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Posts tagged ‘Mac OS X’

Review: Quicken 2007 for Mac OS X Lion

This is going to be a short post, but given the attention and page views that my posts on Quicken 2007 received, I thought this update worthwhile.

Previous Posts

Quicken 2007 for Mac OS X Lion Arrives

Last week, Intuit announced the availability of an anachronism: Quicken 2007 for Mac OS X Lion.  It sounds odd at first, given that we should really be talking about Quicken 2013 right about now, but it’s not a misprint.  This is Quicken 2007, magically enabled to actually load and run on Mac OS X Lion.  It’s like Intuit cloned a Wooly Mammoth, and put it in the New York Zoo.

The good news is that the software works as advertised.  I have a huge file, with data going back to 1994.  However, not only did it operate on the file seamlessly, the speed improvement over running it on a Mac Mini running Mac OS X Snow Leopard is significant.  Granted, my 8-core iMac likely explains that difference (and more), but the end result is the same.  Quicken.  Fast.  Functional.  Finally.

There are small bugs.  For example, some dialogs seems to have lost the ability to resize, or columns cannot be modified.  But very small issues.

Where is it, anyway?

If you go to the Intuit website, you’ll have a very hard time finding this product:

  • It’s not listed on the homepage
  • It’s not listed on the products page
  • It’s not listed on the page for Quicken for Mac
  • It’s not listed in the customer support documents (to my knowledge)
  • It doesn’t come up in site search

However, if you want to pay $14.95 for this little piece of magic (and given the comments on my previous posts, quite a few people will), then you can find it here:

Goodbye, Mac Mini

I have it on good authority that Intuit is working on adding the relevant & required investment functionality to Quicken Essentials for Mac to make it a true personal finance solution.  There is a lot of energy on the Intuit consumer team these days thanks to the infusion of the Mint.com team, and I’m optimistic that we’ll see a true fully features personal finance client based on the Cocoa-native Quicken Essentials eventually.

The Synology DS1511+ RAID NAS & Time Machine on Mac OS X Lion

I recently suffered one of those storage network failures that you have nightmares about.  After spending more than $1000 on a NetGear ReadyNAS NV+, I had a catastrophic failure that cost me all of the data on the system.  Believe it or not, it was a single drive failure – exactly the type of problem you spend money on a RAID system to survive.  Unfortunately, in my case, it didn’t.

On the bright side, I had the opportunity to rethink and rebuilt my storage and backup solutions from scratch.  In a recent blog post, I described my new network and storage topology.

Synology DS1511+ to the Rescue

The Synology DS1511+ is a great device.  It sits on your Gigabit network, handles up to five SATA hard drives, and can act as a wide variety of servers for your network.  I configured my with five 3TB Western Digital Caviar Green drives, for 15TB of notional storage, 8.3TB of usable storage.

The Synology supports “dual drive redundancy”, so for the price of 2 drives worth of storage, you end up with protection for your data even if two drives fail simultaneously.  Needless to say, I went for that option.

The industrial design of the box is well done.  You do have to break out the screwdriver to install the drives into trays (not quite as nice as the Drobo FS plug-and-play SATA drives), but the case itself is small, quiet and black.  It also has nice locks on each drive bay, which has made it “child proof” for my 2 year old who is unfortunately fascinated with the blinking lights.

The Synology box is incredibly fast.  First, it supports two Gigabit Ethernet ports, to establish connections from multiple clients independently.  But even from one machine, it’s wicked fast.  Simple Finder copy of a 500MB file to the drive takes under 6 seconds.  I was able to back up 2.7M files totally 4.05TB in size using Time Machine (usually dog slow) in about 26 hours.

The Synology management software is Windows 2000 like in terms of its user interface and incredible breadth of options.  Needless to say, I only use about 1% of them.  I did run into one issue, and hence the title of this blog post.  Configuring the box for Time Machine on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion was non-trivial.

Time Machine on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion & Synology DSM 3.2

Time Machine, unfortunately, is the most consumer friendly solution for incremental backup on the Mac.  Unfortunately, if you have multiple machines, you run into a small issue: Apple designed the software as if it “owns” the entire drive you point it at.  As a result, you can’t just point all your machines at a single network drive without a number of bad things happening.

