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Delete the EFI Partition from a Drive in OS X

The other day, well today to be precise, I was interested in creating a TrueCrypt encrypted volume on a USB Drive.  However, TrueCrypt will not let you perform Volume Encryption on a drive that contains existing partitions.  I attempted to delete all of the partitions from the volume using Disk Utility, but it never worked.  An examination of the drive using diskutil revealed the cause:

$ diskutil list disk3
 0: GUID_partition_scheme *32.0 GB disk3
 1: EFI 209.7 MB disk3s1
 2: Apple_HFS Untitled 1 31.7 GB disk3s2

I had previously installed Mac OS X on this drive and any boot drive for a Macintosh now needs an EFI boot partition.  Unfortunately, you cannot delete that partition using Disk Utility (at least I don’t know how).  So, to completely remove all partitions from the drive, you need to use:  gpt (GUID Partition Table maintenance utility).

I first deleted the Untitled 1 partition using Disk Utility, then I removed the EFI partition using this command:

$ sudo gpt remove -i 1 disk3
disk3s1 removed

That left me with an unpartitioned volume:

$ diskutil list disk3
 0: GUID_partition_scheme *32.0 GB disk3

Hopefully you won’t get as frustrated as I did trying to find this.

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If you have a new MacBook Pro w/Retina Display, congratulations!  I love mine too!

However, while these things boot incredibly fast, I’ve noticed that after leaving mine asleep all night (lid closed, no shutdown), it takes a while to wake it back up (8-10 seconds at least).

Seems there is a new “Standby” mode on these systems.  Per Apple the new mode is available on the following models:

  • MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Late 2012 and later)
  • MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Early 2013 and later)
  • MacBook Pro (Retina, Mid 2012)
  • MacBook Air (Mid 2010) and later

The new mode activates by default after being asleep for an hour.  When that happens, the contents of RAM are written out to disk and then power to the whole system is deactivated.  When you wake it up, it has to read all of that RAM (16GB on my system) back into RAM in order to come back to where you left off.  That login screen you see is fake, it’s just a snapshot of your desktop at the time the system was put to sleep (check out your clock in the upper right corner if your computer has been asleep more than an hour).

The new mode also only activates if certain criteria are met:

  • Be running on battery power.
  • Have no USB devices attached.
  • Have no SD card inserted.
  • Have no Bluetooth devices currently paired.
  • Have no external display attached.
  • Have Power Nap disabled (if it is supported on your Mac).

If your system actually goes into Standby mode, Apple claims, “A computer with a fully charged battery can remain in standby for up to thirty days without being plugged into an AC power source.”

The downside is of course waiting for the RAM to be read back up from disk.  If you wish to disable this mode, you can.  You’re sacrificing Power Efficiency to get Performance, but for me this is more than worth it.  I don’t ever leave my system down for prolonged periods of time without AC power and expect to use it.

To see your current power settings, issue this command via Terminal:

pmset -g

You’ll notice that the default value for standbydelay is 4200 seconds, or 70 minutes.

To change the value, issue this command via Terminal:

sudo pmset -a standbydelay 86400

That command will set your standbydelay to 24 hours.

To change it back to the default, issue this command via Terminal:

sudo pmset -a standbydelay 4200

If you wish to completely disable this setting, issue this command via Terminal:

sudo pmset -a standbydelay 0

Hope this helps you make your MacBook Pro w/Retina Display operate even more quickly.


Blackberry is Dead

I couldn’t have written this better myself.

But last week, I used an BlackBerry Z10. It was from AT&T, and the publicist specifically asked me to mention that I was using an AT&T BlackBerry in my review, so that’s why I put this sentence in. Everyone I showed it to laughed at it because it was a BlackBerry. But because this is technically a review of the Z10, I will tell you that it is a very pleasant phone.



What is Big Data?

You’re probably hearing it a lot in the media if you’re paying attention at all:  Big Data.  What is Big Data and why do you care?

We’re Connected

Every 2 Days we are creating as much data as the Human Race did from the dawn of civilization to 2003.  Every 2 days.  90% of all of the data created by mankind has been created in the last 2 years.  But what good is knowing that someone “Likes” something, or reading Tweets about someone pooping?  That’s the point.  There is so much data that the value of it is in understanding the patterns that are created by it, and analyzing those patterns to glean information about ourselves, our society, our products, and our businesses.

