Service agnostic song sharing.

Sharing links to Spotify or Apple Music tracks always bothered me. It felt like I was indirectly saying “here, only you folk with an account on this service can partake of this joy I am feeling.”

I noticed that some people skipped the two big streamers and just went straight to YouTube – which at least is free, but what if you just want the audio? What if you don’t like to use YouTube?

Then I came across Funnily enough, it was through following Ricky Mondello – a Safari developer with Apple – that I came to hear of this service. allows you to share an iTunes link appended to its own URL, and creates a landing page for the song, complete with album art, and with links to all the major streaming services that the particular track is available on. Perfect!

Having looked into how it worked, I decided I needed a simple way to pre-pend the URL and share it to either twitter or Facebook (or both), or to just pop the link into the clipboard to use elsewhere.

If this sounds like something that would be useful to you, you can download the shortcut to the Apple Shortcuts app by clicking here.

Hit me up in the comments if you have any questions or suggestions for improvement.

Healthy Cynicism and Free Chocolate.

There are scams doing the rounds. Double check sources everyone!

I just sent this email out to our staff – under the title “Don’t believe everything you read.”

We are in the unfortunate position of having to request that staff exercise a level of cynicism – especially regarding requests for assistance that come via email or other methods that aren’t “face-to-face”.

There are people out there who will attempt to take advantage of the general ‘want to help’ nature of our staff – please be aware of any financial requests that come to you (requests to purchase iTunes vouchers for example) – even if the email purports to be from a current or ex-staff member.

Any request like this should be double checked with the individual – either face-to-face or via a known phone number (e.g. not one supplied in the email requesting the assistance).

If in doubt, you can double click the display name of the email sender, to see the email that the request originated from. If the email address is not an internal one, it’s likely the request is a scam. Even if it is an internal one, the request should still be double checked if it is financial in nature.

Thank you for your attention, and stay safe out there! Our staff are our last line of defence when it comes to these sorts of scams.

Oh, and the free chocolate? Unfortunately, that’s an example of not believing everything you read. 😉

With Apologies to Bic Runga

Many years ago, a story broke, where Bic Runga announced in an interview in Ireland that NZ was a racist place. My response at the time, was one of surprise – how could anyone think that about NZ – the wonderful place where I had lived my whole life?

Basically a belligerent attitude of “how dare she!?”

Fast foward to now. I was out doing the fortnightly grocery shop and heard a Bic Runga song playing somewhere. My mind went back to that story, and my reaction. That is when it dawned on me. 

Who am I to belittle her experience?! The things she endured while growing up here – by not accepting her experience I was effectively saying that those experiences didn’t occur – or at the very least, didn’t count.

How dare I?!

Now, my attitude – on it’s own – likely had no bearing on her at all. But that’s not the point. The point is that attitudes like the one I had are part of the problem. Attitudes that seek to shut down anyone speaking against what we hold dear; to not allow ones real experiences to have any value. My attitude was part of the problem.

I’m very grateful to have been exposed to better thinking over the years since – to have been able to grow a little to where I am now. Thanks to all those out there who have been a part of that growth – I appreciate you all.


While writing this piece, I discovered that – as it turns out – Bic was also shocked by the headlines and implications on her return from Ireland.

Global Connections. Foxton, NZ

Bar-tailed GodwitPhoto Credit: Andreas Trepte

At a recent work gathering, we were told about a site in the Manawatu-Wanganui Region of international significance. A so-called Ramsar site located at Foxton Beach, roughly two hours north of New Zealand’s capital, Wellington. Apparently the name Ramsar comes from the city where a conference was held to decide on these internationally significant sites – along the same lines as the Kyoto Protocol of which we often hear.

This particular site is the southern migratory destination of the Bar-tailed Godwit which makes the journey from sites located in Mongolia, Siberia, and Alaska in the Northern Hemisphere. What makes this all the more special is the fact that these birds are not sea-birds; meaning that – while they have a single stop off on their journey between these sites – they have no feeding ground along the way. Approximately 90,000 birds make this journey twice each year (although, there are other species of migratory birds that can also be found at this site).

