Sunday, October 26, 2014

Migration assistant didn't seem to migrate my OS X Mail mailboxes and content

I used Migration Assistant to copy a user account from a Time Capsule backup (of a Lion machine) to a Mavericks machine. The Lion machine Mail app used the Google IMAP connection.

The behavior of surprised me. Initially it appeared empty, though mailbox folders were present. Then, overnight, messages appeared to transfer from Gmail. They didn’t appear to have been migrated from the original machine.

Curious. I couldn’t find much about this on the net, so for now I’ll share without comment.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Adventures in using Migration Assistant to move one User from a Lion Mac to a Mavericks Mac

When my G5 iMac finally died (1995-2014) I first thought we’d need another machine - like Apple’s top-secret max value DVD containing laptop. As it turned out, we didn’t, which is probably not great news for Apple. I did have to reconfigure our existing devices and order an external display, but we ended up with a better hardware distribution than we started with.

The reconfiguration did require migrating a user from an older machine running Lion to a Mavericks machine [1]. That’s what this post is mostly about, so feel free to skip the hardware refactoring discussion.

The hardware refactoring

Before the G5 iMac (2005-2014) died our family of five (not counting Kateva) had 1 iPhone apiece, no iPads, a 2009 27” iMac [2], a 2006 MacBook Core 2 Duo (Lion) [3], a 2011 11” MacBook Air [4] and, of course the G5. (And two of the kids are getting school iPads in a few weeks.)

Each machine had its constituency. 

The SSD revitalized 2009 iMac is our family server and my personal machine — thanks to its 1TB Samsung SSD power I’d need to spend $2,800 to replace it with a better machine. The 2005 G5 iMac was used by the boys for writing and light web browsing, and it was a DVD playing / iTunes streaming entertainment center. The Air has always been sadly underutilized — it’s my laptop but I usually travel with a corporate winter thing. The 2006 MacBook (Lion) is the main homework machine and my wife’s laptop [5].

We played around with a few options, most of which involved spending about $1,600 and dealing with the pain of a new Mac [6], but we realized that we actually had everything we needed. 

So the 2009 iMac stays where it is, the 2011 Air will become Emily’s primary workstation (hence the account migration need), and the 2006 MacBook with its DVD player will get a $240 external 27” display with integrated speakers. It  will become the DVD/iTunes streaming media center and, with the new external display, a much improved homework machine [7].

All the hardware gets used, we save about $1,300 and weeks of pain (burning coals, pins in eyes, etc). 

Moving the user - quirks of Migration Assistant

I wanted to move Emily’s data from the MacBook (Lion) to the Air (Mavericks) and I remembered that Migration Assistant can move a single user account (or much more) [8]. So I hooked up the two machines with an ethernet cable and … it didn’t work. The User Accounts from the MacBook didn’t show up — only apps and config data appeared.

I did, however, see that I could move Emily’s data from the MacBook backup on Time Capsule. I hadn’t known that was possible. (Turns out this is also a way to restore User data to a new machine from the backup of a defunct device.)

Google told me the missing User option can be a permissions issue, so I did a safe boot (power up while holding shift key). That runs a number of cleanups including permissions repair and disk utility repair. 

Then I turned WiFi off - to reduce any network confusion.

This time it seemed to work — until it hung with the dreaded “Less than a minute remaining” message.

From my reading it looks like this might be related to disk issues, or file corruption, or the fact that computers hate us (it’s mutual). There are a few options:

  1. Run Disk Utility repair or Disk Warrior or equivalent, seeking the bad file. (I’d already done the safe boot, which I believe runs Disk Utility repair.)
  2. Wait overnight. Sometimes many hours later, the process may complete.
  3. Force quit Migration assistant on the sending machine.
  4. Use Time Capsule instead. (Yay!)

I decided to let it run overnight and try a force quit in the morning… but the MacBook closed its session. I noticed it was repeatedly trying to logout, and in user preferences security was set to logout after 8 minutes of inactivity. I wonder if the logout attempts were causing the problem. I ran fsck -fy in single user mode but the MacBook seemed fine.

So rather than try again I switched to Time Capsule using a direct ethernet connection. It took 16 min to move the data over. I ran into 1 (replicable) UI bug that’s hard to explain. If you don’t see a “continue” prompt, click somewhere else.

Then I tried email - and saw nothing. As I submit this post it appears emails are streaming in from Google - NOT from the backup. I may be running into Mavericks Gmail problems, compounded by a migration from Lion. I think that’s going to be a different post. (At least I have the original machine to work with!)

PS. The Air has an encrypted drive; Mavericks Migration Assistant does not automatically enable migrated non-admin users to unlock the drive on startup. That has to be done in security settings from an admin account.

- fn -

[1] I’m waiting a bit longer before going to Yosemite.

