Mac Pro still running fine on Old SSD, Time Machine backups, Work workload…

Mac Pro Issues (resolved for now)

I’ve not been able to spend a lot of time working on figuring out the SSD issues, but I’ve pretty much just settled back on my Mac Pro drive that came with the machine. I wish it had more space, but for now, I’ll just use external storage to keep things under control. I tried to see if I could use the 1 TB SSD as an external USB connected drive, but it’s not even seen when I plug it in. For the moment, I’ll set it aside and come back to it.

Time Machine Backups going to NAS

Yesterday, while off from work, I decided to see if I could use my Synology NAS as a target for my Time Machine backups. I found some instructions on line but couldn’t get it to work using another “user” account on the device. However, I did find a way to add a quota to the shared folder and I was able to use my existing account yet limit the TM data from extending and using too much space. I also decided to add the shared folder to my TM configuration instead of replacing which means I’ll have two backups for each machine. This will allow one to fail and I’m still covered.

Workload at Work

Work continues to pile up. Not a bad thing, I’m keeping busy, but it seems like every time I turn around there is something else to do. Yes, this is good, but at times I start by feeling overwhelmed and that is adding some stress. I’ll need to work on things to make it easier to handle and work through my last 10 or so years of work (if I’m lucky and can afford to retire some day). I’m still loving my job, just have to keep things in check.

24 Hours later, Mac Pro is running fine

I’ve been working at the Mac Pro for a while today and a few hours yesterday.  My testing has been watching some Podcast videos while doing other things like moving files around and trimming up the content on the old SSD. So far, the symptoms faced before like stuttering and sluggish mouse cursor are not showing themselves. Not sure if this is a timing issue or not, but so far evidence is pointing to the OWC Aura 1 TB SSD.

I’m going to repeat some thing that have caused panic reports in the past while running on the other drive to be sure, but I need to stop using my machine long enough to do that. Once files have moved, backups have been done, I’ll reboot a few time.

Mac Pro still sick! New NAS

Mac Pro

I’ve put my original Apple storage back into the machine, temporarily removing the 1 TB Aura SSD from OWC. Not sure if it will resolve my issues, but it will tell me if the drive I’m using is at fault or if it is something else. I’m really hoping it is something else so I can take advantage of the Aura’s drive space. Otherwise I have to move things around which isn’t fun.

As I write this quick post, my Mac is being restored to a Time Machine back up from an hour or two ago. I hope I can determine things today so I can make some decisions soon.

Synology 918+

I’ve added a new Synology NAS (network attached storage) to my network and so far I’m loving it. So far I’ve only add 3 hard drives to the system. A new 4 TB drive, plus an older 2 TB and 3 TB drives. Eventually I’ll have it loaded with all 4 TB or higher drives. Although I have about 9 TB of drives in it right now, only about 4.75 TB is available for use as I’m using some RAID for data protection. Basically when I’m ready to update a drive, i can just pull one of them out and plug in a new one. The system will incorporate the new drive and restore the data on it’s own. I also put in two 250 GB Samsung 960 SSD (solid-state drives) that act as cache. They help in writing and reading to the spinning drives and are setup as RAID 1 (mirroring). In case something happens, the data is safe. Today, I’ll attempt to take the 4 GB memory up to 16 GB memory – just have to shut it down and install it.

I chose to go with the Synology because of great reviews and it’s capabilities. I’ve already moved my Plex media server to it but I’ll also be able to setup and run virtual machines. There are also great number of applications from business, development and media serving.

Mac Pro issues resolve (I hope!)

For the last few weeks I’ve noticed that my Mac Pro (late 2013, cylinder style) has been sluggish, mouse skipping, video playback choppy. After a reboot it seemed to be fine for a while but then it slowly went back to this behavior. I couldn’t right out say what was the cause and there were several things that happened at once that it could have been. The storage replacement and new OS happened around the same time because one relied on the other. And to add to it, during a shutdown request (or reboot) the system would always reboot and show a shutdown error. Checking the logs gave me to the clues to try and resolve.

