Friday, July 24, 2015

Download Error on Adobe Creative Cloud for Mac

Problem: You log into the Adobe Cloud and select to install an application but wind up with a "Download Error"

Solution:

1. Completely exit the Adobe Cloud app.
2. Enable root user per https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204012
3. Log out of OSX (not just switch user, you need to log out)
4. Log into to Mac as root and whatever password you set in the first step
5. Log into the Adobe Cloud app and select to install the application.
6. When the download gets to at least 1%, cancel it and log out.
7. Log back in with your normal account and you should be able to install the applications from Adobe Cloud now.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Keynesian Economics and Peak Oil

As I read articles on the web about our economic malaise beginning in 2008 and continuing until now (stock market moves notwithstanding) I am constantly confronted with scathing condemnations of "Keynesian economics" and how it has failed us. Usually these are conservative commentators who deride the Federal Reserve and call their continued activity in taking on debt through Quantitative Easing "extend and pretend".
If you've read my blog at all you know I subscribe to the theory that our economic malaise is a result of the end of cheap oil. I am currently reading "Energy and the Wealth of Nations" by Charles Hall and Kent Klitgaard which, among other things, helps put the issue of "Keynesian economics" within the backdrop of energy. I will summarize what I believe is their understanding.
Through several permutations of prevailing economic theory we have based our understanding of economics on the resources and constraints in existence at the time. Classical economics was much more concerned with limits, while Keynesian economics is very much unconcerned with limits of natural resources. Keynes could get away with such a theory because of the ascendancy of cheap fossil fuels. Essentially, it was assumed that cheap energy was here to stay, therefore growth is here to stay. Economic downturns were merely the result of market imbalance and could be corrected through government spending/debt in order to "goose" the economy back into line. The government could also act to restrict the economy if it overheated.
That is all well and good if the assumption of unlimited cheap energy remains valid. The stagflation of the 1970s presented a big puzzle to mainstream economists at the time because, within a Keynesian framework, inflation and stagflation never go together. However, when resource limits constrict the ability to grow in a debt-fueled system, stagflation is exactly what you get.
Now, a country can ignore the reality of limits to cheap energy and continue to apply Keynesian tactics anyway. This is what has been called "extend and pretend" by many commentators. It still works, but only halfway... it keeps the economy from totally imploding but only results in limited growth while fueling inflation which may or may not extend across all sectors at any point in time.
What such government action fails to take into account is that government spending during a time of economic trouble is also predicated upon the availability of cheap energy. In this case, government debt is the appropriate action because continued growth is sure to follow which makes the debt a very good return on investment. It is a cycle of debt and growth that exists at the private and public level and defines what is known as the typical "post-war" economy.
Keynesian economics is ENTIRELY APPROPRIATE against a backdrop of never-ending cheap energy. It is SUICIDE without it.
The occurrence of US peak oil in 1971 and the occurrence of conventional peak oil around 2005-2006 both generally coincided with an increase in the growth of debt both public and private that had to be taken on in order to keep the "ship afloat." A day of reckoning is coming where debt and credit will collapse in the face of persistent economic stagnation.
There are no easy answers. I think one very worthwhile project that must be undertaken is to combat economic inequality. Unfortunately, I think when the whole house of cards comes down, economic inequality will correct itself very violently. The powers that be could correct it now, take the hit to their fortunes, and help everybody get the resources necessary to help weather the shocks ahead. As it stands, the American people know who to blame for the desperation that is to come. First name "One," last name "Percent."
The "One Percent" also better be prepared to take the blame for inaction on global warming as well, which will start to become very obvious over the next 10 years. Through their religious right lackeys and their Fox News propagandists they've hemmed and hawed and doubted and stalled and tried to confuse the American public. But global warming tends not to occur in a linear fashion but in a stepwise fashion and we now in 2015 are at the beginning of another bump up.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Energy and the Economy: From Slavery to Oil to Fusion

