Syncing Google Contacts with iMessage (and Contacts) on OSX Mavericks

You may remember earlier in the year I took issue with the super secret hidden checkbox in the Mountain Lion’s version of Contacts which magically syncs your Google contacts with OSX Contacts and Messages. As it seems, Apple have finally fixed the SSL problem stopping you from syncing through the Google option in System Preference’s Internet Accounts setup.

Getting the sync to work now is as trivial as adding a Google account to your Internet Accounts list, log in and turn on the items you want to sync. Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 9.46.42 pmHurray! Easy peasy.

It’s beyond me that it wasn’t like this before.


Pipe Viewer (pv) in Mac OSX


Forget what I said.  Install Homebrew (really, do it now) and use HomeBrew to install it.

Pipe Viewer (pv) – is a terminal-based tool for monitoring the progress of data through a pipeline. It can be inserted into any normal pipeline between two processes to give a visual indication of how quickly data is passing through, how long it has taken, how near to completion it is, and an estimate of how long it will be until completion. However, it isn’t included by default in Mac OSX.

The good news is that there are several ports of pv, you just need to go and grab one:

  • HomeBrew: Run “brew install pv” to get the latest version.
  • MacPorts: Run “port install pv” to get the latest version.
  • Or (recommended) install the Rudix pv port (a simple package installer)

Pv allows you to get a really awesome progress of your terminal commands to see how things are going; especially useful for long operations (such as cp or tar etc) so you know everything is ticking over time (and perhaps even giving an ETA for completion):

13.2GiB 1:33:17 [3.57MiB/s] [================================>                ] 67% ETA 0:44:4

I highly recommend this for anyone doing long, large or complicated terminal commands.  It’s outstanding! To learn more about using Pipe Viewer, this is a great resource.


Syncing Google Contacts with iMessage (and Contacts) on OSX Mountain Lion

Being able to sync your Google Contacts with your OSX Contacts is possible – it just takes a bit of digging.

As a long-time iPhone 4 user, I was recently introduced to the wonderful OSX Messages app, which lets me read/send iMessages from my Mac, as if I had sent a text from my phone. Such an amazing thing (even if it does only work with other iPhone users). However, it only used phone numbers to identify contacts; less than ideal since I seldom reference my friends and family by their cell numbers.

I use Gmail for all my email purposes; and after loosing my completely contacts list TWICE from the failures of Windows Mobile 6, I am also a huge advocate for Google Contacts – awesome synergy between my phone list and email contacts. and while I’ve been very happy Syncing my email/calendar/contacts between Google and my iPhone; my Mac just didn’t want to come to the party and I refused to retype my contacts manually.

At first I tried syncing the contacts over Google’s Microsoft Exchange Protocol (which is actually the best way of syncing Gmail/contacts/etc onto the iPhone), however you cannot get the necessary SSL to connect to Google on Mountain Lion. Next I tried backing up my iPhone contacts into iCloud, which also failed.

I was about to give up until I discovered that the preferences for the Contacts app has an option that I didn’t know about. Carefully disguised under the “On My Mac” account, you will find the option to sync with Google.

syncing-google-contacts-in-mountain-lionHurray! Easy Peasy.

‘belongs_to’ and ‘has_one’ Differentiated

One of the more common confusions with ActiveRecord associations is the difference between the `has_one` and `belongs_to` relationships.

However, they are not interchangeable, and there are some serious differences. A `belongs_to` can only go in the class that holds the foreign key whereas `has_one` means that there is a foreign key in another table that references this class. So `has_one` can only go in a class that is referenced by a column in another table.

