Final Cut Pro Proxy Workflow

Apple’s Final Cut Pro has a new proxy workflow. It’s even easier than before. Make proxies on import, or transcode afterwards. Create a new proxy library or copy events with only proxies, so many options to fit the workflow you need. It’s quick to upload smaller proxies to the cloud and work remotely with your team. Re-connect to the original footage for outputs, colour grading and archiving your project when you’re done.

Final Cut Pro and the Proxy Workflow

“Take your creativity anywhere. Maximize portability and performance by creating proxy copies of your media — as low as 1/8 size — in ProRes Proxy or H.264. The latest proxy engine allows you to create a proxy-only copy of your library to share locally or via the cloud and displays original media if proxies aren’t available. Third party tools such as review and approval app frame.io can also generate and deliver proxies to a Final Cut Pro library.” (Apple.com)

I’ve written about another kind of proxy workflow before, but we will refer to that as the replace-originals-with-smaller-versions workflow and now we have the built-in easy proxy workflow. This new way is much easier. And it’s built-in.

I’ll go over the basic workflow for making proxies and getting your library ready for use with Postlab or other similar cloud collaboration tools…. Seriously, there are no other similar tools! But we’ll go over how to keep your library small and light.

Part One – Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro 10.5 is the newest version of Final Cut Pro (which drops the “X”). Ready for Apple Silicon Macs and backwards compatible with macOS 10.15.6 (Catalina).

This new proxy workflow is compatible with Final Cut Pro X v10.4.9 and 10.4.10 as well the newest version 10.5. There were extra bug fixes (LUT for proxies) and new methods (copy new library with proxies) in 10.5 but the addition of the automatic proxy creation on import started with 10.4.9.

Final Cut Pro version 10.5

Import Preferences

First step. Check your import preferences. Final Cut will refer to these when importing. The most important thing to check is that “leave files in place” is selected. This helps us keep the library light and portable. Especially important for editing with Final Cut Pro and Postlab. Keep all media and cache files outside of the library. The second this to check is to choose your proxy format (Pro Res Proxy or H264) at the size you want.

Final Cut Pro Import preferences window.

Choose how small or how large you want your proxies to be. Smaller proxies are faster to transfer and take up less storage but may not be ideal for editing your specific camera footage. Try to find a format that works best for your edit workflow.

Final Cut Pro – Proxy Frame sizes

You also have the option of creating proxies form footage that exists already in the library. Choose “Transcode Media” and select your options.

Final Cut Pro – Transcode Media (menu option)

Part Deux – Editing in the Cloud with Postlab

Once you launch Postlab and login you’ll want to create a production and a library to edit. You have the option of importing an existing library or create a new one. Remember, only import your library if it is super light weight and the media is stored outside (not inside) the library.

Importing a lightweight Final Cut Pro library involves creating a name, writing a description and choosing the media location. If editing off centrally shared storage (on premise) or in the cloud (i.e. Postlab drive) then use “Shared” option. If everyone is using their own storage (external hard drives, NAS, SAN, etc) then choose “Individual”.

If you are creating a new empty library in Postlab then be sure to check the Postlab preferences – Templates tab to select what version of Final Cut Pro for the default empty library and if you want to use a Final Cut Pro template you’ve created already. This is a powerful option for keeping a team working with standard set of tools.

Postlab Template Preferences

Now we start editing. Click “Start Editing” in Postlab. Final Cut Pro will open with your new library.

When you’ve made changes and want to check your Final Cut Pro project back into Postlab switch applications back to Postlab from Final Cut Pro and add a comment.

Postlab check-in (write a comment and upload your work)

Once you’ve checked your project in a few times you’ll notice the list of comments you or your team have made with each check in. These will help you decide what project to revert to, if you need to. The icons (on the right) will allow you to revert, open a copy or export out the version you select.

Postlab – List of comments

Lastly, there is the status menu which you can use to mark the progress of the project.

I hope this helps you get started with the Final Cut Proxy workflow and ready to use Postlab too.

Thunderbolt Xsan: Set up a T-SAN

Setting up your very own Xsan at home… What could be more exciting? Nothing like SAN storage to cure those stacks of hard drive blues. Don’t have a spare fibre channel switch or fibre channel storage at home? No problem Grab some thunderbolt storage from Accusys and join the fun.

