleTV. Well not playing anymore but fully integrating it into our lifestyle. One of the nice little easter eggs I found was the “Learn Remote” feature in the menu. It’s not really an easter egg as much as a feature that fills an obvious need.

apple remote

Apple remote

The Apple remote is fantastic. A little sliver of aluminum that is cool to the touch, smooth on all sides and perfectly fits in the hand. But it’s also the thickness of 2 coins stacked on top of one another. I seriously have about 10 “oh shit where did I drop it now” moments a day. It easily gets lost under the couch, in papers, on the counter, and different rooms in the apartment. It’s small, unassuming and easily misplaced.

And that’s where Learn Remote feature comes into play. Traditionally we are used to buying universal remotes, then finding the code, then entering the code and hope all the buttons work, then trying to teach the remote all the buttons it didn’t know.

Learn remote turns that on its head. Since we’ve got all types of remotes rather than adding more remotes and more complexity to the mix it takes the alternative view by saying, this device will use whatever you’ve got. My TV has a DVD functions, but they only work for the same brand of DVD player as my TV, Toshiba. So I set the TV remote to DVD, select learn remote from the AppleTV Settings menu and fire each corresponding button at the AppleTV. Play to play, reverse to reverse, pause to pause, etc.

This is loads easier than the universal remote I do have, where you hold down some combination of buttons, type in a code, hope it works but deep down you know only half the buttons do anything, and fill in the rest manually by pressing a button here pressing a button there. Then if you ever loose the original remote and need to recreate the button map, you’re screwed.

CE manufacturers of the world, are you listening. YOU NEED TO COPY/LICENSE/STEAL THIS FUNCTIONALITY FROM APPLE. This is infinitely better than what you are currently doing.

A week with the AppleTV 2G

While on my trip to Florida I decided to make a stop at the Apple Store like I normally do. I bought 2 things while there: a Magic Trackpad and the new AppleTV.

The trackpad has been everything I imagined and more. It connected to my Hackintosh beautifully and quickly. Then I ran software update to download any libraries and preference panes that it needed. I was quickly tapping, swiping and dragging in no time at all. I was confident that this was truly going to make using the computer better so I shut off my Magic Mouse and put in the drawer (I eventually took it to the office).

The AppleTV was a bit more complicated. It requires an HDMI port and all the HDMI ports on my TV were taken so I got to play with it for a little while I didn’t truly feel like it had found a permanent home. But everything on it worked beautifully. I am weary of Apple’s Homesharing simply because no one has reversed engineered the protocol so it makes it hard to use outside of iTunes. A have a lot of videos that aren’t in iTunes so I thought this would be a constraint. Seriously, iTunes is great but even on the Mac it’s starting to feel a bit bloated. Plus I didn’t upgrade iTunes on my hack to the, now required, version 10.0.0.1 that supports the AppleTV.

But never fear, some inventive developer had managed to successfully port a PLEX client to the AppleTV. It requires the jailbreak so I had to track down the micro-USB cable I let one of my colleagues borrow. None the less, a few minutes with Pwnagetool, some SSH command-lines and a few repository additions and I was in business. I installed Plex Media Server onto my hack, pointed it to the share with all my DVD rips and TV shows and gave it a few hours to update its library. I then fired up AppleTV and bob is your uncle. I watched a few minutes of ripped TV shows and browsed through the catalog. This thing is great!

Then yesterday it just so happened that the Media Center remote for just stopped working. Changing the batteries and cleaning the contacts seemed to make no difference, the LEDs didn’t fire and the damn thing never sent a signal. I took this as a sign that the HTPC was going to be taken out of service. Between the lockups, updates, disappearing devices, and the system maintenance keeping it running was turning into a part-time job. So now the AppleTV has a new spot replacing the buggy (not Microsoft, just a HID device manufacturer that never updates their drivers), loud and large HTPC that currently sits under the TV. I’m contemplating giving it away or turning it into Windows Home Server, putting it out of mind in another part of our apartment.

In the meantime, I’ve given the missus the 1-minute walkthrough of how to browse her TV shows and videos. And I’m seriously thinking of getting klexi which is by the same developer that created the AppleTV client for PLEX.

An iPhone application I’m liking a lot

Recently, I downloaded the iPhone application Zumocast after hearing a recommendation from Leo Laporte on the podcast MacBreak Weekly. I installed the server at on my Mediacenter PC and my Mac. In no time at all I was listening to music over my network, watching videos and browsing through photos. This is an application that shines.
In addition to watching videos, viewing photos, and listening to music you can also view some of your files. Because the iOS includes the foundations of the MacOS there are some files that can be read natively like txt, pdf, doc, rtf. I haven’t gone through all of them. Because reading all of that on such a small screen is futile. But it is nice the capability is there.
One of my favorite features is the ability to encode and download videos to your iOS device. I’ve already done one, the documentary “Gasland”. I have queued up a few episodes of the third season of the Boondocks and eventually I’ll see if it can also download songs and integrate them into the iTunes library. Something I’ve wanted to do but not able to try because the Mac was off.
So if you are like me and have lots of media and a few iPods, iPhones, and other devices around the house give Zumocast a try.

Steam released for Mac: First Impressions

If you’ve been under a cave than you probably haven’t heard that Valve’s Steam game service is now available for Mac. I’ve had an on/off relationship with Steam over the years. Using it on a PC, getting a Mac and all but forgetting about it, trying dismally to use it in Crossover Games, and finally using a native Mac version. You can grab it here at steampowered.com. There is also a limited time free download of Valve’s Portal to start the show and garner interest from Mac gamers.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

If you’ve already bought some of the games from outside the Steam store (in my case I have Tales of Monkey Island I bought through the last MacHeist nanobundle. You can enter your license key and it will be included in the steam menu. I haven’t tested the to see how it deals with Mac to PC and vice versa gaming. But all will be done in due time. Until then, I’m going to take this time to enjoy Portal. A game I’ve been curious for a long time that I didn’t work up the nerve into purchasing.
As for my PS3? It’s still dead to me until Sony gets off their high horse. With the price of quieter blu ray players coming down constantly that also have standard remote IR functionality. This device “that only does everything” has gotten less useful as more capable devices in my apartment have replaced it. It does less than my HTPC, it does less than my region-free DVD player, it doesn’t seem to connect to my ReadyNAS. I’m a little unhappy with it frankly.