Archive for March, 2006

dualhead2go woes

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

So at this point 2 people have contacted me with difficulties getting their dual monitor setups working. I have a good number of details from one, but very few from the other. For the fearful, the monitors which do not appear to “just work” are the Dell E196FP, and Samsung Syncmasters.

However, for me the setup still works fine. For people who bought it but are having some trouble with it, the settings I’m using are below. No guarantee they’ll work for you, however:

Pixel Clock: 168.91MHz non-interlaced
Active: 2560H, 1024V
Front Porch: 24H, 1V
Sync Width: 32H, 12V
Back Porch: 24H, 29V
Scan Rate: 63.981H, 60.02V
Scale to: 0H, 0V
Positive Sync: H – Yes, V – No

Both of my monitors are able to sync properly to this signal. If this doesn’t work, try experimenting with the settings. The vertical scan rate should really be as close as possible to 60Hz, any higher, and the dualhead2go starts producing very lossy pictures, any lower and the monitors have a difficult time syncing. The sync width and porches are the primary modifiers here.

Unfortunately without an oscilloscope I can’t see exactly what the adapter is doing versus what normal output should look like, so it really boils down to try, try again. However, I have confidence that there is some setup that will work for everybody.

If anyone has any info or questions, please feel free to contact me.

Backing up with launchd and rsync in OS X

Monday, March 20th, 2006

Recently I was entrusted with the task of creating a simple backup solution for a client’s X-Serve. All I needed to do was mirror one directory to a secondary drive each night, as well as once on the weekend to an alternate location. While there are many fine utilities out there for performing backups, such as ChronoSync, and the continually diminishing Retrospect, I opted to take advantage of OS X’s included services.

rsync seemed like the natural choice. I thought about using cp at first but rsync is much more efficient, especially when only a few sub-directories need to be updated, versus having cp rewrite the entire backup directory each time.

Now that cron is deprecated in 10.4, I turned to launchd to run rsync on a schedule. This was the first time that I had tried to use launchd. I was pleased to learn that it’s much easier to configure and use then cron. launchd uses human readable .plist configuration files, which can be loaded on demand with launchctl. To make things even easier there is a utility for editing the launchd plist files called Lingon.

Putting rsync and launchd together proved to be a little more of a challenge then I first suspected. Initially I had tried running rsync directly from launchd but kept getting “launchd: com.firefallpro.daily_backup: 8 more failures without living at least 60 seconds will cause job removal” and “launchd: com.firefallpro.daily_backup: exited with exit code: 12”. A quick look in man rsync informed me that an exit code of 12 is a “Error in rsync protocol data stream.” Not that I know what that means.

After a bunch of research and checking out some examples on the web, most which seem to be incomplete, or untested, I was left with no choice but to read man pages and tinker. The only way to get the rsync to run properly was to trigger it from shell script versus directly from launchd.

The following is my final implementation for your approval, dissection, and hopefully, feedback.

launchd plist placed in “/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.firefallpro.daily_backup”:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple Computer//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "
<plist version="1.0">

Shell script placed in “/Users/admin/Documents/”:
/usr/bin/rsync -qaEu /Library/WebServer/www/ /Volumes/Backup\ HD/daily;

Note: I ran "chown root /Users/admin/Documents/" on the shell script to make sure it would execute rsync as root, and "chmod u+x /Users/admin/Documents/" to make it executable.

rsync is being run with “-qaEu”:

  • q: Run quietly, seeing we’re running through launchd.
  • a: Enables a whole bunch of options needed for grabbing a directory and everything inside.
  • E: Extended attributes (get Mac OS resource forks).
  • u: Update forces rsync to skip files for which the destination file already exists and has a date later than the source file.

Once the files were in place I ran "launchctl load /Library/LaunchDaemons/", to load the new configuration files without rebooting. The console still logs some minor errors from launchd and rsync but the shell script executes successfully.

I hope this helps someone, and if I revise my strategy I’ll make sure to update this post.

BYKWD – Jumbo

Friday, March 17th, 2006

It was only a matter of time before it was Jumbo’s turn to come to Bring Your Kitty to Work Day (BYKWD). The ~25 pounder spent most of the time under our desks, and fell in love with Jon’s feet.

(pig w/ fur)

The Firefall Pro

Tuesday, March 14th, 2006

In our first installment of the Firefall Pro Drink Guide, we’ll cover the drink crafted by myself, and popularized by Firefall Pro alumni Sean Hayes. Without further ado, the “Firefall Pro.”

Directions: Start out with two parts of vodka. Then you very carefully stir in one part vodka. Next top it off with a final three parts vodka. No garnish. Serve chilled, or numb.


The PowerBook’s Brief Trip

Friday, March 10th, 2006

A few months back some of the keys on my PowerBook G4 1.33 started to make a clicking noise when pressed and provide additional resistance. Most of the affected keys centered around the “F” key, and though their functionality wasn’t entirely diminished, it was mildly irritating to use. The same issue came up almost a year ago on Mac Fixit. Supposedly there is a layer of foil underneath the keys that has the tendency to shift when heated. The PowerBook is excellent at producing a fair amount of heat, and the keyboard is often used to dissipate it. To the best of my knowledge this foil shifted enough to bunch up under some of the keys causing the clicking and stiffness. In retrospect, probably not the best design idea.

