Apple MacBook Pro 85w MagSafe 2 PSU

So last Sunday my PSU died.  I don’t know if it’s something about luck or what but in all my years (to many to count) of using computers the only component I’ve never lost (touches wood, bit late though now) a PSU.  Not in a desktop, laptop or server.  Might seem like slim odds of that happening but it’s true.  I’ve built a lot of machines over the years and have owned a lot of machines as well.  Never had a PSU die, ever.

So last Sunday morning was a bit of a surprise.  I’d used the laptop in the morning and then had put it on to charge late in the evening, I haven’t really liked leaving this charging overnight as it gets really hot.  So I must have taken it off charge around midnight, unplugged the charger from the laptop and the wall socket and went to bed.  8am I plug it all back in, nothing.  No green light and no orange charging indicator.  Tried an SMC reset, nothing.  Cleaned both the port on the laptop and the connector on the charger, nothing.  Tried all the solutions you’ll find online.  I visited a local store to try another charger but two large stores I visited had no 85w MagSafe 2 chargers in stock (loads of every other Apple charger though strangely).  The last store let me try the display charger and all was well.

So the charger is definitely dead.  It’s just turned 2 years old.  I have a PSU for my 1992 Amiga 1200 that sat in my parents garage for 20 years, unused, that powered up the first time I tried.  So why has the most looked after and perfect condition PSU fail whilst it wasn’t even powered?  Bit odd.  There were no sparks or smells yet no juice.  Oh well.

From reading around the web it seems (if the messages are even remotely accurate) that some people go through multiple Apple chargers.  I’ve personally seen so many with electrical tape wrapped around various bits of them you have to wonder if people either don’t care enough or there is a desgn issue.

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Pixar Renderman now free for Non-Commercial

Wow, you can now get your hands on a non-commercial version of Renderman for FREE.  Pixar has been selling Renderman for a long time.  That said the asking price of £1200 was pretty damn reasonable for such an amazing piece of software.  Nowhere near as good as FREE though.

Problem is now a question of if your fave 3D application is supported and integrated.  Blender isn’t at the moment so no dice there unfortunately.

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Microsoft to Retire IE – Project Spartan

This is actually quite a momentus occasion!  Hearing that Microsoft is going to retire the IE brand is something I’ve been waiting to hear for years.  From recent surveys it seems apparent that many people still aren’t really aware of what a brower is let alone know much about them in detail.

IE started out it’s life in conflict and it seems that conflict followed it throughout it’s entire career.  The very reason for it’s existance in the early days was as a reaction to the release of Netscape Navigator.  It was born in order to crush Navigator.  I think the problem stemmed from Netscape also claiming that eventually the browser would be the main deal on the desktop, very forward thinking at more or less true already.  The move to “The Cloud” is certainly moving a lot of things that way, the release of the ChromeBook type machines attests to this fact as well.

The problem has been that IE has never really payed much attesion to standards.  The box model of page layouts for instance.  It’s just never played nicely really making cross-browser issues a full time job for a web developer.  Another major problem with this browser is the number of proprietary “bits” that have appeard through the years.  The idea of a web site that only works in IE is simply laughable but that really was a goal for a while in my opinion.  A hugely stupid motive.

Going back to the idea of conflict I always found it amazing that Microsoft could on one hand argue in court that IE was crucial to the working of it’s operating system thus trying to fend off the anti-trust rulings.  Whilst at the same time IE6 was kicking around as the latest major version for 5 years.  IE6 was released in 2001 and IE7 arrived in 2006.  5 years in the tech world is several lifetimes, 5 years in the interwebs is hundreds of lifetimes.  How they could argue this point is incredible. The conflict coming here in that the idea to split up Microsoft was a very real one, all that risk to crush a competitor …

After they release IE7 they started to slowly try to bring it inline with standards whilst it also had a major problem – backwards compatibility.  Any app that has to sport a compatibility mode had failed in my opinion.  Either the current architecture is wrong or it is having to support an aging set of fuck ups in it’s past.  So not only was IE born in conflict, it nearly killed the company and also creates conflict for the developers that have to work with it daily.  With the next few versions being so different the cross-browser nightmares of the past became the IE-version-cross-browser nightmares.  It actually became harder to cater with all the various issues and rendering modes of all the different versions of IE.  Utterly broken.

