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#845: Disk Management, Apple IDs, Keep It Quiet


Hello all,

It’s been a nice couple of days to cap the year off here. It is supposed to be close to 70 today! I feel like I’m at the top of a slide with two paths through winter…one path leads to a winter like last year: warm, no snow to speak of, and a vague uneasy anticipation of a huge dump of snow that never happened. The other path leads to an old-time winter with cold, snow, and hot chocolate.

The seemingly implacable and eminently predictable march of seasons of my youth has certainly stumbled, and even if things do return to the way they were, I think the only consistent thing about the coming season changes will be that unease. It’s the recognition that our world is changing around us.

So if I haven’t scared you off yet, let’s get to the good stuff for this week. Jon explains some of the behind the scenes workings of hard drives, and Carl and David offer some ways be safe and hopefully make your life a little more peaceful.

Thanks for reading.


  Disk Management and Block Size  

Across the computing spectrum, there are many different formats of secondary storage and file management all based on the same building blocks. While they come by different names, NTFS, HFS+, and ZFS, the file system management systems of Windows, Mac OS and Solaris Unix all have several characteristics that assist them in managing your data.
In all file management systems, there has to be a consensus first on how big (or small) a single increment of data will be. This increment, known as a block, size is the smallest space the system will address. This is a variable set at the time of the creation of the Volume format. Choosing a smaller block size will result in less wasted space in the file system but a loss in performance due to management of more blocks. Conversely, choosing a larger block size results in fewer blocks and increased performance with less management, but results in more wasted space within the file system. Block sizes for the mentioned systems range from 512bytes to 4k.

These three file management systems have many parameters that govern attributes of the files created in them. These parameters include, but are not limited to, file size, file name size (characters), character sets that can be used to name files, such as ASCII, unicode or UTF-16. Character sets can be case sensitive or insensitive depending on the System. In all three to the mentioned file systems above, case sensitivity is an optional characteristic. Why is letter case important?  As you build directories, new files within a directory cannot have the same name as an existing file in a directory.  Having a file system that is case sensitive and preserves the case of the characters allows for more naming options.

The Apple default for HFS+ file system us a block size of 4k (4096bytes). As each block on the hard drive can hold no more than this about of data, was files are written, the information is written to, when possible, consecutive sectors or blocks on the disk. When does this size become a problem? As this is the minimum block size, files less than 4k will be contained within a single block and the remaining area of the block will be left empty. If the system is to write many files smaller than the single block, there will be an accumulation of empty space on the disk that cannot be written to.

So what are the pro and cons of block size? With a smaller block size, you are less likely to have ‘holes’ on the disk of unused space. You will also lose some performance of the unit as more time is spent managing the larger number of total blocks. With larger block sizes you have bigger ‘holes’ but the is less time spent managing the blocks and content of the disk.

  Apple IDs  

Apple created the Apple ID system originally in order to improve customer experiences on their online store. You could get an email copy of your receipt, track your order, file a rebate, etc. Then, Apple launched the iTunes store in 2003 which leveraged your Apple ID to purchase music.

By 2008, we were using Apple IDs to purchase movies, television shows, music videos, audiobooks, and of course, apps! In 2010, Apple added ebooks to the mix. By late 2011, Apple was using Apple IDs as the user login credential for freely available iCloud accounts. Apple IDs have come a long way (at inception, they did not require an email address, unlike today).

As much as Apple’s Apple ID system has its faults, it is still an effective way of tying your data to you! And in an ideal world, every individual has their own Apple ID. In the real world, customers often have more than one Apple ID or some customers might even share an Apple ID. It is important to remember that due to how Apple IDs are used, sensitive and important data is associated with them.

An effective way to understand the way Apple IDs work is to understand the two primary ways they are used: for personal data and purchased data. Today, a family can share an Apple ID and use it on Apple’s iTunes, App, and iBooks Stores to purchase content once and access it on anyone’s device.

However, it would be ill advised to use that same Apple ID for any one member of that family for their personal iCloud account. That’s because every other member of that family is only a few taps away from syncing their personal data with yours. Therefore, it’s a common practice to share a single Apple ID with members of a family for purchased data while every individual has their own personal Apple ID for iCloud synchronization of personal data.

  Keep It Quiet  

I have a tendency to get “yelled” at by my partner when I wake her up by restarting my computer in the wee hours in the morning. I recently discovered a way to disable the boot chime using some Terminal commands.

You’ll need to be an administrator of the computer for the command to work. Go to your Applications folder, then to the Utilities folder and launch Terminal. Type the following in, then press enter, then enter your administrator password:

sudo nvram SystemAudioVolume=%80

To reset it back to normal, enter the following:

sudo nvram -d SystemAudioVolume

As always, with these Terminal tricks, use at your own risk.

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