Category Archives: mac

Twitter For Mac

Twitter just announced (via a tweet of course) that the native Mac app is officially dead and they will be moving an “experience that’s consistent across platforms”.

Well that’s great. The Twitter for Mac app has been a crap app for years, not really supported (slow up to be updated and I would say a lack of meaningful updates when it is actually updated. It’s basically a piece of crap. I’ve been a loyal Tweetbot user since almost day of using Twitter. Twitterific is pretty awesome too. I highly recommend either one. Both don’t display the nasty in-line ads in the recently deceased Mac app and they both sync timeline position with their iOS counterpart (if you care about such things; I do 😀).

Try either one out, I’m sure you’ll find yourself actually liking Twitter again.

Update:  Twitterific is on sale.  Get it now!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/twitterrific-5-for-twitter/id1289378661?mt=12

Tools of the Trade

I work as a Systems Administrator in a mostly Windows Server environment, plus our VMware cluster that runs on top of Nutanix hardware.  My laptop is a late 2013 15″ MacBook Pro, 256 GB SSD and 8 GB of RAM.  I’ve listed the software I’m using roughly in order of importance.  Up until I got the Mac, I had always used a laptop with whatever the current client version of Windows was at the time (XP or Windows 7).

Hardware

  • 2013 15″ MacBook
  • Dell 2415Q External Display
  • mStand Raindrop Stand (http://www.raindesigninc.com/mstand.html)
  • Apple Wired Full Sized Keyboard (the one that includes a full number pad)
  • USB Mouse

Software

  • Royal TSX (RDP and SSH)
  • Microsoft Office 2016
  • Virtual Box (Local Windows VM)
  • Chrome
  • vSphere Client (thick client as well as the web interface, which still requires Flash, hence running it on Chrome in a VM vs OS X)
  • Notepad++ for some powershell stuff
  • Dropbox
  • Omnifocus  (OS X and iOS)
  • Notability (OS X and iOS)
  • Text Wrangler
  • Super Duper!

As it turns out, at least with the way I work, this MacBook is more than capable of being used in my day to day job.  I have never been someone who installs snap-ins and other administrative tools on my local laptop.  Even when I had a Windows 7 laptop I would RDP into a “management” server that had all the tools, etc I needed.  I never liked the idea that the computer I use to browse the web (whether that be Safari on this Mac or IE on my previous Windows laptop) also being the machine that I use to connect to servers, SANs, and other bits of critical infrastructure.  That also gives an added benefit of not being tied to this piece of hardware.  I could drop this computer in the river and be up and running on a different computer VERY quickly.

There’s nothing in Outlook, all of that is stored in Exchange.  Royal TSX’s configuration is 1 file that’s saved on either Dropbox or my local documents folder.  My local instance of Windows is a VM that’s also a file location in my Documents folder.  Both of those items are simply files as far as OS X is concerned.  They are backed up regularly by multiple scheduled processes (Time Machine/Super Duper to a local USB drive, and we use Druva’s inSync to backup client machines to a locally hosted server).  Dropbox is Dropbox, what is there to backup for the purposes of this discussion?  Omnifocus is sync’d with Omni’s cloud service, and it also writes a backup of its entire database locally on a regular basis, which is then grabbed by Time Machine and Super Duper.  Notability is used for quick note taking and sync’s with iCloud, though it’s mostly used as a staging area for manipulating data or jotting down quick thoughts vs long term storage of documents (though it can be configured to backup to Dropbox if needed).  That rule applies even more so for Text Wrangler, but if there was something I wanted to keep permanently with Text Wrangler, everything is saved as a text document to the local drive and picked up by the backup methods discussed above.

Although some of these applications are Mac only, none of them exist in a genre exclusive to the Mac.  You could even make the point that if this were a Windows laptop, I wouldn’t need the Windows VM I use now.  Maybe, maybe not.  There is a lot to be said about the convenience of VMs simply being files on the host system.  It makes them easy to backup and easy to move around.

There are plenty of other applications that are used from time to time, but the list above covers the tools I use all day, every day.

Although I skipped Windows 8 and have not yet used Windows 10, I find that OS X’s implementation of Virtual Desktops (Spaces) as well as Window Management via Expose to be wonderful.  I’d legitimately have trouble moving to a computer that didn’t offer something like that.  Then there is the build quality of the actual laptop, battery life, thinness/lightness, and the great sleep/wake/sleep cycle for weeks on end that Windows was never able to pull off.  Top that off with having access to iMessage and FaceTime audio/video, being able to send/receive phone calls from my Mac, and other seamless connections between my iPhone and iOS apps and OS X, and I would be very hesitant to move back to Windows as my daily use machine.

 

 

 

 

 

War and Peace

It looks like Marco Armet has pulled the newly launched Peace content blocker from the App Store a few days after releasing it.

Pretty much the instant it became available, Peace was high in the paid category of the App Store and was in the number #1 paid position across all categories in the US store as well as the top 25 in the top grossing category a few hours later.

Keep in mind, by all accounts this app was making decent-to-really-good money when he pulled it. Most people would love to have an app in that position. To pull an app like that, you’d have to feel strongly for doing so. And even then, a lot of people would not want turn off the income stream.

I’m not sure Marco knew what he was getting into before he entered the ad blocking business, but by most indications it’s quite the Toxic Hellstew. I wouldn’t want to be in that business and I don’t blame Marco for exiting. In his post I linked to above, he prominently linked to the App Store refund page. Directions can be found here. I am glad I purchased Peace (and will continue to use it until something better comes along). I am glad it will continue working, and I’m glad that Marco is not going to be stressing about being the destroyer of the free internet (snark).

