The aftermath of mainboard change

2009/03/04

In theory, exchanging mainboard on Macbook has no impact because all your data is stored on your harddisk that is untouched. In real life, there are few minor surprises.

First, your MAC address of the network card had changed. This is something you will not notice, unless Murphy’s law plays funny game with you, as it did with me. When arriving back to the office, I was able to connect to WiFi network, but the ethernet was stubbornly getting the “internal IP” – 169.254.x.x address, which is pretty much useless from connectivity point of view. We are running two separate networks – both NAT-ed, one on WiFi – mainly for guests, other internal. Not getting an IP address did not make any sense: the cable was OK, because other machine worked just fine with same drop/cable. The Ethernet connection was OK, because it worked when assigned IP address manually.

The problem was – new MAC address. During last week or so, by playing with virtual machines, I must have allocated all available IP addresses from DHCP server space. The leases are fairly long lived and all slots were taken by either computers around the office or by both running and also now defunct VM’s. One of them was still kept reserved for my old and gone MBP’s MAC address. Nobody would notice the problem, unless you tried to attach new DHCP based VM or new computer. Lesson learned – if you have problems with internal IP address does not want to go away – check the DHCP server. In home environment, resetting the router mostly helps.

Second effect of changed MAC address was that all VMs in Fusion started to ask whether they were moved or copied. Always answer “moved”, otherwise you VM will get new virtual MAC address generated – which can have impact on your DHCP space (if in bridged mode).

Third, quite unexpected effect was that Time Machine stopped working, with ‘volume cannot be found’ message. See e.g. http://www.macfixitforums.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/454151/Time_Machine_can_t_find_backup for more details. It looks like Time Machine is using the MAC address to match the backup volume with the computer it belongs to. Clean solution is to erase backup and start from scratch – or use different disk. Partial solution is a hack – in /Volumes/Time Machine Backup/ locate file that has the MAC address encoded in the name, e.g:

/Volumes/myTMbackupVolume/.0a1b2c3d4e5f

Get the new MAC address (from ifconfig) and copy the old cookie file to new cookie file – using the new MAC as name. This made the volume accessible again – with unfortunate effect that pretty much ALL content was considered as unbacked-up and first back up took away over 90 GB of disk space. But at least, the old data was still there, should the need ever occur.

Maybe this experience will be useful for somebody else – it was quite good learning experience for me.


The myth of premium hardware or why Ottawa needs Apple Store

2009/02/23

Back in November 2007, when I was buying Macbook Pro, I did order the AppleCare option, which added several hundred dollars to already pretty expensive notebook price. For moment I was tempted to go without it – after all, Apple makes top grade, high quality hardware and considering pretty low failure rate I have seen with my Windows based notebooks between 1998-2006, why to pay more ? Little did I know how much mileage will I get from the extra cost :-(.

It is sad to admit, but during last 12 months, I had three major hardware issues with my Macbook Pro. Maybe it was just my bad luck and I got a lemon, but frequency and seriousness of hardware failures makes MBP the least reliable notebook I ever owned.

In June 2008, the 250 GB hard drive failed and had to be replaced. Fortunately, I had disk clone and Time Machine brought back  everything, so no data was lost. One month ago, one of two 2GB DIMMs died and had to be replaced (to be fair, this one was not original Apple RAM, but cheaper version purchased and installed by authorized service centre). And third issue was failure of graphic card last week – which will likely mean mainboard replacement. The notebook is still in service and I am for 8th day computationally impaired, locked to spare Mac Mini or my home iMac/Macbook, stubbornly refusing using Windows based notebook …

So how would Apple Store help the situation – other than walking in and buying replacement ? As it seems, from discussion with other Mac users, Apple Stores may be the only type of service provider that actually can (and does) keep stock of replacement parts. All other service centres have to take your computer in, detect the cause, order replacement part and wait until is shipped to them from Apple in order to finish the repair. How quickly the part arrives is completely out of their – as well as your – control.  It can add up quite a few days to your repair time.

Another consequence of no-stock rule is that in this economy, to optimize shipping costs, the parts are most likely to be send in batches.  Which means more delay …

Yes, I know – it could be much worse, one could have to mail the computer somewhere in USA or overseas rather than dropping them to friendly hands of local Apple certified service depot, and have it mailed back to you. Which would add even more time, more cost, and much more chance of additional damage in transport. But on the other hand, if we had Apple Store stocked with replacement parts in the city, with a bit of luck one could walk in, drop the machine and pick it up fixed next day. Would not that be cool ?