Instead, you have to somehow convince Time Machine to only use part of the drive.  This turned out to be quite an issue for me, since I wanted to be able to backup my machine (~4TB) as well as my wife’s MacBook Pro (~500GB).

Synology has published documents on how to configure the box for Time Machine, and has designed it’s software around a very clever option.  The basic idea is that you create a different “user” for each machine you want to back up with Time Machine.  For each user, you assign a limited quota, and then you tell Time Machine to use that user for the Synology volume.  It actually works quite well, although it feels a little strange to create separate user accounts for each machine, on top of accounts for each user.

The Undocumented 4TB Limit

Unfortunately, I ran into an undocumented issue.  When I tried to set the quota for my machine to 6000 GB (in general, you want to give 50% extra room for incremental changes / backups), Time Machine would only see about 1.8 TB.  When I checked the DSM 3.2 interface, I found indeed that it had reset 6000 GB to 1804 GB.  After trying to set it several times with the same issue, I deduced that the maximum limit was 4096 GB, and that it was “wrapping” around that number.  Sure enough, entering 4100 -> 4, and entering 4096 actually turned to 0, shutting off the quota entirely!

After some back and forth with Synology customer service, they finally admitted this was true.  (The first two times, they claimed that the issue was with Mac OS X 10.7 Time Machine not respecting quotas.)  I hope they fix the software to at least tell the user when they type a number over 4095 that they’ve exceeded the limit.

The Solution: Disk Groups, Volumes & Shares

To solve the problem, I reverted to a more old-fashioned solution: partitions.  Of course, with a sophisticated, modern RAID box, this was a bit more complex.  The Synology DSM 3.2 software supports three relevant concepts:

  • Disk Groups:  You can take any number of the drives and “bind” them together as a disk group.
  • Volumes:  You can allocate an independent “volume” of any size over a disk group.
  • Shares:  You can specify a share on a given volume which is available to only certain users.

The key here is that normally you use quotas to limit storage on shares for specific users.  But since I was looking for a “6 TB” share, there was no way to do this.  By default, shares get access to the entire volume they are on, so the key was to repartition the box into separate volumes.

As a result, I configured my box as follows:

  • One disk group across all 5 disks, configured for dual drive redundancy using Synology Hybrid Raid (SHR)
  • Three volumes: one for my iMac’s time machine (6000 GB), one for my wife’s Macbook Pro (1000 GB), and one remainder for network storage (1.3 TB)
  • For each volume, I configured a single share, without quota limits.  I gave my account access to my backup share, my wife her backup share, and gave everyone access to the general media share

Works like a charm.  My iMac sees the 6TB volume for Time Machine, mounts it as needed, and backs up every hour.  Thanks to the incredible Synology speed, most incremental backups happen in the background in seconds without any noticeable performance lag.  In fact, the original backup of 4.05TB with Time Machine took about 26 hours.  On my NetGear ReadyNAS NV+, that same initial backup took almost a week.

Recommendation: Synology DS1511+

I have to just say that, despite some back and forth over the Time Machine issue, the Synology website, wiki and documentation are all well done.  They are clearly responsive, even responding to my issues over Twitter.  Given the industrial design, features, and performance of the box, I have no trouble recommending the DS1511+ to anyone who’s looking for a large (10TB+) network attached storage solution for backup of a mixed network.

Disclosure: Synology was kind enough to provide me the DS1511+ free of charge given my difficult situation.

Final Solution: Quicken 2007 & Mac OS X Lion

In July I wrote a blog post about a proposed solution for running Quicken 2007 with Mac OS X Lion (10.7).

Unfortunately, that solution didn’t actually work for me.  A few weeks ago, I made the leap to Lion, and experimented with a number of different solutions on how to successfully run Quicken 2007.  I finally come up with one that works incredibly well for me, so I thought I’d share it here for the small number of people out there who can’t imagine life without Quicken for Mac.  (BTW If you read the comments on that first blog post, you’ll see I’m not alone.)

Failure: Snow Leopard on VMware Fusion 4.0

There are quite a few blog posts and discussion boards on the web that explain how to hack VMware Fusion to run Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.  Unfortunately, I found that none of them were stable over time.

