Technology at Geneseo Community School District 228
Yesterday Apple released an Thunderbolt Update 1.2 which adds gigabit ethernet functionality to the Thunderbolt port. Unfortunately this update does not work on many MacBook Pro and iMac machines causing a kernel panic and preventing the machine from booting. Issue affects newer 2011 iMac and Macbook Pro models that have the thunderbolt / display port.
One fix is to boot the machine to the recovery partition and reinstall OS X Lion. This procedure can be done by rebooting and then holding down the option key as soon as you see the grey screen. In the menu that appears choose Recovery Partition and then choose to install Mac OS X Lion when prompted. This will not delete your personal information, it will only reinstall the OS. Problem with this method is time, process can take 90-180 minutes. When finished do not run the updates from Apple, until Apple fixes the issue.
Second quicker method to fix is to use a second machine. Boot the affected non-booting machine into target mode (Hold Down T as soon as you see grey screen) and connect to a working mac via firewire. Download the OS X Lion update 10.7.4 (Client Combo) and then run the installer. Instead of choosing your Hard Disk for the installation location choose the Firewire icon drive and install the update to this drive . When finished simply reboot the down machine and it will boot normally, just make sure not to re-run the Thunderbolt update once you are back up and running.
Apple’s Keynote is an easy and intuitive program to make good presentations. One advantage it has over Powerpoint is that it embeds the video segments into the file itself, no need to send video files and store in same directory. With Keynotes music and movies come with the file making life much easier when one goes to present on a different computer. However there is one problem with this embedding, that is keynotes can become quite large in size and when sharing via the web or email this size can be a problem. Apple’s keynote has an easy method for reducing file size which is simply to hit File | Reduce File Size. This works pretty okay but may not get the size of the presentation down to where you can store it online or send via email.
Using the following method I was able to take a 40 megs Keynote presentation and reduce it to around 30 megs. Not bad but still not a friendly size for email or posting on the web. To reduce this keynote presentation further will need to do a couple of tricks.
1. First need the program Handbrake, this program comes with lots of presets to be able to convert movies using the h264 codec. You can grab a copy of Handbrake here.
2. With Handbrake installed we need to get access at the Raw movie files embedded in the keynote. Keynote files end in the extension .key, this is really a fake extension keynotes as the files are really just a zipped folder. So to get access at the data all you need to do is rename you project.key as project.zip.
Now you can simply expand the zip archive and you will see a folder name of your project with all the files inside. Here is a screenshot of a keynote called Module #4 Content Copy, which I renamed to a zip file then now opened as a folder.
Inside you will notice that there are a series of MOV files, these can be highly compressed using Handbrake and then copied back in the folder.
3. Using Handbrake highly compress the MOV files and then copy them back into the folder. Here click on Source and open a MOV file from your Keynote folder. Now Toggle the presets and choose NORMAL. Make sure the codec is H264 and that the file extension is mp4 or m4v. Click Start and wait for it to finish. Now the new compressed movie will be drastically smaller but will have the wrong extension, simply rename the extension from mkv , m4v, or mp4 to .mov. Repeat this process for all movies.
4. Lastly copy the new movie files back to the folder and choose replace (make sure Keynote and Handbrake are closed when you do this). With the new smaller files in place rename the entire folder to a keynote by adding a .key at the end. Thats it.
Using this process my Keynote went from 40 megs to 14.5 megs, much better compression than the simple Reduce File Size.
Here is a screenshot comparing Keynotes auto Reduce File Size versus my method.
The lastest update for Snow Leopard 10.6.8 replaced the entire Common Unix Printing System (CUPS) and in this process has created a lot of problems with printing and compatibility among printers. This can mean some serious lost productivity if you find yourself in an situation where you and co-workers cannot print after the update. Here is a fix, sorry for the multiple steps but you got to do what you got to do.
2. Now Extract this zip file and take the cups directory and place on your desktop.
3. Now Click on the Finder icon and then up at the top of the screen click on GO | GO TO FOLDER
4. No type in the box usr/libexec
5. In the Finder window that pops up first locate the cups directory and then drag it to the trash.
10. Now launch Disk Utility (May be easiest to just use Spotlight and search for it) (otherwise is in Applications | Utilities)
11. In Disk Utility Click on your Macintosh HD and then click on REPAIR PERMISSIONS. Let this complete can take anywhere from 5-20 minutes and you are all set.
