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Tech

Replacing a BT Homehub 5

In 2013 it took BT nearly four months in to connect up the phone line and get internet access enabled at the cabinet, blaming it on “one of those things” that happens when you buy a new build house (despite the rest of the road being connected just fine).  When it was finally up and running I hoped that their newest revision of the HomeHub router, version 5 now with the VDSL modem built in instead of a separate BT Openreach device, would be better than the awfully unreliable HH3.  It really wasn’t much better.  Same poor UI, same poor UX, marginally better reliability.  It’s unusual for it to keep the WiFi up and running for longer than a week without needing to reboot it.

Over the last few months it has been dropping connections, rebooting seemingly at random, refusing to respond to DHCP requests, and generally getting in the bloody way.  Yesterday was the final straw when it rebooted no fewer than 8 times between 8:30am and 10am, and my itchy Amazon Prime trigger finger ordered an ASUS DSL-AC68U.  If I had a little more patience, or if I could find the old BT Openreach VDSL modem I would have moved away from the all-in-one type router/WiFi/modem units and picked up something like the Ubiquiti EdgeRouter but I’ll save that for a bit more research. (more…)

Reseting the LogMeIn client remotely

I use the free LogMeIn.com to manage my MacMini server remotely.

Today, after using it to reboot my router (via its web interface which is only accessible from my LAN) the logmein.com website kept reporting that the connection to the client was timing out or being disconnected.  I couldn’t get the damn thing to connect up at all.

Luckily, I can actually SSH to the Mac Mini remotely too.  So, in order to reset the logmein client, run this from the terminal:

1.  cd /Library/Application\ Support/LogMeIn/update
2.  ./preupdate
3. sudo ./postupdate

That’ll unload and reload the client completely, freeing up any timed out resources.

VMWare Fusion – Network Bridge error finally solved

A couple of years back, I posted this thread about an annoying problem in VMWare Fusion which occasionally stopped me from being able to run an image as in bridge mode.

Well, looks like I’ve finally sorted this one out.  I don’t know if it’s the inclusion of new functionality in v2 or v3 of VMF but after doing the below, I’ve not seen the problem occur for a couple of months now.  I can still easily reproduce this issue so I’m guessing it’s some kind of defect in the adaptor autodetect code [or a problem with my config somewhere].

(more…)

Finally found my name

Back at the beginning of time, internet wise, anonymity was the preferred medium.  These days, I’d rather use my own name as opposed to a pseudonym.  For example you can find me on Twitter @ianmcshane.

Unfortunately, I’m cursed with the same name as a fairly famous actor so, aside from a domain lost due to a massive fail by a UK based DNS host, I’ve not been able to get a name based domain.  Until now.

My existing and rather poorly updated blog domain (http://blog.maccarocks.com) is going to be retired.  I have quite a few fairly popular posts on there so I’ve done my best to migrate them here and hopefully Dreamhost will mirror correctly to keep the old URLs all working.

Rage against the ma.. oh, wait…

This started as a comment on <insert blog link> but escalated to a full on post of my own.
Firstly, I don’t watch usually watch X-Factor.  Of course, I’ve been at friends houses when it’s on but I don’t watch it of my own accord.
Secondly, I don’t listen to the radio in the UK (other than the occasional Planet Rock and Kerrang) and thus have little interest in what track is number one and even smaller awareness of what is being played all the time.
Thirdyly, Christmas number ones, as far back as I can remember (with the exception of Cliff Richard), have been these so called ‘novelty’ records.  I can’t remember specific examples but I’m sure there was a Mr Blobby one or some form of celebrity rehashed Christmas carol.
I do tire of hearing about X-Factor all the live long day but it’s easy to tune out/block Facebook friends/stop following tweeters.
So, why am I so interested in getting RATM to number one?
Is it the ‘F you I won’t do what you tell me’ element?  I’m not sticking anything to The Man with this, really.  No-one is – except for RATM swearing on Radio 5. 🙂  I see a lot of people putting that line to mean everyone saying “hey, F you Cowell”.  I don’t think that’s true at all.  If that were the case, there some more relevant tracks in RATMs back catalogue – infect I think Take The Power Back would have given a more obvious call to action.
Is it the ‘F Simon Cowell, he’s a C..’ element?  Nope.  Does anyone really think this is going to stop X-Factor next year or mean that Mr C will have to sell one of his myriad houses?  Of course not.
The whole thing is interesting to me from a social and technological view point.
Virul campaigns have been around for years but this is different.
This was started by one ordinary guy.  Some chap who created a Facebook group most likely for a laugh.  I’ll bet he didn’t think “I’m really gonna go out on a limb to stop this X-Factor guy”.
Of course, it’s not the first time this kind of thing has happened.  Crowd-sourcing is really taking off in a huge way.
Crowd-sourcing news at Reddit and Digg, Software companies using it to aid their development roadmaps, even using Twitter to track breaking news instantly.
That’s why it’s interesting.  However, ordinarily, I wouldn’t have bothered getting involved with this but the fact that this kind of unimportant ‘battle’ can also be used to motivate people to donate to charity made me change my mind.
Last Friday, they’d raised almost £2k.  Today, the current total is over £50k with gift aid.
Am I going to listen to the chart show this weekend?  No way.
Am I really going to be annoyed/interested if X-Factor kid is number one?  Not at all.
However, I spent £0.99 and a donation to charity to be part of something both interesting, useful and certainly something that will be a kind of folklore in geek history.
Either that or someone will stumble across it on wikipedia.. 😛

