Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Building and sharing Google bike (and other) route maps using waypoint defined computed routes

I used to do bicycle maps using Google’s Map Creator / “My Maps” tools, but for me it was a frustrating process. I never quite got the hang of the building, and sharing never seemed to work well.

Now I create bike route maps by entering sequential waypoints, and letting Google handle the routing between them. It takes only a few minutes and I can share the results as a short Google URL. I can send the maps to Google Maps.app on my iPhone, put them in a blog, create a document of my routes, save them as bookmarks, etc.

Here’s a sample of the process, with a map that starts at locally famous bike spot - Angry Catfish Bicycle and Coffee Bar. (You should figure out your general route before you do this process).

1. Search for your starting point, then use the “three line” Google menu to turn on Bicycling. (you may need to turn it on more than once)

 Screen Shot 2015 07 22 at 9 47 00 PM

2. Click Directions and put it into bicycle mode. Notice the choose destination field. Click in that field to be sure Google is in the right mode, now click on your next waypoint.

Screen Shot 2015 07 22 at 9 51 36 PM

Screen Shot 2015 07 22 at 9 52 39 PM

Notice you’ve go two map destinations and that Google has figured out a route using the bike trail.

3. Keep building your route by adding way points. You do have to click back into the ‘choose destination’ field so Google understands the context. Once you click a point then hold (don’t release) you can drag the waypoint and watch Google add your route. Release when you get to a key turning point or point of interest. For example:

Screen Shot 2015 07 22 at 9 58 23 PM

4. Here’s the complete loop (1h, 6min). It has a wiggle in the top right I don’t like, I’d rather stay on the trail. I could have redone the route by adding a waypoint on the trail, that would prevent the diversion. Or I could just do a custom route by clicking on handles and moving them as below:

Screen Shot 2015 07 22 at 10 02 13 PM

Screen Shot 2015 07 22 at 10 04 21 PM

5. It really only takes a few minutes to get to this point. Now tap Google’s 3 bar (hamburger?) menu and choose share. The URL looks like this:

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Angry+Catfish+Bicycle+and+Coffee+Bar,+4208+S+28th+Ave,+Minneapolis,+MN+55406/Minnehaha+Creek/44.9240882,-93.1976693/44.9417637,-93.198409/44.9504289,-93.2486649/44.9318804,-93.2501599/44.9271569,-93.2322561/@44.9285992,-93.2165955,14z/data=!4m24!4m23!1m5!1m1!1s0x87f62844b2ef9ac1:0x238cfef7316e9d8b!2m2!1d-93.2325294!2d44.92653!1m5!1m1!1s0x0:0x2d1439632b6ee239!2m2!1d-93.2247432!2d44.9175766!1m0!1m5!3m4!1m2!1d-93.1994777!2d44.9467264!3s0x87f629dd3802980d:0xad4046ce8178a45c!1m0!1m0!1m0!3e1

but it also offers a short form:

https://goo.gl/maps/9Kwhf

Sure beats using Map Creator. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Airmail 2, Postbox and Mailbox for OS X access to Gmail -> I'm back to mail.app

I think OS X Mail.app for Yosemite is a pretty good Gmail client. The one big problem is that one must download the entire archive, though there is an option to omit automatic attachment download. That’s fine for my primary machine, but I don’t want to burden my 256GB SSD with 20+ GB of Gmail archive. So I went looking for a Gmail client.

I used Sparrow years ago and liked most of it — except the obligatory threading and conversation views. If an app is going to do that, it has to let me quickly delete all the emails I no longer care about. Sparrow didn’t.

Sparrow’s gone of course. More recently i used Airmail with some success, so I tried Airmail 2. That was … frustrating. I ran into multiple bugs and UI issues when I migrated from Airmail 1, so I tried again with a fresh start. This time while sending an email I got an authentication failure. No problem — I quit and fixed the error (I think). I then went looking for the stalled email and … it was nowhere to be found.

I deleted Airmail 2. (That was money wasted.) I then tried Mailbox.app — forever in beta, mostly abandoned, and you can’t delete individual messages, you can only delete an entire conversation. Deleted Mailbox.app. Next up - Postbox.

