Diana Edith Newbery, PhD 1954-2019


Diana Edith Newbery (née Bennett) PhD, born 9th of September 1954, died the early hours of the 8th of December 2019 after a long coexistence with muscular dystrophy and bone marrow failure. 

Much loved wife, mother and friend of Michael, Mark, Andrew, and Arna. Cherished sister and sister-in-law of Sylvia and Bob Cavanagh, and Prue and Simon Cooke-Willis. Beloved daughter of Beverley and Peter (deceased). Inspirational aunt to Louise, Martin, Julia, and Frances. Diana and the family extend their thanks to the medical professionals who helped her, with particular thanks to Kenepuru day ward staff for their unfailing support. We would also like to thank donors of O+ blood for their generous gift.


Michael Newbery (Husband)

It’s hard to tell a life in a few minutes; it would take more than a lifetime to properly describe a single life well lived!

Given the impossibility of the task, especially for Diana, let us nevertheless begin.

Diana was: pretty, intelligent, quick, curious, funny, kind, witty, amazingly sexy.

Diana was also intensely private. An introvert who poured herself out for her friends.

Diana loved beauty, good design, goodness, kindness, accuracy, knowledge and laughter.

I once told her that I loved her self confidence. She retorted that she was not in any way self-confident, but would admit to “bloody mindedness” (her words), or stubbornness if you prefer.

She almost never wore makeup or scent. She didn’t think she was pretty (objective evidence to the contrary).

She loved, and bought, nice clothes because she loved beauty, not because she was trying to make herself look pretty.

Diana loved animals and was good with them. She would have made a great vet, but chose another path. She did her PhD on “The Karyotypes of Galaxioid Fishes” (That’s whitebait, among others by the way). After several years of trying methods that did not work—the techniques that work for mammal chromosomes didn’t work for fish—she finally found one that did. Her thesis wrote up all the things that didn’t work, much to the delight of her external examiner (the world expert in the field. She described it as like “being marked by God”). Her love of plain talk was evidenced in the thesis: many researchers, when they have to kill an animal, call it “sacrificing”. On the rare occasions she had to kill a fish (mostly she just took a tissue sample—the fish were hard to get and no way could she afford the loss of one) she wrote it up as such. She also explicitly wished you to note that she has “died”. She has not “passed away”, she has not “passed”. She said that’s bad zoology.

The people she touched loved her and valued her. When we started going out I noticed that I kept getting the “are you good enough for our Didee” hard stare from her friends. And her cat. Apparently I passed muster.

Diana described herself as a scientist and an artist. She was intensely interested in the world; in history, including archaeology, biology, genetics, medicine, space, ecology and lots, lots more. But also beauty, in art, music and literature. She was an avid reader: of science fiction & fantasy, historical novels and steampunk, whodunits and thrillers, biographies and cookbooks.

Diana was a designer, and a maker. She learned enamelling, welding, and wood-turning. She took up silver jewellery and made amazing stuff, then moved on to painting, and dyeing, and paper making, and silk painting and picture framing and so many other things. She was working in acrylics and surrounded by her work when she suffered her stroke.

She became interested in genealogy, and got me interested too, and now has thousands of people in her family tree, with the meticulous care of a trained researcher and scientist. She often complained of sloppy genealogists co-opting people from her tree where she KNEW the link was wrong, or putting poor quality information up.

She rode a motorcycle, and was associated with the Vincent Owners Club, despite never owning or even riding (as far as I know) a Vincent. Since we both rode them, we went on honeymoon on our motorcycles. Diana eventually traded up to a BMW, while I retained my lowly Suzuki. When we started a family, and Diana found it difficult to ride with a bulge (Andrew), I ‘inherited’ the use of that BMW, which I still ride to this day, and have been and am proud to say that I ride Diana’s motorcycle.
She was also a good car driver, and while far from being a petrol-head, liked a responsive car, with good tyres (a lesson from riding a motorcycle).

She loved music: folk music and classical, pop, prog-rock and more. When we married, our record collections had a huge amount of overlap, especially the folk section. She played the flute, until the dystrophy made that impossible. She also had a lovely singing voice.

Diana loved food, and cooking, and recipes, and bread-making. She said she taught a succession of flatmates basic cooking skills out of self-defence. For many years, she made the communion bread for St Barnabas, so people could have ‘proper’, fresh bread rather than wafers.
We both love cheese, and we used to go out on a Friday night and try different cheeses, which we rated and kept a record of in a notebook. Only two cheeses ever rated 5 stars (a Stilton and a Gorgonzola). We gave at least one cheese a negative star rating. Similarly, we tried single shots of various liqueurs (two a week, half each) to discover which we liked and did not. Fortunately our tastes in cheese and liqueurs matched.
Later, when her IBS made things tricky, she of course researched to find out what she COULD eat. When she discovered that it wasn’t gluten but wheat that was a problem for her, she experimented with different flours for bread. Then, when she discovered that sourdough’s slow fermentation eliminates the problematic FODMAP sugars, we were both delighted, and she took to making her own sourdough.

