Cisco console to Mac?

16/07/12 | by admin [mail] | Categories: Mac OS X

So, Cisco being an old and venerable company, have a few quirks. One of these is the use of serial console cables. Basically, an RS-232 dealio. You remember RS-232? If you owned a computer in the 80s or early 90s, likely you had an RS-232 port and probably used it once or twice. They used to have lots of cool stuff, including Modems. Which was a good thing, since it meant that you didn't need to worry too much about what flavour computer you had. RS-232 is pretty simple, easy to implement in hardware and software and thus ubiquitous.

On the Amiga, I used the serial port for two things: MIDI (it's nearly the same thing as RS-232, except a slightly odd clock and some optical isolation, and a different pin out), and hooking up the dial up modem.

The serial port was also popular among hobbyists and in industrial automation. Many computers also used the serial to output debug info during POST. Sun boxes used (still use?) serial for initial set up and configuration.

So, a venerable history. The downside is that its large form factor and low speed mean that it has lost favour with computer manufacturers. It has become a challenge to find a laptop with a real Serial port.

But Cisco still use it as the connection of last resort on the bulk of their products. They've designed their system with the assumption that if you can get access to the serial port, then you are legit. This means that if you've stuffed up your conf, or need to unlock someone elses (perhaps you like 2nd hand gear), then you may well have to resort to that serial cable.

So, you can hook it up to a PC (or something else) with a 'real' serial port, or use one of the known working USB to RS-232 dongles.

From memory, the only 'Mac' products Apple ever supplied with genuine RS-232 ports were the Xserves. And yes, you can use the serial port on an Xserve to hook up a Cisco console cable. And why not? (Apart from the fact that the newest Xserve is years old). In all likelihood they are living together in a rack somewhere.

It also possible to use one of the known working USB to RS-232 dongles with a Mac.

And how to fire it up and get it working? Well, on an Xserve running 10.5:


/usr/libexec/serial/SerialTerminalSupport stop
screen /dev/cu.serial

Or if you have a Keyspan USB to RS-232 adaptor:

screen /dev/tty.KeySerial1 9600

Of course, there's more.

Routing email to another (internal) host via Postfix

16/07/12 | by admin [mail] | Categories: Networking, Mac OS X

This is the kind of thing that you'd assume that Postfix could do, after all Postfix is all about mail delivery. In essence, this is analogous to web proxying. The request comes in to the front end server, and it passes it onto a relevant back end server. The only question is how. Well, browse your /etc/postfix and there's a file called transport.

This is a brief except from the Transport file in /etc/postfix/ on Mac OS X 10.6


# TRANSPORT(5)                                                      TRANSPORT(5)
#        transport - Postfix transport table format
#        postmap /etc/postfix/transport
#        postmap -q "string" /etc/postfix/transport
#        postmap -q - /etc/postfix/transport <inputfile
#        The  optional  transport(5) table specifies a mapping from
#        email addresses to message delivery transports  and  next-
#        hop  destinations.   Message  delivery  transports such as
#        local or smtp are defined in the file, and next-
#        hop  destinations are typically hosts or domain names. The
#        table is searched by the trivial-rewrite(8) daemon.
#        This  mapping  overrides  the  default   transport:nexthop
#        selection that is built into Postfix:

So, what do you do?

Use the /etc/postfix/transport
edit and add at bottom in format: smtp:exchange1.mydomain.local smtp:exchange2.mydomain.local

postmap /etc/postfix/transport

reload postfix


The example is for routing mails for to smtp service on exchange1.mydomain.local and correspondingly for domain2

FileMaker Pro Trial links

16/07/12 | by admin [mail] | Categories: Mac OS X

FileMaker Pro Trial

So, FileMaker Pro is a database management system and 'rapid application development environment' a la Microsoft Access.

Its big strength is the ability to rapidly develop database solutions. Its weakness is that as a database system it lacks most of the enterprise functionality that you'd want, like clustering and WAN performance and a web limit of 100 connections (that can't be right, surely). It also encourages rather sloppy development. Since, it is so easy to develop, it's all too easy for a simple project to turn into an unwieldy monster. Great if you are being paid to develop, not so great for anyone else in the stream…

But I digress.

FileMaker provides demo/trial versions of its software, and for the most part these demos can be turned into fully fledged versions of the actual software just by entering the license key.

So, the trial versions are handy if you have a license key but no working media. Not an uncommon situation.