In today's society it is common to think of slavery in the context of human rights. This context is a very modern development and is not entirely helpful when understanding the issue of slavery throughout history. Slavery has been an economic force for a majority of mankind's history, and it has not always been associated with kidnapping or racism. Societies in the past have allowed slavery as a matter of debt repayment or criminal sentencing. Of course, as with any economic asset, when legal means are not sufficient to satisfy demand, other means are employed. The point is that throughout history, the needs of human economies in relation to labor have been supplied in a large part through slavery.
Another modern conception that clouds our view of pre-industrial economies is that of energy. Energy in pre-industrial economies was resourced from human and natural sources. That is to say, they burned combustible materials like wood or oil but these fuel sources were very small in comparison to modern fuel sources. The majority of pre-industrial energy needs were met through human labor.
The result is that pre-industrial slavery was an essential component of a growing local, regional, and even global economy. The end of slavery in the US involved a Civil War that pitted an industrialized, free North against a much more agrarian, slave-owning South, with the industrialized North winning, of course. The backs of slaves were no match for the industrial might of the Union.
The advent of the steam engine and the exploitation of fossil fuel energy in industrial processes made human labor too expensive for the kinds of basic manual labor slaves were used for.
Fast forward to today. Our society has become ever more energy intensive. See this video of an Olympic cyclist, unable to provide enough cycling power to even fully toast a piece of bread. Toasting a piece of bread requires 2 minutes at 700 watts, or .0233kWh. The average cost of 1 kWh in the US is 12 cents. So then the Olympic cyclist couldn't provide sustained energy to equal two-tenths of a cent of electric power. Now consider your 1500 watt microwave that runs for 5 minutes to heat your frozen dinner. Or my "ultra-efficient" heat pump that pulls about 2600 watts to heat or cool my house for hours on end. Modern man takes the enormity of our power consumption for granted. And you can see why machines are better than slaves.
The very existence of "jobs" in modern society is a consequence of the deployment of ultra-intense energy sources making basic human labor relatively expensive. The rise of industry and the development of manufacturing as a driver of economic growth meant that human employment was now best deployed in the operation, care, and maintenance of industrial processes. Such jobs require more than energy, they require thought and computation.
Enter the computer age. Much of the operation, care, and maintenance of industrial processes is now performed by computers which, if they are not capable of semi-intelligent decision making, are at least capable of operating logically within a set of predefined parameters. This made a whole new set of human labor relatively expensive. Now, human employment is best deployed in the operation, care, and maintenance of computers, networks, and their peripherals.
Rather than pontificate on what the next step in this evolution will be (it has been done a lot already), I find it more important to consider that our economic system, and the human civilizations and cultures that now depend on modern society, are like an airplane. It's great as long as you have fuel. The question of what fuel we can use for energy and what impact it will have on our economy and environment is THE defining issue of our time. Don't let low oil prices distract you...they are representative of market forces and NOT supply. We are heading towards peak oil, and market forces will have no power to stop the calamity once the world realizes Saudi Arabia has hit and passed peak production. If that doesn't mean much to you, consider the fact that if we burn the fossil fuels all the optimists think we have, our civilization stands to be shattered by geological and meteorological phenomena resulting from all of heat that released carbon dioxide traps in our atmosphere. To ignore both of these impending dangers is insane.
What is one to do, though? Cheap energy of the intense kind like we have in fossil fuels is directly related to the economic well-being and growth of the world. But let's take a moment and clarify what we mean by "cheap". If a $4 billion dollar investment yields an amount of energy to fuel the entire world as current economic levels of activity for 10 years, that's cheap. It's one of the arguments to be made for harvesting Helium-3 from the Moon and bringing it to Earth for easy fusion power. Sure, it takes a lot of money to get it here, but the energy production (theoretically) would more than justify the price.
We need to take this concept into a little more technical territory. The concept is return on investment, or specifically energy returned on energy invested (EROEI). If I spend 5 units of energy extracting 5 units of energy, that's an EROEI of 1. If I get 10 units of energy for my 5 units of effort, that's an EROEI of 2.
Cheap energy, defined ECONOMICALLY, is energy that has a high EROEI. The EROEI of all world oil sources has come down from near 100 at the beginning of the oil age to around 30 in 1995 to 18 in 2006. Regardless of the prices at the pump, oil is getting more expensive in economic terms. This is due to decreasing resources and the subsequent shift towards lower quality sources (off-shore, shale, tar sands). Our society is paying an ever higher price for energy; where it is not being reflected in higher prices it is being reflected in diversion of investment assets from the economy as a whole towards energy requirements.
So now we can consider the standard of living issue regarding energy. The political backlash against carbon pricing and controls is rooted in the adverse economic effects of making the exploitation of fossil fuels more costly. On the high end, it's about corporate bigwigs protecting profits. On the low end, it's about the average Joe who doesn't want to lose their job or pay more for fuel or other goods. It seems everybody has a stock in delaying carbon pricing and controls.
But here's the rub... collapse of today's "cheap oil" paradigm is already occurring through an EROEI that is going ever lower. Do we as a society want to ride this train down the hill pretending we can fix it until we realize it's game over? Or do we as a society want to preempt what is coming?
Solar and wind are waiting near the bottom of the hill with EROEIs of 10 and 18, respectively. They aren't the answer because they bring down the combined EROEI of our energy base instead of raising it. This is why the intense deployment of renewables is always accompanied by government subsidies and increased electric rates. We're at something like 5% of our electric generation from these sources, nationally. I'd hate to imagine my electric bill if they were a majority! We have a term for this issue in Information Technology: scalability. The economic scalability of renewables is horrible, unfortunately. (Geothermal is also low EROEI, and nobody wants nuclear anymore.)
The solution? Fusion.
OK back to reality. No seriously, fusion is THE answer. But since it is not going to happen on a wide scale within our lifetimes, we need another strategy. And it is this:
WE NEED TO TAKE STEPS TO REDUCE OUR ECONOMIC ACTIVITY BEFORE ENERGY SUPPLY ISSUES FORCES US TO, RESULTING IN SUDDEN, SEVERE ECONOMIC HARDSHIP.
And the perfect catalyst for this activity is concern over climate change, because the only way to mitigate climate change is to reduce the use of fossil fuels by making it more expensive, usually through market disincentives, taxes, and regulation.
Action on climate change will result in higher prices and greater unemployment as EROEI drops even further. But again, it is expected, it is a controlled descent. It's called LANDING THE PLANE BEFORE YOU RUN OUT OF GAS. Nobody wants to stop flying but there is no other choice unless you WANT to crash.
The hopeful upside is that somewhere along this controlled descent, we'll perfect fusion, or make solar PV cheap AND ultra-efficient, or find some other breakthrough. And it will allow us to fly our civilization higher again. In the meantime, we will have made a meaningful effort towards limiting climate change.
I hope I am alive when that energy breakthrough hits. Our society will take off to a whole new level. All the old 1950s/60s optimism about the progress of mankind and the awesomeness of the future? Of mankind's continual and rapid progress? The optimism that was shattered in the energy crises of the 1970s? It will come back. Because it's all about energy. It always was. With an energy source with a high enough EROEI, you can provide fresh water for the world by desalinating the oceans. You can run machines to actively pull CO2 from the air. Things we can't do right now because the energy cost is too high will suddenly become possible. It will be called the fusion/solar/whatever revolution and it will be spoken in the same breath with the Industrial Revolution.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Preparing for Written Exams for Computer Technology Support Technician Jobs

