Short takes: running apps from unidentified developers on a Mac; Dropbox stuck importing photos on a Mac; and virtual card numbers in Apple Wallet

A collection of snippets that don’t make a full blog post on their own…

Mac apps that won’t open because the developer is unidentified

Every now and again, I’ll download an app on my Mac that gets flagged as unsigned on my Mac (“can’t be opened because it is from an unidentified developer”. It turns out that, if you hold down the Control key at the same time as clicking its icon, you can open it.

Dropbox (Mac) stuck importing photos

I use Dropbox to upload my photos from my phone (it names them nicely for me by date!) and then copy them across to OneDrive (where I have more storage). A few months ago, I had a problem where I couldn’t upload my photos to DropBox. I’d plug my phone into a Mac, and the import would never finish. It showed a camera icon and said it was importing photos but didn’t show any progress, as though the DropBox app had hung. Looking around on the ‘net this is a common issue – but there’s no sign of DropBox fixing it…

In the end, my workaround was to upload the images directly from my iPhone, which seemed to clear the bottleneck, whatever it was…

Virtual card numbers in an Apple Wallet

Those who use their mobile phone for contactless payments (Apple Pay, etc.) may not be aware that each registered card has a virtual card number – the 16-digit card number used is not the same number as the physical card. That’s why (for example), if you touch in to pay for travel in London using contactless on a card but finish the journey with contactless on your phone, Transport for London won’t realise that the two transactions are linked.

I’m not sure how to find the full card number for the device, but you can find the last 4 digits of the virtual card number by pressing the “information icon in the lower right of Apple Wallet. That will give a whole host of information, as well as transaction history.

Device Account Number in Apple Wallet on iOS

Where did my blog go? And why didn’t I have backups?

Earlier this week I wrote a blog post about SQL Server. I scheduled it to go live the following lunchtime (as I often do) and then checked to see why IFTTT hadn’t created a new link in bit.ly for me to tweet (I do this manually since the demise of TwitterFeed).

To my horror, my blog had no posts. Not one. Nothing. Nada. All gone.

Where did all the blog posts go?

As I’m sure you can imagine, the loss of 13 years’ of work invoked mild panic. But never mind, I have regular backups to Dropbox using the WordPress Backup to Dropbox plugin. Don’t I? Oh. It seems the last one ran in March.

History: Backup completed on Saturday March 11, 2017 at 02:24:40.

Ah.

Now, having done some research, my backups have probably been failing since my hosting provider updated PHP on the server. My bad for not checking them more carefully. I probably hadn’t noticed because the backup was partially running (so I was seeing the odd file written to Dropbox) and I didn’t realise the job was crashing part way through.

Luckily for me, the story has a happy ending*. My hosting provider (ascomi) kept backups (thank you Simon!). Although they found that a WordPress restore failed (maybe the source of the data loss was a database corruption), they were able to restore from a separate SQL backup. All back in a couple of hours, except for the most recent post, which I can write again one evening.

So, what about fixing those backups, Mark

Tonight, before writing another post, I decided to have a look at the broken backups.

I’m using WordPress to Dropbox v4.7.1 on WordPress 4.8, both of which are the latest versions at the time of writing. The Backup Monitor log for my last (manual) attempt at backing up read:

