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#905: Space is a Premium, Blurry Text on the Macbook Pro with Retina Display, VPN Troubles

 
     
 

In 2003, Columbia media law professor Tim Wu coined the term “net neutrality” which describes the idea that internet traffic should be treated equally, regardless of user, content, site, etc. In Wu’s article, he states, “communications regulators over the next decade will spend increasing time on conflicts between the private interests of broadband providers and the public’s interest in a competitive innovation environment centered on the internet.” This couldn’t be more true, since on May 15th, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on the future of internet.

Over 100 tech companies have responded to this “grave threat to the internet” with a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, opposing plans to allow content carriers to pay ISP’s more for faster delivery speeds. What seems to be a recent example of this discrimination came in February, when Comcast and Netflix reached an undisclosed agreement to provide their customers with a “more direct connection [between the two companies].” While they stated that there would be no preferential treatment given to Netflix, the precedent is worrisome.

While one FCC commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel, has called for a delay of the vote, such a measure does not look promising and the principles on which the internet was built will be in danger this Thursday. We can only hope that the tens of thousands of comments sent to FCC, the urges of the likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon, and the protests scheduled to be at the FCC headquarters will be enough to preserve the level playing field that exists for today’s internet startups.

It’s good to stay informed about these decisions as they can affect how we use the amazing resource that is the internet. But let’s move on to this week’s articles, which will focus on how we store the huge chunks of data that are your backups, getting the most out of your Retina Display, and the troublesome tale of one tech’s VPN.

-Mike
miked@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  Space is a Premium  
   
 

Lately, I have been dealing with our data backup solution in South Burlington. Our old RAID system was giving us some trouble and needed to be replaced. Our beloved IT department gave us a Drobo S model RAID to replace it.

Our old RAID was a Sans Digital eight bay hardware RAID that gave us nothing but issues (and had been replaced three times). The main difference between the Sans Digital and the Drobo is the Drobo is only a five bay RAID, reducing the overall storage amount by 4TBs (or 1024GB).

I have been spending a good amount of time trying to move data from one RAID to another and because of the space difference, we had to start using compression to make it all fit. While this transfer was happening, we had to use a temporary solution for our backup services — enter stage left the LaCie 2Big dual bay RAID. It’s a hardy device indeed, as it’s tasked with keeping up with the demand of the busiest Small Dog location in the company. However, it also began getting full during the transition from the Sans Digital RAID to the Drobo S.

Since I needed to transfer the data from the LaCie 2Big over to the Drobo which doesn’t have enough space for all of it, this is where compression helps — big time. After some extensive research and IT input, we decided to move everything into individual sparse images per repair and then compress the images. Not a bad idea, but time consuming (especially when you need to compress individual pieces of data); nevertheless, it must be done.

My method for compression? Until recently, I used OS X UI and compressed the file(s) to create a .ZIP file. Our IT recommended using bzip2 instead, which is also built into OS X. After doing a little reading, it looked promising, but the process doesn’t do directories, so the manual backups needed to be packaged into sparse images. Once those backups are bzip2, the process to compress those sparse images is more complete and faster than the UI compressor.

All-in-all, it’s a several step process that should make our backups relatively easy to maintain, once I’m done with the long transferring and compressing portion. Something that is 300GB in size can take a day or two to compress, especially if the computer you’re using is having to do other tasks. For example, at the time of writing this article, I have both the Drobo and the LaCie 2Big connected to our service Mac mini by USB 3.0. This Mac mini is also serving the Drobo up for sharing across our internal service network so we can back up to it. While it’s sharing and processing new data that is being saved to it, it’s also compressing and moving data which is taxing the CPU to almost max out, so I can only do a few compressions or transfers at a time.

In short, this is an area of IT that I haven’t explored much at all. I continue to look for new techniques and tools to help speed up this process of data maintenance, but some things just require time and due diligence. I will say that this process would go much quicker on a new Mac Pro with Thunderbolt. The processors would be able to keep up with the demand for resources for compressions and file sharing that I would have nearly the amount of slowdown that I have been experiencing on this little Mac mini.

What tools have you the readers found for a task like this? I’m interested in hearing from the community. Send me your responses!

