D’OHplication issues

Apologies for some duplication of posts in the RSS feeds of late – I’ve been moving this blog and a few other sites from Memset to Digital Ocean (nothing wrong with Memset by the way, I just prefer to be a bit more neutral going forwards – I may even change providers yet again in the future, but for now DO will do for me) and – rather embarrassingly – mucked up the WordPress database transfer.

So I’ve had to restore from a backup (see my rclone tutorial for a quick and easy way of backing up your sites – cPanel or otherwise – to remote cloud storage).

(Return of the Mac) Come on, (You know that I’ll be back) Here I am

Oh, Apple.  What an enormous pain in the bottom you are at times!  Nearly four months away, and I return to discover that your software is just as buggy as when I left.  But, when it works, is infinitely better than that offered for and by Windows / Microsoft.  The last straw was when I created a spreadsheet in Excel 2016 on the Dell UHD laptop, only to find that due to dodgy Windows scaling, the row sizes were all over the shop when the same file was opened on a Mac also running Excel 2016.

  • Importing 8,163 photos and videos into Photos caused Photos to crash half way through.  Thankfully as Adobe Lightroom organises photos by year, I did one year at a time and everything is now inside the Photos ecosystem.
  • Restoring iTunes to a new machine (regardless of platform) while you have an Apple Music subscription is the biggest load of nonsense I have ever encountered from any software company ever.  All seemed to go well – iTunes picked up the freshly copied Windows iTunes folder and organised/consolidated it as it should.  But, alas, while Apple Music was switched on and signed in, iTunes told me otherwise.  A workaround was to browse and/or play something directly from the Apple Music catalogue web site (within iTunes – iTunes essentially acts a glorified browser), then offline stuff could play.  In an attempt to fix the problem once and for all, I turned iCloud Music Library Off (and Apple Music) and switched them back on.  Big mistake.  As soon as that happened, iTunes attempted to reupload music and match, resulting in the duplication of all Apple Music albums and tracks.  At least some 2,000+.  Sorting out the duplicates in the Gilbert & Sullivan 450 track multi-disc album was, to say the least, [censored] annoying.  This was even after nuking the entire iTunes library and letting everything (inc. matched non-Apple tracks and iTunes purchased tracks) download again from Apple’s servers.  This incident has made me extremely nervous of ever having to restore an iTunes library from a backup.  Maybe Apple is promoting Apple Music’s strength as an online service that you really never need to back up to anything other than their servers?  *shrugs*
  • Playing Team Fortress 2 using the AMD Radeon R9 370X is fine and dandy, but things went a bit wonky straight after Steam/TF2 installation, with TF2 and Steam quitting immediately as soon as the game started.  Restarting MacOS seems to fix it.
  • Switching to Apple’s Two Factor Authentication was a pain too.  If you had Two Step Authentication, you have to disable that, create a new series of security questions, then wait a bit before the Two Factor Authentication settings pop up on the iPhone or iPad.  Trying to get the Apple TV to recognise HomeKit involved logging in and out about six times before it finally worked.  Lots of logging in and out across all devices overall.  Apple Watch needed a reboot to get the MacOS unlock functionality working, else the system complained that it couldn’t find the watch.

Otherwise, I am enjoying the Retina display, the quad core processor, and super fast SSD drive.  I’ve come to the conclusion that Windows is not ready for 4K/UHD and above displays.  Not until software developers start making the use of it.

But I will remain a Mac/iPhone/iPad user for the foreseeable future.  The alternative is good, but for me – and despite all the problems with Apple’s software division – it’s not enough. Apple have won.  I surrender.

The Smartphone Games: Catching Fire

Catnip Everready prepares to fight the evil President Lith-Ion in the sequel to ever popular The Smartphone Games: The Smartphone Games.

– Description of my new novel, The Smartphone Games. LOL.

Samsung has made available an IMEI checker that tells you if your phone is affected by the battery defect.  But then again, it may just be a list of phones that haven’t been returned to them yet.  In any event, this is what happened when I typed in my phone’s IMEI:

2016-09-13_10-12-34

The Galaxy Note 7 was a truly lovely phone, but with more reports coming in (including reports that other Samsung phones may be affected too), I thought it best that I returned the unit to Carphone Warehouse and get a refund.  Which I did. Amazingly, despite the recall and the press, they told me that this was still a phone very much in demand.  Unfortunately, I think that the reputation of this brand is now tarnished sufficiently that if I were to go travelling with it, it’d attract too much attention.

Update: As if exploding batteries weren’t enough, the S7 and S7 Edge are suffering with a caching bug which is causing all manner of problems.

So I’ve now gone for the iPhone 7 Plus.  It seems a safe(r) bet than many flagship Android phones at the moment anyway.  I was especially encouraged after reactivating my Apple Music subscription.  It’s proving to be a much smoother experience than last time (I think they key thing here is the lack of iTunes Match) – indeed, I downloaded a 456 track, 21-disc version of the D’Olye Carte Company’s recordings of Gilbert & Sullivan without any issues at all.  In one sitting.  So very promising.

