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Meltdown and Spectre January 10, 2018

Posted by Steven in In-Media.
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Initially I was hesitant to post about these low level flaws in today’s computing architectures. But I learned over the past days that these flaws are too big and the impact to vast to not write about them.

What is happening / what flaws? So in my own words: Researchers discovered new security holes and described scary hacking scenarios. These attack scenarios focus on the fact, that everything that a PC or smart device works on is saved in memory. Memory areas are kept separate (generally by tech built into your CPU and your operating system). But there are also techniques that allow to jump between memory areas (kind-of). These incredibly smart and complex technologies can be attacked as we know now. So some complex malware running in your browser could theoretically access memory data used by your password manager. That’s surely not what you want. But to put a disclaimer on this statement: You i.e. the user would have to get this malware and actually run it (under favorable conditions as described in the researchers works) – so what I’ve heard all the time is, that the attack scenarios are highly theoretical and that computer systems in the cloud are more likely to get attacked (as opposed to your personal laptop).

With this post I wanted to make people aware that this is really a big issue. It is a low level attack scenario on the CPU / RAM level. It affects many many kinds of devices – old and new ones. It is hard to patch.

I wanted to gather some ‘good’ sources here to help you read more details:


I started reading about these attacks around 31st of December 2017. Intel may have been aware of the issue since July 2017. And in my view the media did not really know how to explain and talk about these attack scenarios. Just this week I started seeing simple logos and more adequate explanations and videos about these complex topics. I had a look at meltdownattack.com and I found great resources including the logos. Thanks for allowing free use of these logos and full image credit goes to designer: Natascha Eibl.

Tame Gatekeeper in OS X 10.9 – macOS Mavericks December 27, 2016

Posted by Steven in Software.
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Apple set up Gatekeeper as one of the prime methods to protect users from malicious software. It’s basically a security system integrated into macOS which checks executable software against a list of malicious stuff.

I recently noticed that in Apple’s latest desktop OS “Mavericks” (10.9) there is no Gatekeeper setting for allowing any kind of software to run on your Mac. You can find Gatekeeper settings in the “Preference” App under option “Security” in the “General”-Tab. There you are now limited to allow App-Downloads (just) from the Apple App Store; or from the Apple App Store and from verified Developers.

Previously there was a setting for ‘allow from – “Anywhere” ‘. This was useful to me in certain situations – basically during troubleshooting certain Apps.

Here is how you get this “Anywhere” Option back under Mavericks:

Open Terminal and enter this command (confirm with Admin Password):

sudo spctl --master-disable

And that’s it. The formerly available Option returns to your “Preferences” App.

Mac: Use dropbox to sync documents and desktop folders September 23, 2016

Posted by Steven in Apps.
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With regards to yesterday’s post briefly touching on symlinks used to backup an iPhone to an external harddrive – I would like to provide another exciting use case for handy symbilic links on a Mac.

This article caught my eye:


I really like dropbox. For me it is a quick and reliable way to synchronize  files between a Mac a PC and a smartphone. The general way how dropbox works on computers:

  • you download an app from dropbox.com
  • it sets up a folder “dropbox” and keeps the contents of this folder in sync with other machines and with  the cloud side of dropbox

For more fancy use cases it would be nice if you could pick several important folders outside of the dropbox folder to keep these files backed up or in sync as well.

Well using symbolic links you can do that! As the article neatly describes: The basic way is: create a symbolic link for example for your desktop  or documents folder. Then rename the original folder and go on syncing. However if more than one  Mac should sync the  documents folder for example it is important that in the first round of “Rippling the change across computers” one must  manually take care of the different files from different Macs all ending  up in one dropbox. The article describes all the details.