It's very easy to get the current trial version, since Filemaker plasters links to it all over the place, but try to find a link for a previous version! Oy vey! What troubles.

But since I am so elite, it's not a problem to track down links.

So I present to you links for versions 6 to 11.

And this is a link for FileMaker Pro Advance 12.


FileMaker Server 9, 10 + 11


Mountain Lion :(

16/07/12 | by admin [mail] | Categories: OSX

So, Mountain Lion is looking like a July 25 release. Apple have released docs for Mountain Lion Server, and the move from big iron enterprise Unix continues. Server Admin and WorkGroup Admin appear to have been dropped, NetBoot isn't mentioned but NetInstall is. Interestingly, FTP looks like it is back in the GUI. PPTP VPN looks like it has disappeared again.

The big problem, and I might be the only person who thinks this, is that whilst a lot of the power is still there (they are still using BIND, Apache, RADIUS, OpenLDAP, Perl/Ruby/Python etc etc), their is precious little documentation on it. And where Apple used to have a reasonable training and certification program, it has all but disappeared (the Open Directory section of their 'Advanced' Admin guide is barely 7 pages). Good enough if you don't care about best practice and are happy to set up an ad hoc server by trial and error for a small business that's not too fussed about downtime when you realise you need to rebuild the server because the DNS name you gave it in the first instance was wrong. But if you want to use the real power that Unix offers, you really, really need to know your stuff.

I have found a temporary solution for the pains of 10.7/10.8. I am running Snow Leopard with a Lion Server VM. Likely, I will clone this and create a Mountain Lion VM. I've not found /any/ software that I need yet that is Lion specific, but this will likely happen. If I didn't need to find my way around it for work, I doubt I'd touch it. But FileMaker and Adobe tend to support only a couple of versions of the OS for any release, so the day that Snow Leopard becomes untenable draws closer still.

There is the possibility of moving to Linux, and running all instances of Mac OS X as VMs under that. I'm not sure if that would break licensing conditions or not. I seem to recall it being licensed for VMs running on Apple hardware, I don't recall mention of running the VMs under an Apple OS.


Install Snow Leopard on Macs shipping with Lion

23/02/12 | by admin [mail] | Categories: Mac OS X

Well, this is about 6 months late, but it works.

There are a few Mac models, the iMac and Mac Pro being two, that originally shipped with Mac OS X 10.6.x but after the 10.7 release started shipping with 10.7. Now, since the hardware is the same, it should be possible to run 10.6 on these computers. However, it seems to be a little tricky to do.

You will require a valid Snow Leopard license to do this. As best I can tell, a Lion license DOES NOT let you downgrade for free. Fortunately, Apple still sells Snow Leopard.

The trick is to repartition the target drive (the boot drive in your Mac) using disk utility on a 10.6 computer. The other trick, is that you might need to install via target disk mode, and update the OS.

What you need to do.

Step 0 - optional - back up your Lion install and/or restore partition.

Step 1 - Target disk mode the computer (or if it's a Mac Pro, you can swap the drive into another computer).

Step 2- using Disk Utility on a 10.6 computer repartition the drive. It is not enough to 'erase' the drive. You need to create a new partition. This will delete the 10.7 restore partition, and any other crap apple has hidden scattered through the drive.

Now, depending on what media you have available, you may be able to run the 10.6 installer as normal. If it shipped with 10.6 or .1 or .2, then you can use also the 10.6.3 retail installer. However, if the model originally shipped with 10.6.3 or higher and you don't have the custom 'grey' install disks for that model, you will need to use some trickery.

If you have appropriate installers:

Step 3 - disconnect from target disk mode (or if you've swapped the drive out, swap it back)

Step 4 - run the 10.6 installer as normal.

If you don't have appropriate installer:

Step 3 - using target disk mode connect (or swap the drive over) connect to an older intel Mac for which you DO have an appropriate installer.

Step 4 - boot from the 10.6 installer on the older intel Mac, and select the target disk moded disk (or swapped drive) as the install location.

Step 5 - install 10.6 to the drive. You can run all the way through the installer, or you can just quit it when it reboots to the language screen (command - q).

Step 6 - install the 10.6.8 combo update. If you've quit the installer at the initial set up screen, you can run the 10.6.8 combo updater from any 10.6 computer (using target disk mode or swapping the drives), and simply change the install location.

Step 7 - Reboot the new computer (swap the drive first if needed).

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