Let’s hope that Ottawa’s Apple Store is more than just a rumor …


It’s alive !

2009/02/18

I was aching to blog about this since December 18th, when our system quietly and gently slipped into public visibility. Marked as Beta (thanks, Google for making this a legitimate way how to go live) it comfortably made it through Christmas shopping season into 2009.

Now when the site has been announced and mentioned few times in the media, I guess it’s OK to mention it here too.

What is “it” ? A new, fresh eCommerce site selling music. A lots of really good music. Without any DRM or any other nonsense, as plain good high quality (mostly 320 kps) MP3’s. The selection is actually very good – starting from several hundred thousands in December to several few million songs when full catalog is loaded. More great music being added every week.

The design of the site is pretty, modern, leveraging lot of jQuery and flash magic. In the backend powered by the probably most powerful eCommerce platform – ATG eCommerce Suite.

We go back long time with ATG. Starting in 2001 when we (we means Montage at that time) decided to bid solution based on ATG for two major RFP’s in federal government and won them both. During following years, we have digged deeper into very rich and powerful platform and built more functionality and added few more customers. This project was our first full eCommerce implementation based on ATG 2007.1. But definitely not the last one – it looks like despite the economy maladies, demand for eCommerce and specially ATG based eCommerce solution is surprisingly large and interesting amount of work is coming our way …

I am tremendously proud of what our team was able to deliver. It took lots of dedication and sweat: we had pretty aggressive deadline (full store was implemented in under two months) and complexities of the environment. To make me even more proud is that the system is running in production environment architected and developed by our team. It is not often that developers team has opportunity to be involved into complexities of the large enterprise system deployment and putting to production.

Ah, almost forgot – the URL is http://www.zik.ca/. See for yourself. Right now, only in French (primary target audience is French speaking Canadian population), English coming later.

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I would like to thank everybody who helped to make this an amazing project experience. We were lucky to build great relationship with both our customer and the end-customer, as well as with our development partners in Montreal working on different stores in Virtual Shopping Mall.

Thanks to ATG for such rich and powerful product suite. It is like great sports car: very powerful, requires skills to master it, but once you get it, you can do amazing things with it.

And last but not least, big thanks to everybody from our delivery team that made this possible. You guys rock.

Btw, if you would like to work with people that can build things like this, and have either ATG experience or at least solid J2EE, Spring, Hibernate and JSP/JSTL skills, send your resume to careers at thinknostic dot com.
We are hiring again :-).

No telecommuters please – you must be able to live and work either in Ottawa or Toronto. Speaking French is not required but is definitely a plus.


How to un-stuck unsuccessful OS-X upgrade

2009/02/07

Here is the context: in order to upgrade iLife 08 to iLife’09 (which is very nice, btw), I had to install 10.5.6 upgrade. And according Murphy’s law, one of the 2 GB DIMM’s in my MacBook Pro went bad exactly during the OS-X upgrade process.

It had two rather unpleasant consequences:

  • some of the patch files got downloaded and saved in corrupted state
  • The machine did not boot back after restart

The second problem was fixed by replacing the bad DIMM, but the first caused that upgrade to 10.5.6 was impossible: the files were downloaded, verification failed, after restart I was back to square one. There was no obvious way how to “undownload” the files.

The Apple Support representative recommended downloading the update as DMG from Apple Downloads, and run installer. The DMG of 10.5.6 had over 300 MB, while the patch file was barely 190 MB, so I was wondering whether there is better way. As it turned out, it is very easy.

The location of the downloaded files is  /Library/Updates which is normally almost empty:

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During update process, this is the location where OS-X will keep the downloaded files, as shown here:

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All you need to do is to delete these downloads (keep the plist, of course) and try Software Updates again. The updater will re-download the files and everything will work as expected:

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VMWare and slow clocks – take 2

2009/01/09

The centos 4.x we are using as platform for the VMWare VMs (yes, I know there is version 5, but we need to be compliant with RHEL 4.x because of the ATG requirements) installs by default the NTP client.

