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!

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.

The farm house has pretty much been finished for a Month

Although there are a few bits here and there that need to be patched, adjusted or painted, the house is pretty much finished. I need to get back down there to take some more final photos but here is a quick before and after shot.

Farm house in August 2014 when we were looking to buy it.
The house in July 2017 after a lot of work had gone into it. As seen from the front.

I need to get some more of the same angles for best before and after, but these two will provide a bit of the changes. The first image above is from August 2014.  The second image is where we left it about a month ago, with the new “front” look. The black shutters help to break the white up quite well, I think.

After all was said and done, I think we put about $125,000 of repair and improvements. The insurance paid to have 1/3 of the house replaced (from the ground up) and I added another $30,000 to make it better. Time for a re-appraisel as I’m sure the house has increased in value (hoping for another 50%). We bought the place at an appraised value of $110,000. With our improvements and 1/3 rebuild, it’s got to be worth $150,000 or more.

The Farm House Update (quick)

This past weekend I spent some time down “on the farm” reviewing the status of the farm house repair/improvements. The first image below is the sample image from the tiles we’ve elected to use in our new bathroom – the image is from the tile people and is nothing like our bathroom, but at least it does provide a “feel” for how the tile is going to look.

This next image is of the front of the house with the old (older but newer than original) siding removed. It exposed some bad wood spots that needed repair with replacement wood, but overall in good condition. We elected to put new windows in place as well. When we saw the wood shingles in the gable we decided to try and keep them. There are some that need to be replaced around the window, but otherwise they just need to be cleaned and painted. We need to add some color to the house anyway and we really like the “old style” look this brings back to the house.

This next image is of the house from an arial view showing the state at the time. The roof is a silvery gray but in most cases it appears white when the sun is bright.

We’ve selected (and purchased) lights and a ceiling fan (to replace the one in the main entry/porch area). We’ve gone with some “flush mount” LED lights for the kitchen, back door entry area (mud room), laundry and hall way. Also some smaller utility LED lights for the walk in closets. We found some really nice motion activated security lights as well (also LED). For the external front door and back door lights we’ve found a really nice style we like that is “old” and uses vintage element light bulbs. I’m not quite sure if they’re LED, but I think that is an option. The bulbs are about $5 to purchase but the look is really neat.

A good bit of work has to be done, including the flooring, tile work and painting – but we seem to be over the biggest portion of the rebuild. It’s going to be another few weeks before we can move back in.