systems

  • How to create non-editable PDFs

    Unless you have Adobe Acrobat Pro at your disposal it is not very straightforward to mark up PDFs that subsequently can not be easily edited, e.g. if you need to blank certain passages in a text document without rewriting the document for that specific purpose. We also found that the current version of Adobe Acrobat Pro does not create PDFs that can not be edited with Apple Preview.

    One old school approach to this is to edit the PDF in Adobe Acrobat (Reader or Pro), then print and scan the document – the problem with this is that the resulting PDF might be rather large, depending on your printers scan settings.

    To get this done in a more convenient way, do the following:

    1. download and install PDFwriter, basically this creates a virtual PDF printer that btw. can also be used to create any size PDF;

    2. edit the PDF in Adobe Acrobat (Reader or Pro), then go to the print dialogue and under the Advanced tab choose to ‘Print as Image’

    3. next choose PDFwriter as your printer and print, the resulting PDF is accessible in /Users/Shared/PDFwriter/YOURUSERNAME

    Although a bit of a workaround the above reliably creates PDFs which are not easily edited.

  • ARCHICAD BIM Server backup settings

    The ARCHICAD BIM Server has a very useful built-in backup function, if configured correctly. Find below some considerations regarding a proper backup strategy.

    1. On Mac OS X we find that people tend to choose Apple’s TimeMachine as their preferred backup option. Although this is a perfect solution for your regular desktop, this is problematic on a server level as it is not easy to control, e.g. the time it runs or what to include or exclude – we use the excellent Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) instead;

    2. We typically adjust CCC to backup after hours, with a preflight script to stop and post flight script to start the ARCHICAD BIM Server;

    3. We also adjust the BIM Server backup settings to typically only do PLN backups, to ensure that in case of catastrophic failure, you at least have PLNs that you can use temporarily without a BIM Server (unless you have a few spare BIM Servers flying around)… note PLN backups are typically bigger in size than BIMSERVER backups;

    4. We also choose to run backups after hours (not all at once at 1600h – not sure how Graphisoft determined that that might be good time to have all TW projects backup at the same time…);

    5. Depending on your BIM Servers capacity and the number / size of your typical project files, carefully monitor that you do not run out of space (and risk corruption of the bimservers mongo database) – unfortunately there is no way to globally adjust the default backup settings easily, i.e. it is a manual process that requires regular checking to ensure that nobody has shared a few 4GB files with the default backup settings;

    6. Offsite backups are essential but depend on your willingness to rotate backup drives / tapes offsite (we do it daily) or your internet connection bandwidth for cloud based backups. Do think twice about cloud backups though, although convenient restoration / download times for several GB of BIM Server data might be prohibitive (we only do tapes and hard drives to avoid massive downtime);

    One last thing to keep in mind regarding the frequency of BIM Server backups:

    If your practice works in large teams and you need to restore or roll back a project file (e.g. if a single user gets detached), we find that hourly backups are not really that useful, as you typically loose as many man hours as there are team members if you reset the project for the whole team (rather than just forfeiting a single users work for the last couple of hours).

  • VMware Fusion missing .vmx repair

    If for some reason you can not start a virtual machine in VMware Fusion and it instead throws the following error message about a missing .vmx file at you, here is what you can try to get it going again.

    1. Open VMware FUSION, then go to File > New and in the opening window click the arrow next to ‘More options…’ at the bottom right;

    2. Next in the ‘Select the installation Method’ window, choose to ‘Create a custom virtual machine’;

    3. In ‘Choose Operating System’ select the respective operating system of your previous virtual machine, in our example this was Windows 7 x64;

    4. In the ‘Choose a Virtual Disk’ window choose ‘Use an existing virtual disk…’ and click on the ‘Choose virtual disk button’…

    …then navigate to where your corrupted virtual machine is saved (default installation path is ~/Documents/Virtual Machines), select the ‘Virtual Disk.vmdk’ inside the Virtual Machine Bundle and choose an appropriate method, e.g. ‘Make a separate copy of the virtual disk’.

    Once you click on ‘Choose’ you are returned to the previous screen, there simply click on ‘Continue’;

     

    5. Then wait until the process completes, click on finish and check that the rebuilt Virtual Machine works by starting it up;

  • Identifying malicious email

    We get asked a lot lately how to properly identify malicious email (aka phishing attacks) – here are 2 ways to go about identifying them…

    The easy way…

    …read the email carefully, there are a couple of easily visible giveaways e.g. the sender address (A) and at the bottom the Russian email address (B). Another telltale sign of maliciously crafted emails becomes visible once you hover (i.e. without clicking) above an link, as a flyout will appear and show you the referenced URL © which is clearly not an official link in this case.

    The slightly more involved way…

    … in Apple Mail, go to View > Message > View all Headers, which will show more details about where the email came from. Depending on your mail server / hosting setup this will show more or less detail, however the important part here is that there will be addresses and more information (D) that clearly makes this an illegitimate email.

