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When FileVault2 fails, it fails hard

2013-07-23 20:54:00

mac os x boot no access screen

For quite a while now I've had my Macbook's boot drive protected using Apple's full-disk encryption, called FileVault2. I've been very pleased with the overall experience and with the fact that the performance hit wasn't too big. All in all it's a nice tool. 

But today i learned that when (if) FileVault2 fails, it fails hard. 

I was on the train to work, fiddling with my Linux VMs and the virtual NICs. Since something wasn't working right, I reckoned I'd reboot the whole laptop and see if that wouldn't clear things up. Heck, my last reboot was at least 20 days ago, so why not?

Well, turns out that my Macbook wouldn't boot anymore. After entering my FileVault password the system would attempt to boot, halting at the "no access" symbol. Not good.

Basically, the boot loader's working and the part that knows my FileVault passwords was also okay. However, poking around with diskutil on the command line quickly showed that the CoreStorage config for my boot drive had gotten corrupted. It showed disk0s2 as being a CoreStorage physical volume, but this was also listed as "failed". There were no logical volumes to be found. Ouchie. This was confirmed by using the diskutil GUI, which greyed out the option to open the encrypted volume.

The only recourse: to delete the failed volume group and to start anew. I'm restoring my backup image as I write this, after which I'll be restoring my homedir through Time Machine, as before. I'm aware that both Filevault and Time Machine can be a bit flaky, so I'm very lucky that they haven't failed on me simultaneously. 

This is all highly ironic, as my Macbook died only a few days before the arrival of my newly ordered Macbook Air. *groan* Now I'm spending a few hours recovering a laptop, which I'll only be using for four more days. Ah well.

This is again a gentle reminder to all you readers to make proper backups. In my case I'm lucky to only lose a few weeks worth of tweaking my Parallels virtual machines, as I chose not to include those with my Time Machine backups (they'd backup multiple gigs every hour). tags: , , ,

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Bad kendo, great training and moral dilemmas

2013-02-13 07:49:00

Last night's training was awesome: I was beat by the end, knowing I certainly gave it my best effort.

Unfortunately my kendo was crap, because every little bit of basics was wrong. I was pulled aside by every single senior sempai with whom I crossed shinai! Heeren-sensei grabbed me twice, once to point out mistakes in my striking and once adminish me on my footwork. The same footwork issues were also reported by both Koseki-sensei and Kiwa-sempai. Ran-sempai sternly indicated that I constantly dropped pressure in jigeiko and that I was not even responding to any of the openings he made. Makoto-sempai saw right away that my timing of ki-ken-tai-ichi was completely dead and Miyahara-sensei complained about a headache from my men strikes by the end of class. She didn't think I was striking too hard or with too much right-hand, but mostly from too close range.

So every little bit of basics was wrong: footwork, striking, tenouchi, timing, ki-ken-tai-ichi, swinging, shinai grip. Everything. I didn't allow myself to get too frustrated because all of it, only getting irked a little right after the explanation and then moving on.

On the way home I had a good talk with Jeroen-sempai, about the future of our Almere dojo. We both feel that the dojo could use a heavy dose of discipline and rigour and that it would be great if it started mirroring the Amstelveen dojo. We are however unsure how this could be achieved under the current leadership. In the past I've already been told by sensei that my stance is to strict and that my teaching of the beginners' group was too harsh and that enforcing discipline to the degree I'd desire would scare off all the beginners.

Jeroen and I will be submitting a few suggestions pertaining to class structure and instruction to beginners. Most importantly, Jeroen thinks that our whole group would be best served by focusing more on basics than on waza practice. Every week the bogu-group spends a lot of time practicing many different waza for a tiny amount of time and Jeroen would suggest that we instead divide our practice into a monthly schedule: weeks 1, 2 and 3 are spent practicing one specific subject and week 4 will merge them all. I certainly think his idea has merit!

One thing that I am conflicted about is the following: both Marli and myself think that I would make faster progress if I trained at Amstelveen twice a week, instead of once and once in Almere. However, to me this would feel like "abandoning" and disrespecting Almere after all their hospitality and because I truly feel that I can help them grow through the years. So it's a moral dilemma for me: do I choose harder training and faster progress, or do I choose loyality to the group that first took me in?

