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Wednesday, December 8 2010

This week's fiasco: Avocent

Today I racked a 1U Avocent LCD tray with 16-port IP-accessible KVM switch (ECS17KMM16-001). What a fiasco! We got it last week, but it took me several days and 3 phone calls before I was told to just ignore the bad spots in the documentation and work around them.


  • The Avocent Tech Support website requires registration, but doesn't let me register in Safari/Mac.
  • In Firefox/Mac, I apparently completed the registration process. Not sure because I just got a blank screen, and I am now unable to login.
  • The Services & Support area of avocent.com doesn't include manuals. I registered thinking they were behind that, but it turns out manuals are public -- just hidden under Resources.
  • Their explanation of password criteria is wrong -- it's alphanumeric, not alphabetical:

The password must be 5-16 characters and contain alphabetical characters of mixed case and at least one number.


  • It is impossible to find manuals by part number. Our "ECS17KMM16" LCD/KVM is not visible until "LCD Tray" is selected.
  • For some reason, there are 3 installation PDFs for our ECS on the website. The one for the LCD Tray doesn't mention the AutoView module at all, and the components have different part and serial numbers. This causes confusion with Avocent Tech Support, as they never seem to be able to find the first model & serial number I provide. They do not mention each other, even to say which steps must occur first and which last.

LCD Tray

  • The tray has a part number, a model number, and a serial number. The KVM switch has its own part and serial numbers. The KVM numbers are apparently useless to Avocent Technical Support, and they weren't able to look up the tray serial number either.
  • The installation instructions mention the notched ends go to the rear, but the photo doesn't show notches.
  • The LCD Tray instructions leave out a required cage nut, required to install the "Cable Channel". After I had racked the tray, I realized I would need to remove it and one of the rails to install this cage nut. But see below.
  • The instructions are quite insistent about using the "Spacer" (with warnings that things will break and fall apart otherwise), but do not identify what it actually looks like. The drawing of the spacer has no detail and doesn't match anything in the package. I found an otherwise apparently useless metal bar, but it did not fit as described or pictured.
  • The CMA (cable mounting arm) instructions say to remove and discard a screw from one of the slides, but not that it must be the right side, or that the screw is actually required to attach the CMA.

Push the LCD Tray into the rack, and then tighten the four rear slide-rail bracket screws. Remove the rail-adjustment screw that is closest to the rear of the rack from the outer slide-rail bracket and discard. Loosen the Velcro® straps on the cable retractor to allow free and smooth movement of the cable retractor arm. Align the cable-management arm (CMA) to the outer slide-rail bracket, and use the removed screw to attach the CMA.

AutoView 1016

  • The display is vertically truncated. This happens both when connected through the LCD tray (which does not allow me to vertically compress the display to fit, only to choose whether I want to see the top or bottom of the display) and via TCP/IP.
  • After I followed the LCD Tray instructions to install the rails, I discovered the AutoView requires an additional 2 cage nuts which are not mentioned (one is required for cable management even without the AutoView). I had to remove the tray, remove both rails, and add 2 more cage nuts for the AutoView to attach to. At least I didn't install the rails & tray, remove the tray and a rail, install the non-AutoView Cable Channel, install the tray a second time, and then discover I had to remove everything again.
  • There is mention of adjusting the front and back rails to fit the LCD Tray, but none of the fact that they must actually be adjusted to fit the AutoView switch -- which did not fit after I had adjusted the rear rails for the LCD Tray.
  • The AutoView's mounting flanges protrude several inches behind the rack flanges, which required me to remove an entire PDU to install the AutoView. This was only possible because it's a new rack.
  • The first step of 590-1012-501A is missing entirely -- removal of 2 silver screws from each side of the AutoView.
  • The first step pictured in 590-1012-501A is wrong. It shows attachment of 3 screws per side, but there are only 2 screw holes. I thought I had the wrong parts, but was eventually told this is apparently just a documentation error.
  • I was unable to find usage instructions for the AutoView in the package.
  • Password criteria are too restrictive. Basic punctuation should be allowed. We had to create yet another unique password just for this KVM, because it wouldn't accept the correct password.

The bright side

  • It looks like Avocent has recently decided all KVMs sold in the US should be IP accessible. Good move!