A simple symlinc command would be:


sudo rm -rf ~/Documents

ln -s ~/Dropbox/Documents ~/Documents

eventually the second command has to be “sudo”ed as well:
sudo ln -s ~/Dropbox/Documents ~/Documents


And please read the article:



Update 1 / September: 

  • I’ve just tried the above method in order to sync the “Desktop” and “Documents” folder of a MacBook Pro Retina March 2015 model and a late 2013 iMac. The MacBook running OS X El Capitan (10.11) and the iMac running Yosemite (10.10)
  • The effort ultimately succeeded but I must admit it was a little more difficult than I originally expected
  • Here is what I have done in detail
    • First we had to set up an approriate dropbox account – we had to log into dropbox using the browser and then download dropbox for Mac
    • We ran the installer and confirmed the login in the dropbox software
    • After that I opened “Terminal” and typed in the commands – starting with the linking for the  “Documents” folder
      • So I ran the rm then had to type the admin password then ran the ln (also I repeated with sudo ln)
      • Visually in the finder I tried to inspect the results of these commands
      • I opened a new Finder window and jumped to the user’s folder. Then there was a Documents folder. But it was blue’ish with the icon (so it looked unchanged from a vanilla OS X installation) when I opened the documents folder I saw just one Link there which pointed to the correct folder in the Dropbox.
      • So that  was not what I wanted: It looked like the standard “Documents” folder (which the rm command tried to remove) was still there and there was a link inside of it. Strange because ln …. with  the target “~/Documents” should have created something in ~/ not below Documents
    • On the 10.11 MacBook it seemed to help if I did the following
      • make sure  you are in the user’s main user directory (that is usually the case when you open Terminal). Otherwise you can check using ls and cd commands
      • Then I repeated the commands but  given  I was already in the main user direcctory I modified them slightly:
      • sudo rm -rf Documents
        sudo ln -s ~/Dropbox/Documents Documents
      • That seemed to work (I checked after the first command and for the first time the documents folder on the mac really was completely gone)
    • I can’t fully describe it but the 10.10 iMac seemed to behave slightly different.
      • I tried to run the ‘slightly modified’ commands straight away in the iMac
      • But initially it would not work (I saw a documents link in  the documents folder again)
      • Then I used the original commands and then the new commands and it worked
      • hard to explain / maybe it was just a visual glitch (I checked too quickly in finder etc.) but my impression was, that I had to run the commands multiple times and then it would work
  • Closing remarks:   Phew in the end it worked and that was good!  (I read somewhere, that you could approach a syncing effort from the dropbox side: Go to your dropbox folder and place links to your Desktop inside your Dropbox) – this worked briefly but it’s more a backup solution. For keeping two Macs in sync this method is not so practical.
    So in the end I had a user on two Macs and the default Documents and Desktop folders were removed and replaced with symlinks to Dropbox-counterparts. The dropbox software was running and keept things really nicely up to date on both machines! I will keep a close eye on this and I hope it will enable a smooth and safe workflow for the user.

How to Back Up an iPhone or iOS device to an External Hard Drive via iTunes? September 21, 2016

Posted by Steven in Apple.
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The amount of data on my iPhone keeps growing and growing (I regularly use a 128GB model) – while my trusted old MacBook Air from 2011 keeps loosing and loosing free SSD storage space. Also in terms of strategies to backup an iPhone, for the general public there are two strategies:

  • You could either go with Apple’s iCloud service. The name is the game – it is a cloud based service which gives you all kinds of stuff, for example space for syncing your photos across your i-devices. And it also gives you a wireless, cloud based backup service.
    Basically the app user data and phone settings will be backed up to Apple’s servers. Apple gives you 5GB of free storage space and offers additional paid plans. Recently a new pricing was announced – and there is now a new top tier plan which provides 2TB of storage for $19.99 per month ($239,88 per year).
  • Or you could go with the traditional iTunes backup. Meaning you would hook up your iPhone with your PC or Mac (either via lightning cable or via Wi-Fi) and backup using the iTunes software. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when considering this method. Basically the backups will be stored locally on the respective PC or Mac (in kind-of the user library folder of iTunes – more details on folders later on). So you have to make sure there is enough space on the computer and if the computer breaks your backup is gone as well. One thing I regularly ran into: Your computer’s iTunes software has to be fairly up to date. Usually with iOS updates come updated versions of iTunes. So quickly powering up an old PC with lots of TB storage space usually involves downloading and installing iTunes updates.