12 You can now print again like you used to before the update To be extra safe you may want to restart the computer.
While studying some Apple info I came across a little tidbit about the default OS kernel being 32 bit versus 64 bit on 2009-2010 models. I had assumed that with Snow Leopard and with the 64 bit capable processors Intel Core 2 Duo’s that the default had moved to 64 bit on machines 2009+. This turns out to not be the case, only MacBook Pro 2011 models default to the 64 bit kernel, previous models in 2009 and 2010 can run the 64 bit kernel but you must first make a change to the boot.plist file to make the change permanent.
To see if you are running the 64 bit kernel extensions go to About this Mac and look. Click on the Software Overview Column on the left then take a look – you can see my 2010 MacBook Pro was set to No.
sudo systemsetup -setkernelbootarchitecture x86_64
To change use these extensions you can type one command in terminal to make the change permanent.
You can also simply test the 64 bit kernel by rebooting your machine and as soon as you see the grey screen hold down the 6 and the 4 keys simultaneously. (Can Boot 32 mode by restarting and holding 3 and the 2 keys). This change will only hold until the next restart. The terminal command above make the change permanent.
Why change? Well if you are running 4 GB or more of RAM the 64 bit kernel is needed to properly access the memory (despite Apple computers utizling RAM differently than Windows OS this still hold true for the most part). With Apple hardware moving to the 64 bit kernel by default with 2011 + models looks like Apple is going full 64bit from here on. Will you see any major performance gains – not really major but running 10.6.8 with the 64 bit kernel does seem to be slightly faster on my machine.
(After the change)
So if you have a Solid State Drive in your Macbook, Macbook Pro or Macbook Air you may be aware that currently Snow Leopard does not support the Trim feature. Trim support basically tells the Operating System which parts of the disk are available for writing and decreases the number of writes needed to use the drive. Without Trim you will notice that your SSD does not work quite as fast after months of constant use.
It appears that Mac will soon have this feature built into its OS and someone has developed a wonderful tool to add this to your computer now.
If you are running 10.6.7 and have a SSD then tool will restore speed to your drive (If it is over 6 months or so).
TRIMEnabler 1.1 (Zip File)
Once you unzip and run the program simply hit patch, wait, then Reboot when prompted.
After the Reboot:
Working 10.6.7 Macbook Pro – with Trim
1. sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mozillateam/firefox-stable
(Simply adds the software repository for firefox)
2. sudo apt-get update
3. sudo apt-get update
Make sure Firefox is closed and the upgrade should complete on its own. This method with upgrade Firefox and not create two different versions. If you visit Mozilla’s website and download the latest build for Linux it will create a separate copy of Firefox – which is not really a bad thing but if you want to keep things clean with one version running the latest – this is the way to go.
With a ATI X1200 HD Graphics card using Firefox 4 I would say it runs 30-40% faster then 3.6 so worth the upgrade. Definitely hands down best browser for Debian based linux OS.
On the district website http://www.dist228.org and the high school website http://www.dist228.org/index.php?page=hs/index.html – There are sections of the page where I have replaced the text with self updating information based on RSS 2.0 Feeds. The concept is simply so that the data in the fields will auto update when the user posts to their own website making it easier to get info on the main page quickly. In the case of the High School page I have modified this approach slightly and made it so a RSS feed of three combined ICS (Created on ICAl) calendars appears for the current day. Since Parsing three large ICS files is time consuming I have this Calendar RSS feed cached locally on the hour (will probably change to a 1 day interval). The effect is nice and in the long run time saving – allowing users who maintain the calendars or administrators who make messages to simply continue in their usual fashion and have the data auto update.
In the screenshot below I circled the two regions that are actually just displayed RSS feeds. With the Today’s Events Calendar I am using the same concept but decided to use an iFrame and make the php script a separate file – no real reason for this and may change it back to a call from within the existing php file.
Many of the Staff at Geneseo CUSD 228 have locally hosted websites that use the WordPress engine – one nice feature of using wordpress is that the site is already structured around an RSS 2.0 feed. Using a php RSS parsing script makes it easy to capture this information – the effect kind of a self-updating widget.
No need to reinvent the wheel on using PHP to capture or display RSS. Looking around on the web I cam across the RSSLIB – which contains a series of php scripts that handle most of the functions you can think of. For the most part I just cut code out of these files RSSCache.php and RSSlib.php to embed the functionality on the website.