EDIT 17/02/2013:

Yesterday we did not end up talking to Ton-sensei, because I was occupied before class. While the group practiced kata, I took aside three beginners and Ramon to teach them the basics of shinai maintenance. The night before I had put together a cheapass kit of tools needed for the job: sandpaper, nails (to use as makeshift awl), an exacto knife and a few waxine lights. I taught them how to tighten the tsuru and the nakayui and how to look for splinters. I'm proud of Peter for spotting a bad take in his shinai, correctly noticing that it was splitting across the breadth. 

After warming up and legwork practice I was asked by Ton-sensei to teach the beginners group, while the guys in bogu did kihon practice with those whom already have had a few months' practice. But before we got to that, I taught Felix how to put on a tenugui and his men. The beginners, I took through oki-men and oki-kote by simply doing the suburi strikes back and forth across the training hall. The biggest problem I noticed was that all three of them end up with their arms far too low when striking men: the angles are all wrong. Just like they were with me ;)

My part of their training was ended with me introducing the mechanics of seme-to-tame-to-butsu to them. I didn't tell all of it to them, just to kakegoe, hold their breath, focus and then strike.  This showed good results with the two older beginners who were indeed more focused. But the youngster (I think he's 11) was afraid to kakegoe, he felt weird yelling at me, very embarassed. tags: , , , ,

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ITILv3: bone dry material

2013-01-13 20:31:00

Dry dry dry

*cough**hack* Someone get me a glass of water! 

After getting some quick credits out of the way for my CISSP certification, I'm now moving on to ITILv3 Foundations, all according to plan. But boy, oh boy, is that some dry reading material! When I first took my ITILv2 exam in 2001, it took some slugging and then I made the certification in one go. So technically you would expect me to get through this renewal easily. Well, I'm working through this particular book and it's drrryyyyyyyyaaaaihhh. A veritable deluge... no, that implies "wet"... A veritable landslide of management terms and words, rammed into short definitions, makes for something I have trouble getting through. 

Maybe I'd better get another book :)

Pictures not mine, sources A and B. tags: , , ,

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Finally a chance to test my backups

2012-11-13 21:46:00

Restoring from Time Machine

I've always been pretty "okay" about making backups. For years now I've been pulling drive images of both our Macbooks every month or two and both our systems run hourly backups to our NAS. Huzzah for Time Machine! Well, this weekend I got the chance to test our backups!

Having been bitten by the MMORPG bug after watching to much of SAO, I decided to save a lot of time (and money?) by closing the tab with and by reinstalling Warcraft 3. A few years back my brother-in-law Hans had given me the game for Christmas, so I still had the discs lying around. But! They're for PPC Macs only and obviously my Macbook has an Intel processor. Luckily you can download a Univerisal Binary version of the game through (Blizzard's online store etc), after entering your CD keys. Which i promptly did.

Turns out that the whole Warcraft 3 game is a Universal Binary, except the bloody installer! WTF Blizzard?!

The solution is easy, yet stupid: install Snow Leopard (Mac OS 10.6) onto an external USB drive, which still has Rosetta (OS X's way to run PPC code on an Intel system). Everything went fine and I got the game installed. But when I tried to reboot to my Macbook's internal drive, I was greeted by the dreaded blinking question mark. Fudge! ( =_=)

The boot drive had gotten corrupted along the way. I have no clue whatsoever why, but it did. The only course of action, after I couldn't get the full disk encryption to open up, was to re-image the drive and restore from backups. The first part was easy: hook up my backup drive, boot from USB install stick and use Disk Utility to re-image. But then came the restore from Time Machine

As a Unix admin I was over thinking the whole process! I was afraid that, if I were to simply reconnect the Time Machine backup drive, the TM software would erase everything and overwrite it all. So instead I tried to use the good old Migration Assistant, which usually is a great idea. But no matter what I tried, it failed: MA wouldn't see my backups over the network and they wouldn't show up when connected locally over USB either. Turns out there are two good reasons for this:

  1. MA is meant to migrate from another system and because the backups were for this system, MA was ignoring them.
  2. TM backups made over LAN have a different structure than TM backups made onto a locally connected drive. 

Turns out that what I was afraid of, really is the right way. So here's the course of action that works:

  1. Re-image the drive, or do a clean install.
  2. Verify that the basic restore works properly.
  3. Use this command to temporarily enable the showing of hidden files in Finder.
  4. Configure Time Machine to connect to your original backup location. 
  5. Start a backup, which will first do a full inventory of what's there.
  6. When the actual file transfer starts, cancel to save time and space.
  7. Enter Time Machine. Browse to your last good backup date+time.
  8. Select your home directory and select all directories you want, including Library.
  9. Press restore and watch in awe as the counter of files quickly rises.

