Feb 022016
 

I use screen capture.  A lot.  I use it to capture reminders.  I use it to capture technical information that I might need later.  I use it to capture images of bills I have paid online…  You get the idea.  On more than one occasion, I’ve wanted to review an image I captured when I was away from my computer.  What a pain.  So I got thinking about how I could use iCloud document sharing to synchronize the images between devices.  The image files aren’t particularly large.  I use Dropbox for just about everything, so the 5GB of free Apple storage is more than enough.  I’m not terribly worried if Apple changes something with .mac, (I mean .me, I mean iCloud) and deletes all my shit… While I love their (older) computers, their cloud “services” seem to be getting worse and worse in the post Jobs era.

Back on topic, the process to accomplish this was fairly easy, but did require 3rd party software.

I first attempted to save the screen shots directly to the iCloud Documents folder (technically a folder called ‘screenshots’ that I had created there), but no dice.  So I figured I’d just have the screen captures saved in the ‘screenshots’ folder I created in the Pictures folder.  Then use something monit to watch the folder and call a shell script when it sees new files added.

So I got about 5 minutes into that and then remember that I had a copy of Hazel.  Mashing buttons in the shell demonstrates computer ninja skills.  But if you just want to get shit done in a hurry (or you don’t know shit), nothing better than a solid GUI to serve up that command line power.Hazel Rule

You can see the path info in the picture.  But just in case you’ve got those “progressive bifocals” it looks like this:

NOTE:  I added screenshots to keep the root folder clean.

I know, a GUI solution is totally cheating.  You could do it for free with monit….  Whatevs…  Here’s what it looks like on the phone:

Screenshots in iCloud

Jun 052015
 

So iCloud Family Sharing is a bit of a bust.  The wizard for setting up all the security measures on each account that you must create, combined with the lack of privacy, AND the fact that a payment method is now required are a real pain.  If you’re planning to let children use the devices unsupervised – you’d be amazed what they can find on Youtube – and you don’t want to have to explain any number of topics you’re not prepared for, then you need a better method to lock down the devices.

The problem with Apple Configurator is that when Supervise mode is used (which is necessary to lock down most of the device), application distribution is designed to work with the Volume Purchase Program (VPP) which is closed to consumers.  Even if you have a DUNS number (which is required to register as a business) you are stilled faced with purchasing multiple copies of software you’ve already paid for. Even for the kids on two devices, I’d be looking at $30 minimum to get Plex, Minecraft (a game they enjoy), and Move the Turtle (introduction to basic programming similar to Logo on the old Apple IIe’s).  Since iCloud Family Sharing allows you to share apps between family owned devices (up to 5, I believe), Apple is not requiring you to pay for additional copies of software… UNLESS you wish make the iOS device safe for children to use.

There are subscription based Mobile Device Management (MDM) providers that provide access to some management features and application deployment capability, but I was unable to find one that really offered the ability to secure and customize the device to my liking.  In any case, to deploy apps with via MDM,you still have to have a VPP account.

When the kids are a bit older, and are responsible enough to have unrestricted access to our iPads and old iPhones, an MDM provider such as Curbi.  I’ll probably subscribe next year when Liam is 10.  This way he can have his own iOS device, but I can control when it works and when it doesn’t from a well designed and easy to use iOS app.

For now, the challenge was to get an appropriate selection of the apps I own onto a phone configured and secured for each kid.  Initially, I wrongly assumed that since the intention was to deploy apps via VPP, there was likely no easy alternative to purchasing additional license for the software in order to make the phones safe for children.  Ultimately, I found the checkbox which allows Supervise mode to be used without removing existing applications.  Always the damn checkboxes that get me!

Here’s what the preferences pane look like:

Best to clear both if you don't want to waste time

Best to clear both if you don’t want to waste time

The default settings are both boxes checked.  Since I failed to notice that when I first setup the phones, Every time I applied a profile, all the apps were wiped off the phone. Very frustrating to say the least.