In my opinion IE is something Microsoft should have buried a very long time ago.

Lets hope they don’t do it all over again with Project Spartan!

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Anti-Virus – BitDefender

So it’s the best … or at least was the best. *ahem* …

I’ve used a LOT of virus applications in my time, free ones, commercial ones massive enterprise ones and every other little tool and app going. I had been using Avira for a few years and decided in March 2014 that I’d try out BitDefender as it seemed everyone was raving about it at that point in time. It had somehow managed to attain that hallowed 100% match rate in virus tests etc. So I thought I’d give it a try.

I went through the nasty process of removing my old anti-virus software (see notes below!) and installed BitDefender.  Holy crap, it took a powerful machine (you know, fast processor, SSD, GTX580, 24Gb RAM basically a beast of a machine) to it’s knees.  It literally bought my overpowered workstation to a grinding halt.  I tried all I could to get it working at a speed where I could also do some work … you know, that’s kinda important …

Anyway, I failed.  After trawling the forums I couldn’t get BitDefender to leave enough resources for me.  Doing some searches it seemed that this was a problem that was plaguing many, many other users.  Personally I think they turned the heat up on their searching algorithm to attain a higher match rate to boost their marketing.  It seemed the software in it’s default configuration was so aggressively looking for stuff that they forgot that someone has to actually use the machine at the same time.

No virus software should behave like that at factory defaults … ever …

Anyway, when I un-installed the software I then logged into MyBitDefender portal to ask for a refund.  I asked for that refund 6 times … never got a replies and never got the refund either … £20 lost.  I had better things to do with my time.

Fast forward to now … I got up this morning to find a nice email from PayPal saying that I’d just handed them another £44.96 for the new spangly version.  So, I go to login to my MyBitDefender in order to take action (I was even considering giving it another go) but low and behold … I have no account.  Eh?  Yup, none of my email addresses (even the payment email address) was recognised.

WTF??

Where did my account go then?  I downloaded the original installer using this account.  Which according to their systems should have been an active account because it had just been renewed.  So another support call …

BitDefender confirmed that I had no MyBitDefender account, none … nada.  WTF?

So I had renewed an application from a vender that didn’t have an account for me and I couldn’t log in to download the software.  Customer services at it’s most confusing basically.  Anyway, I’m not giving them the £45, so I’m waiting for that refund to arrive … Whilst their tech may be good I have little faith in anything else …

Will stick with Avira thanks …

Update:

Got the money back, well done BD!

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WordPress & IIS Permalinks

When hosting a WordPress site under IIS you can run into some troubles when not getting things set-up exactly right.  I thought I’d post up the configuration file I use for enabling this.  The exact variables for your situation may var depending on the structure of your permalinks.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<configuration>
  <system.webServer>
    <httpErrors errorMode="Detailed"/>
    <rewrite>
      <rules>
        <rule name="Main Rule" stopProcessing="true">
        <match url=".*"/>
            <conditions logicalGrouping="MatchAll">
                <add input="{REQUEST_FILENAME}" matchType="IsFile" negate="true"/>
                <add input="{REQUEST_FILENAME}" matchType="IsDirectory" negate="true"/>
            </conditions>
        <action type="Rewrite" url="index.php/{R:0}"/></rule>
            <rule name="wordpress" patternSyntax="Wildcard">
                <match url="*"/>
                    <conditions>
                        <add input="{REQUEST_FILENAME}" matchType="IsFile" negate="true"/>
                        <add input="{REQUEST_FILENAME}" matchType="IsDirectory" negate="true"/>
                    </conditions>
        <action type="Rewrite" url="index.php"/>
        </rule>     
        </rules>
    </rewrite>
    <defaultDocument>
      <files>
        <clear/>

        <add value="index.php"/>
      </files>
    </defaultDocument>
  </system.webServer>
</configuration>
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Shopify

So we’ve just had the pleasure of building my first Shopify application for a client project.  Am I impressed?  Very.  Very, very impressed.