Know your A+ type of information; you should probably already have your A+. Grab the Pearson Exam Cram guide for A+ if you need it.
In addition, here are some extra resources to pay attention to.

The difference between BIOS and CMOS:
http://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch001360.htm
Understand IRQ basics (more of a reminder, hopefully):
http://www.pgmusic.com/tutorial_irq.htm
POST beep codes (AMI, most common on tests):
http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia/term/38515/beep-codes
Soldering basics (why? I have no idea! just have a passing familiarity):
http://electronicsclub.info/soldering.htm
GBIC and SFP modules:
http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/td/docs/routers/7200/install_and_upgrade/gbic_sfp_modules_install/5067g.html
Fiber connectors:
http://www.cablestogo.com/learning/connector-guides/fiber-networking
DCPromo:
AirPlay:
Cram for the Mac Questions (study the Answers sections):

More in-depth training on Mac (prepping for the ACSP 10.10 cert):

Friday, May 08, 2015

Installing OSX Yosemite on VirtualBox

[note] - The OSX EULA limits what physical machine you may virtualize OSX on. See http://www.apple.com/legal/sla/ for the appropriate EULA.

***Creating a Yosemite ISO***

Download the OSX Yosemite installer from the App Store on a Mac, which will place it in the Applications folder.
If you try to download from another source you take your chances with someone hijacking your OS, besides it being an illegal copy.

Run these commands in the Terminal:

hdiutil attach /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Yosemite.app/Contents/SharedSupport/InstallESD.dmg -noverify -nobrowse -mountpoint /Volumes/install_app
hdiutil convert /Volumes/install_app/BaseSystem.dmg -format UDSP -o /tmp/Yosemite
hdiutil resize -size 8g /tmp/Yosemite.sparseimage
hdiutil attach /tmp/Yosemite.sparseimage -noverify -nobrowse -mountpoint /Volumes/install_build
rm /Volumes/install_build/System/Installation/Packages
cp -rp /Volumes/install_app/Packages /Volumes/install_build/System/Installation/
cp -p /Volumes/install_app/BaseSystem.* /Volumes/install_build/
hdiutil detach /Volumes/install_app
hdiutil detach /Volumes/install_build
hdiutil resize -size `hdiutil resize -limits /tmp/Yosemite.sparseimage | tail -n 1 | awk '{ print $1 }'`b /tmp/Yosemite.sparseimage
hdiutil convert /tmp/Yosemite.sparseimage -format UDTO -o /tmp/Yosemite
rm /tmp/Yosemite.sparseimage
mv /tmp/Yosemite.cdr ~/Desktop/Yosemite.iso

***Getting the ISO to your other machine[see note]***

Format a USB drive with exFAT. Drive should be at least 8GB. Copy the ISO to there.
OR.. if both machines are on a LAN, share out a folder on your other machine[see note] and connect to it from the Mac. (smb://IPADDRESS-OR-HOSTNAME)

***Working with VirtualBox***

Create a New VirtualBox machine, choosing the latest version of OSX listed as the OS you will be installing. Allow at least 2GB of RAM.
After the setup wizard, once you are back at the main VirtualBox screen, under the VM settings for System change the chipset to PIIX3.