22:55:57: A fatal error occured: The backup is having trouble uploading files to Dropbox, it has failed 10 times and is aborting the backup.
22:55:57: Error uploading ‘/home/mwilson/public_html/blog/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-seo/images/banner/video-seo.png’ to Dropbox: unexpected parameter ‘overwrite’
22:55:56: Error uploading ‘/home/mwilson/public_html/blog/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-seo/images/banner/configuration-service.png’ to Dropbox: unexpected parameter ‘overwrite’
22:55:56: Error uploading ‘/home/mwilson/public_html/blog/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-seo/images/banner/news-seo.png’ to Dropbox: unexpected parameter ‘overwrite’
22:55:55: Error uploading ‘/home/mwilson/public_html/blog/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-seo/images/editicon.png’ to Dropbox: unexpected parameter ‘overwrite’
22:55:54: Processed 736 files. Approximately 14% complete.
22:55:54: Error uploading ‘/home/mwilson/public_html/blog/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-seo/images/link-out-icon.svg’ to Dropbox: unexpected parameter ‘overwrite’
22:55:53: Error uploading ‘/home/mwilson/public_html/blog/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-seo/images/extensions-local.png’ to Dropbox: unexpected parameter ‘overwrite’
22:55:53: Error uploading ‘/home/mwilson/public_html/blog/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-seo/images/question-mark.png’ to Dropbox: unexpected parameter ‘overwrite’
22:55:48: Processed 706 files. Approximately 13% complete.
22:55:42: Processed 654 files. Approximately 12% complete.
22:55:36: Processed 541 files. Approximately 10% complete.
22:55:30: Processed 416 files. Approximately 8% complete.
22:55:24: Processed 302 files. Approximately 6% complete.
22:55:18: Processed 170 files. Approximately 3% complete.
22:55:12: Processed 56 files. Approximately 1% complete.
22:55:10: Error uploading ‘/home/mwilson/public_html/blog/wp-content/languages/plugins/redirection-en_GB.mo’ to Dropbox: unexpected parameter ‘overwrite’
22:55:10: Error uploading ‘/home/mwilson/public_html/blog/wp-content/languages/plugins/widget-logic-en_GB.mo’ to Dropbox: unexpected parameter ‘overwrite’
22:55:09: Error uploading ‘/home/mwilson/public_html/blog/wp-content/languages/plugins/widget-logic-en_GB.po’ to Dropbox: unexpected parameter ‘overwrite’
22:55:09: Error uploading ‘/home/mwilson/public_html/blog/wp-content/languages/plugins/redirection-en_GB.po’ to Dropbox: unexpected parameter ‘overwrite’
22:55:06: SQL backup complete. Starting file backup.
22:55:06: Processed table ‘wp_yoast_seo_meta’.
22:55:06: Processed table ‘wp_yoast_seo_links’.
22:55:06: Processed table ‘wp_wpb2d_processed_files’.
22:55:06: Processed table ‘wp_wpb2d_processed_dbtables’.
22:55:06: Processed table ‘wp_wpb2d_premium_extensions’.
22:55:06: Processed table ‘wp_wpb2d_options’.
22:55:06: Processed table ‘wp_wpb2d_excluded_files’.
22:55:06: Processed table ‘wp_users’.
22:55:06: Processed table ‘wp_usermeta’.
22:55:06: Processed table ‘wp_terms’.
22:55:06: Processed table ‘wp_termmeta’.
22:55:06: Processed table ‘wp_term_taxonomy’.
22:55:06: Processed table ‘wp_term_relationships’.
22:55:05: Processed table ‘wp_redirection_logs’.
22:55:05: Processed table ‘wp_redirection_items’.
22:55:05: Processed table ‘wp_redirection_groups’.
22:55:05: Processed table ‘wp_redirection_404’.
22:55:03: Processed table ‘wp_ratings’.
22:55:03: Processed table ‘wp_posts’.
22:54:54: Processed table ‘wp_postmeta’.
22:54:49: Processed table ‘wp_options’.
22:54:48: Processed table ‘wp_links’.
22:54:48: Processed table ‘wp_feedfooter_rss_map’.
22:54:48: Processed table ‘wp_dynamic_widgets’.
22:54:48: Processed table ‘wp_comments’.
22:54:45: Processed table ‘wp_commentmeta’.
22:54:43: Processed table ‘wp_bad_behavior’.
22:54:43: Processed table ‘wp_auth0_user’.
22:54:43: Processed table ‘wp_auth0_log’.
22:54:43: Processed table ‘wp_auth0_error_logs’.
22:54:43: Starting SQL backup.
22:54:41: Your time limit is 90 seconds and your memory limit is 128M
22:54:41: Backup started on Tuesday July 25, 2017.