Having the PowerBook in the office most of the time and attached to an external keyboard often made me forget about this issue altogether. Still I felt that I should get it fixed, lest I forget and my Apple Care* quietly expires. I was going to arrange to take it the Apple SoHo store which supposedly could replace the keyboard on site, but deadlines, laziness, and general forgetfulness got the best of me. That was till I picked up some additional RAM.

Not being content with 768 MB of RAM, I decided to purchase a 1 GB chip with my new recently obtained Ingram Micro account. RAM keeps getting more affordable, especially at a wholesale level. There must be a whole fleet of trucks dedicated to moving product between the warehouse and Manhattan. It doesn’t seem to matter what shipping speed I pick, as long as it’s in stock in the PA warehouse, it magically arrives the next morning. I digress, I happily slapped the RAM in my Mac, removing the extraneous stock 256 MB chip.

Everything seemed to be running well, aside from a random crash here and there, which admittedly happened every few months. After installing one of the 10.4 updates I noticed that only 512 MB of RAM was showing up. So I checked to make sure it was all seated correctly, I reset the open firmware, did a little voodoo dance and rebooted. The 1 GB chip was back. A day later the Mac crashed again, and the chip was gone. Worried that I got bad RAM, I moved the 1 GB chip to the upper slot and the 512 MB to the lower, reset the open firmware, skipped the dance and rebooted. 1.5 GB of RAM showed up, until it crashed again, leaving me with only the 1 GB chip. Oddly enough Mac Fixit had mentioned that certain versions of OS X are a little more picky about RAM, and that some updates would leave people with some or all of their RAM disabled. In the case of some PowerBooks, as in mine, the updates helped to identify a latent logic board issue. This probably accounts for infrequent crashes I’ve gotten over the duration I’ve owned the machine. However, not until recently did the OS disable my lower RAM slot, most likely sparing me the sporadic crashes.

Now I had two reasons to send my PowerBook back to Apple. On March 2nd I called Apple and filed report. The next day a box arrived for the PowerBook to be shipped back in. I waited till Tuesday, the 7th to send it off so I could have the laptop for the weekend. The following day I got an e-mail saying the repair center received it. By the 9th, they finished fixing it, and mailed it back. This morning I received it. All I can say is that’s phenomenal turnaround time. Departs Tuesday morning, back by Friday morning. It took considerably longer for Jon to get his Xbox 360 repaired.

According to the invoice, the logic board, keyboard, and top plate (wrist-pad, track-pad, etc.) were all replaced. I was hoping for a little surprised like a backlit keyboard, or maybe a faster processor, but getting a new track-pad thrown in works for me. The RAM is working properly, and so is the keyboard. Chalk one up for the Apple Service Center.

*Apple Care is essential for any portable Mac.

mini 4 sale

Thursday, March 9th, 2006

When we set up the company, we bought a batch of mac minis to get running. They perform admirably, and I’ve been pleased with them.

However, I’ve been offered a g5, and would like to sell one of the minis to pay for it. The mini is a 1.25ghz machine with 512MB of ram, in box. It’s running 10.4.5 with the stock 40GB hard drive. It’s got the Radeon 9200, with 32MB ram.

In addition, I’ll no longer need my dualhead2go. (I wrote about the setup previously at This thing has been great, but the powermac has dual outputs built in. I have the box for the dualhead2go as well.

I’d like to get $400 for the mini and $120 for the dualhead2go, but first fair offer takes them. Sold separately or together. Tell your friends!


EDIT: I changed my mind. I’m keeping the mini, and all your base are belong to me. Too.

Front Row Enabler: Bringing back your menu bar items.

Thursday, March 2nd, 2006

The following is a roundup of how to fix your missing menu bar items after running Front Row Enabler.

Why: The menu bar items fail to launch because the bezel services file ends up getting “doubled” patched, IF you have already used an earlier version of Front Row Enabler in the past.

The Quick Fix: Download this ZIP file (Credit: “Weisheng“) or download the 10.4.5 combo updater from Apple. The “/System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/BezelServices.framework“, needs to be replaced, and “/System/Library/LoginPlugins/BezelServices.loginPlugin“. To replace the files, first drag the old ones to the Trash, you will most likely be asked to authenticate to continue (e.g. putting in your user name and password). Then drag in the new copies, again authenticating if need be.

Once replaced, you need to run the following commands in the terminal to correct the ownership of the replaced files:
"sudo chown -R root:wheel /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/BezelServices.framework"
"sudo chown -R root:wheel /System/Library/LoginPlugins/BezelServices.loginPlugin"

What this does is, sudo (do the following command as a Super User), chown (change ownership), -R (recursively: to each item within that directory, and below).

If you do not do this, the files you have replaced will not have root (a.k.a system) ownership. This may cause all sorts of problems later on.

Note: It is not necessary to remove Front Row from “/System/Library/CoreServices/ to bring your menu bar back!

Next, to get Front Row running again. If you haven’t removed Front Row, run the LATEST version of Front Row Enabler, and hit the enable button. This will patch (once) the files that just have been replaced. Then logout, Front Row should run again and your menu bar should be fine. If you have removed Front Row, then you must carefully follow the instructions at:

If you have questions for me, please post them.