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Why did I buy a Macbook Pro?

I bought a Macbook Pro because in the time it took my Windows laptop to install 3 updates and reboot I used the Macbook Pro to install a security certificate, troubleshoot a malfunctioning website, create a test database and remove that test database, and a bit more. Is the PC laptop old? In all fairness, it is 4 years old so it is at the end of its life. None-the-less, this Macbook Pro kicks butt!

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My foray into the Cult of Jobs

When I moved daughter to New York City for college, a client needed something and I had not brought my wife’s netbook with us. At the time, I still worked on a desktop. I walked into Staples, and they had a 17″ full-sized keyboard with number pad Windows HP laptop on sale for $450. It was an i5 processor (maybe i7) with 4 gb of ram that I later updated to 8gb. Had HDMI out and so more ports than I ever used. It was a remarkable laptop. Over time, it slowed. It became problematic. A 5 minute task could turn into 30 minutes or an hour after troubleshooting. I’d get to bill my clients 5 minutes while losing an hour of my life. Eventually I opened it and replaced the CPU fan which was filled with animal dander and dust. The machine ran a little better but not enough. The time had come for a new machine. Laptops in the personal world probably have a 5 year livespan. In the business world, 2-3 years is typical.

I purchase a 15″ Macbook Pro Retina with 16gb ram and a 500gb ssd hard drive. My only regret may be that I did not shell out the extra money for a terabyte hard drive. This machine is remarkable. None-the-less, issues arise. Like when I attempted my first Garage Band project:

Could not find layout General Audio 10

A quick Google search found the solution. Simply look under the Garage Band menu, select "Restore Sound Library" then "Update Sound Library" and about 15gb laters, you’ll be functioning.

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What advice do you have for a new Macbook Pro owner?

Let’s say I went Full Jobs and dove head first into the Cult of Mac. As a programmer who develops web applications and wants to develop iOS and Android apps as well as play with many of the interesting APIs out in the wild, what you be your advice for programs to install, tweaks to apply, and other hacks that should be done to said hypothetical Macbook Pro?

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How to Fix iOS5 Restore Error 3200

UPDATE: Mashable and other sites are reporting that Apple’s servers are being overwhelmed and only about half the requests are getting through. The error is related to authentication and there is nothing we the users can do to fix it. Simply keep trying to get your update. As demand settles, the error will go away.

To anyone getting “An internal error occurred.” (3200) while installing iOS 5.0, Apple’s servers are swamped, and failing half the requests.

[Source, TheNextWeb, iOS 5 Error 3200 or “internal error” update issues? Apple’s servers are getting slammed.]

Word in the Ether is that you must update iTunes before updating your iPhone, iPod, or iPad to iOS5! If you are experiencing this error, I personally would try updating iTunes and try syncing again before doing any of these steps. I personally have not tried anything in this post.

xiphone.org has been hammered and is over its resource limit so I’m reprinting their instructions here.

  1. Install newest version of iTunes while do not connect your iPhone, iPod or iPad yet.
  2. Once installed, run new iTunes for a while then close it.
  3. Windows users simply go to folder
    C:\Documents and Settings\Application Data\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPhone Software Updates (replacing C: with the appropriate drive letter)
    Mac users need to locate it. I don’t really sure where it is.
  4. Cut and paste files there to somewhere else.
    Do not delete them in case the steps does not work for you, you can still copy them back to the folder. You can find out your username by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del.
  5. Put your iPhone into DFU Mode (alternate link)
  6. Finally, proceed with iOS 5 restore procedure

[Source, xiphone.org, HOW TO Fix iOS 5 beta Restore Error 3200]

To enter DFU mode:

DFU stands for Device Firmware Update. Unlike Recovery Mode, DFU Mode doesn’t load the firmware/OS currently installed before restore attempt. DFU mode will be considered as a last resort to restore if a restore using Recovery Mode doesn’t work and you are getting error while restoring you device.

  1. Open iTunes and connect the iPhone via USB.
  2. Press and hold the Home button and the Sleep/Wake button at the same time.
  3. Continue holding the both buttons for exact 10 seconds. Then release the Sleep/Wake. Keep holding the Home button until iTunes pops up that it has found an iPhone in Recovery Mode.

It may take a few attempts to get your iPhone into DFU mode. Generally, I hold down both buttons then release the Wake/Sleep button just before I think the Apple logo would appear. If you are still holding both buttons down and you see the Apple logo you are holding them down for too long!

[Source, iphoneheat.com, How to Put iPhone in DFU Mode]

See also How to put an unresponsive iPhone into DFU mode

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Which XBOX 360 replacement DVD drive should I buy?

My xbox 360 dvd drive has died. I’ve found reasonably priced replacements but each seems to be a different brand. For instance, one is a Samsung Toshiba MS25 TS-H943 while another is a Hitachi LG 59DJ 79FX GDR-3120L and http://www.xboxslave.com/ has Beng, Samsung, Hitachi, and Phillips ‘Lite On’ Does the manufacturer matter? I’m aware of the daughter board replacement or flash update need.