Work is being undertaken at each location to maintain the site, and control other predatory wildlife to protect the Bar-tailed Godwit and its habitat. We were fortunate enough to witness some of the pest-control initiatives underway at Foxton Beach.

Horizons Regional Council, which oversees the environmental protection across the Manawatu-Wanganui Region, runs various plant and animal pest control programs. Animal pests include possum, stoat, weasel, ferret and rat species. The Mustelid varieties are the focus of attention at this Ramsar site.

The work underway at Foxton Beach includes some new initiatives designed to engage the community in a much more tangible and long-lasting way. This initiative, in a large part, owes its origins to the work of John Girling from the Wildlife Foxton Trust1. John approached Horizons Regional Council via its public submission process. Within six weeks, Horizons and the Wildlife Foxton Trust had begun work within the community, engaging volunteers to manage set traps, and working with Foxton Beach School.

The work with the school involves pupils “adopting” a trap, designing and painting a message on it, and keeping a tally of what pests have been trapped in it. The innovation here is three-fold:

  • Decorative traps are less likely to be accidentally run-over or destroyed
  • School pupils involvement should reduce the likely of traps being vandalised (hopefully piquing the conscience of would-be vandals because children are involved)
  • Pupils have increased awareness of the natural value of their community’s environment

In learning about all of this, it struck me that – even in these times of increased ‘connectedness’ at a global level – there are far flung places across our planet that have been connected, in the natural world, for thousands of years. It’s heartening to see communities and local government working together to protect these key habitats. Huge props to all involved.

This is true global connectivity.

  1. Donations to Wildlife Foxton Trust can be made via their website. I have no affiliation with Wildlife Foxton Trust. 

Interesting realisation today.

I was investigating the use of an iPad, Bluetooth keyboard, Jump Desktop+Swiftpoint GT mouse as a replacement for thin clients at work. This includes connecting up to an external 1920×1080 display via the Apple Digital AV Adaptor.

Previously, we’d had trouble doing this as most users baulked at not having a mouse but having to use the touchscreen instead. With the addition of a Swiftpoint GT bluetooth mouse, this may now be a reality.

I also tried using my iPhone 6S Plus instead of an iPad and it worked great too. I even paired a Bluetooth headset to the iPhone and was able to make a call via Siri – while still accessing the RDP session with mouse+keyboard. *Very* cool – and something I’ve been dreaming of for a while.

We’ve got an HP Elite x3 and Continuum dock coming later this year to test this same capability with and see which would present less friction for the users.

Anyways, back story aside, this kind of thing really spins my wheels – I love seeing technology be able to be used to help people and do things in clever ways.

Not an unsurprising declaration coming from a technology geek.

The interesting realisation occurred after this, in a meeting between two teams who have embarked on a journey of increased collaboration and working together. We had a wonderfully useful time; sharing concerns, ideas and efficiencies. I realised then that this *also* spun my wheels – seeing people coming together for a common goal to provide better service to our mutual customers.

Managing people working together has become just as rewarding to me as gadgetry. Excellent.

That whole “PANIC – WiFi Assist will eat all your dataz!” thing, yeah – nothing to worry about..

Following is the text of an email I’ve just sent to all the iPad & iPhone users at the organisation I work in:

Within a couple of days of iOS 9 being released to the world, the media began running stories about how iOS 9 would consume all your data and you should turn off the WiFi Assist feature. A couple of days after that, a class action suit was filed against Apple – demanding $5 million in reparation because of increased cellular data use…. Yeah, ‘MURICA!

A few people kindly pointed the issue out to me in case I hadn’t seen it – I advised them I’d prefer to wait to see what the actual impact would be.