It could be that your restore borks once or twice, because a file is being locked by a running process. Most likely this is a cache in Library, or a plist locked by iCloud syncing. You could temporarily turn off all syncs and remove the offending files.

In my case, over 126.000 files were restored ringing in over 32GB. tags: , ,

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Sword Art Online: as kendoka this irks me

2012-11-10 17:16:00

Kendo mistake in SOA

Over the past few weeks I've been following one of 2012's hit anime: Sword Art Online (trailer). I love the art work, the music, the character designs, the plot and the character development. It really is an awesomely engaging show.

It is because I love this show so much that the above screencap irks me so! They put so much effort into the show, but then make such a basic mistake! If Suguha (Kazuto's niece) is such an accomplished kendoka, who's been practicing kendo for over ten years, then she would not put a shinai with its tip down to the ground! WTF A-1?! 

ヽ(#`Д´)ノ tags: , , , ,

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Oh iPhoto, you crazy!

2012-11-04 11:12:00

iphoto you crazy

I've fought with iPhoto before and by now I'm not nearly as happy with it as I used to be. Could be that it's getting wonky now that we have 16.000+ photos in there, but who knows. The screenshot above was just the latest bout of craziness :) tags: , ,

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My laziness messed up my sport

2012-08-18 20:08:00

Last thursday, I picked up my shinai for the first time since our last class in early July. I suck. A month and a half without sports has messed up my form, my condition and my perseverence. It was weird feeling a hurdle to start again and I didn't like it because kendo is something I want to do!

Practicing suburi with Martijn, I noticed that I've lost everything I've learned in the past few months: I was holding my breath, I was blocking my neck and shoulders and I was pulling/pushing with my right hand. 

I felt so frustrated and disappointed with myself. Because they only reason this happened is because I let it. So the only thing to do is to pick everything up again and get back to training! And instead of training with anger in my mind, I will use mokuso and relaxation practices (from my anxiety training) to get rid of it first.

I will pick up the Couch to 5k program again. Last tuesday my sempai Jeroen (middle in the picture above) went for a run with me, which I really appreciated! At seventeen he's über-sporty and I enjoy training with him as he's gently supportive :) This morning I went for another run, using week 3 from Easy into 5k (instead of week 2 which I did on tuesday). Tuesday I was knackered, but this morning went fine.

Time to get going!!! /o/ tags: , , , ,

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Apple iTunes Match: problem with many copies of same playlist

2012-05-31 19:21:00

Sadly, not all things Apple are awesome. 

While I love the idea of the iTunes Match service, it's wrought with problems. One of the most commonly seen problems is when Match creates dozens if not hundreds of duplicates of a playlist. In my case there are over 500 copies of a "On the go" playlist. This kills performance on iTunes and occasionally also on your iPod / Music iOS application. 

Luckily it's easy to clean up these copies using an Applescript:

with timeout of (45 * 60) seconds
          tell application "iTunes"
                    delete (every playlist whose name is "NAME OF PLAYLIST")
          end tell
end timeout

With many thanks to Apple Support Forum member TRujder who explained the script here. tags: , ,

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iPad 2 sound issues: headphones work, speakers do not

2012-05-16 09:57:00

Apparently, there are plenty people who experience problems with their iPad2 pertaining to the internal speaker. Specifically: the iPad refuses to play audio and the volume slider does not work. Thanks to some troubleshooting and help from the Apple support fora I've fixed our iPad.


A lot of people hypothesized that the problems are linked to the upgrade to iOS 5, or that you need to flip the hardware switch settings between "mute" and "rotation lock" a few times.

It's none of that. As forum member Val E Um notes, it's the dock connector: something is causing glitches, causing the iPad to think that it's dock-connected to external speakers. By wiggling a dock cable in the iPad I could make the volume slider appear and disappear. If I wedged the dock connector in at just the right angle, sound kept on working.

The solution: take an alcohol wipe, wrap it around a stiff piece of cardboard and scrape the dock connector on the iPad. Of course, first power down the iPad! After cleaning the dock connector, my sound problems are over :) tags: , ,

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Airport Extreme custom DNS setup issues

2012-05-07 17:55:00

Airport DNS setup

Tonight, it seems that UPC are having DNS issues. I was startled that we even noticed it, because I thought we were using OpenDNS. Not so apparently. When I went to change the configuration of our Airport Extreme I found the DNS IP boxes to be greyed out. WTF?

