Two Apple problems this weekend
#213 Henry, 22 February 2015 9:42 PM (Category: Apple)
(Tags: iphone macbook reboot)

First, I plugged my iPhone into my Mac Mini and attempted to move music to it. Once I plugged it in to the USB port, there was a long delay and then finally I got a dialog box that said that it couldn't sync to the iPhone because the device had timed out. I tried it with different Lightning cables, I tried it on my laptop, and got the same result. I checked settings on the iPhone, and all was well.

I searched online, and the basic suggestion was the simplest - power the iPhone down and restart it. I did it, and something that simple worked. After that, I was able to connect and move music to the iPhone. If in doubt, reboot.

Second problem came with my MacBook. I opened it up, and it connected to my WiFi, and Dropbox and Owncloud would sync. Then I started the VPN. Dropbox and Owncloud dropped out, and I couldn't reach anything via the browser. I tried a number of things, even checked that the VPN was still active and my account was paid up to date. Nothing seemed to be the problem, but the VPN was not working. I thought about it, then decided to try the same principle as was applied to the iPhone. I shut the MacBook down completely, then rebooted it. The VPN connected out and things worked the way they ahould.

I guess that when weird stuff happens, shut it down completely to eliminate all temporary variables, then restart. It's worked these two times. I'll remember that.

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MacMini details
#212 Henry, 11 February 2015 2:13 PM (Category: Apple)
(Tags: macmini specifications)

To help write that last post, and to keep a record of the details, I wanted to get the model numbers and details of the Mac Minis at the command line. I was sshed in from work to home, and command line was what I had. I did some research and the methods were very easy.

First, to get the model details:

tarim:~ hgriggs$ system_profiler SPHardwareDataType                            

    Hardware Overview:

      Model Name: Mac mini
      Model Identifier: Macmini6,1
      Processor Name: Intel Core i5
      Processor Speed: 2.5 GHz
      Number of Processors: 1
      Total Number of Cores: 2
      L2 Cache (per Core): 256 KB
      L3 Cache: 3 MB
      Memory: 4 GB
      Boot ROM Version: MM61.0106.B04
      SMC Version (system): 2.7f1
      Serial Number (system): C07ML6ZWDWYL
      Hardware UUID: CE03C974-9CD7-533E-8C4C-0E2D014C0FC8

to find the description about it, take the last 4 characters of the serial number and use this:

tarim:~ hgriggs$ curl
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<name>CPU Name</name>
<configCode>Mac mini (Late 2012)</configCode>

I took the liberty of tidying the XML output so it's not just one big jumbled line. So now I have a good method for the future of identifying these devices. If I do it on Anne's Mac Mini, I see that she has a "Mac mini (Mid 2010)" aka "Macmini4,1" with 8 gig RAM and a 320 gig hdd. Anne's Mac Mini has been absolutely rock-solid over the years. Never had a single problem with it.

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Bad times with Mac Minis
#211 Henry, 11 February 2015 1:39 PM (Category: Apple)
(Tags: macmini drobo greyscreen)

I have two Mac Minis.

One I bought brand new last year. It's a "MacMini (Late 2012)" aka "Macmini6,1" with 4 gig RAM and a 500 gig hdd. After I got it, I had a few problems with it. Like it would greyscreen and need to be rebooted. I ascribed this to the memory drain put on it by iTunes that was trying to handle over 100,000 mp3s and 6,500 mp4s. I bought 16 gig Crucial RAM, matching it precisely to this MacMini model. The MacMini continued to greyscreen, with more frequency. I pulled the memory out. Then it would greyscreen about once a month, and as its only task was to serve those mp3s and mp4s up to my Apple TV, I tolerated that.

Then I added the Drobo. Now it greyscreens about every time I rsync anything to the Drobo, and if it doesn't greyscreen during the rsync, it will greyscreen 10 minutes later. Something is wrong.

The reports that get sent to Apple say that launchd had a problem. No cause, no other reason, not enough for me to work out what is happening. Now I suspect it might be the related to the external drives on this MacMini. The Drobo is connected directly to the MacMini. One other external USB drive is connected directly to the MacMini. Three other external USB drives are connected to a powered USB hub. All up, I have two 3T external drives and two 2T external drives and the Drobo. The goal is to move the contents of those external drives to the Drobo, eventually, when the Drobo has enough available space. But with the MacMini greyscreening so frequently, it's difficult to move the data to the Drobo.

I have read that the USB hubs can break down and cause problems. My USB hub is old. So my next attempt to fix this problem will be to replace that this weekend and see how that goes. Once I can get all the data on the Drobo, I won't need a hub as I will only have the Drobo attached.