Embedding the Today’s events calendar was a little more complicated since the files are actually all ICS Calendar files created in iCal. Here I have the calendars published to a local webdav server and then I have setup a PHP calendar site that parses and views these files. To view the ICS calendars on the web I used the http://phpicalendar.net/ beta build as a template and modified it for our purposes. Phpicalendar is able to remotely view a webdav hosted ICS file and further parse the data and construct a RSS feed from this data. This is excellent since using phpicalendar’s RSS Viewer and combining them with our 3 main HS calendars works perfectly except for time. Since these calendars are large it takes the PHP engine awhile to process – here is where I rely on the RSSLIB’s RSS cache script. RSScache simply creates a php dummy file of the most recent combined RSS feed and then holds it for an hour (will change to 12 hour or day soon). This speeds up the page loading time tremendously.
Here is a snippet of code used to view cached version of RSS feed.
(Update: I actually changed the “G” with a “d” so that it looks at the day instead of the hour when deciding to update cache this change adjusts the cache file every 24 hours instead of every 60 minutes)
The open source community offers a variety of tools that offer real value to any IT Support personal working with Data Recovery. One tool the Ubuntu Rescue Remix is perfect for restoring files and fixing broken Partition Tables on NTFS (or Unix /ext) volumes. If you find yourself in a bind and chkdsk /r is not able to repair a NTFS volume then Unbuntu Rescue Remix might be perfect. Simply download the iso and burn a disk, boot off the disk, then run a variety of recovery tools from the command prompt.
In many cases you will only need to know two commands.
1. sudo testdisk
This command will analyse disks and attempt to fix broken or damaged partitions. If this does not work and you need to recovery documents, photos, etc then try the next command. With testdisk if it is able to find a partition read the prompts and choose the write option to repair the partition. Sometimes you may need to do a deeper search to location missing partition info – if this is the case you will most likely be looking at using option 2 below.
2. sudo photorec
This command will allow scour the drive looking for any recognizable file type and dump it to a location of your choice. I would recommend putting in an external usb harddrive, then when asked which folder to dump files to locate the directory /Media/usb0 (most likely will be the add on hard drive).
Screenshot of Photorec working
The commands work well together – sometimes you can recover the paritiions, but they may be damaged beyond full repair, so then launch photorec and recovery what you can.
Often when you take your computer to Bestbuy or Office Max for repair – you are told that the hard drive is shot and data cannot be recovered. Although this is true in some situations I cannot tell you how many times I have been able to recover data off a drive with these tools, and in fact find that the repair outfit is the one who “Accidently” repartitioned a drive or damaged the file system.
These commands offer the same functionality as commerical NTFS and FAT data recovery tools and are free. No they do not have nice Graphical menus but the Rescue Remix boots quickly and the tools work great.
Here is a quick podcast on a method of importing Appleworks Drawing Documents into Microsoft Word. Although Pages and Numbers are good at opening and converting most of the older Appleworks wordprocessing and spreadsheet formats, Appleworks Drawing documents are not easily imported into Word. Although they can be if you copy and paste from Appleworks Drawing Document into a new Appleworks wordprocessing document – then open with Pages 09 – then export To Word.
Here is a cool plug-in I came across that makes embedding an external web page into a WordPress post or page simple. The Plugin is called Iframe Embedder and can be downloaded through WordPress admin console or from here. This plugin works with the latest version of wordpress 2.9.2 and is pretty easy to use.
Below I have a link to an external site. Below this link using the Iframe Embedder plugin I have embedded this page -audio, flash and all into this post.
To embed this content into the A Blog post you must activate the Iframe Embedder plugin and then in the post use the following syntax: You can adjust the numbers at the end to fit your specific blog theme.
Here is the syntax above working below but using our district website. Notice that you can use the links on the page and it contains the website inside the frame.
*NOTE Firefox 3.6 is still a little buggy – using Iframe works with Firefox 3.7 Alpha, Firefox 3.5.x, IE Explorer 6,7,8 and Safari. Also works with the Beta Release of 3.6.1 which means this is just a temporary issue with Firefox
It is important to not get too carried away with embedding external webpages as this is not really a best practice in most cases. But still this is a nice simplified way to add an external site when appropriate directly to you web site.
Here is a quick Podcast on Installing the Iframe Embedder and using it in a post.