Marco, no hard feelings, keep up the good work on Overcast, and chill out. Life is too good and too short to ruin with worrying about ad networks. And for the love of God man, you cared enough to stop selling a profitable app……also care enough to not care about the inevitable backlash.

In other words, Peace Out.

Golden Age of RSS Readers?

There is been some discussion going on (here and here) regarding the new release of Net News Wire and whether or not there’s any point in creating and selling RSS readers in 2015.  If you notice, this site has 2 methods of getting blog posts out into the greater Internet.  One is Twitter and the other is RSS.  While it is true that the heyday of using RSS to consume news is probably past it’s peak, there is still a large contingent of geeks out in the world who do use RSS.  And let’s not forget that podcasts are more and more popular with each passing week, and they all use the RSS format to distribute content.

Is someone going to make millions selling a dedicated RSS reader?  Likely not.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t all be a little excited about it.  I use and love David Smith’s Feedwrangler service as a backend sync service to Read Kit on the Mac and Reconssnce on iOS.  From the looks of it, at least for this initial release of the 4.x branch, Net News Wire doesn’t support 3rd party back ends.  But you know what?  That’s fine.  In the end we have more choices, and that is never a bad thing.  Even if it is in a niche market like using RSS to consume news articles.

Check out Net New Wire here

iPad Issues While Traveling

Went to get my iPad out to do something on it, only to find it was disabled and required a connection to iTunes.  However I don’t use iTunes.  The iPad has never been connected to iTunes.  It would seem the Bluetooth keyboard in my backpack was trying to unlock the keypad on my iPad.  Too many failed entries and poof, the iPad locked itself.  That’s great if it gets stolen.  Not so great when I’m at VMWorld.  And even less great that my only option is to blow away the iPad (and all of the content I had loaded for the plane trip home) and start over with a new iOS install.  And from there restore from iCloud (but again my content for the plane trip home wasn’t being backed up to iCloud).  Best of all, the hotel wifi is slow.  It’s going to take 4 hours to download the 1.9 iOS bits (currnently running at 250 kb/sec).  Once that gets done, wonder how long it will take to restore from iCloud?  Whoever said San Francisco has fast wifi has never stayed at this hotel.

iMac Hard Drive Replacement

My trusty 2011 27” iMac had been running slower and slower recently  Nothing I did seemed to help, including a nuke and pave of the operating system (which had been upgraded in place from Lion to Yosemite).  It having shipped with an oh-so speedy 1 TB spinning drive, the first thing I checked was the SMART status of the hard drive.  It reported that it was fine, until the day it didn’t.  Awesome!

Luckily I’ve been a Crashplan user for years and I used Time Machine for local backups.  Unluckily, the Time Machine drive got disconnected back in April and no one noticed.    The OS on the failing drive booted, and my data seemed to be intact (though is it REALLY?  I didn’t check every bit and byte of every file) however the drive was borked enough that a new Time Machine backup wouldn’t run.  It would start and then set and spin and never progress nor finish.  I luckily I had a 3 TB USB drive with plenty of free space, so I downloaded the free trial of Super Duper and after a couple failed attempts it successfully backed up the User directory, which is what I really cared about.  After I verified the disk image contained valid data by opening it on a different Mac, I powered off the iMac and waited for parts to arrive from iFixit and Amazon.  Between Time Machine being present but a couple months out of date, a disk image of the failing drive, the working-but-failing drive itself, and Crashplan, I knew I could get my bits of data back from one source or the other.  That said, it was a hassle.  Plans are in place for a revamped backup routine, look for a future blog post about it.

I ordered the kit from iFixit for my model iMac.  I also ordered the following from Amazon:

The tools showed up from iFixit and the parts showed up from Amazon.  After reading and re-reading the iFixit guide, watching Youtube videos, and a lot worrying and fretting about breaking my iMac, I finally bit the bullet and took the thing apart.  I was much too involved in not messing up the machine to take proper pictures, but that wasn’t the point anyway.  iFixit has terrific pictures of the process, you can look at better pictures there than anything I could have taken.  I got everything apart without issue (with the help of my lovely wife), and even managed to get everything back together and only losing a screw for the panel into the guts of the machine once.  But the last piece, the big piece of glass, wouldn’t fit back on.  On the top, in the middle, it wouldn’t snap back on completely.  It was fine at each top corner, but the middle was bowed out a good inch or so.  It eventually occurred to me, the glass won’t go back together in the middle, which is where the hard drive is.  Perhaps the adapter I linked to above is too tall and is sticking out?

So I placed a second order on Amazon for this: Newer Technology AdaptaDrive 2.5″ to 3.5″ Drive Converter Bracket.  It’s essentially a low profile 2.5” <-> 3.5” drive adapter.  It arrived, I took the iMac apart (again) and swapped adapters.  I’m happy to say the machine went back together this time just fine, no issues whatsoever.  The second time around the process went much faster since I knew exactly what to expect.  The iMac is now blazing fast with the SSD compared to what it had been even with a healthy spinning HDD.  One thing I was concerned about was the fan noise after replacing the factory drive.  Evidently the HDD from Apple contains Apple provided firmware that reports the temperature of the drive.  If you replace it with a drive that doesn’t have that, you end up with a computer that runs the fan at 100% speed 100% of the time.  Noise aside, that sort of treatment is bad for the fan and will eventually destroy the bearings in it.  I ordered the OWC temp sensor that I linked to above.  It sticks to the top of the replacement drive and plugs in-between the SATA port of the drive and the plug coming from the motherboard.  At $40, it was an expensive component but it is working flawlessly.  That is a much better option than just letting the fan run continuously or loading some 3rd party no name kernel extension to allow you to control the fan via software.