Ramblings of this guy you know!

Tech Stuff and random observations on life as I see it….

Category Archives: Tech Stuff

Apple Mac not shutting down properly? Check the Console

shutdown I’d like to extend my thanks to Killerwolf for this blog post that helped my diagnose the problem – Read it here 

I’ve been having problems for a wee while with my Macbook Air not shutting down properly… It had been happening for a while but I just simply had no spare time to diagnose it and simply hitting Fn-Pwr to close it down… not the recommended route to fixing the problem. Every time I shut down the machine I ended up staring at a grey screen that had the Finder menu up with the services in the menu bar closing down one by one but never actually closing down fully.

My first port of call was to check that all was OK with the software so rebooted and held down the Command (⌘)-R keys and opened up Disk Utilities to do a permissions check followed by a Disk check. No problems there.

Not that I thought there was a hardware problem, but a hardware check wont hurt either so another reboot holding down the D key put me into the hardware test mode and unsurprisingly, no problems recorded there either.

I found a couple of recommendations to try booting into Safe Mode… This seemed a little dubious but it does clear some caches and does a system check on the way up, and heck, nothing else has helped so tried in and although it shutdown fine from Safe Mode, the symptom came back after a normal boot up and shutdown request. So, its nothing system related then.

I started looking at what was in startup by opening System Preferences -> Users and Groups and under my ID look at Login Items… Disabling them all still didn’t help at the next reboot… Still that infuriating grey screen And so finally, I end up at the console log, where I probably should have started and it was there that I noticed reference to three repeating logs about com.bluestacks files… I located these in the ~/Library folder but how best to get rid of them? I could delete them, but there may be other files lying about and thats when I came across Killerwolfs post. Follow these steps to remove all traces of the software. bluestacks-uninstall

  1. Open a terminal
  2. go to cd ~/Library/BlueStacks App Player/Uninstall/Clear BlueStacks User Data.app/Contents/MacOS
  3. then run sh uHD-ClearUserData
  4. hit Delete in the confirm popup
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The Curious Case of Sharepoint and file uploading

Its been a frazzling sort of morning… We’ve been trying to migrate some of the Schools finance information from a shared folder space tied down with access rights… As its become more complicated to sort out who has access to what, the user rights list has gotten mixed up over time… So I had the bright idea to move it to a Sharepoint area… Me and my big ideas.

We’ve been playing with the Webdav connection and thought that it was going to be a simple process of file copying from one area to another… One of those two minute jobs that took much much longer to resolve than you thought… You know the ones.

The problems began when we compared the files in the original folder to those that were in the new folder… It was out by over 90 files but there had been no error reported back. Tried copying the files and folders again using a sync tool with a report and got a number of “Access Denied” or “<file> to large to copy” messages. It was only when we tried uploading the file manually to Sharepoint that the penny finally dropped

The file name is invalid or the file is empty. A file name cannot contain any of the following characters: \ / : * ? ” < > | # { } % ~ &

OK, so now we have the root cause of the problem, invalid characters in filenames and folders…. But how many of them do we have… Thats when we found that Windows Search is a pain in the arse… trying various incarnations of “&” or “*&*” just yields a result of all files and it was only after finding a random entry in a forum post that we got the answer that must be preserved across time; To find any of the invalid characters listed above, put the following in the search bar:

file:”&”

and you will find all the file with & in the title… Found 11 of those. But when we looked up + we found 90+ items… Passed that one back to the office to fix.

Misdaventures in Computing: Customer Services and the Mobile Phone

After trawling through three shops last week to try and get a replacement phone (unsuccessfully I might add), I wish that my mobile provider had this ideal. As a result its now not my other half's provider and I'll be following as soon as I'm out of contract…

 

After her phone unexpectedly started playing up last week, there was a rush on to get a replacement… It was an odd problem, SMS messages would come through from our own provider but cross network texts wouldn't come through till the following day… Customer Services really weren't very helpful saying there was no problem with the network or the connection to the phone and the best they could suggest was rebooting the phone regularly and they might then come through… This seems to be a popular solution as Googling the problem came back with the same answer. A second call to Customer services results in no more help other than the suggestion its the phone to blame for the problem… Hmm, yes sure because the imp that's inside has decked that it doesn't like O2 or Vodaphone texts… That's likely.

