GSAK. On a Mac.

You may recall back in 2012 I wrote about running Windoze on my Mac, mainly in order to try running GSAK without the pain of a Windoze PC. I tried Crossover. I tried a VM (Oracle’s VirtualBox). I was unimpressed. The idea of using GSAK died, as I was really, really, not prepared to use Windoze.


Recent conversations with my geocaching buddy, Bob, made me want to give GSAK another try, but how?

Turns out there has been some progress with Wine. Via the GSAK forum I found a very good guide on the subject, so I decided it was worth a try. Some of the detail (around versions) have changed but the basic steps are still the same. To begin with, I installed the beta version of Wine 1.8 (works with El Cap) but when I tried creating the GSAK App it crashed repeatedly, so I installed the latest “stable” release (1.6.1) instead. That worked perfectly.

So here’s proof (if you need it) of GSAK working on my MacBook Air:

GSKA screen shot

The key issue last time I tried running GSAK was that it wouldn’t connect to my Geocaching account. This time, a key step in the process involved installing GSAK on a Windows machine first, exporting a backup of the GSAK database and settings, and restoring these to the Wine version. That done (and my ancient Dell laptop returned to its rightful place in my tech museum), GSAK worked! I am able to connect to my geocaching data on, retrieve cache details, run PQs, etc.

The only function which seems to be missing from my Wine-bottled GSAK so far, seems to be the cache page in split view. I think this issue is linked to GSAK’s historical reliance on IE but I need to do some research on this. Nevertheless, clicking on a cache’s row launches the cache details in a new browser window (in Safari, my default). GSAK “sees” my Garmin GPS when I connect it to my MacBook via USB, so I can download GPX files to the device.

Early days, then, but from what I’ve seen so far it does look promising.



Recently, I have been mainly solving puzzles. And finding some of them.

I first looked at 1321 many moons ago but didn’t get anywhere with the puzzle. However, a recent conversation with the Cache Owner gave me a hint as to how it might be solved. So, here’s a hint from me, gratis. Try googling RFC1321. There you go. 😉

As is often the case with me and puzzles, all did not go smoothly to begin with, as I spent a long time trying to do the wrong thing. Eventually (with more hints from the CO and a lot of perseverance) I was rewarded with a ‘Yes’ from geochecker.

Having offered my daughters a lift to their equine activities I was ideally placed to visit this cache. No coincidence.  Skye and I were soon enjoying a longish walk through parkland to the cache location. At GZ I had a good GPS signal and soon narrowed the search area down, and I was working my way through the likely places when, unexpectedly, I got a phone call from Daughter.2 requesting a pickup. “Darn”, I thought, “I haven’t found the cache yet”. Just then I looked down and spotted the cache peeking out from its hiding place! Result!

Then, this Wednesday, I decided to collect a puzzle cache I’d solved the coords for in 2014. I really enjoyed solving 6 Degrees, this was a film-based puzzle featuring the  well known premise that every Hollywood actor can be linked to Kevin Bacon within 6 steps. Once again I learnt some (probably useless) information as a direct result of geocaching.

The reason I’d not gone for the find after solving the puzzle was due to the long running saga of my eye problems (documented elsewhere) but, with my eyesight now back to normal, I’d started to work through my list of solved but unfound puzzles, so here we are.

I’m not going to give the game away re. location, etc., but I took the precaution of running  my coords through geochecker once again just in case the cache had been relocated in the intervening years. Thus reassured,  I found a good parking spot for me and Skye to head off for an enjoyable walk in the autumn sunshine. No spoilers, but this was an ingeniously created hiding place and well worth the trip.

Then, later on the same Wednesday (2nd Nov) the estimable Dr. Solly published a new cache. Now, his puzzle caches are always worth a look and I find them especially interesting as the puzzles are often technology-based. This was no exception. If you look at the cache page for GC6WBNZ you’ll see he hasn’t given you a lot to go on. As I said, it’s a “techie” cache and, while I had an idea, I did do a bit of research to check I was on the right track. So, I knew what I had to do, so I employed that method and…


This was not what I expected. I checked with my mate Bob, who also being very techie, had arrived at the same method as me.He couldn’t get it to work either. The same day, another cacher FTF’d it. Hmm. By now I was somewhat puzzled. Maybe I had got it wrong. I decided to leave it for a while and yesterday evening, in a random moment, I gave it another go. Imagine my surprise when the coords appeared on my screen. The very thing which didn’t work before, worked this time, and I had the coords! The only explanation I’ve got for this anomaly is that either some sort of technical issue befell Dr. Solly’s servers, or The Elders of the Internet were having an extended tea break.

