Apple WiFi Devices
#245 Henry, 17 April 2015 11:48 PM (Category: Apple)
(Tags: apple wifi)

My WiFi network at home is all Apple. This is fortunate in one way - when it works it works really really well; and unfortunate in another way - the devices have stupid confusing names. I have an Apple Extreme base station, one of those new tall devices. Very nice, very strong, good range, very reliable.

Apple Extreme base station

I have two Apple Express extender type devices. One of the Express devices is for my stereo. The Express has a stereo plug in the side, and that plug goes into the back of my stereo. I can play music on my iPhone or iPad or Mac, and AirPlay to this Express and the music pumps out my stereo.

The other Express serves my TV system. The TV, the Tivo, the BluRay player all connect via network cable to a small switch. That switch plugs into the Express. The Express connects wirelessly to the Extreme base station, and hence out to the Internet.

Apple Express device

The two Expresses are older devices, first generation devices and they run hot. Very hot. Disturbingly hot.

Last week I was fiddling with my wifi network and realised that I had passwords on all three devices. I knew the passwords for the Expresses, but did not know the password for the Extreme. I vowed to fix that. Then I forgot.

This week, the Express that connects the Tivo to the world got hotter, and then the wifi cut in and out, and eventually it cut out completely. I did some reading, and these older devices run hot and when the wifi is being continuously (Anne streams a lot from Netflix), they get hotter and the wifi goes out. Anne is getting ready to go to Australia and wants to control the Tivo remotely. This Express needs to work properly for that to happen. So we decided to replace this Express. The new Express devices (new design, new look, new wifi, new everything - same stupid name) look like the Apple TV but are slightly smaller and are white.

I bought one on the way home and tried to connect it tonight. I ran into the first problem - I needed the password for the Extreme base station. I did not have it, so I researched it on Apple's website and read how to reset it. First step - run around the house for about twenty minutes looking for a paper clip to unfold and use to press in the reset button. I was sure I had one somewhere, but no, could not find. Anne found one eventually. The instructions say to hold the reset button in for about a second. That didn't work. Hold it in until the green light starts flashing orange. Probably four or five seconds. Then you have five minutes (roughly) to reset the Extreme.

I was running the Airport Utility on my Mac Mini. It saw what was happening. But it got really upset with the Expresses. I shut them both down and let the app stabilise. It told me the Extreme was in orange state and let me edit it. I set the name and the password, then I had to set the SSID and WPA2 password again. The instructions said it would remember them. It didn't. I set them all again, entered the static IP address, the router, the DNS, got all that set and updated. It saved the details to the device. So far so good, except I had changed the name of the Extreme. So the app flashed between the old name and new name for about ten minutes, until it decided the new one was all it had. Then it stayed solid.

I turned on the new Express. It didn't find it, because I was attempting wireless. I turned it off, and connected it via a network cable to my main switch. Turned it on, the app saw it. I was able to configure it as an extender to my Extreme base station. Set the name. Updated the settings. It then got really confused. I had set the name of the previous Express and the app was confused and the Express rebooted repeatedly. I turned it off (pulled the cord) and waited, then plugged it in again and edited it and gave it a different name. The app then cycled through three different names - the old one, the new one, and the name for the stereo Express. Eventually, probably five minutes, the new name took. The app stabilised, the Express stabilised. So I unplugged it, took it outside and connected it to the Tivo and other gear. Turned it on, it worked. So far, so good.

Turned on the stereo Express. The app tried a few different names for it too, and made the TV Express cycle through some names too, but after five minutes, it all came good and each device had the right name. Looked good.

Then two phantom devices showed - the Extreme with the old name and the old TV Express. I clicked on both and the option to Forget them was available. I forgot them both, and then waited. The network was stable.

All in all, it took about 45 minutes. I think next time I have to do this, I could simplify it by doing two things:

The old Express still works, as long as you don't overwork it. I'll find a small use it for it somewhere.

I still have a working Apple Airport Extreme Original here. That's the really old one from 2003 that is shaped like a UFO. It only does 802.11b and g. It's slow. I'm not using it for anything. Maybe I could set up a small slow guest network with that Extreme Original and the unused Express. I still think the names are stupid and confusing.

