Squeezing more life out of Apple hardware

Planned obsolescence is theft. That’s the perfect distillation of my feelings on the topic. If I spend my hard earned money on a product I don’t think the manufacturer gets to tell me when I have to stop using it. And yet, there are countless cases of this:

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some crazy person who thinks Apple should still be selling parts for the Apple II+ my uncle has in his attic. There does need to be a line drawn somewhere; just don’t ask me where.

Ask yourself this: If you just spent $5,999.00 USD for a MacPro (that’s the base model, with no upgrades), would you feel a bit ripped off in seven years when Apple won’t even sell you replacement parts?

Bare bones Mac Pro, 2022-08-28

What if you were really crazy and bought a full decked-out Mac Pro for a whopping $54,384 USD? Yeah, well, Apple is still going to cut off your support in seven years.

Maxed out Mac Pro, 2022-08-28

The thing is, everything Apple sells with a Pro moniker comes with a premium price, and it doesn’t seem too outlandish to expect them to support these products for a reasonable amount of time. What makes for a reasonable amount of time? I’d say that if a bunch of hobbyists on the internet can support a product, then one of the world’s most valuable companies can probably manage it as well.

For instance, I have a Mid-2010 Mac Pro (MacPro5,1). The last supported OS for this model was Mojave, but some of the nifty features like Handoff were expected to be broken since Yosemite due to the Bluetooth module used in this model. Apple would have you believe that the Bluetooth incompatibility was un-fixable, and that no OS past Mojave will work on this model. And yet… via a series of upgrades over the years, I’ve got this twelve year old machine running Monterey just fine, and even Handoff works. So much for impossible.

I owe a lot of my machine’s lifetime to the folks at macvidcards.com, who have been providing custom flashed video cards, and other bits, for years. While you technically don’t need a Mac EFI driver flashed video card to run most versions of MacOS, you do need it if you encrypt your boot drive with FileVault or you won’t get the screen to unlock the drive’s encryption. For a security wonk such as myself, full disk encryption is absolutely necessary. So far, I’ve installed the following upgrades:

So, all of that got me up to Mojave. I did have some fun little issues, like MacOS claiming that FileVault was not supported on my Mac Pro and refusing to encrypt my drive after installing Mojave. I solved that by moving my SSD to an external enclosure, booting my laptop on it, and enabling FileFault. Funny, my Mac Pro booted from that FileVault drive just fine, and hasn’t had a problem since.

My adventures have not been without pitfalls, though. The roughest being when I installed Big Sur, because that point I had to give up using VMWare Desktop. The version of VMWare Desktop I ran under Mojave wouldn’t run on Big Sur, and pointed me to a newer version. That newer version would not run on my hardware because my installed CPUs lacked a particular instruction set. This was a bit of a blow, particularly because when I tried Parallels Desktop it would seem to import my VMWare systems, but then they wouldn’t boot. So far, there doesn’t seem to be a way around this. If you’ve got any suggestions, please comment below!

Up until this point, I thought Big Sur was as far as I’d be able to take it. Shoehorning Big Sur on had taken experimenting with a few different EFI bundles, from several forum and blog posts, where the takeaway was that Monterey was too problematic. But then… I saw this slashdot post: Devs Make Progress Getting MacOS Venture Running On Unsupported, Decade-Old Macs

I was aware of OpenCore, but I couldn’t recall if I’d come across the OpenCore Legacy Patcher. Reading through the docs, it looked pretty simple. Could it really be this easy? I deviced to give it a try and dropped a spare SSD into my machine. I’m not going to detail the steps I had to go through, as they are all very well documented here, but I will say that an hour later I had a functional Monterey installation on my Mac Pro complete with hardware graphics acceleration for HVEC and h.264 encoding!

OpenCore Legacy Patcher is proof that my twelve year old Mac Pro is capable of running modern MacOS, and that Apple’s planned obsolescence is not a technology issue.

COVID-19 Scams Spread Like Their Own Virus

It’s a sad fact of life that within moments of any tragedy there is a scammer scheming to turn a profit on it. These sick fucks are the bridge between sociopaths and homeopaths; willing to sell their own sick grandmothers distilled water on their deathbeds with a sick smile on their faces. Or, as in the case of Unichem Royal Oak Pharmacy in Auckland New Zealand, they’ll sell you a cardboard card on a lanyard and tell you you’re safe from COVID-19.

To the rest of the world, New Zealand is a beacon of hope. As a country, we used science to guide the response to COVID-19 and have beaten it back like no other country. But while the rest of the world looks on in wonder at our success, there is still an undercurrent of fear and ignorance that scammers can latch on to. As an example, this sponsored post popped up in my Facebook feed yesterday:

It is a link to a Youtube video promoting the virtues of a card you can wear on a lanyard that creates a ‘one-meter protection zone’ against viruses and bacteria. This is, of course, absolute bullshit. Really, if I have to explain this to you, how are you even functional in the modern world?

I filed a complaint about this video on Youtube, but I don’t expect it to be taken down. This isn’t your standard user-submitted video. This is a paid-to-be-hosted video on Youtube. Want to know what gives it away? No matter how many times you watch it, there’s never an ad. When’s the last time you saw that on one of your videos?

As you can see above, I felt compelled to comment. That comment has been deleted, and I’ve been blocked from commenting on any of Unichem Royal Oak Pharmacy’s posts.

So, I made a post instructing people on how to file a scam complaint. You can do it too, if you’d like to participate in the exercise. First visit their post, and then follow these steps:

It will be interesting to see what happens if a lot of people report it for the scam that it is. Sad to say, I won’t be surprised if Facebook leaves it up. They have a surprising amount of tolerance for hosting scams when the poster is a paying customer. Here’s the response I received:

As you can see, Facebook’s acceptable community standards include selling people quack ‘virus shields’.

Never Give Someone Your Secret Keys

You didn’t need me to tell you that, though. Right? It goes without saying, as it’s right in the name. Secret Key. You give people the other half, the Public Key. I think they teach that in kindergarten these days.

So, why am writing a post about such a simple topic? Let me tell you a story…

I’ve been using keybase.io for years.

I probably haven’t been using all its features, but it serves as another way of verifying some ways of communicating securely with me.

keybase.io was bought by Zoom, and we don’t know what that means yet. Will it stay free? Will it get shut down because all Zoom cared about was the crypto skills and tech?

One thing that is happening is that at least one ‘competitor’ has already popped up. Yesterday I received an invite from Cyph to sign up. They’d conveniently scraped my public info at keybase.io and populated an account that was ready for me if I accepted the invite. All I had to do was click the link and provide a new password and PIN. What the heck, I’ll sign up and make sure I get the name Ghostwheel before Scott in Atlanta grabs it.

There’s a reason I put ‘competitor’ in quotes is because there is something very phishy about Cyph. The website at cyph.app wants me to prove I own the pgp public key they scraped from keybase.io by… uploading my private key to their servers.

That. is. not. going. to. happen.

That’s now how it works. That’s not how any of this works!

You want me to prove I own the secret key? Give me a random blob of text to sign, and you verify it with my public key.

You want to compromise any pgp/gnupg encrypted communications I have ever had? Yeah, that’s when you ask for my secret key.

Now that I’m taking another look at the invitation email, it isn’t even properly signed. It has a signed.asc but it’s malformed. Looking more phishy by the minute.

We’re supposed to move from keybase.io to a website that wants us to add our secret keys to their keystore, and where the CEO can’t send a properly pgp signed email?

Yeah, nah.