Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Summer Vacation, the IT perspective

For all those school workers who are posting status messages like 'no more work for summer, yay!'..... or 'Wooo! It's the Summer Holidays!'...

I am making a list of your names and will spend the next 6 weeks carrying out the following actions: -

- Randomly moving stuff around and between your rooms.

- Putting dead batteries in your remote controls.

- Adjusting stuff on your desks ever-so-slightly so you probably won't notice, but I will know...

- Setting your computers to randomly crash (I know you think I do that anyway, but this time I really am doing it....).

- Taking the paper out of your printer and turning it upside down (again... I will know... mwuhahah..).

- ... and another thing on printers.... removing *nearly* all the toner from your cartridges but leaving 2% cyan, 4% magenta, 6% yellow and 8% black so it nags you again even after you ask us to change one.

- Signing you up for automated email newsletters on the subject of 'IT workers are humans too'.

- Re-calibrating your SMARTBoard and clicking on the target dots in the opposite order as they appear.

- Repairing laptops that 'Just slipped out of your hands'... Funny how you all seem able to catch a fiver before it hits the floor though....

- Going through all your WORD documents where you have pasted an EXCEL table and replacing it with the words 'THIS IS THE WORK OF SATAN!'.

- Did I mention messing with your printers? Oh, ok...

- Reordering your filing using a font-based scoring system, documents in Comic Sans will be filed in the bin, as will any document where you used more than 2 fonts in the same paragraph.... Serif fonts will also score poorly as THIS ISN'T THE 19TH BLOODY CENTURY!

- Talking in a funny voice that sounds a bit like you and saying 'I'm ... no more work for 6 weeks, Yay!' while flouncing around your room.

- Renaming all the folders in your 'Documents' folder after celebrity babies like 'Apple', 'Fifi Trixibelle' and 'Sage Moonblood'

- Developing a close and rewarding relationship with the Yoghurt / Lunch box you left in the Staff Room fridge that has since become sentient and developed a rudimentary vocabulary, sometimes exceeding that of the teaching staff...

- Finding where you hide your alcohol... 

- Replacing every song in your iTunes folder with 'Working 9 to 5' by Dolly Parton.


Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Backing up Calendars and Profile Manager in Mavericks 10.9 Server (v3)

Once again Apple have played around with the locations of the Postgres databases that make up the backend of Calendar Server (caldav) and ProfileManager (_devicemgr).

They now reside in separate databases (my guess is this is to make each service fully independant of each other).  Thankfully they can still be backed up using PG_DUMP and PG_DUMPALL.

As of Server v3, you can use the following commands to connect to the relevant unix socket paths and perform backups either as pgdump files that can be restored using pg_restore or as raw sql files (not sure why you would want the raw sql but hey ho), anyway here's the how to...

Don't forget to sudo or run as root...

Backup Calendar Server

Backup Profile Manager

Good luck!

Friday, 14 September 2012

How to cut down and sand your SIM or Micro SIM to a Nano SIM for iPhone 5

iPhone 5 will be with us next week and I'm pretty sure my carrier (Orange UK) isn't going to get a Nano SIM to me in time, when I called today they said 'Call back in a week'... oh dear...

So I am planning to cut down my Micro SIM from my 4S to fit the 5.  This is the method I have been working on together with pitfalls I found along the way.

Please note, right now I am doing this with a spare SIM, I have not tested this in an iPhone 5 yet, because I haven't got one to test it in.

Here is a nice template courtesy of Germer Consulting you can use for measuring: -

NOTE:  Make sure you print the template the correct size (check against your SIM before you start cutting!)

WARNING!  Cutting SIM cards is one thing, sanding them is another.  This whole process could very likely kill your SIM card for good so attempt it at your peril and don't blame me if it goes wrong.

One good idea is to use any old SIM card you might have lying around to practice on first.

Step 1 - Writing
Write down the IMEI number from the back of your SIM. It's very easy to get carried away in the moment and just reach for the sand paper, but it makes sense to keep a copy of the IMEI number. You can get the number from the 'Settings' app on your iPhone of course, but not if you break it doing this :)

Step 2 - Cutting
You need a good, sharp pair of scissors. Some people suggest a sharp knife and a cutting board but the risk of the SIM slipping as you cut is very high, its a tiny thing and therefore hard to keep still.

