Hackintosh and 10.5.4 Upgrade

JT: Just a quick note – this article is a bit long in the tooth and uses some possibly archaic processes.  If you want up to date info – look to the OSx86 Project.

Apple just recently came out with 10.5.4 of their OS.  Since I’m running a Hackintosh that I’ve come to depend on, I thought I’d let others apply the new version of the OS to their machines and see what comes out.  After reading all the threads on the subject at insanelymac.com, I decided last week to go ahead and take the plunge.

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Router Fried – Time to Upgrade!

My super dependable Linksys WRT-54G (v1.1) finally gave in.  I spent an entire morning last week with my cable provider troubleshooting my Internet outage as I couldn’t believe that it could the one device that hasn’t caused me any issues for years.  I only upgraded the firmware once to version 2.2 and ran fine for a very very long time.  Strangely enough I think I may have cause the device to fail as two weeks before hand I had did decide to upgrade the firmware to 4.21.1. Don’t ask why – I really don’t know why I did it.  The latest firmware had QoS abilities, etc.  but nothing I really needed.

 

In any event, it ‘died’.  I did ‘argue’ with the cable companies tech support as they had me changing out the cables and splitters and whatnot.  C’mon! when was the last time a cable went bad on you?  whatever.

 

MB053 So it was time to upgrade.  Since I switched the entire household to Macs, I figure I’ll pay the extra premium, drink a little more kool-aid, and buy the Apple Airport Extreme Base Station.   Since I have a house filled with people who cannot live without the Internet, I had to run over to the local Apple store at the mall.  Pretty fast transaction – I like that they have those hand-held checkout devices so that you don’t have to live in that never-ending line at the Genius Bar.

 

So you can read all about the Airport Extreme Base Station in the link above.  I’ll just give you my impressions and why I bought it. 

Reasons to buy it:

1) it’s pretty –  since the device will be located in my office, I didn’t want/need to see a device that look technical like the old styled Linksys devices.  If Apple does one thing right it’s packaging.

2) 802.11n-level wireless – although it’s still yet to be passed as a standard, I really wanted to jump in on the 802.11n wagon.  I didn’t want to run into any problems with trying to use 802.11n-level wireless with the MacBooks and the new device.  If I go with Apple, chances are I won’t have a problem.  In addition, when the standard is passed and there are any updates, since I stuck with one vendor, I shouldn’t have any issues.

3) Gigabit switch and wan –  not too many vendors offer both a gigabit switch for the local area network AND a gigabit port for the WAN side.  I maybe dreaming here as I didn’t do a lot of research here, but I don’t recall seeing too many.

4) USB port – many routers have this.  However, the Apple version is rumored to allow you to use any harddrive connected to that port to be used as a Time Machine device.  Something I may do in the future if I don’t want to continue to run the Leopard Server.

At the end of the day, reason 1 and 2 are the big reason for me buying a much more expensive device than I needed to.

Here is something they don’t tell you about the device:  YOU CANNOT CONFIGURE THIS THING VIA A NETWORK CABLE.  or at least it’s not apparent. I had to use the MacBook Pro to set up the device.  Another nugget – you have to install the Airport utility in order to configure the device!  No built in web-server!  What a pain!

Since I was using a new wireless device, I decided to upgrade my security protocol to WPA2 Personal instead of WEP.  So I had to go to all the machines in the house and reconfigure them.  Wasn’t as bad as I thought.

What struck me as a surprise was the number of ways you can configure the device.  You can used it not only be your wireless network – but you can also configure it to extend an existing wireless network (provided you are using another AirPort Extreme.) You do have the ability to configure quite a lot of settings – more than I thought a company as controlling as Apple would let you do.  For instance, you can configure the strength of your wireless signal so that you can limit the range of the network.  At 100%, it doesn’t give me any more than my WRT did — but its cool to see that you limit the size of your broadcast.