I personally believe for my use case iCloud is to expensive (and in some scenaries too dependant on my internet speed at home). So my backup method of choice used to be the iTunes variant – until that time that my MacBook is running out of space.

So I was looking for a decent way to back up my iPhone 6s Plus to an external hard drive.

For Macs running iTunes there seems to be an elegant solution (I am not so familiar with symbolic links on Windows – however it seems that a similar solution  could work on Windows: Guide at TechinOurLife.)

My internet search surfaced this very useful guide: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/3421834?tstart=0

  1. Pick an external hard drive and make sure there is enough space. Create a folder named “Backup” on your external drive. This can be done via Terminal with this command:
    1. "mkdir /Volumes/<ExternalDriveName>/Backup"
  2. Rename the local / standard iTunes backup folder on your Mac. Again the Terminal command:
    1. "mv ~/Library/Application\ 
       ~/Library/Application\ Support/MobileSync/Backup2"
    2. (this will keep the old local backups around – so make sure to clean this folder up if you need space / if you no longer need older backups)
  3. Create a symbolic link (these work well on OS X – I use them for a swift dropbox integration). This will look like the local iTunes Backup directory but it will point the computer to the external folder drive (specifically the folder we created in 1.). Again the Terminal command:
    1. "ln -s /Volumes/<EternalDriveName>/Backup 
      ~/Library/Application\ Support/MobileSync/"
  4. Launch iTunes and initiate the backup
  5. done

Please note: when the external disk is not connected the iTunes backup process will result in an error.

Upgraded to OS X 10.10 Yosemite: Notification settings not being saved April 26, 2015

Posted by Steven in Apple, The-Web.
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Judging from several threads in various forums: quite a few people seem to have this issue.

I use various MacBooks. All of them had several iterations of OS X installed. Now I upgraded all of them to OS X 10.10 Yosemite.

Several people noticed: On the new system you can set preferences for notifications for example (i.e. not seeing banners for every Facebook notification). However these settings are not being retained when the machine is being rebooted.

Here are some reports of the issue:





Fortunately very clever people found a solution for the issue. I am referring the wonderful site:


So here is the step by step solution for the issue:

  1. Open the Library folder in your Home folder.
  2. In the Library folder, open the Application Support folder.
  3. Locate the folder named NotificationCenter. Drag this folder to the desktop.
  4. Next, open the Terminal application.

    Copy and paste each line of these commands into the Terminal window, in order. Press return after each line:

    cd `getconf DARWIN_USER_DIR`
    rm -rf com.apple.notificationcenter
    killall usernoted; killall NotificationCenter

  5. Close the Terminal app.
  6. Restart your computer.
  7. The notification preference changes won’t stick until you restart a 2nd time after this.

This should be fixing the issue. Check for yourself if your Mac exhibits the issue and then let me know if the fix helps.

Tipp: Using the unified phone number in OS X Mountain Lion Messages App October 16, 2012

Posted by Steven in Apple, In-Media.
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this article describes how to manage the account unification with your phone number:


Mountain Lion 25-July-2012 July 25, 2012

Posted by Steven in Apple.
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As expected on Wednesday 25th of July Apple released Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Early reviews are generally positive and the swift performance and the nice additions like the notification center and the improved cloud features were well received by beta and golden master users.

Below you can find some general tips how to get a clean install and how to prepare a bootable USB stick:

Prepare a bootable external USB drive – capable of installing OS X 10.8

  1. Purchase and download Mountain Lion from the Mac App Store on any 10.8 compatible Mac running 10.6 or 10.7.
  2. Right click on “Install Mac OS X Mountain Lion.app” and choose the option to “Show Package Contents.”
  3. Inside the Contents folder that appears you will find a SharedSupport folder and inside the SharedSupport folder you will find the “InstallESD.dmg.” This is the Mountain Lion boot disc image you are looking for.
  4. Launch Disk Utility and go straight to the Restore tab.
  5. Drag “InstallESD.dmg” the Source field, and drag your external hard drive from the left side of the Disk Utility window into the Destination field.
  6. Check Erase Destination (if present), and begin your restore. (It goes without saying this process will erase everything on your external hard drive.) Once Disk Utility’s restoration is complete you will be the proud owner of a external drive capable of booting and installing Mountain Lion clean.