A huge amount of stuff in St Barnabas is directly from Diana. Not just the art, but also the practical things she adored, like designing and making the platform that hangs from the ceiling, and the board that holds the name tags.

She loved gadgets, and tools, as long as they were good quality and useful.She was good at auctions and often found great things there. We both loved power tools, and our idea of the toyshop was a hardware store. We couldn’t find an appropriate modern drawer handle for our bedroom drawers, so she arranged to have a nice old one copied by a brass foundry. She loved DIY, including plastering, which she got good at. Unlike me, she had great hand-eye coordination, and could put a draughtsman’s mapping pen back together without breaking it.

While not herself a sporty person, Diana enjoyed watching golf and tennis, although she never played golf and only played tennis when she was young. She did do fencing at college (poking people with things, not digging holes).

She loved gardens, and gardening until she found it physically too much. She was particularly good at knowing how tall things would grow and where to plant them so they would look right when mature, and otherwise designing gardens. She loved flowers, she would take them from the garden, and latterly she would buy a bunch to brighten the house.

Diana had a wonderful sense of humour, and loved comedy, especially Flanders and Swann, the Goons, Monty Python and clever humour, along with Peanuts, Calvin & Hobbs and Leunig.

She loved photography, but not being in the picture! She said that one of the benefits of taking pictures was to avoid being in them. As you’d expect, she became increasingly good at it, and would carefully compose shots, and discard all but the right one. Early on, she taught me the most important part of photography—which was to take the picture! I have never forgotten that lesson.

She was joyfully involved in the church, practically helping, on PowerPoint, getting the radio mics working, as parish recorder, as vicar’s warden, on the board of Box Hill Close Trust, wherever she could help. She was active in the Diocese doing strategic administration, archiving, fundraising, statistics, data visualisation and analysis, photography, art and in so many other ways. When it got too exhausting and she decided to retire, the Diocese awarded her the Bishop’s Medal for her services.

We both hated moving house, so after marrying in December, we lived in Diana’s flat, then went house hunting, and took vacant possession of 35 Crofton Road on April Fool’s day (as Diana put it) a little under 4 months later. And there we have stayed. When we were bidding on the house, we had a top price—and a secret little bit more, which was otherwise earmarked for upgrading the stereo. As it turned out, we didn’t have to break into the emergency reserve and duly upgraded the stereo, with the speakers that are with us yet.
Over the years, we remodelled the house and changed things extensively, always with Diana’s meticulous planning and great feel for design, especially in the garden.

It was Diana’s nature to help out and get involved throughout her life. She helped at Ngaio School, went on the board there, and then became involved with the School Trustees Association as newsletter editor. She had a number of hard things to say about the quality of the text she had to edit into acceptable form.

She loved Wellington, the hills and the greenery, and especially the sea. She loved the beach and the sea in all its moods—and she loved poking about in rock pools. A few weeks ago, she said that she loved being where she was, and wouldn’t want to move. She enjoyed thunder and lightning, and it is entirely appropriate that the heavens put on a show for her on her last weekend.

She loved the bush, and rivers and streams, and she loved Kuratau—the peacefulness and the beauty. She enjoyed kayaking on the lake when she still could, and she always was thinking of how to remodel and improve.

She loved nature, but was especially fond of butterflies, frogs, owls, dragons and dragonflies. Our cats loved her.

Diana was more of a digital native than most of us. Despite eschewing “social media”, she kept her life organised with her phone: when to take pills; when to pay bills; when to meet friends; when to do exercises; when to research things. So many things, so many categories, so many notes. Diana stayed in control of her life, while having absolutely no interest in controlling other peoples’, though she did express frustration with others’ disorganisation at times.

Diana was cheerful, and optimistic, and made the best of things, and expected and hoped those around her would do the same. And being around her, you tended to do just that. Diana never gave up, her will power was amazing, but she was nevertheless prepared. That was who she was.

Diana was not defined by her ailments. She coexisted with muscular dystrophy and bone marrow failure, they were a part of her life and she lived life fully and joyfully.

Diana loved and was loved by her family: First by Bev & Pete and her grandparents and aunts, then her younger sisters; her husband, parents-in law, Joan, her nieces and nephews and her beloved sons, and now Arna. Diana was a happy person, who brought joy to those close to her.

Mark Newbery (younger son)

People say never meet your heroes, but that was difficult because I grew up with her. Thankfully it has never been a problem. Mum had a drive and curiosity that will inspire me for the rest of my life. For her there was always some new thing to learn, a new angle to pursue, a new medium to explore. She achieved a great many things in her life both for herself and for others.

