AMITIAE - Thursday 29 August 2013

Cassandra: Backups, Security and a Forgotten Firmware Password (5) - Tidying up and Final Comments

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

With my MacBook Pro at the repair shop to correct a problem of my own causing, I moved to the iPad as a work device for a few days. Surfing and other internet access was reasonable but I had to add software to help with writing and FTP: uploading files to a web server. I was able to use the app quite well on the iPad, and I also tried it on the iPhone with some fair results, but also some problems and a useful discovery or two.

My first task today was to collect the Mac from the nice guys in the service center called iServe which is located in Amarin Plaza. There is walkway access from Chidlom BTS Station as well as from Central World. There are other branches of this Apple Service Center in Bangkok.

When the Mac was produced, I started it with the option key held down and was pleased to see that (now) the Firmware password was open and I could access the Repair partition (Command + R at start). The job was done and iServe charged me nothing for this. Despite having been asked about a Time Machine backup, the accounts were intact, so there was no need for a new installation of OS X or the backup. However, I later discovered that there were a few problems.

On the way out to my office, I used a taxi for part of the journey. As a test of the iPhone installation of the iFTP Pro app, I created a brief web page - and took a photograph while on the journey - to use in a demonstration HTML page, to test whether this was a viable option for posting to the web when away from home.

iFTP Pro

This is an iPad app that happens to work on the iPhone and everything was rather fiddly (especially in a lurching Bangkok taxi) when trying to use the editor. It was even worse later with the uploader split screen (server and iPhone files) which is tiny on the iPhone.

Although the file was uploaded to the eXtensions site, it was actually done in two parts. As the taxi journey ended I was still trying to upload the text file, while the image was already online. I could not manage this and wondered if it were an iPad-only feature.

Later, at the office, a closer look at the iPhone file when the FTP server was accessed showed that the menu panel (smaller than the iPad version) could be scrolled down further and the missing "Upload(Queue)" item was revealed. At this time I also tried the Preview option, and this loaded the page in a browser format. This was something that I was unable to find a couple of days back: staring me in the face.

Once these options were found, I uploaded the file to the server (using 3G deliberately instead of WiFi) and proved to myself that I could create and upload files, if necessary, using the iPhone.

iFTP Pro iFTP Pro

Meanwhile, I started up the MacBook Pro in the Repair partition and ran the Disk Utility Repair. A couple of errors were found and fixed. I ran it again then restarted into the OS X installation.

As I entered the User account, it opened while I was entering the password. It took me a couple of restarts to find the cause: the password had been reset and was now simply the Enter key. I could not however fix that immediately as the clock was set to a January date last century and other apps were complaining. I put the clock right in the Admin account and tried again.

In System Preferences > Users & Groups I created a new password. This was now working correctly and when I logged out again, the password was required as usual. Once I began work, I found a number of accounts - for example email - had missing passwords. When I examined the Keychain Utility, I saw that it was almost empty. All my passwords had gone. As the new password for the User account was created, so a new Keychain was also made.

The data is there in the User Library file, but I am wondering if I need to retrieve it. With a couple of services I was able to request new passwords (like Google GMail), while with others I remembered the details. In a couple of other cases I was able to create new passwords. While Mail objected initially, as the passwords were created and accepted, so that application came back into line. Passwords are the bane of my life.

As the Firmware Password problem was of my creation, and I had been warned that a complete loss of data was possible, then I got off lightly and, once the new passwords were on the other devices (iMac, iPad and iPhone) I began to catch up. I need a different way to store the many passwords I have. I am beginning to believe that writing it on a piece of paper that is locked away, is the surest method.

These past few days have shown me how set I am in terms of working with a computer: that is the environment I am used to. While I have created presentations on the iPad (and the iPhone for that matter) and run them from iOS devices, most of my work with these hand-held devices has focussed on reading, with occasional text input via WriteRoom because of its DropBox integration.

The few days with a focussed app like iFTP Pro highlighted some of my shortcomings when working with the iPad. It can be done, the Bluetooth keyboard makes it easier, but I would prefer to keep this in reserve.

See Also:

Cassandra: Backups, Security and a Forgotten Firmware Password (1) - Withdrawal Symptoms

Cassandra: Backups, Security and a Forgotten Firmware Password (2) - Connection with iFTP Pro

Cassandra: Backups, Security and a Forgotten Firmware Password (3) - iFTP Pro and Images

Cassandra: Backups, Security and a Forgotten Firmware Password (4) - iFTP Pro from the iPhone

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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