Then I have a MacMini at work that I use for doodling with XCode and seeing if I can learn Swift and develop iPhone apps. I bought it used from a guy who used it for that very purpose. It's actually a Mac Mini Server. It's called a "Mac mini Server (Mid 2011)" aka "Macmini5,3". It's older than the Mac Mini at home that was brand new, but it's more powerful. The one at home is a Core i5, this one is a Core i7 with 8 gig RAM and two (yes two) 500 gig hdds. This one is rock solid. I have had no problems with it up till now.

Both have brand new clean installations of Yosemite. The server does not have the server software on it. That's an extra package I could buy if I wanted to, but I don't choose to.

So I had the idea that I would swap them, and take the MacMini Server home and use it for a media server, and take the MacMini to work and use it as a development machine.

First thing I did was install that 16 gig RAM in the MacMini Server. Ah, there was a conflict. The 16 gig RAM is DDR3L-1600 and the memory recommended for the MacMini Server is DDR3-1333. Different clock speed. I researched this and many people said you could run the 1600 in place of the 1333. I installed it last night, it booted just fine and it worked. I tested it with the Apple Hardware Test (boot while holding D) and it worked fine. The test ran a long time, and I left it running overnight. When I came to work this morning, the MacMini Server had greyscreened (I'm getting sick of seeing this) and the body of the computer was extremely hot. I turned it off and let it cool. When it was cool, I removed the 16 gig of DDR3L-1600 memory and replaced it with the original 8 gig DDR3-1333 memory. I turned it on, and it would go beep-beep-beep, pause, then repeat. I opened it up, reseated the memory carefully, and tried again. Success. I only hope I haven't fried that computer.

At home, I pulled the Drobo off the MacMini because I have Music Club night tomorrow night and I need the media server running. I did run the Apple Hardware Test on it, and that indicated that a sensor was failing. Not sure what that is, but I will re-run the tests this weekend and try for a clean bill of health. I am still within the first year with this MacMini so it should still be in warranty. I will check online for that. If it is under warranty, and the hardware test continues to show anything wrong, I will take it to the Apple store next week.

So that's where I am at. The MacMini Server at work is working just fine again, but I will watch it in case I have damaged it with the memory and the heat. The MacMini at home has the Drobo detached and I will try again this weekend with a brand new powered USB hub and I will run more hardware tests. If any of that fails, I will take my Mac Mini to the Apple Store and see if they can see something wrong with it.

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Vim for Writers
#210 Henry, 09 February 2015 4:48 PM (Category: UNIX Tools)
(Tags: vim writing)

I write software and I write home-grown web pages. I live on the command line, and my editor of choice is Vim. I've been using Vim for over 20 years. At one point, long long time ago, I knew most commands. I even made my own cheatsheet But Vim grew and grew and became very powerful. I gave up on my cheatsheet when it hit 12 pages of tiny text. I still buy Vim books, and I read Vim blogs, and I look for Vim hints to make my work easier and faster. It's the tool I use most.

I also use Vim when I write email, and write letters (LaTex), and attempt Nanowrimo novels. I use Vim for just about everything.

On the weekend, I had an email from Leanpub about a book that I had asked to be put on the mailing list for - Vim For Writers by Anthony Panozzo. I thought it would be very useful for non-coding uses of Vim.

It's about 80% finished but it's available for initial purchase. They want minimum $5 for it, suggested default is $10. I paid the $10 and bought it.

I've started working through it and oh boy, Vim configuration has moved on in the last few years. The book seems to be mostly GUI based, but there is a lot of interesting stuff in it for me. Currently it runs to 85 pages with the sections on Markdown (a topic dear to my heart) and establishing a workflow soon to come. I'll be very interested to see the final chapters.

I've bought a couple of Leanpub books and every time there is an update, they email me and I can download it. So when the book is finished, I'll get the final version. And any updates that come after.

Comes in multiple formats, all available when you buy.

Vim For Writers

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HP Calculators
#209 Henry, 04 February 2015 8:29 AM (Category: Gadgets)
(Tags: hp calculator)

I used to collect HP calculators in a big way. Then I stopped. I still use a HP-11C for daily work, a real physical calculator I bought brand new in Singapore about 25 years ago. I also use the RLM iPhone apps that emulate a HP-11C. I still love HP calculators, but I no longer own 50 of them. I just have a few left.

I saw today in Cool Tools details of a WP-34S calculator. You can buy a kit to make your own, or you can spend $75 and have someone make it up for you. It looks like they buy a real HP-30B, open it up, solder in some extra components, then flash it with new ROM. You get a real physical HP calculator with the fabulous keys, but you get an open-source version of the software that drives it.

Only $75. Must think about this.

My HP-11C is now very old. It won't last forever. This new calculator could probably last me another 25 years, so it could probably "see me out" as I've heard the Scottish describe it.

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