I am testing the A12T3-Share 12-drive desktop Thunderbolt RAID solution to build my Xsan. Accusys also have a 16 drive rack mounted raid storage box if you want to install a nice pro set up in the server room you have tucked neatly in your home office. Ha ha. Seriously, the 12 drive unit is whisper quiet and would be a great addition to any home lab or production storage setup. I mean, aren’t we all doing video production at home these days? And even if we are doing a proxy workflow in the clouds, we still need to store the original footage somewhere before it goes to LTO tape, or backed up in the clouds (hopefully another cloud). A few years ago I tested the Accusys 16 drive Thunderbolt 2 unit and it worked perfectly with my fibre channel storage but this time I am testing the newest Thunderbolt 3 unit. Home office test lab is GO!

It is a pretty straight forward setup but I ran into some minor issues that anyone could run into and so I want to mention them and save you all the frustration by learning from my mistakes. Always be learning. That’s my motto. Or “break things at home not in production”, but if your home is production now, then break things fast and learn very quickly.

First step is to download the software for the RAID and you’ll find it on the Accusys website.

(I found the support downloads well organized but still a bit confusing as to what i needed)

The installer is not signed which in our security conscious age is a little concerning, but examining the package with Suspicious package should allay any concerns.

The installer installs the RAIDGuard X app which you will need to configure the RAID.

Of course, RAIDGuard X needs a Java Runtime Environment to run. Why is this still a thing? Hmm…

RAIDGuardX will allow you to configure your connected Thunderbolt hardware.

Configure the array as you like. I only had four drives to test with. Just enough for RAID5.

Choose your favourite RAID level. I picked RAID5 for my 4 drives.

The first gotcha that got me was this surprisingly simple and easy to overlook section. “Assign LUN automatically” asks you to choose which port that LUN (the configured RAID) will be assigned to. If you don’t check anything like I didn’t in my first run through then you configure a RAID5 array that you’ll never see on your connected Mac. Fun, right? Ha ha.

Xsan requires a sacrifice…. I mean, a LUN (available RAID array). Check your Fibre Channel in System Information. Yes, this is from the thunderbolt storage. Hard to believe, but it’s true!

Setting up enterprise grade SAN storage requires a trip to the Mac App Store. Server.app

Open Server.app, enable Xsan, create a new volume and add your LUN from the Accusys Thunderbolt array. Set the usage to “any” (metadata and data) since this is a one LUN test setup.

Pro tip: connect your Xsan controller to your Open Directory server. Ok, just kidding. You don’t have an OD server in your home office? Hmm… Create an entry in /etc/hosts instead.

If you’ve set up your SAN volume then you will see it listed in the Finder.

Easy shareable SAN storage is possible with thunderbolt RAID arrays from Accusys. No more Fibre channel switches needed. Small SAN setups are possible for creative teams without a server room. This setup was a quiet 12 drive RAID and a Mac mini. Add some Thunderbolt cables. There are four thunderbolt 3 connections and you can add more with an additional RAID. Up to 8 connections with one of them for the Mac Mini running the SAN. Not bad at all. And Xsan is free. Add a Server app from the App Store, but the Xsan client is free and built-in (Xsan has been included with macOS since 10.7 so many years ago). Fibre channel protocol (even through Thunderbolt) is faster than network protocols and great for video production. Fast and shareable storage at home. Or in your office. Thunderbolt Xsan. T-SAN.

Xsan Upgrade and Big Sur Prep. Hello Catalina!

Big Sur summer testing time!

Summer time is beta testing time. A new macOS beta cycle with Big Sur is upon us. Test early, and test often. With all the excitement of Big Sur in the air, it’s time to look at Catalina.

Our day to day production Xsan systems do not run beta software, not even the latest version of macOS, they only run tested and safe versions of macOS. I always recommend being a revision behind the latest. Until now that meant macOS 10.14 (Mojave). With the imminent release of macOS Big Sur (is it 10.16 or macOS 11?) then it’s time to move from 10.14.6 Mojave to 10.15.6 Catalina. It must be safe now, right? 

Background

Xsan is Apple’s based Storage Area Network (SAN) software licensed from Quantum (see StorNext), and since macOS 10.7 aka Lion it has been included with macOS for free (it was $1,000 per client previously!).