Even with everything she was working on, mum was always looking out for us. She made sure we had the support we needed when we were sick, injured, or struggling, and she guided us to be good people who do what needs doing. I would not be half the person I am today without her.

Mum was also forever finding interesting things and sharing her discoveries with us. She had a lasting curiosity about the world and the many things that make it up. It was always a joy finding a new message about recent discoveries in palaeontology, genetics, medicine, or one of many other topics. Likewise with gadgets, art projects, and objects with interesting or beautiful patterns. From the grand to the subtle, there was, and is, always something to appreciate in the world.

Andrew Newbery (elder son)

Mark and Dad have already said some wonderful things about mum. I echo their words, but would also like to say a few of my own.

Firstly I want to thank everyone who has called, written, visited, sent flowers or food, and particularly I want to thank all of you who took the time to be here today. 

In moments of grief, these acts of kindness remind us of the compassion and love that surrounds mum, and all of us. On behalf of our whanau: thank you from the very bottom of our hearts. Words can’t do justice to what it all means to us. 

Even mum, after she got over the embarrassment of having so many people make a fuss over her, would be blown away.

As we go through the service today, you should know that mum pretty much planned the whole thing herself. She’d picked a bunch of hymns and readings. She’d left notes on where she’d like any donations to go. She wanted to make sure that everything was sorted out. 

As dad said, it’s impossible to sum a person up in a couple of lines. Even the three of us talking about different sides of her could never encapsulate the incredible person that she was. 

The closest we can get, without her here to tell her own story, is to reflect on the shared experience we all had with her – whether we knew her our whole lives, or for only a short while. All of our experiences with her, the small moments of love and friendship, might just begin to touch on the multifaceted, talented, intelligent, loving, generous, persevering individual that was my mum.

I wanted to focus on that last bit about perseverance for a moment. Mum wouldn’t have wanted me to focus on her illness (that would have been making a fuss), but I think it’s important to know that she was dealt some pretty appalling cards when it came to her health.

Despite that, mum never wanted pity. She barely wanted help! Even an offer to help out around the house was something I had to push for in the last few years. She didn’t ever want people to make a fuss or feel burdened. We never were – we were happy to give even just a little bit back to such an incredible person.

The reason I talk about mum’s perseverance is because I think it shows just how dedicated she was to getting the most out of life. Mum’s been sick longer than I’ve been alive, and yet she found the time and energy to work across the community and voluntary sector on our school board, providing IT services to that same school almost singlehandedly, working with her local church to the point where this whole room is filled with things she designed, created or arranged. 

She was a talented artist who could out draw almost anyone. When I was a kid, she would “help” me paint my model aeroplanes (a lot of it was just her)! She learned how to forge silver jewellery, designing and making pieces for her friends and family. She was a keen gardener, and knew pretty much any plant or animal by sight. If I was ever at a loss about what something was, 9 times out of 10 she’d immediately know. She was a talented and inquisitive cook, and we would often talk about recipes or techniques. I could go on and on – but the core point is that she never let anything get in the way of learning something, or applying herself to a new skill. If I should come to learn even a fraction of the skills and knowledge that she did, I should consider my life well lived.

When we were going through mum’s notes on the day she died, we came across a comment she’d put in her advance directive planning. In response to the question of what she wanted her family to know and remember there was a comment right at the top of the page “make the most of your lives xxxxxx”. 

I’d like to put that out to all of you today. If mum wanted anything it was that the people she loved would revel in life – in all of its ups and downs, its joy, confusion and sadness. To live as she did is to be honest with everyone, to never turn down a challenge, to never stop learning, and to be emotionally available for the people you love. If we all managed to do that, the world could be a pretty incredible place. 

Riley car, pre-WWII

My parents owned a Riley car, in which they toured New Zealand during the early 1950s. This would have been very much 2nd hand even then, so I can safely assume that it was a pre-WW II car. The body was pretty much falling apart, but the engine was fine. Dad told me that this decrepit looking car would happily pass new vehicles struggling up steep hills. Mum said that the passenger seat tended to creep forward, so that after a while she would end up sitting with her knees near her chin.

Eventually, dad was contacted by a man who had seen him driving the car around Wellington, and very much wanted to buy it. Dad pointed out the the body was in terrible condition, but the buyer was not worried. He had a Riley of a same or similar model, with a good condition body but a busted motor. All he wanted was the engine. So, dad sold it to him.

I found some pictures from 1950 of my parents, and the car. They are not very good pictures, but in case someone is interested, here they are.

I don’t know what model it is, maybe someone out there can tell from the photos.

