Tag: Mac

Upgrading Mac Pro video card

I upgraded the Mac Pro’s stock video card to a Gigabyte nVidia GeForce GTX 600 with 2 GB of video ram. The card requires a special power cable: PCIe Power Cable for Mac. No local stores had this part in stock, so I ordered it from Amazon. It finally arrived so the card was installed last night.

I followed the video instructions below and had the card installed in a few minutes. It was a little disconcerting because when the system booted the screen remained black until the login screen appeared.

I’ve been running a few days with the card installed. The only problem I’ve had is that the system doesn’t always seem to come back from sleep. When that happens, I end up having to reboot the machine. Not crazy about this but I’m not sure what’s causing the problem.

More investigation, which means another post!

New-to-me Mac Pro

Periodically at work they offer old systems to employees as part of a employee-only sale. For the first time that I can remember, Mac Pros were available. There were a few early 2009 and 2008 models. My friend and I were lucky enough to get the only two early 2009 models left.

I currently have an iMac that I bought in early 2010 (listed as late 2009 model). It has a Core 2 Duo Intel processor. I’ve upgraded it to 8 GB of RAM, which helps. It has a lethargic 256MB video card that barely keeps up with the games I’d like to play. The hard drive was replaced under warranty. The screen is lovely with no bad pixels.

I bought the iMac when my old Hackintosh quit working. What I had really wanted instead of the Hackintosh was a Mac Pro because of the upgrade capabilities and power. Unfortunately, the cost of a Mac Pro was way out of my price range.

Until now. The Mac Pro might be old, but it still has a better processor, graphics card, and upgrade possibilities (four PCIe slots and four hard drive bays!). The system I got had 8 GB of RAM, a 640 GB hard drive, and the standard 512 MB nVidia graphics card. No operating system was installed.

Upgrades for a Mac Pro are different than upgrading a regular PC. Mac-compatible graphics cards are expensive, even old ones. If you know about building hackintoshes, then you know that there is an avid community that has written drivers for dozens of additional pieces of hardware. Why not use the kernel extensions (kexts, the equivalent of drivers) the community has written to enable hardware on a real Mac Pro?

I chose to add a new wifi card, upgrade the video card, upgrade the RAM, and add a new primary hard drive (since the 640 GB was probably original). RAM and hard drive were very easy to do: system now has 32 GB of RAM and a 2 TB hard drive, with the 640 GB available as extra storage space.

Quite a few of the hackintosh sites recommended a TP Link PCI express wifi card. The specific model (4800) wasn’t available locally, but the Wifi-N 300Mbs card (model TL-WN881ND) was in stock at a local shop. I installed the card and found a kext on a hackintosh site that let me get the card up and running immediately. Perfect.

I also got a MSI GTX 660 nVidia card, which should be natively supported from what I read. Unfortunately, I have to order a special power cable to be able to attach the card to the motherboard ($8 on Amazon). Hopefully by the end of the week I will have the system completely configured.

I’m using Migration Assistant tonight to move the data from the iMac to the Mac Pro. The cool thing is that I should be able to get enough from the iMac to cover the cost of the Mac Pro and the upgrades I’ve done.

Hackintoshing the Acer Aspire One D150

I have had a little netbook (bless it’s heart) that has tried to be my little buddy on trips. Unfortunately, it has had Windows XP on it and I have less than love for that particular operating system. My work machines and my desktop system are all Macs.

I’ve been wanting to put OS X on the netbook, because nothing is cuter than a little 10″ screen with OS X. Last time I had checked, the MyMacNetBook compatibiity chart said that the Acer Aspire One D150 had very high compatibility, with even sleep and hibernate working. I was pessimistic about this because my previous Acer Aspire One A150 (which ran OS X) would crash if it went into sleep or hibernate mode. Pull the battery to get it to reboot type of crash. I was expecting more a result like the D250, which was listed as was missing some key functionality, like wifi, ethernet, and sleep. I knew bluetooth wouldn’t work since the hardware isn’t present. (Besides, the so-called Hackintosh guide for the D150 was a link to a YouTube video with a D150 running OS X off of a USB key. No list of what features worked or how stable it was. Not exactly trustworthy.)

Computer Software Is Your Frieng blog has good tutorials on hackintoshing the D150, just like Razor’s Tech Den. Razor’s Tech Den blog has a post from July 2011 that provides detailed instructions on how to get OS X 10.6.5 working on the D150. He claims that his steps will also enable wifi and ethernet. (Not sure about sleep, but hey, wifi and ethernet are a higher priority.) I chose to use Razor’s instructions.