While you can hack some of the configuration files within the virtual image package to “trick” the machine into loading Mac OS X 10.6, it ends up resetting almost every time you quit the virtual machine.  I was hoping that VMware Fusion 4.0 would remove this limitation, since Apple now allows virtualization of Mac OS X 10.7, but apparently they are still enforcing the ban on virtualizing Snow Leopard.  (Personally, I believe VMware should have made this check easy to disable, so that expert users could “take the licensing risk” while not offending Apple.  But I digress.)

You can virtualize Snow Leopard Server, but if you try to buy a used copy on eBay, it’s still almost $200.00.  Added to the $75.00 for VMware Fusion, and all of a sudden you have a very expensive solution.  Worse, VM performance is surprisingly bad for a Mac running on top of a Mac.  In the end, I gave up on this path.

Enter the Headless Mac Mini

For the longest time, you couldn’t actually run a Mac as a headless server.  By headless, I mean without a display.  It used to be that if you tried to boot a Mac without a display plugged in, it would stop in the middle of the boot process.

I’m happy to report that you can, in fact, now run a Mac Mini headless.

Here is what I did:

  • I commandeered a 2007-era Mac Mini from my grandmother. (It’s not a bad as it sounds – I upgraded her to a new iMac in the process.)
  • I did a clean install of Mac OS Snow Leopard 10.6, and then applied all updates to get to a clean 10.6.8
  • I installed Quicken 2007, and applied the R2 & R3 updates
  • I configured the machine to support file sharing and screen sharing, turned off the 802.11 network, turned off bluetooth, and to wake from sleep from Ethernet.  I also configured it to auto-reboot if there is a power outage or crash.
  • I then plugged it in to just power & gigabit ethernet, hiding it cleverly under my Apple Airport Extreme Base Station.  It’s exactly the same size, so it now just looks like I have a fatter base station.

I call the machine “Quicken Mac”, and it lives on my network.  Anytime I want to run Quicken 2007, I just use screen sharing from Lion to connect to “Quicken-Mac.local”, and I’m up and running.   Once connected on screen sharing, I configured the display preferences of the mac to 1650×1080, giving me a large window to run Quicken.

I keep my actual Quicken file on my Mac OS X Lion machine, so it’s backed up with Time Machine, etc.  Quicken Mac just mounts my document folder directly so it can access the file.

Quicken: End Game

This solution may seem like quite a bit of effort, but the truth is after the initial setup, everything has worked without a hitch.  I’m hoping that once Intuit upgrades Quicken Essentials for the Mac to handle investments properly, I’ll be able to sell the Mac Mini on eBay, making it effectively a low cost solution.

For the time being, this solution works.  Mac OS X 10.7 Lion & Quicken 2007.  It can be done.

 

Steve Jobs, BMW & eBay

There have been so many articles posted on Steve Jobs in the past week, I really thought I wasn’t going to add one here on my blog.

However, yesterday, John Lilly wrote a great piece on Steve Jobs yesterday, and I realized I might have a story worth telling after all.  I find myself fortunate, in retrospect, to have joined Apple in 1996 as an intern, and then full time in 1997 just weeks before Steve Jobs took the helm as interim CEO.

A Tale of Two Meetings

As an outgoing intern of the Advanced Technology Group, I actually did attend the meeting that John describes in his blog post.  However, as a full time engineer on WebObjects, I also had the opportunity to attend a different all hands that Steve Jobs called for the entire Rhapsody team (the codename of the project that became Mac OS X).

If you haven’t read John’s post, it’s definitely worth reading in tandem with this one.  He does a great job capturing the insights from the ATG meeting.  Instead, let me add to the story with my recollection of the Rhapsody meeting that happened the same week.

(Note: It has been over fourteen years since the meeting, so don’t take this as a literal play-by-play.  I have no notes, so all quotes are from memory.  But this is how I remember it.)

The “Michael Dell” Meeting

The mood of the Rhapsody team meeting was energetic, but mixed.  More than any other group at Apple, the Rhapsody team required a combination of talent from both long time Apple engineers and newly merged NeXT engineers.  There was a palpable sense of excitement in the room, as particularly the NeXT team had a huge amount of respect for the “incoming administration”.  At the same time, there was an element of discontent around suddenly finding themselves part of a large company, and even some skepticism that Apple was salvageable.