Saturday, November 13 2010

Mac OS X Time Machine: Multiple FAIL

My MacBook Pro's hard drive died last week. I got a new 250gb drive from Alex and replaced the dead one. Good thing I use Time Machine and a Time Capsule, I thought...

FAIL #1: The Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard installer has an option to incorporate a Time Machine backup, so I mounted my Time Capsule. Unfortunately, Apple apparently hardwired the shared Data volume into this client. Of course, I chose to put my backups on my personal pepper volume, not the common Data volume accessible to other users! The Snow Leopard Installer absolutely refused to let me mount pepper or restore from Time Machine. I checked, and the backup is a 750gb .sparsebundle package on a 1tb Time Capsule, so I couldn't just move it over to the volume the Installer was fixated on -- not enough space.

FAIL #2: I copied the whole .sparsebundle backup to an external 1tb disk, but the Installer couldn't see the backup. It saw the disk, but couldn't find the backup. I tried putting it into a Backup folder, but no joy. Fortunately the Installer points out that you can also restore from Migration Assistant after installation (necessary if you're restoring to a Mac other than the one which made the backup).

So I cursed a little, did a regular install, and rebooted.

FAIL #3: Apple's welcome app (loud music & whizzy graphics) can restore Time Machine backups, but again couldn't see my pepper volume or restore from my hard disk. So I had to walk through creating my account again.

FAIL #4: After logging in, I launched /Applications/Utilities/Migration Assistant (I know most people don't even know it exists, much less where, although it's easy enough to find if you know what you're looking for), and told it I wanted to restore from a Time Machine backup. Again, it was unable to see either my network or local backups, but once I double-clicked the .sparsebackup file it mounted as "Time Machine Backups" and Migration Assistant saw it. Confusingly, Migration Assistant showed the new volume as 'prowler ("prowler")', which doesn't match its name on the Desktop.

Volume names are confusing!

Migration Assistant immediately complained that I was logged in as user pepper, and my backup included a user pepper, and it cannot replace the active account. I won't call this a failure because it's a legitimately intractable problem, but I used "sudo passwd root", logged in as root, and reran the migration -- this is hardly reasonable to expect of users.

This is a fine Catch-22!

Let's hope Apple fixes the Time Machine restore functionality in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, because this is awful.

Monday, May 3 2010

The iPad "pPad" cannot be synced. An unknown error occurred (-50).

Tonight I plugged in my iPad, and got this error:

The iPad "pPad" cannot be synced. An unknown error occurred (-50).

Error -50

  • I tried a different USB port and a different cable, but no luck.
  • Interestingly, my iPhone was fine -- no complaints.
  • Eventually, after a bunch of Google herring, I found a couple people who got this error while trying to synch photos to an iDevice.
  • I turned off all Photo synching, and the error went away.
  • Then I re-enabled Photo synch, and enabled my photo albums one by one until I found the problematic album.
  • Unfortunately it contained 584 photos, but being able to cause or avoid the problem meant I was going to fix it.
  • I created 2 new albums, A & B.
  • I copied all photos from the problematic album to A, leaving B empty.
  • I left the real (problematic) album deselected, and enabled synching for B.
  • iTunes was happy.
  • I added photos, one event or fraction of an event at a time, from A to B, and deleted them from A.
  • Eventually iTunes complained -50 again, and I started moving photos from B back to A until it was able to synch again.
  • I now knew which photo was tripping up iTunes. I don't see anything special about it -- it's just some flowers from my SD800 -- but it's here in case someone can figure out why iTunes/iPad is allergic to it.

troublesome flowers

Wednesday, November 4 2009

Mac OS X 10.6.1: Screen Sharing 64-bit bug

I just found a very aggravating bug in Snow Leopard's Screen Sharing. This wasn't present in Leopard (10.5) or the 10.6 betas I used for connecting to these hosts, but is broken in 10.6.1. Fortunately the fix is straightforward. rdar://7364212 http://openradar.appspot.com/radar?id=109401.

Here is my report, for the next person to hit this bug:

Screen Sharing to Linux vncserver fails in 64-bit

I use VNC through an ssh tunnel to connect to 2 CentOS Linux servers.

pepper@teriyaki:~$ alias vncsaba

alias vncsaba='(sleep 4; open vnc:// & ssh -C -4 -L 5901: saba'

This worked a couple months ago, but failed this morning. I could connect, but only saw a white screen.

