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Disclaimer: The entries you find in these pages are based on my individual opinions and thoughts. Some of the entries may be just plain wrong, and others harmful. Should you choose to act on, or try, anything you find on this site, you assume any and all risks associated with your actions. So there.



 


I Ordered an iPad

March 25, 2010

The outcome of my predictions about the Apple Tablet, which we now know as the iPad, were disappointing. No new method of data entry just an onscreen keyboard. The novel way of viewing video was partially addressed by the incorporation of a stand into the standard iPad case better than nothing, and I think probably smart in that there are no extras to carry around. The big surprise for me is that there is no HDTV output. There is VGA, which covers a lot of ground, but clearly this device is not being targeted at the living room entertainment market as a primary device.

All this leads me to believe that Apple has something new up their sleeve for the AppleTV. I'm thinking a beefed up version of it. Perhaps, and even better IMO, a Mac Mini Media edition. If they can ship a Mac Mini Server, why can't they ship a media edition? It would be a killer idea.

I have been learning how to write iPhone Apps, and have developed one and am working on another. The first one will probably never be put into the store, but it was a good exercise in learning. The second will follow the same fate, but only because the app I am stealing ideas from is improving at a rapid rate.

So, I ordered an iPad in order to be able to develop for that platform or maybe I am learning to develop in order to have an iPad. No matter, mine arrives on April 3rd, right before spring break. So much for seeing the light of day. I ordered the 32Gb WiFi only model, plus the Apple case. I'll report back later.

Oh, Drobo, How You Disappoint Me

March 25, 2010

http://www.drobo.com

I have been hearing about Drobos for over a year now. Many pundits I trust simply rave about them. The technology sure does seem appealing: a box that can hold multiple hard drives of different capacities, and wrap them all up in a better than RAID data protection scheme.

I have two clients who had Drobo-like storage needs at about the same time. I ordered two Drobo S models for one, and a Drobo S and a Drobo Pro for the other. I loaded all of them up with the maximum number of 2Tb (terabyte) hard drives. For those who don't know, that is 5 x 2Tb = 10Tb for each Drobo S, and 8 x 2Tb = 16Tb for the Drobo Pro. Because of the way Drobos use the drives to protect your data, that means that roughly 7.5Tb of data storage is available on the Drobo S models, and 14Tb is available on the Drobo Pro.

The S/Pro pair arrived first. I immediately ran into trouble formatting the drives. I followed the Drobo instructions exactly, but upon first attempted format, the Drobo software basically told me "try again." I had three consecutive failures, and almost gave up. But, instead I rebooted the computer (can't hurt, might help, but not something that the Drobo instructions suggested), and that worked for the first drive. So, on to the second.

The second drive did the same thing. Being a bit wiser, this time I just quit the Drobo Dashboard software, and tried again. That worked. Huh. "Oh well," I thought, "picky software, but stable hardware." The rest of the install went peachy, and I gave it no more thought.

The second pair of Drobo S models arrived a few days later. This time I was prepared for the formatting failure. However, no matter what I did, I could not get either drive to format. It was infuriating. I was using the client's server this time (an Xserve G5), and repeated reboots weren't going to be cool. So, I resorted to my laptop and was able successfully to format both drives, only after a couple of failures similar to above.

Then, after I reconnected the Drobos to the server, very strange things began to happen. At first they wouldn't show up, then they would disappear. I went through so many iterations of connecting them up to this or that port changing cables, changing the order in which they connected, changing the configuration of the other drives connected to the server so many that I finally gave up and told the office that the server was going to be down for the rest of the day.

Then I got on the phone with Drobo support and proceeded to spend a few hours doing the same thing with them. The server had gotten to the point that it would kernel panic with one of the drives. The upshot was I was told to upgrade my server software. Crud. The upside was that it did give me an excuse to do an upgrade that I wanted, but couldn't otherwise have justified so I was Ok with that.

After installing Mac OS X 10.5 Server, and applying all the updates, the problems with the Drobos remained. By now the office was tired of no server, so I had to stop testing on the server, and resorted to testing exclusively on my MacBook Pro. I got back on the support site with Drobo, and eventually had a call with one of the techs. I had an idea that maybe my MacBook Pro, a Core Duo (NOT a Core 2 Duo) and my server (a G5) were too old for Drobos. The tech considered that for a moment, but assured me that this was not the case. He agreed to ship out a new unit to test. Upon arrival, it failed in similar ways.

At that point I began to cast around for other solutions. First, I rebooted my MacBook in Safe Mode. To my amazement, the Drobo worked without a hitch. So, something installed on the server and my computer was at fault. The only commonality between the two was the Drobo Software itself. Nah, couldn't be, right? I mean, if that were it, surely the Drobo tech would know about it, right?

I googled "uninstall drobo software" and the top article was from a site I read every day: MacOSXHints.com. Here: Fix a Drobo issue on non-64bit-capable Intel Macs. First, I literally slapped myself in the head for not going to google right away; second I kicked myself for not thinking of this site it is one of my go-to sites, and I know I had scanned this specific article.

I found the uninstaller in /Library/Application Support/Data Robotics/Drobo Dashboard/. I used the uninstaller, instead of mucking around with deleting specific files. Bingo everything worked flawlessly. So, my question remains: Surely the Drobo tech should know about it, right? Apparently not.

Moral of the story: don't think that just because your support tech is sharp and seems very knowledgeable, that he knows everything. Also, be suspicious of a tech who doesn't pursue a logical course of elimination when it involves his product.

I titled this "Oh Drobo, how you disappoint me" because I am disappointed that such a potentially cool company has totally missed what seems to me to be an obvious bug. Even cursory testing on some older hardware would demonstrate this issue. I have to assume that they have had tech calls on it as well. Note the date of the article above: November 2009.

Lastly, I sure do hope Drobo acts on this knowledge and fixes the software. I hate to say it, but I doubt it it has apparently existed since November or before. After informing the tech of what happened, I never got a response. I did close the ticket, and left a note offering to help them troubleshoot if needed. So far, crickets...

Macintosh Computer Technical Support and Repair, Charleston, SC

March 25, 2010

I write about a lot of things on this blog that are Macintosh related. In case you didn't know it, Macintosh support is what I and my company have done since 1995. What you need to know is that my company, Computer Consultants Group, Inc. offers support for all kinds of Macintosh (and Windows) issues, including help with new purchases, setup and installation, and troubleshooting. We support individuals, small business and even larger companies that have their own IT departments.

What are your other options in Charleston? Here you go:

The Apple Store well, not much to say here.

L2 Technologies these guys are an Apple Authorized repair center, plus they can fix iPods. They do all kinds of hardware repairs, and they do sales of Macs too. If you have an in-warranty repair, they are a great choice. They are in Mt. Pleasant, but have offices in Beaufort and Columbia too.

Tech Plus a small local firm in West Ashley (Outback Stake House Shopping Center), these guys are GREAT for OUT of warranty repair. Don't get me wrong, they are also Apple Authorized for in-warranty repair, but they have always been willing to go out of their way for my clients who have out of warranty equipment.

There you have it. If you want someone to come by and help you out, we are your guys. If you want to take your stuff in, try these other guys. Our phone is (843)722-7607, email@ccgnet.com