We’ve now got to the end of the billing month and while our data usage has increased by 12GB overall (that is, an average of 160MB per iPad/iPhone running iOS 9) – the feature doesn’t seem to have impacted us at all. The higher users – most of which have upgraded to iOS 9 (as have 57% of our users by the way) are all typically high users anyway (all of whom have been contacted…)

In a nutshell, the feature looks at your WiFi connection and, if there is little or no internet connectivity available, the iPhone will automatically use cellular data (essentially so you should not need to disable wifi just to be able to do whatever it is you are trying to do).

Obviously, the phone will still adhere to whatever settings you have as to which apps can and cannot use cellular data. It won’t try to do anything silly like iCloud backups or software updates over cellular (unless you’ve turned that facility on of course).

The official detail from Apple on how this feature works can be found here.

In summary, use the feature – or not – it’s up to you.

The main thing is to keep an eye on what you are trying to do over data – basic rule of thumb is that watching a video or using streaming audio services over cellular data is not a good idea.

Most of all, don’t panic.

Installation of a Western Digital Black2 Dual Drive in a Mac

This is a follow up to the previous post on this topic – this one contains more comprehensive instructions.

The first stage is to prepare the drive for use in the Mac. Due to the drive configuration and Western Digital’s lack of foresight/focus on Windows – this stage must be completed in a Windows PC.

You’ll need:

From the WD Black2 Box:
  • The USB -> SATA cable
  • The USB key (this has the software to ‘unlock’ the spinning partition of the dual drive
  • The drive itself
  • A windows PC/laptop which you can take the hard disk out of easily
  • Skill commensurate to the activities of removing and reinstalling hard disks
  • The ability to find your way around the terminal command line (linux or Mac)
  • A USB based installer for OS X (see here for a useful tool to help with this)
  • A working Time Machine backup of your Mac – update this before you start.
Stage One – Unlocking the spinning disk
  1. Boot the laptop in to Windows off it’s main hard disk – make sure you have an Internet connection and a browser with Adobe Flash capability.
  2. Connect the Black2 disk to the laptop using the USB -> SATA cable.
  3. Insert the WD USB key – crazy automatic things will start happening and you’ll find yourself at the product website on – you can safely remove the USB key at this point.
  4. On the Overview tab which shows by default, click the Data Transfer Software link.
  5. Download the Acronis True Image WD Edition software (~230MB in size).
  6. Go back to the Overview tab and download the Partition Software as well – we’ll need that in step 11.
  7. Install the above software and start it, selecting Clone Drive.
  8. Use the Automatic option and, after some processing, you’ll be told that Windows needs to restart – click through this message for Acronis to start it’s own boot Loader and complete the clone process – the laptop will shut down automatically once it’s completed.
  9. Now things get physical. Remove the drive from your donor laptop and replace with the Black2.
  10. Boot and wait. Hopefully it’ll just start up pretty much like normal here. Don’t be surprised if Windows reports that a chkdsk needs to be run during startup – the disk has been completely re-written after all!
  11. Once Windows has started, it’ll likely request a reboot to complete installation of the new hardware. I know, I know, using Windows is a pain.
  12. Now we need the Partition Software which hopefully was downloaded back in step 5. Install it and follow the wizard through.
You should now have two partitions available on the Black2:
Stage Two – Drive partitioning 
  1. Remove the disk from the PC laptop and put it’s own laptop back. Happy Windows machine.
  2. Connect the Black2 back to the SATA USB adaptor and connect it up to your Mac.
  3. Fire up Disk Utility and erase the disk – make it a single Mac OS Extended (Journaled) volume.
  4. Download the OS X Recovery Disk Assistant from here – run it to create a correctly sized recovery partition on the disk.
  5. Now, in Disk Utility again, create two partitions on the disk. Make the first 119GB (to allow for the first part of the disk being used for the Recovery partition. The second should be 1TB. I called mine SSD and HDD just for clarity.
Stage Three – Create the Fusion drive
  1. In Terminal, type: diskutil list and press Enter. You should be able to find the disk easily if you named the disks as I did in Stage Two above.
  2. Once you’ve found the SSD and HDD partitions, note down the Identifier for each of the partitions
  3. In Terminal, type: sudo diskutil cs create Fusion disk4s2 disk4s3 (the last two items should be the Identifier of your partitions – SSD first, then HDD.
  4. Check through the resulting text to make sure everything worked without error – here’s mine for reference:
    • Started CoreStorage operation
      Unmounting disk4s2
      Touching partition type on disk4s2
      Adding disk4s2 to Logical Volume Group
      Unmounting disk4s3
      Touching partition type on disk4s3
      Adding disk4s3 to Logical Volume Group
      Creating Core Storage Logical Volume Group
      Switching disk4s2 to Core Storage
      Switching disk4s3 to Core Storage
      Waiting for Logical Volume Group to appear
      Discovered new Logical Volume Group “2A40C88F-0E1F-433D-BEA5-55A19BEBCB9F”
      Core Storage LVG UUID: 2A40C88F-0E1F-433D-BEA5-55A19BEBCB9F
      Finished CoreStorage operation
  5. Once the Fusion drive is created, it needs to be formatted. But before we can do that, we need to find the ID for the Fusion drive. In Terminal, type: diskutil cs list – the long alphanumeric string for the Logical Volume Group is the one you want – copy that to the clipboard – we’ll use it in the command in Step 6.
  6. Now, in Terminal, type: diskutil cs createVolume <ID string> jhfs+ “Macintosh HD” 100%
    • This will create a filesystem called Macintosh HD that takes all the space available on the Fusion drive
  7. All going well, the disk is now ready for final installation in your OS X device
Stage Four – Install the unit in your machine
I’ll leave this one alone, assuming A) you know what you are doing or B) you can follow one of the many excellent resources on the net – from instructions at OWC or Lifehacker, to videos on youtube.
If installing into a Mac with a hard disk temperature sensor, you can bypass the sensor with a small jumper wire (this mitigates against the fan-on-full issue which will occur if the sensor is not bypassed). There are instructions out there on how to do this bit as well.
Stage Five – Reinstall your OS