With no more help forthcoming, we thought that we'd better try a new phone. We have been with our current provider for the last five years since we moved to the country and, at that time anyhow, was about the only one we could use. So, after briefly trawling the online shop I had selected the best phone to choose from with a second choice in there just in case…

The first shop i went to said they didn't stock the model I wanted, but I would go to one of their other shops to see if they had one… No offer to phone them to check if they have, it's all down to me to do it myself. The second shop had the model I was looking for on the stands but had sold the last phone of that type earlier in the week… Also, not helpful…

The final shop I trudged to had the phone… Brilliant! But despite offering two mobile provider options at the front of the shop, I couldn't get this one on the network I wanted. Nor were they willing to swap the number…

That was it…. Final straw reached!!!

Trotted off to a new provider who handled all my requests with no problem and the OH is now sporting a new phone… And very happy with it too… With a little bit of TLC and a willingness to say yes first, instead of no, things could have been very different indeed.

 

Misadventures in Computing – Outputting a Mic on a PC directly to some speakers

This is a repost of an article I posted on the School of Computing Science and Digital Media.

Over the summer, we went through an upgrade of one of the IT labs… The carpet was looking a bit shabby after some rain last year and we were going to have more students that we could hold in our foundation year lab. The lab was fitted with connectivity through from the big lab so sound and vision could be played throughout.

We have already had problems with the connectivity; the new projectors and connections were fitted first so they could make as much mess as they wanted during the install. Unfortunately when the carpet fitters came in they pulled down the shelves that held the amplifier and disconnected all the cabling. Since putting it all back together, it’s never been totally right.

So, here we are on day one of a New Semester and the lecturers running the First Year lab come through and tell us that there isn’t any sound from the Microphone going through to the second lab… A call to the company that installed the system gives us a date of Friday for the Engineer so we need a workaround NOW!

My suggestion is to hook up a USB condenser mic we have and play the sound through the PC. OF course, by default your going to need some sort of App to play the sound… But through the glories of the Internet one of the sys admin support team came across this nugget on superuser.com (specifically this post)

1) Right click on the speaker icon in your system tray (bottom right of your screen). Go to recording devices.

2) Locate your microphone in the list. I am assuming it is not disabled as you mentioned examples of it working previously. Right click, go to properties.

3) Switch to the “Listen” tab, check off “Listen to this device”. While Listen is checked, your microphone will be audible through your speakers.

Tested it and it works… now we have a workaround to get us through the rest of the week.While Listen is checked, your microphone will be audible through your speakers, and in a more advanced facet, through stereo mix. So if you wanted to record your Mic and Stereo Mix, this is how you would do it, but at the expense of being able to still hear your mic (it throws most people off, like myself).

End of an Era: Apple Computers No Longer Virus-Free | Mashable

This is a bit of a sensationalist title from Mashable: End of an Era: Apple Computers No Longer Virus-Free. Their description of what a virus is, is a tad loose… Perhaps if they had said End of an Era: Apple Computers No Longer Malware free, it may not have gathered the semantic hounds that flooded the comments for this post. However, one point remains true, Apple Mac users are now, and have been for a wee while now, been the target of attacks.

I partially blame technical individuals like myself who, fed up with relations constantly getting viruses, suggested they get a Mac as it was safer.. Nowadays, I’d recommend a tablet (though give it time an tablet and mobile malware will be rife too). Sadly, these relations are still careless with their downloads and still fall for the same scareware scams they fell for on the Windows platform.

But first, the good: In reaction to all these attacks, Apple have responded (albeit slowly) by putting in several protections that culminated with the latest Java updates including a facility where javascript is disabled if you don’t use it for a while and then you need to manually enable it if it needed. This however, doesnt help those that serially click on the required responses whether they know what it does or not.