Steve got on stage at the front of the room in Infinite Loop 4, and put a huge, larger than life picture of Michael Dell on the wall.  He repeated the news fodder that Michael Dell had been asked recently what he would do if he was running Apple Computer.  (At the time, Dell was the ultimate success story in the PC industry.)  Dell said that he would liquidate the company and return the cash to shareholders.

A few gasps, a few jeers and some general murmuring in the audience.  But I don’t think they expected what he said next.

And you know what? He’s right.

The world doesn’t need another Dell or HP.  It doesn’t need another manufacturer of plain, beige, boring PCs.  If that’s all we’re going to do, then we should really pack up now.

But we’re lucky, because Apple has a purpose.  Unlike anyone in the industry, people want us to make products that they love.  In fact, more than love.  Our job is to make products that people lust for.  That’s what Apple is meant to be.

What’s BMW’s market share of the auto market?  Does anyone know?  Well, it’s less than 2%, but no one cares.  Why?  Because either you drive a BMW or you stare at the new one driving by.  If we do our job, we’ll make products that people lust after, and no one will care about our market share.

Apple is a start-up.  Granted, it’s a startup with $6B in revenue, but that can and will go in an instant.  If you are here for a cushy 9-to-5 job, then that’s OK, but you should go.  We’re going to make sure everyone has stock options, and that they are oriented towards the long term.  If you need a big salary and bonus, then that’s OK, but you should go.  This isn’t going to be that place.  There are plenty of companies like that in the Valley.  This is going to be hard work, possibly the hardest you’ve ever done.  But if we do it right, it’s going to be worth it.

He then clicked through to a giant bullseye overlayed on Michael Dell’s face.

I don’t care what Michael Dell thinks.  If we do our job, he’ll be wrong.  Let’s prove him wrong.

All I can remember is thinking: “Wow. Now that’s how you regroup, refocus and set a company in motion.”  I had seen speeches by Gil Amelio in 1996, and there was nothing comparable.  Please remember, at this point in time it wasn’t at all obvious that Steve or Apple would actually succeed. But I felt like I’d witnessed a little piece of history.

Fast Forward: eBay 2006

That meeting left a huge impression on me that extended well beyond Apple.  Steve’s actions and words at Apple in 1997 represented the absolute best in leadership for a turnaround situation.

It wasn’t until 2006, however, that I found myself at another large technology company looking to rediscover itself.  In the summer of 2006, I was one of a relatively small number of product leaders to tour a draft of a new initiative at eBay called “eBay 3.0″.  Led by the marketing team, a small, strong team had done a lot of research on what made eBay different, and what people wanted from the eBay brand.  The answer was that eBay was fun, full of serendipity, emotion, thrill.  The competition of auctions, the surprise at discovering something you didn’t know existed.  This reduced into a strong pitch for eBay as “colorful commerce”.

I was excited about the research and the work, because it echoed some of the things I remembered about Steve & Apple, and the simple vision he had for a company that made products that people lusted for.  But I also remember voicing a strong concern to several members of the team.  I told them about Steve’s speech to the Rhapsody team, and asked: “Does eBay want BMW market share, or Toyota market share?”  At the time, eBay was more than 20% of all e-commerce, and all plans oriented towards growing that market share.

Unfortunately, eBay tried to do both with the same product.

It’s not typical for a large, successful public company to basically say market share doesn’t matter, and to drive a company purely around a simple focus and vision.  When things are the toughest, unfortunately, that’s when leadership and vision matter the most.

Final Thoughts

Who would have imagined that Apple would have the largest market capitalization in the world?  Who would have thought that in the year 2011 that Apple – not Microsoft, not Dell, not Sony – would be defining the market for so many digital devices and services?

Most importantly, who would have thought that a leadership mandate that eschewed market share would achieve such dramatic gains?

Apple so easily could have gone the way of SGI, the way of Sun.  Instead, it literally shapes the future of the industry.  All because in 1997 Steve was able to offer a simple and compelling reason for Apple to exist.  A purpose.  And it’s a purpose that managed to aggregate some of the most talented people in the world to do some of their best work.  Again and again.

