Using Keynote Remote When There's No Wi-Fi Around

Posted on January 24, 2010 by Scott Leberknight

I just bought Keynote Remote for my iPhone. It is very simple, has the option to display presenter notes, and is absurdly simple to link to Keynote and start controlling presentations. What was a little more involved was that I wanted to use it regardless of whether there is a wireless network around or not. Since Keynote Remote requires a wi-fi connection here's what I'm doing to get around this little annoyance. Basically all you need to do is set up an ad-hoc wireless network with your Mac, and have your iPhone connect to that network. Voila! So, when there's no wireless network available, I just use my handy-dandy Verizon Wireless USB760 Modem to connect to the Internet, and I can still control presentations with Keynote Remote.

Migrating Macs When You Use FileVault

Posted on September 21, 2009 by Scott Leberknight

Recently I got a brand spankin new MacBook Pro (MBP) to replace my three-year-old one. One of the things I did not want to deal with is setting up a new computer from scratch and reconfiguring and reinstalling everything I already had on my old MBP. I have things pretty-well organized, I know where things are, and I remember when I rebuilt from scratch from Tiger to Leopard I lost a bunch of settings and such because I hadn't used any kind of migration software. Not this time. This time I wanted my new computer to essentially be my old computer, but with more memory and faster with no hassles.

There are a few options I considered. First, simply take a SuperDuper backup and restore directly to the new MBP. I researched this a lot, talked to people who've done this both successfully and unsuccessfully, and talked to a Genius at the Apple store. The second option was to use the Migration Assistant to transfer from old to new. After all the research, I decided against restoring from SuperDuper for several reasons. First, it seemed to be hit or miss: some people reported success and some did not. Second, and more importantly, I was transferring from a circa August 2006 MBP, in fact one of the first revs that had the Intel chips inside, to a circa June 2009 MBP with the new trackpad and all the other updated jazz. I was mostly concerned that there could have been enough difference between the old and new computers' hardware and software drivers and that a direct restore would not contain up-to-date drivers and whatever else that could screw things up. So I chose to explore using Migration Assistant, which promised a very easy transfer of all files and settings.

So then I ran into the first snag, which is that Migration Assistant does not transfer File Vault-ed user accounts, and I happen to use FileVault. Doh. So I thought, "OK no problem I'll simply turn off FileVault on the old machine first." Except that I only had about 7GB of space left on my hard drive, and turning FileVault off needs about as much free space as your home directory currently takes up. So if my home directory is currently 50GB, then I need about 50GB free. Double Doh, because I didn't have that kind of space! To solve all these problems, here is what I did, for anyone else who might be trying to do the same thing:

Step 1 - Backup Original Mac

Make a SuperDuper backup of the old MBP onto a portable external hard drive. (I actually made two copies on two different external hard drives, just in case something got screwed up later.) The external drive should contain plenty of space, enough so you can turn off FileVault on your home directory.

Step 2 - Turn off FileVault on External Drive

Restart the old Mac and boot from the SuperDuper backup. (You hold down the option key during startup to get the screen where you can choose to boot from the Mac hard drive or the SuperDuper backup on the external drive.) Note at this point you are now running Mac OS X on the external hard drive. Log into the FileVault-ed account, go to System Preferences, and turn FileVault off. (This is why you needed to make sure the external drive has enough space to turn off FileVault, since you are turing it off there, not on your Mac's hard drive!) Now go grab something to eat and/or watch a movie as this step can take a few hours depending on how much data you have.

Once complete, log out and shut down the external drive. You are now ready to transfer.

Step 3 - Prepare for Migration Assistant on New Mac

Log into your new Mac, and connect the external drive that contains the freshly un-FileVault-ed SuperDuper bootable backup of the original Mac. If you or someone else already setup a new user account on the new Mac that has the same username as your old account does, then create a new account with Administrator privileges (e.g. "MigrationAccount") and then delete the account that you will be transferring to. For example, if your old Mac account username was "bsmith" and the new Mac has an account with the same username, remove the "bsmith" account on the new Mac. Otherwise when you attempt the migration you might receive the following message like I did the first time I tried: "There is an existing user account with the same name as an account you are transferring." This wouldn't have been an issue, except that the option to replace the account was disabled and so Migration Assistant was refusing to overwrite it. Thus you should delete it first.