Before booting, execute the following commands replacing Yosemite with whatever you named the new VM. The VBoxManage tool is with the VirtualBox program files, and can be accessed on a Mac in /usr/bin
Change to the appropriate directory at the command line and run the following.

VBoxManage modifyvm "Yosemite" --cpuidset 00000001 000306a9 04100800 7fbae3ff bfebfbff
VBoxManage setextradata "Yosemite" "VBoxInternal/Devices/efi/0/Config/DmiSystemProduct" "MacBookPro11,3"
VBoxManage setextradata "Yosemite" "VBoxInternal/Devices/efi/0/Config/DmiSystemVersion" "1.0"
VBoxManage setextradata "Yosemite" "VBoxInternal/Devices/efi/0/Config/DmiBoardProduct" "Iloveapple"
VBoxManage setextradata "Yosemite" "VBoxInternal/Devices/smc/0/Config/DeviceKey" "ourhardworkbythesewordsguardedpleasedontsteal(c)AppleComputerInc"
VBoxManage setextradata "Yosemite" "VBoxInternal/Devices/smc/0/Config/GetKeyFromRealSMC" 1

Set your Yosemite ISO as the CD/DVD drive in the settings for your VM.

***Installing OSX***

Boot the VM. (At one point it may say LPC device initialization failed and appear to hang; just a wait a minute or two.) At the installer, go to Utilities>Disk Utility and create one Mac OS Journaled partition on the VM hard drive.
Then complete the installer, choosing the hard drive partition you just created.
When I did this I had installation hang at a particular spot for like half an hour. Come to find out that I could not longer find the ISO on the USB drive.
Either the USB drive went out or something deleted the ISO. I got a new copy, put it on my hard drive, and set it to read-only. Then the install went fine.

***iCloud won't work***

iCloud activations are tied to the system serial number. There are some advanced tools that attempt to modify the OSX system files to change this.
Google Chameleon Wizard if you are interested. Not covering here because of the high risk of borking everything and having to start over.

***Disabling Visual Effects***

On the new OSX install, download and install BeamOff. This will need to be run on every boot to work. The visual effects don't get along with the VirtualBox driver.

[note] - The OSX EULA limits what physical machine you may virtualize OSX on. See http://www.apple.com/legal/sla/ for the appropriate EULA.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Replacing a Mac Hard Drive

Choices for migrating your Mac files and settings to a new drive:

1. Boot into Recovery Mode (Command-R) and use Disk Utility to copy the system partition to the new drive connected via an external enclosure.

OR
2. Remove the drive and duplicate using a duplicator.

OR the option I think is best:
3. Install the new drive and reload OSX. Then use Migration Assistant to pull in files and settings from the original drive connected via an external enclosure.

Strategies to make the new drive work well under OSX:

- Use SSD Chameleon to enable TRIM if the new drive is an SSD AND your OSX is 10.6.7 and above. If this software refuses to enable TRIM you need to wipe and reload OSX. If your OSX is 10.10.4 or greater just use the trimforce command built-in to OSX.
- Use SSD Fan Control to quiet the fan if the new drive doesn't support temperature sensor connector

Don't forget to reference the relevant repair guide on ifixit.com so you know how to get to the drive and reassemble things with a minimum of fuss.
Don't forget a 2.5" to 3.5" bracket if you are installing an SSD into a Mac with a desktop hard drive such as the iMac. Avoid brackets that support more than one drive as they might be too large fit in cramped Mac interiors.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Network Folder Question Mark in OSX Dock

Problem: Network folders show up in the dock as a question mark and can't be opened.

Solution: Create a file nsmb.conf with the following two lines:

[default]
smb_neg=smb1_only

Save it to the desktop. Open Terminal.
Run the command "sudo bash"
Enter your sudo password. If you don't know it, look HERE.
Enter the command "cp ~/desktop/nsmb.conf /etc/nsmb.conf"
Run the command "exit" and then exit the Terminal.
Restart.
The folder should show up properly now.

This forces SMB back to version 1 of the protocol for all users.