Encrypt iPhone backup

I’ve updated my Apple iPhone to a 6S and adjusted the custom iPhone backup location on my external HDD. This time I’ve enabled the Encrypt iPhone backup feature in iTunes.

Apple does not backup important data to transfer to a new phone if you don’t encrypt your backups. Things like:

  • Account passwords
  • WiFi passwords
  • Health app data
  • HomeKit data

iCloud backs up this data fine, but with only 5GB of iCloud storage, I wanted to backup then restore my 64GB device locally.

The encryption is strong by 2016 standards. You cannot restore a backup without the password. Aside: Obviously the FBI (and NSA) can now hack your iPhone but that’s not the use case here.

If your external HDD is ever lost or stolen, you’ll be glad that your iPhone backup on it is encrypted. Just do it.

Oh! And pick a decent password to encrypt it. Not something your already used on FaceBook, LinkedIn and every other website on the planet. You are using unique passwords and a password locker by now, right? This is 2016 after all.

Fix Google Analytics Spam

Bottom line up front: Prevent spam in your Google Analytics with only 2 filters

Google Analytics is the most widely used web analytics service today so it is a target-rich environment for spammers to get eyeballs. They hope that web masters will see their url and check out where the traffic is coming from. The reality is there is no new traffic, it’s all bots manipulating the system.

Google Analytics spam is only bad for the site owner. Users never see the consequences, but the owner’s stats are full of junk, devaluing the data.

After long neglect I’m busy behind-the-scenes with this and other websites. My painful reality is bad guys hitching a ride on my corner of the web. Take care of your neighbourhood unless you want to it to go bad.

Change iPhone Backup Location

I have a 64GB iPhone 5S but my MacBook Air only has a 128GB SSD which is not enough to regularly hold a backup of my phone. iCloud offers 5GB free online space so I have to pick and chose what gets synchronised via iCloud.

I decided to move my iTunes iPhone backup location to a 2GB external drive called Seagate1. This is a really easy process for Mac and Windows users.

There is no way to change that within iTunes. I am sure there must be tools you can get online to configure it but I used the Terminal to create a symbolic link to make iTunes to use the external drive.

By default iTunes stores iPhone backups in ~/Library/Applications Support/MobileSync/Backup on Macs and \AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup on Windows. If you already have a backup you wish to keep, move the Backup folder to the new backup location on your external drive. Otherwise rename the existing Backup folder to BackupOld.

The symlink links the folder from ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup to a backup directory on my external drive – in my case /Volumes/Seagate1/iOSBackups/Backup.

Mac OS X
Open Terminal either by searching for Terminal in spotlight or use Finder to navigate tothe Utilities folder inside your Applications folder.

Terminal will normally open in your home folder with a $ prompt.

Type the following command create the symlink, change Seagate1 to your external drive name.

ln -s /Volumes/Seagate1/iOSBackups/Backup ~/Library/Application\ Support/MobileSync/Backup

That’s it! Connect your iPhone and back it up.


Open the Command Prompt window by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking All Programs, clicking Accessories, and then clicking Command Prompt.

Type the following command to create the symlink ,change SEAGATE1 to your external drive letter.

mklink /J "%APPDATA%\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup" "[Your External HDD]:\iOSBackups\Backup"

That’s it! Connect your iPhone and back it up.

How to remove double newline in text files

As part of the hosting migration, I had some text files that had an extra empty line in them. This was caused by a newline followed by another newline.

On my pc I can search and replace for these using a good text editor. But it?s a bit harder to do on a linux command line.

The fix if it is just an empty new line is to use sed

sed '/^$/d'

as in

sed '/^$/d' < textfile.txt > newtextfile.txt

If the new lines have whitespace (a space or a tab) then use

sed '/^[ \t]*$/d'

You can also get information about the file with the file command

file textfile.txt
textfile.txt: ASCII English text

Beware if the output is

textfile.txt: ISO-8859 text, with CRLF, LF line terminators

as you?ll need to use

dos2unix textfile.txt

to convert it to a unix text file.

For people searching for the cause, most of these double new lines occured because a PHP script included another PHP script with require_once. The included PHP file had a whitespace at the end of the file after the



Genealogy Research: Best Practice Part 1

I have been working my family history on and off for a number of years. As my older relatives age, the time left to get their stories is restricted. Sadly dementia claimed the memories of more than one before I’ve had a chance to interview them.

I’m using the brilliant GenealogyJ to catalog the information. It’s a standards based, cross-platform, open-source genealogy data viewer/editor (whew!). That means it reads and writes GEDCOM standard 5.5 or draft 5.5.1 data files for easy data sharing with software and other family researchers. Many other programs out there have quirks when it comes to sharing data with others. Modern genealogy research requires data portability.

There are other free and paid options available and I’ll list some I’ve tried at a later date. Comment below if you can’t wait for that post.

In the meanwhile I’d like to note a best practice method for genealogy research: Document sources as you go. Even if the source is personal memory. Include that in every individual record so you know where you stand. When a cousin provides birthday information, make a note of the source alongside the birthday entry. When the National Archives offers evidence of an ancestor’s birthday – note the source.

As you gather more and more evidence of an event, you can weigh the quality of the sources and the data. This is especially useful to researchers who build on your work. One day some cousins kid will ask for a copy as a basis of their work. Give them a break and note your sources. Also it’s a reminder down the track of why you thought your great-great-grandmother was four years younger than her mother.