Ethernet vs Fibre Channel vs Thunderbolt

A SAN is not the same as a NAS (Network attached storage) or DAS (direct attached storage). A NAS or other network based storage is often 10GbE and can be quite fast and capable. I will often use Synology NAS with 10GbE for a nearline archive (a second copy of tape archive) but can also use it as a primary storage with enough cache. Lumaforge’s Jellyfish is another example of network based storage.

Xsan storage is usually fibre channel based and even old 4GB storage is fast because … fibre channel protocol (FCP) is fast and the data frames are sent in order unlike TCP. It is more common to see 8GB or 16Gb fibre channel storage these days (though 32GB is starting to appear). And while fibre channel is typically what you use for Xsan you can also use shared Thunderbolt based storage like the Accusys A16T3-Share. I have tested a Thunderbolt 2 version of this hardware with Xsan and it works very well. I’m hoping to test a newer Thunderbolt 3 version soon. Stay tuned.

Xsan vs macOS Versions

We’ve discussed all the things that the Xsan is not and now what is it? Xsan is often created from multiple fibre channel RAID storage units but the data is entirely dependent on the Xsan controller that creates the volume. The Xsan controller is typically a Mac Mini but can be any Mac with Server.app (from Apple’s App Store). The existence of any defined Xsan volumes depends on the sanity of its SAN metadata controllers. If the SAN controllers die and the configuration files go with it then your data is gone.  POOF! I’ve always said that Xsan is a shared hallucination, and all the dreamers should dream the same dream. To make sure of this we always recommend running the same version of macOS on the Mac clients as well as the servers (the Xsan controllers). And while the Xsan controllers should be the same or at a higher macOS version level it can sometimes be the opposite in practise. To be sure what versions of macOS are interoperable we can check with Apple’s Xsan controllers and clients compatibility chart and Xsan versions included in macOS for the rules and exceptions. Check the included version of Xsan on your Mac with the cvversions command

File System Server:
  Server  Revision 5.3.1 Build 589[63493] Branch Head BuildId D
   Built for Darwin 17.0 x86_64
   Created on Sun Dec  1 19:58:57 PST 2019
   Built in /BuildRoot/Library/Caches/com.apple.xbs/Sources/XsanFS/XsanFS-613.50.3/buildinfo

This is from a Mac running macOS 10.13

Host OS Version:
 Darwin 17.7.0 Darwin Kernel Version 17.7.0: Sun Dec  1 19:19:56 PST 2019; root:xnu-4570.71.63~1/RELEASE_X86_64 x86_64

We see similar results from a newer build below:

File System Server:
  Server  Revision 5.3.1 Build 589[63493] Branch Head BuildId D
   Built for Darwin 19.0 x86_64
   Created on Sun Jul  5 02:42:52 PDT 2020
   Built in /AppleInternal/BuildRoot/Library/Caches/com.apple.xbs/Sources/XsanFS/XsanFS-630.120.1/buildinfo

This is from a Mac running macOS 10.15.

Host OS Version:
 Darwin 19.6.0 Darwin Kernel Version 19.6.0: Sun Jul  5 00:43:10 PDT 2020; root:xnu-6153.141.1~9/RELEASE_X86_64 x86_64

Which tells us that the same version of Xsan are included with macOS 10.13 and 10.15 (and indeed is the same from 10.12 to 10.15). So we have situations with Xsan controllers running 10.13 and clients running 10.14 are possible even though macOS versions are a mismatch, the Xsan versions are the same. There are other reasons for keeping things the macOS versions the same: troubleshooting, security, management tools, etc  To be safe check with Apple and other members of the Xsan community (on MacAdmins Slack).

Backups are important

Do not run Xsan or any kind of storage in production without backups. Do not do it. If your Xsan controllers die then your storage is gone. Early versions of Xsan (v1 especially) were unstable and the backups lesson can be a hard one to learn. All later versions of Xsan are much better but we still recommend backups if you like your data. Or your clients. (Clients are the people that make that data and pay your bills). I use Archiware P5 to make tape backups, tape archives, nearline copies as well as workstation backups. Archiware is a great company and P5 is a great product. It has saved my life (backups are boring, restores are awesome!).