Previously, I had created a hackintosh using a Shuttle box and hardware that was (mostly) on the known list of stuff that works. It took many many hours of getting it to work, but I didn’t have a how-to guide to use. Many hours on the Hackintosh and OSx86 forums helped locate a lot of the problems.

I downloaded the recommended build for this netbook: IATKOS S3 v2 (OS X 10.6.3), the combination updater to 10.6.5, kext helper b7, and other miscellaneous bits and peices. Got everything setup, burned IATKOS to a DVD and set the netbook bios to boot from the USB drive. I have two external USB DVD drives. One is a little cute portable one and the other one is this big silver behemoth that sounds like a vaccuum cleaner with a fan that doesn’t quite work.

So here is the saga so far. I actually started preparing to do this last fall and put it aside. Today I was feeling particularly technical so I decided to go ahead and get this done. (BEND IT TO MY WILL!)

First, the external DVD seemed to boot okay, but then came up with an error messages of “EBIOS Read Error”. Seemed to be a pretty common error indicating either the media or the DVD drive was having trouble. One forum thread suggested using Verbatim DVD and checking the MD5 checksum or to try booting from a USB stick of at least 8 GB.

The DVDs I had here were generic CompUSA store brand, so who knows that they might actually be. Plus I only have a 1 GB external drive (yeah yeah I know). One trip to Wal-Mart and Walgreens later, I have an 8 GB USB stick and a set of 5 DVDs. Sony brand. Options are limited at 12:00 AM for finding a specific brand of DVDs.

I followed the instructions for creating a bootable USB stick for IATKOS and low and behold it doesn’t work. Like royally failed no matter how many times I tried changing things around. Booting from USB apparently requires *two* USB sticks — one to have the bootloader and another to have the IATKOS installer. My poor little netbook can’t seem to handle booting with two USB devices in it. It gets confused. Other people said they put the bootloader on a SD card and then changed the boot order in the bios to SD card, USB, then hard drive. None of these options worked for me.


I burned another DVD using the Sony discs at the slowest speed the internal DVD burner on my desktop Mac would go. About an hour later, the validation finished and out popped the disc. When I booted the netbook using the new DVD and the portable DVD drive, nothing happened. I verified the settings in the bios for the boot order (note that the bios didn’t seem to register the DVD as listed hardware) and tried multiple times. Stupid, ugly Windows XP boot screen every time.

Luckily, I’ve done this before on other hardware. I remembered that I’d had the same problem before with that external drive being flaky. I got my big steel external drive and plugged it in. (I keep smelling burned dust because it’s been so long since this thing has been used. I don’t have any compressed air to clean it.)

The DVD spins up, netbook boots, away we go… Installing from the external DVD is so friggin’ slow. I wish the USB sticks would have worked, but hey, I’m not complaining. I may leave this thing and go to bed then check on it in the morning.


It is now 2:53 and the installer says “16 minutes remaining,” which is one minute less than what it said 30 minutes ago when it started the actual installation process. I hope one minute doesn’t equal 30…

Any way. It’s exciting. Even if I can’t get OS X to work reliably on it, I’ll probably put something like Ubuntu or another netbook linux build.

Update: At 3:34 AM, the system is booting from the hard drive. The tutorial said that this first boot will take a long time and to just let it spin. It should eventually come up. Eventually. I never have enough patience at this piont. Maybe going to bed would be the best option. And there it goes! Blue screen and music! Woohoo! No video of flying through stars but at least there is progress! Yay!

Random reboots fixed?

For the past several months, I’ve had a disconcerting issue with my iMac. The iMac randomly tries to log me out. My old Mac Mini, which has been retired to the household media server, never had this problem.

Googling the symptoms resulted in a mixed bag of possible causes: failing hard drive, faulty memory chips, logic board problems, etc. I looked on the Application > Utilities > Console application for any log files that might indicate a sudden quit, logout, or restart command. Nothing. At least nothing consistent or obvious. Tech Tool Pro did detect some serious hard drive issues. According to Google, the symptoms my iMac had could be caused by a malfunctioning hard drive.

Back in November, I received an email from Apple stating that my iMac model was suspected of having a faulty Seagate hard drive and Apple would replace it for free. The hard drive replacement was scheduled over the holidays so I could get my Mac back and then restore the data using the Time Machine backups. (That is another story all together.) If the random reboots and logouts were caused by hard drive issues, then replacing the hard drive should theoretically fix the problem.

I got my system back a few days ago, restored the primary partition using Time Machine flawlessly. However, the second partition with my working data didn’t restore cleanly. I kept getting permission errors. I’ve spent the past two days manually restoring files from the Time Machine backup files. It’s now back to normal. Except my old 1TB Time Machine drive didn’t have enough space to complete a backup. I wasn’t willing to delete the only backup I have, so I bought a new 2 TB Time Machine drive today.

