iMac speed improvements

I’ve been annoyed at the laggardly behaviour of our iMac, currently running El Capitan, 10.11.6 . We’ve had the old girl for a few years now and I was sure that successive OS X upgrades had left some crud clogging it up – somewhere!

Even though I had cleaned up the Login Items for each user in System Preferences, I suspected there were other App “helpers” still running.

(Follow along if you want to try this at home).

Make sure you have a good backup.

Start up in Safe Mode (Hold <Shift> throughout startup).

Open a Finder window and go to Macintosh HD/Library/Launch Agents

In my case, I found these files:

com.adobe.AAM.Updater-1.0.plist

com.adobe.ARMDCHelper.<a very long hex number>.plist

com.google.keystone.agent.plist

The first 2 related to Adobe Air and the Adobe Auto Updater. I thought I had deleted Adobe Air a long time ago but on further investigation I found it was still there! So I deleted it. I also deleted Adobe Acrobat reader because I no longer use it. I then deleted the .plist files. Of course, if you find similar files and you use Adobe Air or other Adobe products, you won’t want to delete them. Obviously your requirements will differ from mine.

The third file was more “interesting”. This is an auto update Daemon which Google uses to check for updates to products you have installed. In my case, the Chrome browser and NIK plug-ins. I decided to find out how often it “phones home”.

In Terminal, type:

defaults read com.google.Keystone.Agent and press <Return>

It spits out a lot of stuff about the Apps it checks, etc., ending with:

checkInterval = 18000;

Hmm. That’s every 5 hours. Overkill, I thought. So I changed the interval to once a week:

defaults write com.google.Keystone.Agent checkInterval 604800 <Return>

Of course, you could delete the daemon completely but I decided against that.

Lastly, I deleted the caches in Macintosh HD/Library/Caches, that’s  <File -> Select All> then <File -> Move to Trash>. I then did the same for each user in Macintosh HD/Users/<user name>/Library/Caches. This will remove any old, broken or corrupt caches which might be causing a problem. It is safe to delete the caches as OS X will create new ones the next time the user logs in.

Finally, I restarted the Mac (still in Safe Mode) and emptied each user’s Trash. Once that was completed, I restarted the Mac normally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Mac

My MacBook Air (Mid 2012) was getting a bit long in the tooth. Leastways, that’s my excuse. So earlier this week I caved in and bought one of these:

MacBook Pro in a box

In the past when I’ve bought a new Mac, I’ve used Migration Assistant as part of the setup process. This time I decided to start from scratch and set it up “as new”, installing applications and configuring settings such as email “longhand”.  It has taken a bit longer but the MBP is now exactly how I want it and it isn’t bogged down with the inevitable residual cruft you get from previous upgrades (which it would have if I’d migrated from a backup of the MBA).

First impressions: Design, like it. Smaller than my MBA. Keyboard is very different, I expected that from trying it out at the Apple Store. Display – Retina – is a huge improvement over my MBA. The Touch Bar looks to be useful, although I am still mostly using the keyboard shortcuts I’ve built into my memory over the years. I’ll let you know more as I use it. One thing I am missing is the MagSafe connector for the power cable, I really think that’s a retrograde step.

Anyway…

Next step: installing GSAK. !

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.

Anyway…

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 GC.com, 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.

 

Puzzles

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…

Nothing!

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! 🙂

 

 

One binned, one recycled

Yep, the old seagate drive is kaput. Having removed it from the enclosure I had an idea. After a bit of a rummage I dug out a spare 2.5″ drive I had left over from a MacBook drive upgrade. Both that and the dud drive had the same SATA interface so I thought, why not?

10 minutes later I had a perfectly serviceable network drive ready to go. It’s nowhere near as big as the old one, either in capacity or physical dimensions, but it will come in handy as a shared drive for odd storage jobs.

Now all I have to do is take the dud one apart before it goes to the Council tip for recycling.

Moar Drive Trouble

Today I noticed that the external hard drive connected to my router was making strange noises so I powered it off. When I powered it up again it sounded like this. Oh dear.

I think this is even more terminal than the last time this drive failed with the seagate 7200.11 error, the fix for which I explained in this post. Nevertheless, I will connect it directly to my Mac just to see whether I can identify the problem, although I doubt it’s worth salvaging. I am pretty sure it is time to give this recalcitrant drive the old heave ho.

 

 

 

Backups

So, the other day I deleted an App from my iPhone in an attempt to fix a bug, with the idea that I would re-install the App thus fixing the bug. I then had a bit of mild panic because I couldn’t find the App in the App Store to download. Fortunately I remembered that the iPhone ‘hides’ purchased Apps so when I looked there, there it was. Phew. Unfortunately re-installing it didn’t fix the bug but that’s a different story.

The point is, whilst I was panicking, I thought I could always restore the iPhone from the iTunes backup on my Mac. Then I remembered how old that backup was. So today I backed up my iPhone and iPad to my Mac. While I was there I backed up some other key data on the iOS devices keeping those backups independent from the catch-all iTunes one.

A word about iOS backups: although you can backup your iOS device to iCloud (and it’s great that it does this automatically if you leave your device on, locked & connected to a power source), it doesn’t  backup everything (e.g. Apps!). It’s certainly worth doing a periodic iTunes backup as well.

Hint: turn on Encryption before hitting that ‘Back Up Now’ button, that way it will save all your logon credentials, saving you loads of time if/when you come to do a restore.

itbup

One more thing. Don’t forget to backup your Mac’s HDD (using Time Machine or similar).

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!