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October 16, 2009

» Blogrotate #2: The Weekly Roundup of News for System Administrators

Welcome to week 2 of Blogrotate. It was a short week due to Thanksgiving (Canada) and Columbus Day (US), but the world of IT is always buzzing. So as they say at the race track, pitter-patter, let’s get at ‘er.


Have you ever wondered how much trouble can be caused by a single typo? This week a single typo in a script to update all zone files for the .se (sweden) TLD (top level domain), dropping the entire .se domain off the internet for almost 2 hours. Royal Pingdom has the full story in “Sweden’s Internet broken by DNS mistake”. This is why we need tight controls on change management. It’s called testing guys. Sweden. Give me a call.

Facebook now has 30,000 servers and produces 25TB (that’s tera-byte kids) of log data per day. The Data Center Knowledge site has some interesting details in “Facebook now has 3000 Servers”.


Lot’s of buzz this week about T-Mobile’s service disruption and subsequent loss of users data. Discussion over whether the problem was a cloud failure or not was one hot topic. Data Center Knowledge discussed it here in “The Sidekick Failure and Cloud Culpability”. Ars Technica had some more on the cloud debate with “T-Mobile and Microsoft/Danger data loss is bad for the cloud”. It looks like most or all users will have lost their data due to the lack of backups, see “Some Sidekick Users May Recover Data” for more. I am sure there will be more fallout from this one.

Enterprise Storage Forum has an interesting evaluation of the limitations of cloud computing for corporations, specifically due to bandwidth limitations and hardware error rates. See Henry Newman’s article titled “Why Cloud Storage Use Could Be Limited in Enterprises”.

Nate Anderson over at Ars Technica has an interesting read about fear mongers who say our beloved intertubes are going to die in “The Internet is about to die. Literally die!”.

Operating Systems

IT Wire claims “Microsoft teams up with Family Guy to sell Windows 7″. That’s just sad. If they are going to glorify Windows then I really can’t see how they can funny it up. I am guessing Seth will get to pan Microsoft just to spread word that Windows 7 is coming.

VMWare has announced that their new “VMware Fusion will support Windows 7 in more Mac-like way” says IT Wire. This “Unity” feature looks a lot like VirtualBox’s “seamless” mode. Check out the You Tube video “Unity in VMware Fusion for Mac OS X” to see it in action.

Jim Zemlin, the executive director of the Linux Foundation gave the keynote address at the Maemo Summit and said that he thinks Linux could be the dominant OS for mobile phones and devices. Ars Technica has more in “Will Linux be the dominant OS for consumer electronics?”.

And from the wicked cool idea department

An interesting study from McCormick University on using your PC’s existing hardware as a sort of sonar to detect when you are there. See “Research Group Uses Sonar for Computer Power Management”. They plan to use this as a method of detecting if you are close to your computer and to turn off your screen if you are not, then turn back on again when you return. The group is currently looking for guinea pigs testers to evaluate if there is any real world power savings. The link to the software is in the article. Hey, if my TV remote control can do it, why not a laptop?

That’s all we’ll have time for this week. Come back again next week for more Blogrotate and, as always, feel free to speak your mind or post your interesting stories in the comments.

June 9, 2009

» How to Recover Data from a Dead MacBook

This post might seem outside of our focus, but life brings all kinds of challenges. A friend of mine bought a MacBook when she was on vacation in the USA. For obvious reasons, Macs are more common on the other side of the Atlantic. In Europe it’s still rare to see a person using Mac as a personal computer (no flame intended, just stating a fact).

Her Mac completely broke down. The service guys told her she’d need to replace the motherboard, which would cost almost the same as a new computer. The problem was her Mac wouldn’t even start, and all the data she had on a hard-drive was stuck in the neat white box without any signs of life.

Sure, I said, I’m a computer guy I can recover it, can’t I?

I had never worked with Mac before, so I started with initial research to find out what options I have with hardware available in my home computer den.

I came to know that Mac uses filesystem called HFS+, and it can’t be read from Windows 32bit. Great, I thought, I’ve two options—find someone else with a Mac or get it mounted on Linux.

Fortunately, I have a Linux box at home, so it should be easy. I unscrewed the MacBook, and behind the battery there was 2.5 SATA drive. To be able to connect it, I need the interface between 2.5″ SATA drive and USB. For this purpose I’m using a QCP converter cable, which allows you to connect internal 2.5″/3.5″ ATA/SATA drives directly to USB port. ( I really like this piece of hardware—it’s exactly the kind of gadget you want to have around for saving notebook drives.

After connecting the disk, I found that my OEL5.1 wouldn’t be friends with it. I simply couldn’t find the right hfsplus module for this distribution. Fortunately, there were many references about mounting hfsplus disks on Ubuntu Linux, which is my second system.

I downloaded the required package and dependency libraries for Ubuntu from here:

The packages installation is straight forward:

root@silverbox:~# dpkg -i libhfsp0_1.0.4-10ubuntu1_i386.deb libc6_2.3.6-0ubuntu20_i386.deb hfsplus_1.0.4-10ubuntu1_i386.deb

After that, I needed to load the hfsplus module:

root@silverbox:~# modprobe hfsplus
root@silverbox:~# cat /proc/filesystems | grep hfs

Next, I had to check which partition is the one I need to mount. For this purpose, I used parted:

root@silverbox:~# parted /dev/sdd
GNU Parted 1.7.1
Using /dev/sdd
Welcome to GNU Parted! Type 'help' to view a list of commands.
(parted) print

Disk /dev/sdd: 160GB
Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
Partition Table: gpt

Number  Start   End    Size   File system  Name                  Flags
 1      20.5kB  210MB  210MB  fat32        EFI System Partition  boot
 2      210MB   160GB  160GB  hfs+         Untitled

Knowing the partition containing the data was /dev/sdd2, and I could mount it.

root@silverbox:~# mount -t hfsplus /dev/sdd2 /mnt/macosx

The next problem I faced was privileges. The directories I needed to save were owned by a non-existent user, and so I wasn’t able to access that path.

To work around this, I created a new user and assigned the directory owner UID.

root@silverbox:~# useradd macuser
root@silverbox:~# usermod -u 501 macuser

This allowed me to access the directory I needed to recover, and copy files to another ntfs disk which will be readable by regular Windows machine.

April 28, 2009

Rick Leir
» Cocoa programming for Mac OS X for dummies

Cocoa programming for Mac OS X for dummies / by Erick Tejkowski, Wiley, 2009

If you don’t mind using Objective C then Apple has good tools for developing user interfaces. Here is a book which will help beginner to intermediate programmers.

Get it here from OPL

April 23, 2009

Rick Leir
» Cocoa programming for Mac OS X

Cocoa programming for Mac OS X / Aaron Hillegass, Addison-Wesley, 2008.

Here’s a good book for Mac GUI programmers. 400 pages.

Get it from OPL

April 16, 2009

Rick Leir
» Mac OS X for Unix geeks

Mac OS X for Unix geeks / Brian Jepson, O’Reilly, 2008

Here is a book that will be really useful with my next Mac. Though there are 400 pages, this feels like a compact book because it is printed and bound nicely.

Get it here at OPL

March 28, 2009

Rick Leir
» Cocoa programming for Mac OS X for dummies

Cocoa programming for Mac OS X for dummies / by Erick Tejkowski, Wiley, 2009

Here is GUI application programming for the MAC. Learn the Cocoa IDE and a bit about programming in Objective C. The author gives lots of practical advice and some code examples in 375 pages.

Get it here at OPL