Interestingly, when I restarted the vncserver, the white screen changed to show the proper Linux desktop, then the connection broke, then the white box came back.

This was repeatable across both Linux servers.

I confirmed that the Linux vncviewer program worked properly -- no white box.

The workaround was to force Screen Sharing to run in 32-bit mode, which avoided the white screen and let me control the Linux sessions normally.


Monday, October 26 2009

Sun vs. HP ProCurve LACP Issue

Last week, I tried to gang 2 10GE interfaces on a Sun X4540 "Thor" to an HP ProCurve 2900. We had Sun's dual 10GE fiber XFP adapter & SR-XFP transceivers, and a couple ProCurve SR transceivers. nxge0 & nxge1 were both okay, but LACP link aggregation didn't work.

Each time I set up the Sun aggregate with dladm create-aggr, things looked okay. But when I enabled aggregation on the ProCurve ports with int a1,a4 lacp active, nxge1 lost its link. I spoke to a couple Sun reps, who agreed this should work and sounded like an unknown bug.

Fortunately, we discovered that adding -l active to the dladm command worked. LACP should work with one partner active and the other passive, or with both active. In our case it fails with active/passive, but works active/active.

Thursday, October 22 2009

An Apple iTunes/AirPort/AirTunes bug that has vexed me for over a year!

Update 2009/10/27: It looks like I was wrong. Apparently when iTunes launches it selects the highest-priority available IP (normally Ethernet for me), and Apple TV sync & AirTunes use that IP. I don't think Apple TV pairing is actually relevant.

So the bug is that if the preferred IP is offline, iTunes keeps telling Apple TVs & AirPort Express units to connect to that unavailable IP, rather than switching to an IP that is online. My workaround if I want to stream wirelessly is to quit iTunes, unplug Ethernet, and relaunch iTunes. Then I'm good until I reboot, because I don't quit iTunes, log out, or reboot under normal circumstances.

Note that this looks like a design flaw, rather than an implementation bug. It appears to do exactly what it was programmed to do, but the design wasn't sufficiently thought out before implementation.

<rdar://7329267> = http://openradar.appspot.com/radar?id=100401

I'm glad I have a workaround, because I don't expect Apple to change the nitty-gritty details of iTunes' DAAP server or Apple TV / AirTunes clients soon...

See also #5908799: AppleTV connects to AirPort instead of Ethernet.

This has been broken since I bought an Apple TV in May of last year. I was told that one Time Capsule firmware update would help, but it did not. Today I did some more testing, and believe I know what's wrong.

Our home network is 10.n.n.0/24, and I routinely connect my MBP to it via gigabit Ethernet to transfer large files (the Apple TV is connected via 100mbps Ethernet). In addition, the MBP is always connected to the same subnet via 802.11n.

I have been able to stream music to the Apple TV and an AirPort Express when Ethernet was connected, but generally unable to sync when Ethernet was disconnected -- the Apple TV only appeared under DEVICES on the right, and the AirTunes pop-up in the lower right, when Ethernet was available.

My wife's MacBook, which only uses AirPort, is able to stream, and my iPhone is able to use Remote.app across the wireless network.

Today I did some more testing, and believe I know what's wrong. When I first got the Apple TV, iTunes failed to complete the initial copy over AirPort, despite having an Ethernet connection available (and specified as preferred in System Preferences:Network). I believe I then unpaired, plugged Ethernet into my MBP, and re-paired. Since then, Apple TV sync and AirTunes have only run over Ethernet (survivable, as it's much faster), but I hadn't realized the pairing was preventing me from streaming audio over AirPort.


Tonight I unpaired the Apple TV, disconnected Ethernet, and repaired it to the MBP (AirPort IP address). I am now streaming music to the Apple TV and refilling its hard drive (which was cleared when I unpaired) very slowly via AirPort. These should really run over gigabit Ethernet, which would be much faster, but at least streaming should work with or without Ethernet now.