P5-Restore-FCPX.png

Xsan Upgrade Preparation

When you upgrade macOS it will warn you that you have Server.app installed and you might have problems. After the macOS upgrade you’ll need to download and install a new version of Server.app. In my recent upgrades from macOS 10.13 to macOS 10.15 via 10.14 detour I started with Server.app 5.6, then install 5.8 and finally version 5.10.

After the macOS upgrade I would zip up the old Server.app application and put in place the new version which I had already downloaded elsewhere. Of course you get a warning about removing the Server app

 

Xsan-ServerApp-ZipRemovalDetected.png

Install the new Server app then really start your Xsan upgrade adventure.

Serverapp-setup.png

Restore your previous Xsan setup.

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If everything goes well then you have Xsan setup and working on macOS 10.15.6 Catalina

Xsan-Catalina-Upgrade-Success

The case of the strange disappearing drive space

Recently I was asked to look at a 4TB drive that was only showing less than 2TB available…. No problem, I said, this is easy to fix. Famous last words.

Just open up Disk Utility and resize the partition, or reformat the disk, right? Easy Peasey. Well, it took some troubleshooting to time to figure out and a trip to Terminal was required to solve this weird case, plus I learned a new command along the way. Fun.

The Problem:

Buying a 4TB hard drive then putting it into your external drive case for backups should be simple,  but what if instead you got a nasty surprise and it showed up as less than 2TB?

Troubleshooting the issue:

4TB drives were presented to me and when I loaded them into an external SATA dock then showed as 4TB drives with a partitioned volume of less than 2TB.

I tried to delete the phantom partition, and I tried resize the volume to use the empty space in Disk Utility.app but it refused to budge. This needed a trip to Terminal.

man diskutil

Using “man” or “info” commands you can find out more about almost any particular command. Maybe some useful options or arguments would be listed or at least some examples would help.

NAME

     diskutil -- modify, verify and repair local disks

SYNOPSIS

     diskutil [quiet] verb [options]

DESCRIPTION

     diskutil manipulates the structure of local disks.  

 

To find out more about what we’re faced with let’s ask diskutil what it sees:

diskutil list
/dev/disk2 (external, physical):

   #:                       TYPE NAME           SIZE       IDENTIFIER

   0:      GUID_partition_scheme               *4.0 TB     disk2

   1:                    EFI                   209.7 MB   disk2s1

   2:        Apple_HFS Backup                  1.8 TB     disk2s2

Looking through the man page the “resizeVolume” command caught my eye. Also the “limits” option seemed interesting. How

diskutil resizeVolume disk2s2 limits

Resize limits for partition disk2s2 Backup:

  Current partition size on map:         1.8 TB (1801419800576 Bytes)

  Minimum (constrained by file usage):   846.4 MB (846426112 Bytes)

  Recommended minimum (if used for macOS):26.8 GB (26843545600 Bytes)

  Maximum (constrained by map space):   4.0 TB (4000442028032 Bytes)

The Answer:

Reading through the man page revealed that the best way, and new to me, was to resize the partition to use all available space with “R”. Of course, so intuitive.

sudo diskutil resizeVolume disk2s2 R

I did get some errors. But repairing the disk fixed those issues. And I was able to resize the disk in Terminal with diskutil where Disk Utility.app had failed.

sudo diskutil resizeVolume disk2s2 R

Resizing to full size (fit to fill)

Started partitioning on disk2s2 Backup

Verifying the disk

Verifying file system

Volume was successfully unmounted

Performing fsck_hfs -fn -x /dev/rdisk2s2

Checking Journaled HFS Plus volume

Checking extents overflow file

Checking catalog file

Checking multi-linked files

Checking catalog hierarchy

Checking extended attributes file

Checking volume bitmap

Checking volume information

The volume Backup appears to be OK

File system check exit code is 0

Restoring the original state found as mounted

Resizing

Modifying partition map

Growing file system

Finished partitioning on disk2s2 Backup

/dev/disk2 (external, physical):

   #:                       TYPE NAME          SIZE       IDENTIFIER

   0:      GUID_partition_scheme              *4.0 TB     disk2

   1:                        EFI             209.7 MB   disk2s1

   2:                  Apple_HFS Backup      4.0 TB     disk2s2

And lastly, the issue may have been caused by the old drive dock which refused to see the 4TB volumes even when correctly resized. A newer drive dock was required.

