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Oculus Rift Over Fibre Optic

Well here’s a niche article if ever there was one.

In our recording studios, we have no computers. Rather, the computers are kept in a separate room, connected to each studio by a mixture of analogue audio cabling, CAT5e and fibre optic. The fibre is used for FireWire and any display connectivity we may need, using whichever converters are suitable.

This results in super-silent rooms with no whirring or squeaking or clicking, but it does present some odd challenges. Not all conversion systems are made equal and not all devices will happily get along with the adapters we use, for whole host of reasons. So when we started exploring the world of immersive 3D with Oculus Rift, I suspected I may have some headaches.

Display Chatter

Adding a new display in most places involves nothing more than plugging it in, but in our setup we first have to program the transmission end of the fibre converter with the EDID of the display we’re about to use. This way the computer knows what it’s talking to without actually being connected to the real thing. Seeing as the Rift’s video is nothing more than a display on a HDMI cable, you might assume that the same technique would work just fine. This is not the case.

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Failed Core Storage Conversion

We have a Mac mini connected to an external storage box via FireWire. In a reasonably sensible manner, someone pointed Time Machine at one of the volumes on the DAS, thinking they should back the machine up to this location. They also thought also it would be best to encrypt the backup; very laudable.

However, this triggered a conversion process into an Apple Core Storage volume, which did not complete successfully. Luckily, OS X stopped trying and remounted the volume as HFS+. All appeared to be well, but after a reboot things were much less cheerful.

On restarting the machine, the volume was missing. Checking with diskutil list returned this layout:

/dev/disk1
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *17.6 TB    disk1
   1:                        EFI EFI                     209.7 MB   disk1s1
   2:                  Apple_HFS Backup                  2.0 TB     disk1s2
   3:          Apple_CoreStorage                         15.6 TB    disk1s3
   4:                 Apple_Boot Boot OS X               134.2 MB   disk1s4

But diskutil cs list returned this:

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Mac Pro Storage Upgrade

An SD-PEX40079 with three 256GB Crucial m550 mSATA drives attached.

I’ve been slowly changing my storage habits lately, because I’ve been seduced by the speed of Solid State Drives. When I bought my Mac Pro, I got it with the extortionately expensive Apple SSD. It’s as solid as a rock, and the only thing out there with official TRIM support, but it’s not the speediest option and that’s largely down to the measly 3Gb/s SATA II bus that Apple forgot to upgrade with the 2012 edition. Seriously, guys, you couldn’t have swapped out that controller?

However, because these Mac Pro machines are proper tower systems with PCI-E 2.0, there are options out there. For a long time I was going to go with the Sonnet Tempo SSD Pro (or the Pro Plus as it’s now become) but blimey, at over £200 it’s an expensive way of putting SATA III in your machine. And eSATA is a lovely feature, but not already owning any eSATA caddies, I just didn’t think I’d use it that much.

A little Googling turned up this thread on the TonyMac forum, where ‘gsloan’ had found success with the Syba SD-PEX40068. But would you believe it; discontinued. Nuts.

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Caching Server Cache Size

The Caching Service in OS X Sever is great – turn it on, and it largely works just fine. However, I host the cache itself on a Drobo. The Drobo appears as a 16TB volume on the system, so Server.app thinks it’s just a wonderful idea to give me Cache Size slider graduations of 30GB, 1TB, 2TB, etc. That’s not helpful.

Luckily, Apple haven’t obfuscated the configuration for this at all, and I’m not being sarcastic for once. Just go to:

/Library/Sever/Caching/Config/Config.plist

You’ll find the CacheLimit key right there at the top, with an integer value in bytes. Turn off Caching Server, edit, turn Caching Server back on again. Lovely.

Screenshot of Server.app showing the Caching Server config panel.

Okay, so the slider shows the wrong value, but the Usage area gets it right. Now why couldn’t they have just put a box in the UI? Ah, because this is Server.app, not Server Admin.app.

My sarcasm is creeping back!

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Command Line Wireless Options in OS X

Managing OS X wireless options was a terrible mystery until I discovered the magical hidden ‘airport’ command. If you do any Mac sysadmin work, I recommend:

sudo ln -s /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/Apple80211.framework/Versions/A/Resources/airport /usr/sbin/airport

This gives you lovely, straightforward access to the airport command, from which you can turn wifi on and off, configure administrative settings; basically everything you need. However, watch out; there’s been a change in the version currently shipping in Mavericks. My fave command was:

sudo airport en1 prefs RequireAdmin=YES

But this will no longer work. Instead you receive this response:

'Unrecognized prefs option 'RequireAdmin=YES'.

It’s not a problem, because Apple have actually unpacked the RequireAdmin option into it’s three constituent parts; RequireAdminIBSS, RequireAdminNetworkChange and RequireAdminPowerToggle. You can now control each of them individually.

So my favourite command has now become:

sudo airport en1 prefs RequireAdminIBSS=YES RequireAdminNetworkChange=YES RequireAdminPowerToggle=YES

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The Dell 1320cn Printer and OS X

'Dell Color Laser Network Printer 1320cn' by Cheon Fong Liew

Do you have a Dell 1320c or 1320cn? And a Mac? Are you tired of not being able to print? Fret no more!

The drivers from Dell are stuck way back in the Tiger (v10.4) and Leopard (v10.5) days and I’ve had no end of trouble with them. But, as is so often the case, the hardware inside that Dell printer isn’t really Dell at all. What you actually have is a revamped version of the Fuji Xerox DocuPrint C525A.