 
   
     
  Blurry Text on the Macbook Pro with Retina Display  
   
 

With more than 5 million pixels packed into a 15.4-inch display, the MacBook Pro with Retina display has raised the bar for its competitors, making everything on the screen more vibrant and sharper than ever. Everything should look better on 2880 × 1800 pixels, but here’s where we face a problem: third-party apps now look worse on the new MacBook Pro than they did when viewed on the previous models.

What does this mean? Third party apps (anything not pre-installed by Apple and/or designed for Apple) that you probably use on a regular basis now exhibit blurry text and low-quality graphics. This includes, but isn’t limited to, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

Firefox developers are working on temporary fixes to cater to MacBook Pro Retina users. This will require patience until they release a software update.

Google Chrome has been a bit more active as they’ve released Chrome Canary that is better equipped to display at the MacBook Pro Retina’s resolution. This isn’t a complete fix though, so users that prefer to simply use Google Chrome will also have to wait for an update.

Microsoft Office has also stepped up their game by releasing an update (14.2.4) that will resolve this issue.

For native apps (anything pre-installed by Apple and/or designed for Apple) such as iPhoto, GarageBand, Final Cut Pro X, there are already updates in place. However, you may be seeing less than satisfactory quality in iWork, which is Apple’s version of Microsoft Office. If you are, it’s simply because Keynote, Pages, and Numbers are still set in low resolution.

To resolve this, here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Go to the Application folder
  • Look for Keynote, Pages, and/or Numbers
  • Right click or tap “command+i” > Get Info
  • Deselect “Open in low resolution
 
   
     
  VPN Troubles  
   
 

My latest adventure in the world of Apple products was to set up a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to my server at home. After many hours of frustration and brain-tormenting anger, I was unsuccessful.

I have Comcast internet and a dynamic IP address, but before you say, “that’s why,” I know that my IP is changed once a month, so I should have the ability to VPN for thirty days before I have to update the settings on my server. I have poked all the holes in my firewall and even turned it off, and have still been unsuccessful. Locally, I have no problem connecting via VPN with the correct settings, but when I’m not on my home network, it is impossible for me to connect for some reason.

Why would I want to VPN to my home network when “Back to My Mac” works almost just as well? Primarily, it’s for the experience and learning I get from managing my own personal server. I have successfully set it up for local file and media sharing, but so far, that’s all I have been able to get it to do successfully.

My setup at home is as follows: My modem connects to a Belkin router which splits off to my server and two Time Capsules I have configured for NAS drive access. Both of my Time Capsules are on the older side, and their routing function seems to be failing, unfortunately, so I’m relying on the Belkin to be my primary DHCP server.

I use a 13-inch MacBook Pro late 2011 as my server — not a Mac mini or Pro as I don’t have a need for a web server yet. I mainly want to learn. I don’t have the server set up for DHCP because it only has the one ethernet port and no firewall software, but the same computing power as the base Mac mini. I’m running OS X Server 3.1.1 on Mavericks 10.9.2, updated the firmware on every device, and I’ve still had no luck.

All the ports I have found that relate to VPN are TCP 1723, UDP 500, UDP 4500 and UDP 1701. All of these ports are open on my setup and my server is set to my public IP address. This should have the incoming VPN signal on any of the above-mentioned ports forwarded directly from the router as it’s the outward-facing networking device.

I know my hardware is capable of doing what I want it to, however, there has to be something I’m missing…possibly a different port that the VPN signal is actually coming in on? I’m trying to connect from my Late-2011, 15-inch MacBook Pro, running OS X 10.9.2, which is my everyday machine that goes everywhere with me.

Whenever I try to connect all I get is something to the effect of, “the server is not responding/doesn’t exist” (I’m paraphrasing), and it instructs me to try to connect again or contact my administrator. Well, this administrator is stumped.

If any of you out there may know something that I don’t, or have been in a similar situation, shoot me an email and let me know how you got past it! Many thanks in advance!

 
   
     
  New Product | LaCie Little Big Disk  
   
 

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  New Product | LaCie d2 USB Thunderbolt Hard Drives  
   
 

Get lightning-fast transfer speeds on Mac and PC thanks to the USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt ports. They allow you to back up and transfer mountains of data in a fraction of the time. With a redesigned cooling system, its solid aluminum casing provides 60% more surface area than flat designs, diverting and dissipating heat more efficiently.

Enjoy free shipping on both 5TB and 6TB drives for the next week!

 
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