Friday, March 10, 2017

Fix unable to type password to unlock drive in macOS Recovery Disk Utility

I ran into another unusual problem today, this time working on a 2010 MacBook Pro with OSX Sierra 10.12.  It's been rebooting randomly, and it doesn't appear to be the buggy thermal sensor issue (I pressed down to the right of the trackpad as hard as I could and that didn't short the sensor out).

I tried to run Apple Hardware Test, only to find out that 10.12 was left in a pit by Apple.  It doesn't have Hardware Test anymore, but it doesn't have the newer Diagnostics, either.  Their best suggestion was to run internet recovery (Option-D on startup), but it gives an error - 3034D - which has no documentation.

Why do I always run into problems no one has had before and the manufacturer doesn't document the error code for?

Anyway, I thought we'd start with the hard drive, and Disk Utility found errors.  It's the boot volume of course, so the errors can only be repaired in macOS Recovery.

So we reboot to Recovery (Command-R on startup).

The hard drive shows up in Disk Utility, but the actual system partition isn't mounted at startup, because you need the password.  So I click Mount.  One problem, though.  Keyboard isn't responding.  Not the built in keyboard.  Not an Apple USB keyboard.  Or a PC USB keyboard.  I can toggle Caps Lock, but can't type a password for anything.

So, what do we do when OSX acts stupid?  WE RESET THE NVRAM!

That'd be Option-Command-P-R on startup, and if that's the only thing you learn from this, make it your new Mac goto.  You'll need it alot if you work on Macs that're more than 14 minutes old or have been turned on or taken out of the package.

After that, rebooting to Recovery again produces a working keyboard!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Open Windows 10 File Explorer to This PC

For a more XP-like experience, you can set File Explorer in Windows 10 to open to This PC (think "My Computer") instead of Quick Access.  To do this, select the File tab and click on Options:

Then, under Open File Explorer to: select the combobox and change it to This PC and then click OK:

Et voila / y aquí / und hier / och här / ここで / 这里 :

This changes your Open... and Save As... dialogues, as well.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Quick access to Administrative Command Prompt in Windows 10

Windows 10 allows quick access to user- and admin- level command prompts in any folder without adding any shell extensions.  Open File Explorer, select any folder, and go to the File tab on the ribbon.  Options will appear for Open command prompt and Open Windows PowerShell.  Hover over either and you'll see options for opening either as administrator.  Thanks, Microsoft!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Office 365 Sharing

If you're struggling to find where to login to share your Office 365 installs with family or employees, here's a hint:

It's not at any page you'd find searching for "Office 365 login" or similar.

It's at

Log in with your Microsoft account and you can access the share interface (and the installer download, for that matter) from there.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

ArcGIS (ArcInfo) - How to correctly subdivide a Jeffersonian Section into Quarter Quarters

For the next addition to this repository of helpful hints, I'm going to cover something somewhat technical I've run across.  In GIS mapping, your source data from the Feds or from a state will typically not include Quarter Quarter sections or "40's."  Sometimes Quarter Sections will be included, but that varies from state to state.  If you're mapping any kind of real property, "40's" are going to be heavily involved in getting stuff correctly located on the surface of the earth.

In the past, I've just copied my Sections I needed to subdivide into a layer for my Quarter Quarter Sections, and divided them using the cut tool, first from the midpoint of the north line to the midpoint of the south line, then the east midpoint to the west midpoint, and then again in each Quarter Section I've just created.  This produces workable "40's," but they're not technically correct.

Why not?  Because the subdivision of Sections works the same way as the subdivision of Townships into Sections - the center divisions are supposed to be perfect, with the ones around the edge making up the difference between the real shape and the ideal (a six mile by six mile square for Townships and a one mile square for Sections).  That means that, in the case of Sections, the center "40's" are supposed to be, well, 40 acres each.  They should be 1,320' x 1,320' parallelograms.  If you have a section that's, say, 5,100' x 5,200' rather than a 5,280' square, the technique I described above will produce "40's" that, well, aren't.  They'll be roughly even features of ~38.05 acres each.

Here's the method I've started using to create "correct 40's:"

First, use the Feature to Point tool in ArcToolbox to create a layer with the centoids of your Sections.  You can find it here:

Then, copy your Sections into a layer for "40's" as I described above.

