Encrypting Online Storage with EncFS

Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive, SugarSync, Box, iCloud and dozens of other online storage providers all make sharing content online for access from multiple devices fast and convenient. How sweet it is to take a picture or create a document on your phone or tablet and have it automatically uploaded to “the cloud”.  You no longer have to worry about the data being lost if something happens to your mobile device, right?

It’s great until your mobile device falls into the wrong hands, somebody hacks into your online account, or the online storage provider suffers a privacy breach.  Depending on the data you stored online, that sweet solution could leave a sour aftertaste.  One solution is to encrypt the data before it is stored online using EncFS, a tool that encrypts an entire folder structure, but file by file, as opposed to a single container like TrueCrypt.  Because it stores data encrypted and decrypts only when mounted using a password, the data residing on mobile devices and in the cloud is securely encrypted if lost or compromised.

EncFS is a mature, decade old solution with broad platform support, including Linux, Windows, Macintosh, iPhone/iPad, Android, and a variety of online storage platforms.  Apps that make use simple include:

Why Are More People Becoming Mac Fans?

I’m known at my job and with friends of being a Mac fan, which is true. It wasn’t always like that however. I’ve spent the majority of my IT career behind a keyboard of a PC (well, and a Linux machine when I was a Redhat Server Administrator) 😉 Customers and friends often ask why I use a Mac, and I thought that this experience of a blogger who works for a site called Tuaw summed it up nicely. Just like he mentions- Macs are not perfect- but even when things go wrong, the overall experience has been way less frustrating than experiences that I’ve had with a PC.


And people wonder why Mac’s are gaining marketshare, not only for the consumer, but in the enterprise as well.. 😉

Interesting graphic on Mac’s market share:

Making a Bootable USB Stick on an Apple Mac OS X from an ISO

This quick how-to will show you how to make a bootable USB stick from a downloaded ISO file using an Apple Mac OS X.

Note: this procedure requires an .img file that you will be required to create from the .iso file you download.

TIP: Drag and Drop a file from Finder to Terminal to ‘paste’ the full path without typing and risking type errors.

  1. Download the desired file
  2. Open the Terminal (in /Applications/Utilities/ or query Terminal in Spotlight)
  3. Convert the .iso file to .img using the convert option of hdiutil:
    hdiutil convert -format UDRW -o /path/to/target.img /path/to/source.iso)
  4. Note: OS X tends to put the .dmg ending on the output file automatically.
    Rename the file by typing:
    mv /path/to/target.img.dmg /path/to/target.img
  5. Run diskutil list to get the current list of devices
  6. Insert your flash media
  7. Run diskutil list again and determine the device node assigned to your flash media (e.g. /dev/disk2)
  8. Run diskutil unmountDisk /dev/diskN (replace N with the disk number from the last command; in the previous example, N would be 2)
  9. Execute sudo dd if=/path/to/downloaded.img of=/dev/rdiskN bs=1m (replace /path/to/downloaded.img with the path where the image file is located; for example, ./ubuntu.img or ./ubuntu.dmg).
    • Using /dev/rdisk instead of /dev/disk may be faster.
    • If you see the error dd: Invalid number '1m', you are using GNU dd. Use the same command but replace bs=1m with bs=1M.
    • If you see the error dd: /dev/diskN: Resource busy, make sure the disk is not in use. Start the ‘Disk Utility.app’ and unmount (don’t eject) the drive.
  10. Run diskutil eject /dev/diskN and remove your flash media when the command completes
  11. Now the USB stick is ready. Boot the device that you want from the USB stick.

Apple – OS X Lion 10.7.3 released with Safari 5.1.3, Wi-Fi bug fix

The third update to OS X Lion, 10.7.3, has been released and is now available in Software Update. A list of some of 10.7.3’s fixes are below. Of potentially greatest interest is the fix that purports to “resolve a Wi-Fi connection issue when waking from sleep” — I know both of my Macs have fallen prey to this bug several times under Lion, and it’s been a fairly widespread issue. Hopefully this bug has indeed been squashed once and for all.

The OS X Lion v10.7.3 Update includes Safari 5.1.3 and fixes that include:

Add Catalan, Croatian, Greek, Hebrew, Romanian, Slovak, Thai, and Ukrainian language support
Address issues when using smart cards to log into OS X
Address compatibility issues with Microsoft Windows file sharing
Address an issue printing Microsoft Word documents that use markup
Address a graphics performance issue after sleep on some earlier iMacs that use ATI graphics
Resolve a Wi-Fi connection issue when waking from sleep
Address an issue that may prevent Safari from opening before joining a wireless network
Fix a potential issue authenticating to an SMB DFS share
Include RAW image compatibility for additional digital cameras
OS X 10.7.3 is available via Software Update, or you can download it directly from Apple’s support site.

In case it’s useful, the 10.7.3 Combo Updater can be found here:

How-To Flush DNS on Mac OS X Lion

Flushing the DNS on Mac OS X Lion is quite simple. Just follow the below steps:

1) Change to “root” by using the following command:
su –
Enter the root password when prompted. If you don’t know the “root” password for your system, you can set it by following this Apple KB article: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1528

2) Type in the following command to flush the DNS:
dscacheutil -flushcache

The DNS has now been flushed.

SSD Tweaks for Mac OS X (including Lion)

I found a very helpful site that had a lot of “tweaks” for Mac OS X users that have a SSD hard drive. There are several other places that have some of this information as well, but this site has them in a single post and an easy to read layout.

The recommendations for the Windows Virtual Machine are good too. Some didn’t run on my Virtual Machine that I tried (invalid command, etc) but still good info none-the-less.

Macbook Pro taking forever to shutdown

I’ve been struggling with this problem for a while now and I was trying Onyx to clean things up and other tips and tricks to no avail. As it turns out, there were the processes VMware Fusion Helper and Microsoft Database Deamon running in the background that was causing the problem. When I killed it using the activity monitor and shutdown the system, it shutdown very quickly. To fix the issue I had to modify my “login items” in my account settings. I removed them from the list so it wouldn’t automatically startup. All is well now.

Safari Based Malware (even on a Mac)

Saw this today where an end-user clicked on a safe looking site for a background picture and got infected with “browser malware”, which completely hi-jacks the browser where you cannot do anything until “accepting” their “survey”. They were using Safari v4 on a Mac.
The message stated to go take a survey from “customersurveypanels.com” and locked the browser.

I found this very helpful discussion on the Apple forums, which had the resolution:

Steps to Solve:
1) Force Quit Safari
2) Disconnect from network / disable WiFi
3) Start Safari
4) “Accept” prompt that comes up (ok since you are not connected to internet)
5) Page will time-out, browser should be usable again
6) Click on Safari in the upper toolbar and Select Reset Safari.
7) Click at least (I’d recommend all checkmarks) Empty Cache and Remove All Cookies.
8) Click the Reset button.
9) Quit and re-launch the browser.

The above worked and resolved the issue in my situation. Hope it helps!

Maybe it’s a good time to go download FireFox and start using that browser 😉