Mum & Dad
Mum, and the best overall view of the car
That’s number plate 29-230, from around 1950.
Yes, there is a car in there.
Dad with the car

macOS Server 5.3

macOS Server 5.3 contains a few traps for the unwary—traps which don’t appear to be mentioned in the release notes

  1. It only installs on 10.12.4 (or later, one assumes). This is mentioned in the release notes, but not in the App store notes. NOTE: 10.12.3 and earlier are not supported.
  2. It will control a remote server running version 5.2 on macOS 10.12
  3. It will not control a remote server, running any version, on OS X 10.11!

This last point is a horrible gotcha! If you are running a server on a previous OS X version—such as because it is on older hardware which can’t be updated to macOS 10.12, and you update to sever 5.3 on another machine, you can no longer control/manage the server instance running on the El Capitan machine.

Server 5.2 and Open Directory

Server 5.2 has its own version issues, or rather Open Directory does.
Server 5.2 will happily run on 10.11 and 10.12. However, if you had a Master/Replica on OS X 10.11/Server 5.2, and you upgrade to a mixture of OS X 10.11/Server 5.2 and macOS 10.12/Server 5.2, the Master/Replica breaks, simply because Open Directory insists (for no good reason that I can see) that they be running the same OS X version!

Server 5.2 can control Server 5.3

If you have a system running Server 5.2, it will happily control remote instances of:

  • Server 5.2 on OS X 10.11
  • Server 5.2 on macOS 10.12
  • Server 5.3 on macOS 10.12
Target Manager
macOS Server 5.2 5.3
10.11 5.2 ✖︎
5.3 N/A N/A
10.12 5.2

Let’s Encrypt OS X Server

(Or, letsencrypt macOS Server if you prefer)

I have been using CACert as my free SSL certificate for some time now, and it’s fine, with one exception—CACert root certificates are not trusted by default by many systems, including most significantly, iOS and Andriod. That in turn means that I can’t retrieve email off my home server from a company provided iPhone, since the company mandated security profile demands SSL authentication.

Letsencrypt aims to address this problem (among others) with their free certificates, which are trusted by Android and iOS. However, Letsencrypt uses a highly automated system (to make things easy for the user) which originally did not support OS X (macOS).

I recently decided to revisit Letsencrypt and have indeed managed to get it to do what I want, albeit with some interesting discoveries along the way.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Since I did not wish to blow up my existing home server, especially the current certificate, I decided to test things out in a Parallels virtual machine. So, I duly fired up Parallels and started a clean install of El Capitan.

Other things can go wrong

It failed. It said the installer image could not be verified. So I tied a backup image, and got the same result. So I tried a Yosemite install, and it failed with the same error.

A little research showed a possible reason, so I tried resetting the clock, but to no avail. Then I had a light bulb moment. The page says the date must be correct in order to install OS X, specifically the year, because if the date set is prior to the release of OS X, the error will trigger.” It turns out that it’s important not only that the date not be too far in the past, it can’t be too recent either. In particular, the current date is too recent to install older releases!

The solution is to decouple the clock from the Parallels virtual machine (Parallels will keep the virtual clock synchronised to the real machine’s clock) and then set the date back a year or so to a little after the release of the relevant operating system. Voilà! It installed.

I then ran the certbot certonly script in the VM and, after a little fiddling, got things installed.

The Real Thing (with the fiddling done)

The certbot page for Apache on OS X shows how to create the certificate for OS X. It doesn’t work—or at least not on OS X Server.

The problem is neatly explained in the file /Library/Server/Web/Config/apache2/httpd_server_app.conf in the comments at the top:

# macOS Server
# When macOS Server is installed and set up (promoted), this file is copied
# to /Library/Server/Web/Config/apache2/httpd_server_app.conf. Both macOS
# and macOS Server use the same httpd executable, but macOS uses the config
# file in /etc/apache2.httpd.conf while macOS Server’s Websites service uses
# this config file.

The $ certbot –apache command works on the file in the macOS config file, not the macOS Server config file.

The solution is to use the $ certbot certonly command, and then select webroot, as follows:


Place the files in /Library/Server/Web/Data/Sites/Default

Import the files into Server’s Certificates and all is good.

El Capitan and me, panic not

I wrote that I had experienced a panic at boot in El Capitan, and that I was hanging off reinstalling some software until I had found the problem.

I found the problem.

I had cause to reboot the system, and it hung again at the boot screen

So, I rebooted in Single User mode (Command-S) and this time I looked closely at the screen.

Enter com_eltima_async_Navel::start(this=<ptr>,provider=<ptr>).
panic(cpu 0 caller 0xffffff80017d6a9a): Kernel trap at …

Debugger called: <panic>
Backtrace (CPU 0), Frame : Return Address

     Kernel Extensions in backtrace:

A little research pointed to Eltima’s SyncMate, which I had installed to sync an Android phone. I had removed it some time ago, but it had left behind a kernel extension, which hangs El Capitan at boot (sometimes. But once it’s started, it doesn’t seem to stop)..

