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  • Jay Versluis 4:33 pm on October 24, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Categories: macOS ( 37 )   

    Rehearse your Yosemite Upgrade before you go live 

    Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 17.49.01

    Updating to the latest version of OS X is tempting – but there’s always a risk that some of your older apps may stop working. If only there was a way to “rehearse” the update process on a dummy system.

    I’m happy to tell you that there is, and it’s neither as expensive as a brand new computer, nor as time consuming as recreating your entire system from a time machine backup. In this article I’ll show you how.

    Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

    • 1x external USB drive, bootable (Seagate Backup Plus, WD My Passport, any of those – USB 3 preferred)
    • 1x copy of Shirt Pocket’s SuperDuper (don’t judge them by their name)
    • 1x fresh pot of coffee
    • patience and 1-2hrs of uninterrupted time


    The Principle

    Copying your entire hard drive and isolating every file takes a long time – especially if you don’t have USB 3 (like me). Transferring 500GB or more will take over 24 hours, perhaps longer. No can do.

    Enter SuperDuper! It’s a utility with which you can do something even better. I got hold of a copy a few years ago when I replaced my internal MacBook Pro hard disk with an SSD. The free version does a complete clone, but it also has a feature called Sandbox which you can access when you buy the full version.

    Sandbox does not copy all files over to an external drive. Instead, it copies user and system files and leaves the rest untouched. It still creates a bootable volume, so all mission critical data is isolated (including Mac apps like Safari, Mail, iMovie, etc). But all your other 3rd party apps, as well as your Documents and Desktop are shared and remain untouched.

    When I say shared I mean that after you’ve finished creating the Sandbox on an external drive (or even an internal partition) you’ll be able to choose which system you boot into and access all your data either way.

    This is done cleverly by creating symbolic links to your internal drive for everything that the external drive would need to access. It’s like shortcuts in Windows.


    Creating the Sandbox Drive

    Grab your external drive, plug it in and erase it using Disk Utility (Applications – Utilities – Disk Utility). Make sure your partition is Mac Extended Journaled flavour (not NTFS or anything else).

    Next, download a copy of SuperDuper from Shirt Pocket. You need to buy the full version to get access to the Sandbox feature. However, if you’re strapped for cash and have a lot of time on your hands, you can still perform a full clone instead – that’s part of the free version. It just takes a little longer.

    Start SuperDuper and you’re presented with a dialogue similar to this:

    Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 15.48.58

    Under Copy select your current (internal) drive. In the other dropdown select your target (external) drive. You’ll see several options in the third drop down which reads “Sandbox – shared users and applications” in my screenshot. Select this option.

    Other options include a full backup, as well as Sandbox – shared users. The latter copies all your 3rd party apps so will take more time, and it’s not necessary for our exercise here. Hit Copy Now and grab a coffee – this could take some time.

    SuperDuper will go ahead and erase your volume and will tell you when it’s finished.


    Booting into the Sandbox

    With your external drive still attached, head over to System Preferences – Startup Disk. Select your external drive here. Hit Restart and your Mac will boot into the external Sandbox. This will take a little longer than usual, simply because the read speed from an external volume is much slower than an internal SATA drive – especially if you’re used to an SSD or Fusion Drive.


    Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 15.53.40


    Once restarted you may not notice any other differences. Dropbox didn’t want to work for me, but other than that my system looked exactly like I had left it. With one big and important difference of course: under Applications I can now see many of my app icons with a small arrow in the bottom left corner:


    Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 11.13.52


    That arrow indicates a symbolic link (shown here on Parallels Desktop, Poedit and Sculptris). If I were to launch one of those they would be started from their original location, i.e. my internal hard disk. Other apps like Safari and Photo Booth don’t have an arrow – those are started from my external drive because they’re classed as “system apps” and have been copied over.

    If an upgrade like Yosemite comes along it will overwrite all those system apps and other system files – but only on the external drive. If this messes anything up then all I have to do is head over to System Preferences and boot into my internal drive again – still untouched, still running Mavericks and still working fine.

    Now you can “test upgrade” to Mavericks on the external drive and see if all is working. Take your time and test everything thoroughly. I found that the older drivers for my Wacom Bamboo 1st Generation are no longer working – my Intros 4 however has a different driver and is still working fine (contrary to what I thought at first when I made the video).