Turns out that, in the new Airport Utility one needs to do the following:

And presto! It works. No idea why the DNS boxes work that way, but they do. Oh well. At least our DNS problems are over :p tags: , , ,

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Kicking my own ass and then getting it kicked as well

2012-04-18 10:34:00

Over the past few days my mood had been getting increasingly bad. I was on edge, tired and just not relaxing. I think that a lot of that can be attributed to my recent interest in CC:TA. In my earlier blog post I wrote the game was addictive and it is: it'd become too easy to just waste a whole evening staring at that screen. "Let's raid a camp or two. Okay, I'm through my CP, so let's do base maintenance. Okay, now what? 45 minutes before I can anything else. Okay, let's read the forum and do some diplomacy!" And so on. All the reasons why I never got into WoW.

Then, last night I was this -> <- close to skipping kendo practice again, because of my foul mood. And as I sat there, watching the CC:TA screen, already five minutes late for leaving, I decided to quit the game. I'll set up my base so my alliance mates can raid it and then I'm out. Fsck that, I've got plenty of better things to do.It's a fun game, but nothing more than that.

Marli helped me greatly! "Do I need to push you to go?" And so she did. She quickly helped me pack all my gear and sent me on my way to Amstelveen. Gotta love that girl! ( ^_^)

Luckily I was only a few minutes late and I was just in time to join in with the warming up. After that followed kihon, followed by geiko and more geiko. The group was smaller than usual, but there were many high-level kendoka, including three from the dutch national team! I bowed out from the second round of geiko (the last twenty minutes of class) as I was feeling exhausted and was afraid I wouldn't make it back home.

Pointers I received from several of my sempai:

Thanks to Chung-sempai I now also know what a mouse feels like, when toyed with by a cat. During geiko, with every strike of mine, she darted aside and retaliated with two quick strikes and a giggle. I couldn't help but smile, while getting my ass handed to me.

Also, I don't think we've ever introduced ourselves so I don't know his name. One of the young guys who started in bogu only three weeks ago. He clocked me on my elbow with his tsuba. Twice. Hard. Man that hurt! ( ^_^) Arm's fine today, no worries. tags: , , , , ,

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Yech! I can tell I've been slacking

2012-04-16 09:10:00

My performance in Saturday's class was a disgrace. I can tell that I've been slacking off the past two weeks. I haven't run on a daily basis and I've skipped kendo for a week as well. All of that showed: not half an hour in class did I bow out and join the beginners' group. I couldn't push myself onward. Or is it "didn't" instead of "couldn't"? It could very well be ( =_=)

Right. Aside from my shitty performance, the biggest thing to note is that my timing on ki-ken-tai-ichi is off. Waaay off. My foot work is way ahead of my cutting. Ton-sensei specifically told me to practice this at home very frequently. 

On the good side of things: Bob and Nick were so damn happy with their Renshinjuku clothes! You may recall that I started designing some clothes in January. Those garments have gone through a number of itterations and now they look great! A few people have ordered sets of shirts and sweaters from the Spreadshirt store and so far everyone's happy :) tags: , , ,

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Maintenance: iPhoto, HFS+ and AFP

2012-01-29 10:17:00

Laptops and drives

Over the past week Marli's Macbook had been performing worse than usual. Time Machine kept on hanging, Spotlight kept on using 100% CPU on one core and Safari and iPhoto were very slow. What with TM and SL being hard drive intensive software I reckoned I'd better check out the hard drive using Disk Utility (which does an fsck). Bingo: plenty of problems detected! To a point where DU informed me I needed to boot from another drive, because the laptop's drive was too broken. :(

Booting from the recovery partition using CMD-R quickly quickly gave me access to DU again, which after a while of running puked the following error: "Disk Utility can't repair this disk. Back up as many of your files as possible, reformat the disk, and restore your backed-up files.". Basically it's telling me to grab what you can and run to the hills! Oy vey! 

Luckily we regularly make full hard drive images of our laptops, using asr (the command line access to Disk Utility). Booting from Marli's drive image was a cinch, as was making an extra copy of her home directory from the laptop. Sure, Time Machine makes hourly backups, but it never hurts to have an extra copy! The course of action was:

Making the extra backup took the most time because Marli's 42GB was turned into 120GB because the "cp -rp" made symlinks into actual files; took four hours in all! The restoration was a snap: 1.5 hours for the drive image, 2 hours for the OS upgrade and software updates, 1 hour for the homedir restore. And most of that time was spent waiting, not actually doing anything. 