I contacted Bob who confirmed that he too had obtained the coords. Itchy geocaching feet or not, we weren’t able to go for it that same evening. This afternoon we both had a free slot in our diaries so we made the trip over to GZ, where we were rewarded with a typically enormous container crammed with loads of Dr Solly loot. Second to Find. Happy with that! 🙂



Have you tried turning it off and on again?

IT Crowd - Roy

Yosemite has been playing nicely on my MacBook Air so I decided it was time to upgrade the iMac.

After doing all the usual safety procedures and testing the backups it was time to upgrade. The iMac has had a few OS X upgrades since I bought it – it came with 10.6 Snow Leopard – and I did consider doing a clean install. However the “normal” upgrade route has had good reports so I opted for that.

The upgrade proceeded smoothly to begin with and I left it to get on with it, however when I returned some time later it seemed to have stuck on the last install screen at 50% complete. I left it for about half an hour and nothing had changed so I did what any highly trained Mac technician would do.

I powered it off and on again.

That did the trick and the iMac booted happily. I had been pretty sure it had got stuck at the reboot stage of the process so turning it off and on again forced the reboot it should have done by itself. Just to be on the safe side I then restarted it up in Safe (or Single User) Mode (Cmd + S) and ran /sbin/fsck -fy. Next, I booted from the Recovery Partition (Cmd + R) and used Disk Utility to repair permissions on the iMac’s startup disk.

Since then it has been fine and I’m now in the process of reorganising my data files to take advantage of iCloud Drive.

Seagate drive problem

This evening I opened up the failed hard drive with the intention of destroying the physical disk before taking it to the dump for recycling. I discovered that despite the Iomega branding on the case, the actual hardware was a Seagate drive.

When I realised the disk was a Barracuda 7200.11 I thought, “Hang on, I have heard about these”. I remembered drsolly writing about these on his blog so I read that again and then did a bit of research of my own. The problem with these drives is that if you start them up when the internal event log is at line 320 (or something like that) the disk dies, even though all the data is still there on. Anyway, there are a couple of fixes which may (or may not) work in my case so I’m going to have a play with trying to fix it. I need to connect to the disk from a serial port so I’ve ordered an adapter.

I’ll report back when it arrives!

Microsoft Certification

I expect you’ve seen the news item about the five year old passing his Microsoft Certified Professional exam. Seems to me that’s similar to those “gifted” children who pass their A-Levels before they can walk.

Back in the day I worked in IT support and have been subjected to years of working with Microsoft products. I think this qualifies me to observe that:

  1. There is no substitute for experience
  2. I wouldn’t let anyone with only a Microsoft qualification anywhere near my server room.






The tech industry has spent millions on the development of camera technology to enable people to take sharp, properly exposed photographs where they can see the results almost instantly. Gone were the days of getting your prints back from the D&P lab to find they were fuzzy and discoloured, not to mention that you cut off the top of Aunt Mabel’s head. Long gone, that is, until now. Lomography (as you probably already know) is an offshoot photography hobby where these “old fashioned” photographic results are the intended end product.

I was once tempted to buy a Lo-Mo camera but frankly they were a bit pricey as well as looking suitably rubbish so I didn’t. Now enter the DIY SLR kit!

As you may know, I like making stuff, so I thought it’s only £25 for a kit which “should” result in a working camera so what’s not to like?

So for a bit of fun, here are my build photographs!

There are lots of parts, just like an Airfix kit:

IMG_4020 IMG_4019

I set to assembling the various parts, the only tool needed was a small screwdriver (which was supplied so I didn’t even have to get my tool box). Here’s (most of) the film winding mechanism:


The main body taking shape. The top plate with the matt focusing screen:


There is a bayonet mount for the lens, here you can see the reflex mirror:


The finished article!

IMG_4028 IMG_4029

Looks pretty good eh? OK so it’s nothing like my old Nikon FM (how I wish I had kept that one!)