    Upgrading the Sandbox to Yosemite

    There are probably better guides out there that tell you exactly how you upgrade, so I’ll just give you a few pointers:

    • open App Store
    • head over to Updates (or click that massive Yosemite mountain on the front page)
    • download the installer
    • wait

    Once the 5+GB have downloaded (straight into Applications – Install OS X Yosemite.app) you may want to copy this file to a safe place. This will save you a second download when you decide to install Yosemite for real. This installer will be removed automatically when Yosemite has finished – so now’s your chance to grab it.

    And one final tip: you may need to install Java for OS X in case some of your apps don’t start under Yosemite. If that happens OS X will show you a little dialogue box and direct you to the following link when you click More Options: http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1572


    Done with Yosemite?

    If you want to go back to your previous system, simply head over to System Preferences – Startup Disk again and select your internal drive, then restart. No matter if your sandbox is still plugged in or not, you’ll be back on Mavericks with no system changes.


    Updating the internal drive (when you’re ready)

    If you’re happy that your system will survive the update, go ahead and update via the installer, or download the installer again from the App Store. This will take some time (again).

    If you’re impatient, you’ll be pleased to hear that SuperDuper also offers to copy changes from the Sandbox back to the internal drive. It will tell you all about this in the documentation, under the section “Maintaining a Sandbox”. It’s worth the read.

  • Jay Versluis 8:24 am on October 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply

    Categories: Plesk ( 76 ), Screencast ( 87 )   

    How to create Scheduled Tasks in Plesk 

    In this video I’ll show you how to create Scheulded Tasks in Plesk. I’ll explain where to find them (for admins and customers), how to execute them and what all those cryptic fields mean. I’ll also show you how to mute the output of the commands you execute so you won’t be bothered with emails you didn’t ask for.

    Scheduled Task is another name for Cron Job, and it’s something you want to run on a regular basis, like a script file. Plesk itself does not execute your task. Instead it will give you a nice interface to add the parameters you need for the Linux crontab command (or the equivalent on Windows, I believe it’s called at or schtasks).


    Cryptic Numbers

    The cryptic numbers in each field are crontab parameters. Numbers for those fields correspond to their description (i.e. 0-59 for minutes, 0-23 for hours, etc).

    One thing of note (and confusion) is how to define endless repetitions. We can do this with the asterisk and slash combinations.

    • * means “every”, as in “every minute”, “every hour”, “every day”
    • */4 means “every 4”, as in “every 4 hours”
    • 5-11 means “every number in between”, such as 5,6,7,8,9,10,11

    To find out more about the crontab command, head over to a great nixCraft article here:


    Muting Output

    By default Plesk will send you an email with any output a script or command may generate. You can avoid this by diverting all output to /dev/null. This is a virtual partition that magically makes things disappear.

    In the video I’m using a fictitious script /var/script.php. To divert its potential output I would use

    /var/script.php > /dev/null 2>&1


    A note about Script Files

    If you’re executing BASH, PHP, Python or any other script, make sure your files contain the she-bang at the very beginning to that your server can find the correct path. Here’s an example for how a PHP script should start:


    Note that web files that are designed to run in a browser cannot be called that way. You need to call those using cURL or wget.

    • yong 8:18 pm on March 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Hi, how can I create the script.php file ?

      • Jay Versluis 8:54 pm on March 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        Depends on how complex your script is. If its just a few lines of commands, the vi editor from the command line works well. For larger scripts, you can use the same technique and paste the contents into a vi session. You could also download a script to the server from an external source (like GitHub).

        Don’t forget to fix those file permissions!

        • yong 9:05 pm on March 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply

          By the way I cant open the task.php script .the file shows me these:

          澏騶o,纰??扡S?WfQ ??_Pl縡i案$蜓:U2貉邹縴+垔M鑛槱萆Uy斘Py患厠雜岁賧犠X屆砿f 磢爅隄st 罫嚷v?.
          菌壛躾;/W’@ 凁儑^鬍n椺’鏱x焧k`n湖V2cw’焲g?瓃簂絑L猁n{c-沔??剓/k?锖?謡w?元ba閇JkyP=崵?频霺薂繵G賥?皇.萳湎枱X%i早B[?因r
          鬟A唍蓠E髻?3显a笆8?暭z岅? 丞ヲ偯?e渾C{濩D枱虃=闊_宸?抳巃~狨0X栌た*h儚弙?$k?謈?肙z雟貃彄?}阍x/n?.l?k盼璊瀥y徜咂レ4萾z朇擄穋羯9?鍣DFU慕鱮

          can you please help ?I can not read my file .