Bug #1: Apple TV sync always runs over the Mac's interface (IP) which iTunes was using when it was paired. It should run over the best available interface (order of preference for interfaces is configured System Preferences:Network). Apparently the Apple TV connects to iTunes as a DAAP server, so it needs more intelligence about how it finds iTunes. This is particularly annoying when initially synching over AirPort, which is slow and may not complete (see blog post above). It is particularly important for users with erratic AirPort reception but Ethernet available, as their only options are unnecessary drop-outs (AirPort), or intermittent availability (Ethernet).

Bug #2: Apple TV sync breaks when the originally configured interface is unavailable, even when the Apple TV could communicate with iTunes via another IP.

Bug #3: AirTunes streaming to Apple TV only works over the paired IP. I don't understand why this is so, but that's my observation.

Bug #4: AirTunes streaming to AirPort Express units also requires the IP paired with Apple TV. I have NO IDEA why, but again this is my experience.

Bug #5: There is no indication of this requirement during the pairing process.

Update: How does this work for Apple TV users with unstable DHCP IPs (mine are locked by MAC in the Time Capsule)?

Thursday, September 11 2008

iTunes 8's Video Improvements, and Updated App Bugs

Update: Thanks to Dave Makower for a workaround. Per Dave's suggestion, I signed out of the Apple Store and signed back in as my account @mac.com. This is the default, so signing in with just my account (without explicitly typing @mac.com) should worked just as well, but apparently it doesn't. Thanks, Dave! I hope short names work properly in iTunes soon. Or perhaps it's just that I used a different login name when I initially downloaded the software...

Update 2: from Kevin Ross:

Hi, I'm emailing to let you know that I had similar problems updating apps. My solution was to go through the app store and "buy" every app over again. I did it with all my free apps first and they all upgraded fine, then I did it with Super Monkey Ball, iTunes saw that I already had it, told me so and said I wouldn't be charged, and installed the upgrade free of charge. Just a little tidbit to help you out in case Dave's workaround doesn't work later.

I just discovered that iTunes 8 makes large strides in handling videos. Previous versions were unable to change the Movie/TV Show/Music Video type flag, or set Show, Season, or Episode. v8 adds all these capabilities. I no longer need Set Video Kind from Selected from the most excellent Doug's AppleScripts for iTunes, and can now sort out imported video from iTunes' Get Info window.

Additionally, iTunes used to say it had over a dozen application updates for me, but fail to access my account or say I had none when I tried to get them. Now it shows me 19 updates, and seems to have the correct list, although it cannot actually install them. It appears to be something about upgrading free applications, which was broken last week (in different ways) too.

Here is what happens when I click Download All Free Updates:


Here is a bogus tooltip for Life (not necessarily related to the updating problems):


And a message telling me I cannot get Life 1.0.3, apparently because I don't have an earlier 1.x version of Life (actually, I have 10.0.1). I get this for every app.

Individually, I am able to upgrade free apps -- I don't mind paying their full price of "Free". I'm not willing to test Apple's bugs to find out if Apple they would really re-bill me for what should be free upgrades to purchased apps, though, as this erroneous message claims. Here iTunes told me I cannot get the free LifeGame for free; I get the same message for every app, free or purchased.

You do not qualify for this price.

To make the problem even more aggravating, App Store on the iPhone has the same issue -- when I try to upgrade Twitteriffic Premium or Toy Bot Diaries, it tells me I'll have to pay full price. I want those updates! I hope this is sorted out soon.

Sunday, March 16 2008

Time Capsule DNS Bug?

I just got a 1tb Time Capsule -- it was a natural accessory for my new MBP, since I finally have a Mac with 802.11n support, and I routinely move large files or folders (500gb-8gb) around our home network; I also like the GE ports.

The Capsule replaced a WRT54G (hacked) and an AirPort Extreme -- the APE is now serving as a print server in WDS mode (overkill, but otherwise it would just sit on a shelf, and the print server is handy). It is also providing backup space for all three of our laptops (including Julia's), and the magic of Time Machine seems like a good security vs. convenience compromise -- keeping conventional AFP or SMB shares from reppep.com mounted all the time on all three laptops would be suboptimal. Time Machine seems to handle mounting & unmounting gracefully.

