Changing computer name in Mac OS

How do you change your Mac computer name, if you so want?

There are several sites on the Internet, which suggest that you go to System Preferences, Sharing and edit the computer name in one of the selections there, like File Sharing or Remote Management, right at the top there.

Well, unfortunately this is NOT true. It just doesn’t work that way.

I recently copied the system disk, from one of my Macs, to another one and installed the new disk in a Mac Mini 2012 I just got. So I went in System Preferences, Sharing and changed the computer name. However, when I tried to edit the settings from the ChronoAgent, I noticed that the old computer name was shown. I contacted Econ Technologies (the makers of ChronoSync and ChronoAgent) and they were puzzled too. They had me take screen grabs of my settings and send them to their engineers. They just couldn’t figure out. They even created a new version of ChronoAgent, with more reporting capabilities, in order to figure that out. Well, I didn’t even had to use the new version, running console, it was evident that the computer was still using the old computer name instead of the new one I had entered in Sharing.

This bug affects both El Capitan and Sierra (latest versions).

So what’s the solution to this problem (changing your Mac computer name)?

Simple! Open a terminal window and enter the following command:

sudo scutil –set HostName YourNewComputerName

Immediately, the host name is changed to the new one and your computer is now rebaptized.

I hope this helps someone!

Updating your El Capitan OS-X system disk to the latest version 10.11.2

In a previous post, I have described how to install OS-X El Capitan to your 2006-2007 MacPro. Here is a link to that post. The link will open in a new browser window.

Yesterday, Apple released version 10.11.2 of El Capitan, so below you will find the steps you need to follow, in order to update your system to the latest version. Please keep in mind that you need to have a backup copy of your system disk, in order to do that. In my case, I have an internal SSD as my system disk, let’s call that MacSSD and an external SSD disk, let’s call that one Mac_Ext. Make sure that your external (or internal) backup copy of your system disk is an exact copy of your system disk, before you begin.

First step is to boot from MacSSD (or whatever disk is your system disk) and run your App Store application. Select Updates from the top links and allow the installation of El Capitan update. There will also be an El Capitan Recovery Update, you can update that too. When the installation is finished allow the program to restart your computer. Most probably, your MacPro will NOT start, so use your power button to restart it again, and when the … boot sound plays, hold down your Option key. You will see all the disks from which you can start up your system, namely MacSSD and Mac_Ext. Select Mac_Ext (or whatever is the name of your backup disk) to boot from. Obviously, your system will boot in El Capitan 10.11.1 (or whatever version of El Capitan you had already in your system disk and your backup disk). Allow the system to boot fully, and then open Terminal. All lines starting with a – below, are commands you will type in the terminal window.

– su

The system will ask you for your root password, enter it.

– cd /Volumes/MacSSD/System/Library/CoreServices

This will take you to the first place where the boot.efi needs to be replaced.

– chflags nouchg boot.efi

The above command will remove the protection from boot.efi file.

– cp /System/Library/CoreServices/boot.efi .

The above command will copy the proper boot.efi file from your backup disk to your normal system disk.

– chflags uchg boot.efi

This will protect boot.efi again.

While in the CoreServices directory, I then used Property List Editor to edit the file called PlatformSupport.plist . Since not all of the readers have this program, you can also edit the file with your favorite editor. I use vi, so here are the instructions on how to do it. Enter the following command:

vi PlatformSupport.plist

Move your cursor down, until it is on the line saying “<array>”. Then press the letter “o”. A new empty line will open below the line your cursor was on. In the new line, enter the following (that’s for a 2006 MacPro 1,1. If you have a different Mac, you need to find your proper board ID):

<string>Mac-F4208DC8</string>

Press Esc (the Esc button) and then enter:

:wq

This will save the file and take you back to the prompt. Now enter:

– cd ../../../usr/standalone/i386

This will take you to the second location, where you need to copy the boot.efi file. Just enter the following command:

– cp /System/Library/CoreServices/boot.efi .

This will copy the proper boot.efi to the second location.

Practically, you are now ready to boot your system from your normal system disk, MacSSD. Do so now. After your system boots, make sure you are running El Capitan 10.11.2, by clicking on the small apple, on the top left corner. If you did everything correctly, you should be running 10.11.2, but you are not done yet. Your Recovery partition needs to be patched in order to work on your Mac.

