Adding a Silicon Power 512GB SSD to my Mac Pro 2008

TLDR; here’s the main points:

  • Restore a Time Machine backup using Recovery, not from Disk Utils from the MacOS installer
  • If an uninitialized SSD is not visible to Disk Utils, it may show up under ‘diskutils list’
  • If still not visible, put it in a USB drive enclosure where it should get detected, then initialize it

I picked up a cheap $50 512GB SSD to add to my Mac Pro 2008. I already have Windows 10 on one SSD, but decided it was time to replace the WD Blue 5000rpm drive also with an SSD. Backed up El Capitan to Time Machine, and now ready to add the new drive.

I mounted it in a Sabrent 2.5 to 3.5 caddy, and then attached to one of my drive sleds.

I’ve had good luck with new and even refurb drives over the past couple of years, this Silicon Power SSD is the first drive that’s given me issues, as it’s not visible in Disk Utils or even to ‘diskutils list’ which normally detects and lists an installed drive even though it’s not usable. Not knowing if it was the SATA connectors, I removed all my other disks, and moved it between each of the 4 slots, and no go, it was still not detected in MacOS Recovery Disk Utils, either when booted into El Cap, or in Windows 10.

First attempt to see what was going on, I tried downloading Silicon Power’s SP Toolbox software, and Windows Defender says it has a trojan:

Ok, well that’s not good. Uninstalled.

To double check that the drive could be detected on other machines I uninstalled it and moved it to a USB3 external drive enclosure. Windows 10 Disk Management now sees the disk as uninitialized, and pops up a dialog to initialize it as either MBR or GPT. Ok, picked GPT but haven’t formatted it yet. Going to now book back into MacOS Recovery to see if I can format it, and restore my TimeMachine backup. Back in a few mins.

Ok. So I have a Recovery partition that for some reason does not boot. The other option is to boot from an MacOS El Cap bootable USB flash drive and restore from Disk Utils there. I tried this and when I selected the ‘Restore…’ menu option, selected the Time Machine USB drive and the SSD as the target, I ended up restoring a copy of the content of the Time Machine backup onto the SSD, but it’s not bootable. First clue that this happened should have been from the boot menu screen when I had 2 identical orange Time Machine drive icons, and not a new silver bootable disk.

Since I don’t have a working Recovery partition to boot from where the ‘Restore from Time Machine’ option is, I went the long way round and installed El Cap from USB to the new SSD which got it bootable and with a new Recovery partition, then booted to this Recovery partition, selected the ‘Restore from Time Machine’ option, left it restoring over night, and now I have I my previously El Cap install completely transferred to the new SSD, successfully bootable and all. That took way longer than I expected, but now successfully up and running!

El Cap boot time from SSD on this 2008 Mac Pro is about 4 seconds, whereas before from a 5000rpm WD Blue it was at least a minute to get to the desktop… a HUGE improvement!

Solving a Quora programming homework question in ARM Assembly

It makes me sad when students ask the online communities to ‘please write me a program that does the following’. Not only is this flat out dishonest to ask someone else to do your homework for you, the opportunity for learning is in the process of solving the problem and writing the code yourself. If someone else writes the code, you’ve missed that opportunity. There’s little to be learned if someone else does the hard work and gives you the final result.

Most communities police these types of questions pretty well. Reviewers on Stackoverflow for example are quick to respond to these types of questions to help developers restructure a generic request for help into a specific question about a specific problem that the developer need help with. The guides that are usually referred to on suggestions to restructure these questions are actually very good advice and reminders for us all on how to ask good questions:

On other community sites, the community response goes in a different direction. This question for help on how to write a program was responded to be some of the funniest and bizarre approaches to solve the askers problem in all sorts of obscure language from Brainfuck to Whitespace and plenty of other weirdness inbetween.

Not to be left out but a little later to the party, I realized I hadn’t done any ARM assembly for a while, so here’s my solution in ARM Assembly that I developed on my Raspberry Pi:

.global main

main:
MOV R4, #3 @ init outer line counter =3

_outerloop:
MOV R3, R4 @ init word loop counter with current value of outer counter

_wordloop:
MOV R7, #4 @ syscall 4: output to stdout
MOV R0, #1 @ stdout
MOV R2, #6 @ length of string
LDR R1, =output
SWI 0

SUB R3, R3, #1 @ decrement word loop counter
CMP R3, #0
BNE _wordloop

@print newline
MOV R7, #4 @ syscall 4: output to stdout
MOV R0, #1 @ stdout
MOV R2, #1 @ length of string
LDR R1, =eol
SWI 0

SUB R4, R4, #1 @ decrement outer counter
CMP R4, #0
BNE _outerloop

_exit:
MOV R1, #0
MOV R7, #1
SWI 0

.data
output:
.asciz "Smile!"
eol:
.asciz "\n"

Configuring WSJT-X to log to N3FPJ for ARRL Field Day (part 1)

My amateur radio club (RCARCS) uses N3FPJ logger for Field Day (we run N3FPJ on one laptop and the log from each station over WiFi). This year I want to have a go at setting up a digital mode station to log automatically to N3FPJ from WSJT-X to run some FT8, and also from fldigi to work PSK and RTTY. First up, let’s look at getting WSJT-X working.

WSJT-X doesn’t log directly to N3FPJ (it does to N1NM though), but it does indirectly through the intermediate helper app JT-Alert. The setup we’re going to do then is:

WSJT-X -> JT-Alert -> N3FPJ Field Day logger.

Starting with N3FPJ, the first step is to enable the Server API from Settings / Application Programming Interface:

The next step after installing JT-Alert is to select ACLog (N3FPJ’s main logging app) in the settings. The options give you a setting to connect to a locally running ACLog, and while this works for a local N3FPJ’s ACLog app, it doesn’t for N3FJP’s Field Day logger. This part is not obvious, but to configure JT-Alert to log to the Field Day logger even if on the same PC you configure the remote connection settings and then also point it to the .mdb log file of the locally running N3FPJ:

Here you also select the log type is ‘Field Day’. This approach for the config is in the Help docs for JT-Alert here:

Next, configuring network options in WSJT to allow JT-Alert to connect. Without making any other changes, if you start JT-Alert and then start WSJT you’ll see these two dialogs which tell you what settings you need to change in WSJT:

In WSJT settings on the reporting tab, select all 3 checkboxes in the UDP section, and replace the default 127.0.0.1 with your current IP address, e.g.

To use FT8 for Field Day, WSJT has a setting to customize the exchange to include the required class and ARRL section:

To test out the config so far, start the apps in this order: N3FPJ, JT-Alert, WSJT. To test logging a QSO, enter a test call in the DX Call field and press the Log QSO button:

… note here when running Field Day mode you should enter the correct exchange sent and exchange received so the QSO is logged correctly in N3FPJ.

The log is automatically sent across to N3FPJ via JT-Alert:

I noticed if you don’t manually enter the exchange sent and received then it will populate just the callsign field with the sent and received still blank. If you complete both as you log from WSJT then the log entry is saved into N3FPJ automatically.

Note: in JTAlert v2.13.6 I noticed the above steps work fine on Windows 10 if you are logged in as an Admin user. If you log in as a regular user, JTAlert will not copy logs across to N3FPJ, unless you start JTAlert with ‘Run as Administrator’. Also, it will pop up the warning message saying that it failed to check if the log was successfully written, even though it is written to N3FPJ successfully. There is a timing setting in the JTAlert Performance settings to increase the length of time before the N3FPJ is checked for a successful log, but it doesn’t appear to make any difference for this issue.

Next up, I’ll look at getting fldigi setup to also log direct to N3FPJ.