Google can predict the Flu

That’s right, Google can predict the flu season, better than the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  They do it by analyzing all of the searches that people are making, as well as combining that with other information that create indicators that allow them to see the Flu season start.  They have better information than the CDC, because the CDC relies on secondary information coming in from medical centers and doctors.  Most people who get the Flu don’t go see a doctor, they Google some remedies, purchase them, and battle it out themselves.  That’s Big Data at work.  You can do it too, through Google

Everything you Do is Tracked

Everything you do on the Internet is being tracked.  Unless you’re taking steps to prevent it, then it’s happening.  If you use Social Media and ever “Like” or “Tweet” something, especially if you use those handy buttons on websites, you’re creating Big Data for someone.  Those “Like” and “Tweet This” buttons are the most nefarious of the bunch, because they all point back to their “Mothership” at Facebook and Twitter.  If you’re signed into your Facebook or Twitter account and you just visit a site with those buttons, Facebook and Twitter know about it.  If you then click the button, they know you did that.  They can then aggregate that information across all of the sites you’re visiting and build patterns of behavior.

Don’t Worry, They Don’t Care About YOU

Ultimately, what Rob Pickering does on the Internet is really only relevant to Rob Pickering (and possibly his family).  Large advertising, marketing, and product companies only care about what I do in the aggregate.  They want to know what the larger patterns of behavior are, so they can market to the largest, most relevant, audience.  By “Liking” and “Tweeting” things, I become a data point in a larger pool of Big Data about the world we live in.

You Can Do It

Google has opened up their platform of Big Data to the Public.  It’s called Google Correlate and you can build your own natural language queries and perform research using Google’s Big Data.  Incidentally, South Dakota has the cutest dogs in the US.



I have been looking for a decent Office app for my iPad for a while now. I’ve read reviews, tried some of the free versions of paid apps, but just couldn’t find one that seemed worth risking $10-$20 on.

I have Pages and Numbers and they do okay, but I really needed something that worked natively with Office Document formats and didn’t risk making unintended changes during translation. All of the other apps I looked at looked okay, but one of the biggest hurdles is getting the documents on the iPad. Apple doesn’t really make that easy.

So, I want something that is as close to a real Office experience as I can get, and I want it to be cloud based.

Enter CloudOn.

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iPhone Battery Blows

(So does the battery in every other phone…)

Here is a great blog post that I’ve been wanting to write and now I don’t have to, except to say that I agree with it. Where I work, we do not have WiFi, but I use my iPad to manage my OmniFocus items. So, most of the time, I have WiFi tethering turned on. Depending on how much time I sit at my desk, by the end of my work day, if I don’t plug my phone in, I’m often down to under 10% battery life. And I still have to sit in the lobby while my Daughters are at dance class or tennis lessons.

So, I plug in way more than I want to throughout the day.

They’re not great, they’re not even really all that good. They’re adequate. They get us through the bulk of a work or travel day, for sure, but they do so in a way that is subconsciously crippling the capabilities of not only the hardware bits inside but also the software that you use.

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Dropbox Killer? Not so Fast…


Google “Dropbox Replacement” and you’ll find a lot of solutions that would like to fit that bill. Dropbox really just does one simple thing. It allows you to create a folder on your computer that gets backed up to the cloud and synched (or in some cases just made accessible) to other devices. We have 4 Macs and 4 people in the house. When the kids do their homework, they save it in a Sync folder inside our Dropbox and that way they can pick up where they left off on any of the computers in our house.

There are a lot of other ways to do something like this, but the key differentiators for Dropbox are stability, integration and seamlessness.
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Dropbox versus Evernote

Todd and I were having a discussion the other day.  We both use a service called FileThis Fetch (maybe Todd will tell you about it), that connects to your online accounts and pulls down statements automatically (think Cable Bill, Mortgage, Amazon Invoices, Bank Statements, all kinds of stuff).  Todd has his download into his Dropbox, I have mine download into Evernote.  We each tried to convince the other our solution was better.

So, I wrote a post over on my personal blog outlining the two:  Evernote vs. Dropbox.

Conclusion:  They’re both good at what they do, and they don’t do the same things.

For that reason, I believe Evernote is a better place for storing my FileThis Fetch documents (surprise!)


Our Inaugural Post

Hello and welcome to Know IT.

This blog concept was formulated by my writing partner, Todd Whitehead.  Todd and I have known each other for two decades and between us we have over 40 years of Information Technology background.  In addition to our day jobs, we are both also self-proclaimed Nerds and Gadget Geeks.

He and I have different styles and different concepts of what makes a product, service, capability, or piece of hardware “good”.  This will be a “short-form” (less than 500 words normally) blog where we will provide our thoughts on a wide range of IT (both business and consumer) products, services, capabilities, and hardware.

We hope you like it.

-Rob and Todd