f-log

just another web log

12 Nov 2019:
gentoo install slog
Some things you cannot prepare for; I got a new computer!

To fair the old one was coming up to 10 years in service(running 24/7). I had spec'd and built that machine, opting for 8GB ram and 64bit processor when both were rarities. Skimping on all the other details HDD, Motherboard and case. 40GB SSD and just about the only motherboard that did not support USB3.

I did not get to build the new one, but I will not look a gift horse in the mouth.

It is an i5-9400f 2.90GHz with 6 cores running at 3.98GHz, 16GB ram and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660Ti (6GB, 1536 cores). It even comes in a Blue LED lit case and is very quite.

As with nearly all PCs pre-built, it came with Windows 10. Used Clonezilla to save its 4 GPT partitions from the nice 500GB SSD to a HDD. Even though I could select it in the BIOS, the cloned drive would not boot into Windows until I had physically disconnect the original.

Oh and the BIOS looks like a movie mock-up. No more blue back ground with white ASCII text at 80x25. This BIOS screen has USB mouse support and an animated background that really threw me.

The next job is to Linux-ise it. I want Gentoo again to get the most from it.

So far I have written a Gentoo minimum ISO to USB using the free Windows app Rufus. Rufus is pretty amazing and just gets on with the job. If you ever want something interesting and insightful to read try the FAQ. Read it all, even though I had no reason too. It was just very well written and entertaining, but quite long.

The Gentoo Handbook is not for that faint hearted. The first few pages after selecting your target machine architecture lists the 10 steps required and each is involved.

Last time I did this it was to harness the power of a 64bit CPU when nearly all other Linux distros were ignoring it. So I had a fair idea what I was getting into.

You ideally need another machine with a web browser open to the Gentoo installation and also networking so you can SSH and control the install and access the internet for updates.

I currently have, wiped the old Windows partitions, created all the required Linux partitions, formatted them and mounted them. Copied all the install files to the new disk and transferred control via CHROOT.

The scary bit is now to build the Linux Kernel and install it for booting.
12 Nov 2019:
apple makes you laugh all the way to their bank
I always tell people that I cannot and will not do Apple support, yet here I am again.

Parent had setup Apple family sharing and had gifted an old iPhone 5 to her child. Fast forward to a while later and the phone died, would not charge, dead to the world.

Time passed and the parent got an carrier upgrade to a newer phone so they gifted their old device to the child and this is where it all went wrong.

Trying to setup the old phone with the child account require verification, but it was so long ago that not only did they not have the verification phone they did not even know what the number would have been.

Apple in it's infinite wisdom hides the details of the verification device/number.

Now I am not sure if it is a UK thing, but holding onto your phone number has never been a big thing, so why Apple think any phone number you use to register will be yours for life is a mystery.

This were it gets a bit ranty. There are lots of inconsistent messages and options in iOS for recovering your Apple ID account and I even went through them all after the parent had, very confusing and in no way instructive or informative.

In the end I stated there was nothing I could do and they should contact Apple. Except Apple, like most tech companies has no support phone number, but they did have live chat, so they tried that.

After 2 and bit hours they found that the account was now under review and would not be resolve until the EARLIEST 4 days.

At this point I got involved again. The agent on the live chat was obviously dealing with multiple users and would take minutes to reply to the simplest of messages. They also would not state that the owner would have to wait 4 days(minimum) except until I had grilled them repeatedly. Instead stating the issue was out of their hands and to await the results of the review. For sometime they continued to use the line "Wait for the Apple email" and were unsupportive when the owner repeated clicked "Send and Receive" and report no emails from Apple.

I had to ask how when the whole point of having a Parent/Child relationship was supposed to eliminate this sort of technical/account issue.

The Parent had a new properly setup iOS device with the correct Apple ID and family sharing options.
The Child had an iOS device that was known to be working and have had all the Parents details on it. The Child had the Apple ID and password.

The only thing neither of them had was control of the mobile number that setup the child account many years ago.

On top of that, they had to go out of their way to find a reference TO the old phone number as almost none of the recovery processes would operate without it.

And the most confusing thing was, that before contacting support the process had sent a verification number to the brand new device and had been authorised and accepted. It really REALLY need to then explain the review process, because in fact it just went back to the start of the account recovery wizard.

Really, do I have to keep telling people buying Apple is going to lead to heart ache, not to mention a lighter wallet.
12 Nov 2019:
10 inch drop fraid apple device
More tech support stories from recent days.

No 1. and the funniest, is I know someone who got the latest iPhone 10 who then had a little accident with it within 24hrs.

No, not a classic screen crack or case bend. I am talking about the charging cable. If you own any iOS device that uses the lightning connector you probably have already experienced it's less than stellar robustness.

Seen many frayed connector sleeves, but this really takes the biscuit. Then entire lightning connector metal that goes into the phone has snapped off. Luckily not stuck in the phone.

So, how did this happen? Rabid dog? dropped on to hard surface from two floors up?

Nope, it fell off a 10" stool, on to carpet.

I will just let that sink in. A fall from ten inches onto carpet.

The owner told me they specifically upgraded to get the wireless charging, but it does not come with the charger...