This started as a comment on Pauls post at Blog On The Motorway but escalated to a full on post of my own.

Firstly, I don’t watch usually watch X-Factor.  Of course, I’ve been at friends houses when it’s on but I don’t watch it of my own accord.
Secondly, I don’t listen to the radio in the UK (other than the occasional Planet Rock and Kerrang) and thus have little interest in what track is number one and even smaller awareness of what is being played all the time.
Thirdly, Christmas number ones, as far back as I can remember (with the exception of Cliff Richard), have been these so called ‘novelty’ records.  I can’t remember specific examples but I’m sure there was a Mr Blobby one or some form of celebrity rehashed Christmas carol.

I do tire of hearing about X-Factor all the live long day but it’s easy to tune out/block Facebook friends/stop following tweeters/ignore people.

So, why am I so interested in getting stopping some most-likely-to-be-a-one-hit-wonder kid getting to number one?

(more…)

Amazon international Kindle ships, buyers remorse imminent?

I got the notification that my Amazon Kindle order shipped today, with delivery expected in a couple of days.
In my excitement, I hopped over to the Kindle book store (accessed via Amazon.com as opposed to the .co.uk) to queue up some books and previews ready for its arrival.
It’s accurate to say that I’m left a little deflated and disappointed by the titles available right now.
I  was initially surprised to find that there isn’t an obvious way to see any of the popular Best Sellers listings, be it NY Times or perhaps anything else localised for the UK.  All I could do was list _all_ of the Kindle books and sort by ‘Best Selling’.
Top of the list was Glenn Beck with “Arguing with Idiots”.  Maybe I should know more about him but other than him being on FOX and maybe talk radio, I don’t.  I decided to get queue up the “sample” of his book anyway.
BTW the list price of this book for Kindle is $13.79 (or £8.44) including VAT & international wireless delivery via Whispernet.  Match that against the Digital List Price and Print List Price of $29.99, as well as Amazons price for the Hardcover ($16.47) that’s a pretty decent saving.
Scrolling down the list, there wasn’t really anything on their Best Selling list that took my fancy.
I remembered that Dan Brown had a book out recently and thought I’d grab the sample of that too.
Unfortunately, it seems that none of his books are available on Kindle.  Let’s clarify that, none of his books are available on Kindle for UK customers.
The explanation from Amazon is “Due to copyright restrictions, certain Kindle Titles are not available everywhere.”
I bet this is going to become a talking point as Kindles are shipped around the world.
I decided to go through the New York Times best seller list (http://www.nytimes.com/pages/books/bestseller)
Hardcover Fiction
1. THE LOST SYMBOL, by Dan Brown
2. A TOUCH OF DEAD, by Charlaine Harris
3. THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett (yes)
4. THE PROFESSIONAL, by Robert B. Parker
5. THE LAST SONG, by Nicholas Sparks
Only one of the top 5 were available to UK buyers.
Of the UK Sunday Times best sellers list for paper backs (http://tinyurl.com/d9av7f):
1. Cross Country, by James Patterson
2. The Gift, by Cecelia Ahern (yes)
3. The Private Patient, by PD James
4. Once In a Lifetime, by Cathy Kelly
5. Arctic Drift, by Clive and Dirk Cussler
Again, only one of the top 5 were available to UK buyers.
This could make for an interesting couple of days.  There are at least 3 books on those two lists which I’m unable to get at present.
Additionally, I looked for books by Max Brooks (World War Z, Zombie Survival Guide) and found that they aren’t available to me either.
Of course, let’s not forget that Internation Kindles have only started shipping today.  There is plenty of time in the next 48hrs for Amazon to iron out the copyright issues that they use to explain the titles that aren’t available.
Perhaps they should at least have a ‘notify me/download sample when this title is available’ mechanism, I hope they are working this through now.
It’s not all doom and gloom, there are of course many titles available right now.  At least I was able to get a sample chapter of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” 😀