On to the meat of my problem, though: Once I set up the Time Capsule, I noticed my MBP (10.5.2 latest) was getting the TC's IP as its only DNS server via DHCP. This is annoying, as I configured the TC with 2 upstream DNS servers, and I want it to configure my Macs with at least those two; if the TC inserts itself first that's fine, but it shouldn't be my only nameserver.

The problem is aggravated (considerably!) by the fact that the TC is not actually serving names. My dig queries against it all time out.

On a related note, nmap points out that the Capsule is running an FTP server, which I (fortunately) cannot actually log into. I don't see FTP anywhere in the UI or help (aside from a note about forwarding FTP through NAT). FTP is evil, and I don't want it on at all! I know why ports 139 & 445 are open -- to support SMB/CIFS and WINS, which I could configure but cannot turn off -- but why RTSP and RealServer ports, and port 10,000?? I cannot get anything out of 10,000, so it's not a normal Webmin, but what is Apple doing here??

I filed 3 bugs against Time Capsule, one against AirPort Admin Utility, and one against SP:Network, which I discovered while working around the TC DNS issue.

Meanwhile, I'm not holding my breath for answers & fixes from Apple. Do you all have more information about what's going on here? Do TC users find a) the TC is the only only nameserver assigned via DHCP, and b) it doesn't actually work as a nameserver??

Wednesday, December 26 2007

Leopard Install Ate Account, Again

Over Christmas, I updated Dad's backup (SuperDuper is great), and upgraded to Leopard. It failed miserably -- in exactly the same way as my own first Leopard upgrade failed, although I didn't know what was going on back then. There wasn't any documentation about the problem then, but now Apple describes a closely related issue:

Mac OS X 10.5: Unable to log in after an upgrade install

Issue or symptom

You may not be able to log in with a user account that has a password of 8 or more characters and was originally created in Mac OS X 10.2.8 or earlier, after performing an upgrade installation of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard (the default installation type).

I do indeed use a password longer than 8 characters. At least on my own system, the accounts were not created under or before 10.2.8. On my father's system, the accounts may date back that far, but his password was not longer, and Apple's suggested workaround did not work either.

On my own upgrade, I installed Leopard, and was unable to log in with my (known correct) password, or my root password. I booted from DVD and was able to see my home directory, but there was no information on how to fix Leopard accounts (and really not much information on Leopard accounts at all) at that time. Reset Password from DVD didn't work, and neither did passwd. I reinstalled from scratch and restored my home directory.

For Dad, I didn't have time to do that, so I created a new account with a different username and real name, and swapped his old home directory with the new (basically empty) one. This took about 5 minutes, compared to several hours spent unsuccessfully trying to fix his old account. Somehow during the upgrade, his account was disabled, and I was unable to re-enable it. I booted from the Leopard DVD, and the Reset Password tool said it reset his password, but did not. I booted into my own admin account, and used passwd, which gave me a Directory Services account disabled error. The only references to that error Google has to that error code are copies of the manual page, which lists the error code but not a way to enable such an account. I even updated to get the Login & Keychain update, but it didn't help.

In the interim, Apple has documented that Leopard stores accounts as .plist files in /var/db/dslocal/nodes/Default/users/, which is very helpful -- it makes it easy to do things like change UIDs, which I need to do periodically. On the other hand, those files point into other places for some information, such as the Kerberos KDC (Key Distribution Center) for actual passwords. I don't know enough Kerberos to feel comfortable creating an identity for his account, as should have automatically happened during the upgrade (before Leopard, non-Server versions of Mac OS X don't include a KDC, and they store passwords differently). I considered pointing his account to the KDC identity for a new account with the right password, but this seemed fragile, so I went with the new account, which seems to have worked reasonably well.


Saturday, December 15 2007

RHEL 5.1's "linux rescue" mode doesn't include full logical volume support

Red Hat has, with good consideration and foresight, been pushing people to use logical volume management for a while. It's not completely integrated into the RHEL5 installer, but they're pushing hard to make it ubiquitous, and telling people this is the right way to do things. Unfortunately, the syntax for specifying logical volumes within DOS-style partitions is still a bit obscure, and the manual page examples don't show the LV syntax; this is fixable, but will take time.

I used software RAID and LVM on my new installation, but it doesn't boot -- I've found several articles on making GRUB work with software RAID, so I believe I'll be able to get it working. The docs say I should be able to just use "lvm" (which is present) to get an lvm shell, but neither lvm nor lvm.static does anything -- they just dump me back in bash.