Cut around the card to match the template above, leave about 0.8mm plastic showing along the top and bottom, about 0.3mm along the left side and around 1mm on the right side.

Finally, cut the bottom right corner and your done with step 2.

Step 3 - Sanding
Here we go! It helps if you have a digital vernier caliper like the one below, they're pretty cheap to buy online, but if not, you can work by eye and make sure you stop when you start reaching the underside of the chip (see pictures below).

So, this pic shows the SIM at 0.77mm before I start, that is pretty close to the design thickness of 0.76mm.

The sand paper.  First off, it's not sand, it's silicone carbide wet and dry paper, available from most hardware or vehicle repair shops (Halfords in this case).

 I picked a 400 grit to start with, and a 1500 grit to finish, in the end though, I only used the 400grit.

The hardest part was ensuring the SIM was flat, and that the sanding was even, I used a piece of tape on the front of the card (the contact side) to give me something to pull the SIM smoothly over the sand paper.

I placed the index finger of my other hand on the center of the card to keep the pressure even as I pulled the SIM using the tape.

I did this a few times down the sheet of sand paper, stopping and checking thickness as I went.

Eeek!  I was initally worried when during a quick check, a faint circle had appeared on the back of the card, as you can see, the IMEI number has been completely worn away.  This circle is the outline of the back of the actual SIM chip.  If you continue sanding after this point, it is extremely likely you will damage the chip permanently. 

When you can see the back of the chip, it's definately time to stop sanding.

The caliper is now reading 0.68mm, that is +0.01mm out from the design thickness of the nano SIM and given that my caliper was reading +0.01mm on the un-sanded SIM, should easily be close enough. 


That's it for now, I will update this article when I get my hands on an iPhone 5.  Meantime, I would be interested to hear if anyone tries this and how they find it works for them.

Update - 22/9/12
Well it works :)  I have now done this on 2 SIM cards, one Orange, one O2 and both worked perfectly.  I didn't use a caliper on them, just sanded until the card was almost flush with the SIM tray.

Just be careful, check the surface often to make sure it is sanding evenly (using the tape to drag the card makes this easier) and that you haven't hit the underside of the chip and you should be fine.

Good luck, may your hands be steady :)

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Change Mac OS 10.8 Mountain Lion Calendar & Contacts Skins from Leather to Aluminium

UPDATED July 25 for 10.8 Mountain Lion Release Version (Including Retina MacBook)

Here we go again with an Aluminium skin for (formerly and (formerly Address in Mountain Lion.

Please note these will not work with 10.7 Lion.  If you are looking for the Mac OS X 10.7 Lion skins, either scroll down the blog or go here.

I created new images files to go inside and to give them an aluminium look like previous versions of OS X.

These modification ONLY change the appearance of and, they do not alter the actual programming or functionality in any way.  It just makes them look Aluminium.

Download the installers here: -
Aluminium Calendar Skin for Mac OS  Mountain Lion (v.1.1) - download
Aluminium Contacts Skin for Mac OS  Mountain Lion (v1.1) - download

These skins are provided free of charge but please make a donation if you use them regularly :)

Important Note: -
Make a copy of & BEFORE you start! (Copy / Paste them somewhere safe).  If you don't make a backup you will need to reinstall to revert back to the original look.

Mountain Lion Installation Restrictions: -
Mountain Lion restricts which applications you can install by default.  If you receive a warning that this package cannot be opened because it is from an unidentified developer do the following.  Go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General, click the Padlock to authenticate, then select 'Allow applications to be installed from anywhere'.

Here's a comparison of the leather vs aluminium: -

Reverting back
If you decide you want to go back to the original Mountain Lion versions and you made a backup before you started, do the following: -

1 - Delete / - This can be done in Finder by dragging the application from the Applications folder to the trash can.

If you receive the error 'Calendar (or Contacts) can't be moved or deleted because it is required by Mac OS', go to Utilities > and enter the following command: -

sudo rm -rf /Applications/


sudo rm -rf /Applications/

2 - Copy back the backup of / you made earlier in to the Applications folder.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Change Mac OS X 10.7 Lion iCal and Address Book Skins from Leather to Aluminium - Easy Method

Revised: 17/2/12 - Updated to fix new image files included in 10.7.3 Update.