Luckily, Fuji Xerox are rather more amenable to keeping their drivers driving and their printers printing than Mike’s company is.

Installation

You could install the drivers directly from Fuji Xerox, but why bother? Apple have already rolled the drivers into a snazzy package that will auto-update when new versions are released. Head over to the FujiXerox Printer Drivers page on Apple’s website, download and install the printer driver package. This works on the latest Mavericks version, all the way back to Snow Leopard.

Screenshot of the Fuji Xerox C525 A-AP v3.2 printer driver being installed for a Dell 1320cn printer.

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Fix Postfix for Gmail on Snow Leopard

This is a quick and dirty method for getting Postfix (as built-in on Mac OS X v10.6) to send mail via Gmail.

My little home server is a tweaked Mac mini, but Snow Leopard is the last version of OS X that will work on it without even more hacking around (besides, it’s the best version of OS X Server, IMHO). I had a search around on the web and after combining a few different methods, came up with this to make it work.

Sort out Certificates

Google changed to using Equifax as their certificate signing authority some time ago, but Postfix doesn’t know about them. So, you need to add their certificate (and we’ll add Thawte at the same time, for good measure).

Start by creating a certificates directory:

sudo mkdir /etc/postfix/certs

Jump into it and create a file called Equifax_Secure_CA.pem, then copy the following into it:

-----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----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-----END CERTIFICATE-----

Then you need to create the Thawte one as well. Call it Thawte_Premium_Server_CA.pem.

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Mac OS X Server and DNS

I’ve just bumped into this little chestnut again, and thought it would be worth documenting quickly, once and for all.

If you run Mac OS X Server, the one thing that is more important than anything else is to make sure the DNS hostname is set correctly. It’s fundamental – everything breaks if it’s not working. Out of the box, Server even configures its own DNS server to make sure the details are correct.

Now, I run my own internal DNS using Mac OS X Server, just so I don’t need to remember IP addresses. However, after adding an address to the DNS yesterday, the hostname of the server magically changed. I didn’t ask it to, it just happened. It was time to break out the repair tools.

Three Commands Will Save You

They are changeip, scutil and dscacheutil. Remember them, because they are your only friends. If the DNS is iffy, Server Admin runs away and needs some coaxing to play again (which, of course, is really helpful).

First, make sure that your IP address is correct. Please tell me you’re using a static IP? Yes? Good. If that’s not the issue, fire up Terminal.app and find out what’s going on. My first hint was that the hostname next to my command prompt had changed, which is a pretty big clue. Run:

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Moving Apple Software Update Files

Here’s a fun one. You’ve set up Software Update Server on your Mac OS X Server system and all is fine. Then you realise that you’re the proud owner of a directory containing 52GB of software updates and you’ve put it in a silly place.

You shut down Software Update in Server Admin and move the directory to a bigger drive. You reconfigure the path and then re-enable the server. You see from the logs that all is well and you fire up Software Update on your client machine.

Hooray. That’s not quite what we were aiming for.

Foolishly, I have in the past simply resigned myself to ‘fixing’ this by deleting the software update directory, recreating a blank one and erasing all of the configuration files in /etc/swupd. This is a silly thing to do as you’ll end up downloading that 52GB all over again. It turns out the solution is ridiculously simple.

sudo rm <path to swupd cache>/html/index*

This removes the various .sucatalog symbolic links which are still pointing towards your original software update directory. Software Update Server isn’t clever enough to repair these if the directory is moved, but it is clever enough to recreate them if they’re not there.

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Menu Extras and MCX

There’s a little quirk when you’re controlling menu extras for Mac OS X client systems using MCX. Well, there’s more than one quirk, but you know what I mean.

By default, new users of Mac OS X systems get Blutooth, Time Machine and Volume menu extras, as well as the clock. The Spotlight control is separate, so we won’t mention it here. On our systems I don’t really want to display the Bluetooth menu extra, we don’t use Time Machine and the volume is controlled by the external audio interfaces, so they could all do with going away.

An unmanaged menu bar in OS X

Digging through ~/Library/Preferences/ByHost shows that this is handled by a configuration file called com.apple.systemuiserver.XXXX.plist and as such you can control what appears using the configuration options in Workgroup Manager. The key you’re after is sensibly named dontAutoLoad, which can contain the paths to any Menu Extras.

The simplest way to configure the behaviour is to set up a user as you like it, then import the .plist file into Workgroup Manager using the ‘+’ on the Details tab of Preferences. Just make sure you import with the ‘Import as ByHost preferences’ button ticked. Reboot, log back in to the managed client and…

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Overclocking an iMac G4 with 133MHz Bus

Over at ethernetworks.de there’s a really good description of how to overclock an Apple iMac G4. Unfortunately, their table of resistor positions only holds true for the 167MHz USB 2.0 model iMac and mine is slightly older and has a 133MHz bus.

You can work out the appropriate PLL resistor settings by referring to the datasheet for the MPC7455 (see Table 17: MPC7455 Microprocessor PLL Configuration Example for 1.0 GHz Parts). However, figuring the combinations out can be a bit dizzying, so after working out the settings for 1.27GHz, I figured out the rest just in case I needed them in the future.

‘R’ = resistor present, ‘-’ = no connection.

Please only use this information after double-checking that I’ve got it right. The iMac G4 is probably my favourite design of computer and I don’t want to be hearing that you’ve stuffed one up using the information I’m providing. If you’re uncertain about anything, just don’t do it (although, I must admit that a jump from 1GHz to 1.27GHz does make a noticeable improvement to the machine).

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