The bacukp has been running for over two hours so far. Twice, I’ve come back to check on the backup and have found that the system had tried to log me out and quit running applications. (Luckily I learned that leaving Safari open with multiple tabs prevents a log out because Safari prompts if you really want to quit the application.)

I did some more searching and discovered a setting I didn’t know about from a posted question and answer on the Apple Support Communities. The System Preferences > Security panel has an option that says “Log out after 60 minutes of inactivity.” This option is checked by default. I’ve unchecked the option now.

System Preferences for Security in OS X 10.6.8
System preferences in 10.6

I’m leaving the system on over night (to hopefully complete the backup) and then will post whether or not the system tries to log me out again.

Installing PloneSoftwareCenter on Plone 4

In addition to the Plone Help Center, I also wanted to have PloneSoftwareCenter for project management capabilities. The normal method for installing PloneSoftwareCenter is to add Products.PloneSoftwareCenter to the eggs = section of the zinstance/buildout.cfg file in the Plone installation. Trying to build and then run Plone, I ended up adding three additional lines to the buildout.cfg. I’m not sure why these dependencies were not automatically added.

Figuring out dependencies

Each time I ran the buildout command, I received an error message similar to this one reported on the PloneSoftwareCenter issue #84:

2009-02-24 10:03:06 ERROR Application Could not import Products.PloneSoftwareCenter
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "/home/encolpe/zopes/ve-p31-eurocontrol/management/parts/zope2/lib/python/OFS/Application.py", line 709, in import_product
product=__import__(pname, global_dict, global_dict, silly)
File "/home/encolpe/.buildout/eggs/Products.PloneSoftwareCenter-1.5-py2.4.egg/Products/PloneSoftwareCenter/__init__.py", line 15, in ?
from Products.PloneSoftwareCenter.content import validators
File "/home/encolpe/.buildout/eggs/Products.PloneSoftwareCenter-1.5-py2.4.egg/Products/PloneSoftwareCenter/content/__init__.py", line 7, in ?
import root
File "/home/encolpe/.buildout/eggs/Products.PloneSoftwareCenter-1.5-py2.4.egg/Products/PloneSoftwareCenter/content/root.py", line 22, in ?
from Products.ArchAddOn.Fields import SimpleDataGridField
ImportError: No module named ArchAddOn.Fields

The last line indicates that ArchAddOn.Fields was missing. A quick search for ArchAddOn revealed a Products.ArchAddOn, with a few of these hits also referencing PloneSoftwareCenter. I received a similar error for fancyzoomview and AddRemoveWidget.


To get PloneSoftwareCenter working, I added the following lines to the buildout.cfg file in the eggs section:

eggs =
. . .

Running the buildout and instance commands then started Plone so I could use the portal_quickinstaller in the Zope Management Interface (you.site.address/manage) to activate all of the packages. The Software Center then appeared under the Add New menu on the Plone site.

Tip: If you are behind a proxy server, make sure you export your proxy server using the command line option export http_proxy=proxy.addy.com. Make sure you replace proxy.addy.com with the appropriate proxy address.

Installing Plone 4 on Mac OS X 10.6 Server

Plone 4 is an open source content management system (CMS). It’s an elegant, extensible solution for document and content control. Large companies, including Apple, use Plone. I’m evaluating CMS solutions and was pleased to find that Plone has a Mac OS X installer.

I tried to install the OS X installer and chose the local installation option. The installation process never completed. About halfway through the installation process I received the following error message:

Nov 8 14:13:34 bibracte installd[71515]: ./postinstall: Copying buildout skeleton
Nov 8 14:13:34 bibracte installd[71515]: ./postinstall: Fixing up bin/buildout
Nov 8 14:13:34 bibracte installd[71515]: ./postinstall: Running buildout; this takes a while...
Nov 8 14:13:34 bibracte installd[71515]: ./postinstall: Buildout returned an error code: 1; Aborting.
Nov 8 14:13:34 bibracte installd[71515]: ./postinstall: Buildout failed. Unable to continue
Nov 8 14:13:34 bibracte installd[71515]: ./postinstall: Installation has failed.
Nov 8 14:13:34 bibracte installd[71515]: ./postinstall: See the detailed installation log at /tmp/install.log
Nov 8 14:13:34 bibracte installd[71515]: ./postinstall: to determine the cause.

The /tmp/install.log file indicated that the Zope 2.12.10 Python distribution was missing.

