Saturday, November 21, 2020

Google's mysterious new blogging platform

Google Blogger has been largely forgotten, but over the past 1-2 years it's been receiving regular updates.

Mostly these have been improvements with a few odd regressions. Some of the regressions have been fixed.

It's kind of curious. Google still uses Blogger for some of their blogs on googleblog.com (ex: Scholar), but they also have a new platform - https://blog.google (KeynoteData Centers). On the Keynote blog page the RSS feed is hidden (but exists), on Data Centers and Photos blog there's a familiar feed icon top right. Data Centers articles date to 2012, but the .google domain was only registered in 2014. So they've migrated some old content, probably from Blogger.

I looked a the source from a Data Center post and it's surprisingly old school readable. There are commented out tags for handling IE 7 (!) and metadata for Open Graph and Twitter Card. Style sheets refer to "/static/blogv2/css/blog.min.css?version=4.4" />. 

I wasn't able to find any articles on "Google's new blog platform". That doesn't surprise me, Google search is fairly useless these days. Clearly they are up to something internally.

If they do make this a public blogging platform I'm sure it still won't handle paragraph spacing correctly.

Blogger will republish old posts with new dates but keep old URL

So I learned something today about Google's ancient blogger platform.

You can republish old content with new dates without breaking the URL. Today I revised a post I'd written in 2008, but I set the publication date to today's date.

The post republished with today's date and is ordered correctly on my tech blog page, but it kept the old URL embedded date: tech.kateva.org/2008/09/os-x-major-version-updates-my-approach.html.

It's probably always been that way, I just never tried republishing before.

It's something I'll do more often now.

Updating macOS - the paranoid approach (updated from 2008)

I wrote the first version of this on 9/13/2008. I was looking for it 11/21/2020 and decided to see if I could update it a bit in advance of going from Mojave to macOS Big Sur sometime in 2021 (I skipped Catalina entirely). I'm also experimenting with a revised publication date in Blogger.

For my own amusement I kept the original below. Here's what I do now for macOS updates:
  1. Make a fresh Aperture backup (still using it!) from within Aperture.
  2. Test both my Carbon Copy Cloner and Time Machine backups including a test file restore. I create two CCC clones and take one off-site. I don't usually make bootable clones but I do this time.
  3. Remove my backup drives.
  4. Disconnect everything.
  5. Reset SMC, reset NVRAM.
  6. Run hardware diagnostics, Onyx cleanup, and Same Mode boot.
  7. Turn off Time Machine backup.
  8. Update OS.
  9. Login to each user account on the machine and get iCloud working, check that Google services are connected (Mail, etc), run Notes, Contacts, Mail, etc.
  10. Do backup to fresh carbon copy cloner drive. Note Time Machine is still off.
After a day or so I have to decide what to do with Time Machine. I usually start over with a fresh TM backup rather than try to continue with the old one. My primary backup is CCC.

The original post from 9/13/2008

I prefer an OS update to petting a rabid wolf or getting a kidney transplant. Even so, they're not my favorite things. It was clear early on that Apple had botched 10.5 - a prelude to the MobileMe fiasco and the iPhone OS 2.0 fender bender. So I waited to 10.5.3 before updating our non-critical MacBook. That didn't go all that well; I'm still having problems.

On the other hand there's a lot to like about 10.5, and I imagine I know what to watch for.
After lots of experience with 10.5.4, I was read to risk an update to very important machine -- our trouble free PPC iMac G5 running10.4.11.