    If you feel like doing the right thing you can then forward this email (with the more detailed header info) to the purported sender’s (e.g. AmEx, Apple, etc.) by sending it to abuse@… (e.g. abuse@americanexpress.com or abuse@apple.com)

  • Publishing an iBook

    The last couple of months our team was busy preparing and publishing our Field Guide Series for ArchiCAD and SketchUP.

    Here is a brief overview of what we have learnt in the process.

    Important initial decisions

    The obvious first decision is which platform to publish on, i.e. amazon (epub) vs. apple (iBooks and epub) or both. Since our background is mostly Mac based our focus was obvious.

    Another consideration is how do you actually get it on the choosen platform. We initially intended to use an Aggregator, however it turns out none of them are prepared to work with iBooks created in iBooks Author.

    Getting registered with iTunes Connect (yes you need a US Tax number), turned out to be reasonably easy although we are still uncertain as to what exactly the implications tax wise are – both the Australian Tax Office and Apple are less than helpful in this regard.

    Format > iBooks vs. ePub

    Having decided early on that we would initially focus on the Apple iBook Store, we thought we would try to make best use of Apples iBook Author (iBA) and its promise of interactive features, which we think are perfectly suited to the touch interface of iPhones and iPads. In the process of testing these interactive iBA widgets, we quickly discovered that getting them to work properly took too much time and resources away from preparing the actual content for our Field Guides. In addition whilst researching interactive iBooks, we realised that even Apple itself publishes its ‘iBooks’ with rather limited interactive features, which helped us with our decision to ultimately keep it simple. Another positive side effect of this decision was that we could adjust the original iPad only format to work on the iPhone as well.
    By the time we got all this sorted Apple also had released Pages 5.5.1, which finally included a much improved epub export, enabling us to mostly bypass iBA and mainly use Apple Pages to achieve our desired result of a practical & straightforward epub document.

    Collaboration

    As one would expect if you have multiple contributors and reviewers you need a solid collaboration process in place. Unfortunately, Apple still has not much to offer in this regard, e.g. file sharing is since the demise of iDisk not easily possible (btw. Dropbox also has its fair share of problems) and Apple’s Pages does not allow for cross platform online collaboration. Another example of the missing review features is that reviewing draft documents directly inside the iBooks.app although possible, is pretty useless as one can only email these ‘Annotations’ which then however can not be imported into iBooks on another device and instead have to be manually inserted.
    So to minimise cross platform conflicts and more loss of precious time, we finally settled on Google Docs (GDocs) – in our defence we initially really tried to avoid the omnipresent giant.

    Workflow and Formatting

    In terms of workflow, collaboration in GDocs on a simple flow text with annotation, commenting and live editing by several users actually works very well. We do recommend using a 64 bit browser for the larger documents though. The online document can then be exported to a Word doc file to your computer and from there opened or copy / pasted into Pages or iBooks.

    When creating e-books using styles to manage how your book displays graphically as well as how it is indexed is essential. This means you need to set and apply a style for the Book Title, The Chapter Title, Body Text, Links, etc. Unfortunately, this formatting didn’t transfer very well from GDocs (or any other software) into iBA. Opening the exported Word docs in Pages worked fairly well, although if you want to use a template for your Pages file you would need to copy and “Paste and Match Style” content from the Word document to your fresh Pages file.
    In a nutshell if you want to use GDocs to collaborate, do not waste time formatting text there as you will have to do it again in Pages or iBA. It is also worth mentioning that images will need to be placed again in iBA, as there are several ways to incorporate them (Single images, galleries, interactive images).
    We also organised our document into separate sections so we could quickly restructure it by dragging entire sections into the right spot. It keeps formatting intact and avoids errors in cutting and pasting text.

    Resizing ePubs and Text Flow

    ePub readers can modify font type and size and which fonts are supported depends on the device you’re using. You can embed a specific font, but you need to make sure you are licensed to do so and the font is embedded and coded properly.

    Building on styles and setting line spacing we found that you have to pay special attention to when to use a Section break, Page break, Paragraph Break or Line Break. Set line spacing as part of your style and don’t insert extra line or paragraph breaks to make it look right. Those extra breaks will end up in odd places when your ePub is resized for a specific device.
    There are also options for styles to for example define whether text stays with the next paragraph or starts on a new page. This is useful if you have paragraph titles that need to stay with the paragraph’s body text.

    Test, test, test

    We found it useful to test our ePub on different devices as there can be differences. We tested on a Mac, an iPad and iPhone several times before we were sure we caught all inconsistencies.

    Marketing

    Although we are still preparing another two ArchiCAD Field Guides, we are in the process of putting the word out via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, our Mailchimp mailing lists and also have started advertising on Dezeen.

  • AC18 replacement logo(s)

    The 2014 Graphisoft colour of the season…

    AC18 LOGO matrix

    download

    To install replace the original AC logo in:

    /Applications/Graphisoft/ArchiCAD 18/ArchiCAD.app/Contents/Resources/ArchiCAD.icns

    Please note the above was also posted on AC-talk.