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Down the ‘recover dead hard drive’ rabbit hole

So I’ve had a friend’s computer for what must be 4 weeks now. Fortunately, he has other computers on which he can do his work. His hard drive failed badly. I said I could work on it in the evenings and weekends. We bought a 1.5TB hard drive and I proceeded to fight to get the data from the old drive to the new. I succeed in recovering most if not all the data by installing Ubuntu 11.04 on the new drive, installing Gnu’s ddrescue, using GParted to resize Ubuntu and create a partition to hold Windows Vista, the used ddrescue to recover the dying drive to the new partition. Data saved!

Unfortunately, GRUB2 detects both operating systems but fails to boot to Vista, ergo, a crazy path of chkdsk and recovery console nonsense that eventually led to GRUB2 not even coming up. So, after 4 weeks or so, I decided this post will chronicle the recovery moving forward.

Sunday, 1:10pm: Grub fails to load. The last repair of Ubuntu says it couldn’t load a boot manager and one will have to be installed manually. fdisk claims "partition[s] do not end on cylinder boundary” but supposedly this doesn’t matter. GParted has been used to resize Ubuntu partition to end on cylinder boundary but Vista partition could not be resized at this time. GParted reports 3 bad sectors on the Vista partition. Running chkdsk again but it looks like I may have to blow away the partition and start again. Fortunately I have a backup on a good drive.

Update Saturday, August 27: My friend has grown irritated at the length of time this has taken. I have grown frustrated at the near pointless hours upon hours put into this machine. However, I have had several near successes. I feel like we are right at the finish line and giving up. I have reformatted the 1500GB hard drive and reinstalled Ubuntu 11.04. I’ve checked the firmware on the hard drive to confirm it is the latest. I’ve checked the motherboard bios to confirm it is the latest. I’m now using GParted to resize Ubuntu so that I can do the final copy of the Windows data so that even if I cannot get the machine to boot to windows, my friend will be able to read his data.

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Soldering iron or hot air rework station?

I need advice from my friends into building electronics. I have grown frustrated with years of using $8 soldering irons from Radio Shack and want to get into a Weller or Aoyue soldering station. My quandary is deciding between just a soldering station or a hotair rework station. My next two projects will be 1) replacing some bad caps on a circuit board and 2) resoldering some bad joints on another board.

I’m currently looking at the Aoyue 937+ Digital Soldering Station and the Aoyue 968 SMD Digital Hot Air Rework Station. Suggestions? Feedback?

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Incommunicado

My phone has died. If you are trying to SMS me or call me, I am not receiving your messages. Please contact me through Twitter, Skype (djuggler), or Cathy. You can try my Google Voice number 865-686-8693.

If you have the next killer iPhone app idea that could make you millions, I’ll happily build the app for you in exchange for a MacBook Pro and an iPhone (say, $5000).

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The local area network issue

My home network has my development servers on it. One is an antique Windows 2000 server which is currently out of commission for bad memory, and the other is a Ubuntu Linux workstation tweaked to run SAMBA, PHP, MySQL etc. Used to be any machine on the LAN could open up Windows Explorer (or Ubuntu’s Places) and surf to another machine: My Network Places -> Entire Network -> Microsoft Windows Network -> Workgroup and then see all the machines on the network and browse to a shared folder. Now I get an error message:

Workgroup is not accessible. You might not have permission to use this network resource. Contact the administrator of this server to find out if you have access permissions.

The list of server for this workgroup is not currently available.

And from Linux (Places->Network->Windows Network):

Unable to mount location

Failed to retrieve share list from server

It’s conceivable that the Windows 2000 server was acting as a domain controller but the LAN is setup on workgroups not domains. Let’s assume the source of this problem is the now semi-retired Windows 2000 server. My home router is a D-LINK DIR-615. So the challenge is to get either the router or the Linux box to fill whatever role the Windows 2000 server used to perform to make my network browseable. Please note that if I refer to the machines specifically, I can still work with files from that machine. So \\mickymouse\familypics would still allow the family pictures to be seen all over the house. The problem is the same for printer sharing. I cannot browse to a shared printer but if I know the \\machinename\sharename I can setup a remote machine to print to the shared printer.

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Yes, I’m a geek that works on computers

I primarily work with people who have clients that need digital magic to happen. The tag line on my business card is "I solve problems". For the longest time, I was drawn to projects that started off with descriptions like "We’ve had 3 other developers fail to get this done" or "That expert in Florida says this can’t be done." I liked these projects. I liked the challenge and I could usually get it done. However, they are high risk and often not very profitable. Usually the reason three other developers fail to accomplish the task has less to do with a programming problem and more to do with a management problem. It is hard to pay the mortgage with "man that felt good!"