Fortunately, "linux rescue" finds my partitions (this time), but not being able to even list out physical volumes is worrisome.

I want mirrored /boot, but it's RHEL's mirrored /boot capabilities are pretty limited:

If you are making a RAID partition of /boot/, you must choose RAID level 1, and it must use one of the first two drives (IDE first, SCSI second). If you are not creating a seperate RAID partition of /boot/, and you are making a RAID partition for the root file system (/), it must be RAID level 1 and must use one of the first two drives (IDE first, SCSI second).

Speaking of LVM being immature, check out What is the process to fsck lvm volumes? in the Red Hat Knowledgebase:

First, boot into rescue mode by using the correct media. This is very important: When prompted to mounted the drives, do not. Using fsck on a mounted filesystem will destroy all the data on that file system. This is unrecoverable. The data will be gone forever--save for very expensive hardware-level data recovery.

Sunday, December 2 2007

iPhoto: Cropping is much improved

I've been complaining about iPhoto's Crop command for years (generally to Apple). Crop worked, then it got erratic, then I complained, and then Apple disimproved it, removing the flaky feature (Keyboard shortcut? Something like that). This removed the bug from their dashboard at a cost in functionality and convenience

In iPhoto 7 (iLife 08), cropping is much improved. Hit the 'c' key to start a crop. Since grabbing the handles is problematic with top and bottom strips that flash over the photo at the edges of the screen, iPhoto helpfully (in full-screen Edit mode) shrinks the whole photo to not touch the edges. It looks strange, but helps a lot. When done, hit Enter to perform the crop.

There are still several rough edges, though:

  1. Sometimes the un-cropped image appears. This is confusing!
  2. iPhoto 6 always set a consistent proportional default crop area when selecting a new image. I liked this, as it offered a standard (relative) resolution when cropping photos, and I used that suggested size to sizes some photos the same. This is minor, but I miss it.
  3. The crop constraint (I normally use "4 x 3 (Book)", which can be inverted with the Option key) sometimes gets unset; it should stay the way I set it (ideally, even across launches of iPhoto). Additionally, when the Crop checkbox clears itself, the proportion flips back to "3072 x 2304 (Original)" on images from my Canon PowerShot SD800IS.
  4. The default crop constraint (original) for some reason cannot be inverted with Option, so I have to switch to "4 x 3 (Book)" when I want to crop "crossways".

Tuesday, November 27 2007

Parallels Oddness: Network mis-configured

I use Parallels Desktop for Mac to run the Action Request System (Remedy) for trouble ticket tracking at work. They have a webapp, but it's not really usable.

A couple weeks ago, about when I upgraded my work desktop to Leopard, Parallels broke. I couldn't connect to the Remedy server, or our voicemail system. I don't really think about Parallels networking, but it's all virtual so normal troubleshooting is unavailable. Basically there's a fake DHCP server (or two) inside Parallels for the VMs, and I had very little visibility into why it was doing the wrong thing. I reinstalled Parallels but hadn't spent much time on it, since I don't use Remedy heavily.

It turns out I needed to re-set Parallels from Bridged to Shared networking mode, whereby it uses the Mac as a NAT server. The NAT alleviates many of my concerns about running Windows. But how & why did that setting get changed in the first place??

Tuesday, November 6 2007

Leopard Server Bug: Deleting an interface in Server Assistant is broken

10.5.0 Server: I have 3 interfaces. The onboard GE is broken, so I have GE cards in PCI 2 & PCI 3. When I delete Ethernet in Server Assistant (at installation time), it crashes and bounces me back to the Welcome screen at the beginning of the process. I can, however, just not leave it at DHCP (physically disconnected) and get through; I think I could also turn off TCP/IP for that port, but haven't verified in 10.5.0 GM.

Leopard: Minor authorization bug

System Preferences has a security feature whereby you must "unlock" and authenticate as an admin to change sensitive settings, including Network settings. Ethernet & AirPort both have "Advanced..." buttons behind which Apple hides most of the actual controls -- the non-Advanced settings are cut down and simplified (but definitely fine for normal use). Unfortunately, once you click Advanced... to change the settings, there's no authenticate button. I've found myself in the Advanced sheet, unable to make a change, and had to back out of the sheet, unlock, and then click Advanced... again to make a change.