When trying to find out why NVME was causing a kernel panic on shutdown, I was lead to the solution – unfortunately it required a reformat of my main system disk. I did everything I could to avoid having to do that, but in then end it was the cleanest and so far the best solution. The issue was due to an error that was being reported when I check the APFS container. It would always say everything appears OK with the drive, but there was a line in the results that would indicate an over allocation. Basically the drive within the container said it had a bit more space than was physically possible. The only way to fix that was a reformat of the OWC Aura Pro X SSD. It was a bit of a pain, but with an up to date Time Machine backup, the worse part was the 2 hours or so it took to get back to a working system. Overall it was an easy thing (at least for me) and it seems to be much more stable than before. I’ll be putting a pretty big load on the machine today to test things out and see how much of the 64GB of memory I can use with running apps.

 

Another DAS Keyboard Professional 4!

I’ve put it off long enough. I decided to enhance my typing on the Mac to a new level and went from the Apple Keyboard to the DAS Keyboard mentioned before. I decided to spend another $150 on this new keyboard because my old one is awesome. It’s dedicated to my work laptop while at home. But why did I not try someone else? Because I think the service I got when my cat chewed through the cable was excellent! Not only was the technician helpful and understanding as I explained my situation, but found a “cable lying around” and sent it to me at no charge – not even postage!

I didn’t get the “Mac” version of the keyboard though, just the normal windows one. It works fine on the Mac, although the keys are swapped (the Generic Windows/Command) could be moved with the Alt key, but I don’t think it’s that important. I do have some keystrokes that are different on Windows versus Mac and that will take some getting used to, though I also had this problem on the Mac keyboard as well. I want to use the CTRL-Left or Right to move between words and it doesn’t quite work that way.

I still prefer to use the track pad with the Mac over the mouse. I have a magic mouse that I rarely use. In fact I only use it to see if I can use it and then put it back into the drawer.

Outlook Rollout at work commencing / New SSD is now up and running / DAS Keyboard cable replaced

Implementing MS Outlook at Work

I’m not actually doing any of the conversion or migration work, but I’m doing my best to support the one who is. I try to grab what tickets I can do and of course answer the questions that come in. No matter how many emails and posts we provide there are those who don’t know what’s going on and need help. There are types of people who don’t care how things are supposed to work only that they do. These are the types of people who will pretty much receive and send email, accept invitations and maybe bother with filing emails into folders. Then there are types of people who want to do it all. They assign new quick steps, try to create new shortcut keys for repeating task, the whole works. Then there are those in the middle who want to do a bit more but still only use about 30% of the functionality. It’s touch to come up with solutions that help all these people. In general, the younger the employees, the more they’ll do with the tools. The older ones tend to do it only because they have no choice.

In the US, we have a few more weeks of migration, then we start migrating the rest of the Americas (North and South). The rest of the world has either started or will be starting in February for the full roll out. It’s challenging but it’s also a bit rewarding too.

New SSD is finally working in my Mac Pro

In my last post I talked about the issues with the replacement SSD I got from OWC (MacSales.com). This was to replace another SSD card that I had used to upgrade my Mac Pro 2013 last year. When I attempted to work on the before I couldn’t get it to be seen no matter what I did. After filing a support request and waiting a couple of extra days, I finally got a response. I decided to give it the old college try once again and sure enough by the time I was finished and actually issuing the right start up command keyboard sequence the drive was found and I’m currently running on that. I creating this post on my laptop though because I’m having to move my home folder from an external spinner to the SSD I just installed. I will keep everything just in case I need to revert back to it, but I think I’ll be good for a while.

The main mistake I was making was to hold the Command+Option+R key down for recovery. I was holding the Command+R down and since there was no drive in the machine it was reaching out to the internet to download and run a disk image from there. However, it wasn’t pulling down the right recovery console as expected, but the one for the OS of the machine when I got it. By holding down the Command+Option+R, I was able to get the right recovery tools and was able to see the drive in the provided disk utility in that version. Once I saw it, I was able to then use the restore from Time Machine backup to the new SSD and I have my full system back. Now it’s just moving my home folder back to the SSD so I can get the best performance from it.