For e-commerce sites I have built in the past I’ve reached for WordPress and a range of e-commerce plug-ins I either recommend to clients based on their individual requirements.  Generally the sites I have built were bespoke sites for small organisations or individuals.  The solutions have always worked well and been successful.  Wordpress is a great solution and so well supported that is generally a no-brainer for me to recommend.

The latest commission from a client however gave me a little pause for thought as it was basically of a different scale altogether.  The client was a small one-man shop with limited internet experience and absolutely no previous experience of running any on-line systems yet there is a potential for the quantity of products to explode in quantity.  Obviously the performance of any web site is a combination of many factors from the code, the hosting infrastructure and the visitors internet connection to name just a few.  There are lots of ways of keeping WordPress performing well but there is a lot of custom configuration and infrastructure that is needed to turn a blogging engine into an e-commerce system and I didn’t want to overload the client with concerns.

Given this situation I decided to look over the various options for dedicated e-commerce platforms.  I looked over Velution, Big-Commerce and Shopify.  All are really very good platforms but we opted for Shopify as it worked out the cheapest and simplest for this particular project.  Buying into the Shopify system gives absolutely everything you need, right out of the box.  Even SSL is included as standard on the base plans which is really good.

Development of the custom theme was more or less complete within a day and setting up the rest of the back-end configuration was extremely simple.  We’re currently still working through this with the client but it is going really well and they are feeling really confident in their usage of the solution already.  So lenssniper has another happy customer.

If you’re looking for an on-line e-commerce system it’s well worth looking at Shopify and if you need assistance in getting your site designed and built, check out my lenssniper business and drop us a line.

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Blender – Default Cubism – Cube a Day(ish)

I was recently reading some blogs I subscribe to and came across this great idea for learning and developing some interesting skills in Blender. The idea has been penned by Mike Pan and you can read about the rules here. The base idea is that you do something visually interesting using just the geometry provided with the default cube, nothing else.

Basically I’m going to be having a go at this myself and see what things I arrive at. I’m certainly not going to get the time to do this once a day, every day but I’m certainly going to keep going for a while.

To be fair the first one I’ve completed (currently rendering as I blearily type this over my first coffee) is complete plagiarism from one of Mikes but since I am such a Blender noob I see that as my starting point for some inspiration. Mike knows his stuff and has done some seriously cool things with the default cube.

I’ve always found that my best creative efforts be it photography, music, graphics or even code occur when I’m given strict rules and boundaries to work within. I think that taps into some form of ingrained survival instincts that promotes creative thinking. Anyway, it’s going to be interesting to learn just what can be done with so little.Blender273_DefaultFile_Screenshot

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Compiling Blender on Mac

So I decided that after all these years I would like to start looking at and contributing to an open source project.  And since I’ve been using Blender a lot lately this is the project I’m going to get stuck into.

So … how to build blender.  I’ve had a few problems getting this to work on my 2013 Macbook Pro so I’m going to keep a track of all the issues and solutions that I needed in order to get things working.

I’ve been following through on this Blender documentation here:

http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Dev:Doc/Building_Blender/Mac

Getting all the source code from git and svn was very simple and no problem to report there.  The first issue I encountered was the installation of CMake is broken and doesn’t register itself on the system correctly.  As soon as I got to these commands everything started failing:

cd ~/blender-build/blender
make

The error I was getting was make: command not found Error 127. I cannot find the post that helped me get over this issue at the moment but I will find it and update this post as soon as I do find it. The point is that I ended up giving up trying to get these commands working. I kicked off the build at about 23:30 and it was still hung and not doing anything (no error messages either) at 8am the following morning. Beachball of death …

So I moved on to building Blender in Xcode using the makefiles generated with CMake. The build completed in about 5 minutes and launched straight into Blender in debug mode. I may go and try to find out why the make command failed but XCode was fine but to be honest I’m not sure I’ll have the time (or the inclination) at this stage.

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EVGA GTX580 Classified Overclocking – Blender Benchmarks

Over the last few weeks I’ve been playing around with MSI Afterburner and EVGA Precision x16 to see what I can meaningfully squeeze out of this card before plunging into the land of the GTX 900 series cards.  I’ve had this card in my current machine since January 2012 and it has served me very well.  The vast majority of it’s life has spent “idling” at the stock GPU clock of 855Mhz which to be fair is a solid overclock on the stock GTX580 specifications anyway.  What little gaming I do it has munched through and it’s only since really starting to work with Blender more recently that I have started to experience that the GTX580 is starting to look a little long in the tooth.