And so onto the bad: So, its with a heavy heart that I have to agree, you need extra, third party protection on the Mac and here’s two suggestions on how to do it:

  • If you are not that technical (or your relative is) then you want a “set it and forget it” option. Install Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition which seems to run fairly smoothly even on some older or lesser powered Macs. I’ve seen Sophos running on a Hackintosh Notebook computer with only occasional stutter. Be aware however that it will use some of your system resources, mostly while its doing a full scan or an update. Note that the licence here is a personal one and so shouldn’t be installed on Macs in the workplace, companies need to obtain a valid licence.
  • Install ClamXav if you are more technical and still dont believe that you will fall victim to a scam or virus but want to protect that downloads folder, just..in..case. The important thing to do here is make sure you download the software from this link and not from the Mac App Store; downloading the App Store verision doesn’t come with ClamXav Sentry to monitor your hard drive and scan new files as they arrive. The Quarantine tab in preferences will let you define a folder that ClamXav will watch continuously for viruses. This area can be the whole user area, just one user or simply the Downloads folder. There are also options to exclude files from being scanned too. Schedule ClamXav to run at set times, and read the log files if you suspect anything fishy going on.

In the end, the choice is yours to install anti-virus or not. However, if it’s free apps your looking for, one of the above should fit the bill.

Stay Safe out there.

To BYOD or not to BYOD

The idea of allowing employees to Bring their own device into the workplace is gaining a large momentum especially with those that are struggling to keep their own desktop infrastructures up to date. This weekend there are a few stories on the Guardian Computing Network about a few council BYOD schemes starting up. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how they work out in the long term.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/government-computing-network

This one caught my eye in particular that gave warning about councils who would use BYOD as a cost saving exercise: http://www.guardian.co.uk/government-computing-network/2012/apr/26/byod-wont-save-money-blackpool

 

Personally speaking I tend to agree that BYOD should not be used as a money saving exercise to save replacement costs but as an extension to their own desktop to allow an employee to work with greater flexibility. On saying that, with greater flexibility comes greater responsibility in this case over the data stored on those devices… Lose the device and you risk exposing potentially sensitive corporate data.


I did quite like the Cambridgeshire article where they are providing an sandboxed app which gives secure access to corporate data while remaining separate form the personal information also on that device. The downside to this is the requirement for an always on connection to get to the data… Nobody ever said that security came without a price.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/government-computing-network/2012/mar/29/byod-cambrideshire-pilot-android-ios-apple

 

 

Cooler Master Cosmos II Unboxing – Extreme PC Building

Take a read about Daniels review of his new Cooler Master Cosmos II case.

What he hasn’t mentioned us how he came about getting this case; He won it in a competition that was run by Cooler Master themselves… But I already get ahead of myself. First we need to rewind about a month….

Daniel is our local expert on video production in the School of Computing at RGU and we were having a discussion about some new HP workstations we were speccing up for Video editing. I casually asked Daniel what he had at home and was a little shocked (and deeply disappointed) to find that all he had stay home was an ageing laptop.

He was shamed by my disappointment I think because the next I hear is that he is speccing his own new über-workstation. As part of this he entered a competition for the case for his world dominating machine… And he won, with this text.

And the winner of the Cosmos 2 is: Daniel Doolan!

As reason why Daniel deserves to win a Cooler Master Cosmos 2 he gave:

“I am looking to build my first PC from scratch and am looking for a case that will allow for future expansion.
I lecture in Computer Science at University and our Computer Systems Manager was horrified to hear that I had been running a laptop at home for the past few years.

He was expecting that I would have been running a really over the top extremely overclocked machine.
So this is a chance to build a machine for myself that will hopefully live up to the expectations of what our Computer System Manager would expect from me (he always comes to me when we go shopping for new equipment for the School from renderfarms and 3d motion tracking systems to high-end video cameras).

I lecture quite a bit in the area of Multimedia, and really do need to put together a beefy machine to handle audio/video/ 3d rendering allowing me to work easier from home.

Another thing I do quite a number of times each year is to go around to schools and give workshops on topics such as computer networking, games programming and building a PC.
At present the lecture slides I have for this are fairly old, and deal with just a very bog standard system.

By building my own high end machine I can use some photographs / videos in my presentation to illustrate just what can be created.

From reading the specifications I believe this case is one of the best available and provides more than enough room for future expansion.”

Glad to have been of help Daniel

Dr. Daniel C. Doolan News & Photos

Cooler Master Cosmos II Ultra Tower Case Unboxing. If you are building an extreme gaming case then this is certainly one to consider, providing you with 13 HD bays, support for more or less every type of motherboard, graphics cards up to 15.5 inches in length. It also allows for the installation of a 360mm rad on top and a 240mm rad at the bottom (with the removal of 6 hard disk bays) to create a nice watercooling loop to cater for all your CPU & GPU needs.