There are a few drawbacks to the design, which I guess are there to keep the cost down and make it simple to assemble, so operation is not what you’d get with a modern camera. The lens is a fixed aperture (f10) as is the shutter speed (1/80th) and the simple lens is, unsurprisingly, not glass. It will be interesting to see what the images look like once I have put a film through it.

When I eventually get something back from the D&P lab I’ll let you know how they turn out.

Moar speed

I’ve been keeping an eye on my super new broadband speed since Virgin Media gave me a free speed bump.

Of course, the speed you get when you do a speed test doesn’t really mean much as there are many variables affecting the speed at which a website appears in your browser window (etc.), not to mention the impact of other devices on the same LAN sharing that bandwidth. Then there’s the time of day… I could go on but you get the idea.

Anyway, in case you’re interested, my speeds seem to average around 77 Mbps Down and 6 Mbps Up.

Moving Time Machine files – Deja Vu

Having got myself a new external hard drive I decided to move my MacBook Air’s Time Machine backup from the old disk (which was full) to the new one. It was at this point that I remembered that I’d done this before and, what’s more, I’d written a post about it. Anyway, that was over 18 months ago so I thought I’d try Apple’s official method again. Ha Ha. Last time Apple’s method didn’t work, maybe it’s been fixed…

Apple’s official method goes like this:

  1. In Disk Utility, partition your new HDD as “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” with a GUID partition
  2. Open the File Info window and make sure that “Ignore ownership on this volume” at the bottom of the “Sharing & Permissions” section is not checked.
  3. Turn Time Machine off
  4. Using Finder, copy the file “Backups.backupdb” from the old disk volume to the new one.

So I did this and, after an hour or so of happy copying, it failed. More accurately, it failed on specific files which it claimed could not be copied. To be honest I wasn’t surprised, given previous experience, so this attempt was made more as an experiment than with any expectation that it would work. Thing is, why does Apple continue to push this method when it has a reputation for not working? (You can look at the Apple Discussion Forums)

Last time I copied my Time Machine files, I used Carbon Copy Cloner to do a block-by-block copy but this time, I thought, Apple’s Disk Utility could provide the solution.

First off, I used Disk Utility to perform a repair of the old backup disk, to ensure that any file corruptions or permission errors were resolved prior to copying, as this could have been a reason for the Apple method failing. I did a Partition-level repair then a File-level repair. Interestingly, neither of these found anything to repair which sort of squashed that little theory. Ah well, on to the important bit. After formatting the new volume as per Apple’s instruction (above) I was all set. Here’s the method:

  • In System Preferences, turn Time Machine off
  • Connect both the old and new HDDs
  • Open Disk Utility
  • Select the original backup disk from the list in the left column and click the “Restore” Tab.
  • Drag the original backup disk volume (i.e. the one to be copied) to the “Source” field.
  • Drag the new backup disk volume to the “Destination” field.


  • Click the “Restore” Button.
  • The copy will take some time to complete. Once it has finished, the name of the destination volume will have changed to be the same as that of the original. This could be a bit confusing so eject the original volume.
  • You could change the name of the new volume but there is a risk (call that bitter experience!) that Time Machine will see this as a different disk and instead of carrying on as before, start a fresh backup and discard the backup history you were trying to retain in the first place. My preference was to simply eject the original volume before resuming Time Machine. After all, if the copy has been successful, the old one will no longer be required and after a decent period of mourning (just to be on the safe side) the old disk can be repurposed.
  • Back in System Preferences, turn Time Machine on. Enter Time Machine and check that you can browse the backup history. Do a sample file restore to check everything is working as it should. If that checks out, let it perform a backup cycle, afterwards checking that the backup history can still be accessed and restored from.

And that’s it. I won’t pretend this is a quick procedure. For some people it won’t even be necessary. You’ll need to consider whether you really need to keep a long range of backups stretching back a year or more. You could always keep the original disk somewhere safe for a while and allow Time Machine to start afresh with the new disk.

Lastly, if you do try either of the above methods, you do so at your own risk. What worked for me might not work for someone else. Before you undertake any file management activities make sure you have a robust backup of any important data.

I feel the need…

My ISP, Virgin Media, have just upgraded my internet line to “Up to” 100 Mbps.

Well downstream certainly seems quicker. I’ve done a few speed tests but as “any fule no” those results are no more than an indication of the speed achieved. I’ll live with it for a while & report back, dear reader.