Best of 2018: FCPX and iMac Pro

Part of a series of blog post on the “Best of 2018”

Part 1: the iMac Pro and FCPX

The year started off with the new iMac Pro and Final Cut Pro X 10.4. Both new hardware and software were released in December 2017. New awesome hardware and software to start of 2018.

FCPX and the iMac Pro have proven themselves to be a great combination that has been amazing for FCPX editors everywhere. The new colour grading tools and other enhancements were warmly received in FCP X 10.4. The power of the iMac Pros was not exaggerated. Excellent pro hardware.

FCPX works great on a MacBook Pro and internal storage, with Apple’s Xsan and fibre channel or with Lumaforge Jellyfish 10GbE over NFS. I worked with all different setups in 2018 and happy to report that editors kept editing and left the storage and backup worries to me (and I didn’t worry since I’ve got Archiware P5 watching my back).

Working with the Jellyfish I installed the P5 Linux agent to backup and archive to tape. Getting the Jellyfish to back up to my P5 server running on a Mac Mini couldn’t have been easier. Through the year I worked with Archiware to make improvements in the P5 Archive app so that my editor clients can archive and restore more easily on their own. Works well and look forward to working more closely with both companies to help make awesome setups for FCPX editors and creative professionals everywhere.

NAB and FCPX

The week before NAB 2018, Apple announced a new version of Final Cut Pro X with support for closed captions, and the brand new ProRes RAW codec.

NAB in April is always a busy month with announcements from all companies in the media production and media asset management world and Apple’s public talk at NAB showing off new features so soon after their last major release was unexpected but very warmly received.

Of course there was one more major event in the 2018, in November there was the FCPX Creative Summit.

I attended this year and it was awesome. Apple released a brand new version with 3rd party integration in the form of extensions. This is huge. This will be amazing for FCPX editors who want to stay in FCPX and do their editing work but integrate with other apps.

What was the FCPX creative summit?

⁃ rendez-vous in Cupertino with Final Cut Pro editors, studio owners, plugin authors, creative apps vendors

⁃ Visit to Apple HQ. With Apple Pro Apps engineers, QA, managers and everyone involved.

⁃ In depth discussion of the next version of FCPX extensions which allow third party integration deep into the app for example: Frame IO for review and approve or Keyflow Pro or Cat DV media asset management apps.

⁃ Great team of people organizing. This event had multiple tracks and lots of great sessions for everyone. Well done. Enjoyed it immensely. Everyone using Final Cut Pro or involved in this creative universe should be there.

2018 was great year for pro hardware and software. The iMac Pro and the constant stream of FCPX updates kept us grinning from ear to ear. Great stuff. Awesome year.

Next up: best conferences of 2018

P5 on the Jellyfish: Archiving Gotchas

TL;DR

Using Archiware P5 to Archive files to tapes is awesome, but watch out for little things you might miss, such as the path to the files and backing up your Archive Db.

P5 Archive on the Jellyfish

Using P5 Archive with the Lumaforge Jellyfish is a great way to preserve your digital archives. See this post for how to set up P5 on the Jellyfish

Using Archiware P5 for archiving makes sense. You want your completed projects and original camera footage on LTO tape. But how do you do archives? There are several different ways, and there be gotchas.

P5 Archive vs P5 Archive app

Using P5 Archive to manually archive completed projects to LTO tape is a process of logging into the server via a web browser and selecting the the project folder you want to archive to tape.

The completed project folder could be on the storage visible to the server or it could be storage the client sees. And that can make a difference. Where the storage is mounted is different on a Mac vs Linux. Its’ the difference between “/Volumes” and “/mnt”.

The same Jellyfish storage, either SMB or NFS, when seen on a Mac is mounted by default at “/Volumes” (this can be changed but for most people leave it at the default). But when archiving the storage via a Jellyfish client you will get “/mnt” path.

p5-smb-test2.png

Using the P5 Archive app, which is a Mac only companion application to P5 Archive, to run the archives you will see the storage archived as “/Volumes”.

This first Archiving gotcha is if you’re archiving the Jellyfish storage with the web application of P5 Archive you will have to find your footage and restore from the “/mnt” path vs if you’re archiving from the P5 Archive app which is running from a Mac and will see and store the footage using the “/Volumes” path.

All this to say that using both ways to archive may double up your footage in your archive which may be unintended. And from a restore in the web browser finding your footage may be confusing if you’re used to seeing it mounted in “/Volumes” and you actually find it under “/mnt”.