I completely removed the vestiges of SyncMate, by removing the files/folders:

  • /System/Library/Extensions/EltimaAsync.kext
  • /Library/Application Support/EltimaSyncMate/

and all is now fixed.

Posted in Mac

El Capitan and me

I’ve installed OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) on three machines in the household, and while it’s just fine mostly, I have one—significant—problem and some things I’ve learned along the way.

OS X Server

Just before El Capitan arrived, Apple released OS X Server 5 (which was rapidly bumped to 5.0.4). This Server release brings a much welcomed change. Unlike previous versions it runs on both Yosemite and El Capitan. Previously, upgrading Server has been somewhat of a pain, since the machines running Server (both headless Mac Minis in my case) and the machine running Server simply as a console, have all had to be in lockstep. The console machine could not talk to a newer, or older, Server instance, and as soon as you upgraded OS X on any machine you had to upgrade Server on that machine as well. Essentially, that meant that you had to upgrade Mac OS X and OS X Server simultaneously on all machines. (The clients are OK: Server will work with them more or less regardless of their OS version).

Great! I was able to upgrade all three machines to the new version of Server in anticipation of the later upgrade to El Capitan.

The fragility of Open Directory

Alas, things were not quite so simple. OS X Server seems to have a long standing problem, where the Master and Replica OD instances get confused. In this case, the Master decided it didn’t have a Replica any more, and the Replica decided it couldn’t run OD. OD was always off, and if you turned it on it wouldn’t offer to create a new Master or join a Replica, it just turned itself off. However, it still worked (network users from the Master were still available on the Replica). So I ignored that, pending El Capitan.

I started by upgrading the Master Server to El Capitan. Which worked fine (took a little over 30 minutes). It then needed to upgrade OS X Server when I first ran Server again.

So, while Server 5.0 runs on OS X 10.10 and 10.11, it’s not quite the same thing. While this was going on, the Replica decided its (unacknowledged) Master had vanished and immediately forgot the network users! (It was prepared, now, to replicate a master or create a new Master).

After the El Capitan upgrade, OD Replication was still broken (Replica had the network users back but did not appear linked to Master), so I did what I’ve done before: forcibly remove the Replica and add it back to the master, using

sudo slapconfig -destroyldapserver diradmin

But, when I tried to add the Replica, it refused, saying that the OS X versions of the Server had to be the same!

So, lesson learned. All the Open Directory servers have to be running the same OS X version.

Which raises the question: WHY? Is this really necessary? It’s extremely irritating!

I upgraded the Replica server to El Capitan (which is also running O3X ZFS, so I was prepared for trouble), fortunately without incident (including the ZFS upgrade), and all is now fine with my servers.

El Capitan: Mysterious Hangs at Boot time

I then upgraded the main machine to El Capitan. I had some software that I was a little concerned about (Adobe CS3) but the collective wisdom of the web seemed to indicate that it was OK, so I went ahead.

Incompatible Software

The upgrade went fine, with only a few items put into the “Incompatible Software” folder:

  • GlimmerBlocker (LaunchDaemon and PrefPane)
  • GPGMail.mailbundle
  • WacomTablet.prefPane

I don’t care about the Wacom Tablet. GPGMail and GlimmerBlocker claim to be OK with El Capitan, so I reinstalled the latest versions

BOINC also would not run and asked to be re-installed (as is usual for BOINC after an OS X upgrade).

Reboot to hung screen

Then I restarted, and the machine hung.

It sits at the Apple boot screen with the progress bar at zero (no pixels of progress at all).

I restarted it several times with the same result. I restarted (Command R) into recovery mode and ran Disk First Aid. This worked and reported no problems.Then I restarted again.

It hung at the Boot Screen again.

I restarted with Verbose mode (Command V) and Single User (Command S), and it showed a Panic (but not a Kernel Panic) and stopped. Single User mode would not accept typed input.

So I reinstalled El Capitan from the Recovery Boot, which worked. I noted that it removed GlimmerBlocker, again. I put it back.

I put this down to a one off until the machine restarted (for reasons unknown) and returned me to the same hung boot screen. With the same symptoms (can boot into Recovery; Disk First Aid shows no issues; Panic in Single User Mode). I have resolved the problem the same way, by a reinstall. And I’m typing this Blog using that machine.

However, I’ve not reinstalled GlimmerBlocker, or BOINC, or GPGMail, or anything else that stopped working and asked to be reinstalled). We’ll see if it continues to work and if so I’ll consider adding back items one by one.

To be continued…

Fix for Time Machine “Backup verification incomplete!”