Apple Extreme Original

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That's Not How Much They Pay
#244 Henry, 13 April 2015 4:15 PM (Category: Books)
(Tags: book)

Couple of days ago I mentioned a blog post about interviewing and the countdown from 100 test. That blogger referred to a book he had recently written. I followed that reference down and Rajiv Popat has written a small self-published book for the Kindle that costs 99 cents. The book is That's Not How Much They Pay. That's How Much They Pay You: A definitive guide to a meaningful professional life and a rewarding career. I bought it, I read it. It needs a little proof-reading, but that's just a tiny nitpick. The book is interesting and contains some cold hard truths. I read it, and I learnt from it, and I will apply it. I also recommend it.

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Mac Mini Server memory problems
#243 Henry, 12 April 2015 2:12 PM (Category: Apple)
(Tags: macmini)

I mentioned earlier that the Mac Mini Server I have been using at work to dabble with XCode has stopped booting. During one weekend, it ran amok and when I got to work the CPU was running at 100%, the box was hot, and it had grey-screened. I turned it off and let it cool. Since then, it has not booted. When I attempt, it gives a three tone beep, then pauses, then repeats.

While I was looking at the Mac Minis this weekend, I tried to boot and match the sounds to what Apple Support's List Of Startup Tones.

What I have is "3 successive tones, a 5 second pause (repeating): This indicates RAM does not pass a data integrity check." Maybe when it went bad that weekend and stayed hot for the rest of the weekend, it fried the memory. Or maybe the memory was bad. Or something. I'll look for replacement memory and see if I can get it working again. But then again, why throw good money after bad? Maybe I should just abandon this thing, and pursue non-Apple hardware.

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Mac Mini testing
#242 Henry, 12 April 2015 10:56 AM (Category: Apple)
(Tags: macmini)

I muddied the waters with my Mac Mini media server at home. I installed the latest updates from Apple. The Mac Mini is now running OS X 10.10.3. That update was big, had a lot in it, and it took about an hour to apply.

And while I was at it with all the rebooting, I decided to do the hardware test. When the OS had stabilised and there was no more updating, I rebooted again and kept my finger pressed on the D on the keyboard. Didn't work. Bluetooth keyboard. Replaced it with a wired keyboard, did it again, that worked. Came up with Diagnostics. I ran the simple test first - no problems found. I ran the extended tests, and that took about an hour and a half. No problems found. Hmm. The diagnostics tell me that the hardware is fine.

Hardware test results

So maybe all my problems are with the software. I booted it up in Recovery mode, ran Disk Utility and repaired the Macintosh book disk. Just making sure there are no residual problems. When I had done everything I could possibly to make sure the system is clean, I rebooted normally and let it sit for a while. Looked good. Started rsyncing data again, and it's gone well, but not perfectly. I haven't had a grey-screen event since the upgrade, but I've had two other issues - runaway processes, and update issues.

I keep the Activity Monitor running so I can try and see what's going on. The Mac Mini can sit there for hours doing nothing at all, just chilling. And if I try to get to it via my Linux box, like vnc to it, or ssh to it, or rsync to it, sometimes the connection is rejected. When I turn around and look at the Mac Mini screen, I can see on the Activity Monitor that there is a kernel_task consuming 98% of the CPU. What is it doing? I don't know. I can't kill that kernel_task, I can't really do anything. Sometimes the mouse and keyboard are responsive, most times they just ineffectively move a twirling ball around the screen. Only thing I can do to get control of it again is hold the power button down and wait for it to power down. Then reboot, clean, try again.

When the Mac Mini is just passively sitting there, the Activity Monitor should show no processes using more than 1% of CPU. Nothing should be happening. But stuff is happening. I have noticed in the Activity Monitor that another process will often zoom up the ranks and start consuming 98% of the CPU, and that's the AddressBookSourceSync. I know it sits in the background, like the Calendar, and regularly check for updates to the Contacts. It's normal to do that, but it's not normal to consume 98% of CPU while doing it.

