Slow downloads for Apple App Store updates? Try this.

Sun, 2016-07-03 18:47 -- admin

I discovered a nifty trick for those excruciatingly slow Apple Update downloads. My friend left his broken 2008 Mac Pro with me last week. It turned out that he just neglected to plug in the display power supply. The computer has been down for a year(!) because of that.

Since the machine hadn't run since last summer, he was still using Yosemite so I decided to do his free upgrade to El Capitan because obviously that was going to be over his head too.

I started the update and System Update reported that the download would take 3 days, 2 hours. WTF?? I did the same update on my Mac many months ago and remember it taking like 15 minutes. I have a 100Mb connection here.

I kept pausing/restarting the download and the download time didn't budge. Obviously Apple's content delivery network was bricked.

Then it occurred to me that CDNs are usually regional. A user in Australia will be sent to a different CDN node than a user in Italy. Maybe it was just the US node that was farkled.

So I surfed for public DNS servers and found this list:

I went to System Preferences -> Network -> Advanced and deleted all the DNS servers. so there would be no chance for a timeout failover to the next DNS server on the list. Then I added one for the UK that I got from that list above: I wanted an English speaking country just in case Apple defaults the update to the local language too. My Cantonese ain't so good.

My three day download took 11 minutes.

Remember to revert your DNS servers back to what you had before you run the update. Or just use Google's: and

SMB+SSH: Ubuntu server and OSX client

Fri, 2014-06-13 01:04 -- admin

The title above is pretty close to the Google search query I used in vain to find a recipe for tunneling an OSX Samba client to an Ubuntu 14.04 server. Hopefully this post will save someone the hours I spent trying to set this up.

In the end, like so many Unix projects, the answer turned out to be simple. All that's needed is a configured and functioning Unix/Linux Samba and SSH server .   Everything else is on the client side.

I'm not unfamiliar with Samba. I ran it for years between a FreeBSD Unix server and Windows XT workstation. It had its quirks, and still does. When I dumped Windows for a shiny, new Mac Pro in 2009, I switched to NFS. But with each successive OSX upgrade, NFS got flakier to the point where it became useless so I returned to Samba.  But Samba is inherently insecure outside of a trusted LAN so for out-of-office occasions I started using SSHFS. Unfortunately, SSHFS relies on deprecated, third-party software on the OSX side and it was s..l..o..w.  My PHP Storm IDE was grinding through directory refreshes after Git checkouts.

With the release of OSX Mavericks 10.9, Apple announced that it was dumping yet another networking protocol -- it's own greybeard AFP. To replace it, they embraced SMB2. Or... ta da... Samba. Technically, SMB2 isn't officially Samba however OSX has unofficially supported Samba clients for several operating system releases.  Samba(tm) (the Unix server) is actually a product of the open source team at  SMB is an acronym for Server Message Block, which is a proprietary Microsoft protocol. Samba is built to the published white paper spec for SMB.  

Remote SSH Filesystems on OSX

Tue, 2013-10-29 14:33 -- admin

Developers, particularly web developers, have a need to work on external computers, often not within their local networks.  Over the years I've employed everything from FTP to SFTP/SCP to Samba to NFS to VPNs to cranky Novell networks.  All have their downsides, particularly with regard to security.

I have a MacPro and originally ran NFS to connect to machines on my LAN.  But as Apple released new versions of OSX it became more hostile to NFS, to the point where it because unusable with my Ubuntu-hosted web server.  I retreated back to Samba but it was always a PITA because every time I rebooted the Mac I had to manually remount those network shares.   Half the time they wouldn't appear in Finder so I'd have to do it again.

When I got my new MacBook I decided to spend some extracurricular time sorting out this problem.  My research led me to OSXFUSE.   OSXFUSE is a library that allows foreign filesystems to integrate with OSX's own.  One of those is SSHFS, a GitHub project that allows foreign filesystems to be mounted over a secure socket layer.  This sounded exactly like what I wanted.  There was virtually no setup required on the host other than a functioning SSH account.   While I doubted that it would be a particularly fast filesystem, I'm not streaming media with it, mostly just pushing files through my programming editor which unfortunately lacks SFTP support of its own.

Tip for restoring a deleted Applications folder from the Dock

Mon, 2011-05-16 11:31 -- admin

A lot of my blog posts are Post-Its for my own brain.  So is this one.  I've managed to accidentally drag my Applications folder to the trash twice now and both times I had to wade through a half dozen non-optimal solutions on the web to find the one that actually restored it to what I had before.

In OSX 10.6 it's actually pretty easy, if not very intuitive.

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