Detailed installation log
Starting at Mon Nov 8 14:13:34 EST 2010
Creating directory '/Applications/Plone/zinstance/parts'.
Creating directory '/Applications/Plone/zinstance/develop-eggs'.
Couldn't find index page for 'Zope2' (maybe misspelled?)
Getting distribution for 'Zope2==2.12.10'.
Getting section instance.
Initializing section instance.
Installing recipe plone.recipe.zope2instance.
Getting distribution for 'Zope2==2.12.10'.
Error: Couldn't find a distribution for 'Zope2==2.12.10'.

Quick search for solutions did not return an easy way to install Zope 2.12.10, except by using MacPorts (which requires XCode and XWindows). One article that mentioned possibly using the unified Linux installer. I created a Ubuntu virtual machine (VM) using Parallels for the Linux Plone version and downloaded the unified installer for Linux. Surprise! The readme file for the Linux installer indicated that it could also be used with Mac OS X.

I followed the command line instructions (copied and pasted code) to install and configure Plone. I reviewed the config file Plone/zinstance/buildout.cfg and it looked okay so I did not run the buildout process. Ran the command to start Plone: /Plone/zinstance/bin/plonectl start and received an error message:

bibracte:PLone-4.0.1-UnifiedInstaller $ /Plone/zinstance/bin/plonectl start
instance: . . Traceback (most recent call last):
File "/Plone/buildout-cache/eggs/zdaemon-2.0.4-py2.6.egg/zdaemon/zdrun.py", line 745, in
File "/Plone/buildout-cache/eggs/zdaemon-2.0.4-py2.6.egg/zdaemon/zdrun.py", line 742, in main
File "/Plone/buildout-cache/eggs/zdaemon-2.0.4-py2.6.egg/zdaemon/zdrun.py", line 241, in main
File "/Plone/buildout-cache/eggs/zdaemon-2.0.4-py2.6.egg/zdaemon/zdrun.py", line 245, in run
File "/Plone/buildout-cache/eggs/zdaemon-2.0.4-py2.6.egg/zdaemon/zdrun.py", line 267, in opensocket
File "", line 1, in bind
socket.error: [Errno 22] Invalid argument
. . . . . . . . .
daemon manager not running

The above error message (“socket.error”) indicated that maybe something was wrong with the network settings in the Plone config files. I went through the config file (mentioned earlier) and through the zdrun.py file and did not find anything wrong. The instructions that I followed from the included Readme.html file did not indicate that a web server should be started with Plone. Mac OS X Server has a built-in web service, which was started and properly configured. I only wanted to run Plone on localhost.

On a hunch, a quick web search turned up other installation instructions on Red Turtle for OS X that included and different start instructions. Running these commands finally got Plone up:

  • Run the buildout: ./bin/buildout
  • Start Plone: ./bin/instance fg
  • Then type this URL in your browser: http://localhost:8080

Severely dead Mac

My poor little Mac died a painful death. What had apparently started weeks ago with random DVD drive openings, ended today with the machine going into an endless boot cycle.

Today was not a good day for this to happen. I was already annoyed from idiots on the drive home and from running errands. I was hungry and had had low grade-cramps all day.

When I first opened the case I smelled burning soldering wire. It’s a metallic, tangy smell. Not like burning, melting plastic, which is what happened when my old Windows PC’s motherboard short circuited and fried the hardware.

A friend came over and we disassembled the system: physically took everything out except the hard drives (which were disconnected). The machine still wouldn’t come up even to see the bios on a screen. Nothing appeared on the monitor because it never even got a signal.

This Mac (really a hackintosh) ran OS X 10.5.8 on a Shuttle SG35 barebones system with 4 GB Corsair RAM, Intel Core 2 Duo 2.6 gHz processor, DVD-RW, dual 500 GB 8 MB cache drives, a JMicron IDE controller (which can be a world of hurt for a hackintosh), and a 384 MB nVidia 8800 GTS graphics card. Once the kinks were worked out of the system, it ran very well. (I always bought full copies of any software I installed on the Shuttle, including copies of OS X 10.5 and 10.6.)

From November to yesterday, it was almost perfect in fact. (With one blip back in December when it wouldn’t boot.) Aside from the internal and external DVD drives opening and closing some times, everything seemed to be fine. Until this morning when I came in and the machine was offline. It booted once when I got home tonight and that was it. After that, it was an endless boot cycle: power on, CPU fan and power fan came on, and then it would power down and start up again.

