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Ubuntu Linux: "Wi-Fi is disabled by hardware switch" #

A weedy wireless on/off switch on an ancient Sony VAIO laptop suddenly started acting up:
Wi-Fi Network (Intel Vaio VGN-SZ795N C)
Wi-Fi is disabled by hardware switch
No problem - let's plug in a USB wifi adapter:
Wi-Fi Network (Intel Vaio VGN-SZ795N C)
Wi-Fi is disabled by hardware switch

Wi-Fi Network (Realtek 802.11n WLAN Adapter)
Wi-Fi is disabled by hardware switch
That's strange:
$ rfkill list
0: phy0: Wireless LAN
	Soft blocked: no
	Hard blocked: yes
1: phy1: Wireless LAN
	Soft blocked: no
	Hard blocked: no
$ sudo rfkill unblock all
$ rfkill list
0: phy0: Wireless LAN
	Soft blocked: no
	Hard blocked: yes
1: phy1: Wireless LAN
	Soft blocked: no
	Hard blocked: no
Won't bore you with all of the dead ends I explored (booting from a live CD, resetting the BIOS, removing the battery and draining the capacitors, performing all manner of mudras with the wifi switch, running a slew of esoteric commands I don't remember, etc); happily, I finally stumbled, exhausted, on Pfistodactyl's concise answer for disabling the built-in wifi adapter:
  1. $ lspci -v
  2. Note the value of "Kernel driver in use:" for the onboard wireless LAN controller (e.g., "iwl4965")
  3. Add the following line to /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf: "blacklist iwl4965" (without quotes)
  4. Reboot
Happiness restored!

/nix | Dec 24, 2015

Windows Migration Assistant stuck looking for source #

The Windows Migration Assistant sounds swell:
Move your data from a Windows PC to a Mac: Use Windows Migration Assistant to transfer your music, pictures, documents, and other data from a Windows PC to your Mac. Windows Migration Assistant transfers your contacts, calendars, email accounts, and more from a PC and puts these files in the appropriate places on your Mac.
Though in practice, it doesn't seem to work so well: I tried using it to import from Windows 7 64-bit into a new iMac running OS X 10.11.2 via a gigabit Ethernet connection running through a router. On the Mac side, it was stuck at "Looking for source..." while the Windows side was stuck at "Waiting for your Mac to connect..." No antivirus or firewall was running on the Windows machine.

I found that the Bonjour Service was not running and started it. It stopped running a few seconds later. Tried several times, same result.

Reinstalling Bonjour for Windows seemed like the next logical step. Finding it as an independent download on the Apple site proved much harder than it should. Here it is: That did the trick. The import continued normally, but concluded with:
An error occurred while transferring your information.
Some documents for user could not be transferred.
No further information on what failed to transfer was available, so after the iMac setup was complete, I fired up the FTP server (sudo launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ftp.plist) on the Mac and DeltaWalker on the PC to compare the key user directories (Pictures, Music, Desktop, Documents, Downloads, etc). There were only a handful of missing files in those directories (which were easily copied over via DeltaWalker), but the Outlook import had failed spectacularly; none of the email had imported into Mail.app, and the email settings were incomplete.

Used PST Converter Pro to convert email, contacts, and calendar items from two PST files totaling over 20GBs - worked perfectly (Mail.app 9.2 is a disaster though - avoid if at all possible).

In future, I won't waste time with Windows Migration Assistant; connecting the old drive via USB 3.0, copying files, and performing any necessary conversions with third-party tools is much faster.