To do so, boot from your backup disk again, not from MacSSD and open a terminal window and enter:

– diskutil list

This will show you all the partitions on all your disks. Find a partition called “Apple_Boot Recovery HD” which is on the MacSSD disk. Notice the last word in that line, something like “disk1s3″. Now issue the following command:

– diskutil mount /dev/disk1s3

The program will tell you that the disk is mounted. Enter this command to verify that:

– ls -l /Volumes

You should see a “Recovery HD” disk there. Issue the following commands:

– cd /Volumes/Recovery\ HD

This will take you into the Recovery HD disk. Issue:

– cd com.apple.recovery.boot
– ls -l

In the directory, you will see a boot.efi file. You need to replace it with the patched one, so issue:

– cp /System/Library/CoreServices/boot.efi .

Then edit the PlatformSupport.plist file found in that same directory, following the instructions above.

You can now restart your computer and try booting from the Recovery HD. If you have done everything OK, you should be able to boot from the Recovery Partition of MacSSD without a problem.

 

P.S.: Upgrading from 10.11.4 to 10.11.5 will also replace the boot.efi and PlatformSupport.plist files. So it is advisable to have a backup of your system disk, to apply the procedure outlined above, after you do the upgrade.

Installing Mac OS-X El Capitan 10.11.1 in a 2006 MacPro 1,1

Here is a little write-up on how I installed El Capitan on my 2006 MacPro 1,1.

Before reading any further, please keep in mind that all my attempts to create a bootable USB stick, with the El Capitan installer, failed miserably. So I had to follow a different path to do it, which requires access to a Mac computer, which natively supports El Capitan. In my particular case, I used my early 2009 iMac. If you do not have access to a Mac which can natively support El Capitan, this method is NOT for you.

With this disclaimer out of the way, a quick description of the issue of installing El Capitan on those old Macs.

The 2006 and 2007 MacPros were extremely powerful computers for their time. They were the top of the line, professional machines from Apple and they still are quite capable. Unfortunately, even though most of their hardware is 64-bit, their firmware is only 32 bit. At some point in time Apple decided to no longer provide their OS-X with 32-bit firmware support (I do not exactly remember what was the OS-X version that broke it). As a result, those MacPros couldn’t use the latest releases of OS-X. Thank to some enterprising souls on the Internet, patches were developed, which allowed the use of later OS-X versions on those Macs. And those patches were easy to implement, my 2006 MacPro 1,1 was running Yosemite, before I decided to upgrade it to El Capitan. While some people are quite happy running OS-X 10.6 on their MacPros, I wanted to run the latest and greatest (or so they say) of OS-X, which is El Capitan or 10.11.1.

The following paragraphs describe how I managed to install El Capitan on my MacPro 1,1 and give you some troubleshooting guide on issues you may face after the installation. Please keep in mind that I can not be blamed if something breaks in your computer, by following the instructions below. Always have a backup of your data before doing anything dangerous to your system, and the instructions below are definitely not for those who do not know their way around the Mac OS-X.

OK, let’s start, here is a description of my systems:

1. MacPro 1,1 already running Yosemite (MP for short, from now on).
2. iMac early 2009, also running Yosemite and Server.app

All lines starting with a – are commands you should enter in a terminal window. Do not enter the “- “, only what follows it.

My MP boot disk is an SSD which is twice a day backed up to an external SSD disk, for security reasons. So I got this second SSD disk, let’s call it SSD_Ext, and move it to the iMac. I run App Store on the iMac and downloaded El Capitan installer. However, I didn’t allow it to install on the iMac internal disk. Instead I asked it to install the new software to the SSD_Ext disk, which was now connected to the iMac.

The installer went through it process and ended up by upgrading the SSD_Ext disk to El Capitan. I verified that by allowing the iMac to boot from SSD_Ext. I then changed the System Properties, instructing the iMac to boot from its internal disk (which I remind you has Yosemite installed) and removed the SSD_Ext from it.

I took the SDD_Ext disk to my MP (still running Yosemite). I opened a terminal window and issued the following commands.

– su

The system will ask you for your root password, enter it.

– cd /Volumes/SSD_Ext/System/Library/CoreServices

This will take you to the first place where the boot.efi needs to be replaced.

– chflags nouchg boot.efi

The above command will remove the protection from boot.efi

At this moment, I visited the following URL and downloaded the patched boot.efi needed to have the MacPro run El Capitan:

http://piker-alpha.github.io/macosxbootloader/

Scroll down until you find the “Download” paragraph and download either of the two boot.efi’s mentioned there. One is for a black background with a white apple and the other is for a white background with a black apple. Pick your choice, both work. I saved the boot.efi on my Desktop folder. I then went back to terminal and issued the following commands:

– cp /Users/john/Desktop/boot.efi .

