Installing Mavericks or Yosemite on Mac laptop after battery failure

Had a number of issues with installing Mavericks or Yosemite on Macs that have had a dead battery.  By “dead” I mean, either run flat and left in a cupboard or on a desk for a week or more before we’ve got around to rebuilding them, or where the battery itself has died and needed replacing, before the software is rebuilt.

Each time we’ve had to do it, we’ve ended up scratching heads and usually ended up simply cloning a hard drive from a working machine.  Today, I had some time waiting for other tasks to complete, and managed to hit up Google for some research, one common thread hit me…

When a laptop battery dies, chances are that if you leave it long enough, any onboard backup battery for CMOS/BIOS/PRAM/NVRAM or whatever other backed up settings, and the onboard realtime clock, will eventually go flat too.

Usually the first sign on replacement or recharge is that the date and time are wrong.  So the first thing a Mac can do is either prompt the user that the date and time are wrong and need resetting, or if it’s already online it can contact an NTP server and correct itself.  But when you’re installing from scratch, it does neither of those things.  In fact, it doesn’t even show you what the date and time are, unless you go well out of your way and ask it.  So the first sign that something’s wrong at this stage is that you get an error message, like:

  • “An Error occurred while preparing the installation.  Try running this application again.”
  • “This copy of the Install OS X Yosemite application can’t be verified. It may have been corrupted or tampered with during downloading.”

The fix, to get an install going here this afternoon, was easy:

  1. Get the installer booting, either from an external USB drive, or from Target Disk Mode from another working Mac.
  2. Once the installer is loaded and showing you the main menu, you should be able to see the “Utilities” menu. Click on it, and go to “Terminal”.
  3. Check the current date and time from your watch or another machine/clock/device of your choice.  Convert it to the following numeric format, so that 6:15pm on 4th December 2014 becomes 120418152014, following the mmddHHMMyyyy format.
  4. Type the following into “Terminal”:  date {mmddHHMMyyyy string above, without these funny brackets}
  5. Press enter, if you haven’t done so already.

Date and time should now be accepted, and Terminal will confirm this.  If you did it correctly, the installers should now work without either of those errors.  Worked like a charm here!

Without Google, and particularly its quick realisation that I needed to be looking here, I’d never have even thought to check something like that, to get something like an installer going!

Opinion: Marriott & others wishing to block “personal” WiFi hotspots

Even though I’m firmly based in the UK, I’m somewhat concerned to see plans by the Marriott chain, among others in the US, applying to the FCC for permission to allow blocking of “personal wifi hotspots” in certain corporate areas of their facilities. I’m not going to go into the technicalities of how this might be done, but some articles here from The Register give some (perhaps some slightly baised) insight:

In theory, and in their defence, I can see why it might be desirable to the hotel chains and their customers. Nobody paying for a Wifi service wants it to be interrupted, and so anything that can be done to preserve it in a critical area is a Good Thing [tm]. The problem here is both in the message it sends, and also in the people it unintentionally affects, especially if there’s little or no definition that separates a “personal hotspot” (someone tethering their mobile phone to their iPad to look up Twitter feeds or similar) from a functional wifi network that a contractor might have legitimate reasons to bring along as a tool to assist them in what they’re being paid to do in that same space. Let me explain by setting a scene:

Imagine that you’re a sound or AV contractor, brought in to support an event in one of these corporate spaces. These industries being what they are now, you likely have one or more devices in your arsenal that either require or are very much more useful with Wifi, either for Internet connectivity (relatively rare still, in my experience), or for direct on-site control with a remote control application running on something like an iPad or Android tablet. And there are likely more on the way.

Such systems being what they are, you likely find with experience, as I have, that the systems only work well together when configured with one specific brand and even model of wifi access point/router, so you cable that into your rack so that wherever you go, your wifi network name and IP range is always the same, and all you perhaps need to do is change the channel to better fit those around you so you (and others) get the most reliable connection and best available throughput. 

So you rock up at one of the sites where such blocking is in place, and everything stops working, so you grab the attention of a member of staff a the hotel and see what they can do. They point you to their on-site tech-support person, in the best-case scenario that they have one, and that this person is knowledgeable and sympathetic to your cause…

“Sorry guys, I know that this is a business device,” says the harrassed-looking tech-support person, “but you’ve got caught out as it’s being seen as a ‘personal wifi hotspot’. There’s nothing we can do. You’ll either need to connect everything to our network, which is THIS brand, or get your hardware control surface and some cables out of the truck and use that instead.”