[2] Which, like the G5 iMac, had a troublesome youth, multiple hardware issues, and display discoloration — but has settled into a reliable middle-age. People wonder why I hate buying new Macs.

[3] Suffered from plastic case disintegration syndrome — I missed the recall notice for that one. Has had off-kilter hinges and 1 dead drive, easily replaces because it’s freakily easy to service. Yeah, I hate buying new Macs.

[4] Aside from the early demise of the power supply (replaced by Apple) this machine has been insanely trouble free. Reminds me of the remarkably reliable machines before Jobs and Ives. I can’t explain why the Air actually seems to work.

[5] She likes it, and she doesn’t like dealing with unreliable machines.

[6] Typically something between needles in the eyes and walking on hot coals.

[7] If the drive falters I can put in 250GB SSD for $120 or so and it will be supercharged. This was one of the last of the truly serviceable Macs.

[8] If an account of the same name already exists on the target machine Migration Assistant will help, but I prefer to delete the target machine account if, as is usually the case, it’s not worth keeping.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Wordpress spam comment hole and fix

I had comments turned off in Gordon’s Shares [1], but on a rare visit to my admin Dashboard I found 15,000 spomments in the Pending queue [2]. They looked to be all spam, there were several from today, and they were largely related to old posts.

That was a surprise. The blog has comments disabled, there’s no way in the UI to create a comment; I presume the attackers were leveraging an API bug. So in addition to confirming the Commenting was disabled, I also restricted the (disabled) commenting to registered users (which would be me). That seems to have fixed the problem.

[1] Mirrors/archives [1] my pinboard shares. Current setup is a bit different than 2012:
[2] I used the Delete All Comments plugin to clear out the 15K — it transiently tied down my database but it worked.

Update 10/9/2014

If you have unchecked Allow people to post comments on the article on the Options > Discussion panel, then you have only disabled comments on future posts.
This is the kind of thing that gives open source a bad name -- and it doesn't say much for the tech journalists who praise the WordPress organization either. Looks like a great way to do a DOS attack on a WordPress site -- fill up database storage with spomments.

Happily my workaround works perfectly.

Monday, October 06, 2014

ptel Real Paygo fatal flaw: it's a prepay plan that runs up overage fees

One of the reasons we use prepaid plans for the kids is that there should be a natural limit on overages. If Apple’s mediocre iPhone Cellular data controls break down, perhaps due to the iOS 7.1.2 cellular data bug [1], our losses are capped.

Not so with ptel Real Paygo, a service I recently compared to H2O mobile. My son’s cellular data was disabled two days ago, and when I inspected his account I found this notice:

Screen Shot 2014 10 06 at 8 56 33 PM

His did make use of that data, perhaps due to an iOS 7.1.2 bug (thanks Apple) [1]. He still shouldn’t have run up an actual overage however. ptel should have run his account to zero and then cut off service. Instead they ran up the equivalent of 3 years of his typical usage - perhaps due to problems in ptels accounting infrastructure (in which case the honorable thing would be for them to “eat” the overages they didn’t block).

I haven’t bothered pursuing this with ptel — I’d been planning to switch my sone back to H2O wireless after H2O provided a profile to enable 4G data services on the AT&T network. So I abandoned the ptel number. He doesn’t get that many phone calls, so reactivating iMessage on these MVNO networks is the primary pain. I’m just glad this didn’t happen to my daughter. Changing her phone number would be a Richter 10 crisis.

I hope H2O doesn’t have the same abominable practice. Google searches didn’t turn up anything about this practice, but I might not have the right search terms.

[1] My son ran through 1.2 GB of Podcast data on his prepaid account. I have screenshot evidence that was set not to use Cellular data, and when I inspected his phone changes to the cellular data controls were restricted. Nonetheless, cellular data access was enabled. I’ll keep an eye out for a class action suit …

iOS 7: Apple may have broken Safari by changing iCloud sync behavior

My son’s iOS 7 Safari began loading very slowly and crashing on bookmark entry.

Disabling Safari sync in iCloud settings fixed the problem.

I assume Apple has made changes to iCloud as part of their general iOS 8 screwup, and those changes are now impacting iOS 7 users.

iOS: When enabling iMessage get directed to turn on cellular data even when it's already enabled

iOS: When enabling iMessage get directed to turn on cellular data even when it’s already enabled … You probably have Cellular data disabled for Settings. Even though it’s enabled for iMessage you need to also enable it for Settings. It’s a misguided error response, the code wasn’t updated to manage iOS 7 cellular data control.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

AirPlay is not compatible with Extend Network -- at least on my AirPort Express

After much suffering I discovered AirPlay is not compatible with "Extend Network" on my @2012 AirPort Express.

Would be helpful if Apple documented this.

When I enabled Network Extension I had frequent dropouts. Switched to Join Network and it's fine.

Maybe my location is pathological, but I bet I'm not alone.