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Wednesday, January 16 2008

Macworld & NYSec

This afternoon (morning in SF), Steve announced the excellent MacBook Air (which I don't want), the iPhone 1.1.3 update (which I very much like and have already benefitted from), AppleTV "Take 2" (which I will order if it can play MPEG2 from the TiVo easily), and iTunes movie rentals (which are useless for parents who watch half a movie at a time).

This afternoon, I went to NYsec, hosted by Ryan Naraine and Matasano Security. An interesting group with several good stories.

Wednesday, January 2 2008

PowerBook won't boot from Leopard DVD

Update 2008/01/04: I tried again with a bulk (manufactured/pressed, not burned ont a DVD-R/DVD+R) DVD, and it worked fine. In retrospect, it seems likely to be drive deterioration, as I installed several betas from DL DVD+Rs I burned.

This is odd. I have a 1.5GHz 15" PowerBook G4 (3.5 years old), running Leopard, which I want to reinstall. I have tried booting from two different Leopard DVDs I burned (both DVD+R DL, since I can't find any DVD-R DL media) from legit Apple ISOs. It won't boot from either, and often if I insert one of these DVDs while it's running, the DVD drive chugs a bit and spits the DVD out. Sometimes, however, it reads the DVD -- I can run the "Install Mac OS X" app (which just sets the startup disk and reboots), but not boot from disc.

Nothing in the logs.

Hardware Overview:

Model Name: PowerBook G4 15"
Model Identifier: PowerBook5,4
Processor Name: PowerPC G4 (1.1)
Processor Speed: 1.5 GHz
Number Of CPUs: 1
L2 Cache (per CPU): 512 KB
Memory: 1 GB
Bus Speed: 167 MHz
Boot ROM Version: 4.8.6f0
Serial Number: ****

When the disk was mounted, Apple System Profiler showed:


Firmware Revision: DAM5
Interconnect: ATAPI
Burn Support: Yes (Apple Shipping Drive)
Cache: 2048 KB
Reads DVD: Yes
CD-Write: -R, -RW
DVD-Write: -R, -RW, +R, +RW
Write Strategies: CD-TAO, CD-SAO, DVD-DAO
Blank: No
Erasable: No
Overwritable: No
Appendable: No

Disk Utility on an un-bootable DVD

Monday, December 10 2007

Struggling with Apple engineering (Power Mac G5)

I put 2 750gb drives in a Power Mac G5 to run Leopard. Now I want to get them out, so they can go in a Linux PC. I've spent at least an hour struggling with the stupid things, and losing.

They were a bit odd to get in, but they're almost(?) impossible to get out. The drives are inside plastic guides, and only the edges stick out. I can't get a good grip on the top & bottom because the PCB (circuit board) is at the bottom and fragile. I can grab the left & right edges, but all I can do is wiggle. I removed a fan screw so I could have some more room to work; I loosened a drive bracket screw, but only a little bit, and stripped my philips screwdriver some on the process -- thus also the screw-head, of course. I would take the whole drive cage out, but it has 2 screws at the far (un-removable) side of the case, and I'd need to do quite a bit more disassembly to get at them.

I've been loosening the plastic cage -- basically just wiggling it to soften it up -- with a flat-head screwdriver. It's visibly looser, but the drives are still quite stuck. I've been prying up on the left edge of the drives with a flat-head screwdriver -- there's a lip I can just get a bit of a grip on -- but only moved 1-2mm so far, and I have to hope I don't damage anything by prying at the drive like this. I can see I've already scraped black paint off the drive.


Perhaps this is why they came up with a totally different drive mounting design in the similar-looking Mac Pros.

Tuesday, October 16 2007

AppleCare let me down

Last night, the AppleCare phone rep assured me that Apple would replace or repair my iPhone free under AppleCare. At rubber vs. road time, however, the Apple "Genius" showed his sad face and explained that AppleCare only covers defects in manufacture (which would make it useless, as you'll almost always find those within the 90-day warranty). My (second) replacement iPhone cost me $249 + tax (why do they charge tax for a service replacement??), or $279 today.

I also got a rubber shell to protect the iPhone, since I obviously can't depend on AppleCare for any repairs in the future.

Unfortunately, all these protective wrappers make the iPhone larger (and less pretty). This wouldn't matter so much if Steve Jobs hadn't sold the svelte elegance of the iPhone so heavily. So the three iPhone holsters I bought (all problematic for one reason or another) won't fit, and nobody should use them, since iPhones really need full-time protection (meaning a sleeve or hard case). I'll stick with my $5 Treo (650) case, which is large enough for 2 iPhones, or one iPhone in an incase sleeve.

Regarding Apple Support: It's nice to have good things to say, I am now a sad panda.

Apple Support: It's nice to have good things to say

Update: See next post, "AppleCare let me down".

This morning, when I tried to play music on my iPhone, it told me I had "No songs" on the iPhone. I couldn't even use the bottom buttons to switch to video mode, but Settings:General:About told me I had "0 Songs" & "0 Videos", even though I only had 420mb free on the iPhone. I keep 4gb of music on the phone, so they were obviously onboard, just not accessible. No problem, I figured -- this is exactly what iPhone Restore is for.

Adding injury to insult, tonight I noticed that the iPhone kept raising the ringer volume spontaneously. I keep it in vibrate mode, so this isn't such a problem, but I thought my new Luxmo case was bad. Alex has one that's not quite right, so I got the other two models, and they're both quite flawed -- hard to get the iPhone out, and one presses on the power button -- I keep taking the iPhone out and seeing the prompt to do a full shutdown. I now suspect my problem wasn't the case, because I saw the iPhone's metal shell itself is a bit bent, and the volume up button is stuck in. Hopefully a belt holster didn't do that!