Postbox doesn’t support Google OAUTH2. I read the documentation on enabling “Access for less secure apps” and … I deleted Postbox.

So I’m back to Mail.app. I disabled automatic download of attachments in preferences, but I guess I’ll just sacrifice the disk storage. I considered enabling Google’s IMAP folder message visibility limits, but of course that would apply to my server too. I think in past Mail.app had some control over message downloads, but that’s gone now.

The bright side is I don’t mind Mail.app. Just hate the lose the storage...

Update 7/18/15: With ‘automatically download attachments’ off, selecting Inbox and choosing Account Info from the Context menu tells me that 80,309 messages are using 4.35GB. I can live with that.

Friday, July 17, 2015

So you want to actually restore from that Time Capsule backup? Do you feel lucky punk?

Yeah, I know he actually said “Do I feel lucky?”. But you get the point.

By now even the most hard core Apple apologist must have moments of existential doubt. Waking at 3am thinking, if only for a moment, that maybe Tim Cook really is the antichrist. 

The rest of us are moodily throwing darts at Apple stickers, wondering if Atari [3] might reconsider the personal computer market.

Time Capsule is typical of the 2015 Mac. The problems have been around for years, hope has all but vanished, and it’s possible things are even getting worse. On the other hand, there aren’t a lot of great choices for network Mac backup. Retrospect, which I loved in the days of DAT tapes and SCSI drives [1], effectively died years ago [2]. The best alternative may be Code 42’s Crashplan cloud backup, but that requires serious bandwidth (up and down) and a lot of confidence in a remote corporation. Also … java (ugh).

So I use Time Capsule for most of the machines in the house, but keep data on a server that’s also Carbon Copy Cloner cloned nightly [4]. 

This is what I do when I need to actually restore from Time Capsule [5]. If I don’t follow these steps restores will often hang and fail.

  1. Shut down every machine on my network.
  2. Power cycle my Time Capsule.
  3. Gbit ethernet connect the target machine to the Time Capsule and restart that machine.
  4. Log into my Admin account and start Time Machine.
  5. Choose a date/time as needed. Set an 5 minute time and walk away. (Trying to interact immediately will be immensely frustrating.)
  6. Navigate as desired until UI stops responding. Set an 8 minute timer and walk away.
  7. Return, select a file, and complete the Restore.

Yeah, Time Capsule has a scaling problem — restore times seem to have a non-linear relationship to the number of files on the source machine and the number of backup versions.

It’s good to have a way to proceed though. Just in case Carbon Copy Cloner isn’t enough.

Update 7/19/2015

app.net@martinsteiger writes: “Time Capsule NAS is slow and unreliable, it shouldn't be used for backup. With a NAS up to par, even with a 2-drive model from Synology like the DS21n+ models, Time Machine works fairly well.” Installing and configuring a Synology NAS isn’t terribly hard, but it’s definitely geek-realm. I agree that whatever scaling and reliability issues Time Machine has, the root problem here is mostly likely that Time Capsule is grossly underpowered for its primary function.

- fn -

[1] Ok, so SCSI is a good reminder that the golden age had nightmares too.

[2] I tried Retrospect again a few months ago. Wasn’t pleased. My guess is that it’s architecturally a poor fit to OS X.

[3] Atari died in 1983. They were an early competitor to the Mac and Amiga, pre-Windows.

[4] With CCC versions are archived separately. A pain to recover but it can be done. CCC can backup to a network image, but OS X Mavericks and beyond use SMB2, and SMB2 doesn’t support sparsebundle mounts. You have go through some gyrations to do an AFP mount instead. I am trying this out. I rotate my CCC backups off site across 4 encrypted drives, so I always have at least 5 backups of my data using two different technologies.

Actually, I also do Aperture backups to a local high capacity drive using Aperture’s build in backup tech. So for Aperture images I have 6 backups using three different technologies. And I know that won’t be enough ...