More iPhone Apple support madness next time.
04 Nov 2019:
three usb drives and a ssd
A couple of weeks ago a friend asked me to "fix" their computer. It was running unbearably slow.

As I had originally spec'd and built this specific PC almost exactly 10 years ago I had a look.

From Windows 10 Task Manager the issues were very apparent. The HDD was in almost constant use due to constant page swapping in and out of RAM. Simply put, the machine was running out of memory and trying to get the needed extra by using the vastly slower hard disk drive.

Based on the original requirements this machine had opted for a larger HDD (1TB) and smaller RAM (3GB). These were serious trade-offs and made sense at the time.

Job 1: More RAM.
Found a number of pages discussing the specific RAM modules required by this motherboard and promptly bought the maximum of 8GB for around £50. I remember when 4MB(not GB) was hundreds of pounds.
This was duly implanted with little ceremony and instantly things got much better.

Job 2: Switch to SSD.
SSD prices have become so cheap we were able to get a 500GB SSD for, again, around £50.
All I had to do was make sure everything was backed up and clear down the current slow HDD from 600+GB to 500GB(or what ever the new drive would actually format too).

I thought this was going to be easy. Firstly I was told a back up was being made regularly and automatically. But when I tried to view the backup the system just spun for hours, maybe the backup was there, but maybe not. Not happy with the inherent risk we opted to buy a new external HDD.
Now began the slow process of backing up a large amount of small files. Mainly songs and photos, but also plenty of random bits.

This took so long that I had to leave the owner twice after promising to do the work. Defragging also took hours on end with no sign or indication of when it would complete.

Eventually everything was backed up and we found lots of duplicates and other rubbish that could be unceremoniously cut.

I had found a lot of guides for moving from HDD to SSD and it seemed straight forward. Create a Windows 7(in Windows 10) System Backup and then restore it to the new drive.

Except that did not work and I ended up looking after the PC while trying to complete this simple task. Hours and hours and more hours were spent trying again and again to create a correctly sized backup and to then restore it.

I started by using Windows 10 Disk Management tools to shrink the 1TB drive. This seemed to go well. Delete stuff, Defrag(multiple hours) and then Shrink. Only, it got to just under 500GB and refused to shrink the partition any further.

I kept deleting more and more until the total size was 50GB. But it would not shrink even one byte smaller than the previous 500GB. I tried many many things none worked and it all appears to be down to unmovable NTFS system file call $BitMap.

There were many examples of users having this issue and then solving it. There were a couple that had my problem and there were no solutions. Any attempt to use the SysInternals tool contig or contig64 resulted in an Access Denied message. Even when an attempt had been made to be Admin and disable interfering processes. I even tried from the Windows Recovery console and got the same message. Which should be impossible?

This was a big issue as the Windows System Restore would always report the target drive was too small.

Despondent, I changed tact and created a GParted USB drive. This allowed me to forcibly shrink the partition and ignore the NTFS $BitMap issue. Once the deed was done everything continued to work in Windows so I made a new System Backup.

But, the System Restore STILL said the target drive was too small. I was gob struck and tried many solutions to no avail.

What was more annoying than anything else was the number of guides that showed all this *just worked*, just not for me.

At my wits end, I created another USB boot drive, this time for Clonezilla. I now had a Windows System Recovery USB, a GParted USB and Clonezilla USB.

The guides for cloning Windows 10 with Clonezilla were a few years old and the interface I was using was from the USB creation tool UBootin.

*snip*

Turns out the version of Clonezilla that UBootin uses is really REALLY out of date and caused no end of issues, from just not being very good. Eventually got the latest Clonezilla and overwrote the USB.

Now I could follow the guides screenshots for screenshot and command for command.

*snip*

Got confused with MBR and GPT partitioning systems, assuming the Windows NTFS was GPT and wasted a lot of time.

*snip*

Do not want to talk about it, but at one point I was manually creating partitions using sector byte sizes just to make Clonezilla accept partition designations.
There was also a lot of mess regarding overlapping partitions(that weren't).
But after what seem an age a 150GB partition was cloned onto the 500GB SSD. Job done?

NO!

Would not boot, or, more to the point would boot and then would say no system to boot. You know, even though it had booted and we saw the Windows flag during it booting, before it reported it could not boot.

Luckily the Windows System Rescue USB was able to fix this and Windows finally booted all the way with the new SSD.

At this point I had disconnected the old HDD and I started on my merry way resizing the partition (and finding I had stranded 30GB at the wrong end of the disk and is now lost) and restoring all the programs and files.

This went swimmingly and finally shutdown, reattached the old HDD and booted to Clonezilla. I had realised that I need to ensure the old HDD did not boot and just sat as data drive. fdisk disabled the BOOT flag and rebooted.

First problem. The BIOS did not want to boot the SSD that I knew should have booted fine. Quick cable swap fixed that and Windows booted.

Except no old data HDD. Showed as Offline in Disk Manager and in a unusual sign of helpfulness I was informed it was offline due to duplicate Drive ID.

Fixed that and told Windows to use the new D Drive for all the Music.

That bit went well and ITunes picked up on the change.

The machine is now in a reasonably healthy state. A lot of other things were "worked on" but I am exhausted from doing the work(that should have been easy) and from writing all this.
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