Believe it or not, this router was the hardest thing I’ve ever bought from Apple to configure.  I guess because of the flexibility of the device and the huge variances of networks out there made the wizard-led configuration process more challenging.  I assume that it was the best that Apple could do – but I was actually wanting something more dumb-down that would allow me to manually make these changes rather than having being led through my choices.

Another thing that struck me as odd – the internal firewall on the device.  You don’t hear much about it.  Is it stateful? or what? How can I change it? etc.  Apple does mention on their website that the firewall is there – but I can’t find much information on it.  There is a configuration page in the Airport utility that allows you to change some of the firewall settings (port forwarding, etc.)  But I feel that I have to put my faith in Apple’s hands here and that Steve knows better than me.

In any event, the router works.  All the MacBooks are blazingly fast -even with the upgraded security protocols.  I’m pretty happy with the purchase.  I do want to get my hands on the Airport Express Basestation – I should be able to keep that one upstairs to further strengthen the network connections there – or take it on the road and make that hotel room wired access wireless.

 

-JT

Some additions to my D80

I started the summer thinking that I would be taking a lot of photographs on my Nikon D80 – the truth of it is that I haven’t found a ton of time.  The few opportunities that did pop up, I either didn’t have my camera on me, or the conditions weren’t exactly right (major downpour, etc.)  However, none of this has prevented me from buying more stuff for my camera!

 

Going into the July 4th weekend I thought I would try my hand at some taking some shots of fireworks.  My family was invited to spend the 4th watching some fireworks put on by the local township.  We attempted this last year, but we arrived after the local township had closed off the roads.  In any event, to prepare for the event, I had went ahead and purchased a Nikon MC-DC1 Remote cord.  I picked it up at Amazon and while I was there, I decided to pick up a Nikon ML-L3 Remote Control.

 

31E7NXXWWTL._SL500_AA280_ The Nikon MC-DC1 Remote cord is a relatively simple device.  You don’t really need to read the instructions!  (well.. yes you do.)  I did read the  instructions and it does say that you should not plug the cord into your camera while the power was on.  Easy enough instructions to follow.  The cord has one button on it with a slider attached to it.  The slider will allow you to keep the button depressed until you unlock the slider.  Keep in mind if you do this you may want to go full manual on your camera and set the shutter speed to Bulb – otherwise, it’s not very helpful. 

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The Nikon ML-L3 Remote Control was a impulse buy, but I thought it would nice to have instead of relying on the timer function of the camera.  I hate using things like that –  it reminds me of cheesy movie scenes.  “Hey everyone get ready for the shot!” And then Dad runs around to join the group, etc.  I rather be the cool guy with the remote.  The remote basically has one button on it.  To prep it, you basically pull the plastic tab that allows the battery to contact the remote.  Then set you camera up for remote control and viola! instant remote. 

 

The setup of the remote control makes me curious of how many people accidentally set off someone else’s camera at popular tourist locations.  I recently went to Walt Disney World and the most popular camera I saw there was the Nikon D80 with the 18-200mm VR zoom lens.  I think there were more of the D80s than point and shoots!

 

In any event the devices seem to work well.  I haven’t been able to used them for any real shooting as the July 4th fireworks were under a constant drizzle/rain.  So I was too chicken to break out the camera.  oh well.. next time.

 

-JT

Acomdata 320GB USB/Firewire External Drive

I’ve been meaning to get an external drive for my home setup for some time.  I have a number of potential issues I’d like to resolve with one.  Foacomdriver instance, the biggest issue is that I have a number of servers and machines around the house.  The main fileshare for the family is on one server that located in the basement.  It contains all the family pictures, videos, shared music library, etc.  Of course, the drive is located internally to that machine.  Since I don’t (won’t) pay for or experiment in offsite storage, I back up all my stuff to yet another internal drive on another machine.  Basically, if there was ever a fire in the house, I’d lose it all.  (forget tape backup – I have a 4 gig unit – there isn’t enough time in a day to back everything up to expensive tape!!  My home video collection is already in the 20 gig range – uncompressed video takes up a LOT of diskspace!!)