I was getting some issues with Time Machine, where, after backing up, it would always attempt a verification, and then complain that the verification was incomplete. These messages were only visible in the system log—there was no alert popped up.

Sep  9 08:37:30 XXXXX.local com.apple.backupd[72558]: Verifying backup disk image.
Sep  9 08:37:34 XXXXX.local com.apple.backupd[72558]: Backup verification incomplete!

The backup is to an OS X Server, and the TM backup is kept in a disk image, called Machine-Name.sparsebundle.

I thought that I would manually verify the backup and opened up Disk Utility. There I noticed that the Machine-Name.sparesebundle was already in the sidebar, even though the remove volume was not mounted. I then noticed that the path to the volume was

/Root Volume Name/private/var/db/com.apple.backupd.backupverification/Machine-Name.sparsebundle


Closer investigation showed that /private/var/db/com.apple.backupd.backupverification contained a slightly modified copy of an out of date version of the Time Machine disk image.

% sudo ls -lhFG /private/var/db/com.apple.backupd.backupVerification/Machine-Name.sparsebundle/
total 24
-rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel    11B  5 Jul 22:18 HC.progress.txt
-rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel   500B  5 Jul 22:15 Info.bckup
-rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel   500B  5 Jul 22:15 Info.plist
drwxr-xr-x  3 root  wheel   102B  5 Jul 23:49 bands/
-rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel     0B  5 Jul 22:15 token

Looking closely at this revealed that the disk image was corrupted, so I simply removed it

% sudo rm -rf /private/var/db/com.apple.backupd.backupVerification/Machine-Name.sparsebundle

and then did a manual verification (hold down option while selecting the Time Machine menu and choose Verify Backups). When the verification finished (successfully), the directory was left empty.

So, in summary, if you end up with the “Backup verification incomplete!” message, try deleting the /private/var/db/com.apple.backupd.backupverification/Machine-Name.sparsebundle and see if that fixes it.

rubycocoa + rvm + Mavericks fixed!

As I wrote previously, rubycocoa did not work properly with Mavericks.

Well, I’m very pleased to discover that it’s been fixed, with a new version of rubycocoa available at SourceForge.


% ./testRubyCocoa.rb
/System/Library/Frameworks/Ruby.framework/Versions/2.0/usr/lib/ruby/2.0.0/rubygems/core_ext/kernel_require.rb:55:in `require’: cannot load such file — osx/cocoa (LoadError)
   from /System/Library/Frameworks/Ruby.framework/Versions/2.0/usr/lib/ruby/2.0.0/rubygems/core_ext/kernel_require.rb:55:in `require’
   from ./testRubyCocoa.rb:9:in `<main>’


% ./testRubyCocoa.rb
Module RubyCocoa awakes!

testRubyCocoa.rb is:

#!/usr/bin/env ruby
require "osx/cocoa"
include OSX
OSX.ns_import :NSString

module TestRubyCocoa
   puts "Module RubyCocoa awakes!"

Adventures with ZFS and Time Machine part 4

This should really be part 5, but part 4 was uneventful enough at the time that I didn’t blog it.

The MacPro upgrade

The main family computer used to be a first generation Mac Pro (model MacPro1,1). This did splendid service for many years, until Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8) came out. The MacPro1,1 was one of a number of models stuck on Lion (OS X 10.7). That was OK, but the machine was also starting to need more expansion than I could afford. Where 5GB had once seemed fine, it was now starting to be a little tight. Alas, the MacPro1,1 uses special FB-DIMM (DDR2) which is eye-wateringly expensive compared to modern RAM pricing. So, eventually, a shiny 27” iMac was purchased and the MacPro became the Time Machine server.

That was effortless, and worked perfectly. Given its internal SATA bays, it was much easier to fill it up with 3 disks (plus a forth for the operating system) which worked a lot faster than the previous FireWire/USB setup


(Or part 3.5)

The new server worked fine, with only minor annoyances from MacZFS not being actively developed and the odd interaction with AFP and MacZFS.

Then, along came the OpenZFS project, and O3X in particular. I tried out O3X on the iMac (with Mavericks OS X 10.9)  and it worked well. It promised to be faster; to have modern ZFS features; to play nicely with AFP; and it seemed to be stable enough to use for the backups. So, I decided to transition the Time Machine server to O3X.

This has proved to be a little more exciting than I expected.

O3X on Lion

The current (as of writing this blog) version of O3X is 1.2.7. This works on OS X versions up to 10.9—and beyond to the as yet unreleased Yosemite (10.10). However, it requires a 64-bit kernel. The last and only version of O3X that supports a 32-bit kernel is 1.2.0—and that lacks enough features and bug fixes that I’m not happy using it.

While Lion supports a 64-bit kernel (so O3X will happily run under Lion), the MacPro1,1 won’t run a 64-bit kernel. Well, not without some hacking.