That will copy the new boot.efi to CoreServices, overwriting the standard one. I then issued:

– chflags uchg boot.efi

This will protect boot.efi again.

While in the CoreServices directory, I then used Property List Editor to edit the file called PlatformSupport.plist . Since not all of the readers have this program, you can also edit the file with your favorite editor. I use vi, so here are the instructions on how to do it. Enter the following command:

– vi PlatformSupport.plist

Move your cursor down, until it is on the line saying “<array>”. Then press the letter “o”. A new empty line will open below the line your cursor was on. In the new line, enter the following:

<string>Mac-F4208DC8</string>

Press Esc (the Esc button) and then enter:

:wq

This will save the file and take you back to the prompt. Now enter:

– cd ../../../usr/standalone/i386

This will take you to the second location, where you need to copy the boot.efi file. Just enter the following command:

– cp /Users/john/Desktop/boot.efi .

You are all done now. All that remains is to reboot your system from the SSD_Ext disk, to have El Capitan running. To do that, go to your System Preferences, Startup Disk and select the SSD_Ext as your boot disk. You may need to enter your administrator password two or three times, but that’s OK. Then click on the small apple sign, on the top left corner of your screen and your computer will restart.

There is an alternative way to select what disk to boot from. You simply restart your computer and when the boot sound is heard, press and hold the Option key on your keyboard, until a gray screen appears with all your bootable drives. Select the SSD_Ext (or whatever your external disk is called) using your mouse or your arrow keys and press Enter. The system will boot from that disk, in El Capitan.

Some remarks regarding El Capitan on your MacPro 1,1.

1. It is possible that some of your Internet Accounts are not copied correctly. So please check them out in your System Preferences. In my case, a CardDav account didn’t survive the upgrade, but that was easily fixable.

2. Most probably, you will not be able to boot from your Recovery Partition, which the installer has created on your SSD_Ext drive. The reason is that the boot.efi file installed in it, is the standard one, not the patched one. You can change that (and gain access to the Recovery Partition) by following these instructions.

Boot from your internal disk again, not from SSD_Ext. Open a terminal window and enter:

– diskutil list

This will show you all the partitions on all your disks. Find a partition called “Apple_Boot Recovery HD” which is on the SSD_Ext disk. Notice the last word in that line, something like “disk1s3”. Now issue the following command:

– diskutil mount /dev/disk1s3

The program will tell you that the disk is mounted. Enter this command to verify that:

– ls -l /Volumes

You should see a “Recovery HD” disk there. Issue the following commands:

– cd /Volumes/Recovery\ HD

This will take you into the Recovery HD disk. Issue:

– cd com.apple.recovery.boot
– ls -l

In the directory, you will see a boot.efi file. You need to replace it with the patched one, so issue the following commands:

– chflags nouchg boot.efi
– cp /Users/john/Desktop/boot.efi .
– chflags uchg boot.efi

These will unprotect the boot.efi from the directory you are in, replace it with the patched one and protect the file again (just like we did above).

Then edit the PlatformSupport.plist file found in that same directory, following the instructions above.

You can now restart your computer and try booting from the Recovery HD.

3. El Capitan comes with a strange protection scheme called SIP, which is supposed to prevent overwrite of critical system files. That protection however, may prevent you from running certain programs, which may be crucial for you. In my case, the program XtraFinder which I use, couldn’t run due to that protection. To make it work, you need to disable the protection scheme. To do that, you have to boot from your Recovery HD partition, and from the menu on the top, select Utilities and then Terminal. When you are in the terminal window, enter the following command:

– csrutil disable

For the XtraFinder, it is not necessary to disable SIP completely, so you can enter the following command, instead:

– csrutil enable –without debug

4. An interesting side-effect of El Capitan, for those using two monitors connected to your MP, is the fact that now, the log in screen appears on your primary display, instead of the secondary one. For me, that’s a good thing.

5. Something strange I discovered yesterday night, is that the upgrade to El Capitan erased my trusty Airport Utility 5.6.1, which was inside a directory in /Applications/Utilities. So it seems that Apple doesn’t like us using the old but powerful 5.6.1 version. Thank God, it is easily available on the net, together with the Loader required for it to run on recent Mac OS-X versions.

6. I’ve been using the MP with El Capitan for three or four days now, and I haven’t noticed any significant issues. My Chronosynch scheduler has been disabled, after the El Capitan installation, but that was easily fixed. Also, a strange error message appears, from time to time, which is due to SuperDuper!, again nothing serious, google that issues, easily fixable.