DAS Keyboard replacement cable

The USB cable needed to repair my DAS Keyboard came a couple of days ago in the mail. Looking at the cable, it appeared to be a standard USB 3 Micro-B with some extra stuff to secure it in place on the keyboard. I would have discovered this before had I only completely pull the cable the first time I took the keyboard apart. It had a blob of plastic holding it in place (like hot glue) so I didn’t since the keyboard was actually still working (at times). In any case, I was able to take the cable the support team provided (at no costs to me by the way!) and fix the keyboard. Before installing, I put a pretty heavy coat of dishwashing liquid soap on it to deter the cat from biting and chewing it. Tech wise, things are looking up for a bit!

Happy New Year 2018! Mac SSD Upgrade failure. Good Tech Support and it’s cold!

2018: A New Year

So yeah, it’s a new year! Another one! So Happy New Year and I hope that 2018 brings you everything you want it to! I spend it quietly at home, sleeping by the time midnight rolled around. It’s really just another day for me, not really having any magical meaning other than having to remember to use the new year for dates. I’d say for writing checks, but I only write one or two a year now – the bank writes most of them for me and has done for many years now.

I think the biggest thing I like about the new year, is I can work on my taxes. I have so many expenses for the farm house this year that I needed to prepare as much as I could. I’ve organized things so far, and now I’m just awaiting various documentation to arrive. Will see what Turbo Tax Home & Business will do for me before heading out to see a real professional. If Turbo indicates a possible audit, then I’ll definitely see professional help and get someone to help me with my taxes too.

Replacement 1TB SSD drive for Mac Pro a No Go!

This week, I decided to buy a new SSD to replace my upgrade that I did about a year ago (see image on the left on the old upgrade). I went from a 256 GB drive to a 1 TB drive. Of course this is for my Mac Pro  (Late 2013, looks like a can) system. Apples new Mac OS High Sierra isn’t compatible with my upgraded SSD so after some research I decided to just get one that is compatible. Going to a good place, MacSales (OWC) and place my order for an “open box” unit that still was close to $600. It arrived yesterday so i decided today would be a good day to install it. I was not wrong, but it’s not as easy as the little over 2 minute video indicated.

Apparently, the drive I received was dead on arrival. Not sure if you could call it a drive, because it looks like flat stick with a couple of chips on it. I didn’t know that at first, but after installing it and trying to boot, it wouldn’t recognize it in order to restore to it. But that wasn’t the first thing I had to do, nope. I had to put in the original drive, and update to the latest version of the Mac OS. I had saved that so it wasn’t a big deal. I removed the old upgrade, a square fat thing that isn’t sexy at all, but it was 1TB in disk space and was hidden, so a year ago when I bought it (~$900), it was an investment worth the price, little did I know (and the manufacturers) would know that it couldn’t be used by the new Mac OS.

So, I put the old, original 256GB SDD in, and updated the OS. It took about an hour or so. Once it was up and running, I attempted the swap I mentioned above. to use the new SSD. But, as stated, my system couldn’t see it. I said, well, shit, that sucks (or words similar to that). Anyway, I decided to pull the new drive out and insert the older 1TB upgrade SSD back in. I could now install the MacOS on it, because apparently the biggest issue was the EFI (some firmware) that is installed. That’s put into the hardware so I could then safely (?) install the MacOS onto the Older, 1TB SSD. It worked, things seem to be going well with it, however, about 2 hours of running it, the system stopped responding.

I did everything I could think of and couldn’t get it to respond enough (the caps lock light would toggle, but no screen image, not other beeps or responses). I did what a normal tech support would do and powered it off. After a few moments I hit the power again and it started coming up, slowly. But when the screen appeared, it was the restore screen and not the normal login I’m used to. So OK. I take a look.

In the disk utility I found the disk but it was not showing as it’s full size, but a 240 GB drive instead, and was not initialized. Bummer. No problem, I put the original 256GB SSD in the slot, and started installing all over again. But my Time Machine backups had too much data to fit the smaller drive. I had a 1TB drive after all, but only about ~460 GB used, but it’s still too much for the smaller hard drive. I’m now doing a “migration” type restore after clean install of the OS and then I had to tell it to skip some folders. Not a huge deal since I know I have copies of everything – perhaps now is a good time to clean up and get rid of those applications I no longer use or need.