Hmm, fatal error caused by overwriting files in Dropbox… I can’t be the only one having this issue, surely?

Indeed not, as a quick Google search led me to a WordPress.org support forum post on how to tweak the WordPress Backup to Dropbox plugin for PHP 7. And, after making the following edits, I ran a successful backup:

“All paths are relative to $YOUR_SITE_DIRECTORY/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-backup-to-dropbox.

In file Dropbox/Dropbox/OAuth/Consumer/Curl.php: comment out the line:
$options[CURLOPT_SAFE_UPLOAD] = false;
(this option is no longer valid in PHP 7)

In file Dropbox/Dropbox/OAuth/Consumer/ConsumerAbstract.php: replace the test if (isset($value[0]) && $value[0] === '@') with if ($value instanceof CURLFile)

In file Dropbox/Dropbox/API.php: replace 'file' => '@' . str_replace('\\', '/', $file) . ';filename=' . $filenamewith 'file' => new CURLFile(str_replace('\\', '/', $file), "application/octet-stream", $filename)

(actually, a comment further down the post highlights there’s a missing comma after $filename) on that last edit so it should be 'file' => new CURLFile(str_replace('\\', '/', $file), "application/octet-stream", $filename),)

So, that’s the backups fixed (thank you @smowton on WordPress.org). I just need to improve my monitoring of them to keep my blog online, and my blood pressure at sensible levels…

 

*I still have some concerns, because the data loss occurred the night after a suspected hacking attempt on my LastPass account; which seems to have been thwarted by second-factor authentication… at least LastPass say it was…

Short takes: directly embedding images from Dropbox; Pixlr (free online image editor)

Some snippets that were too small for a blog post of their own…

Directly embedding images from Dropbox

There’s little doubt in my mind that Dropbox is a useful service with an excellent sync client and I use it extensively (alongside the consumer version of Microsoft OneDrive, although I’ve given up on OneDrive for Business). Recently, I’ve found myself wanting to embed images held on Dropbox within forum posts.  Unfortunately, the link given out when sharing a file doesn’t work for embedding; however, as Canton Becker notes, if you replace ?dl=0 with ?raw=1 on the end of the URL, the link will work for an embedded image (more details on the Dropbox website).

Pixlr: a free online image editor

Whilst talking about images, I may have mentioned this before (or I might not have) but check out Pixlr – a free online image editor.

Sorting out my home backups

After my parents-in-law’s recent burglary (and related data loss), I started to think more seriously about my household’s backups which are spread across a variety of USB drives, NAS units and cloud services (Dropbox, SkyDrive, Box.net, etc.).

My plan is to:

  1. Duplicate – hard drives fail. I know, because I’ve lost data that way – and RAID is no substitute for a proper backup (as I learned the hard way). If it doesn’t exist in (at least) two places, it doesn’t exist.
  2. Consolidate – bits and pieces on various drives is a nightmare – to know that it’s definitely backed up, I need to know it’s on the “big backup drive” (as well as in the primary source).
  3. Archive – both physically (media stored in a safe) and virtually (upload to the cloud). Be ready for some long uploads though, over an extended period (I only have ADSL 2 – no fibre here).

Steps 1 and 2 work hand in hand and, last weekend, I picked up a 3TB Seagate Backup Plus Desktop drive. I’m not using the bundled backup software that offers idiot-proof backups for both local and social media (Facebook, Flickr) data but installing the software on my MacBook includes Paragon NTFS for Mac, which means I can use this drive with Macs and PCs without reformatting (there is a Mac version too – although the only differences I can see from a comparison of Seagate’s data sheets for “normal” and Mac versions are: Firewire and USB 2.0 cables instead of USB 3.0; downloadable HFS+ driver for Windows instead of preloaded NTFS driver for Mac OS X; 3 year warranty instead of 2 years).