I got the notification that my Amazon Kindle order shipped today, with delivery expected in a couple of days.
In my excitement, I hopped over to the Kindle book store (accessed via Amazon.com as opposed to the .co.uk) to queue up some books and previews ready for its arrival.
It’s accurate to say that I’m left a little deflated and disappointed by the titles that are unavailable for UK buyers right now.  This could make for an interesting couple of days worth of tech news.

(more…)

Moving to eBooks?

bibliophile |ˈbɪblɪə(ʊ)fʌɪl|nouna person who collects or has a great love of books.

I travel a lot for work and quite often my flights are longer than just a couple of hours.
This means that my MBP battery life isn’t long enough to sustain the entire flight and besides, I don’t often get to fly First Class so space is quite limiting.
I therefore usually carry a book or two in my carry on luggage.  Ranging from business style ones (Crucial Conversations, anyone?) to fiction, they can add substantial weight to my bag.  Not forgetting the expense of course.  If i’m bored at the airport, I’ll check out the bookstore there.  For example, I bought a whopping book from Dublin airport last week which wouldn’t even fit in my bag.

I’ve coveted the Amazon Kindle for a long time now, pretty much since it was released and especially since they launched the Kindle DX earlier this year.  I know I’d need a US mailing address to open a US account and get it delivered but that’s fine.  The only thing that has stopped me getting one yet is that I am concerned at not being able to buy books for it.  I just don’t know if you can purchase books “off Kindle” – i.e buy them on my MBP and transfer them to the Kindle via USB.
The last couple of times I’ve been to the US, I’ve had the Kindle 2 in my ‘shopping basket’ about to hit the “order” button but backed out at the last minute. (more…)

Clearing the BIOS password on a Dell D610

Seeing as I work in technology, that obviously means I’m the first port of call for friends/relatives with any kind of computer issue.
A couple of weeks ago, one of my wifes friends asked if I could take a look at her lappy – a Dell D610.
She hadn’t used it for a few years as she got a newer lappy, now couldn’t remember her password which left her husband SOoL when he wanted to take it with him whilst he’s away with work.
As here were a bunch of photos on there of their kids when they were younger I couldn’t simply reinstall the OS and go.
Getting the pics off was pretty easy – Installing the OS was not.
I managed to get the photos off with my trusty 3.5″IDE->USB adaptor.  Took the disk out, hooked it up to my MBP and copied them off.
Well, it wasn’t quite that simple as I didn’t realise OS X wouldn’t search an NTFS drive (probably something to do with spotlight writing the index but being unable to write to NTFS natively).
After a bit of drive wrangling, I managed to get the device to show up in Windows 7 under VMWare Fusion and quickly found the pics.
Right, just the OS to go.
I burned an iso of XP with SP3 slipstreamed in and went about trying to get the lappy to boot from CD.
Once I realised that the boot menu was having no effect, I checked out the BIOS.
Yup, completely locked out with an admin password.
This meant I couldn’t change the boot priority or anything.
Bugger.
A bunch of Googling turned me on to a method of wiping the BIOS completely by shorting out the EEPROM.
It took me a while to work it out and I absolutely refused to pay the jackass with the youtube video promising to show you how to do it for a fee.
So, in the interests of freedom of information, here is how to clear/reset/remove the BIOS password on a Dell D610.
Notes and disclaimer:
This worked for me.  If it doesn’t work for you, i’m not responsible for that.
You will be cutting metal from the casing.  You need to be careful not to leave any residue on the motherboard incase it shorts anything out.
As part of the process, your machines service tag details will also be cleared.
1. Get your BIOS locked Dell D610.
2. Get a paperclip or safety pin.
3. Get a phillips or crosshead screwdriver and some metal cutters (heavy duty wire cutters should do it).
4. Remove the power supply, battery, CD drive and HDD.
5. Unscrew pretty much all of the screws on the bottom of the D610.
6. Remove the bottom case.
7. With the rear of the laptop closest to you, you should see a white label covering the modem on your left.  There should be some black plastic covering which stops the CMOS from touching the motherboard.
8. Just above that, there are some holes in the metal casing. You need to access a chip underneath that area.
9. CAREFULLY remove the metal.
10. Take your paper clip and prepare to short out the two pins 2nd from the left.
11. Power on and short those pins for about 5 secs.
12. If you are doing it right you’ll hear the fan kick in.
13. This message will show on the screen.
14. You can either press FN+x or let it reboot.
15. Now you will be able to go to the BIOS and make whatever changes you need.
It’s actually a pretty simple process once you know what chip is where, although you must be extremely careful when cutting the casing.
I hope that helps someone and saves them a few bucks.