Boot from DVD / USB and install OS X 10.8

  1. Insert your installation DVD or connect your external boot drive into any 10.8 compatible Mac.
  2. Restart the Mac holding the option key, and choose Mac OS Install ESD as the startup volume.
  3. Once booted from the Mountain Lion installation media you will have the opportunity to run Disk Utility and erase your Mac’s primary hard drive. From the Erase tab select your Mac’s primary hard drive and choose “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” as the format. Before you erase the drive confirm you have a known good backup then click Erase.
  4. With your Mac’s primary hard drive wiped clean it is now time to begin installing Mountain Lion. Quit Disk Utility to go back to the Mountain Lion installer. Choose your Mac’s primary hard drive as the destination, and continue.


Dead Pixel Test October 18, 2011

Posted by Steven in gadgets.
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download all the following images – view them full screen and enlarged and check for dead pixels



Mac OS X Lion: Disable Resume per Application August 14, 2011

Posted by Steven in The-Web.
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After I upgraded to Lion I did use Quicktime a couple of times, the Quicktime X Player that is. It worked mostly as expected but I noticed after quitting and restarting, that the Resume feature was really getting in the way.. The Player re-opened all the old movies I’ve already watched. That’s certainly not what I wanted and certainly not very efficient in order to “resume” anything. So I poked around and found this guide to disable the feature:


Resume on Application basis

Let me document again what needs to be done to disable Resume on an application basis:

  1. In System Preferences this setting can be disabled system wide by disablingGeneral > Restore windows when quitting and re-opening apps.
  2. Pressing Option  when quitting an application from the menu or using Cmd+Q will disable Resume for the last session. Cmd+Q = quit and resume later,Opt+Cmd+Q = quit and forget the open windows.
  3. From the Terminal the Resume functionality can be disabled on a per application basis by using the command: defaults write [application identifier] NSQuitAlwaysKeepsWindows -bool false. For example defaults write com.apple.QuickTimePlayerX NSQuitAlwaysKeepsWindows -bool false will disable Resume for QuickTime after a restart. Issuing the command again usingtrue instead of false, will re-enable Resume for the application.
Finding the application identifier
In order to find the application identifier to use in the command above, Activity Monitor can be used.
  1. Open Activity Monitor
  2. In the main view select the Application where you would like to get the App Identifier from
  3. Click “Sample Process”
  4. Make sure in the Display drop-down “Sample Text” is selected
  5. Look for the “Identifier:” information and there you have the text you need to insert into above command.

Resume General Preference:

  1. Open System Preferences
  2. General
  3. In the second to last section de-select: “Restore Windows when quitting and re-opening apps”

Config Properties and SL-NTFS enable native NTFS read/write support for OS X Snow Leopard December 15, 2010

Posted by Steven in Apple, In-Media.
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I may be very late to the game here… However I just learned that Mac OS X Snow Leopard includes an Apple NTFS driver which natively supports read and write access to NTFS partitions. As I said: this is only the case in Apple Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard”. I have been told that in the beta versions the write access was enabled but in the final version it is not.

Nevertheless you can re-enable the write access with some manual tweaking or with a couple of freeware tools. I recently discovered “SL-NTFS” a nice comfortable little freeware tool. Snow Leopard users who frequently use NTFS volumes should check it out.



Maintaining a MacBook Pro 15 inch 2008 unibody July 29, 2009

Posted by Steven in gadgets.
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… One should prepare for the next possible issue.