[5] I’ve never had to use Time Capsule for a real emergency. I’ve always been able to use my CCC clone, but I periodically test Time Capsule to see if I can make it work.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

How to view OS X hidden (unix) folders using TextWrangler

I thought there was a way to view hidden OS X Unix folders like bin, etc, home, Network, private, sbin .vol etc using Bare Bones Software's free TextWrangler but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. I wondered if this now required BBEdit, but the comparison chart didn’t mention anything.

It’s in the manual. Yeah, TextWranger, which is free, not only has Help file, it also has a (superb) manual:

Opening Hidden Files Turn on the “Show Hidden Items” option in the Open dialog to display hidden files (including both files whose invisible attribute has been set, and those whose names begin with a period) or files from a folder which is normally hidden by the system.

Screen Shot 2015 07 16 at 11 28 17 AM

When I turned it on I had to navigate the folders to force a refresh, but then they all showed.

I’d been hunting around for a preference settings, but it’s part of the Open dialog. I’ve gotten so used to utterly undocumented applications that I didn’t think to look for a manual. Google was no help … but maybe it will be after I post this.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Photo slide show screensaver on Mac - network share and Yosemite's reversion to default. A workaround.

I have never been happy with how OS X handles anything to do with file shares, I think Windows does a much better job.

Which, if you know anything about Windows network services, must mean I’m a raving loon. How could OS X be worse than that?

I can’t explain it. My experience is that, for no good reason, when requesting a file or folder from an OS X server, things often fail. Disabling sleep and hard drive rest helps. [4]

So it’s not surprising that using a server based photo collection with the OS X Photo Slideshow screensaver has always been problematic. I’ve really only had good success with local stores, or using local Aperture or iPhoto as the source.  I assume something hangs and OS X switches to the default photo slideshow (national geographic) screensaver, losing all memory of the screensaver you want to use.

This isn’t new, but with Yosemite it’s seems to have gotten worse [1].  Every time I opened my brand new MacBook Air on 10.10.4 I was back to National Geographic. Which is pretty, but I’ve come to hate it.

Happily, this problem is aggravating enough that there’s now a fix, which is best described in an AskDifferent post by “Flavin” (he found bug in 10.10.1, he both asks questions and answers it. I love when people return to add their answers.) The process goes like this:

  1. Set up your screensaver as desired.
  2. Run a terminal command to see the preference file values:
    defaults -currentHost read com.apple.ScreenSaverPhotoChooser
  3. Copy values into a script to write them back, where script is of the form
    defaults -currentHost write com.apple.ScreenSaverPhotoChooser … 

This is what my script looked like based on Flavi (emphases mine):

#!/bin/bash
defaults -currentHost write com.apple.ScreenSaverPhotoChooser CustomFolderDict -dict identifier \"/Volumes/ss/ss\" name ss
defaults -currentHost write com.apple.ScreenSaverPhotoChooser SelectedFolderPath \"/Volumes/ss/ss\"
defaults -currentHost write com.apple.ScreenSaverPhotoChooser SelectedSource -int 4
defaults -currentHost write com.apple.ScreenSaverPhotoChooser ShufflesPhotos -bool true

My images are in a network share /ss/ss [2]. Note in a Bash script like this quotes are escaped with slashes, hence \” to contain the string.

At this point I had the fix, but I got stuck with following the usual practice of storing it in OS X’s hidden unix file structure. TextWrangler wouldn’t show them to me [3]. So instead I put the script into a standard OS X Folder (Documents\Bash is my name) and used my favorite tip of the year: How to run a Unix shell script from the Mac Finder | alvinalexander.com. I changed the .sh extension to .command and now it’s double-clickable. No need to wrap it in AppleScript or death with BSD Unix PATH, etc.

THEN I discovered my script only worked when the remote network share was mounted. If it wasn’t mounted OS X wouldn’t mount it for me; the script would run as above but OS would fail to find the volume (“ss”) and would return to the dreaded Nat Geo. So I revised the script to mount as needed (I had a devil of a time getting mount_afp working because I didn’t understand I had to create a directory first in Volumes to be the mount point/node), and I added code to set Screensaver to Photo Slideshow borrowed from another reference.

