2007-09-23

Please pay in shop before filling

Filed under: Lotus — iain @ 21:18:28

Thus read the sign at a petrol station in the middle of nowhere which I reached with the fuel gauge snarling REFILL.

I went in and asked "What’s with the paying before filling up?"

"Oh you can fill up first if you want."

2007-09-16

JollysFastVNC: Does exactly what it says on the tin

Filed under: Geekiness — iain @ 21:52:26

Mac VNC clients suffer a little in comparison to their Windows or UNIX counterparts. Chicken of the VNC has a decent feature set but is slow. RealVNC viewer is noticeably faster but can get confused when you try to scroll the window, and it doesn’t reconnect the session when the machine wakes up from sleep.

Quite by chance I stumbled across JollysFastVNC. "Ooh," I thought to myself, "a VNC client that claims to be fast." Good news indeed. So I fired it up.

Holy jeepers! The dude wasn’t kidding. This thing is fast!

Macs at home; part 7: AFP vs NFS

Filed under: Geekiness — iain @ 20:47:31

See the introduction to this post.

It’s been an eventful day which started and ended with frustration but finishes with a greater understanding of network home directories, a working AFP server and cleartext passwords finally banished.

I sent my fileserver down for reboot to install the latest Linux kernel. At this point my iMac, on which I had a desktop session, became very very upset. My home directory is NFS mounted and when the server went away the client became totally unusable. Even when the server came back up it wouldn’t re-establish the mounts.

UNIX machines traditionally tend to choke when NFS servers go away but the Mac automounter absolutely refused to come back to life and I had no option but the reboot the machine. I wondered if AFP home directories would be more reliable.

It turns out they are but there’s a fatal flaw. An ssh connection to the machine won’t mount the AFP home which means they’re only useful for a desktop session. At least I did get them working though.

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2007-09-15

OS X managed users

Filed under: Geekiness — iain @ 15:18:26

A managed user has certain preferences defined by the administrator (that’s you) which may or may not be editable after being set. The preferences are stored as attributes in LDAP namedapple-user-mcxflags and apple-user-mcxsettings whose values are Base64-encoded XML data.

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2007-09-12

I got an iMac

Filed under: Geekiness,Lotus — iain @ 21:50:24

I really wanted an iMac. The new ones are a nice spec (1920×1200 resolution on a 24" display for the top end ones) but they aren’t cheap. The lower spec machines look nice but the 1680×1050 resolution on a 20" screen equates to an inferior dot pitch compared to my MacBook Pro.

Having decided that what I really wanted was a big screen, I hit eBay.

A guy had a few of the last batch of the old iMacs for sale, with the white casing before they switched to the brushed metal look. £900 cash on collection from Birmingham. Bargain.

Rebecca and I jumped in the car and hit the motorway. Two hours later we were there. The bloke wasn’t a weirdo and his house was right next to a carpark. Free parking for the win. He had the iMac all set up for me to inspect and it didn’t take long to confirm that it was kosher.

Then the fun started.

First Rebecca asked if she could use the guy’s bathroom. So far so usual after a two hour drive barely 20cm off the ground. Only she couldn’t get out of it. Turns out the handle on the door is pretty stiff and the door wouldn’t open. The result was that she had to call my mobile for assistance.

Then the iMac was too big to fit in the boot. "Why don’t you put it on the back seat?" quoth the guy. "Back seat? What’s that?" I replied. "Oh yeah. Two-seater."

The upshot of this was that Rebecca had to sit with the machine between her legs the whole way home. Hey, I moved house in that car. A single computer wasn’t going to be a problem.

Macs at home; Part 6: NFS server

Filed under: Geekiness — iain @ 21:33:10

See the introduction to this post.

Macs can be NFS servers with a little poking. Here’s how to export /Applications to 192.168.1.0/24 without root squashing.

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2007-09-06

Tales of prejudice

Filed under: Uncategorized — iain @ 23:08:45

Rob, Carmelo and I decided we would spend the evening watching a DVD. We went down into the street, crossed over to the commercial centre, passing the chicken joint and the pizzeria who knew us from the first sound of our voices on the telephone – "the Westerners" – and to the video store.

