Windows 10 Fall Creators Update breaks the start menu, task bar, and notification window(s).

If you are on build 1709 of the Microsoft Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (Edition) (fall, 2017), then you may run into an issue in which your start menu no longer functions.  Left-click on the start menu and nothing happens, etc.  This is usually accompanied with an error when you try to shut down your machine (virtual or real) that presents a ‘Windows Task Host’ is busy finishing an install, which is preventing shut down.

Here is the fix that worked for me:

First, somehow get your start menu to function so that you can get to settings.  You can try a combination of right-clicks and left-clicks to get it to eventually pop up, or you can try the Windows key button, or try Windows + I to go straight to settings.

Your goal is to get to Sign-In Options within Settings, and under the ‘Privacy‘ section, you need to turn off  ‘Use my sign-in info to automatically to finish setting up my device after an update or restart’.


Turning this option off seems to fix reboot issues and a non-functioning start menu, etc.

Good luck!


High Sierra install problem with firmware (un)verified error – solved!

If you are trying to install OS X High Sierra (10.13) and are encountering a ‘firmware could not be verified or validated’ error, here is a possible solution for you.

But first, why is this happening?  High Sierra tries to update the storage firmware in preparation for APFS, however if you upgraded your storage via a 3rd party SSD (such as Samsung, OWC, Crucial, etc.), the install process firmware update will fail.  This includes folks who have a makeshift do-it-yourself (DIY) Fusion drive.  High Sierra thinks the firmware doesn’t work (or that the drive does not support APFS), so the install fails with the ‘could note validate or verify firmware’, and everything halts and rolls back.

After a couple weeks of searching, somebody smarter than I am left a comment in one of the many articles posted about High Sierra install problems, and essentially the solution is to do the firmware update before you start the install for High Sierra.  You can do this by extracting the firmware updater from the High Sierra install package, running it, and then proceeding to install High Sierra.  Since the firmware update has already executed, the installer won’t try to do it again, and High Sierra should install without any hiccups after that.

To save you time in extracting the install package, here is a link to download High Sierra’s firmware update installer. And a mirror for that link.

To verify the file has not been tampered with, here is the MD5 hash for the unzipped .pkg file: 24a1731b514c633c7aff07b5d739828c

Download the .pkg, install it and let it finish, then install High Sierra on your upgraded mac!  If for some reason the above links expire, leave a comment and I’ll provide a new one.

Did Siri or dictation stop working for you on your iOS device? Try this.

Did Siri or dictation stop working for you on your iOS device? Try this.

I noticed a few days ago that both Siri and keyboard dictation stopped working for me.  However, they both would still work in my car (over bluetooth).  This initially led me to believe that maybe my iPhone 6+’s microphone was starting to fail.  I launched Voice Memos, and recorded a new memo, and that worked fine.  Plus, I’d had conversations with family recently, so I knew my mic was still working.  I figured it must have been something in the new 8.3 update, so I did a full-reset and restore in hopes that starting “fresh” would squash the gremlin.  It didn’t work.

This one had me stumped for a few days, and then after some GoogleBinging I remembered that the iPhone (6+, in this case, though this has been true for a while) has multiple microphones, and I distinctly remember Apple mentioning in one of their keynotes that the iPhone 6 /+ will use different microphones to pick up audio, depending on the situation.  I already knew my main mic (for voice calls and memos) worked, but what if Siri and dictation used a different mic?  And how do I test it?  As luck will have it, there is a simple test:

How to test your iPhone’s alternate (secondary) mic:

  1. Launch the Camera app
  2. If necessary, touch the ‘flip camera’ icon to use the FaceTime camera (selfie cam)
  3. Start recording a video of yourself talking
  4. Stop the recording, go to your camera roll, and watch the video
  5. If you don’t hear any talking, or you hear a bunch of static, your alternate mic is BROKEN

My video was full of garbled static… thus, my alternate mic was broken!  Lucky for me, the phone was still under warranty, and AppleCare took care of it.  This perhaps brings me to the moral of the story: if you plan on keeping your devices for longer than a year… get the extended AppleCare!

Just in case it was unclear above, here is how to test your main microphone as well:

  1. Launch Voice Memos
  2. Record a new memo
  3. Watch the read-out as you record, you should see voice ‘waves’ appearing as it records
  4. Stop the recording, play it back, and make sure it sounds good, clear, and without static

Happy debugging!

Nest having problems staying connected to your Apple Airport Extreme? Try this.

I recently got a new Apple Airport Extreme wireless router.  It performs great, but for some reason my (1st generation) Nest thermostat starting having trouble staying connected to my network.  If you google ‘Nest connection problem’, you get a rabbit-hole of forums and complaints that include various hacky anecdotal fixes.  Well let me add one more, as I have found a solution to my particular problem.

If your Nest Learning Thermostat is having trouble staying connected to your Apple Airport Extreme (or any other dual-band router), try this:

The Apple Airport Extreme (I believe, by default) operates on both the 2.4 ghz and 5 ghz bands (B/G/N, and N/A/AC bands).  It combines both of these bands under a single network name (aka ‘Broadcast SSID’) so that, regardless of the device, they all connect to the same network name.

I have found that this is problematic for the Nest.  It thinks it is connected to the network, when in fact it is not.  The Nest won’t even report any errors, it just won’t appear to be online, even though it thinks that it is.

The solution I have discovered is to separate the 2.4 ghz network from the 5 ghz network, and have them broadcast under separate SSIDs.  This setting can be accomplished through the Wireless settings pane of the Apple Airport Extreme app (for OS X or iOS), via the ‘wireless options’ button and subsequent sub-menu.  Simply check the box for a separate 5 ghz SSID broadcast name.  Here is a (slightly outdated, but the general steps are essentially the same) guide to help walk you through the process: Creating a Dedicated 5GHz AirPort Network

I separated my networks under different SSIDs (a ‘low’ for the 2.4 band, and a ‘high’ for the 5 band), and I forced the Nest to connect to the new ‘low’ SSID (the 2.4 ghz network).