The big question is what components would you put into a case like this, in particular what type of system would you install for cooling – would you go Air or Water? If you go for water cooling would you go for an integrated system like the Corsair H100 or go with a set of rads something like those from hwlabs (you…

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Unity and the case of the peculiar Mac OSX File permissions

This is a repost from my (developing but very much a work in progress) work blog at http://sysman.wordpressweb.comp.rgu.ac.uk/

I came across a very odd problem this morning from a lecturer who was trying to make some Unity coursework. Its turns out in the end to be both a Mac OSX File permissions problem AND a Unity problem.

No matter how they were opened we always came back to the same problem… There wasn’t the right permissions to copy files in and out of the Temp folders. Even if you tried to Save the Project you got the same “Moving File Failed” error. After a hack about in the forums it seems that Unity doesn’t like network drives so we copied the files to the local /Users/Shared area. The problem manifested itself in the same way… There are lots of forum entries for this type of problem but no real satisfactory answers…. Time to dig deeper.

I start looking up Mac OSX file permissions and I am happily told that you can do it all from Finder and using Get Info.. Pah! that was no help and didn’t make a difference.

Then I find an entry talking about extended attributes. Ok, so it seems that when you copy a file from a network drive even to a local one, it still retains some of the network permissions for the file in its list of extended attributes…

You can view extended attribute using the xattr command in Terminal. If you know the extended attribute then you can use xattr –d “attributeName” to get rid of it. I didn’t see anything in particular so I used the cp -X command (again in Terminal) to strip out all attributes from the file.

eg cp -Xr OldUnityProject ./NewUnityProject

A follow up xattr reveals no added entries.. Super… So that sorted out the Mac OS side of the problem….Back to Unity!

Opened up Unity and the student project in the New directory. When I selected Build and Run however it still wanted to compile to the student’s original home area WHICH WE DID NOT HAVE PERMISSIONS FOR!!!! So, the first thing to do is to do File->Save Project… This time with the file permissions set properly it saves. Then when doing File->Build and Run as a final check, ensure the area where the built file is to be stored is where you think it is… i.e. local to the project.

And there you have it….

Easy really….

Computer Science in Schools – The worsening take-up of the subject by girls.

Despite the upbeat feeling towards the positive steps being taken in improving ICT in Schools recently we are still facing problems currently with the effectiveness of the teaching and especially with girls as reported by the Guardian who led off with the headline : ‘Geek’ perception of computer science putting off girls, expert warns – Dumbing down of computing to IT literacy and lack of initiatives to inspire girls to take up the subject, worsening the shortage.

I posted out this tweet:

OK, I didn’t get many replies to them but I did get confirmation from some followers what the guardina said that essentially their girls were put off of Computer science because it seemed to them that it was leading them down a secretarial vocation  as opposed to a technical one.

What I do know is that we don’t want to repeat Lego’s recent folly of releasing Lego for Girls. Like Lego, Computer Science already is for girls; Nothing needs to change other than the perception that it’s just for boys. Now how do we get that message out to Schools?

Raspberry Pi – A good idea, but does it come too late?

Back in May! The BBC reported on it and their technology programme Click! Followed up on it in June. It was suggested that the RaspberryPi, a £15 computer on a stick could provide the same home computing revolution that was kick started off in the eighties with the BBC Micro, Sinclair Spectrum, Commodore 64 and other similar machines. I posted an article a short while later when the Alpha production schedule was announced.

Now if we fast forward to more recently we are once again hearing about it again: In December 2011 there was an announcement that the first batch of devices were nearly ready for release. Now in January 2012 several early test devices have been auctioned on EBay for £3,000 so there is interest in them.

However, I cannot help but think that this very good idea may have come along too late. I can see the use of them in Schools during the day but as I see it the main problem that I see is the reliance on external devices outside the school environment. As I write this, I am sitting with my iPad in front of the TV which is on. In other words I can both watch TV and do work at the same time. With the advent of ideas like CodeAcademy, a safe programming environment is presented to a student on the device in front of them and there is no need to plug into anything. I personally think that this is a better way forward even if the RapBerryPi is a very portable device.

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