We spent an inordinate amount of time browsing the extensive catalogue of films but we couldn’t decide what to rent. One of us had seen that one, one of us didn’t like that style of movie, one of us didn’t like that director.

I don’t recall who it was but there was an actor that Carmelo simply didn’t like. A Hollywood A-list actor. A big shot. And Carmelo didn’t like him. Simply refused to watch any movie with him in it. It might have been Arnold Schwarzenegger. Or Nicholas Cage. It was so long ago. I can see Carmelo point blank refuse to rent that particular title because of its star. Tom Cruise? I can hear his protests but I can’t recall the name.

It frustrated me. We’d been in that shop for what seemed like hours and we just couldn’t decide what DVD to get and here Carmelo was refusing a perfectly adequate choice for what I took to be a perfectly ridiculous reason. I thought it was quite irrational and I made sure he knew what I felt. But he didn’t budge and we didn’t get that flick. I don’t even remember what we did watch.

Now four years on I can almost see where he was coming from. Without a TV when they were originally shown, I’ve finally watching the latest series of Doctor Who. Overall I’ve really enjoyed them. A fitting continuation of a show I loved as a child. Then I had to go and read (it won’t be news to you of course) that Catherine Tate, whom I’d never heard of before watching the show, is to be the co-star in the next series.

And for that reason I can easily see myself not watching it.

Locked out

Filed under: Geekiness — iain @ 15:45:15

I’d been having trouble sending to a mailing list which I read. The mails weren’t bounced back; they simply vanished into the ether. My domain publishes SPF records but these allow my colocated server and my home network to send mail.

But what they don’t allow … is the colo server’s upstream relay.

Oops.

Luckily GoDaddy – for it is they – publish a dedicated SPF record which I could easily include in my own details. I was then able to post to the mailing list.

I began to wonder how many other emails I might have sent out but which simply vanished. Then I remembered that these particular ones were all being sent via the colo server. Usually I send mail directly from my home network so I would have been OK.

2007-09-02

Macs at home; Part 5: Portable Home Directories

Filed under: Geekiness — iain @ 14:19:56

See the introduction to this post.

At the end of Part 4 Rebecca’s account details were stored only in LDAP and her home directory lived on an NFS share. I had an LDAP account with the same UID and GID as that on my MacBook Pro and separate home directories on the laptop and on the network.

With OS X 10.4 you can set up Portable Home Directories. Roaming profiles. It’s really quite easy. First you log on as a network user. Then you open System Preferences and go to Accounts. You select the user you just logged in as, click the lock and authenticate as a local admin, then check Create mobile account. Finally log out and log back on again.

Upon relogging, the contents of the network home will be copied to /Users and a user will be create in NetInfo with an AuthenticationAuthority of LocalCachedUser. The system will launch MirrorAgent (the same app used to synchronise your iDisk) which will synchronise the local and network accounts at login, after logout and every 20 minutes (configurable) while the account is logged in.

I created a test user called mac to test this out.

    $ dscl localhost -read /NetInfo/Users/mac
    AuthenticationAuthority: ;LocalCachedUser;/LDAPv3/ldap.iain.cx:mac:
    NFSHomeDirectory: /Users/mac
    OriginalHomeDirectory: /Network/Servers/files/home/mac
    OriginalNFSHomeDirectory: /Network/Servers/files/home/mac
    OriginalNodeName: /LDAPv3/ldap.iain.cx

Update 2007-10-31: With Leopard the command is:

    $ dscl localhost -read /Local/Default/Users/mac

But wait! Don’t rush off and do this just yet!

If you Google Portable Home Directories you will find more detailed discussion on the caveats I will now present.

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Convert a DMG image to ISO9660

Filed under: Geekiness — iain @ 13:45:29

    $ hdiutil makehybrid -iso -o /path/to/destination /path/to/source.dmg

hdiutil will append the .iso extension to the destination ISO image.

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