Step 3 is more involved. I did some analysis into a variety of cloud services a while ago and found that each one has pros/cons depending on whether you want to back up a single computer or multiple computers, limitations on storage, cost, etc. I didn’t get around to publishing that information but there is a site called Which Online Backup that might help (although I’m not sure how impartial it is – it’s certainly nothing to do with the Which? consumer information/campaign service).

My current thinking is that I’ll continue to use free services like Dropbox to backup and sync many of my commonly-used files (encrypting sensitive information using TrueCrypt) at the same time as creating a sensible archive strategy for long term storage of photographs, etc. That strategy is likely to include Amazon Glacier but, because of the way that the service works, I’ll need to think carefully about how I create my archives – Glacier is not intended for instant access, nor is it for file-level storage.

I’ll write some more as my archive strategy becomes reality but, in the meantime, the mass data copy for the duplicate and consolidate phases has begun, after which all other copies can be considered “uncontrolled”.

SharePoint, Dropbox, and shadow IT

This morning I had a problem with SharePoint. Well, when I say the problem was with SharePoint, it could be considered a “layer 8 problem” (i.e. user error) but it still illustrates a major issue  with corporate IT provision – not just in my organisation but in many, many businesses, all over the world.

You see, last night, I uploaded a presentation to our intranet. It was a 20MB file over an ADSL/VPN connection and the browser upload session timed out so I used SharePoint’s Windows Explorer view (which I think is WebDAV).  The file was copied, I edited the properties in the browser and all was good, I thought.

Fast forward to this morning and people were telling me the links to the presentation in my team’s newsletter didn’t work. But they did for me… embarrassingly (because the newsletter goes right up the company – to CEO level), I sent an email with the correct link in naked form (horrible long URL, rather than as a hyperlink on some nice text) but people were still getting HTTP 404 responses (file not found).

To cut a long story short, the WebDAV upload had not checked in the file (by design, I now think) and even editing the properties afterwards didn’t. I could see the file, but no-one else could. Once the file was checked in all was well – except from  my red face (and my insistence that HTTP 404 isn’t a permissions error – that would be 403).

I lost a good chunk of this morning on this and the related clean-up activities when, essentially, all I wanted to do was share a file with some colleagues – a common business requirement that shouldn’t really be a problem in 2011. So I tweeted:

I need Corporate Dropbox; SharePoint is just one usability nightmare after another... (cue flow of tweets telling me SharePoint is great...)
@markwilsonit
Mark Wilson

I expected a deluge of people supporting SharePoint and telling me that I’m just a dumb user, what I actually got was RTs (showing this is not just an issue for me) and then a succession of people suggesting various Dropbox-like  products for that could be used by corporates.

Lots of people are suggesting Box.net and there’s Dropbox for TeamsOxygenCloud and ShareFile too. I suppose, taken at face value this sort of product is exactly what my tweet asked for but it’s not really a corporate version of Dropbox that I need – it’s the simplicity of Dropbox (dump “stuff” in a folder and it’s wherever I need it – in the cloud, on other machines, available to share with others, etc.) – I’m sure there are many solutions that do this, with varying degrees of success (just that Microsoft SharePoint is not one of them…). But technology is only one part of the issue.

My scenario (and the reason I’m writing this) is actually a perfect example of why we have shadow IT in organisations today. End users (consumers) want to do “something”. That “something” is hard to do with their enterprise tools, so they find another way around the problem. Over time that solution becomes embedded – that’s when the problems start for the CIO (or, maybe, for the individual who didn’t follow the stated IT policy…). Those problems generally boil down to one of two things: security and manageability. In this case, the file is already available on SlideShare, but it could have been something confidential – like the business model I was creating yesterday afternoon – and that wouldn’t have been something I wanted floating around on servers that my company doesn’t control.

I’m sure that the multitude of “solutions” to my problem are all great in their own way but if I start to use them, well, all I’ll really be doing is perpetuating the issue of shadow IT.

(Incidentally, I did come across some interesting projects from the responses I received: remember Novell iFolder? it’s still around in open source form from Kablink; and VMware’s Project Octopus could have potential too.)