So this is wrong:

class Transaction < ActiveRecord::Base
  # The transactions table has a order_id  
  has_one :order                

class Order < ActiveRecord::Base
  # The orders table has a transaction_id
  has_one :transaction          

So is this:

class Transaction < ActiveRecord::Base
  # The transactions table has a order_id
  belongs_to :order             

class Order < ActiveRecord::Base
  # The orders table has a transaction_id
  belongs_to :transaction     

For a two-way association, you need one of each, and they have to go in the right class. Even for a one-way association, it matters which one you use, and which direction you use it:

class Transaction < ActiveRecord::Base
  # This table has no foreign keys
  has_one :order             

class Order < ActiveRecord::Base
  # The orders table has a transaction_id
  belongs_to :transaction     

How to Create a Bootable Lion Restore USB Drive without Snow Leopard

If you are like me and have installed Mac OSX Lion on a computer and need or want to create a bootable OSX Lion USB Drive, Apple have released an official tool to accommodate you.

Its pretty basic, download the tool, run the file inside the .dmg file and follow the prompts. You will need a 8Gb USB thumb drive (I believe 4GB won’t quite be enough). Now you can simply plug the thumb drive in, and on boot hold down the [option] key and select the recovery drive from the menu. I can verify that you can use this installer to create clean installs of lion without having to first install Snow Leopard and on machines other than the one that created the recovery drive.

System-wide Git Global Ignores

If you are like me and love using a Mac for your development tasks, and want a way to get Git to ignore any file (like those pesky .ds_store’s) forever and for EVERY repository there is a very simple way to it.

Open Terminal and type:

git config --global core.excludesfile ~/.gitignore

and then:

echo .DS_Store >> ~/.gitignore

This will work for anything you want, just modify the second command as appropriate.  And you can run the second command as many times as you need.

Ruby Script to Import Google Contact Photos From Gravatar

Google Contact photos are a much neglected feature of the Google Stack. It really adds to the user experience when you see each of your contact photos when you make or receive a call. However, it can be a real pain (especially if you have hundreds of contacts).

But I had an idea recently, to try and match my Google Contact emails with Gravatar and try to auto-populate some of the dozens of contacts that didn’t already have a photo (after all a Gravatar is better than nothing).

So I wrote a Ruby script to find my contacts missing a photo and try to update it with a Gravatar (wherever possible). NB: You may need to first install the GData (Google Data) gem by opening a Terminal window and issuing: sudo gem install gdata.

#!/usr/bin/env ruby

# Google Contact Photos - Gravatar Importer
# Written by Ashley Angell
# Licenced under Creative Commons with Attribution

require "rubygems"
require "gdata"
require "rexml/document"
require "digest/md5"
require "net/http"
include REXML

none = 'd5fe5cbcc31cff5f8ac010db72eb000c'
user = ARGV[0]
pass = ARGV[1]

client =
client.clientlogin(user, pass)
data = client.get("{user}/full?max-results=10000")
myxml = data.body
p "contacts"
puts "-"*70
i = 0
myxml.each_element("feed/entry") do |e|
    gd = e.elements['gd:email']
    if !gd.nil?
      email = gd.attributes['address'].downcase
      hash = Digest::MD5.hexdigest(email)
      image_src = "{hash}"
      nil_image = false
      image_element = e.get_elements("link[@rel='']")[0]
      if !image_element.nil? and image_element.attributes['gd:etag'].nil?
        data = nil
        md5 = nil
        Net::HTTP.start(URI.parse(image_src).host) do |http|
          resp = http.get(URI.parse(image_src).path)
          data = resp.body
          md5 = Digest::MD5.hexdigest(data)
"#{email}.png", 'w') do |f|
            f.puts data if md5 != none
        md5 = Digest::MD5.hexdigest(data)
        if md5 != none
          puts "#{email} > #{image_src}"
          client.put_file(image_element.attributes['href'], "#{email}.png", 'image/png')
          i = i + 1
          puts "#{email} > no match"
        puts "#{email} > skipped (already has photo)"
      File.delete("#{email}.png") if File.exists?("#{email}.png")
  rescue Exception => ex
    puts ex
puts "Updated #{i} contact photos"

To execute it, simply copy and paste this into a text editor (or download it and unzip) and from Terminal (command) window and execute the following commands:

sudo chmod +x googlegravatarimporter.rb [Enter]
./googlegravatarer.rb your_password [Enter]

It will cycle through your Google Contacts and indicate what action was taken. For me, surprisingly updated a few dozen contacts (even more than I expected).