While waiting for Marli's laptop to do her thing I took it upon myself to give our NAS a once-over as well. The file systems had some minor problems which were fixed easily. I then performed maintenance on the iPhoto database using the built-in tools and by doing a sqlite vacuum. That made a huge difference! Finally, because our iPhoto resides on an AFP share on our NAS I tweaked the AFP kernel settings on both our laptops. tags: , ,

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iTunes Match: what could possibly go wrong?

2012-01-21 21:54:00

I was pretty happy when I got my hands on iTunes Match. Still am by the way. But Marli? Not so much! You see, when at least one of the people using the account actually care about things like play counts and star ratings, you need to take a really good approach in switching to Match. Case in point, the rather pissed off voice mail left during kendo practice this morning ^_^;

What'd happened? Thursday I'd immediately set my Mac to syncing with iCloud and yesterday morning it was done. It all works swimmingly and I was playing music from the cloud all day at the office. Great stuff! So in the afternoon I told Marli to enable it on her Macbook as well. Clickety-click and you're done. Until this morning when she was rather unpleasantly surprised to find that all of her playlists and her meticulously kept database had been fscked up. Because my Macbook was the first to sync, iCloud assumed that it was also -my- ratings and playcounts that mattered most. She also had now gone from a library listing of ~3300 songs, to ~9000 songs. And she really doesn't want to see all my music :D 

So! Here's my tips when sharing an iTunes Match account between two people, hoping that one of them (like me) does not care about play count and star ratings. 

  1. On the iTunes library of the person who does NOT care: reset all play counts and star ratings.
  2. On the iTunes library of the person who DOES care: make a backup of 'iTunes Library.itl' and then enable iTunes Match. Finish the whole syncing process.
  3. On the iTunes library of the person who DOES care: change all the smart playlists to include the extra rule "Location is on this computer".
  4. On the iTunes library of the person who DOES care: create a smart playlist which is "Location is on this computer" and "Media kind is music". This will act as the new, local library for this person.
  5. Finally enable iTunes Match on the other person's computer. He'll now get a bunch of ratings from the other user, but won't care ;)

The main library of the caring user will still show -all- of the music in iCloud, but at least the ratings and such will be retained. tags: , ,

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Feeling extremely frustrated

2012-01-06 21:10:00

*sigh* I'm feeling very, very awkward. I'm conflicted, I'm annoyed, I'm pissed off and I just don't know what to do. 

My eyesight is awful, that's no secret. I am also a complete pansy, that's no secret either. I cannot force myself to wear contacts, so it's just glasses for me. Sadly, the kendo glasses I ordered recently just don't seem to be working with the standard helmets I've encoutered so far. Meaning that for the first time in my life my eyesight is going to prevent me from doing something I love: without good eyesight and without proper protection I'll never be able to take part in kendo

This has made me rethink churgery. (EDIT: "churgery"?! Really! I must've been out of it yesterday!)

Laser correction however is not performed under general anasthesia meaning that it's not going to happen. If I can't put contacts in or even touch my own eyeball, then no way in hell is anybody going to put clamps on my eyeball and prod my eyes. No. I need to be out cold. Which leaves us with lens implants. Sounds good to me.

Only, it'll cost roughly 2000 euros per eyeball. And it requires that my eyes are stable, which they aren't. So I'm probably not a viable patient and it'll cost us quite some money out of our own pockets. 

So many unanswered questions. So few options. But I do know this: I really, really want better eyes. And I really, really want to do kendo. I'll need to have a chat with my GP so she can refer me to an optometrist or eye doctor for a good talk. 

Honestly. If there ever was anything I could magically change about my body, it'd be my eyesight. Muscles I can take care of myself and I don't care about the stereotypical male "Oooh, I wish I could change that!". My eyes. Come on, magic genie! Come on, Celestia!

In the mean time I'll just keep on looking for a way to fit glasses inside my kendo helmet. That's gonna cost a penny too :|


It might be "wrong" thinking, a broken thought process perhaps, but I feel it's ironic, despiriting and humbling that I'm letting me stop myself from practicing a martial art that is as much about spirit and mental force as it's about physical strength simply because "I can't do something". To the point that I feel unworthy even trying to be part of it. If I can't overcome my own fears and reflexes over touching my eyeballs, how the heck am I going to overcome my adversaries?! 