/mac | Dec 20, 2015

Batch convert TXT to PalmDOC (PDB) and back #

txt2pdbdoc "is a Unix-based Text-to-Doc file conversion program". I have compiled it for Windows using Cygwin: txt2pdbdoc.7z.*


C:\>txt2pdbdoc.exe [options] document_name file.txt file.pdb

Batch conversion:

C:\>for %f in (*.txt) do (txt2pdbdoc.exe %~nf %f %~nf.pdb)

* If you prefer compiling your own binary from source under Windows:

  1. Download and unzip txt2pdbdoc
  2. Install Cygwin with dev tools
  3. Run Cygwin and cd to txt2pdbdoc-master directory extracted in step 0
  4. $ autoreconf -fiv
  5. $ ./configure
  6. $ make
  7. txt2pdbdoc.exe will be created in the txt2pdbdoc-master\src directory

/palm | Nov 05, 2015

El Capitan: "PowerPC applications are no longer supported" error message #

Some third-party apps may appear in the Applications folder with a prohibitory sign on top of their icons. Attempting to open such an app results in the following error message:
You can't open the application "foobar" because PowerPC applications are no longer supported.
despite it not being a PowerPC-based app.

The solution (for now) is to simply move or copy the app to the Desktop (or anywhere else in the user's home directory, presumably).

/mac | Oct 23, 2015

Windows won't boot (or boots only once) after SSD upgrade #

TL;DR: BIOS update solved Windows 7 boot problems following SSD installation.

Installed a 960GB SanDisk SSD into a Dell Latitude E5510 and tried cloning the previous hard drive to it:

  1. Acronis True Image 2014 would not even begin cloning: "Clone Disk Operation Failed".
  2. AOMEI Backupper Standard 3.2 created an unbootable copy.
  3. MiniTool Partition Wizard Free 9.0 made a copy that booted once, and then would only boot to Startup Repair or, after enough meddling, to the Windows Boot Manager: "Windows failed to start ... File: \Windows\system32\winload.exe ... the application is missing or corrupt" (reproduced below in full monochrome CSS for your viewing pleasure). Replacing winload.exe with a new copy did not help. Attempts to repair, including with Easy Recovery Essentials, were futile. Tried cloning again, same result.
  4. EaseUS Todo Backup Free 8.8 was taking way too long; estimated time remaining kept increasing - cancelled.
  5. Paragon Drive Copy 15 Professional - same result as #3
  6. HDClone 6 - same result as #3

The SATA mode was never changed from its original setting (AHCI). At this point, RAID and ATA/IDE modes were attempted to no avail.

Next, a clean install of Windows 7 was made to the SSD. It booted once, but after some Windows updates were installed and the machine rebooted, would not start again (back to the same issues in #3 above.)

Contacted SanDisk on the off-chance that it was the drive or the firmware; they kindly sent a brand new (not refurbished) replacement in an unopened retail box. Tried a clean install to the new SSD; same result as before.

Finally it dawned on me ("One more coruscation, my dear Watson -- yet another brain-wave!") to try updating the BIOS. Sure enough, after updating from A05 to A10 and then A16, Windows booted up just fine. Cloned the old HDD with Paragon Drive Copy and that too worked perfectly.

In hundreds, if not thousands, of drive cloning operations over the years, it was the first time I had encountered a situation in which Windows would boot once and then fail on subsequent attempts. It was also one of the few times I had seen a BIOS update solve anything (UPDATE: Claus and Matt kindly inform me that they've found BIOS updates to be especially effective at resolving knotty problems, even those not typically associated with the BIOS). Lesson learned! May this pitiful account save some other soul time and toil.


Windows Boot Manager

Windows failed to start. A recent hardware or software change might be the cause. To fix the problem:

1. Insert your Windows installation disc and restart your computer.
2. Choose your language settings, and then click "Next."
3. Click "Repair your computer."

If you do not have this disc, contact your system administrator or computer manufacturer for assistance.

File: \Windows\system32\winload.exe

Status: OxcOOOOOO1

Info: The selected entry could not be loaded because the application is missing or corrupt.

ENTER=Continue ESC=Exit


CSS props:

/windows | Oct 18, 2015

Enable Maildir storage in Thunderbird #

Maildir offers a number of advantages over mbox. Thunderbird 38 offers experimental support for Maildir; read the warnings and caveats before enabling.