#!/bin/bash

## Mount remote volume if not already mounted
if [ ! -d /Volumes/ss ]; then
mkdir /Volumes/ss
mount_afp afp://Thunderpaws._afpovertcp._tcp.local/ss /Volumes/ss
fi

## Set Screensaver to Photo Slideshow
/usr/bin/defaults -currentHost write com.apple.screensaver 'CleanExit' -string "YES"
/usr/bin/defaults -currentHost write com.apple.screensaver 'PrefsVersion' -int "100"
/usr/bin/defaults -currentHost write com.apple.screensaver 'idleTime' -int "300"
/usr/bin/defaults -currentHost write com.apple.screensaver "moduleDict" -dict-add "path" -string "/System/Library/Frameworks/ScreenSaver.framework/Resources/iLifeSlideshows.saver"
/usr/bin/defaults -currentHost write com.apple.screensaver "moduleDict" -dict-add "type" -int "0"
/usr/bin/defaults -currentHost write com.apple.screensaver 'ShowClock' -bool "false"
/usr/bin/defaults -currentHost write com.apple.screensaver 'tokenRemovalAction' -int "0"

## Set location of photos
defaults -currentHost write com.apple.ScreenSaverPhotoChooser CustomFolderDict -dict identifier \"/Volumes/ss/ss\" name ss
defaults -currentHost write com.apple.ScreenSaverPhotoChooser SelectedFolderPath \"/Volumes/ss/ss\"
defaults -currentHost write com.apple.ScreenSaverPhotoChooser LastViewedPhotoPath \"\"
defaults -currentHost write com.apple.ScreenSaverPhotoChooser SelectedSource -int 4
defaults -currentHost write com.apple.ScreenSaverPhotoChooser ShufflesPhotos -bool true

## Removes the .plist LaunchAgent from inside the User Launch Agent Folder.
## rm -f ~/Library/LaunchAgents/set-screensaver.plist
## killall cfprefsd

exit

Eventually I may take app.net@jws’s advice and use Watchman to fully automate a fix, but I kind of like firing this script off every time Yosemite zaps my slideshow of 100 years of family pictures.

- fn -

[1] Maybe related to this Mavericks change? It’s not the only thing that’s gotten worse over the past 1-2 years of course. My current explanation for the Hot Mess that is Apple software 2015 is that during the Jobs era and shortly thereafter Apple incurred massive technical debt and they are slowly and painfully trying to fix it, while shedding expertise like water off the proverbial duck’s back. An even more worrisome possibility is that Apple is now a typical corporation.

[2] Why the redundant ss? Historic reasons. The network share is a thumb drive sticking out of the back of a Time Capsule, so there’s no authentication needed.

To get the path of a folder just drag the finder icon into Terminal and the path will render.

[3] I’ve run into this before I think, but I can’t remember if there’s a setting I’ve missed or … what. Maybe it’s a BBEdit only feature, but it doesn’t show up in the TextWranger vs. Bbedit comparison page. Google was no help at all.

[4] I wonder if it’s because OS X often stores references to “mount points” (Volumes/…) but mount points have to be associated with network addresses, and those are not stored. Note my script should really check for the network access, not the existence of the Mount directory, but I don’t yet know how to do the former.

References

 

iOS 8.4: Spotlight not showing Bing results? Your email index may be corrupted.

Recently Spotlight stopped offering me Bing results (or Wikipedia). Power cycling the phone didn’t help. I tried the usual Spotlight fix in Settings:General:Spotlight of turning off all search results, exiting settings, confirming searches return nothing, then turning them back on. Didn’t work this time.

After a bit of experimentation I found Spotlight worked as long as I didn’t include mail search. Not unexpectedly, when I tried searching within Mail.app search would hang for at least 30 seconds (when I gave up). 

The fix was to remove all of my email accounts entirely - it wasn’t enough to simply turn mail off. I then restored them [1] and now search works within Mail.app and also within the Spotlight UI — including Bing results.

I assume Spotlight performs searches in sets, and when it got to the set containing Mail it got hung up, returning nothing and blocking returns from later sets in the execution pipeline.

I decided I don’t like getting Mail results back in search anyway, so I turned them off. I do like being able to search Mail, so the fix was important.

