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Sync the keychain passphrase with the login account password in Snow Leopard

Mac OS X Snow Leopard appears to roll in the functionality of the separate [Bad link] tool. Keychain Minder has provided a way for system administrators to help keep the passphrase in sync with the login account password. That can be very helpful for users in a directory services environment, because users may change their password in ways outside Mac OS X, thereby leaving the keychain passphrase out of sync.

The [Bad link]. By default, however, the password on the login account is set as the passphrase for that user’s default keychain. When the password and passphrase get out of sync, it can cause a lot of confusion for those who don’t understand what’s going on.

I’d wager it’s a rare Mac OS X user that intentionally sets their login account password and keychain passphrase to be different, as I do. Therefore, keeping the two in sync is a benefit in a large percentage of cases.

Snow Leopard implements this feature as a preference item in Keychain Access, under the First Aid tab. It’s labeled “Synchronize login keychain password with account.” (I would have rephrased that as “default keychain” since keychains by other names can be the default keychain; the default name just happens to be “login” nowadays.)


Keychain Minder stored its settings in the com.afp548.KeychainMinder.plist preferences file. This doesn’t seem to have any impact, one way or another, on this particular keychain preference.

So, I looked for and eventually discovered that the new built-in feature of Snow Leopard stores its state in the SyncLoginPassword key of the file. You can see this change by use of the defaults command in Terminal:

# Synchronize disabled in the Keychain Access preferences dialog
$ defaults read SyncLoginPassword
# Synchronize enabled in the Keychain Access preferences dialog
$ defaults read SyncLoginPassword

You will want to have this preference disabled on any user accounts — likely power users — whose login account passwords will differ from their keychain passphrases. Otherwise, they will get prompted regularly to “Synchronize,” “Create New,” or “Continue” during the login process.

View Kerberos tickets with Ticket Viewer in Snow Leopard

Throughout the history of Mac OS X’s inclusion of [Bad link], there has been a Kerberos application available in /System/Library/CoreServices. This utility was the graphical interface for managing Kerberos tickets &mdash. It put a Mac OS X face on the MIT Kerberos command line tools like kinit, klist, and kdestroy.

In Snow Leopard, that utility is replaced by a new application called “Ticket Viewer.” I’m not sure of the reason for the change, as it seems arbitrary, but it is what it is. (And it’s not as if Apple hasn’t changed more heavily-used application’s names — the Print Center vs. Printer Setup Utility situation springs to mind.)


Those of you who may have linked to the Kerberos application — I liked having a symlink in /Applications/Utilities, for example — should update those links. (I also have to update my explicit indexing of that application for LaunchBar, because it doesn’t scan all of /System/Library/CoreServices by default.)

The Ticket Viewer is also available from the application menu in Keychain Access. It has the keyboard shortcut of Command-Option-K.


Updating Acquia Drupal versions in a Mercurial repository

After using Acquia Drupal for a while, I took advantage of a trial subscription to the Acquia Network. The network’s services showed me that I had files present in my install that the agent could not account for.

I suspected this was happening because of the way I manage my Acquia Drupal installation with Mercurial. So, I’ve modified my previous process (and updated my instructions) to extract the downloaded tar archive with the --recursive-unlink option. This option appears to successfully remove the contents of every directory before putting new files back into them.

$ tar --strip-components=1 --directory=acquia_drupal --recursive-unlink -zxvf acquia-drupal-

When the archive is extracted in this way, my repository’s working directory shows modified, unknown, and deleted files. This allows me to treat each category of files individually before I commit the changes for a Drupal update as a revision.

$ hg status

The modified files will be tracked normally because they’ve already been added to the Mercurial repository, so I don’t need to do anything special for them.

The unknown files are ones that are completely new, and have not appeared in the same position in a previous revision. They have yet to be tracked by Mercurial, so I have to add them to the repository. To add just those unknown files, then, I have to pick them out from the status listing:

$ hg status --unknown

In order to operate just on those files to add them to the repository, I run a for loop:

$ for FILEPATH in <code>hg status --unknown --no-status</code>
for> do
for>    hg add "$FILEPATH"
for> done

This changes the “?” status to “A,” because the files were successfully being tracked by Mercurial.
I use the “--no-status” flag on the “status” command so that just the file paths are printed; the actual status code is not, which is appropriate for the target of the “add” command in the loop.