Plenty of people have assured me that "it's easy to learn" and "you'll definitely get used to it". But then the frustrated voice in me yells, "Really?! Really? How are you going to teach an adult to overcome a reflex that's been burned into his mind twenty years ago? The same adult who gets violent to anybody going near his eyes?". It's not about getting me to physically touch my eye, it's about overcoming childhood traumas that have become deeply ingrained. 

Maybe I have it the wrong way around. Maybe years of kendo will help me overcome this crap. Maybe I'll be able to try contacts in a few years -because- of kendo. And to think that I was this --> <-- close to saying "I'm not worthy of studying kendo". tags: , , , , ,

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Reinstalling the Macbook

2010-11-08 23:59:00

Well this doesn't happen very often: I've been forced to re-install my Macbook after two years of trusty service. The laptop was still functioning normally, but had begun to show glitches in file saving dialogs. A quick check with Disk Utility showed that there was corruption in the file systems's inode table and that (sadly) a format and restore were needed. 

Took me four hours in total to run a full backup, then perform a clean install, then return all my files to their original locations. Not too shabby, but I would've preferred to spend those four hours programming. Oh well... tags: , ,

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How to slow down your file copies

2010-10-19 22:49:00

While preparing for a course I will be teaching in two weeks time I need to set up some virtual machines for the practice labs. All of these run on Sun's VirtualBox and FoxT has provided me with a USB disk filled with the appropriate disk images. I bought two extra USB drives, so we could set up the student's computers faster (three drives instead of one to pass around the files). 

But that's where the crap starts. You see, if I'm not mistaken all the students will use Windows boxen. I have a Mac. All the virtual machine disk images are big, between 10GB and 22GB. 

Now, the only file system that is 100% read+write out of the box between Windows and Mac OS X is the aged FAT32. And no, FAT32 does not support any files over 4GB in size. Crap :(

This means that:

  1. I have formatted my extra USB drives as NTFS, using Windows XP running in a Parallels virtual machine.
  2. I have installed MacFUSE and NTFS-3G on my Mac, to enable it to write to NTFS.
  3. I am now copying 200GB of disk images from one USB drive to the other.

Because USB is CPU-bound and because the NTFS-3G driver is experimental this ordeal constantly takes up 27% of my 200% CPU time (dual core) and the actual copy will take roughly four hours. Damn!

I think I'll quit the copy and be more selective about the disk images that I copy. :) tags: , , ,

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Apparently writing doesn't always come easy

2010-02-04 15:28:00

So far I'm about fifteen hours into writing the paper that goes with the presentation I will be giving at the NLUUG convention. It's been a while since I wrote an extensive article in English and by $DEITY does it show! I -hate- my writing! There's nothing wrong with my vocabulary, yet I seem to reuse the same words over and over again! There's maybe a dozen words that get used frequently and after reading a page or two it becomes very noticeable. Like I'm constantly stammering "uhhmm", but differently. :/

I feel like that kid from Little Man Tate, doing the show-and-tell (at first I thought it was from Two stupid dogs ^_^ ).

"Clipper Ships" by Matt Montini.

Me and my dad make models of clipper ships. I like clipper ships because they are fast. Clipper ships sail the ocean. Clipper ships never sail on rivers or lakes. Clipper ships have lots of sails and are made out of wood.

Well, first I'll make sure that the story itself's finished. Then I can get started on applying spit&polish. My brain needs a frggin' thesaurus :) tags: , ,

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Repairing Solaris 10 networking in Parallels Desktop 5

2009-12-04 18:33:00

The Parallels support team finally came through. Earlier, I reported network problems with Solaris 10 and Parallels Desktop 5. After upgrading to Parallels 5 my virtual NICs were not getting detected anymore and ifconfig was completely unable to plumb my ni0 or ni1 interfaces.

It took us over three weeks of mailing back and forth, but finally the Parallels team were able to both reproduce the issue and to provide a fix. Here's the summary of what tech support told me.

Cause of the problem

Parallels Desktop 5 now supports 64-bit operating systems. Furthermore, it will now by default boot any capable OS into 64-bit mode. This means that all of my Solaris 10 VMs that had been running in 32-bit mode all of a sudden switched over to 64-bit. This also means that any 32-bit only drivers are rendered unusable. This is what broke the usage of Parallels' virtual network interfaces.