Of course at some point in doing this I submitted a support request to OWC and I’m awaiting their response. The best would be for them to send me another drive (at the same price, since this was appears to be dead) or just allow me to return it for a refund. I was hoping to send the old upgrade 1TB back to them for a $300 rebate which would bring the whole costs down a bit. Not sure if that is going to happen if I don’t get a new swapped drive. We’ll have to wait and see the results of that. At least I have my Mac Pro up and running again and have plenty of external storage, albeit slower, to keep my digital things.

Das Keyboard – Great Customer Support from this Austin, TX Company

One of my favorite purchases this past year was from January. This is a “clicking” keyboard with a USB 3.0 hub and I’ve used it a lot while working at home. It’s an awesome keyboard that costs me about ~$160.00 when I bought it. The only problem is that it came with a 2 meter (about 6 feet) long USB cord to plug it into the computer. Not only did that cord connect the keyboard and the USB 3.0 2 port Hub, but apparently it was a very tasty thing for Lacie, my youngest cat. She’s chewed the cable and now if it is turned in certain ways, it cause a short, which cause the laptop to disable to USB port it’s plugged into.

I did some searching online and I wasn’t able to find a replacement cord. So I asked myself, what if we submitted a request to their tech support asking for some advice. I was honest and told them what happened. I sent along with the request a copy of my Amazon order (invoice), the sticker showing the information from the bottom of the unit and the damaged cord. My main question was how we could proceed in getting a new usb cord (hard wired in the keyboard). I asked if it was something I could do or if I could send it in for repair.

Within less than an hour of submitting my “ticket”, Jared M. responded with a similar story about his beagle. He said he could feel my pain. If I would provide a shipping address, he would find a cable and send it my way. At no point did he mention charging me for the cord or for shipping it to me. Another hour or so of getting my address to him (via the online support system), he’s told me he’s prepared it for shipping and I should be getting it within 5 to 10 days. That was awesome and those are the kinds of stories one want to have when working with customer or technical support teams.

Friggin’ Cold

So, it’s been cold this week. Including in SC where they got some snow. The farm house air handler’s motor burned up and stopped warming the house. Fortunately, it’s under warranty so it only cost the labor and a new breaker. Thankfully it wasn’t all that, I need a break for a while on Farm house expenses! Here in Maryland, it’s been in the teens and below freezing for over a week. There is ice and snow on the ground, but it’s not too bad.

Lots of New stuff at Work this past week.

Yeah, as I said in the title of the post. Lots of changes for work this past week. New phone, new email system, new mobile email system, new security access to corporate data.

I’ve been upgraded on my iPhone from an iPhone 6 to an iPhone 8 Plus (64GB). I only had 64 GB on my 6 so it’s not a huge deal. We could either go with a regular 8 with more memory or a larger device with better camera for only 64GB memory. I chose the Plus because of reasons. (Images shown here are from Apple’s online store.)

The new phone is taking some getting used to because of it’s size and I had to get a case within a couple of days because it is very slick. I went with a case from Apple’s store but it’s made by Otterbox. Not a bad looking case, but about twice the costs of something I could have found (and may still look into) on Amazon. I’m still debating on whether I should try a folio or wallet case or simply something good and protective.

Also this past week, I’ve moved from IBM “Lotus” Notes email to Outlook and Exchange. I and a coworker were the first in R&S Americas to do this. With that change we also had to go away from the Blackberry secure contain “Good For Enterprise” and move to their “Blackberry UEM” and Blackberry Dynamics apps (BB Work is the primary one for email/calendar/contacts). So that’s another new thing to get used to. Not bad, and much better than Good FE, but still somewhat of a pain for the sake of security.

We’re moving to a new authentication as well for accessing things. Soft Tokens are used in combination of a personal PIN along with a generated PIN to access things like corporate email and other internal resources. We were using a smart card which required hardware devices to read. The soft-token is an app available from the online App stores (iTunes, Android Market, etc.). It’s more convenient because one may very rarely forget the phone, but much more often forget the smart card (and external readers when necessary). That also opens up the hardware options for laptops. No longer limited to have devices that have the card readers built in.