I’ve posted this here for others that might want to do the same thing but cannot be bothered writing the script for it. Consider it posted here under Creative Commons with Attribution.

Convert SQL Server Database to a SQLite Database

Recently, I wanted to resurrect an old project of mine I worked on in my spare time originally designed to work on .Net technologies. Naturally, I backed it against a SQL Server 2005 Database which turned out to be a bad idea because it made portability of that data a bit of a nightmare.

So it was with great happiness that I found this tool (mirrored here) by liron.levi who posted an article on CodeProject on how to accomplish this task. You still need a Windows machine and an install of SQL Server (Express Edition with Advanced Tools is alright) but it got the job done just fine for me.

If you want a no-fuss easy way to convert your databases into a format easier to deal with and a lot more portable to-boot.

How to Boot Toshiba Portege M200 off an SD Memory Card

A long while ago I became the proud owner of one o the best Tablet PCs on the market, the Toshiba Portege M200. Problem is that if something goes awry on the internal hard disk, then you’re in trouble because the M200 is notoriously difficult to boot on external media. This was something I needed to do after trying out Windows 7 on it (which worked extremely well by the way) – but it came at a cost too high – missing features and tools and drivers that the default factory install has.

Things are made complex because while it is technically possible to boot off an external CD/DVD ROM, the number of external drive it will actually boot off are very few. Additionally, the BIOS wont boot off USB thumb drives (at all!) and USB hard disks either. There is one saving grace – you can boot off an SD memory card (as long as it *not* SDHC) from the built-in reader. The trouble with THIS is that it will only boot off an SD card if its been formatted and made bootable ‘just right’. Its so finiky that Toshiba have actually created some tools to aide in the process of making them bootable.

So, if you have a standard SD memory card, you can use the Toshiba SD Memory Format Utility and the Toshiba SD Memory Boot Utility to create a bootable image of the restore CDs. Obviously if the default install is bung, then how can you use these tools?

Well the good news is, I’ve got a copy of them from the Toshiba website. I have hosted them here in case they disappear, here is the Toshiba SD Memory Format Utility and here is the Toshiba SD Memory Boot Utility.

What I did to reinstall the factory image on my Portege M200 Tablet PC:

  1. Download the 2 links above and install them.
  2. Run ‘as administrator’ (if on Vista or Windows 7) the format utility and format the SD card.
  3. Run ‘as administrator’ (if on Vista or Windows 7) the boot utility and select the BOOT.IMG file from the /bin folder on the first restore CD. Here is a copy if you don’t have the disks.
  4. Restart the computer pressing F2 at POST and with the SD card in the reader, and use the arrows keys to select the SD/Floppy boot device.  Press [Enter].

When I booted it still gave me the CD ROM selection screen, which I eventually discovered was actually compatible with the External USB DVD ROM I was using (wouldn’t boot off it – but option ‘9’ worked in DOS) – after this, it just started installing the factory image as normal.

Any problems, drop me a line and I will try to help.  I know how frustrating this can be after spending most of the day trying Linux boot disks and direct copying boot sectors etc.  Ahh! but finally success!


‘File not found: lib’ Error installing Rails Gem

I recently had a problem trying to install Rails 3 on my MacBook with a fresh OSX Snow Leopard:

sudo gem install rails
Password: {entered}
Successfully installed rails-3.0.7
1 gem installed
Installing ri documentation for rails-3.0.7...
File not found: lib

Turns out this is a somewhat common problem.  But it seems that the solution is easy, just manually reinstall RDoc. To do this run these 3 commands:

sudo gem install rdoc-data
sudo rdoc-data --install
sudo gem rdoc --all --overwrite

The last line in particular will re-generate all the documentation for your installed gems (including Rails) and can take a while, but you should be able to confirm the fix by reissuing the Rails gem install command:

sudo gem install rails

shows that rails now installs properly and says that it has installed both ri and RDoc documentation without issue.