Got the Mac Pro running again

The Mac Pro “Quad Core” (specs here) that I picked up at a surplus sale for $50 just cost me another $15. No, wait, it was $20. The power button was blinking on and off and the machine wouldn’t boot. Supposedly, you can fix certain things just by resetting the SMC. Or maybe the battery is dead. Since the computer is about 10+ years old and probably was still using the OEM battery, I figured I should start there, I started there by replacing it. (It’s a C2032 lithium battery, which is apparently the button battery equivalent of a AA. It cost me $5, because I didn’t  check Amazon, where they run about 80¢.)

But, sorry, no luck with the SMC or battery. That left “bad RAM” as the problem. The RAM is (unfortunately) but exotic and obsolete: PC6400 DDR2 ECC 800MHz in pairs of 240 Pin FB-DIMM Modules.  ECC memory! Can you believe it? I don’t think I’ve used ECC RAM since leaving college and the DECSystem-20‘s core memory. Or, who knows? Maybe I use ECC memory all the time via Facebook, Google, Amazon, and other web-based services. But I’ve never had to pay for it. It’s not cheap, at upwards of $10 per GB from OWC.

How much could I afford? The machine came with 4 MB, but it supports up to 16 GB (or 32 GB if you cheat). It seems crazy to spend money to upgrade a machine today if you’re only going to have 4 GB when you’re done, but who wants to buy $80 worth of RAM?

Finally, I hit on the idea of getting the wrong kind of RAM. Apple RAM has about 4 ounces of head-spreaders per stick. (It’s actually pretty amazing. I guess they figure people who buy a Mac Pro are going to be serious users.) But you can get ECC RAM of the wrong kind directly from China for just $15. So that’s what I did.

It arrived, and I installed it. (What an awesome thing it is to have a computer from Apple that is easy to upgrade instead of a hermetically sealed Batmobile.)

The best part is that it works. It’s probably more failure prone now, I know. But remember, it wasn’t booting at all. This looks better to me:

Mac Pro - working again

Ubuntu 16.10 and Zeroconf

I don’t do enough system admin to enjoy it when I do. (Does anyone?)

When you upgrade Ubuntu, you lose a lot of the software you’d installed. There’s a list of system admin tips that I try to remember here. (Which reminds me, I should find a better home for it for when Twitter dies.)

I couldn’t resolve names of Macs in my local network. I should point out what a shame it is that Mac addresses aren’t the same thing as MAC addresses, since Google as my primary system admin resource.

That’s the work of avahi-daemon and friends (a/k/a Zeroconf and Bonjour). For awhile I thought that something had broken there. But eventually, I figured out that was working, i.e., the problem lay elsewhere.

I wondered if they’d added a firewall to 16.10. They did (or, for all I know, they’ve always had one) called ufw (more here), but it’s (still) not enabled by default. If that ever changes, I can learn what to do about it here.

After about an hour, I found out there is something called nss-resolve. Which is actually a pretty clever idea. Except it wasn’t working. Its configuration file is well documented here. Good luck figuring that out.

Finally, I just compared my 16.10 /etc/nss-switch.conf file with the one from a working installation of 16.04.1. HAH!

Not only was there a difference, it gave me a string I could Google. That brought me to this: http://askubuntu.com/questions/837982/how-to-configure-local-dns-lookup-in-ubuntu-16-10

It also brought me to this: https://github.com/systemd/systemd/issues/4157, which (if I read it correctly) says that I should go ahead and use the string from 16.04.1 that works instead of the one from 16.10 that doesn’t.

Microsoft Keyboard Blues

I foolishly installed the Intellipoint drivers for my Microsoft Keyboard 4000, and have been frustrated ever since. I assume it’s because it’s a Microsoft product on a Mac.

Anyway. This is the solution.

First, uninstall the Microsoft drivers as described there.

Second, open the keyboard preferences pane:

Mac OSX Keyboard Prefs

Then swap the modifier keys as follows:

Mac OSX Keyboard Prefs

More rbenv notes

My last post on rbenv mentioned some things you need to do to get ruby to build on Mountain Lion. Here are a few more things.

This guy Jacob Swanner didn’t want to use either Xcode or gcc. He just used the Xcode command-line tools, with a CC environment variable, thus:

$ CC=/usr/bin/clang rbenv install 1.9.3-p194
$ rbenv global 1.9.3-p194

That won’t work with older versions of Ruby, however, as I mentioned before.

I noted he is also a Homebrew user. I’m not yet ready to go there, although macports gets more and more frustrating with each OS release. (I’m not alone.) (But that’s a subject for some other time.)