Lock screen  preferences are found here:

The benefit of using Supervise mode

The benefit of using Supervise mode

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

to be continued…

Dec 112014
 

I like to see where my mail is coming from.  I like to see how Spamassassin is scoring messages so that I can fine tune the settings.  I have a lot of plugins for OSX Mail, so the prospect of moving to a third party mail client and losing all of my Mailtags/Devonthink/Omnifocus/Things integration doesn’t seem worth it.  Clicking the stupid icon to show headers on every message is a real pain in the ass as well.  Why the option to show all as default was removed is beyond me.  Here’s a peek at the foolishness I had to endure just to get the default view back to what I was used to under Mavericks:

I'm sure I've missed some!

I’m sure I’ve missed some!

Nov 112014
 

My 2009 Mac Mini is in desperate need of an SSD upgrade.  Unfortunately, I have close to 1TB of data there (mostly PLEX media), so upgrading the two drives would be cost prohibitive.  I will probably pick up a 2012 MD388LL/A with i7 CPU at some point…  I hope.  The new ones are pretty much not upgradeable.

Since my website and mail server are running on Mavericks, I dare not load Yosemite on that system.  Lord only knows what would happen to PLEX.  It was just recently updated to solve a memory leak issue which pretty much crippled the machine on more than one occasion.  I even bought an APC Masterswitch in case I had to remote hard boot the server in case my mail stopped working.

I’ve replicated most of the shell configuration from the Mac Mini Server I setup at work to the one at home.  There were some pretty helpful blogs which outlined how to include command aliases in bash.  This makes it real easy to execute a multi tail of all three mail server logs.  I think It might be useful to consider customizing the log system on the new servers to make data mining easier.  Everyone is so convinced that the mail server is broken, that I am constantly providing proof of delivery from the mail log data.  It’s actually really useful when dealing with another company’s IT – especially if they’re outsourced.

multitail of Mavericks mail server

multitail of Mavericks mail server

 

I’ve got a Linux box that I’m messing around with here as well.  I think I can do port mirroring on the switch and send all mail traffic to both servers.  Maybe even a simpler configuration until the Linux box goes live.  In either event, Mavericks handling of spam messages, (assuming you want to use spamtrainer to update bayesian filter rules) leaves much to be desired.  Accounts have to be created on the system for “junkman” and “notjunkmail”.  This looks ridiculous on the login screen for starters…  Messages meant to be used for training must be redirected to the other accounts.  This is easy for experienced IMAP users, but for novices using a PC based mail client, it may be very difficult at best.

 

Nov 112014
 

Following many months of attempting to resolve an issue whereby incoming mail delivery was disrupted every 48 – 60 hours, I now have a functioning patch in place. Recently, I determined that the mail filter (amavis), was faulting during it’s cleanup cycle. Somehow it’s temp (working) folder is deleted, and then the process hangs. Consequently, postfix is unable to deliver mail since the filter has broken it’s connection. Thanks to monit (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monit), I was able to configure a service that verifies the temp folder status every 60 seconds, and then creates the folder with the proper user/group permissions (_amavisd:_amavisd) if it does not exist. Mail delivery is restored immediately, as the amavis process is now able to execute.

IMG_3255
The mail server has now been error free for four
days and counting!

IMG_3256

No need to watch the server logs in real-time any longer!

The amavisd version included with Mountain Lion is 2.8.0. I believe that somewhere in the modified code is an error that is triggered by a yet to be identified instruction sequence or message handling. It is certainly due to some modification I made to the server config at some point. Either way, there should be no further ‘tweaking’ required. I am now able to direct my attention back to the pure Linux mail server that will enable end users to customize their own mail filtering options. Once the configuration is tested, I can begin importing the active directory accounts, and replicating dovecot folders.

Now that I won’t have to restart the mail service – the monit solution solves the problem gracefully. Existing IMAP connections to dovecot are not disrupted, so end users are not disconnected from their mailboxes. Not only will confidence be restored, but secondary issues such as incorrect passwords entered at the mail client’s prompting will improve end user satisfaction.