My spotlight enabled searches are, in order:

  • Applications
  • Contacts
  • Events (I use Calendars 5.app primarily, but I enabled Google Calendars in Calendar.app to support Event search. Sadly iOS still needs Google’s ugly SyncSelect hack. OS X doesn’t need it, so I blame this one on Apple and their (assumed) monstrous technical debt problem.)
  • Spotlight Suggestions
  • Bing Web Results (also Wikipedia)

I only use iOS Reminders for short term things (use ToDo.app) so I omitted that. Similarly I only use iOS Notes for transient items, so I omit that too (use Simplenote.app, despite it’s #$@$@ tag limitations). Messages, Voice Memos, Music, Podcasts, Videos and Audiobooks never made sense to me as items to include in Spotlight search.

[1] I had to redo my settings of course, including digging into preferences to make Google Delete when it damned well should Delete. I set it only save the last two weeks of email to reduce burden on the evidently unreliable indexing engine.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Facebook event sharing - July 2015

Facebook Events (calendar items) exist in some sort of Facebook twilight zone. Neither completely abandoned, nor entirely useful. You can, for example, subscribe to an Event stream in Google Calendar. That’s a useful move.

Even public events are rather hard to share however. Facebook’s limited (usually obsolete) official documentation suggests copy and paste the URL. As of today this also works...

  1. View Event and choose Join.
  2. Look for the (mislabeled) Invite drop down - select it.
  3. Choose Share Event.

Monday, July 06, 2015

iOS - apps showing multiple times in search?

This is an easy one.

Do an iOS Spotlight search, see an app multiple times… means Spotlight needs to be rebuilt.

Go to Settings for Spotlight, uncheck all. Exit. Try search - nothing happens. Now add back applications, etc.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Porting an H2O Wireless (AT&T MVNO) to AT&T - the account number is the ICCID (SIM Card Number)

When I last wrote about H2O Wireless, our kids dirt cheap mobile carrier, I mentioned that our daughter’s texting costs were bringing the monthly H2O fee close to the $25/month device fee on Emily and my AT&T account. 

The move has come sooner than I’d expected, because in the process of debugging her iPhone [1] with some SIM swaps we lost all data access. I tried contacting H2O wireless to see if they had a fix, but I couldn’t get through. I didn’t try too hard — the H2O web site is increasingly clear that prepaid plans aren’t supposed to have data access. I figured we were living on borrowed time.

Our first attempt at porting failed though. I did it at an AT&T retail store; they had the impression we couldn’t port an AT&T MVNO number to AT&T because the porting software wasn’t designed for that use case.

i was going to let things lie for a bit, but then my daughter started getting 2-3 AT&T texts a day demanding she finish her porting. When I called up to stop the bloody things I was transferred to the “porting department’, where I ran into one of those miraculous people who actually know how things work.

Turns out the problem was not the MVNO to AT&T port. The problem is that nobody knows what the account number is for an H2O Wireless prepaid account. H2O’s correspondence and web site imply it’s either the phone number for the H2O phone or my phone number associated with the master account and credit cards.

Wrong. The account number is the SIM Card number, known to iOS settings or iTunes as the ICCID number. In addition you need to know a “passcode”, which is typically the last 4 digits of the ICCID number (supposedly customers can change this, but I’ve never seen that).

My AT&T porting center expert tells me the port is now authorized, so it’s back to the AT&T store to complete the process and pick up a new SIM. I’m told her number will continue to work until that final step is taken.

[1] An old 32GB iPhone 4S we fondly call the “DemonPhone”. It has been my primary tech support pain for years — possibly due to occult hardware issues, but also due to Apple’s bugs, DRM flaws, and hacked together online services. H2O hasn’t necessarily helped; adding a low quality and low service mobile carrier to a buggy phone puts the D in Demon.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

iOS 8 Compass.app will let you copy coordinates if you do a long press

During a recent bike adventure I was frustrated that I couldn’t copy coordinates from either Google Map or Apple Map. I think I used to be able to do that - but no more. Compass.app would show coordinates, but I couldn’t copy/paste ‘em. Best I could do was a screenshot of what Compass displays.