So I will add here a simple thank you to Steve Jobs for that meeting, and for changing the way that I think about every company’s purpose – their reason to exist.  Rest in Peace, Steve.

Upgrading a NetGear Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ to 6TB

Recently, I’ve been evaluating different solutions for upgrading my home storage solution for backup and file storage.  A couple of years ago, I decided to purchase an Infrant ReadyNAS NV+, which offers appliance-level simplicity to deploy a virtualized drive over a flexible RAID system.   It’s a 4-drive system that supports hot-swapping of drives and optimized Ethernet traffic for mixed (Mac & Windows) networks.

I’ve been happy with the ReadyNAS, and performance has been fairly good since I upgraded the Gigabit switch that I use.  However, over the past two years, my storage needs have grown:

  • iMac 27″: 2 TB drive for documents / applications / photos, 2 TB drive for iTunes, 2 TB for Time Machine
  • Macbook: 250GB main drive

The ReadyNAS has 4 750GB drives, providing 2.25 TB of available storage.  At the time I deployed it, my backup needs were about 1 TB, so I could use the drive for backups and incremental updates.

The problem now is the iTunes drive.  It’s too large to backup effectively with Time Machine.  I’ve been using Carbon Copy Cloner to update a disk image of the drive on a weekly basis, but I’ve found that it’s extremely finicky and errors out in a number of situations.  Plus, at 1.6TB, the iTunes library will likely outgrow it’s 2TB home sometime in 2010.  (If you’ve ever purchased a TV season on iTunes, you’ll understand the storage needs).

In order to figure this out, I tried asking the question on Quora, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

So, I decided to make the big move to upgrade the system.  Looking at prices on NewEgg, I decided to opt for the Western Digital WD15EARS SATA 1.5TB drives.  Low power and 64MB of cache.  $109 each.  (Great price – selling the 750GB drives will likely pay for 25% of the upgrade).

Unfortunately, the drive wasn’t listed on the compatibility page on NetGear’s website.  Fortunately, a quick board question provided me with the info I needed – the drives will work, if I upgrade to the new beta firmware (4.1.7 T29).

So that’s what I’m doing tonight:

  • Upgrade firmware
  • One-by-one replace each 750GB drive with a 1.5TB and let it resync
  • Once all four drives are replace and synched, reboot and let it reconfigure to the 4.5 TB logical size.

Once I get the ReadyNAS NV+ to 4.5 TB, I’m going to move my iTunes library to the ReadyNAS.  This way, it can scale easily to more than 2 TB, and I don’t have to worry about backup because of the RAID configuration.  (I have a clone of most of the library on a Mac Mini in the kitchen.)  I will then move the 2 TB drive that currently houses the iTunes library, and move it to the Airport Extreme hub so I can use it as a Time Machine drive for the MacBook.

I’m not sure this information is actually useful to anyone.  My guess is that someone, somewhere out there will want to know that you can, in fact, upgrade the Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ to more than 4TB, and that you can use the Western Digital DV15EARS 1.5TB drives with it.  And maybe, just maybe, someone out there is morbidly curious about the evolution of my network storage.

Or so I hope.  I’ll update this post if anything goes wrong.

Gripe Post #2: Apple SuperDrive Stopped Reading DVD Video

Weird.  It’s as if my PowerMac G5 knows that I want to replace it, and it’s starting to rebel.

Last night, it just stopped reading DVD Video discs.  Still reads data DVDs just fine, as well as CDs.  But DVD Video spins a few times, fails to mount, and self-ejects.

I thought it was some special disc-protection dreamt up by the MPAA, but nope.  It’s every DVD movie disc.

I found about 100 threads on the topic from the last month on the Apple discussion boards, which are great, BTW.  Unfortunately, many of them date back to late March.  All of them claim the 10.5.2 release broke the drive for certain types of disc with a firmware update.  Strangely, instead of fixing the software, it seems that Apple is going with a hardware-based solution.  This is the best thread so far, which also has pointers to a manual hack to restore firmware for Matsushita drives.  (mine, unfortunately, is a different brand)

I guess I’m making a trip to the Apple Store this weekend.  Until then, no DVD movie discs for this G5.  Thank goodness for AppleCare.

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