Note: the reason to use the P5 Archive app is because of the simplicity of right-clicking files in the finder which are on your storage and telling them to archive right then and there. Files are copied to tape then the original files on the storage are replaced with stub files. Right-click again to restore. Simple.

p5-archive-app-job-monitor.png

Backup your Archive!

Don’t forget to backup your archives. Or rather, your archive Db. A more recent addition is the ability to automate the backups on the Archive index, so don’t forget to enable it.

In the managed index section, choose your Archive index.

Set the target client where the backups are going and the backup directory. Choose a time and don’t forget to enable it (check the checkbox and hit apply before closing the windows).

Note: Repeat this setup for each Archive index you want to backup.

Archive Backup db setup3.png

Monitoring your Archive!

Don’t forget to enable email notifications for your P5 server to get your inbox full of status notifications and errors and other important stuff. But if you want to cut down on email notifications or you have multiple P5 servers (many different clients, perhaps), then you might want to check out Watchman Monitoring and the P5 plugin that is built-in). Find out easily when your tape pools are getting low, the tape drives needs to be cleaned, the support maintenance needs renewing etc. All in one dashboard. How convenient!

Maybe everything is going well…

Watchman-P5-info.png

Or maybe not!

Archiware-P5-Jobs-Watchman-tapes-required.png

 

Install P5 on the Jellyfish

TL;DR

You can easily install Archiware P5 backup and archive software on a Lumaforge Jellyfish storage server. Once you’ve done that you can backup to tape or disk or the cloud directly or through another P5 server. Backups are good. Archive are good. Restores are better.

P5 install on the Jellyfish (Linux) How-To:

Note: Thank you to Lumaforge’s CTO Eric Altman who gave me some basic instructions to get me going.

Step One: Download the latest Linux P5 rpm file 

http://p5.archiware.com/download

p5-Linux-rpm.png

Copy the downloaded rpm file to the root folder of your SMB or NFS file share.

 

Step Two: Install the rpm file

Open Terminal and ssh into your Jellyfish. Login as root or as another appropriate user.

yum localinstall /mnt/Primary/ShareSMB/awpst554.rpm

 

Step Three: Browse to server on port 8000 to test that the server is up

e.g. https://jellyfish:8000

Or in Terminal and ssh into your Jellyfish and ping your P5 server

cd /usr/local/aw 

./ping-server

Pinging PresStore application servers...

  lexxsrv pid: 4840 (server is running)

  lexxsrv url: http://127.0.1.1:8000/login 

Pinged 1 from 1 application servers.

 

Step Four: Decide if the Jellyfish storage will be a P5 client or a server.

Note: If configuring the Jellyfish storage as the main P5 server you may wish to set up a user that only has access to the shared volumes.

For my set up the Jellyfish storage is going to act as a P5 client to a main P5 server on a Mac mini (yes, they are useful for something). The Mac mini is this case is the P5 server and is attached to theOverland tape library via a Promise SANlink2 Thunderbolt Fibre Channel adapter.

NEOs-T24-large-new.jpg

macmini-ports.png

 

Step Five: Set up the Jellyfish storage as a P5 client

Log into your P5 server and add the Jellyfish by the IP known to the P5 server. In this case the P5 server is connected via 1GB to the Jellyfish in Port 1.

P5 clients jellyfish setup1.png

Note: You could also choose to plug into the Jellyfish via a 10GB port, but in my setup these 10GB ports are reserved for the edit stations. You should choose what’s appropriate for your setup.

P5 clients jellyfish setup2.png

Resource utilization of P5 on the server is low, topping off generally at 1GB of RAM at peak usage. While this does technically take resources from ZFS caching, the impact should be super minimal.

In my observations the CPU never spiked too high while both serving NFS and SMB mount points to multiple Final Cut Pro X workstations even with backups or archive jobs going to tape at the same time.

jellyfish-cpu-resources-graph.png

More Jellyfish P5

See the follow up post on Archiving gotchas with the Jellyfish here

 

I don’t get High — Sierra!

