Windows 10: Please settle on one control panel!

Argh!!! I’m a big fan of consistency and simplicity so this one has really annoyed me.  Since Windows 8, two applications have been used to provide the ability to change system settings such as appearance, updates, time/date et cetera.  To a degree, this made sense when using Windows on a tablet as one provided the touch-friendly Metro UI.  However, I was really hoping this behaviour would be changed in 10 as having two control panels is just simply confusing.  Why not have just the one control panel which could adjust itself to conform with the host device?  To make it worse, the control panels are named rather interestingly: ‘Settings’ and ‘Control Panel’.  Microsoft has to be having a joke here, surely?

Two back buttons and a misleading icon
Two back buttons and a misleading icon

Furthermore, where were the HCI and QC teams when the Settings menu was designed?  Both the back arrow and settings cog take you back to the Settings home screen.  Maybe this is just personal preference but would it not be a better idea to have the back arrow take you back (as you would expect) and to have the settings cog icon changed to an icon that represents the current category with no functionality other than being a visual aid?

I understand that it is early days for Windows 10 and kudos to Microsoft for pushing out the software to almost 14 million devices within days of its launch but for the love of God, lets kill the old ‘Control Panel’ once and for all.

Live Update the Mac OS X Yosemite and El Capitan Login Wallpaper

Ever wanted to update the login screen wallpaper on Mac OS X on-the-fly without rebooting?  This might be useful for organisations that have multiple managed Macs or for people like me that just think it’s cool watching 30 Macs update have their wallpaper changed live in a few seconds.

Example using SSH

Be warned! This requires the use of commands in the Terminal.

  1. Open an SSH session.
  2. Replace /Library/Caches/com.apple.desktop.admin.png with a picture of your choosing:
    1. sudo cp "/Library/Desktop Pictures/Rolling Waves.jpg" "/Library/Caches/com.apple.desktop.admin.png"
  3. Kill the loginwindow process
    1. sudo killall loginwindow

That’s it!  The Mac screen will flicker off and back on with the new wallpaper!

A few notes

  • You should not do this when a user or users are logged into the Mac as they will be kicked off.
  • You don’t have to use a PNG, you can use other file formats such as JPG as shown above.
  • You can enable SSH by turning on ‘Remote Login’ in the Sharing pane of System Preferences.
  • Yosemite puts a ~18% grey semi-transparent overlay on top of the login wallpaper.  I don’t think it is possible to change this.  El Capitan does not seem to have this functionality in the 15A215h beta release.

Doing this on multiple Macs simultaneously

  • By using the ‘Send Command’ function of Apple Remote Desktop.
  • Creating a ZENworks 11 bundle which executes commands.
  • If you’re really cool; by using Cluster SSH (CSSH).

Mounting SMB shares on Mac as an Active Directory user with Terminal

I have recently been working on a project for a client which involves integrating a new Apple Mac OS X 10.10 network with Novell ZENworks 11, Active Directory and Open Directory.  The main goal is to leverage managed app deployment as well as patch management from within ZENworks when using a separate repository for packages.

The problem I was facing is how to cache the packages on the client machines.  I chose to have the clients mount the repository by themselves when needed.  The repository is hosted on a Win 2008 R2 server using SMB and is authenticated to using AD credentials.  I could mount the repository from 10.10 clients using Finder’s Connect To Server function without a hitch.  When I tried to use the Terminal to mount the repository, I was getting an unknown NetBIOS Input/Output error… strange.

The eventual fix turned out to be related to the hierarchical order of directory servers within the Authentication Search Policy of Mac OS X.  Open Directory was at the top of the list, followed by Active Directory.  I swapped the two so Active Directory was the first directory the Mac should query and this did the trick.

So, it seems that Finder’s Connect To Server function iterates through directory servers whereas the mount command doesn’t.  For anyone interested, the command I used to successfully mount the volume is below:

mount -t smbfs smb://[username]:[password]@[server]/[share]/[folder] [mountPoint]

Change Asus SATA Controller to RAID without Reinstalling Windows

I wanted to re-utilise some old drives by using them in a RAID 10 configuration in my workstation.  I knew that the Rampage IV Extreme housed an on-board software RAID implementation so I pre-installed all required chipset and SATA drivers from the Asus website, shutdown, inserted the old drives, changed the internal SATA mode to RAID and rebooted.  My workstation went straight into a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death).  The only way to boot was to change the SATA mode back to ACHI which was not solving the original problem.

I tried starting the workstation in safe mode and surprise, it worked!  Device Manager also showed ‘Intel(R) Desktop/Workstation/Server Express Chipset SATA RAID Controller’ under Storage Controllers and the logical RAID volume was listed in Disk Management.  So, the drivers were loaded.  Lets try another restart and yet to my surprise, Windows 8.1 booted just fine with the SATA mode set to RAID and I could still see the logical RAID volume in disk management.  It was as simple as that!

One thing I should add and I do hope Intel fix it: the Intel Rapid Storage Technology software is horrendously slow to load from a cold boot and it does seem to have a high impact on the overall system.

Converting WMA Lossless to Apple Lossless (ALAC) in Linux

First and foremost, there is no difference in audio quality, both WMA lossless and Apple lossless are lossless codecs. There is however a difference in which software can play each file type which is why I recently had to use this. On a Linux command line, execute:

$ shopt -s globstar
$ for f in ./**/*.wma; do avconv -i "$f" -c:a alac "${f%.*}.m4a" && rm "$f"; done

This will convert any .wma files in the current directory as well as its sub-directories. In my case, I ran these commands whilst sitting in my artists folder. It will also remove the old .wma files.

Unable to authenticate to vCenter using local root account

vCenter Incorrect Password Error

I tried authenticating using vSphere Web Client as well. Same problem. The vCSA however let me sign in. I changed the root password using vCSA but this resulted in the same problem! Password expiry wasn’t the issue either so I tried my AD accounts to authenticate and I could get in.

Ah, wait! I recently bound vCenter to a dev AD infrastructure and to authenticate to vCenter using an external identity source such as AD, you have to provide the domain in the user name field. I know vCenter has its own domain called ‘localos’ which the root account is a member of so I tried the same approach. Success! So after almost an hour of wondering what the heck was going on, the solution was to specify the username like this: root@localos. I can now login using vSphere Client and vSphere Web Client.