The 900 series cards were announced in September 2014 and they really do look like they would be an immense upgrade over the GTX580 in terms of raw ppw (performance per watt).  When the GTX580 Classified was released it really was one of the highest performing single GPUs money could buy (which retaining ownership of all ones organs).  I needed the GPU acceleration for lots of video editing work I was doing and in that respect it was an incredible investment.  Yes it was expensive (£550) but it was and still is a total workhorse of a component, it still plays recent high end games at max and pretty much deals with it all without any fuss at all which is impressive to say the least considering the GTX580 reference designs are now 5+ years old.

So anyway, I have been playing around with the Classified and thought I’d get this all written up so that when I do decide to upgrade to a 900 series card and I can rerun these benchmarks and see what my cold hard cash has bought me.  The overclocking setting I have been playing around with are pretty rudimentary really as I’m simply using the software tools provided by EVGA and no special hardware for the task as I’m still far more preoccupied with stability than pure blistering speeds.

Test Machine

The host machine specifications are:

EVGA GTX 580 Classified Blender Benchmarks

The results of the various benchmarks I ran can be seen in the table below:

File

OC
Settings

Tile
Size

Processor

Time

BMW27.blend

N/A

16×16

CPU

06:10.03

BMW27.blend

N/A

256×256

CPU

08:05.94

BMW27.blend

128×128

GPU

02:08.91

BMW27.blend

256×256

GPU

01:49.18

BMW27.blend

GPU +50 Mem +50

256×256

GPU

01:43.82

BMW27.blend

GPU +50 Mem +100

256×256

GPU

01:42.05

BMW27.blend

GPU +50 Mem +100

512×512

GPU

01:42.71

BMW27.blend

GPU +50 Mem +100

16×16

GPU

33:16.59

BMW27.blend

GPU
+55 Mem +100

256×256

GPU

01:41.58

BMW27.blend

GPU
+55 Mem +125

256×256

GPU

01:40.77

BMW27.blend

GPU
+60 Mem +125

256×256

GPU

01:40.63

BMW27.blend

GPU
+70 Mem +125

256×256

GPU

01:40.20

BMW27.blend

GPU
+75 Mem +100

256×256

GPU

BMW27.blend

GPU
+75 Mem +125

256×256

GPU

01:40.63

cycles_bench_272.blend

256×256

GPU

12:01.27

cycles_bench_272.blend

GPU +50 Mem +100

256×256

GPU

11:12.48

sponza_cycles_benchmark.blend

256×256

GPU

10:12:55

sponza_cycles_benchmark.blend

GPU +50 Mem +100

256×256

GPU

09:47.31

The end result of this is that I have a rock solid +50 on the GPU and +100 on the memory clock, not bad.  My specific card has an ASIC score or 85.4% which is damn fine, I didn’t see the GPU temps rise above 71C which is nice.  The final overclocking looks like this:

OCSo what now?

GTX 900 Series

After having had a good look over the 900 series it’s a no-brainer to decide to upgrade.  The decision is then between the 980 and the 970.  Since the last time I made a decision on a graphics card I had cash to burn and so blindly bought the card I wanted and the cost definitely came second in the decision process.  Hence I bought the 580 Classified and was a very happy shopper.  The problem was I bought it thinking that I would be buying another in order to then go SLI and have a frankly epic amount of the GPU horsepower to call on when needed.  The problem is that cash comes and goes and I never found myself able to justify shelling out an additional £550 for a second 580 Classified.

It just never happened …

Considering that would have been an investment of £1100 on GPUs alone I always backed off from clicking that “buy it now” button.  Only when I was doing some intensive video work did I feel that I’d like the extra grunt.  Anyway, I’m not making that mistake again and so I’m going to buy both cards at the same time this time and do the SLI immediately.  To that end I’ve decided to not go to the bleeding edge of single GPU insanity and instead rein in the spending.  That said the sheer processing grunt in a dual GTX 970 setup in SLI configuration will be mind-bending.  The most incredible thing is that two 970 will come in at around or a little more than a single 980.  It’s just a total no-brainer.