“But your brand doesn’t play nicely with my kit, even though it’s all supposed to be standards-compliant. Don’t ask me why, it just isn’t. I don’t/can’t carry that extra 60lbs/30Kg of kit, I don’t need it anywhere else. Soooo, can’t you just…”

“Nope. Sorry, rules are rules.”

Now sure, we could waste time arguing that relying on wifi, venue-provides or not, for any event-critical functions is asking for trouble. Certainly, I find there’s nothing quite like a piece of physical copper or fibre cable running between my devices for reliability. However we look at it, until the wider industry accepts that using over-saturated and effectively consumer-grade wifi is a no-go, and creates a separate radio band and maybe even a licenced protocol (much like the UK’s PMSE system) away from “consumers” to increase reliability and available bandwidth, we’re stuck with what we have – the often all-too-sucky wifi – for the foreseeable future.

Others might argue “why not just have hotels and other venues make provisions?” Okay, good start, but two points on this:

1) how much provision should they make, and how should they do it? And how do we even define and hold them to it?

2) as the owner and operator of such sound and AV kit, would you trust your show/event to someone else’s network and all the risks that can entail? I personally choose not to, not least because I don’t want to have to configure numerous devices to talk to each other over someone else’s IP schema and to inadvertently be bandwidth-restricted by someone else’s careless, callous or plain unwitting action(s) at a crucial moment. 

Let’s be clear on why this stuff is important: when I’m working on-site, both my own and my client’s reputations are at stake, so in showtime anything outside mine or my client’s direct control is a risk we’d rather not be responsible for without good clear disclaimers covering our backsides. And even then, potential reputation damage means we’d want to steer clear of that kind of risk anyways. Just like taking life and car insurance doesn’t lead a responsible person to drive everywhere 30mph faster than they otherwise would, simply because they know they’re covered if someone else runs out of talent on a critical apex and totals both cars and occupants.

So the message currently being sent seems to be “we want our clients to pay for everything, and to not have that paid service (and therefore income stream) interrupted, and consequences be damned”. Perhaps the finer details have indeed been thought through, but if nobody asks the question (I have), how do we know?

Technology is creating some amazing solutions in live events, that have real potential to not only make lives easier for those of us doing real work there, but also to save a lot of real mass being lugged in vehicles the world over when much smaller and lighter solutions can be deployed. It would be a shame to have to put the brakes on that because a few shareholders of a few large chain hotels end up changing the landscape by way of “thought leadership”, and this silly idea ends up spreading.

And besides… When was the last time anyone connected to a public wifi service actually suffered because of other wifi networks popping up around the place? It’s actually never yet happened to me, perhaps because as an events-tech I never trust my shows and equipment to such networks, precisely because I roll-my-own so I know everything plays nicely together. But what are the other modes of failure I have seen?

  • Run out of IP addresses in the DHCP pool? Sure!  Even managed to do it myself to a bunch of users when I managed to underestimate the usage that one of my own networks would actually get.  Easily fixed because I use my own network, so I saw it happen and fixed the problem immediately on-site. How many other sites can say the same, even at say, Starbucks, or similar?
  • Managed WiFi zones that can’t smoothly hand over a device from one base station to another? Plenty!
    • Granted this can be tricky to manage well, because different client devices respond differently to the management methods implemented by different zone managers. I have experience of trying to do this well across numerous platforms and have yet to find a true one-size-fits-all solution, especially one that doesn’t interrupt a significant group of client devices in some way.
  • Run out of bandwidth for the number of connected users? Yup – this is a biggie, and it happens nearly every time.
    • In the real world, I’ve given up using public wifi (paid or not), simply because the majority of the times I use it, the bandwidth available simply isn’t enough to provide for the number of client devices (and their users) connected to it. So instead I revert to tethering to 3G or 4G mobile/cellphone networks instead.
    • Even abroad, my costings from traveling around the US in 2013 suggest it’s about 10x cheaper than equivalent WiFi costs, and 10x more reliable; not to mention that I can take the cheaper mobile/cell service with me wherever I go – the WiFi only works within the confines of the hotel or campus. The same metric applied in Italy in 2012. Uuuuuh, no-brainer then.

A key thing to note here is that in none of those highlighted cases am I even considering connecting valuable event-critical tools to such networks for mission-critical tasks – here I’m only talking about personal “holiday” usage; finding out more about the immediate world around me, mailing the odd photo to friends and family, checking email to keep on top of bills and any big family news.