I hope you’ll find these guidelines interesting and useful.

Addendum for problems with my second MacPro (December 25th, 2016)

A few days ago, I got my hands on a second MacPro 1,1. Same computer as the MacPro I’ve been using with El Capitan for some months now. The new computer came with OS-X 10.7.5 installed. The initial plan was to just make a copy of the boot disk from my old MacPro (let’s call it MacPro1 from now on) and install it in the new MacPro (let’s call it MacPro2 from now on) and have two similar MacPros.

Unfortunatelly, this didn’t work out as planned. The disk booted MacPro2 fine, but after a while, the computer hanged up. I tried to figure out what the problem was, but no luck. So I tried the next best thing. I had a copy of El Capitan install file saved, so I used that to create a bootable disk. The version of that install file was 10.11.4. Tried that, but that didn’t work either. So I downloaded El Capitan from the App Store again, and created a boot disk. That download was also 10.11.4, so I updated it to 10.11.6. But I asked the program to import all my settings from my MacBook. Well, that disk didn’t work either, so right now, I am in the process of redownloading and reinstalling 10.11.4 again. I’ll update it to 10.11.6 but won’t import the user settings from any computer. I’ll set it up from scratch. Wish me luck! I’ve had better ways to spend Christmas and next day, than playing with a crazy El Capitan!

Addendum of the addendum

Well, am I stupid or not? The MacPro2 came with only 4GB of RAM. Upgrading that to 8GB solved all my problems!

Various tidbids from Summer 2012

This post, being written on the last day of August 2012, qualifies for the end-of-summer entry for this blog. So I decided to collect some thoughts and issues I faced during summer and post them here.

First of all, a Fujifilm X-100 issue, that I was aware of, but never remembered. Don’t try to use the build-in flash of the camera, with the lens hood attached. It’s a known issue, but since I store and always carry my camera with the lens hood attached, I didn’t remember to remove it, when I shot some pictures with the flash activated. Results? Bottom left corner of the pictures is significantly darker than the rest. Just remember: flash and hood do not go together on this camera.

Second, Apple Mountain Lion server has significant issues. I am now officially back to Lion server, since the new version has so many issues that I do not want to upgrade. I have spend several summer days trying to fix the issues with the Mountain Lion server, unsuccessfully, so I decided that it was about time to go back to the previous, stable, Lion server and call it a day. Thanks Apple, as if I had nothing better to do with my summer days.

Third, spending almost a whole summer month with a broken foot, is not fun. I broke a bone in my foot, as I was climbing down from a chair I was on, doing some rearrangements of my network equipment. As I was coming off the chair, my right foot stepped on my shoe and the ankle turned. I heard a “crack” and felt an acute pain at the right side of my foot. A visit to the hospital (after two days) showed a broken bone. A cast was applied for almost 20 days, which severely reduced my mobility. Not fun.

The weird thing is that at least eight other persons I know had foot issues this summer. Isn’t that strange?!?!

Fourth, vacations. We spent our vacations in the island of Crete, in the apartments of a friend, but more about that you will read in another, dedicated post, with pictures and everything. Needless to say we appreciate Spyros hospitality.

Apple Mountain Lion Server

After living with Mountain Lion for some days now, I have some comments I would like to share with you.

First of all, the upgrade from Lion to Mountain Lion, went just fine on my iMac. I wish I could say the same for the Mac Mini Server. The upgrade of the server was a frustrating experience. In my server, the user directories are located on an external disk drive. The Server upgrade had a hard time understanding this, so I spent several days trying to fix things up, with the help of Apple Support engineers. a huge CPU consumption issue (and hence high temperature issue) didn’t help either. Eventually, the problems were solved and the server is working OK now, but the upgrade was not a swift experience.

Coming to the things I noticed after the upgrades:

  1. Unfortunately, Mountain Lion Server (or more correctly OS-X Server, as it is now named), is lacking several useful features from the previous versions. Apple has decided that a firewall is not necessary for its new OS, so they did away with it. There is no longer a Firewall management page, where you could define your firewall rules. Instead, they suggest that you use the CLI (Command Line Interface) and enter your new rules manually. IPFW (the Lion firewall) still works, but is deprecated, which means that it will stop working in a future OS version. I wish someone could make a Mac OS port of iptables!! Apple’s rudimentary firewall setup is too simple and too cumbersome to be trusted for protecting your server.
  2. The log displaying facility is also seriously reduced in the new Server app. Several logs that could be seen in Lion’s equivalent app, are not shown now. For a sysadmin that’s a serious problem.