Apple declines to address this issue, so I'm documenting it here for others annoyed by this bug.

Friday, October 19 2007

Cracking Apple's Code: 1,500

A bizarre and perverse journey is completed. At 12:21am 2007/10/19, I reported my 1,500th documentable bug to Apple. I have actually reported a bunch more over the years, which have since been lost to the sands of history. I remember reporting bugs against eWorld and Newton beta software! But I can currently identify 1,500 bug reports against Apple's products.

A few of these, of course, are bogus -- there have been times I just made a mistake, and thought it was an Apple problem. Some of my mistakes indicate that Apple's user interface needed clarification or improvement; others are simply my foolish mistakes.

Many of my reports are documentation issues. Right now, I'm looking at Apple's thousands of pages of brand-new documentation on Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" Server and sighing (repeatedly) -- I don't have time to read the half on topics that interest me -- but as an admin, the documentation has to be correct. Rockefeller has an Apple Enterprise Support contract, but they are limited, expensive, and problematic to use. Most Mac admins have to make do with peer support, and Apple supports this because Apple only has to support (some of) the fora -- not pay support staff. This means Mac admins need to be able to help ourselves through researching and the documentation. Ambiguous or simply incorrect documentation is bad. Fortunately Apple aspires to perfection (though they don't always aspire very hard -- the early Mac OS X manual pages were badly neglected).

Other reports are feature requests, handled slightly differently but through the same bug reporting system. For example, I want to use my iPhone as a secure password store, an offline web browser, and with a Bluetooth GPS. Feature requests are how I tell Apple my priorities for product development -- sometimes they even pay attention! ;)

And lots of bug reports are bugs. This is a bittersweet time, as I recognize my reports behind a bunch of fixes in Leopard, but I also know I'm about to lose a lot of traction. Until very recently, Apple has been focused on perfecting Leopard -- meaning things have been fluid and could be improved, and there was lots of pressure to fix bugs. Now that they have finalized 10.5.0 and are preparing to sell it, the developers are hoping they didn't miss any hideous bugs and recovering. In a little while they'll go back to the grindstone to start fixing and building 10.5.1, but 10.5 will never be as flexible again. It's going to be a while before I can start pestering Apple about what to do for Mac OS 10.6, and various bugs or design flaws will be too large to build into a point release, meaning they are already baked into the 10.5.x series, not eligible for fixing during Leopard's lifetime.

Tuesday, September 4 2007

Bug Hunting II

In my Bug Hunting post, I mentioned my goal of reporting 1,500 "bugs" to Apple by the Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5) release. Obviously some reports aren't Apple bugs -- some are enhancement requests, some are my fault, etc.

Today I hit 1,300, so I think I have a decent chance of reaching 1,500 by 10.5's release (announced for October, but obviously it wasn't done when that date was decided).

Update. 2007/09/22: I am at about 1,400 bugs, but ADC only shows 1,000 bugs total. As I report new bugs, they show up as Open; with each one since I hit 1,000, my count of Closed bugs goes down by one. All the counts I can see (including one non-ADC project where reports are not visible online, so I had to tabulate email confirmations) total to 1,390, and I know there are at least a few more I'm not seeing.

Wednesday, August 8 2007

Bug Hunting

My bug count with Apple has been climbing lately, as I've been playing with Leopard betas a lot. At the moment, I have at over 1,100 bugs in Apple's Radar bug tracking system. I was shooting for 2,000 by Leopard's release (scheduled for October 2007), but I don't think I'm going to make it. The actual (web-based) bug reporting process is just too time-consuming. I haven't even gotten to test the good bits yet!

I've decided to adjust my aim a bit. I hope to have 1,500 bugs in Radar by Leopard's release, and 2,000 by January 1, 2008. It's good to have goals.

Update: I hit 1,205 on 2007/08/14.

Wednesday, May 9 2007

Can anyone get a CSR out of Certificate Assistant?

I'm testing Apple's Certificate Assistant, and when I generate a CSR, I get a Conclusion dialog that tells me my CSR has been emailed to my CSR for action.