          • Jay Versluis 9:23 pm on March 26, 2017 Permalink

            task.php is likely a Plesk system file, and like most system files it’s encrypted. As a rule of thumb, you should NEVER EDIT SYSTEM FILES because your changes will be overwritten should the file ever be re-generated. Lucky for you, in this case it’s impossible to edit it anyway.

            You should write your own script file and call it anything you like, then add the full path to the Scheduled Tasks dialogue in Plesk. If you’re only running a single command, you don’t even need a script file, you can pass all the parameters in the dialogue.

            Good luck!

  • Jay Versluis 8:56 am on October 13, 2014 Permalink | Reply  
    Categories: Plesk ( 76 ), Screencast ( 87 )   

    How to add Custom Buttons in Plesk 12 

    In this screencast I’ll show you how to create Custom Buttons in the Customer Control Panel in Plesk 12. These are direct links to URLs you can provide with the same look and feel as the rest of Plesk.

    Custom Buttons allow you to create links within Plesk or to external sources, like your website or a contact form. If you’re a developer you can even read out parameters that are passed with the URL (such as customer’s domain name). You can link to external sources as well as other areas of the Plesk Panel – including destinations you’ve created with extensions.


  • Jay Versluis 10:27 am on October 8, 2014 Permalink | Reply  
    Categories: Windows ( 22 )   

    How to auto-start programmes in Windows 


    Remember the humble Autostart folder in Windows 3.1? You could simply add shortcuts to your favourite “apps” or documents to it which would automatically launch when Windows started. Except we didn’t call them “apps” in those days.

    It’s still possible to use this handy feature in Windows XP, Windows 7 and even Windows 8.1 – however the way to accomplish the same goal has changed slightly over the years.

    In this article I’ll show you how to do it. Before we start, have a shortcut to the programme in question ready on your Desktop. We’ll drag it into the appropriate folder in a moment.


    Windows XP

    • right-click START, then select EXPLORE
    • double-click Programs, revealing several shortcuts and a Startup Folder
    • double-click Startup
    • drag your shortcut into this folder

    The next time you restart Windows XP, your shortcut will be executed, starting the programme. Likewise, if you’d like to remove something from the auto-start routine, simply remove the shortcut from this folder. Happiness.

    PS: Windows XP has had its day and is no longer supported since April 2014.


    Windows 7

    Very similar to Windows XP (see the animated gif at the top for a demonstration):

    • click START, then select All Programs
    • find the Startup folder and right-click it
    • a new window will open up
    • drag your shortcut into it

    Next time you start Windows 7 your “app” will be started automagically. Remove the shortcut if you no longer need it to prevent it from being launched on startup.


    Windows 8.1

    Things have drastically changed in Windows 8.1, but with a bit of finesse we can get there just the same:

    • open Internet Explorer (not a joke)
    • type the following into the URL bar shell:startup
    • a new Explorer window opens up
    • drag your shortcut into it

    And again, if you no longer need it, simply remove the shortcut from that folder. This also works on Windows 8.


    Further Reading

    • cheesypt 6:45 am on November 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      on Windows 8.1, you say “a new Explorer window opens up”
      I just got thrown into Bing search

      • Jay Versluis 7:01 am on November 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        Very good point cheesypt, there was a colon missing. Try it again with
        I’ve corrected the article.

    • Alexander Zonov 2:56 am on January 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      You can use standart windows explorer for that too http://take.ms/I54G6

      • Jay Versluis 4:51 pm on January 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        Excellent, thanks for the tip Alexander!

  • Jay Versluis 9:27 am on October 6, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Categories: Plesk ( 76 ), Screencast ( 87 )   

    Setting up Plesk Mail on iOS 8 (iPad) 

    In this screencast I’m explaining how to setup your iOS Device for use with Email Accounts created in Plesk 12. I’m also explaining how to map IMAP folders from your email account to the relevant folders on your iOS Device.

    For this demo I’m using an iPad 3 running iOS 8, but the process is the same on your iPhone and iPod Touch and older versions of iOS.

    It’s a rather complex setup (as dealing with email accounts usually is) and has caused me and my customers major headaches in the past. I hope this video can alleviate such pains. If setup properly, Plesk Mail is a pleasure to deal with and works very reliably.

    Sadly iOS Mail does not discover the settings it needs to work with your Plesk Mail automatically, but with a bit of help and guidance it’s easy to get it working. Let me show you how.

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