I plugged the iPhone into my MBP, and it picked up the iPhone's version, serial number, and phone number, but instead of 8gb, iTunes showed its capacity as "n/a". I tried to do a full restore, and it failed:

The iPhone "iPhone" could not be restored. An unknown error occurred (-18).

This was bad -- I couldn't get today's photos or PIM updates off the iPhone, and I couldn't restore it.

I reset all settings -- avoiding the full wipe in case I wasn't able to get data back onto the tabula rasa iPhone. I thought it might be a bad cable (unlikely -- it was fine yesterday), or bad Dock port on the iPhone (damaged at the same time as the volume control, perhaps?). I tried the MBP's other USB port, and Amy's MacBook -- still the same error -18.

I called Apple Educational Support, but they were closed. I called Apple iPhone support (800 my iPhone), which is open later (24 hours?), and spoke to a very nice fellow who couldn't find error -18, but talked me through putting the iPhone into Restore mode:

  1. Launch iTunes.
  2. Turn iPhone off (hold down top power button & swipe when prompted).
  3. Hold down Home button.
  4. Plug iPhone into USB/Dock cable.
  5. iPhone shows a picture of a Dock cable being plugged into the iTunes CD icon.
  6. Release Home button.

The first time, this didn't work -- iTunes didn't notice the iPhone. That was very worrisome, but the second time I tried, it restored the iPhone. Perhaps a full wipe (can be done with Home & Power on the iPhone, or from Settings:General:Reset) would have done it too.

I asked about the volume buttons, explaining the case is bent, and was told I can get a box and send it in, but return takes 5-7 days. My several PowerBook repairs have been consistently faster than the official time estimate, but this is still not a good option. The alternative is to bring it to an Apple Store and get it either replaced or repaired. They can provide a loaner "service iPhone" for $29, but this fee is waived as part of my AppleCare contract. Hopefully they won't give me a hard time about what's covered under AppleCare -- Apple's policies for what it covers are considerably more stringent than phone companies, who are very flexible about what they cover.

The AppleCare Protection Plan for iPhone Terms and Conditions includes the following:

b. Limitations The Plan does not cover:


(ii) Damage to the Covered Equipment caused by accident, abuse, neglect, misuse (including faulty installation, repair or maintenance by anyone other than Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider), unauthorized modification, extreme environment (including extreme temperature or humidity), extreme physical or electrical stress or interference, fluctuation or surges of electrical power, lightning, static electricity, fire, acts of God or other external causes;


(iv) Problems caused by a device that is not the Covered Equipment, including equipment that is not Apple-branded, whether or not purchased at the same time as the Covered Equipment;


(xiii) Except as specifically provided herein, any other damages that do not arise from defects in materials and workmanship or ordinary and customary usage of the Covered Equipment.

Unfortunately, the Apple "Genius Bar" always requires a significant wait, even with an appointment. The concierge site is currently down, but hopefully I'll be able to minimize the wait by making an appointment before I head in http://concierge.apple.com/store/R095.

Restoring was complicated by the stuck volume button -- it apparently kept registering during the restore, aborting the sync. I eventually got it all restored, though.

Thursday, July 19 2007

Something Unexpected: Apple on tcpdump

This is something I never thought I'd see: an Apple article on capturing packets with tcpdump. Cool!

Apparently this article dates back to 2004, but I certainly never knew it existed.

Friday, August 11 2006

Apple has redefined sleep

For a long time, Apple's put an LED on all Macs. When it's flashing, the machine is asleep. Modulo some limitations on "deep sleep" imposed by non-compliant PCI cards, sleep has been very simple. When a Mac is asleep, it's almost off -- it consumes very little power, and you can't do much besides wake it up. When you wake a Mac up, it comes back to full functioning quickly.

I have a MacBook Pro at work, and strongly believe computers should never sleep -- I do most of my job via ssh, without looking at whatever system I'm working on. So I always set System Preferences > Energy Saver > Power Adapter to Never sleep.

Intel-based PCs have several different low-power modes, including at least one ("hibernate") where they save the contents of RAM to disk, so the machine can completely shut off but still "wake up" without booting again. This type of behavior will feature more prominently in Vista. Apparently booting Vista is so slow that people are going to spend real money for large flash drives to reduce booting...

Anyway, Apple has apparently redefined the meaning of the white LED on the MacBook Pro. Even though I'd set cayenne (my MBP) to never sleep when plugged in, I kept noticing that while on my desk, the screen would go black and the LED would flash. "Hmm, this is not as intended!", I thought.

I checked "pmset -g", which confirmed sleep cayenne was configured never to sleep when plugged in, but it kept happening. I called Apple to ask about this, and was told that the LED meant the MBP was indeed sleeping despite the configuration. I reset the power manager a few times, and Apple sent me a box. Wednesday I got cayenne back, with an upgraded logic board, but after sitting on my desk, the screen again went black, and the "sleep" LED again started flashing.

"Hmm," thought I, "perhaps Alex was right and 3 Apple Support reps were wrong." Alex had told me that the LED flashing on his MacBook did not mean it was in fact sleeping, but foolishly I believed Apple Support and my own historical experience instead.

I was able to ssh into cayenne while the LED kept blinking, which proved that it wasn't really asleep in the PowerBook sense at all.

Moral of the story: Apple upgraded my logic board through ignorance of its own equipment, and I lost use of the MacBook for a week because I didn't take Alex's word for it.

Update: It's more complicated. The documentation doesn't match my experience, and Apple actually started changing the sleep behavior with the next (final?) generation of PowerBooks, released immediately after my 1.5GHz PBG4.