 

In any event, thanks to Mom & Dad, I get a nice little gift cards for electronic stores whenever it’s my birthday or whatever.  I had a newly printed one burning a hole in my pocket for some time and I thought I’d take the plunge and order me a external drive.  Here were my requirements:

1) USB & FireWire 400 (FireWire 800 would have been a plus)
2) Large capacity 300+ gig minimum.
3) Mac & Windows capable
4) Nice design – as this unit will be sitting in my office.  In case of emergency I can just rip it from it’s connection and head out the door.

 

So why did I decide on the Acomdata drive?  Because my parents got me a gift card to a particular electronics store and this is the unit that met all the above requirements and it didn’t cost me anything. (I have to talk to my parents about getting me Amex or Visa gift cards so I can shop around more. In case you are reading this Dad….)

 

Okay, onto the review..HDxxxUFAPE5-72_Box

 

The drive comes with some interesting packaging.  The product is pictured on the box as being dropped onto a puddle of water or something — something I don’t think the drive is warranted for. 

 

TheHDxxxUFAPE5-72-back drive enclosure is very nice.  It has a nice silver casing with an optional stand that you can mount the drive onto.  The front has a nice big vent – I’m assuming for air flow.  On the back you have two FireWire 400 ports and a USB2 port along with the power switch and power port.  The only  item I don’t like about the device is the rather large button on the front of the device.  It lights up when the power is on and flashes when data is being accessed/written. 

 

The device was instantly recognized by Windows Vista and MacOS X 10.5.3 with both the FireWire and USB2.0 connections.  I had no problems reading or writing to the disk.  Before I forget – it does come with some software for one-touch backup etc.  I didn’t install it as I would be probably doing my backups manually or via Time Machine.  As of this writing I haven’t decided yet.504-vert-&-horz

504-stack

Two other things to note about the running of drive – it appears to run a bit warm but fortunately, the drive spins down after a period of inactivity.  The form factor of the drive makes it convenient for stacking if you opt not to use the included base. 

 

There isn’t much more to it – it’s a big (or is it considered midrange nowadays?) drive and it works.  The only thing it’s missing is a FireWire 800

 

To date I’ve used it for a variety of projects:

Installed a Leopard Server on an old Imac – Since it has a FireWire interface I was able to copy the Leopard server to the drive and use that drive as the boot drive to install the server software.

Used it as backup drive for my Hackintosh – Used SuperDuper to create a bootable image of my machine right before I did a 10.5.4 OS upgrade.  I’ve put in too much time into this machine to just have it toasted because of an OS update.

 

I have to decide what I’m going to use the drive for in the future.  I do know that I probably want to pick up a couple of more at some point as they are getting relatively inexpensive and they allow you to expand a system fairly easy and still get reasonable performance.  I’d like to keep this one around to back up my Hackintosh on a permanent basis – maybe run my Time Machine backups off of that rather than an internal drive.  Or I may use it as an external drive on my Leopard Server so that everyone in the family can use it as a Time Machine drive.  The issue is that Time Machine isn’t very configurable and 320gigs may not be enough for 3 MacBooks, a MacBook Pro, and a Hackintosh.  Maybe I’ll have to wait till the next gift card to find out what I’m going to do.

 

-JT

Balance…

I really need to find some sort of balance in my life.  I tend to fixate on a particular thing for a long period of time and then move on to the next – dropping the original item like a hot rock.  This time is different.  The last few weeks I’ve been looking for a job.  My wife has had enough of me giving my opinion around the house and wants me out.

So in the last few weeks I’ve been concentrating on the employment process.  Which I think I could write a book on now.  Since I have a couple of good leads, I thought it would be okay to find a more balanced work/life equilibrium.  So I’ll post a few very quick entries on the interesting stuff I’ve seen lately and have personally experienced.