And, for convenience, here’s another Homebrewer’s notes on how to get ruby building again with Mountain Lion

Ruby and Mac OS X Lion

When Apple switched from GCC to LLVM in Xcode 4.2, they made it significantly more difficult for me to run ruby 1.9.2. (What are the odds this will get easier with Mountain Lion?)

I was using rbenv and its rbenv-build plugin to install ruby 1.9.2 and it told me this:

$ rbenv install 1.9.2-p320

ERROR: This package must be compiled with GCC, but ruby-build couldn't
find a suitable `gcc` executable on your system. Please install GCC
and try again.

DETAILS: Apple no longer includes the official GCC compiler with Xcode
as of version 4.2. Instead, the `gcc` executable is a symlink to
`llvm-gcc`, a modified version of GCC which outputs LLVM bytecode.

For most programs the `llvm-gcc` compiler works fine. However,
versions of Ruby older than 1.9.3-p125 are incompatible with
`llvm-gcc`. To build older versions of Ruby you must have the official
GCC compiler installed on your system.

TO FIX THE PROBLEM: Install the official GCC compiler using these
packages: https://github.com/kennethreitz/osx-gcc-installer/downloads

You will need to install the official GCC compiler to build older
versions of Ruby even if you have installed Apple's Command Line Tools
for Xcode package. The Command Line Tools for Xcode package only
includes `llvm-gcc`.

Note: when you install that, it doesn’t (appear to) provide an uninstaller. Instead it says this:

If something doesn’t work as expected, feel free to install Xcode over this installation.

Once installed, you can remove Xcode completely with the following:

sudo /Developer/Library/uninstall-devtools –mode=all

Bummer for me, huh? Mercifully, the GCC installation package doesn’t mess up the llvm-gcc link in /usr/bin/gcc. But that means when I do the ruby build, I need to add:

export CC=/usr/bin/gcc-4.2

Mountain Lion

So I looked at the list of 200 new features in Mountain Lion and … meh.

If there’s a company in the world that they didn’t pick in preference to Google, though, I couldn’t figure out what it is. I mean, really: a feature to let you access Vimeo?

I wonder how much of that linkage is built on APIs where you can connect to other alternative services? I understand that Apple feels threatened by Google (why, I can’t imagine, except their legendary paranoia) and wants to partner with everyone else. (Vimeo!?) But I want to put together a best-of-breed workflow. I don’t want a Safari reading list, I want Instapaper. I don’t want Safari bookmarks, I want Pinboard. But I’ll get what Apple thinks I should have, which means the services that are dumbed down enough for computer novices to use on their phones.

Except when those services are business partners of Apples. Like Facebook. I don’t want or need hooks to Facebook, but I’ll be surprised if any way to turn them completely off, either. I wonder how much of my activity leaks over to Facebook, and how does much does Apple get for selling to to them? (And since when does Apple overhang the market like this? Fall availability? Why wasn’t it ready in time for the general release of Mountain Lion?)

As for iCloud…. I’d love it if iCloud did what I want, though. I’d love to share calendars with my family members. I can do that now with Google Calendar. Apple says I will be able to do it now with iCloud. That would be a welcome improvement. It’s not clear that you can do that with your contacts, bookmarks, notes, and reminders, though.

(That is another problem with all the social-media linkage, as well. The social media sites all want me to have one persona. What good is it if Twitter is linked into everything I do, so long as it’s just one Twitter account? And Facebook won’t even let me have multiple accounts.)

Whatever.

Ubuntu Mono Font

It’s been a fair while since I mentioned my search for the perfect monospaced font to use in Terminal.app, MacVim, and similar apps. But there’s a new contender: Ubuntu Mono. (Click the picture for a bigger version.)

Ubuntu Mono Typeface

(Gruber kind of dismissed the rest of the Ubuntu family, but he agrees the monospaced fonts are nice.)

Photo Manipulation Tools

Here are some of my favorite tools for working with digital images.

Pixelmator. This is my go-to program for digital images, and someday they’ll ship 2.0 and it will be awesome.

Xee calls itself “a lightweight, fast and convenient image viewer and browser.” I agree. The best feature, for my money, is that it lets you losslessly rotate and crop JPEG images. You can do that with jpegtran too, but that’s a command-line tool. Those are great for batch jobs, but image cropping is almost always better done using an interactive GUI front-end.

Acorn is my second-favorite image editor. If Pixelmator wasn’t so darned good, this would be my favorite. Usually what brings me to Acorn is when I need to do something with filters and I can’t figure out how to do it in Pixelmator. The tech support is great, too.

Speaking of filters, I like to goof around with FX Photo Studio, too. MacPhun, the maker, also makes a cute one-trick-pony called Color Splash Studio which is worth the $2 I paid for it.

I also use a ton of different command line tools. I’ll write about those someday Real Soon Now.