There’s a convoluted way to do it …

Messages, Details, Send My Current Location -> gives a tappable link, then get info on location gives apple map URLs with coordinates

The map URL is interesting, but I wanted something better. Once I was home I paid $1 for Nav Clock.app, a primeval iOS app that, among other things, shows coordinates in portrait mode and local sun related events in landscape mode. If you tap your finger carefully (it’s picky) on the start of the coordinates you get a copy option.

Nav Clock is pretty cool and well worth $1, but I still wondered if there wasn’t a secret way to get map coordinates out of Compass.app. Seems something an engineer would sneak in. 

Jeremy W. Sherman figured it out:

Compass does let you copy out the coordinates: Long-press on the coordinates and hit Copy from the floating menu. Don’t tap - that bounces you to Maps.

It’s a non-standard UI — long but not too long press pops up a new string ‘Copy’. Tap ‘Copy’ and you can paste degrees, minutes, seconds N and W.

As best I can tell this has never been documented. It’s a secret…

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

In praise of ClouldPull -- bring your Google Drive files to your Mac's local storage

There are a lot of spreadsheet and documents on my Mac, representing years of work, that have contents that look like this:

{"url": "https://docs.google.com/open?id=17c7ZAr5....XI”, “doc_id”: “17c7....VloXI”, “email”: “jgordon@kateva.org”, “resource_id": "document:17c7Z...unVloXI"}

Yes, they’re stubs referencing data stored in Google’s cloud as “Google Docs” and “Google Sheets”. That’s what Google puts on Google Drive on my Mac, and why so much data takes up so little storage. (Beware, however, of Google Drive/Photos integration. That’s bad news.)

It means that I don’t really have ownership of any of those files. I can use Google Drive to “reorganize” my Cloud drive, but I generally can’t work with that data offline [1].

Which is one of the reasons I like CloudPull - a $25 Mac app that still runs on Mavericks [2]. It creates local backups of my Calendars (VCALENDAR), Contacts (VCARD 3.0), and my Google Drive. I can ask for a complete backup, or I can only create backups for Google doc (as Microsoft Word, dock) or Google sheets (as Excel, .xlsx) and let Google Drive handle all the readable files.

It even holds 1,500 Google Reader liked articles left over from the end of Reader.

The data is stored in my User Library Application Support folder, but I really should move it back into my Docs folder.

Most of the time I can ignore all of this content, but it’s a great reassurance to have it at hand. Every Mac user of Google Services should own CloudPull.

[1] So when I drag something out of the drive, and it’s “deleted”, what happens if I open the stub file? What does Google do to enable offline use, and how scary is that? Curious stuff.

[2] I’m going to Yosemite with 10.10.4. Too many apps need Yosemite now, and as good as El Cap sounds it won’t be ready for me before Feb 2016.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mavericks bug: enabling iCloud Keychain duplicates Contacts if use .me domain

This is a truly weird bug.

If I enabled iCloud Keychain sync in Mavericks all of my Contacts would duplicate. One set would show up with the header of 'iCloud', the second (new) set would have the heading 'iCloud jf" where jf are my (true) initials.

The two sets appeared truly identical. Edits to one appeared in another. My iPhone Contacts were not affected.

If I turned off iCloud Keychain sync I could unclick Contacts in iCloud preferences and watch one set disappear. Then it would check itself back on. I unchecked again and a second set disappeared. Then I rechecked it and the first set of Contacts returned Lastly I reenabled iCloud Keychain and the second set of Contacts reappeared.

I think this bug is related in part to the .me to .iCloud transition. I say that because my iCloud account used the old '.me' domain. It's supposed to be interoperable with iCloud, but I guess it really isn't. I signed out of everything on my iMac and left iCloud, then restored using the '.icloud' domain. Now I have one set of Contacts and I have Keychain sync enabled.