The MacPro1,1 has a perfectly fine 64-bit processor. However, its EFI firmware that allows it to boot is only 32 bits, so although Lion will fully support  64-bit apps, the kernel itself, along with its low-level drivers, is only 32-bit on 32-bit EFI machines. Since ZFS is a kernel extension, either I need a 32-bit O3X (1.2.0) or a 64-bit OS X kernel.

NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT

The MacPro1,1 shipped with a number of video card options. The base (and the card I have) is the NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT.

This card lacks the horsepower to support some of the heavy-lifting that Mountain Lion and after offloaded to the GPU, so is unsupported by 10.8 and beyond, even in an otherwise supported Mac. However it also lacks 64-bit firmware, and thus the ability to fully function in 64-bit mode.


The hacker community has come up with a solution to the EFI problem, in the person of Tiamo and a shim boot.efi that translates between 32 and 64 bit calls. This allows a MacPro1,1 to boot and run Mavericks and even Yosemite

That leaves the problem of the GeForce 7300 GT. Either replace it, or try running using it.

Replacement video card

Although there were a number of cards compatible with the MacPro1,1 available from Apple at one time, they are no longer available except second-hand. There are several modern cards that the community attests work fine, but they tend to be:

  • High-end (and expensive)
  • 64-bit EFI only, so no graphics during boot, until the login screen
  • Reflashed PC cards

Live with the GeForce 7300 GT

Posters to the forums indicate that the GeForce 7300 GT does work, but very slowly, and with a lot of flickering. However, since this mostly runs as a headless server, that may be just fine. I’m not going to be playing games or doing any graphical work on it apart from installing the software.

So, I determined to hackintosh my MacPro1,1 and live with the stock GeForce 7300 GT.


  • The Time Machine server runs purely as a backup server. It contains no original data itself, so that if it is lost, all we’ve lost is the backups. Various family machines back up using Time Machine to the server (into sparsebundle disk images).
  • There are three disks, configured as RAIDZ.
  • A LaunchDaemon job snapshots each day and thins snapshots to the last 7 days and then one per month. This has proved useful to preserve ancient history when Time Machine has decided that a disk is corrupt and wants to start anew.
  • Another job rsyncs the mail from a mail server running OS X Server to ZFS, to a file system, which is snapshotted hourly and thinned to hourly, 7 days then one per month.
  • Finally, BOINC runs in the background to make good use of any spare cycles.

Step 1: backup the backup

Firstly, since I wanted to allow for 4k blocks (the disks are 4k, but the MacZFS pool was not set up with ashift=12) I needed to back up the existing 2TB of data before erasing the current disks and starting them up on O3X.

Since there are no spare disk slots, I needed to back up to an external disk. Fortunately, I have a spare 2TB USB 3.0 drive. Unfortunately, the MacPro1,1 has only USB 2.0.

So, I attached the disk to the iMac (which has USB 3.), and copied the data across over 1Gbps Ethernet.

No so fast

MacZFS doesn’t supports neither zfs send –R, nor piping directly between zfs send and zfs recv, so I had to produce a script that iterated through the file systems and snapshots and copied between systems using a FIFO.

USB strikes again

The transfer being anything but instant (several days worth in fact), the iMac went to sleep, the external USB drive followed suit, and the copy was corrupted beyond ZFS ability to correct.

So, I bought a second 2TB drive, configured it in a ZFS mirror—and also prevented the iMac from sleeping.

gzip and dedup

The amount of data to be backed up was perilously close to the 2TB capacity of the mirror set, so I set compression to gzip and also turned on dedup. As it happened, dedup only saved me a 100GB or so, but that was probably enough to let the copy finish, where it might not otherwise have done so.

It took several days.

Step 2: repartition the proto-Hackintosh

Since I want a fall back position in case the Hackintosh experiment fails, I decided to partition the system disk into two: one with Lion and one with the hacked boot loader and Mavericks.

Disk Utility does this nicely, and non-destructively.

Or not

Disk Utility started the partition, and then stuck at about 50%. A couple of hours later, it’s still stuck. Oops. What happens if I interrupt it I wonder? The more observant among you have realised that Step 3 should have been to backup the system disk and are laughing at my foolishness.

I stop it. I repair the disk. I attempt a reboot.

It works.

Always Have Two Backups

Fortunately, I have spare space on the iMac, and a copy of Carbon Copy Cloner, so I backup everything to there. (Time passes)

Then, since I also have a Mac Mini running OS X Server, I enable Time Machine and backup again, using Time Machine. (Somewhat more time passes).


I boot into the Recovery Partition and ask to repartition into two equal disks. Which it won’t do, since it can’t unmount the entire disk. Sigh. Time for the USB key then.

