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.

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.

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.

the unthinkable has happened

I never thought I’d see the day when I would lay aside the excellence of linux and actually enjoy using another operating system – a proprietary operating system at that!

But it has happened. Through various events, an opportunity arose a couple of months back, to use an early Intel model iMac at work. My quad-core i5, 4GB RAM, 64bit debian running workstation was flattened and redeployed with Windows 7, to someone requiring the horsepower.

The iMac, a spare loaded with XP, sitting unused for many months, became my workstation. Needing to run iTunes, and refusing to use Windows outside of a VM or RDP session, my only option was OSX as the spec wouldn’t cope with a VM running atop linux.

A good opportunity, I thought, to see how an increasing percentage of the other side live – to see what all the fuss was about.

I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.

At first, it took a little time to get used to the slightly different keyboard layout & the plethora of new, sometimes unwieldy hotkey combinations. However, I did feel at home though with the familiarity of the interface having come from a GNOME environment – it was uncannily similar.

Slowly but surely I felt a growing sense of wonder of just how simple it was to use, of how things just worked. I enjoyed that sense of the technology getting out of the way and just letting me get on with what I needed to do. And yet, a bash command line was just a click away…

I discovered I *could* have the comforts of a commonly used mainstream OS and UNIX too. I did a little investigation and found that, completely by happenstance, I had all the right hardware at home to make a Hackintosh. So, for roughly the same time as having the iMac at work, I’ve also had an almost-Mac-Pro at home.

Of course, my Apple-loving friends all nodded knowingly, tut-tut-ed and wondered why it had taken me so long…

I began to understand that it’s not just about a single device, or the OS, or an App Store. It’s the eco-system that all these things exist in that is so appealing. It is all there, designed to work together – not perfect, but much closer to completeness than anything I’ve previously come across – either proprietary or non. And I really like it.

What has ensued is a philosophical crisis of sorts: How can I *like* a proprietary OS? Is this nice, easiness worth giving up some freedom for? Where is my loyalty? If I like this, does this mean I might like Microsoft one day? How am I ever to afford the ‘real’ hardware to run at home?

Of course, these are all questions of which I’m willing to spend some time on getting to the answer of.

I know there are many among the FOSS community who have tread this path before me – some of whom are much cleverer and whose opinions are valued much more highly, than mine.

But I still can’t help but feel a little guilty.