It's the procedure I follow with all major OS updates. I do all the work through my admin account.
  1. Check the backups are working so I know I have a current backup of data. I like to do a test restore of randomly selected file.
  2. Have another machine available in case the update runs into problems -- you may need Google.
  3. Don't do the OS update on a desktop machine during bad weather. This is a bad time to have a power failure. Make sure you can't accidentally pull a plug or turn off the power. (I once bricked a peripheral by hitting a power switch with my foot.)
  4. Do a safe boot to clean up the system and verify the drive.
  5. Disconnect all USB hubs and all firewire devices. Attach only an Apple keyboard and an Apple mouse.
  6. Pull the network cable (see below). You can plug it in when you need to get software updates. Nowadays there are all sorts of things a partly updated machine can destroy if it can get a the net.
  7. Restart then remove Preference Panes from admin account (ctrl-click then delete in preference view). Review and remove suspicious login items. Use Spotlight to find all apps or utilities with a date prior to 2004 - remove any that aren't needed.
  8. Uninstall known bad actors. I know, for example, that my copy of Missing Sync for Palm OS won't work with 10.5. I don't need it any more, so time to use the uninstaller. Remove Retrospect's client if present, that will need to be reinstalled.
  9. Turn off sync services, such as Spanning Sync. Don't turn them on again until you've run iCal, Address Book, mail, etc for the first time. I recommend turning off everything related to synchronization, including .Mac/MobileMe, anything in iTunes, any add-on services. To be extra sure, pull the network cable durign the update. Don't allow the machine to access the net without your control.
  10. I've already removed the evil Adobe Acrobat Reader and RealAudio.
  11. Copy the 10.5.4 Combo Updater to the desktop. I don't want to run 10.5.2 a moment longer than necessary. Confirm I have plenty of free drive space left.
  12. Review Mac OS X 10.4, 10.5: About installation options so I don't miss the 'Archive and Install' option [1] . (Made that mistake before!)
  13. Insert DVD and click the install button.
  14. Go walk the dogs, do the dishes, etc. Just the DVD verification takes an age and a half. (Yes, you can skip the verification. I prefer to let it run.) The update should proceed without any questions, so you can let it go.
  15. After the upgrade and reboot it can take a long time for the admin account to come up. Be patient.
  16. Restart again (to let caches be build properly) then apply the 10.5.4 compo updater. The machine will restart.
  17. Check all login items for all users. There's a bug in the 10.5.2 Archive and Install procedure that can cause login items to be applied across user accounts.
  18. Check for other updates. I was surprised I had to install iTunes 8 again -- it had been installed earlier. I imagine if I hadn't done this, and I'd tried to sync to my iPhone, the heavens would have fallen. You have to keep checking until no new updates are found.
  19. Run iCal and Address Book. Anyone else notice that 10.5 Address Book backup is under the export/archive menu now? Back 'em both up before any iPhones sync.
  20. Enable Spanning Sync and do an iCal sync with gCal.
  21. Run Keychain Access and Keychain First Aid.
  22. Run any app that iTunes works with or that intersects with the iPhone.
  23. Cycle through all accounts, looking for obvious trouble.
  24. Hook up the peripherals, download drivers for the MacAlly keyboard, etc etc.
  25. Expect Spotlight to suck CPU and drive the fan until the search indices are rebuilt. Let it run overnight.
  26. The long recovery begins.
There were a few curious things about this update:
  1. MobileMe didn't appear in software update, so it was only when I went to the old .Mac preference panel that I was asked to update to MobileMe. This might have caused some problems if I'd installed MobileMe.
  2. iTunes regressed to an earlier version. I had to update to iTunes 8 again. This would have caused serious problems if I'd missed this.
  3. Spanning Sync keeps telling me its deleting appointments from Google Calendar, but it doesn't say what it's deleting. I don't know why this is happening.
  4. The update resurrected a number of old apps and login items that I thought were long gone. They're reaking havoc on my syncs.
[1] Select this option if you want to install a "fresh" system on your computer. This type of installation moves existing System files to a folder named Previous System, then installs a new copy of Mac OS X. You cannot start up your computer using the Previous System folder. Archive and Install installations require the largest amount of available disk space because you need to have room to preserve your existing System and the new one you are installing. This is a good choice if you've already backed up your important files and are trying to resolve an existing issue. Mac OS X-installed applications, such as Address Book and Safari, are archived, and new versions are installed in the Applications folder. Some applications, plug-ins, and other software may have to be reinstalled after an “Archive and Install.” Fonts that were installed in the Fonts folder in the top-level Library folder can be installed in your new system by copying them from the Previous System folder.

macOS Mojave Safe Mode can take hours, the progress bar is no help. Also - Disk Utility and APFS

 TL;DR

What happened

When I'm doing a major macOS update I typically backup two different ways, unplug everything, do a Safe Mode start to clean caches and verify directory structures, run a hardware diagnostic startup, then I update. This time around I was just applying the latest Mojave update but I decided to do a safe mode start for the heck of it.

Safe mode's progress bar smoothly progressed to 100%. And then it sat there. For an hour or two. Finally I gave up and powered down. Clearly something was wrong.

I ran a hardware diagnostic (startup D). No problems.

I booted in Recover Mode and ran Disk Utility. It quickly finished. No problems. (But this was a mistake.)

I googled and found basically nothing (crank note below).

Finally ... something clued me to look more closely at Disk Utility. The partition that First Aid ran against was only a few GB. That made me look around a bit. I can't recall the exact sequence but I had to do something in the menu bar to show all possible partitions. Then I had to select a drive/partition thing to mount it. That required a password for at least one user (I gave it my admin user password). Then I could see the true 250GB data drive. Then I ran Disk Utility First Aid on that ... and it took about 15-30 min for each of 19 Time Machine snapshots. In all it took about 4 hours to run.

That night I boosted into Safe Mode before leaving the computer. When I got up it had completed without a problem.

Basically that progress bar is a bug. (macOS is infamous for missing and misleading progress bars.) In Mojave Disk Utility Safe Mode seems to run Disk Utility First Aid on all partitions/volumes at the very end of its execution when the progress bar is complete -- and that can take many hours. Even if there are no problems. If Safe Mode runs overnight and still hangs then you need to run Disk Utility First Aid to figure out where the problem is -- including running it on all partitions/volumes.

A crank footnote

Fifteen years ago when I ran into similar problems a quick Google search would have returned many blog posts and forum comments explaining the problem. In 2020 my searches turned up a single cryptic Apple Discussion post saying safe mode took a "long time" to complete. I figured an hour was a "long time", but it looks like 8 hours is conceivable. The modern web is decrepit. I doubt, for example, that Google will actually index this particular post.