I do the same basic steps with deleted files. These are files that were in the previous revisions but have been deleted by the --recursive-unlink option from the tar extraction and not replaced with the extraction of the new Acquia Drupal tar archive. If the deleted files had been replaced by the tar extraction, they would either be unchanged (which would not show up in the “status” output) or marked as modified.

To remove the files that are marked as deleted from the repository’s working directory:

$ for FILEPATH in <code>hg status --deleted --no-status</code>
for> do
for>    hg remove "$FILEPATH"
for> done

However, that may be the same as simply using the following, which I have to explore further:

$ hg remove --after

So, to follow all of these changes in the repository, I run the loop for the uknown files and the loop for the deleted files. The modified files are already tracked, so I don’t need to do anything additional for them. After that, a “commit” will record all of the changes — modifications, additions, and deletions — in the repo.

These commands are based on my current understanding of Mercurial, and they do work for me right now. There could certainly be another better way to do this in one fell swoop — or at least fewer steps. I would welcome that, so if you’re aware of a way, feel free to comment or contact me.

Update: I found that the “hg addremove” command cleanly replaces all of the shell loops I mentioned above. Therefore, I recommend using it instead of the “for” loops I described.

A case for Web hosts to offer search as a service

[Bad link] provides a Web service front end for the [Bad link]. Both Solr and Lucene (upon which Solr depends) are Java-based, which has implications for shared Web hosting.

[Bad link] is an open source CMS, and I happen to use it on a shared Web hosting provider as of this writing. [Bad link] that has had a lot of input from [Bad link] (the “Red Hat” of Drupal).

Dries Buytaert of Acquia has some interesting perspective on search for the Web and CMSes in some recent articles on his site. Specifically, he talks about Acquia Search, a Solr-based search service that is being offered to Drupal sites on the Acquia Network. He discusses the advantages afforded by good search capabilities for both [Bad link] and for [Bad link].

I’ve used Acquia Search (in beta), and it has been great. It’s very fast compared to the core Drupal Search module. The ability to perform faceted searches, word stemming, spell checking, and more is all tremendous. (You can see it in action in the search field in the site sidebar, as long as my Acquia Network subscription from the beta lasts.)

But Acquia Search part of a larger service offering — the Acquia Network — which ultimately makes it too expensive for me on my personal sites. It’s priced out of reach for me — more costly for one year than two years of Web hosting, domain registrations, and separate e-mail hosting for my domains are today. I think it’s clear that Acquia is aiming at a different market, and that’s fine.

My idle thought, however, is that search by itself is a compelling feature even for small Web sites like mine. It’s as compelling as hosting files, like HTML or PHP or images, or serving databases, like MySQL and PostgreSQL.

If it’s important as Dries notes in his posts — that the search market is so large and growing, and of such universal importance — then great search is a compelling feature to have for many levels of sites. After serving the files and serving the database, it may be the next big service that a Web hosting provider could offer. And today, Web hosting offers a range of pricing (and service levels) to meet various needs.

I could see advertising that for some monthly fee, a Web host offers 55 GB of storage and 550 GB of monthly data transfer and unlimited MySQL databases — and oh, by the way, some reasonable level of indexing/search with Apache Solr and/or [Bad link] or whatever. Although I hate to suggest it, search could even be an optional add-on, as many providers treat dedicated IP addresses or SSL or the like.

There may be an additional win, in that separate servers could be optimized for search to offload that processing from the Web server. It could even be something that a Web host contracts out or partners with another to provide — maybe even with a company like Acquia that’s already set up their infrastructure to scale on Amazon EC2.

Especially if [Bad link] — as with [Bad link] — then the case for Web hosts offering something like Solr search gets convincing.

Remap PS/2 keyboard functions on a Belkin SOHO KVM for Mac Command and Option keys

I see a lot of complaints about Belkin SOHO-series KVM (keyboard, video, and mouse) switches. I think many of these complaints are warranted; I’ve used two of these KVMs for a long time and have some familiarity with them.

However, one complaint that does have a workaround covers the mapping of the Mac’s Command and Option keys. For the hybrid PS/2-USB KVMs I have used, you must use a PS/2 keyboard and mouse.