Generally speaking, Apple isn’t a bad company at all.  I still have reservations for their cloud services and the dependency that many of its operating systems have on it, but ultimately providing one can take backups of everything on a regular basis, it really shouldn’t be a big concern.  I still say Apple should offer an AppleCare+ like product for iCloud, however.

Back to the Windows (Future): Part Two

Settling in reasonably well with Windows 10.  Next month we’ll all be getting the Anniversary Update which will make some changes to the Start menu (which I think is for the better based on my experience from the preview builds I’ve been testing with at work) as well as a few other bits and bobs.

Windows as a Service (WaaS) is the way forward.  There will no Windows 11.  And depending on how technically adventurous you are, you can switch to using Insider Builds which provide you with the latest and greatest new features and bug fixes before they’re unleashed on the public.  Even so, I still stick with the regular builds at home.  I only use the Insider Builds on virtual machines that I run at work.

One thing that had been bugging me over the past couple of weeks was finding a local backup utility to store copies of my files on my local NAS (network attached storage), a WD MyCloud (6Tb) which sits on my gigabit switch hooked up to the Sky Q Hub.  I tried Crashplan which also backs up to its own servers, but found it to be too slow (and Crashplan’s high-resolution support isn’t great).  I also tried Acronis TrueImage 2016, but found that to be far too slow as well – and found that it didn’t recover very well if the backup was interrupted – the UI froze a lot.

I then remembered that I had a product I used way back when I was using Windows before the great migration to the Mac, SyncBack Pro.  But, alas, it has the worst high-resolution display support of any of the backup products and I have to remove it.  I mentioned this to the developers who told me I could create a file that would help improve that – but I’d have to re-create it with each new update.  Why this couldn’t be handled via the UI I don’t know.  So I gave up on that one.

It turns out that I had the solution under my nose all the time!  Kaspersky’s Total Security 2016.  I bought a multiple device license – one for my Android device and the other for the Windows desktop.  It’s very good indeed and I hadn’t realised that it comes with a backup/restore function.  So I’ve been backing up to the NAS using something I had.

For online backups I still use Backblaze.  Provides unlimited backups, but versioning only up to 30 days.  So if you delete a file and try to retrieve it after 30 days, you’ll probably be out of luck.  Hence the local backups.  I’d have preferred to use Crashplan which allows for unlimited versioning across any number of days, weeks and months, but as I’ve said, the main thing that’s holding me back is the lack of high-resolution display support.

I do hope Microsoft consider doing more work to improve high-resolution display scaling.  If Apple can do it successfully with OS X (or MacOS as it will be called), I can’t see why Microsoft can’t.  It’s time to ditch legacy and look to the future of Windows.  It can’t be too longer before 5K monitors and beyond will be the norm.  Windows  need to be ready for this along with all Windows developers.

Meanwhile, I’m selling my Xbox One in preparation for the Xbox One S.  Ultra HD Blu Ray support PLUS the ability to game (stream to a PC) and PC integration (controller can be used with a PC for gaming via Bluetooth) for less than £350?  Yes please.  The Xbox One (S) is effectively running its own version of Windows 10, so that’ll be getting the Anniversary Update too.

Brings a whole new definition to the word “clean-up”

Info Insecurity

I shouldn’t laugh at a fellow web hosting company’s misfortune, but when I heard about the almighty muck-up from 123-reg inadvertently nuking customer’s virtual private servers (source: BBC)  during routine maintenance, I couldn’t help but to try and stifle a chuckle.

But on a more serious note it highlights a couple of problems (least of which is to be very, very sure about what stuff you’re doing on the underlying host platform):

  • Virtualisation = multi-tenant server, therefore a dedicated server will be home to quite a few other clients, all doing their own thing.  Unless you’re using some form of shared storage for the virtual server image, or can quickly hot swap the drives out to a new standby chassis – if the server goes TITSUP (see below), many people will be affected, and for quite some time!
  • Backups.  I can’t believe people aren’t making multiple backups.  Especially if you’re not paying the hosting provider for the privilege.  NEVER assume that your hosting provider is taking backups of your data.  But there are many options available to ensure that you have sufficient coverage in the case of a failure. Some hosting providers usually provide something (at cost), but it’s always recommended that you store backups both away the hosting platform, in a different datacentre, and at least one copy preferably away from the hosting company.  Why not use a third party utility such as rclone to make sure you’re backing up valuable data to another service?  I’ve written a guide for cPanel server users here.
  • Redundancy.  If your business is truly that important, you’ll be looking at high availability options that can include, but are not limited to, load balancing (multiple web front ends, multiple DB and file backends).  If one more servers goes TITSUP (Total Inability To Support Usual Performance), others can take over.  Failover options are well worth investigating.  Note: it’s rarely cheap, but if you really value uptime of your business – it’s a must.

I think the best attitude to have in this situation is to tell yourself what would you do WHEN these things go wrong – not IF.  Aside from all of the above, your web site may be affected by malware (especially if you’re running legacy versions of the server components, or if your CMS or web site is itself based around legacy components – make sure you keep it up-to-date!), denial of service attacks, or a combination of both.

Running a web site and managing your email is fun, fun, fun!