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ZEVO ZFS over Thunderbolt on a Mac

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After years of threatening, I finally set up a ZFS pool in a Mac OS X (10.8.5) environment. Today, I downloaded ZEVO Community Edition, which is (self)-described as “a momentous, much needed and long-overdue improvement over Apple’s status quo file system (HFS+) that was designed in the mid 1980s — before the Internet existed!” I totally agree. HFS+ is a turd, allowing “bit-rot” to silently corrupt your data over time. I am a working photographer with many terabytes of data that I need to store securely. Although I keep many copies of the data (and versioned copies of important stuff), I have, on occasion, gone back to old pictures only to find them to be corrupted. This scares me. Luckily, ZFS is a file system that has been designed not to allow silent corruption. If you want to know more about ZFS, read its Wikipedia entry. (read more »)

Los Altos, CA | link | trackb | 16 comments » | Oct 12, 2013 01:39:46

Setting your PATH in Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion

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In older versions of Mac OS X, you could set your PATH variable in terminal by adding to your .profile in your home directory. Recently, a bunch of my scripts started to fail because I use a lot of tools that are located in /opt/local/bin and /opt/local/sbin, and those paths were no longer in my PATH environment variable.

As of the latest updates to OS X 10.8.3 (Build 12D78), Terminal.app no longer seems to parse .profile when it starts up. What works, now, is to edit “/etc/paths”.

paths

I just tested it, and it works.

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 5 comments » | Apr 9, 2013 19:25:29

Time Machine vs Crashplan and other thoughts on backup

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Those of you who follow me on social media know that I complain often about the work required to keep my data securely and reliably backed up. Since 1997, I’ve been a hardcore Crashplan user. I love that it features continuous, versioned backups to multiple destinations, and that it supports multiple platforms. You can backup any Mac, Windows or Linux machine to virtually any destination (folder, second computer, or cloud).

I continue to recommend Crashplan over Time Machine for normal users; for a very-small monthy subscription fee, you can back up every machine in your family to an external drive, and to the cloud—a fast, local backup plus a secure offsite backup, all in one solution.

Unfortunately, I am not a typical user. I have about 10 terabytes of data that I need to keep easily accessible and securely backed up. About half of that are static image files, which are stored on a redundant NAS volume and backed up offsite, which leaves the other half—about 5 TB—needing to be actively backed up. (read more »)

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 5 comments » | Aug 13, 2012 08:55:12

Why did I upgrade to Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion? I don’t know.

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I’m not sure why I upgraded today to Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. I have the most complicated Mac Pro setup around, and every time I upgrade to a new OS version when it comes out, I suffer. But I am an early adopter, so it’s in my nature to do these sorts of things. It’s how I learn, I suppose.

So far, I haven’t noticed any striking new features in the new OS. I know there are many new features, but none of them have been really obvious, yet—at least, when using my computer in the normal way I use my computer. I am really looking forward to being able to share my screen via AirPlay, but I don’t think my Mac Pro is supported, so I will likely continue using AirParrot to do the same thing. I’m not sure what else will be interesting. I’m not a Safari user, so all web-reading improvements are sort of lost of me. I signed in to Twitter, Vimeo and Flickr, but haven’t seen any signs of integration, yet.

The Mail, Contacts & Calendars preference pane is a disaster. I opened it up and it doesn’t match any of my Mail account settings—it pulls email addresses instead of actual usernames from mail accounts, and then complains that the passwords are wrong. It isn’t obvious what it’s doing.

Mail.app is now super slow. It is laggy—I have to wait seconds to do things—and I can’t bring it to the foreground with a single click unless I click in the header area when it’s in the background. I do have a 28GB mail archive, but Mail.app under Lion was fast, so the new one is definitely worse.

Most apps I’ve tried continue to work. I’ve had (only) the following problems, so far:

  • Mail.app (performance)
  • YouSendIt Express (doesn’t work)
  • Sonnet Presto Gigabit Server PCIe (doesn’t work—apparently, I have the “old” version, which is 15 months old)
  • Calendar sync with Google (lots of conflicts, repeatedly)
  • Notification center (gave me the same notification every few minutes—I disabled it altogether)

The Sonnet Presto Gigabit Server PCIe card not working was a pain, especially because Sonnet tech support told me directly that it would work. This card is my direct iSCSI conduit to my ReadyNAS image archive (via LACP), and it took me awhile to figure out how to re-establish contact with the iSCSI target (which is configured for LACP, as well). I tried link bonding the Mac Pro’s 2 ethernet ports, but it wouldn’t connect to the ReadyNAS. I eventually solved this (temporarily) by configuring a bond in my switch and connecting the ReadyNAS directly to it (instead of directly to the Mac Pro). This worked, luckily, but going through the switch is definitely slower.

Again, I am not a normal computer user, so I don’t know why I still try to do early upgrades. It never just works.

One last note: iCloud document integration will probably be great for folks who exclusively use 1 application to work with 1 document type (e.g., Pages for all word processing), but it will break down very quickly when used with file formats that are commonly used by multiple applications (e.g., save a picture with Photoshop, and then try to view it in Preview). It doesn’t seem well thought out, but will probably be fine for the people out there who have no idea where they are saving their files…

If you want a great overview / review of 10.8, I highly recommend reading the ArsTechnica review, which is excellent.

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | no comments » | Jul 27, 2012 06:45:05

Automatically syncing Instagram and iPhone photos to your Mac

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The recent Dropbox update on iOS (version 1.5.1) includes a new feature that automatically uploads all photos and videos taken with your iPhone or iPad to Dropbox. Various camera apps and social network apps like Facebook’s Camera app and Google+ have started offering automatic sync to their respective photo albums, but I want my pictures to sync to my computer, not to an online service. Apple’s iCloud service also offers Photo Stream sync of your last 1,000 pictures, but this works best if you’re an iPhoto or Aperture user.

Dropbox Photos and Video Sync

When I upgraded to Dropbox 1.5.1, the app stopped responding altogether, so I had to remove it from my iPhone and re-download it. Once I did that, the first-use wizard connected my account and asked me whether I wanted to automatically sync photos and video to Dropbox. If you have gigabytes of media on your iPhone, be sure to tell the app to only sync new media; otherwise, you may find yourself trying to upload a lot of data over Wi-Fi—or worse, over your mobile carrier’s data plan.

Once you’re set up, you’ll find a new folder called “Camera Uploads” in your Dropbox folder. Initial tests worked very well. Bringing the Dropbox app to the foreground will start the sync process, and when I launched the app and left it running in the background, it continued to upload (once I had kicked it off by launching it); to avoid uploading huge amounts of data over your mobile data plan (if you’re not on an unlimited data plan), you may want to keep Dropbox closed.

Syncing Instagram to DropBox

I also like to sync my Instagram feed to a folder on my computer. To do this, I use a free web service called Instadrop.

Instadrop connects with your Instagram account and automatically pushes new pictures to a Dropbox folder. It works very well—so well, in fact, that it continued to work even after I forgot how I had set it up originally. If you want to stop syncing, you can revoke access to Instadrop by going to Dropbox->Your Account->Manage Applications.

Once you revoke access to Instadrop, the Dropbox sync will stop.

Dropbox security

Remember that any app you authorize to talk to Dropbox will have access to every file you have hosted on the service. I don’t like this, so I use a second Dropbox account for my mobile apps and share folders to my main Dropbox account. I also use an encrypted sparse bundle within Dropbox to store all of my sensitive information. Since Dropbox and most other cloud-based file storage services are insecure by design, you need to protect your sensitive data yourself.

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | no comments » | Jun 16, 2012 21:33:30
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i hate computers.