So please, if you’re a hotel chain and considering this kind of plan, or an IT provider for a similar corporate planning a similar exercise, don’t even talk to me about this kind of revenue-generating exercise in the world of WiFi until you get your ducks in a row on these and other much more simple provisioning issues, okay?  If I’m going to pay 10x for a service that I can get elsewhere and carry with me wherever I go, then you’d better make it worth my while. And a big hint here is that you don’t do that by blocking me from using that 0.1x cost (vs yours) service that works. You do it by making your service WORTH 10x the cost of the other one. If you can’t, then perhaps something else is wrong, and it’s time to reassess the cost-benefit analysis.

Random Gmail annoyance – sorting Inbox to show oldest messages first

It is 2013.  Sure, my email practices are probably based on conventions from 1993, but this is an ongoing personal frustration. I should say up-front that it can of course be solved by using a third-party mail client, which I do (on occasion).

On a desktop or laptop device, I’ve always preferred to run with older messages showing first, since they’re the ones that are most likely to *become* important – someone who has been waiting for a week is more likely to need their answer *now* than someone who has only just got in touch a minute ago.

It also means I can think “forward” of where I currently am, no matter what point of the day or workflow I encounter it.  Having to constantly think both forwards and backwards, particularly when dealing with the user interface elements involved with navigating, dealing with and filing messages or whole conversation threads, feels completely counterproductive. Actually it’s worse – it’s nudging me towards falling in to the “tyranny of the urgent” rather than dealing with what’s actually “important” right now.

On the one hand, one could argue that not having this facility means I constantly need to re-evaluate the whole queue every time I look at it.  On the other hand, I find that this approach saps functional time and energy away from the things that really *do* need doing.  And I don’t like that.

So come on Google – how’s about enabling that option for more than just multi-page lists?

Letters to those unlikely to respond… #1

A Mother’s Day trip to Bristol today proved an interesting day all round – a great time for connecting with family, but a horrid day for transport and interactions with other people.

On the way home this evening we boarded our return coach, only to find that it was rammed, stinking of a vile combination of curry and the general bodily odour of a busy day’s human activity – whatever that may have been.

Finally we suffered the aural assault of the London Underground, as I think you’ll see below:

“Dear London Underground:

Please stop with the constant inane, overwhelming and soul-destroying chatter that you so regularly spout from your Public Address systems.  Please understand the following:

  1. If I see something suspicious or threatening, it will be reported.  I do not need to be reminded to do so at every opportunity.
  2. When I have luggage about my person, I do not intend to leave it behind anywhere except at my home when you eventually let me get there.
  3. I do not need to be reminded to stay behind the yellow line at all times.  The sheer height of the drop from the platform to the tracks, and the fact that I know of the electrified rails keeps me far enough away from the edge all by itself, thank you very much.
  4. Your repeated robotic pleas do not make me want to be any more considerate to the passengers who wish to get off the train than I already am.  My manners and attitude, things you have no control over except to worsen, will help here.  If I stand in the way of those in a hurry to alight, I deserve everything I get from them, short of physical force.  See Point number 1 for more on this.
  5. I know about the gap – it’s scary and it eats the unwary.  It does not need minding – it exists quite happily by itself.  I will avoid it where I see it.  Please just light the area properly or close the gap.  It’s not that hard.  I will warn others of the gaps if I see them.
  6. Announcements of a “good service operating on all London Underground lines” should not be necessary.  I mean really – are you celebrating getting through a period when you can say that?  Why?  We pay you for that good service.  Please just tell us if there are problems, or tell us nothing.
  7. TURN IT DOWN!  The volume, frequency of announcements, the tinny/distorted/painful speakers, and the inane content of each message is making me switch off my brain to all aural stimulation while using your services.
  8. TURN IT DOWN! (2)  If you need to announce everything at top volume, you’re doing it wrong.  Cut the background noise, fix your PA systems, train those who make announcements in correct speech and microphone announcements, and run the service properly.
  9. Learn to talk properly!  If I have a speech impediment or a particularly strong accent, I’m not going to make a great radio DJ unless I can learn to make myself understood properly.  So nobody will employ me.  Please stop making those who can neither speak nor properly understand English make announcements.  They’ll just get ignored or ridiculed, and you’ll still be wondering why we are all so frustrated.

Your prompt action to attend to these matters is desired but not expected.

Yours,

Frustrated of London.”