Innenleben Eines MacBooks

Background: I have recently had my fairly new Unibody MacBook Pro (2000+ USD) repaired. It showed the weird nine beeps issue. I was very concerned about the whole topic. First of all it is a very new machine and I always thought Apple builds very reliable devices. Turns out my MBP was not reliably at all. Second concern was the service processes in Germany. Currently there is only one Apple Retail Store (with Geniuses) in Germany. There – I imagine – you do get excellent support. All the rest of us have to go to Authorized Apple Service Providers. Usually these guys have a fairly low margin on Apple products and they focus on selling them – not on after sales support / fixing issues. So I had to wait 2 weeks until my precious MBP returned repaired.

My motivation for this post are the following thoughts:
Some of us gadget fans still seem to believe that there are good brands and bad brans. Brands and companies that deliver quality products that last forever. I believe in today’s world this is wrong. There is an incredible pressure on margins (financial) and the competition on the consumer electronics market is incredibly tight. Almost all (even the quality brands) companies use external manufacturers in China or other “low cost” locations. So in essence: Even if you spent 2000+ USD on a consumer electronics device you must be prepared that this device will eventually fail. Also you must be prepared that this device may not even last 2years.

I believe this is a strange and dissatisfactory statement but it is fact. So from my perspective there are two things we need to do: fight for better quality and service in general and prepare for the day when issues occur and a device may need to be repaired / replaced.

For the latter consequence I have summarized some tasks that I find useful:

  • One cannot stress it to often: backup your data! Harddrives fail, PCs fail, iPods fail, Macs fail… And how big would be your regret if you loose your precious MP3 collection? Nowadays multiple backups are the way to go. Backup important files / mails / Links to the cloud. And store your files on external harddrives, time machines or whatever else is available.
  • Know your devices: It is important to know what you buy / what you rely upon in your daily technology usage. Depending on the type of device you should ask yourself a number of questions: What is inside? How common are the parts? Are they easy to replace? How is the warranty situation? What do I have to do to maintain the device (cleaning)?
    I particularly find the guides on iFixit.com useful. They showed me what I can replace myself on my MBP and how complicated it really is to repair essential parts: http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/MacBook-Pro-15-Inch-Unibody/590/3
  • Understand the warranty: Warranty is a service provided / sold with the device. It is not mandatory in no way. Lots of companies have complicated warranty agreements. In many cases it is worth to check at least some aspects of those. Also ask yourself: Do I need to extend the warranty? Do you want to sell the device after 1 or two years? Or do you really need 3 years of reliable service from the device (then extending the warranty might make sense..)
  • Prepare to ask the right questions: Now if we have done all of the above correctly – then we have backups.. we have a fairly reliable device with good warranty and so on. Still: The day may come and the device fails. I think it is very important to remain calm. Prepare for the whole (cumbersome and maybe even annoying fixing process): Make pictures of the device. Take the original bill. Prepare correct packaging. Find out the phone numbers of the support guys. And: Ask the right questions: How long will it take? Can you get a replacement? When they need to order parts – can you take your device and just bring it when the parts arrived? Can you see the status somewhere? How will they make sure that nothing is being scratched etc.? Who is the store / support manager? When they tell you eventually you have to pay if the issue was ‘your fault’ – ask what that means? What are the criteria for that? As mentioned in : know your devices:  If you look at the internals you may find that many devices nowadays have sensors.. sensors if they have been dropped, if liquids have entered the devices and so on. Know that before to really make the right choices for the fixing process.
  • Keep your Model Information:
    • MB471xx/A
    • MacBookPro5,1
    • MacBook Pro (15-inch, Late 2008)
    • 15.4″/D2.53G/4G/320/SD-DL

Shutdown Timer Apple Script January 4, 2009

Posted by Steven in In-Media.
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Again some software does not shut down Mac OS X properly. Fortunately there is a built in systematic that facilitates the shutdown properly:

  • Open “Script Editor”
  • Paste the script Source Code
  • Save as format: “Application Bundle”

tell application "Finder"
delay 120
shut down
end tell

The units are in seconds. Here are some examples:

30 minutes: 1800
60 minutes: 3600
90 minutes: 5400

There is also a terminal command that will execute the same functionality:
sudo shutdown -h +60
osascript -e 'tell application "System Events" to shut down'
This will shutdown the system.
Further information can be found here: Apfeltalk.


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