Step 3: Create an Install Drive on a USB key

The instructions from Tiamo on how to do this are somewhat concise. In particular,

3.insert your board-id into OSInstall.mpkg(please google it)

is way more complicated than it seems, since I have to find the Flat Package Editor. I found a video that helps. Suffice it to say that I managed to create OSIinstall.mpkg with the appropriate board-id  board-id for the MacPro1,1 is Mac-F4208DC8, found from the following command

% ioreg -p IODeviceTree -r -n / -d 1

Eventually, I have a bootable USB drive.

Step 4: Repartition (again)

The MacPro1,1 happily boots off the USB key and lets me repartition the disk. After which I have two empty partitions, and no way to boot off the hard drive until I’ve got some sort of O/S back there.

Step 4: Restore Lion from Backup

Time Machine

The Recovery system will happily restore off a Time Machine backup. I point it at the one I just made.

Nope, it finds something wrong with it. Sigh.

I am so very glad I have two backups.

Carbon Copy Cloner

  • I power off the MacPro.
  • I extract the newly partitioned but otherwise empty drive and put it into an external (USB 3) enclosure.
  • I attach it to the iMac
  • I restore using Carbon Copy Cloner.

At this point I discover that I forgot to save the recovery partition when I cloned the drive! Carbon Copy Cloner is happy to create me one, but only using Mavericks since that’s what the iMac runs.

  • Unmount and power off the external drive
  • Remove the disk and replace it in the MacPro1,1, losing one of the four mounting screws in the process. (The last step is purely optional, but somehow seems appropriate. I found the screw on the floor later and replaced it).

Step 5: Boot into the newly restored Lion

Which works, much to my delight. I can at least resume using MacZFS where I left off, if the Hackintosh install fails.

Step 6: Download Lion from the App Store

In order to get a Lion recovery partition, I download it again from the App Store (which is how I upgraded in the first place, so I don’t need to purchase it again). I squirrel it away so I’ll have a copy after it deletes itself (which it does during an install).

Step 7: Re-install Lion

Alarming as this sounds, all it does is create a Lion Recovery partition.

Step 8: Clone Lion to the new partition

More time passes. This is actually slower than copying via USB, since the head is having to shuttle all over the disk.

Step 9: Reboot off the USB Key and install Mavericks

More time passes. Much more time (this process has taken several days so far). The install gets to the migration bit, where the log tells me it is migrating applications. And there it stops.

Step 10: Reboot into Mavericks

Hah! Fooled you there. Regardless of which partition I select, it boots into Lion.

I try reinstalling off the USB key and it refuses to do anything other than boot into Lion.

Step 11: Zap Mavericks partition

I’ll do a clean install and use Migration assistant afterwards.

Step 12: Recreate the USB key

Actually, I do this a couple of times, using various recipes found on the net, trying to find one that works. Eventually I succeed.

Step 13: Install Mavericks

And this time, it works! I resist any inclination to interrupt the process, and it does indeed finish cleanly and reboot. Into Mavericks! Just to be sure, I verify that it will also boot into Lion.

Step 14: Migration Assistant

Mavericks boots and asks me if I want to migrate data. Which I do and it does. It takes its time, but it works just fine. During this, the GeForce 7300 GT seems to perform just fine.

Step 15: Mavericks

And at last, I have a Hackintosh MacPro1,1 running OS X 10.9.4.

I update assorted apps, remove MacZFS and install O3X.

I’m using Screen Sharing and it is really slow. The mouse is quite decoupled at times which makes opening windows challenging. However, ssh and Terminal sessions are fine. System Profiler reports that the graphics card has 3MB of memory (Lion reports 256MB).

Step 16: OS X Server

Since I purchased OS X Server, I install it on the Hackintosh. Without event, and now I have a snappy GUI, at least for Server functionality.

Step 17: O3X

More leaps of faith. I don’t upgrade my pool, but rather reformat using O3X and then restore from the backs USB external drive mirror set.

Alas, the MacPro1,1 only has USB 2.0, so the restore takes a long time. However, at least I can use pipe and a single command per filesystem!

# zfs send –R Backup/Snapshot | zfs receive Target/Filesystem

And it works.



Slow Screen

I stopped using Screen Sharing, and everything sped up tremendously.

It seems that the GeForce 7300 GT doesn’t play well with Screen Sharing under Mavericks.

It does mean that need a screen and keyboard to boot.

Turn off Spotlight

A couple of times I found things locked, including Terminal, after a zpool or zfs command. A reboot was necessary to clear it. Then I remembered the instructions to turn off Spotlight, so a sudo mdutil -i off pool/fs or several later, and all is working well.


It seems to be working well. Our mail is being backed up, Time Machine is backing up, and this time it’s running through OS X Server. I am happy.