Building an OS X Triage Drive

The Instructional:

An external hard drive containing a bootable copy of OS X is probably the most important tool for any Mac technician to have. Whether you’re trying to troubleshoot a failed software update or need to install Mavericks onto hundreds of Macs, an external hard drive loaded with OS X can be just what you need to perform whatever software task might be needed.

Serving as an epilogue to our series Disk Management from the Command-Line, we’ll explore how to build an external boot drive and automate the process if multiple drives are needed.

Over at The Instructional, I demonstrate how to create a multi-purpose OS X installation and troubleshooting drive – as well as how to automate its creation with a shell script.

The BBC’s oddly-worded statement about Apple TV support makes no sense

The BBC has released updated their Android and iOS versions of the popular iPlayer app that now supports Chromecast. While explaining this newly supported platform for iPlayer, Chris Yanda made this bizarre statement about their apparent “lack” of Apple TV support:

One of the reasons we decided to support Chromecast was that Apple TV currently works only with Apple devices. Chromecast has SDKs available for a number of different platforms including iOS, Android, and the Chrome browser for laptop and desktop computers. Today we’ve added support to the latest versions of both the Android and iOS versions of BBC iPlayer. Soon, we will also be adding support for the Chrome web browser on Mac, Windows, Linux, and Chrome OS desktop and laptop computers for the new web version of iPlayer.

This makes almost no sense and I really don’t understand what he’s implying. The iOS app already supports the Apple TV via the use of AirPlay, and has done for some time.

The only other feature request the BBC is likely to be asked when it comes to the Apple TV is if they’ll ever release their own application channel that runs natively, something that would have nothing to do with 3rd-party compatibility. It would simply offer the same functionality as the hundreds of set-top boxes, smart TVs and gaming consoles that are already supported.

Bad Advice from an “Apple Tech”: BitTorrent and older OS X installation discs

I can’t believe MacWorld ran a post with such bad advice:

If you service Macs on a regular basis, sooner or later, you’ll absolutely need an older Mac OS X installation disc to complete a project that’s due in a very short amount of time. Under normal circumstances, I’m sure you’d be happy to buy it off Craigslist, eBay or any other source, but the deadline is approaching and you’ve run out of options.

At this time, you might consider entering the murky legal and ethical waters of BitTorrent. People who are sharing OS X installation software are unauthorized to do so, and you’re downloading copyrighted material, so you’re violating a number of piracy laws. There’s also a security issue: BitTorrent downloads are sometimes infected with malicious code. Proceed at your own risk.

Seriously? Snow Leopard is still available for purchase from the Apple Store on DVD and future versions are just a download away.

I dispute the so-called technician’s premise that sometimes there is a deadline to meet and you’re out of options. BitTorrent is certainly not an option. If you need older installation discs for a Mac, contact AppleCare. You can order replacements that even include the iLife software, if that’s how it shipped, for a small fee.

The rule of thumb is after 5-7 years, a Mac is considered vintage and Apple provide no support whatsoever, but I’ve heard of people ordering discs for Macs older than that (it’s not like you’re ordering a component).

If the Mac your servicing is too old to get replacements for (Leopard was released back in 2007, the same year as the original iPhone), then maybe it’s time to upgrade. Sometimes the best advice is to tell the user to reach into their pockets. You’re doing them a disservice as a technician, otherwise.

If you were planning to fix my Mac with software you obtained through BitTorrent, I’d punch you in the face.

Update: Chris Barylick, the author of the original piece, has posted a follow-up clarifying the purpose of the article. I’m glad to see he’s responded to criticism of the piece (too many authors chose simply to ignore it), though I still don’t agree with his reasoning.

Apple pushing reminder to those still needing to install OS X 10.9.2 update


Although most users have likely installed OS X 10.9.2 by now, after its release late last month, Apple is providing a reminder to those who haven’t.

Laggards like myself who are still running OS X 10.9.1 have begun to see notifications like the one below over the past day, pushing the critical update which included a fix for the well-publicized SSL bug found in both iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks.

A great idea. Now if only they could do something similar for Snow Leopard users.

Disk Management From the Command-Line, Part 3

The Instructional:

Disk imaging is a highly useful tool if you’re wanting to create a whole copy of a volume and restore it back at a later date, either to the same disk or another one entirely. It’s an integral part of Disk Utility and, as with partitioning, creating & restoring images can be executed via the command-line.

In the final part of my series Disk Management From the Command-Line over at The Instructional, I explore creating and restoring disk images using hdiutil and asr.

Regarding any possible response from Dropbox to Google Drive’s price drop

After Google announced their drastic reduction in price for storage, many have questioned how Dropbox might respond.

Bradley Chambers:

How does Dropbox respond? One thing they need is a great web presence. Dropbox’s web interface is for viewing, organizing, deleting, and viewing. With Google Drive, you can create and edit spreadsheets, presentations, and documents. Dropbox needs to add this feature, but they also need to provide more. What could they do without matching the price?

Federico Viticci:

I think that Bradley’s proposed solutions make a lot of sense from a productivity standpoint, but I’ll add this: revamp the Photos product on the web and mobile apps. Last year, Dropbox launched a series of enhancements to make it easier to upload photos and share them, but the presentation options and management features still lack behind what dedicated solutions like Picturelife, Flickr, and even Google+ are providing (not to mention the defunct, beloved Everpix).

I have to disagree with both Bradley and Federico about Dropbox needing to react to the price drop by adding more web-based features. I’d prefer it if they just upped their storage offerings and left it at that. Even now, I’d rather pay for the current storage on Dropbox than switch to Google Drive.

Dropbox isn’t lacking any features in that respect, it’s got one feature that neither Google Drive nor Microsoft OneDrive could ever include: platform independence.

One of the biggest advantages Dropbox has over Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive is it has no investment in any particular platform, no bias. The Dropbox experience is the same no matter if you use a Mac, Windows, Linux, Android or iOS. It is nothing more than a storage and syncing service.

I’d wager Google Drive offers a better experience on Android Chrome OS than any other platform. The same goes for Microsoft OneDrive, it is probably a much better experience in Windows and Windows Phone than on a Mac or iOS.

Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive are merely conduits for your files to get into the rest of their products, namely Google Docs and Office Web Apps. Once they’ve got you using their online services, you’re locked in since it’s in their business interest to keep you using their other services as much as possible. A lack of Microsoft Office for iOS is the perfect example to this, the world’s leading office suite is still not available on the world’s leading mobile platform, all because of platform bias.

Dropbox has always been and, I hope, always will be just a syncing and storage service. That’s something worth paying a premium for.

Add Read Later links to a Squarespace blog

After spending some time using Squarespace (which is what powers The Instructional), I wanted to replicate the Read Later links that I use here to make it as easy as possible for readers to send content to their preferred service.

If you run a Squarespace blog and would like to include some shortcuts to have content sent to Read Later services, here’s some HTML and CSS you can easily drop in place.

The Last Of Us wins big at the Video Game Baftas

BBC News:

Zombie thriller The Last of Us was the big winner at the video game Baftas, taking home the top prize of best game.

It was one of five awards won by the game, including a best performance prize for voice-actor Ashley Johnson.

Thoroughly deserved. The Last Of Us is an emotionally powerful story coupled with excellent gameplay that makes it one of the greatest games ever created.

Disk Management From the Command-Line, Part 2

The Instructional:

In the first part of this series, we explored the basics of disk and partition management via the command-line. Next, we’ll see how we can perform disk partitioning as well as how to split, merge and erase ones created.

Part two of the series Disk Management From the Command-Line at The Instructional continues by looking into the finer details of partitioning via the command-line in Mac OS X.