Solution 1: forcing the OS back to 32-bit mode

1. Stop the VM

2. Go to VM configuration -> Hardware -> Boot order.

3. In the "boot parameters" field enter: devices.apic.disable=1

3a. Alternatively, add the following to /etc/system: set pcplusmp:apic_forceload = -1

4. Boot the VM.

5. As root run: /usr/sbin/eeprom boot-file="kernel/unix"

Solution 2: recompiling the RTL3829 drivers as 64-bit

1. Start the VM

2. Remove the old drivers. Run: rem_drv ni

3. Mount the Parallels tools CDROM ISO image on /cdrom.

4. Run: cd /cdrom/Drivers/Network/RTL3829

5. Run: cp -rp SOLARIS /tmp

6. Run: cd /tmp/SOLARIS

7. Edit the file and add the following lines right before the echo of "Compiling driver".


rm $driver/Makefile

ln -s $tmpdir/$driver/Makefile.amd64_gcc $tmpdir/$driver/Makefile

8. Save the file and run: ./

9. Answer the usual questions to configure the NIC. Then reboot.

I went with the second solution (might as well stay running in 64-bit mode now that I can). I can confirm that it works and that my NI interface is now back. You may find that configured the ni0 interface, while it's actually called ni1. Reconfigure if needed by moving /etc/hostname.ni0 to /etc/hostname.ni1. tags: , , ,

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path_helper: sometimes Apple does kludgy, stupid things

2007-11-18 15:24:00

I've always been quite happy about most of the stuff Apple does. A lot of their solutions to problems are elegant and pretty. However, there are also some cases in which they do awful stuff under the hood. Stuff that makes me cringe in disgust.

Case in point, the new path_helper command.

I've been an avid user of LaTexIT, a LaTex helper programme, for a few months now. It's great how easy it makes the creation of mathematical equations in LaTex.

Unfortunately LaTexIT doesn't yet work flawlessly on Leopard. One of the things that goes wrong is the fact that it just won't start :D After trying to start the app a few times, I noticed a run-away process called path_helper.

I asked Pierre whether path_helper might be tied to the problems he's having, because we don't often get run-away processes. Pierre confirmed that others have hinted at path_helper as well, but that he isn't quite sure yet. Unfortunately he doesn't have a Leopard license yet, so he can't debug the problems yet (hint: make a donation if you use LaTexIt! Pierre could use a Leopard license!).

To help him out, I dug around a little bit. What follows is what I e-mailed Pierre. If you don't want to read through the whole bit, here's the summary:

Apple wants to make it easy to expand the $PATH variable for every user on the system automatically. Instead of tagging on new PATH= lines onto the end of /etc/profile, they've created the path_helper command that gets called by /etc/profile. Path_helper reads directory paths from the text files in /etc/paths.d and appends these paths to $PATH.

So because the want to make it just a -little- easier to add to $PATH, they've:

* Created a new directory structure under /etc/paths.d

* Allow new apps or environments to add text files to /etc/paths.d

* Created a new command which simply reads text files and barfs out shell commands.

* Thus broken the Unix standard way of globally setting $PATH.

Good going Apple! You bunch of schmucks!


Hmm, this seems to be a weird little, extra tool that Apple has tagged onto the OS. I'm not sure if it's the most elegant solution to the problem. I see what they want to do though: they want to be able to easily make adjustments to the $PATH variable for all users on the system.

Personally I'd just use the global profile in /etc, but apparently Apple have chosen a roundabout way.

Each user's .profile calls that path_helper process. The only thing that path_helper does is generate the requisite sh/csh commands to adjust the $PATH variable.

From the manpage:


ath_helper(8) BSD System Manager's Manual path_helper(8)


path_helper -- helper for constructing PATH environment variable


path_helper [-c | -s]


The path_helper utility reads the contents of the files in the directories

/etc/paths.d and /etc/manpaths.d and appends their contents to the PATH and

MANPATH environment variables respectively.

Files in these directories should contain one path element per line.

Prior to reading these directories, default PATH and MANPATH values are

obtained from the files /etc/paths and /etc/manpaths respectively.


-c Generate C-shell commands on stdout. This is the default if SHELL

ends with "csh".

-s Generate Bourne shell commands on stdout. This is the default if

SHELL does not end with "csh".


The path_helper utility should not be invoked directly. It is intended only

for use by the shell profile.

Mac OS X



So instead of putting PATH=$PATH:/usr/whatever/bin in /etc/profile, Apple have decided to make a new config file: /etc/paths.d. This config file will list all directories that need to be appended to the default $PATH.