That PS/2 terminal requirement assures that your keyboard is going to be labeled for PC/Windows use. If you connect any Macs, you’ll be frustrated by the key layout of Command and Option. Initially, the Alt key will act like Option, and the Windows key will behave as if it’s Command. This is the opposite of what you’d expect from an Apple keyboard — or another keyboard designed primarily for Mac use.

The good news is that this behavior can be changed, and it applies individually to each KVM port. If you have a Mac on Port 1 and a Windows computer on Port 2, they can each have the settings you’d expect. To do so, switch to the port connecting to a Mac and press Esc-A. This puts that port in the “Mac function” mode. In this mode, PS/2 Alt is Command and PS/2 Windows is Option.

Other keys also change, according to a table from an addendum to the Belkin manual. Given that it was a separate sheet in the box, I’m not surprised that many people have apparently missed it.

PS/2 keyboard key Mac function
Alt Command
Windows Option
Backspace Delete
Delete Deletes text coming from the right side of the document
Scroll Lock Power key — documented as a shortcut key to Shut Down menu command

To reverse the setting back to the previous function mode, press Esc-Y to disable the remapping. Again, you have to do this on a port-by-port basis.

If you ever switch the computers connected to the ports, you will need to disable this change for each affected port; it by no means updates itself dynamically. That’s why there’s a problem in the first place.

I owe [Bad link] for this tip, as he's the one who originally found it for me.

Unfortunately, this does not fix another failing of the Belkin SOHO KVMs for my kind of work — namely, the inability to change startup behavior on Macs. (I have not yet seen a KVM with keyboard emulation that consistently allows the use of modifier keys — such as C, T, Option, H, etc. — to change the startup behavior of a Mac. That capability would be extremely handy for KVMs used in technical support scenarios.)

OpenID delegation and Drupal accounts

I discovered — after I’d set up OpenID delegation (using the [Bad link] and [Bad link]) — that each OpenID used with a Drupal site needs to be associated with a Drupal account.

Therefore, even though OpenID delegation may point to a previously-associated provider, such as [Bad link], it acts as its own identity. The delegating URL is a URL in its own right, so this makes some sense even if it is not convenient when you set up delegation after starting to use other OpenIDs.

I had to teach each of my Drupal accounts on various sites that I wanted to use my own URL in addition to any previously-associated OpenIDs.

Clearly pushing a limit

Apparently, I’ve been installing too many applications on my iPod touch. The other day, I got this warning from it while trying to use the App Store application to download a new app: “There is not enough space to download this application. Please delete some photos or videos.”


Trimming the applications list is a lot less satisfying than filling it up.

Spot problem commands in Apple Installer package scripts

It should come as no surprise that Apple Installer [Bad link] can contain scripts. These scripts are supposed to conduct important operations during the course of the software installation.

However, when you are the system administrator of more than one Mac, you find that developers sometimes miss a good balance between what you think should be in the installer payload versus what should be in its [Bad link]. The payload of a installer, by definition, are the files and links that should be installed, along with information on where they should be installed as well as how (i.e. ownership, permissions).

Therefore, developers should not need to run scripts that create or delete files — they should be created from the payload itself, and if a file must be deleted during the install then consider that perhaps you’re doing it wrong. Likewise, there should be little need move or copy files, because as many copies as desired can be installed from the paylod. Similarly, the need to change ownership or modify permissions should be taken care of in the payload.

Perhaps I’m being a purist here. I’m certainly accused of that, from time to time. However, this just makes sense to me and I happen to think that many developers are similarly logical people. They just aren’t the kind of logical people who happen to spend effort on software installation, especially the kind that results in a deployment-friendly installer package.

So how do we as administrators verify the quality of the scripts in installers? Is there a way we can quickly peer into them to decide if any of the scripts’ steps will be superfluous or even (gasp!) harmful?

Well, I have a quick suggestion for scanning packaged installers. The following one-liner shell command will search an installer package or metapackage for scripts that have the kinds of steps outlined above.