Unfortunately, I never get the CSR (I'm the CA in this case). I have confirmed no mail was ever actually sent (see http://www.extrapepperoni.com/2007/05/09/restarting-syslogd/), and I even fired up Mail.app to make sure there was nothing waiting in my Drafts there -- no dice.

So as far as I can tell the CSR functionality is completely useless, because I'm completely unable to lay my virtual hands on the CSR CA claims to generate.

Does anyone know better? Do you use CA and get the emails? Do you know where I can find the CSR files, at least?

Thanks for any pointers.

PS-Yes, I filed a bug.

PPS-I have confirmed, using 6 shell accounts across 4 machines, 2 email accounts on different servers, mail.log, & tcpdump, that no mail is ever sent. Apparently it works for other people, though, so I'm at a loss.

Restarting syslogd

I've noticed that syslogd falls over a lot on my Mac OS X 10.4 Server ("mostly dead", as opposed to all dead -- some logs still accumulate). I normally notice when I need to check the mail logs because of a problem. The discovery that my mail logs are empty greatly aggravates the original problem (and me!).

syslogd is supposed to reload on "killall -HUP syslogd", but that never works for me. The functional solution is "sudo launchctl stop com.apple.syslogd; sudo launchctl start com.apple.syslogd", which gets the logs logging properly again.

Saturday, May 5 2007

Canon hates me -- and I'm not impressed either

We just got a Canon imageRUNNER 2880i copier in the Super-Tent (the old copier died, and this one's smarter). It has an Ethernet connection and a phone line, so can be used as a smart fax machine & scanner, and accessed via email.

Sounds great! I'd love to be able to send & receive faxes from my desk, and it's half as far from my desk as our primary printer (oscar, as in "The Grouch"). Amy had desktop faxing with RightFAX at Debevoise, and it was quite convenient.

I tried to print, using the generic PS driver. Instead of a 2-page document, I got 34 pages of PostScript code -- this is what happens when the printer treats a PostScript job as an ASCII lpd job, but it's annoying and wasteful.

So I went to Canon's download page http://www.usa.canon.com/html/download/irc2880.htm; spent 10 minutes figuring out which versions were current and which were old; and then grabbed their current PPD, Mac PS driver, Mac UFR II driver, and Mac Fax driver (in BinHex format -- how quaint!). I have no idea what "UFR II" is, and their documentation provides no clues, but I guess it's their private page rendering language, since it appears to be a peer of their PS driver).

I installed all four drivers (they wanted me to reboot 2-3 times during the process -- I declined), and tried to print. Bang! Application quits. I tried again. Bang! I could kill any application (including Safari, BBEdit, TextEdit, and Console) by simply attempting to print -- instead of a print dialog, the application vanished in a puff of invisible smoke.

So I uninstalled all 4 drivers (they did provide an uninstaller). I rebooted. I tried again, still no joy. I sent a bug report to Apple, but I assume this is Canon's fault. Apple should program defensively -- counting on printer drivers to behave properly is just begging for trouble -- but really, this looks like Canon's problem.

I deleted all the printing prefs I could find, and even moved aside the Canon drivers & PPDs (presumably from the Tiger installation, since Apple provides a set of Canon drivers on the DVD), but no joy.

I sent a note to Canon's tech support department, and got back a response saying "We value you as a Canon customer and appreciate the opportunity to assist you." It also said "You will want to contact your dealer/reseller for any technical or hardware support on this unit."

Well, no. If I wanted to contact our reseller, I would have done so. I want to contact Canon, whose name is on the stupid thing, and whose driver is crashing my Mac -- I can't even print to the HP any more. But despite claiming they want to help me, they refused, point blank. Feh!

The only bright spot is that after an Archive & Install and large raft of patches from Apple (since the Mac Pro came with 10.4.8), I can print again -- at least to the HP LaserJet. I was afraid whatever was causing the crashes would be carried along with the Archive & Install, but fortunately it wasn't. In an hour I was back in business, and I was able to do other work while the computer crunched on the reinstall.

The fly in Apple's A&I ointment is that it disabled sshd! Remote Desktop & Personal File Sharing were still active, but I had to manually re-enable the "Remote Login" service. Predictably, I discovered this when I was elsewhere and needed access to my Mac.

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