The rest of this post gets technical and is for researchers and my personal notes. Let’s say you want to save the audio interview with your Grandmother as supporting evidence for a number of people and events.

Continue reading “Genealogy Research: Best Practice Part 1”

Windows Users Guide to Your New Mac

get a mac ad characters

A number of friends and many acquaintances have moved to Macs and turned their backs on Windows.

I moved full time to a Mac a year ago. Here?s part 1 of my occasional series Your New Mac: a Guide for Windows Users

Things to do with Your New Mac

  1. Download the Skype client for mac and for chat use Adium http://www.adiumx.com/ multiprotocol for Windows Live Messenger, GoogleTalk, ICQ, AIM, Jabber, QQ, Gadu-Gadu etc. Both are free.
  2. Running Windows: Bootcamp is faster than parallels because bootcamp runs windows on your intel mac hardware, but you?ll have the stability and security issues of windows all over again. Bootcamp ships with Leopard
  3. Create another folder in you ?home? directory in finder and call it Applications – this is where you should drag and drop application that you install and test out. Keep your normal ?Applications? folder for Apple default apps or stuff that must live there. Add/Remove programs is as simple as drag ?n? drop to your Applications folder. To remove drag the icon to the trash.
  4. Email importing. If you were using POP3 with outlook or outlook express, copy your mail folders to a USB drive then mail.app should be able to import them. I moved via thunderbird and that imported my mail into the windows version of Thunderbird and then I dragged and dropped into mail on the Mac. see Moving Email from PC Outlook to Apple Mail for a brilliant guide
  5. .mac is available as a 30 day free trial. A friend swears by it – I?ve never used it.

I?ll add to this series as time goes on. In the meantime comment below and I?ll answer your questions.

PDF files left by Firefox on Mac OS X Desktop

Mac Desktop PDF files left by Firefox

How To Auto-Delete Temporary Files abandoned by Mozilla apps on your Mac OS X Desktop.

Firefox on Mac OS X does not clean up temporary files in the same way as the Windows version. When you right-click a PDF file and view it (instead of save) Firefox downloads it and then runs the browser helper application. Firefox has no way of knowing when you?ve finished with the file, so by design it does not delete it.

This can leave your desktop cluttered with PDF files and other assorted detritus of the web.

The location for saving temporary files from the Open with command is set by your Safari preferences on the General tab. Change Save downloaded files to? and pick something like Documents | Downloads | Temp. Firefox will now download files there with you chose Open with instead of Save. Your default Save location is still set in Firefox preferences.

Thunderbird also displays this behaviour.

The fix is

  1. Go the the URL about:config (type it in the address line of Firefox)
  2. Right/Control-click anywhere on the page and select New > Boolean from the context menu
  3. Type or paste browser.helperApps.deleteTempFileOnExit as the preference name in the dialog box that pops up and select True for the value

Firefox will now automatically delete these Temp files when it exits.

For Thunderbird get to the config editor via Thunderbird > Preferences? > General > Config Editor? and add the same Boolean preference.

Update: 21 August 2015 (!) Although I wrote this 8 years ago it still gets traffic and is still an issue for many people. Say thanks below if it helped. A lot of the internet links to this post broke over the last few months, but I’ve fixed it now.

Update: 4 September 2015 Railroad adds that this is still an issue with OS X 10.8.5 through to 10.10.5. Thanks for the update.

Determining PCI Vendor ID and Device ID

In working with LTSP and K12LTSP I use some old hardware as dumb terminals. Some of this old gear presents problems in determining the correct NIC driver or graphics driver to use.

If the old machine still has windows on it I use Craig?s PCI Programs to determine the Vendor ID and Device ID. I then go to PCI Database and look up the vendor ID/device ID pair. This works best for video drivers.

Alternatively I look up the Etherboot database to determine the best network driver.

Mac OS X Keyboard navigation

For those switching from Windows to a Mac go and read the excellent HOWTO Switch To The Mac article from Tao of Mac

If you?re keyboard-oriented, go into System Preferences | Keyboard and Mouse | Keyboard Preferences and Turn on full keyboard access. Now you can deal with dialog boxes the way you?re used to, as well as accessing menus and toolbars with the keyboard.

There is even a hint on getting the home and end keys to work more like Windows users expect them to. I?m struggling with their Mac behaviour, but I?ll perservere for now. Check out the Windows Centric tips

Installing Etherboot on a Hard Disk Drive

My Linux Terminal Server Project is going well, however one of the painful support problems in branches is people removing the Rom-O-Matic boot CD?s we use to boot old PC?s on the terminal server. A lot of the old PC?s have hard drives and staff tinker with the BIOS to get to whatever version of windows is sitting on these old drives. Once they lose the boot CD we have to burn a new one and send it out.

I got frustrated today when I went to a customer service PC and discovered it sitting at a windows 98 logon prompt and the boot CD missing. Now this machine will never work on the network from Win98.

I went to Alexandre Heinze excellent All drivers Etherboot floppy and How to Install Etherboot to a Hard Disk and followed his instructions. Using the floppy I created a 5MB partition and installed Etherboot with auto-detection of the NIC.

That machine will never boot to Windows again. And until the hard drive fails, we wont have support problems with it for a long time.

I?ve had some problems with PXE boot on this site so I don?t think that will be a fix for a while. But eventually I will get PXE working here and the standard build will change. When that happens we?ll remove hard drives from the PC?s and install a PXE enabled NIC. In the meantime, the client is happy.