Seeing as I work in technology, that obviously means I’m the first port of call for friends/relatives with any kind of computer issue.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my wifes friends asked if I could take a look at her lappy – a Dell D610.

She hadn’t used it for a few years as she got a newer lappy, now couldn’t remember her password which left her husband SOoL when he wanted to take it with him whilst he’s away with work.  To make things a little less straight forward, there were a bunch of photos on it of their kids when they were younger, so I couldn’t simply reinstall the OS and go.

Getting the pics off was pretty easy – Re-Installing the OS was not.

I managed to get the photos off with my trusty 3.5″IDE->USB adaptor.  Took the disk out, hooked it up to my MBP and copied them off.  Well, it wasn’t quite that simple as I didn’t realise OS X wouldn’t search an NTFS drive (probably something to do with spotlight writing the index but being unable to write to NTFS natively).  After a bit of driver wrangling, I managed to get the device to show up in Windows 7 under VMWare Fusion and quickly found the pics.

Right, just the OS to go.

I burned an iso of XP with SP3 slipstreamed in and went about trying to get the lappy to boot from CD.

Once I realised that the boot menu was having no effect, I checked out the BIOS.  Yup, completely locked out with an admin password.  This meant I couldn’t change the boot priority or anything at all.

Bugger.

A bunch of Googling turned me on to a method of wiping the BIOS admin password completely by shorting out the EEPROM.

(more…)

iPhone sync taking a long time? Maybe a "manual" sync will help

My iPhone sync has been a real pain in the ass for MONTHS.

If I just quickly want to add a podcast i’ve just downloaded, or add a new playlist or single song, it would take at least 10 mins.
5 mins of Backing Up
5 mins of Copying Applications from iPhone
x mins of Actual Sync

The copying applications passed me by for a while, I misread it as copying TO iPhone.
It turns out there is somekind of problem whereby the applications i’ve bought OTA on the iPhone don’t always get sync’d back to iTunes.  So iTunes, instead of just downloading the app from the appstore itself, tries to copy from the iPhone.
Note:  I’ve not looked online for any confirmation of an official problem, this is just my experience.  YMMV.  I’ve also not reset/restored my iPhone at all which is what generally all ‘solutions’ begin with..

Anyway.  I decided today to download the applications that don’t show up in iTunes and make sure that what was in there was totally in sync with my iPhone.

Once this was done, the backing up portion of the sync took less than 15 seconds, and complete sync action took less than 2 mins.

Hurrah!

Migrate iTunes to a new Mac

I couldn’t find anything, via Google nor the Apple support site, that explained in the simplest and quickest terms how to migrate a functioning iTunes library to a new Mac.  I use a bunch of smart playlists to generate my own ‘radio station‘ playlist which relies on playcount, skip count, rating and other cool stuff.  That means that I really don’t want to lose the meta-data stored in the iTunes DB file when moving my data to my shiny new Macbook Pro (courtesy of work).

The last time I migrated, from my Mac Mini to my Macbook, I lost all the meta-data and really didn’t fancy it again.  It turns out it’s pretty simple and straightforward.  The following steps assume a brand new install of iTunes.

1.  Start up iTunes on the target device.  Accept the license agreement and choose NOT to add anything to the library at this time.  You should now find the iTunes folder and a blank database in your /%username%/Music folder.

2.  Start up the Migration Assistant app (in Applications/Utilities), choose “From a Mac”.

3.  Reboot your source device and hold down the ‘T’ key whilst it restarts.  It should boot up to show a Firewire symbol.

4.  Connect the source and target devices with a Firewire cable.

5.  This should mount the source disk on your target device.

6.  Copy the entire Music/iTunes folder from source to destination.

7.  Once the copy is finished, open iTunes and you should see all your tracks preserved with the meta-data intact.

The cool thing about this is that any iPods or iPhones registered with the previous iTunes installation will continue to work on your new device.  No need to format and re-sync.