My Nest is now connection-problem free, and is back to working like a charm.  Whether this is an Apple problem, or a Nest problem, I am unsure… I’m just glad everything is back to normal.  Happy Nesting!

OS X 10.10 Yosemite DNS and Bonjour not working? Here is a fix!

OS X 10.10 Yosemite DNS and Bonjour not working? Here is a fix!

Ever since I upgraded from the Yosemite Beta to the final release, certain things have not been working.  In particular, I could not browse to any network printers, NAS devices, or even see my Aiport Extreme from the Airport Utility.  My wifi and internet were working, just nothing on my local network.  I knew something was up with Bonjour, and by extension, my internal DNS (discoveryd service, new for 10.10 Yosemite) for my particular machine.

After 2 days of frustration, I’m happy to report that I fixed this.  Here’s how:

Launch the ‘Console’ app, and look in the logs and hopefully you’ll see many entries for variations of this error:

discoveryd Basic DNSResolver  dropping message because it doesn’t match the one sent

specifically (for my machine in this moment of time):

11/4/14 12:54:06.002 AM discoveryd[2158]: Basic DNSResolver  dropping message because it doesn’t match the one sent Port:0 MsgID:0

After much searching on the internet, and many plist deletions, etc. nothing worked.  So then I tried this:

System Preferences -> Network

At the top of that preference pane, there is a ‘Location‘ dropdown.  It was set to ‘automatic‘.  I clicked on that, and created a new location called ‘Home‘ (you can call it whatever you want, really).  Then my wifi connection reset itself, and EVERYTHING started working again.


Creating a new network location must have fixed some errant config file somewhere that was causing DNS and/or Bonjour lookups on my internal network to fail.  All is good now.

I can now browse for all bonjour devices, see my airport extreme, etc.  Everything works.  How lame and frustrating is that???

I hope this helps somebody!

Geektool (geeklet glet) update for Yahoo weather icons, 2014 edition!

Yahoo France made a small change to their icon source URLs, putting them on secure servers.  My old script command will work, but you need to change the URL to https vs. http:

curl --silent "" | grep "obs-current-weather" | sed "s/.*background\:url(\'\(.*\)\') .*/\1/" | xargs curl --silent -o /tmp/weather.png

Original post here.

Restore from a Drobo FS to your mac, over the network, using OS X Lion

I recently had my iMac Hard Drive completely fail. It would boot to the white/grey screen with the Apple logo, put a progress bar underneath, and then just spin that spinning spinner forever, never actually booting. Very scary! Although I am concerned that I might have to replace my HD before my Apple Care runs out, what I wasn’t concerned about was whether I lost any data.  I knew I had a backup, and that it would be easy to restore from this backup!  Or so I thought…

I had been backing up my iMac via Time Machine, over the network, to my Drobo FS Time Machine partition/share that I had previously set up.  So thus, I knew I had my data backed up, but what I didn’t know is what a nightmare it would be to actually do a restore from this network backup.

As it tuns out, it’s actually a pain in the ass, unless you know the secrets to unlocking the mysteries of Time Machine, and the Drobo FS.  Here is what I had to do, I hope this helps somebody someday:


Launch into Lion’s (in my case, OS X 10.7.4) Recovery partition (hold down the option key after turning on your Mac via the power button, then select the Recovery Partition), or alternatively, boot from the OS X Lion USB Stick or DVD, whatever you have access to (for Snow Leopard 10.6.x, this will probably have the same instructions, so this should work for SL as well).

Next, ignore the main menu options that pop up, and instead run Terminal, via the Utilities menu at the top menu bar (very top of screen, near the middle).  In Terminal, you have to do a few steps (use the following Terminal commands as templates, substituting your own data as necessary):

  1. We have to create a volume on the disk drive that OS X’s Recovery/Restore software can ‘see’ (otherwise known as a ‘mount point’):
    mkdir /Volumes/TimeMachine
  2. Then, we have to mount the network share to this newly created volume, so that it appears as a ‘local’ disk to OS X:
    mount -t afp afp://YourDroboFSAdminUserName:YourDroboFSAdminPassword@IPAddressOfDrobo/YourDroboTimeMachineShareName /Volumes/TimeMachine

    Using the above template, my command wound up looking something like this:

    mount -t afp afp://admin:password@ /Volumes/TimeMachine
  3. Finally (and this may be Lion only, so try with and without), we have to mount the actual image of your Time Machine backup to make its contents readable by OS X’s Restore process:
    hdid /Volumes/TimeMachine/yourMacsTimeMachineFile.sparsebundle

    Using the above template, my hdid command looked like:

    hdid /Volumes/TimeMachine/mainImacTimeMachineBackup.sparsebundle

If you don’t know the name of your sparsebundle file (required for Step 3 above), from the same Terminal window, you can just switch into the /Volumes/TimeMachine directory you created (“cd /Volumes/TimeMachine”), and after completing Step 2 above, you can type “ls” to list all the files in that newly mounted directory.  Your sparsbundle file should be there, so make a note of its name for Step 3.

After you complete the above steps, you can quit the Terminal application, and then launch the ‘Restore From Time Machine Backup’ option from the main menu that Lion originally presented to you.  Click ‘continue’, and choose your Time Machine backup (which may take a second or two to show up, but not much longer than that).

From there, you are on the long road to recovery, and you can enjoy watching that ‘Restoring’ progress bar for the next few hours.