$ find /path/to/installer.pkg -regex '.<em>/</em>(flight)' -or -regex '.<em>/</em>(install)' -or -regex '.<em>/</em>(upgrade)' -exec grep --with-filename --line-number '(cp|mv|ln|>{1,2}|cat|echo|chown|chmod|rm|srm)' {} \;

Note that this will only work for the traditional installer packages; it will not work with [Bad link] (which are documented so badly by Apple that the best description comes from reverse engineering by Iceberg's author). The one-liner will currently only find the defined install operations scripts: preflight, preinstall, preupgrade, postinstall, postupgrade, and postflight. (Any other scripts are likely to be called by one of those six.) It assumes those scripts will be shell scripts, currently, even though any of them could be written in other scripting languages installed with Mac OS X, like Python, Perl, or Ruby. It will also not work on the JavaScript-based system and volume requirements portions of the installation.

However, it’s a start. The output displays the offending file and line number, so you can conduct more careful examination of the matches it finds.

I haven’t run this on an exhaustive list of installation packages, but I have already seen at least one installer that produces worrisome output.

Update: I’ve changed the regex for the pre/postflight script so that it is more general that what I originally posted. I’m also having some problems with the snippet working with a certain installer whose scripts I know have cp and chmod commands. So, I may be back to the drawing board with this; comments are welcome.

Considering Frontier DSL

After the news hit about Time Warner Cable’s intent to charge different rates for tiers of monthly data transfer — and an enormous $1/GB fee for overages — it seems eminently sane to consider the competition.

In Rochester, that competition is Frontier DSL. For a long time, that basically meant there was no competition, I’m very sorry to say.

However, the changes to TWC’s fee structure may be so extreme that even that level of competition is good. While I don’t think our household monthly data transfer is excessive, I’m reasonably sure (based on what I’ve seen from the data I’ve collected from our broadband router) that we’ll blow right past the 5 GB/month tier and maybe the 10 GB/month one. We would have to — and by that I mean, I would have to, really — develop some more austere usage of the family Internet connection that we’re accustomed to. Thus, I’m examining the pro and con positions for Frontier’s high-speed Internet service.


With Frontier DSL, my family should:

  • Not have to deal with the stress of the upcoming 5/10/40/100 GB-per-month tiers from TWC, which will reportedly take effect in Rochester in November 2009
  • Get to send a clear message to TWC that metered Internet access is a terrible idea
  • Get the peace of mind that unlimited, unmetered Internet access provides — but only if Frontier’s existing 5 GB-per-month transfer cap is eliminated
  • Benefit from the [Bad link] — both parties get the $20 referral credit
  • Be able to combine the billing with our Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS).


However, there are some drawbacks to Frontier DSL. My family would be concerned about:

  • A potential monthly DSL modem rental fee
  • A two-year commitment with a $200-300 (I’ve see both figures!) early termination fee
  • The 5 GB-per-month unenforced data transfer cap (but [Bad link])
  • Blocking port 25 — while there are workarounds, this is just aggravating
  • The unknown quantity of Frontier’s technical support, whereas TWC’s has been reasonably good over the years.

Anyway, while we’re mulling this over, the news is playing out on sites like [Bad link] and [Bad link] Meanwhile, I’m more than a little annoyed at the traditional news media avoiding some of the other angles surrounding this topic — the pricing change as a way to protect cable television revenues, the local monopoly (and how cable infrastructure compares to its telephone equivalent), the impact on increasingly Internet-dependent households during a recession, how this might change the habits of people (including employees working at home), and so on.

Successfully expanded

It was extremely satisfying to see the following dialog about the volume expansion when logging into my Infrant [Bad link]:


The overall process of expansion took about four days, converting from four 320 GB drives to four 1 TB drives. (For reference, I selected the [Bad link] from ZipZoomFly, and did so almost entirely on price — despite my longstanding misgivings about IBM/Hitachi drives.)

The capacity expansion took longer than strictly necessary, because I wrote zeros across each of the drives before installing them, one at a time, in the ReadyNAS. (I ended up writing zeros to each drive twice, switching from the Disk Utility to the command line equivalent.)

Near the end of the process, I found out that the automatic [Bad link]™ expansion doesn’t happen until you reboot the ReadyNAS after upgrading the last drive. I had also enabled a snapshot on the ReadyNAS, which also prevented the automatic volume capacity expansion, so I had to delete that.

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