Next, select a single Section (you have to do this one Section at a time) from your "40's" layer and select the Cut Polygons Tool from the Editor toolbar.  Now start cutting.  Go from the centoid to the midpoint of the north line.  This point may be inside the polygon, so you'll need to create another point continuing the line (I use CTRL-A to specify the angle, and click on the line I just made to keep going at that angle).  From there, set your next point back at the centoid.  Continue for the south, east, and west lines.  If you finished your sketch at this point, you'd have Quarter Sections.

Continuing your sketch from the centoid, specify a distance of 1,320' with CTRL-L and place your point on the line going east from the centoid.  Now, use the parallel hotkey or button on the floating toolbar to make your next segment parallel to the line from the centoid to the midpoint of the north line.  Extend past the edge of the polygon and set a point, and then set your next point back where you started on that easterly line.  Make your next line parallel to the line running south from the centoid, extending past the edge of the polygon.  Always working along established points, make your way back to the centoid, and then repeat to make a north-south line 1,320' west of the centoid, then make your two east-west lines, 1,320' north and south of the centoid, respectively.  You'll end up with your four center Quarter Quarters as close to perfect 1,320' sided parallelograms as possible:

Here's a screen capture of me performing this process on a Section:

Hope this helps!

Monday, October 27, 2014

ArcGIS 10 Map cache relocation failure

Earlier today I noticed some problems with my ArcGIS environment.  Specifically, my map cache location had been changed to the root of a drive letter I don't have, and it wouldn't let me change it back.  Any attempt to change it to a location that actually existed resulted in an error message stating the location was unavailable or I didn't have permission to access it.

Turns out, the location it couldn't access wasn't the new, correct one, it was the old, non-existent one.  When I connected a USB drive and changed it's drive letter to the one it was looking for, it then let me change the location.  I've moved all caches to my new SSD.  Normally I wouldn't do that, for fear of wearing it out prematurely, but this new Samsung 850 has a ten year warranty.

If anyone runs into this problem, the specific error message is here.  Hopefully Google will index it and you'll find it.  For me it was another problem no one has ever had before.

Window Title:  Cache Path for Display Cache
Message:  Can not apply cache changes. Cache might be used by other process, access to cache folder is restricted or entered settings are not valid.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Integrating ownCloud Into an Existing File Server With a Modicum of Sanity

In addition to our WHS 2011 box at the house, I administer a CentOS server for a client.  It's a bit of a mashup, currently supporting Asterisk and Samba primarily.  Folks at the client had started using Dropbox to share stuff with each other.  Now, this client has some large files, so for the folks who hadn't purchased a phone or tablet that came with a Dropbox storage bump or a paid account, they ran out of their space very quickly.  Never mind the insanity that is the same file being duplicated across a dozen personal computers needlessly.  ownCloud seemed like a good solution.

To make a long story short, what I've ended up with is SSHFS through Fuse for the folks who need to be actually doing things with files, and web access for the folks who just need to upload and download files.  The primary use case for cloud storage, however, is being able to send a web link to their clients to download work files that are far too big to email.  How to do it without duplicating files, though?  No sense in using their immense but utimately limited storage to hold the same thing in two places (RAID aside, of course).

Then I noticed ownCloud can mount external shares.  Prior to getting sshfs up and running we'd been using, as I said above, Samba to create a share all the Windows clients (and the one Mac client) can access.  So I mounted that share through ownCloud's admin page after enabling the External Storage app.  Worked like a charm.  Except that sharing files on a mounted SMB share isn't an option.  Whoops.  That kind of defeats the purpose.  So I googled.  And googled.  And googled.  Apparently I'm the first person to have this problem.

So I did what I wise person does.  I prayed.  The Holy Spirit said "try SFTP."  I said "I've never used SFTP."  He said "but you already know how to use Google."  So I googled it.  Turns out I don't have to do anything, since my users are already set up for SSHFS.  Did I mention I'm a big fan of SSH?  Is there anything it can't do?

Guess what?  SFTP works, and it browses through ownCloud faster than SMB/CIFS, to boot.  It respects my crazy complex group permission setup, too, of course.  The only downside is I have to configure it per user, as opposed to the "SMB/CIFS with OC login" option for SMB.

tldr; use SFTP to connect an external share to ownCloud, not SMB, if you want to be able to share from it.

Here's hoping Google indexes this and someone finds it useful!