Here is sequence of steps that needs to be performed to enable automatic synchronization of the clocks.
1) make sure the DNS works
cat /etc/resolv.conf

sudo vi /etc/resolv.conf

– check that nameservers point to something meaningfull, e.g.
nameserver 208.67.222.222
nameserver 208.67.220.220
nameserver 192.168.16.1

2) check that you have ntpd installed

cat /etc/ntp.conf

– inspect the content of the file, it is quite well documented

3) make it work in runlevels 2345

/sbin/chkconfig –list | grep ntpd

– this will most likely show “off” for all runlevels

sudo /sbin/chkconfig –level 2345 ntpd on

4) Initial sync

sudo /usr/sbin/ntpdate pool.ntp.org

– do this twice, on second you should get very small difference

5) Start service / restart service

sudo /sbin/service ntpd start

Making this a blog post so that next time I need to do it I can easily find it :-). Maybe somebody else will find it useful as well.


VMWare and slow clocks

2009/01/04

I have noticed recently that most of our VMWare instances (and we are running decent fleet of them for the ATG Lab as well as internal system) if left without time synchronization, will loose get late quite a bit: some of them as much as hour or more a week.

Unix date command unfortunately belongs to those commands that I am having troubles to remember and everytime I have to use it with parameters, I end up googling for examples …

The following snippet is useful when correcting only time portion:

[tkuser@jci-app ~]$ date
Sat Jan 3 11:28:12 EST 2009

[tkuser@jci-app ~]$ sudo date -s "13:45"
Password:
Sat Jan 3 13:45:00 EST 2009

[tkuser@jci-app ~]$ date
Sat Jan 3 13:45:04 EST 2009

Weird Rogers 3G network error – fixed ?

2009/01/02

Just tried out to switch the iPhone to automatic Date and Time setting with 3G on. The time jumped from 11:31 to 11:30 (my iPhone was about 1 minute too fast) and STAYED THERE.

This could mean that the issue is finally fixed. Can anybody confirm that ?


Excellent free Git tutorial

2009/01/02

Two screencasts, about 80 and 40 minutes long are available at:

http://excess.org/article/2008/07/ogre-git-tutorial/

Courtesy by fellow Ottawan Bert Trojanowski. Really nice job of providing deep enough technical understanding with good illustrative examples.

If you want to get into distributed version control (which is IMHO way to go), check this out.


Weird Rogers 3G network error

2008/12/16

Since about Sunday, Dec 7th (I remember exactly because I noticed it when leaving the regular ByMUG meeting at Patty Bolands) my iPhone for no particular reason decided to translocate itself to GMT+1 time zone. It was not visible immediately, only emails received at 16:20 were shown as received 6 hour in the future.

All this without any changes or installing anything on my end …

The Clock application showed what was wrong (this snapshot was taken on Sunday, 16:02 Ottawa time):

img_0007

I tried to change settings for Date and Time to manual and correct the problem, but any time I switched back to keeping time synchronized automatically it jumped back to wrong time.

I believe this is a Rogers problem as it happens only when 3G is on. With Edge, you can safely switch forth and back beween any impact on the correct time. It would look like the iPhone is getting wrong information from the 3G network about time or about timezone (despite the settings of timezone to Ottawa, Canada). I tried Toronto and Montreal for timezone settings – same results.

Currently there are two workarounds:

1) Use Edge and suffer the slow speed, partially compensated by better battery life
2) Use manual setting and take into account that without network synchronization time your phone can get out of sync byt as much as few minutes
per day.

There is also discussion thread on Apple site.

I suggest that everybody that experiences this calls Rogers and requests fix. I would also consider asking for refund of part of the data plan, because this problem basically does not allow to use the 3G service we are paying for.

Chances are slim for getting few bucks back but maybe it will help to elevate the severity of the problem in their Bugzilla (or whatever they use for issue tracking).


Chapters goes Mac

2008/12/01

I have noticed few of this beauties in Kanata Chapters. Nice replacement for the beaten up CRT terminals that used to be around. They somehow looked right and familiar from the distance.

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Beautiful screen, with touch capability.

Nice presentation and user interface.

img_0835

The keyboard with unique personality.

And after looking closer, it was very obvious why:

img_0836

Proper keyboard simply must have Command key 😉

PS:I am sorry for bad quality of pictures – iPhone camera under bad light conditions…