Step 4 - Run Migration Assistant

On the new Mac, run Migration Assistant and answer the questions. You'll be transferring from the external SuperDuper backup to the new Mac. The questions are easy and straightforward. Go grab something to drink or watch some TV, as it'll take a while to transfer all your old files and settings from the external drive to the new Mac. I'll just assume everything went well, because it did for me. If something went wrong, well, I don't have answers other than maybe to try, try, try again from scratch.

Step 5 - Turn FileVault Back On

On the new Mac, turn FileVault on for the newly migrated account, e.g. if the "bsmith" account previously had FileVault on, then login as "bsmith" and turn on FileVault in System Preferences. Tick tock. More waiting as Mac OS X encrypts all the data in your home directory. Once this process completes, your new Mac should be pretty much the same as your old Mac, with all the same files and settings like Desktop, Screen Saver, etc. and with all your applications transferred successfully. And you are back up running with FileVault enabled.

Step 6 - Secure Erase External Hard Drive

At this point you have the new Mac setup with FileVault, and the old Mac still has FileVault on as well since you migrated from the external drive. But, the external drive now has unencrypted data sitting around since you turned FileVault off on it. Open up Disk Utility and do a secure erase of the un-FieVaulted external drive. Depending on which option you choose, e.g. "Zero Out Data", "7-Pass Erase", "35-Pass Erase", etc., the erase process can take a long time, as in days. In other words, a 7- pass write overwrites every part of the disk 7 times to sanitize it and make recovery of the unencrypted information much harder, and takes 7 times longer than just zeroing out the data, which writes zeroes all over data on the disk.

I only did a zero out of the data, because I knew I was going to immediately overwrite that external drive with a new SuperDuper backup once I was done. If you need more insurance than that, a 7-pass erase confirms to the DoD 5220.22-M specification which is probably good enough. (Actually I started out using 7-pass erase until I saw it was going to take a day or two, and then I got a tad lazy and just did the zero out. Perhaps that is bad, but I didn't feel like waiting that long, and it's not like I have data for 100,000 employees on my hard drive in an Excel spreadsheet anyway. Just a lot of code and presentations and such, really.)

Step 7 - Backup New Mac

Make a fresh SuperDuper backup of the new Mac.


Although all the above sounds like it took a long time, the waiting and time was mostly due to having to turn FileVault off and then on and doing the secure erase. Migration Assistant itself takes a fair amount of time but is totally worth it. Overall the entire process from start to finish on my old MBP with a 100GB hard drive containing only 7GB free space took between five and six hours, which is way less time than if I had tried to start over from scratch with the new Mac. I do wonder why Apple cannot just allow Migration Assistant to transfer accounts with FileVault enabled, because then pretty much all you'd need to do is run Migration Assistant directly, and you wouldn't need to go through all the drama.

Cloud-Oriented Architecture (COA)

Posted on August 18, 2008 by Scott Leberknight

With all the hype this year about cloud computing and things like Amazon EC2/S3 as well as Google App Engine and Bigtable, you can feel it coming. Soon vendors will be peddling COA (Cloud-Oriented Architecture) solutions, probably combining them with their SOA solution and somehow probably getting their ESB solution into the mix as well. This past weekend at the Enterprise Architecture BOF at the Southern Ohio Software Symposium, we had a discussion about cloud computing among other things. Ted Neward even coined the term "Enterprise Service Cloud" and I came up with "Cloud Service Bus," surely the next Big Thing. Any vulture (I mean, venture) capitalists out there want to invest in my new Cloud Service Bus company? I have a pretty brochure ready to go!