This is where your USB installer for OS X & Time Machine backup come into play – plug it into the Mac and boot from it and reinstall OS X onto the new drive then follow the instructions to restore from your Time Machine backup.

Note that the first steps of this procedure would also enable the drive for use in a linux machine. With root mounted on the SSD and /home on the HDD portion, this would also speed up your favourite linux box!

I hope this has helped – let me know in the comments if you have any questions that I might be able to answer for you.

“Keep Religion out of Schools”… a follow up

Today, we have an interesting development in the ongoing skirmish between some parents and school boards who have allowed the volunteer-run “Bible-in-schools” Programme into their schools.
The article in question appeared on the Stuff website this morning. You can read it here.

It tells the story of a father who successfully campaigned the Human Rights Commission to have the school move Bible class from school time. The school has moved the class to a lunch time session instead (arguably still “outside of school hours”) but that is not good enough.

The school has abided by the intent of the ruling – if not the letter – and it is still not enough. Being so intent on not having something they disagree with in the school, they’ll campaign to remove the right to choose from the other two groups of people involved – those who want the classes, and those who don’t mind them all. I’d warrant that the latter group is actually the larger of the three..

It would seem, then, that the problem isn’t with the Programme being run inside school time at all but that it is even being run.

Another fallacious argument I have been given is that, by allowing these programmes, it is “state-sanctioning of Christianity” and, here’s the kicker, that “it is discriminatory in that no other religion outside Christianity is permitted to come in and teach at these times.” (This is the single part of Peter Harrison’s comment on my previous post with which I do not agree.)

I have not heard of, nor have I seen any articles regarding, other religions outside Christianity not being permitted to come to schools – at this or any other time. In fact, there was a case of a North Shore school which spent actual school funds building a prayer room for their Muslim students. No outcry from the “Keep Religion out of Schools” folks over that one I might add.