And I still have an issue with updates. I noticed it when I started thinking that Evernote was releasing a lot of upgrades. I would install the updates, go on my way, then notice that a new update was available. Eventually I took notice of the version number, and found that I had installed version 6.0.8 of Evernote ten times already, and the iMovie and XCode update several times too. So I watched to see what was happening. The App Store notifies me that there are three updates waiting to install - Evernote, iMovie and XCode. I perform the update for Evernote, the App Store announces that the update was successful, puts the details down below in the Updates Installed in the last 30 days section, the count of waiting updates drops down to 2. One minute later, the count is back up to 3, and the App Store notifies me that an update to Evernote 6.0.8 is waiting to be installed.

The recent big Mac OS X update didn't behave like this. It's iMovie, Evernote and XCode that are doing it. I've Googled for solutions but haven't got a good search term yet, because I can find no solution so far.

My older big fat white Mac Mini should still be functioning, except for the hard drive. I'm going to replace the hard drive and see if I can get it to boot up. I had that machine for my media server for years without any problems like this. If I can get it back into service, I will. I am not happy with these newer all metal Mac Minis.

I'm also going to pursue investigations into non-Apple media systems, like Plex on Linux and Rokus. Macs used to be very stable, but I haven't seen that lately.

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Forgot about HFS+ lack of case
#241 Henry, 12 April 2015 10:19 AM (Category: Apple)
(Tags: hfs+ rsync)

I am rsyncing the last 2 T of data to the Drobo. I do it in chunks and restart the Mac Mini. I have noticed two sets of data that get rsynced across every single time, and I was worrying that the data had become corrupt at one end or the other. I tracked down the exact files that were being copied and then realised that it was HFS+ at fault again.

I had two directories on my Linux ext3 partition like this:

|-- 1991_Plays_Franck_And_Liszt
    |-- 01_Cesar_Franck__Prelude_Choral_et_Fugue__I.flac
    |-- 02_Cesar_Franck__Prelude_Choral_et_Fugue__II.flac
    |-- 03_Cesar_Franck__Prelude_Choral_et_Fugue__III.flac
|   |-- 04_Franz_Liszt__Mephisto_Waltz_No_1_The_Dance_in_the_Village_Inn.flac
|   |-- 05_Franz_Liszt__Petrarchs_104th_Sonnet.flac
|   |-- 06_Franz_Liszt__Two_Concert_Studies__S145__1__Whisper_Of_The_Woods.flac
|   |-- 07_Franz_Liszt__Two_Concert_Studies__S145__2__Dance_Of_The_Gnomes.flac
|   |-- 08_Franz_Liszt__By_a_spring.flac
|   |-- 09_Franz_Liszt__Spanish_Rhapsody.flac
|   `-- track.dat
`-- 1991_Plays_Franck_and_Liszt
    |-- 01_Cesar_Franck__Prelude_Choral_et_Fugue__I.flac
    |-- 02_Cesar_Franck__Prelude_Choral_et_Fugue__II.flac
    |-- 03_Cesar_Franck__Prelude_Choral_et_Fugue__III.flac
    |-- 04_Franz_Liszt__Mephisto_Waltz_No_1.flac
    |-- 05_Franz_Liszt__Sonetto_104_del_Petrarca.flac
    |-- 06_Franz_Liszt__Two_Concert_Studies_Etudes__No_1.flac
    |-- 07_Franz_Liszt__Two_Concert_Studies_Etudes__No_2.flac
    |-- 08_Franz_Liszt__Au_bord_d_une_source.flac
    |-- 09_Franz_Liszt__Rhapsodie_espagnole.flac
    `-- track.dat

HFS+ is not case sensitive. That is something I have to remember, and watch for.

I had ripped one CD in 2005 and had ripped it and stored it again in 2010. The first was in a directory called 1991_Plays_Franck_And_Liszt with a capital A in And, and the second was in a directory where the and had the a in lower case. Linux treats them as two totally different directories, HFS+ sees them as the same. So every single time I would rsync, the remote would see that 1991_Plays_Franck_And_Liszt had the wrong files in it, delete them, copy them over again, then get 1991_Plays_Franck_and_Liszt, see that the wrong files were there, delete them, and copy them in again. Every single time.

I renamed the directories so HFS+ could not confuse them. I can sort out the content later.

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