Please note these will not work with 10.8 Mountain Lion.  If you are looking for the Mac OS 10.8 Mountain Lion skins, either scroll up the blog or go here.

I am not a fan of the new leather title bar in iCal on Lion... what were they thinking? Now all we need is a wood-effect dashboard for our cars and rotary-dial iPhones...

I created new images files to go inside and to give them an aluminium look like previous versions of OS X.

This is a simplified version of my previous post which uses a package installer to apply the skins automatically without you having to manually modify the and Address files.

For the simplified installer based method, continue reading...

DMG files for Automatic Installation (Last updated 17/02/12)
Address Book Skin - 10.7_Address_Book_Skin_Installer.dmg
iCal Skin (v3) - 10.7_iCal_Skin_Installer.dmg

These skins are provided free of charge but please make a donation if you use them regularly :)

Make a copy of / before you start (Copy / Paste them somewhere safe).
If you don't make a backup you will need to reinstall to revert back to the original look.

They look like this: -
and this..
Reverting back
If you decide you want to go back to the original Lion versions and you made a backup before you started, do the following: -

1 - Delete or Address - This can be done in Finder by dragging the application from the Applications folder to the trash can.

If you receive the error 'iCal can't be moved or deleted because it is requires be Mac OS X', go to Utilities > and enter the following command: -

sudo rm -rf /Applications/


sudo rm -rf /Applications/Address\

2 - Copy back the backup of iCal / Address Book you made earlier in to the Applications folder.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Accessing the Recovery Partition on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion

Lion includes a small recovery partition which is there in case you irreversibly screw up your main install. This is nothing new to PCs but it's 100% new to Apple.

By default, the Recovery partition is not mounted (ie. it is not visible to the operating system), but mounting it is an easy job: -

1 - From Finder, go to your Applications > Utilities folder

2 - Launch

3 - Run this command to mount the Recovery HD partition: -

diskutil mount Recovery\ HD

4 - You're done!  BaseSystem.dmg contains the (very) cut-down version of MacOS that is used to connect to the internet and download the full Lion install.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Make a bootable Mac OS X Lion USB Flash / Pen Drive

Following on from my post about making a bootable 10.7 Lion Install DVD, here's how to make a bootable USB flash drive.

You will need the following: -
  • A Mac
  • A copy of the Lion Installer App (available from the AppStore)
  • A USB Flash Drive / Pen Drive with 4.2GB (approx) of free space
    ** NOTE ** Unfortunately, this doesn't appear to quite fit on a 4GB Pen Drive, you may find differently but for me Disk Utility gave a 'Not enough space error' Anything above (eg. 8gb) should be fine.

    1 - Go to the Applications folder and right click (or Control-Click) on 'Install Mac OS X Lion' and select 'Show package contents'.

    2 - Navigate to the Contents > SharedSupport folder

    3 - Copy InstallESD.dmg to someplace (eg. your Desktop)

    4 - Open Utilities > Disk and click on your USB drive in the left pane.  Then click 'Partition'.

    5 - Enter a name for the partition and make sure the format is set to 'Mac OS Extended (Journaled)'.

    6 - Click 'Options' and choose 'GUID Partition Table' as the partioning scheme.

    7 - Click OK, then Apply, you will then have to confirm and authenticate you want to go ahead.  This will erase all data on your Flash drive!

    8 - Now click the restore tab, select (or drag) the copy of InstallESD.dmg you made earlier in the 'Source' box.

    9 - Drag your USB Flash drive in to the 'Destination' box and click Restore, again you may have to authenticate.

    10 - After a few minutes your USB Drive will be ready to do... How long really depends on the speed of your USB Drive, but most have faster Read speeds than Write and you only have to write it once.

    11 - To test your USB drive, you can either go to system prefrences > startup disk and select it there, then hit restart, or just hold down the Option / Alt key while you restart your computer.

    12 - Enjoy some peace of mind!

    Hope you find this useful, please make a donation if you do :)