It certainly looks more like the other religions are busy doing things that are important to them rather than wanting to do this and being excluded from entry.

Please, if anyone has some real proof that other religions are not allowed, let me know in the comments below. Oh and, if you feel the need to post some snarky response and that makes you feel better, be my guest.

Has Microsoft Lost The Plot?

I made a comment on a blog post over at The Loop which I quite liked. I didn’t want it to just disappear so I thought I’d put a copy here:

Microsoft have lost the plot.
They appear to be hanging *everything* on two fallacious premises:
1) Users want the exact same interface across every device they have.
2) Users want to have MS Office on every device they have and will start buying devices with MS Office on once they are available.
No. 1 is quite daft to me – and many others from my experience. On my mobile touch screen device, I want an interface that is designed to work well on a mobile touch screen device. On my desktop, I want an interface that is designed to work well on a desktop. Etc.
As far as this “we’ve listened to our users and bought back the Start button” thing goes – from what I can tell, it’s not the Start button that people wanted back and/or missed from the pre-Metro days – it was the Start *Menu*.
And they haven’t bought that back at all. Forcing people to change interface paradigms every time they want to find an app is, again, daft.

What?! A “Windows only” hard disk??

Came across these Western Digital Black2 Dual Drive units the other day. What a cool idea I thought! Just the thing for a couple of laptop users here at work who prefer the speed of an SSD in their laptops but would like a bit of extra room for VM’s and the like.

So I ordered three – one for my work iMac as well. I’d recently upgraded the iMac with an older 256GB SSD – which was fine – though not a huge amount of space obviously.

The units arrived and I set about hooking it up to the iMac using the handy USB->laptop drive SATA cable that it came with.

Only the 120GB SSD drive portion appeared.

Digging a little further, I found that the unit is supported in Windows only – you need to install software in Windows to enable access to the 1TB disk in the Black2 Dual.


Once I’d finished ranting about how crap it was that a hard disk vendor would build a hard disk only for Windows, I had a think. There *must* be a way to make this work – surely! Just because they haven’t built this ‘enabler’ software for OSX surely doesn’t mean that it absolutely wouldn’t work.

So, I went to work getting it set up on a Windows laptop, figuring that I could unlock the disk in Windows & then pop it back in my iMac and configure a Fusion drive across the two disks.

Annoyingly – or cleverly I guess, depending on how you look at it – you cannot unlock the 1TB portion of the drive while it is connected via USB. It actually has to be resident inside the machine (or at least, connected to the SATA bus) to unlock.

This meant I had to image the existing SSD in the laptop onto this one – using the afore mentioned handy cable.

Once it was unlocked, I connected it up to the iMac and converted the partition table from MBR to GPT using the gdisk utility. Note that the 1TB portion shows up as a partition NOT a second hard disk I had suspected it might based on the reviews I’d read.

I removed all the partitions from the first 128GB of the disk and created an EFI partition then ran the Apple Recovery Disk Assistant tool to create a Recovery partition on the new disk.

Excitedly, I then used the directions here to create the Fusion drive.

diskutil cs create Fusion disk3s2 disk3s3

Unfortunately this resulted in a POSIX Input/Output error so it seemed like that was the end of the road.
Frustrated, I posted a brief report into a MacRumours forum in which I’d left a question.

Overnight, “Weaselboy” replied with a few further links to check which renewed my hope that it might work.

One in particular – this excellent (as usual) article from Anandtech described how the controller uses LBA to address the different areas of the disk. Here was the reason for my renewed hope.

Ok, I thought, let’s just wipe the whole thing in my iMac and create the partitions again.

So I did.

And, this time, it worked.  Similar steps would mean this disk could be ‘enabled’ for use in a linux machine as well – it would work really well with / mounted to the SSD and /home on the 1TB mechanical portion.