Curiously, even after the fix, the Accounts setting in Contacts shows the .me suffix. I can't edit that, it claims to be inheriting from Preferences. iCloud support in Mavericks is a real hack. I probably can't wait for El Cap, will need to accept Yellowstone after next bugfix release.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Google Photos is a wrapper over Picasa Web Albums

Google Photos uses the Picasa Web Albums API, it doesn't have its own API:
No wonder my Picasa web albums showed up so well in Google Photos and why so many G+ features are missing -- Google chose to build on old Picasa rather than G+. It also explains why my old Mac Picasa uploader (works in Mavericks) is the best way to get images in albums to Google Photos.

The Google Drive integration, by the way, is a dangerous hack. Avoid it for now.

The Picasa uploader doesn't support Google Photo's image compression format (WebP?), so I wonder if those images will count against storage totals.

I hope we get an API, particularly with support for creating or selecting albums at upload time, any minute now...

Friday, June 05, 2015

Domain configuration - notes on www and naked domains

I’m writing this primarily for myself. I’ll try to update it as I learn more.
 
I’ve used DreamHost for years, I have several domains there. Recently I created one for our mountain bike team - hpmtb.org. I set it up as “Fully Hosted” and created a few subdomains so I could create a subdomain like http://fb.hpmtb.org that would redirect to our Facebook site. (This is probably not the best way to do this, maybe better to use Apache URL rewrites with .htaccess)
 
I was even able to get a wiki.hpmtb.org subdomain to work properly with wikispaces.
 
That’s when I ran aground. I wanted the naked domain, or www.hpmtb.org to point to that same wiki page. As best I can tell, with DreamHost, you can’t do that through DNS or domain configuration. For one thing, www.domain.com and domain.com are treated by DreamHost as synonyms. You can’t really have them behave differently.
 
For another DreamHost, for a fully hosted domain, sets up a fixed type A DNS record to reference DreamHost’s IP address.
 
Can this be done for a DNS only configuration, with hosting disabled?
 
I think there’s a way to do it with Google Apps, in particular I’m pretty sure there’s a way to have a naked domain or www.domain reference a Google Site. I’m just not quite sure how to do it. Clues might be in these references ...
Phew. This is a tiring domain to explore. Not only is it fundamentally complex, the documentation is marginal (Google has the best, but it’s Google Apps specific) and experimentation is hard. It’s easy to mess up a domain, and changes can take time to propagate. There are lots of quirks; I discovered Chrome will cache DNS redirects, so if you make a change and Chrome doesn’t seem to know about it try incognito mode. Good luck!
 

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Domain registrar transfer pains - something broken between eNom and Dreamhost (or me)

I've transferred several eNom domain with associated Google Apps services to Dreamhost. This is the first time I've been really stuck.

I'm trying to move kateva.org from eNom to Dreamhost. Dreamhost already provides DNS services, so it's "simply" a registrar transfer. I've done several of those.

This time the process is failing after I get an "authorization key" (EPP) from eNom/Google and I complete the Dreamhost authorization key submission. Instead of receiving a Google email (takes 1-2 hours):
STANDARDIZED FORM OF AUTHORIZATION
DOMAIN NAME TRANSFER - Confirmation of Registrar Transfer Request ...
I get radio silence. Tech support tells me Dreamhost's system shows a transfer status of denied ...
kateva.org Canceled - Invalid EPP/authorization key - Please contact current registrar to obtain correct key
We've been through this twice now with two keys. So I think something is broken (yes, user error cannot be ruled out, this is a complex process).

Unfortunately level one tech support doesn't know the details how this status shows up in their system. (They also can't explain why Dreamhost doesn't expose this status in the user accessible control panel or generate an email. I think there's a hole in their workflow process, but this could also be a bug in their system.)

At this point I'm hoping I can escalate to tier 2 support. Then I can interview somebody who should know how the status code is generated, and whether the bug is with Dreamhost (already known to have a process problem) or eNom (gonna be hard to talk to) or me (always possible).

Frustrating, but other than lost time worst likely outcome is I renew with eNom for another year. Then try again in 6 months and hope whatever is broken gets fixed.

Update 6/5/2015: Dreamhost tells me they're getting a formal transaction from eNom: "Invalid EPP/authorization key - Please contact current registrar to obtain correct key". So now I have to contact eNom at 425-274-4500. May the Force be with me.