/me looks at /etc/paths.d

Actually... It's a directory, containing text files with directory paths. For example:


Kilala:~ thomas$ cd /etc

Kilala:etc thomas$ cd paths.d

Kilala:paths.d thomas$ ls


Kilala:paths.d thomas$ ls -al

total 8

drwxr-xr-x 3 root wheel 102 24 sep 05:53 .

drwxr-xr-x 91 root wheel 3094 13 nov 21:11 ..

-rw-r--r-- 1 root wheel 13 24 sep 05:53 X11

Kilala:paths.d thomas$ file X11

X11: ASCII text

Kilala:paths.d thomas$ cat X11



I guess Apple's reasoning is that it's easier to add extra text files to /etc/paths.d, than it is to add a new PATH= line to /etc/profile. Personally, I think it an in-elegant (and rather wasteful) way of doing things :/

Wait, it's even worse! The path_helper gets called from /etc/profile! Ugh! :(


Kilala:~ thomas$ cd /etc

Kilala:etc thomas$ cat profile

# System-wide .profile for sh(1)

if [ -x /usr/libexec/path_helper ]; then

eval `/usr/libexec/path_helper -s`


if [ "${BASH-no}" != "no" ]; then

[ -r /etc/bashrc ] && . /etc/bashrc



Let's see what happens when I run the command...


Kilala:etc thomas$ /usr/libexec/path_helper -s

PATH="/usr/bin:/bin:/usr/sbin:/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/X11/bin"; export PATH

MANPATH="/usr/share/man:/usr/local/share/man:/usr/X11/man"; export MANPATH


What a totally stupid and annoying way of doing this. What's worse, I'm quite sure it also breaks the Unix-compliancy of Leopard when it comes to standards for setting $PATH.

Hmm :/ tags: , , ,

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College curricula are -also- mixed bag

2007-09-19 07:35:00

About a week ago I remarked how college books are mixed bag. Some of them seem really good, though others are almost crap.

Well, the whole mixed bag deal also goes for the course curricula themselves apparently. On Monday a big discussion broke out during SLB1 about the courses' contents. Marjan thought there was too little theory, Karin though teaching by examples is great, Wouter though the maths was too easy, Badegul thought the maths were too complicated. And here I was, loving all of college, thinking everything's just right. (transcription)

The points me and Hans tried to make were these:

* College has to cater to the lowest, common denominator. During their first year they have to take a whole bunch of -very- different people and ready them for the following years. You simply can't be very specific in your teachings during the first year.

* Isn't college about going out and finding the answers for yourself? If an assignment uses terms that you don't understand, shouldn't you go investigate? Or at least talk to the docent?

At least it's good to know that I'm not the only one still adjusting to college :D tags: , ,

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Grappling with HP ServiceGuard

2007-08-01 15:26:00

Last night's planned change was supposed to last about two hours: get in, install some patches, switch some cluster resources around the nodes, install some more patches and get out. The fact that the installation involved a HP-UX system didn't get me down, even though we only work with Sun Solaris and Tru64. The fact that it involved a ServiceGuard cluster did make me a little apprehensive, but I felt confident that the procedures $CLIENT had supplied me would suffice.

Everything went great, until the 80% mark... Failing the applications back over to their original node failed for some reason and the cluster went into a wonky state. The cluster software told me everything was down, even though some of the software was obviously still running. The cluster wouldn't budge, not up, nor down. And that's when I found out that I rather dislike HP ServiceGuard, all because of one stupid flaw.

You see, all the other cluster software I know provides me with a proper listing of all the defined resources and their current state. Sun Cluster, Veritas Cluster Service and Tru Cluster? All of them are able to give me neat list of what's running where and why something went wrong. Well, not HP Damn ServiceGuard. Feh!

We ended up stopping the database manually and resetting all kinds of flags on the cluster software. Finally, after six hours (instead of the original two), I got off from work around 23:00. Yes... /me heartily dislikes HP ServiceGuard. tags: , , , ,

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Sun Fire V890: pretty, but with a nasty flaw

2007-07-17 10:12:00

The ports section of the V890.

Oy vey! One of the folks on the Sun Fire V890 must've been mesjoge! Why else would you decided to make such a weird design decision?!

What's up? I'll tell you what's up!

For some reason the design team decided to throw out the RJ45 console port that's been a Sun standard for nigh on ten years. And what did they replace it with? A DB25 port commonly seen in the Mesozoic Era! Good lord! This left me stranded without the proper cable for this morning's installation (thankfully I could borrow one). However, it also requires us to get completely new and different cables for our Cyclades console server!

Bad Sun! How could you make such a silly decision?! tags: , , , ,

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