In general, the server side of Mountain Lion seems to be very administrator unfriendly. This reduction in capabilities didn’t happen for the first time, it occured when we moved from Leopard to Snow Leopard and then to Lion and now it occurs again. It seems as if Apple doesn’t want SysAdmins to set up the machines in they way they want, but in the way Apple wants them. Strange!

Apple Mountain Lion

Most Apple users are aware that Apple just released the latest version of its Mac operating system, namely Mac OS-X 10.8 or Mountain Lion, as it is known. While I usually wait for a week or two before installing a new OS, this time I decided to install it, the day it was released. So far, no problems, except the fact that the bulbs below open applications, on the Dock are very small and hence difficult to see. I think I had a patch installed in Lion, which made them bigger, but I can’t find it right now.

So if someone knows how to get back my bigger, lovely Lion bulbs, drop me a note, I would appreciate it.

Our blogs are at their final home

First of all, let me welcome you to our new family server, our little corner of the Internet.

I’ve been working with computers professionally since 1985, so creating a little home server for the family was something I wanted to do ever since I … got a family. Being totally independent of external services, was something I always fancied and with the kids growing up (well, the twins, the third is already a grown up) I decided to build this little network in our home, to serve our needs. Some background is in order though, for you to better understand my ramblings below.

A couple of years ago, I decided that I had enough of the Windows problems and switched over to Apple. A MacBook first, to test the waters, was soon followed by a 24″ iMac, and then last January a Mac Mini Server was added, to act as the family server. The services I wanted the server to provide were;

  • Calendar server
  • Address Book server
  • Email server
  • Web server
  • Blog server
  • Domain name server (with our family name, as the domain name)

The idea was that we could use this server to synchronize our iPhones (yes, the switch to Apple included our phones too), present our family to the public (as if someone is interested in reading about us) and have a place to post our thoughts. Some additional email addresses, in the family name domain space would be a welcome addition too.

The Mac Mini, loaded with Snow Leopard served the intended role for some months, not without frustrations, due mainly to Apple’s GUI (Graphical User Interface) server management tools, which is both a blessing (when it works) and a curse (when it can’t do what you want it to do, just like any other Unix-based server). But after some experimentation, and after learning to ignore parts of the GUI in favor of the good old command-line interface, I had it set up and running, as I wanted it to.

Fast forward to last summer, when Apple released its OS-X Lion server. Although I know better than installing a brand new version of any software on my machines, when I finally decided to install Lion on my server, I wasn’t expecting the problems that move would bring upon me. Several things that were working OK on the previous version of OS-X, just stopped working. Why would Apple change my existing domain name server configuration files, when upgrading? Why would Apache configuration change with the new version? Why on earth the Wiki and blogs had to be changed so much so to become useless? After spending a couple of frustrating months with Apple’s new server software, I decided I had enough of it.

I had an old, Pentium 4 based computer, which I no longer used, so after some advice from a good friend (thanks Don), I build my first Linux box, using CentOS distribution. I had some experience with Unix (I once owned a Sun SparcStation 4, which I loved) so it was not so difficult for me to build the server. Eventually, the CentOS box took over some services from the Apple server, such as the web server, the DNS server and the blogs server, the Mac retaining what it does best, collaborating with other Apple devices such as our Apple computers, our iPhones and iPad.

So here is where we are today. We are a family with a small private network, connecting two servers, two Apple computers (the iMac and the MacBook), two Windows-based HP netbooks for the twins (I know, it’s a sin, but Apple’s notebooks are way too expensive to trust the kids with such devices), two iPhones, two iPod Touches and one iPad 2. And this here, is the first, inaugural post in our blogs. I am sure many more will follow especially by both me and my wife.

I hope that the above environment will help our kids get acquainted with the computers and the Internet, and it will provide me with the opportunity to learn more things about computers, which is my favorite pass time.

What you can expect to read about in here?

Well, my main interests are computers, photography and cars. But I am sure that you will also find many more blogposts about other things in life, things we love and things we hate. Lena will probably use this space to post her own thoughts, and I’ve heard something about posting some Greek recipes. Lena is Ukrainian but she had learned to cook Greek food and she cooks it beautifully, so I would urge you to try out her recipes, when of course she gets herself to start posting. The only problem you may have with that, is that she would probably post the recipes in Russian, so you English-speaking friends will have a hard time reading them. But of course, there are Internet-based translation tools, which can help you understand her writings, and I am sure she would be too happy to answer your questions, if you have any.

So, welcome to our little corner of the web, we hope to see you around.