My friend and I concluded that the motherboard or one of the chips on it was dead/fried. On top of everything else that I’d gone through today and the hours of frustration spent on the Shuttle, I had had it. I had spent probably close to 100+ hours over the space of 18 months getting the system tweaked so the OS ran smoothly, digital sound out worked, Quartz Extreme graphics engine was enabled, and game window resizing didn’t freeze the system. Oh, and OS X never recognized the virtualization capabilities of the Intel Core 2 Duo, even though the chip supported virtualization. I never could run virtual machines with Parallels 5 (which checks the CPU for virtualization technology). (I might post the list of drivers I used, if anyone is interested.)

I learned a lot about Macs by creating a hackintosh. I feel confident that I could resolve most system problems on a real Mac because of my experience digging into different kernels, plists, drivers, and other internals. Good learning experience for being a tech writer in an IT department.

What I really learned was that I didn’t want to waste my time (and therefore my billable hours) customizing yet another hackintosh system. I wanted something that would work and be reliable. Or “stable” as it were…

So… I’m looking at a shiny new low-range iMac. The main terabyte drive has been reformatted and partitioned. The application/system partition is called “Stable,” the larger working file partition is called “Pasture.” I’m transferring my files right now (300+ GB from my old secondary partition, mostly mail, photos, videos, and writing). While that material slowly copies over via USB2 and 32,000 files download for Guild Wars, I’m going to head off to bed. (I miss the eSATA connection!)

Rest in pieces, poor little Shuttle.

Undead Mac!

After blowing like eight hours trying to get my Mac to work, it finally started working randomly after a reboot.

I tried booting from the OS disk to restore from the Time Machine backups. That is what the backups are for, after all. Unless, after booting from the OS disk, the spinning beach ball of doom appears on the “Choose the backup drive” screen. At least I know I have to figure out what is wrong with the Time Machine backup system…

Repairing the permissions may have helped, but who knows? I’ve rebooted several times and each time the Mac has come up just like it should.

I’m just glad to have the system back. I’m using a secondary drive to mirror my primary drive so I’ll always have two bootable copies of the main drive and my data.

Dead Mac in the middle of the road…

I installed several updates on my desktop Mac last night: Java update, another minor application update, and then two update packages for a firewall. I wasn’t expecting any problems… of course that’s when you get trouble.

The Mac will now come up to the point where the gray apple logo appears on the screen. And then it didn’t progress any farther.

I dropped in the installation disk to restore from the Time Machine backup. That would work fine, if the installation disk recognized the time machine backup drive. No clue why it quit working.

Luckily, I keep two hard drives in my machine, both with nearly identical copies. I have booted off of the second drive and backed the entire system up to my spare external drive. The backup finished in about two hours. I repaired disk permissions on both disks (just in case something got messed up).

After about eight hours of trying to figure out what was wrong, I rebooted with the OS disk in the external DVD drive and forgot to stop the bootloader from automatically loading the default drive. And it worked.

Go figure. Not a fun day.

Day in the life of a Geek

I am working from home today using a virtual private network (VPN) connection. I can then connect to my desktop Windows work machine using remote access. All of these connections are done through browsers so it’s pretty straightforward.

Unfortunately, the VPN system we use is primarily setup for Windows and not Macs. Once I had heard about the weather forecast yesterday evening, I grabbed one of the IT guys to help me get my Mac laptop working on the VPN. We were (mostly) successful, enough so that I felt I could reproduce the results on my Mac desktop at home.

I tried for quite a while to get the VPN to work using Firefox and Safari and failed. Even though the VPN works through my portable, I wanted the monitor real-estate of my desktop.

I installed Parallels 3.0 so I could create a virtual machine with Windows XP. Unfortunately, Parallels doesn’t recognize the external USB DVD drive. (The internal DVD-RW causes system issues when it’s used other than for booting the machine. This is being worked on.) I tried several Windows installation disks, and each time, Parallels did not recognize that a disk was in the drive. I verified that the virtual machine’s settings said to use the external drive and to boot from it.

And then I saw the option to use an ISO image instead of a drive. Using Disk Utility, I made a DMG image of the Windows XP Pro Upgrade disk. I then used the command line utility, hdiutil, to convert the DMG image to an ISO image that Parallels could use:
hdiutil convert /path/to/filename.dmg -format UDTO -o /path/to/savefile.iso

I started a new virtual machine and used the new ISO image as the DVD drive. And you know what? It worked.

Once XP was running, Internet Explorer connected to the VPN without any hitches. Except I still got an error message when trying to access my desktop system. After a lot of instant messages, I tracked down a friend who was at work. He checked my machine — and discovered that remote desktop access was turned off. He turned it back on and I was good to go.

This work from home day could not have happened without the help and support of the gaming group at work. These guys are programmers, IT/IS, and tech support. They checked my machine’s IP address, provided suggestions, and helped me resolve the VPN-related issues. I owe them brownies!