  1. Thunderbird > Preferences > Advanced > Config Editor...
  2. Search for mail.serverDefaultStoreContractID
  3. Change the default @mozilla.org/msgstore/berkeleystore;1 value to @mozilla.org/msgstore/maildirstore;1
  4. Restart Thunderbird



A few notes on the "death" of Thunderbird:

/misc | Oct 15, 2015

El Capitan install error: OS X could not be installed on your computer #

Among the least helpful error messages I've come across:
OS X could not be installed on your computer

No packages were eligible for install. Contact the software manufacturer for assistance.

Quit the installer to restart your computer and try again.

It should read "Fix the time and date before installing" or something like that. Here's how to resolve while booted from the install disk:
  1. Utilities > Terminal
  2. Fix the date and time, e.g., date 101407002015 (i.e., Oct 14, 07:00 2015)
  3. Click Restart (sadly, there's no other option to go back and try again)

/mac | Oct 14, 2015

Robocopy replacement #

strarc.exe (Stream Archive) is
"a console backup/archive tool for Windows NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista/2008/7. It uses the same backup methods as the ntbackup or robocopy programs and thus backs up all information and meta data on an NTFS volume. The main difference is that strarc is free and open source and produces stream archives you can store on tapes, disks or anywhere else or it can create the archive stream to stdout so that it can be compressed easily using stream compression tools like gzip or bzip2. The command line switches and parameters are quite similar to the *nix tar utility and it can easily be used to clone an entire NTFS volume including everything, files, directories, their time stamps, attributes and security information, compression attribute, alternate data streams, junctions, hard links etc. It is now even possible to backup the registry database files of a running Windows system."

Here's a simple usage example from the documentation:

strarc.exe -cjd:C:\dir | strarc -xd:D:\dirbk

"This will clone the C:\dir directory tree to D:\dirbk but will not follow junctions in the C:\dir directory tree but instead clone the junction itself to the D:\dirbk location."
A few initial observations:
  1. Source code available separately here
  2. Attempting to clone a live system (even with the -r switch to "backup loaded registry database of the running system") to another drive failed to produce a bootable copy (after Startup Repair ran, Windows 8 booted to the login screen but stayed stuck on "Preparing Windows"), despite the promise of "How to backup a complete running Windows system" in the documentation (which does not cover shadow copies - see #3).
  3. However, using one of the command line shadow copy tools in conjunction with strarc reportedly works.
  4. While copying C: to E:, received a number of "Short names are not enabled on this volume" errors. Ran fsutil 8dot3name set e: 0 to resolve, though strarc also offers a "-w:8" switch which hides warnings when short 8.3 names cannot be restored.
  5. Need to update emcopy.exe post and Xcopy Windows to a new hard drive

More info:

/windows | Oct 12, 2015

Disable "The disk you inserted was not readable..." message for internal SATA drives #

As Apple continues to make its products harder and harder to repair, internal drive replacement is becoming a major hassle. You might find yourself with a bad SATA cable (e.g., "Unable to write to the last block of the device.") or dead hard drive, but not the will to spend hours dismantling and reassembling your Mac. You might decide to boot from a Thunderbolt, USB, or FireWire drive instead. However, you will be greeted by this cheery message on every boot:

The disk you inserted was not readable by this computer.
The disk you inserted was not readable by this computer. Initialize... | Ignore | Eject

Happily, James Newell has crafted and shared a modified DiskArbitrationAgent to ignore unreadable SATA drives. It also works great for ignoring volumes or file systems that OS X doesn't understand (TrueCrypt, ext4, ZFS, etc). Despite originally being Yosemite-only, he has kindly added builds for Mavericks and El Capitan today.

/mac | Oct 12, 2015

Free and easy email migration from Thunderbird to Outlook #

Aid4Mail has long offered a fast and easy path from Thunderbird to Outlook (as illustrated in our 2005 review). However, there were few free and easy options until MailStore Home; it seamlessly handles importing from Thunderbird and exporting directly into Outlook. In fact, once your email is archived in MailStore Home, you may not need or want to export into Outlook at all, as the full-text search feature (including attachments) is very fast and PST files are a nightmare anyway.

/windows | Oct 09, 2015

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