  • How To Sync Multiple Dropbox Accounts.

    Here is an easy way to sync multiple Dropbox accounts to one computer:

    1.
    Start Automator. (Tip: To quickly start Applications press Command+Spacebar, Type the name & once found hit Enter!)

    2.
    File>New and Choose “Workflow”

    3.
    Locate “Run Shell Script” in the library list (Again, using the search feature saves time!)

    4.
    Copy / Paste the following:
    HOME=$HOME/Dropbox-personal /Applications/Dropbox.app/Contents/MacOS/Dropbox &

    5.
    This will create a folder called “Dropbox-personal” in your home directory. You can change the path and folder name to your liking, but avoid spaces in the name!

    6.
    File>Save
    Choose File Format: Application and save into your Application Folder.

    All done!
    You can create as many of these apps as you like.

    For advanced users:
    If you have moved your home folder away from the usual OSX location you need to set a specific path where you replace “$HOME/Dropbox-personal” with “/PATH/YOUR_DROPBOX_FOLDER”, adjust to suit your specific setup.

  • Google accounts and Contacts

    The contact management in normal Google and Google Apps accounts is somewhat painful as it does not necessarily work as expected – tips on how to get it working are e.g. available on lifehacker.com.

    If you use OSX & iOS and have ever suffered from disappearing contacts, here is what you can do:

    1. login to the webinterface of your Google account go to the ‘Other Contacts’ Group – most likely this is where your contacts have moved to. Select them all and via the Groups button move them back to the ‘My Contacts’ Group;

    2. to prevent this happening in future go to Settings > General and under ‘Create Contacts for auto-complete’ choose ‘I’ll add contacts myself’;

    3. on a mac with OSX open Contacts and resync, the missing contacts should reappear;

    4. on iOS devices go to Settings > Mail, Contacs, Calendars select your Google Contacts account, switch it OFF, press DONE, then switch it ON, press DONE again… next go to Contacts and check they all come back again.

    Obviously the above only works if the contacts have not been deleted.

  • Convert mobile to local account

    To convert a mobile (a.k.a. portable home directory) to a local user account do the following:

    update

    28/02/2014

    If you are using network user accounts on 10.7 / Lion and later, you will also have to do the following:

    1. login to network user account;

    2. go to System preferences > Users & Groups > Current User > Mobile account: Create

    3. click on ‘Create’…

    4. when prompted confirm with user network account login details (screen goes blank…. wait – do not interrupt);

    5. once back at login screen, log back in – check that when creating new folders on desktop they show also in ~/Desktop…. also note in Users & Groups Network has changed to Mobile

    6. log out of local account, then continue as described below…

    1. in a local Administrator account, open System Preferences > Accounts

    2. select and delete the User account, by choosing ‘Don’t change the home folder’;

    3. rename the ‘deleted’ user account, via Terminal to its previous shortname…
    sudo mv /Users/jdoe (Deleted) /Users/jdoe

    IMPORTANT: Please be very careful when using the sudo command!

    4. go back to System Preferences > Accounts and create a new local User account by utilising the previous mobile accounts details, e.g. John Doe / jdoe;

    5. when prompted choose to utilise the existing home folder – all permissions will then be set automatically;

    6. login as the new user and check when prompted create a new keychain;

    7. check that all data has come across, then change the users PHD settings in WGM to ‘none and also remove the PHD user folder from your server;

  • Carbon Copy Cloner and Dropbox

    We have started to use the excellent Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) to sync various Folders on a File Server to a dropbox account to share its content ‘automatically’ with an external party.

    Initially we had some problems, as we had simply scheduled a Backup Tlan to run every hour, which resulted in a couple of errors regarding hidden files that dropbox seems to generate for its syncing process and which stalled the CCC backup.

    Thankfully the support for CCC is excellent and we ended up getting a solution directly from Mike Bombich, which you also might find useful.

    To get it working properly you need to stop and start Dropbox via pre / post flight shell scripts, which can be attached to the Backup Task inside CCC’s > Backup Task Scheduler > Before & After panel.

    dropbox_stop.sh
    #! /bin/bash
    osascript -e 'tell application "Dropbox" to quit'

    dropbox_start.sh
    #! /bin/bash
    sudo -u YOURNAME open -a "Dropbox"

    Simply copy and paste the scripts above into the Text Editor of your choice, amend with your accounts shortname, save them as plain text with .sh as extension, then attach them to your CCC Backup Task.

    Regarding the ‘sudo -u’, Mike Bombich writes…

    “CCC’s pre and postflight scripts run within the root user security context, so there are some limitations placed on the use of AppleScripts and specifically the “open” command. Precede those commands with “sudo -u yourname “(replace “yourname” with your account’s shortname) and the script should work fine.”

    We can confirm it does work perfectly.