The big difference I see with regard to cloud computing is the fact that, unlike your typical ESB/SOA peddling vendors, companies like Amazon and Google already have cloud or cloud-like solutions in place a la Amazon EC2/S3 and , and Google App Engine and Bigtable. Now all of those things just mentioned are not "the cloud" (whatever "the cloud" actually is defined to be), but it doesn't matter because the point is these companies have designed, implemented, and most importantly, run their critical business operations on these platforms. That in and of itself is more important than all the vaporware and marketing hype any other vendor comes up with. Rather than having to get customers to believe that a solution works via marketing and then force it down their IT staff's throats, Google and Amazon are basically saying "Hey why not use stuff that we use and have proven can scale up to handle huge loads and huge amounts of data?"

To me as a developer this is a much more appealing approach for several reasons. First, it means there won't be (or shouldn't need to be) any "golf-course deals" where the vendor sales guys and customer CIOs/CTOs/CEOs meet up and decide on the technology stack independent of any real technical analysis, investigation, or input of the people who will be charged with implementing the vendor stack (and they better do it well else it's their job on the line to boot).

Second, I can base my decision to use a Google or Amazon service based on their actual track record in delivering these services and eating their own dog food, since they are trying to monetize their existing investment in proven highly distributed and scalable infrastructures. Yes, there have been Amazon outages this year and whenever it happens it is big news because it is right there out in the public, as opposed to a company whose IT operations are totally in-house and which isn't going to publicize their downtime statistics. I'd wager on Amazon and Google's availability over probably most other companies. Of course I have no way to prove that last statement, but the mere fact that I can get objective statistics on their services helps in my decision making process and planning.

Last, I can decide how much or how little to outsource to the Amazon or Google infrastructure; for example some organizations might choose to keep their most sensitive data (e.g. customer information, credit card numbers, etc.) in-house but outsource everything else to, say, an Amazon EC2/S3 infrastructure. There is still some level of vendor lock-in here, but there is with anything else short of you implementing your own solution from scratch. And if, by leveraging proven solutions by companies like Amazon and Google, you are able to deliver real value to your customers faster and are able to scale up, out, and beyond without needing to build that infrastructure yourself, then I'd say that could potentially equate to a big win.

So when that vendor comes calling with their shiny new COA solution, be very afraid, and make sure you know your options and present them objectively. We as an industry have more buzzwords and hype (at least from my perspective) than almost any other, and this causes more money than I can possibly imagine to be wasted every year on solutions that don't (and never will) work as advertised. Developers often have a feeling that the VDD (vendor-driven development) solutions just won't work, but cannot convince their managers or their managers' managers of this fact, which is why communications skills are critical in today's world. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be the person who becomes responsible for implementing a solution I don't believe in.

"The Cloud" and cloud computing are definitely here to stay forever, and as Amazon and Google have proven, can add huge amounts of value to businesses. I am sure there will be other companies perhaps trying to implement similar strategies and monetizing their investment in their own infrastructure, and that will be mostly a good thing to have different options and competition to further push the Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) to continually improve their offerings. Get ready, because our toolboxes have just become a lot bigger.

Impatiently Awaiting...

Posted on May 03, 2005 by Scott Leberknight

IntelliJ 5.0

Business Week Lauds Firefox

Posted on February 16, 2005 by Scott Leberknight

The January 24, 2005 and February 7, 2005 issues of Business Week magazine both have articles on Firefox. The article in the former issue is entitled "The Gnat Nipping At Microsoft" and gives lots of kudos to the Mozilla Foundation in general, mentioning not only Firefox but also its Thunderbird mail client and forthcoming Sunbird calendar program. The latter article, entitled "Move Over, Internet Explorer", talks about some of Firefox's cool features like tabbed browsing and the ability to add plug-ins. When Business Week starts recognizing Firefox and encouraging business people to check out Firefox, I'd say Mozilla's efforts are starting to pay off in a big way. I hope it continues. My wife and I have already switched both of our parents over the Firefox and many people at work too. Now that I am thinking about it, I'm going to go make a donation to the Mozilla Foundation to support them as they continue to develop high-quality software.

Spellbound Spellchecker for Firefox

Posted on December 03, 2004 by Scott Leberknight

The Spellbound Spellchecker for Firefox simply rules! Why anyone continues to stick with Internet ExploDer I have no idea, and would encourage everyone to try out Mozilla Firefox. A couple of good articles on Firefox are:

After a few hours I guarantee you'll never want to use IE again.