I still work with people who have clients that need things done. Effectively I build web applications for businesses but I usually go through a middle (wo)man. In the past this middle person has been a venture capitalist trying to launch his clients with the greatest of success. It has been other developers with too much on their plates. Most often, designers/artists that need functionality programmed into the website. Imagine you had a bookstore and wanted to sell your books online. I’d be the person who writes the shopping system that allows your customers to browse books online, add them to a shopping cart, and make the purchase online. The part of a website like that which most people never see is the inventory control part. That’s where the employees log in to add or remove books from the system. It’s just a big a project as the front end where the shoppers go but instead of thousands of people seeing it, 2, 3 or 10 people use it. Of course, you cannot sell books online without a tracking system for shipping so I would write the code that generates shipping labels, ties into UPS or Fedex or the post office, and tracks the packages. Then if your bookstore decided that it wanted to manage it’s human resources through the web with a punchcard system for managing when employees clocked in and clocked out, scheduling of employees, and payroll (tying the system into Quickbooks), I’d write that. Next if you decided the punchcard system wasn’t efficient enough and you wanted the employees to wear RFID id badges and used those for clocking in and clocking out, I’d write that.

Now there isn’t a computer person alive before the time of the Geek Squad who didn’t say, "wow! I need to create a business repairing people’s computers." The Geek Squad was not an original idea. I know I had the vision of teams of nerds running to people’s homes fixing computers. I did it for awhile. I know I have friends who had the same vision. But Best Buy had the resources that we lacked to launch. Tthere is not profit in repairing computers. Computers have become disposable. What holds value is data. If people would move their work primarily to The Cloud or create and understand a backup system that removed the dependence upon a particular machine, then instead of paying a geek to repair your computer, you could just buy a new one! The Geek Squad doesn’t make money on repairs. It makes money on upsales. When you get a repair and they sell you an Antivirus program or a new hard drive or another memory stick then they make money.

I do fix computers for friends and family. I charge a flat rate of $135 which is less than what you will pay the Geek Squad. I don’t know if it is true but I’ve read that the Geek Squad will also put in a limited number of hours and then declare that the computer needs reformatting. I won’t do that. Usually I put 5 hours into a machine plus I run some diagnostic software overnight and dust out the computer. It’s a nice thing to do on a weekend. My effort amounts to substantially less than I charge hourly for programming but there is a good karma to making sure someone’s computer is functioning correctly.

However, sometimes I get bitten. I took in a friend’s laptop because it was hanging/locking up. I was thinking some malware had a hold of it. A week later the computer is still with me and starting to get in the way of my real work and my friend is becoming frustrated. It may have some defective hardware but the diagnostics I have run have not found any physical problems. It might be a driver problem but downloading the latest drivers from the manufacturer’s website didn’t help. This is a Dell Inspiron 1525 running Vista with service pack 1. Any attempt to install service pack 2 takes an hour to install and at the very end of the process, the installer announces "failed" and reverts back to sp1. Right now I’m sitting on a BSOD:

A problem has been detected and Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer.

IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL

If this is the first time you’ve seen this Stop error screen, restart your computer. If this screen appears again, follow these steps:

Check to make sure any new hardware or software is properly installed. If this is a new installation, ask your hardware or sofware manufacturer for any Windows updates you might need.

If problems continue, disable or remove any newly installed hardware or sofware. Disable BIOS memory options such as caching or shadowing. If you need to use Safe Mode to remove components, restart your computer, press F8 to select Advanced Startup Options, and then select Safe Mode.

Technical information:
*** STOP: 0x0000000A (0x00000018, 0x00000002, 0x00000000, 0x81C590FC)

This screams bad hardware or a bad driver. However, I’ve read that this goes away by installing service pack 2. That would be the thing that installs 100% then reverts back to service pack 1. Oh the irony!

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The Hard Drive Chronicles

After moving the 60 GB hard drive to the Linux box, I was able to get a raw copy of all data without errors. If Ghost fails, I will try either 1) formatting the 500 GB hard drive and then copying the data and setting the master boot record or 2) installing a fresh copy of Windows then overwriting the installation with all data from the 60 GB hard drive (I know the problems with that approach). If Ghost and the raw copy approach fail, I will simply start over fresh.

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The Hard Drive Chronicles

The saga continues. The new Hitachi 500 gb drive tests fine. The old 60 gb drive has been thoroughly exercised with chkdsk /f /r. Clonezilla failed to make the clone off the image I created previously so I tried a disk to disk clone and Clonezilla failed there too. Even ntfsclone –rescue bombs on the bad sector. I can still see all the data on the 60 gb hard drive so I’m mounting it in my Linux box and will copy everything from the hard drive to a backup drive. Next step will be a last ditch attempt using Ghost and then finally I will simply reinstall Windows and my critical applications on the 500 GB hard drive. This ends today.

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The Hard Drive Chronicles Continue…

My RMA’d Hitachi 500 GB hard drive was received by Newegg and the replacement drive arrived today. This time they packaged it with great care with the drive wrapped in bubble wrap in a box that was wrapped in crumpled papers within another box. I feel a little like they may have seen my recent picture of their previous package. Using Hitachi’s tools (a live CD) I have inspected the drive and it passes all tests. Now I am using Clonezilla to restore the image of the 60 GB drive that has been my life blood for much of the past decade. Fingers crossed I can resume working in my dungeon in a few hours and my son won’t have to keep loaning me his laptop. (that laptop has spoiled me…I want one!)

Update: Fail. The dreaded 89%. I have access to the data. Nothing is really lost. I’m just faced with reinstalling Windows and a enormous number of applications.