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.

"Keep Religion Out of Schools" …. unless it’s my Religion

This morning, I read the article entitled “Kids ‘punished’ for opting out of bible class” over on the TVNZ news site.

I have met Peter Harrison and respect him greatly. He has done (and, no doubt, continues to do) many excellent things for the Free/Libre Software movement in NZ. A man with wonderful debating skills – and a passion for what he believes in.

I must admit, I also thought him to be a much more rational man than the above article would suggest.

Surely if a child is feeling ‘punished’ when opting out of any class – be it religious, sport or whatever the context – that should be the responsibility of the school to correct, rather than whoever is running the programme being opted out of? Should the facilitators of said programme provide the 2nd class for those who’s parents have opted them out? Would those parents not also protest that class?

But no, the answer – as presented by the comments in the above article – is to cancel the programme entirely. To me, this shows some larger motive underlying the comments rather than what you might expect – which is evidenced by Peter’s Facebook group.

The larger issue appears to be that having the option to opt-out of something we don’t agree with is no longer enough – we now have to campaign to have that which doesn’t line up with our beliefs, expunged entirely from existence. This harks back to many nasty periods of mankind’s history (some – though not all, and certainly not as many as popularly portrayed – perpetuated in the name of God).

I am certainly not accusing Peter himself of wanting these periods of history repeated, but that does seem the common end to this train of thinking.

(For what it’s worth, I find it surprising that any biblically based teaching would say that “dinosaurs don’t exist” – there are, in fact, many references to ‘dinosaur’ like creatures in God’s “archaic document”.)

[EDIT 5th Feb 2014: Gosh, this certainly generated some interesting comments. I had thought the title of this post was self-explanatory but it appears easily twisted to mean something else. Of course, I was referring to the Secular-Humanism religion which is obviously not the focus of being kept out of schools.

Anyways, I decided to leave all the comments and not delete any of them as I think they tell a good story. There was even one on the Facebook group page from someone saying ‘look – this guy says he’s a Christian – he obviously has an ulterior motive!’. Ironic.

Also, many thanks to Peter for his well reasoned and logical comment – which I mostly agree with – in which he was able to expand on what the media was presenting.]

a poem..

My lovely wife wrote this poem for me – I wanted to share it with ‘the world’.

If I asked for you to hold my hand
And sit with me a while
If I asked for you to see my heart
And breathe with me
If I asked for you to hold
all that I hold, very dear
And cradle it
And keep it safe
Protect it from my fear
I hope you know that I would too
Embrace your humble soul
Comforting and keeping you
For our life makes me whole.

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.

a donkey by any other name

When I first joined Twitter, back in July 2009, I was somewhat disappointed to find that the closest I could get to my nickname of choice, was nz_d0nk3y. (IRL my nickname is Donkey – after the annoying talking smart ass from Shrek).

Recently, due to two years of inactivity, I managed to score the twitter nickname I wanted. Now, I am @donkey – the only ‘real’ donkey in the world! Muwahhahhaa! (well, on twitter anyway – and it also now matches my account over at identi.ca).

It’s been an interesting ride since then with all sorts of extra followers – like, apparently real people rather than the obviously fake accounts that new followers invariably are.

This past weekend however, it got even crazier.

A couple of tweets came in from some people I’d never heard of – obviously with a friend called ‘Donkey’. I normally wait for it to die down and then reply to them all with a Donkey quote from Shrek – just for a laugh – which I also did in this case. A little later, I noticed that I suddenly had about ~25-30 more followers which seemed odd.

Even stranger was the fact that they were all young ladies – and all from Canada (Oh, Canada). One of them happened to mention a name that had shown up in all of the tweets I’d received earlier. On closer inspection, this twitter account had nearly 140K followers and appeared to be some kind of celebrity.

Turns out this fellow, Jacob Hoggard had been a contestant in Canadian Idol and had gone on to front a band called Hedley.

Apparently, they have a friend called Sean (who also has the nickname ‘Donkey’), and it was he whom all these people had mistaken me for. The new young female Canadian followers continue to arrive at a rate of a couple a day – a few which I have conversed with (Kirsten; Marylou; Tricia) , all of which seem wonderfully nice and very friendly.

Isn’t it interesting the things that happen when you throw millions of people from all around the world into an online community – shared names, perceived shared experiences, mistaken identities and all…

Ubuntu LTS Server upgrade – really difficult?

At my place of work, we use a Java-based trouble-ticketing system from Atlassian called Jira.

It is hosted on a LAMP server virtual machine in our production VMware environment. The system has been in daily use (well, week day use) since near the end of 2008 – requiring minimal maintenance in that time (the occasional reboot after security updates have been installed).

Up until yesterday, we had been using Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Server. I decided it was time to move to the latest LTS release – 10.04 – which was released earlier this year and had just received it’s first .1 refresh.

Some googling around revealed the potential for various issues with the process so I took a snapshot before beginning – just to be safe.

I then found this link which detailed how to upgrade the server to the next LTS release.

I was shocked at how simple the process appeared to be – surely not?! This is that crazy technical, awful command line operating system with a really high cost of ownership isn’t it?

So, SSH’ing into the server, I took a copy of /etc (just being extra safe again), fired up a screen session and ran the command as instructed on the page above.

sudo do-release-upgrade

Various lists were obtained from the internet and upgrades calculated, I then had to press Y to show my acceptance of the results.

Everything slowed down at this point due to our internet connection speed (changing soon, yay!). I disconnected and went to sleep.

This morning, I connected back to the server and screen session to find a reboot necessary. So, Y again and a reboot later the 10.04.1 based system was up and running.

I fired up a browser and pointed to the Jira system – fail. Oh noes, I thought, now it gets difficult.

Well, no, not really. Over the course of various Ubuntu releases since 8.04, the sun-java6-* packages were moved into the partner repository.

So, I uncommented the partner repository in /etc/apt/sources.list, ran an apt-get update and reinstalled the sun-java6-jre package.

A reboot (only to test that everything would start by itself as it should) and Jira is running again, no data lost and inbound email requests to the system are working. Awesome.

Just so you get the significance of that, imagine doing an inplace upgrade (eg not a fresh install) of a Windows 2000 Server running IIS5 and SQL 2000 and have it coming out running Windows Server 2008, IIS7 and SQL 2008.

Two reboots, no data loss, no restores necessary and all done remotely. And Jira was actually still running and available for most of the time except when the box was rebooting and having java re-installed.

Yep, *really* difficult. Watch out.