I really haven’t even thought about which 970s to get yet as in reality I don’t have the cash right now and also I’m waiting to see what is announced over the next few months.  Waiting for the 8Gb GDDR5 cards is also a no-brainer.  Since the RAM on the GPU is so important to Blender it makes sense to wait a little while until the larger RAM capacity cards hit the streets.  Seeing as the 900 series 3rd party OC’d offerings appeared very near the release of the Nvidia reference cards it should follow that the larger 8Gb 3rd party cards will appear just as close to reference release.

So, 2x 8Gb GTX 970s in SLI it is then …

 

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App Store Repeating Updates

So I had a number of apps installed on the MacBook that kept asking to be updated repeatedly.  Tried every possible solution I could find online and nothing worked.  The updates for the same versions kept popping up.

So I’ve uninstalled the apps to get around this issue.  I’ve never seen Windows Update do anything this braindead … ever.

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Blender Shenanigans

The other day I decided to get myself up to speed on all things Blender. I’ve not used the app very much but had done some simple rendering work for a couple of clients in the past. Anyway, I decided to download the latest version (2.72b) and have another look at the app.

WOW …

This app has come on in leaps and bounds since I last used it. I always felt the UI suffered from a lack of finesse (just like Gimp really). The UI itself was a blocker to getting anything done unless you were prepared to spend a long time just getting to grips with that. The new UI really is very nice. I’ve also put together a couple of renders and a nice little physics demo animation. I’ll post those soon once I’ve got them completed and uploaded.

All I can say is that right now I’m really digging Blender in all it’s free glory. Really impressive stuff and it turns 20 years old in 2015!

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Enabling CSS Hover Selector on Touch Enabled Devices

Most web developers and designer make use of this common CSS selector to help make pages easier to consume by hiding things in the UI like buttons until the context of the application makes sense to show them.  I use this a little to hide things like buttons until such time that it makes sense to show them based on what the user is viewing or doing.  This can help in many ways not least helping to keep the UI simple and uncluttered.

There are lots of solutions out there that whilst they work are in the most part overkill.  The following code snippet will enable the :hover selector on all child elements:

$('body').bind('touchstart', function () { });

So given this HTML:

<body>
    <div id="content">
        <div id="nav"></div>
        <div id="content-wrapper"></div>
    </div>
<body>

You might want to limit the scope to target just the actual page content, so you would use:

$('#content-wrapper').bind('touchstart', function () { });

The trick to getting this to work nicely in all instances is by being mindfull of the scope of the main selector. You might want to make sure the scope of the selector excludes any navigation menus and as I saw some odd behaviour in the Dolphin browser on iOS 8. This has been tested on FireFox, Chrome, IE, Dolphin, Opera and Safari on iOS 8.

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Yosemity Handoff – What’s really happening?

It should be obvious to people that the more and higher levels of integration of devices like the Mac and the iWhatever will have some kind of impact on your privacy.  The problem with the new handoff feature in OSX Yosemity is that it actually makes a lot of decisions for you.  The basic gist of it would be easily described using a comparison with Dropbox.

When using a system like Dropbox the essential core sharing model is “opt-in” meaning that the only files Dropbox gets are the ones that you have chosen to include in your local Dropbox file structure or explicitly uploaded to the Dropbox service.  However, when using the Handoff feature it basic will have to upload any files for the compatible apps you are using to the iCloud Drive service in order to then subsequently edit on another iCloud linked device.

The problem here is that this will upload ALL files for these devices and it also won’t ask your permission first it will make the assumption that you will do this and it will therefore need to upload it to Apple servers.

OSX uses a “Saved Application State” in order to power such features as restarting the OS without use intervention and also restarting apps where you left off.  All files are stored in this application state structure on disk, this is now also all going to your iCloud Drive if you have handoff enabled.  So basically everything is on their servers if you want it there or not.

Hmm … that isn’t exactly private is it.

You can see all this stuff on your hard disk here:

~/Library/Saved Application State/"

You can read a bit more about this here, an article by a security researcher.

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