Friends don’t let friends install macOS High Sierra in production. Don’t get High, Sierra.

macOS 10.13 was released on Sep 25, 2017, and almost two months later with only one point release update, it’s still too new for production. Download it on a test machine or two or more, test it with your apps and systems, file bug reports and radars, but for the love of all that is Python and Monty! don’t run it on your production Xsan. Well, at least not yet. Wait until next year. Or as long as you can. Or until the new iMac Pro is released with 10.13 pre-installed or wait until they ship the new Final Cut Pro X 10.4 that may or may not require macOS High Sierra.

With that out of the way, I’ve just upgraded the production Xsan to … macOS Sierra. Yes, macOS 10.12.6 is stable and it’s a good time to install last year’s macOS release. Time to say good bye to macOS el Capitan 10.11.6, we hardly knew ya. Besides guaranteed security updates, stability and the annoying newness of a changed macOS, what else is there? In Xsan v5 they introduced a new “ignore permissions” checkbox for your Xsan volumes. Looking forward to that feature in production. No more Munki onDemand nopkg scripts to run chmod. No more tech support requests for folders, files, FCP X projects that won’t open because someone else used it, owns it, touched it. We’ll see how that pans out. I’ll let you know.

Upgrading Xsan to v5

Step 1. Back up your data

You’re doing this, right? I’m using Archiware P5 Backup to backup the current projects to LTO tape. I’m using Archiware P5 sync to sync the current Xsan volumes to Thunderbolt RAIDs, and using Archiware P5 Archive (and Archive app) to archive completed projects to the LTO project archive. That’s all I need to do, right?

Step 2. Back up your servers

Don’t forget the servers running your SAN! I use Apple’s Time Machine to backup my Mac Mini Xsan controllers. External USB3 drive. I also use another Mac Mini in target disk mode with Carbon Copy Cloner to clone the server nightly. (Hat tip to Alex Narvey, a real Canadian hero). And of course I grab the Xsan config with hdiutil and all the logs with cvgather. Because, why not?! For Archiware P5 backup server I also have a python scripts to backup everything, another scripts to export a readable list of tapes, and BackupMinder to rotate the backups. Add some rsync scripts and you’re golden.

 

Step 3. Upgrade the OS

Unmount the Xsan volume on your clients or shut them down, disconnect the fibre channel. Do something like that. Stop your volume. Download the macOS Sierra installer from the App Store. Double click upgrade. Wait. Or use Munki. I loaded in the macOS 10.12.6 installer app into Munki and set it up as an optional install to make this portion of the upgrade much quicker and cleaner.

In my case after the OS was upgraded I checked the App Store app for any Apple updates (you can also use Munki’s Managed Software Center to check) and of course there were some security updates. In this case the security upgrade hung on a slow network connection and the server crashed. Server down! I had to restore from Time Machine backup to the point where I just upgraded the server. It took some extra time  but it worked (can’t wait for next year’s mature APFS / Time Machine and restoring from snapshots instead).

Step 4. Upgrade Server

After macOS is upgraded you’ll need to upgrade the Server.app or just upgrade the services used by Server (even those not used by Server get upgraded).

Step 5. Upgrade the Xsan

Bur first we have to restore the Xsan config. Don’t panic! It may invoke bad memories of data loss and restoring from backups. Xsan PTSD is real.

Restore-previous-Xsan.png

Step 6. Upgrade the rest

Next you have to upgrade the Xsan volumes.

Xsan-volume-needs-upgrade

New version of Xsan, ch-ch-changes! Ignore permissions check box will remount the xsan with the “no-owners” flag. Let’s test this out.

 

Upgrade the OS and Server app on the backup controller. Upgrade the OS on the clients using Munki or App Store if you like doing it the hard way. Ha Ha.

Step 7. Enjoy

Plug those Thunderbolt to Fibre adapters back in, mount those Xsan volumes and be happy.

Step 8. Wait for the complaints

The next day the editors walked in and went straight to work with Final Cut Pro X. No one noticed anything. Xsan upgraded. Workstation macOS upgraded. Everything appeared to be the same and just worked. Thankless task but well worth it.

 

Reference: Apple’s iBook guide here

 

 

My Thunderbolt Nightmare

It was a dark and stormy night of cables and capacitors when suddenly I heard the door knocking, or was something falling of a shelf? I was in a cramped server room, if you’d call it that, and I was day dreaming, sorry, night terrorizing, of days gone past when I worked in nice big well ventilated server rooms with proper enterprise gear. Oh wait, did I really dream that? Did it really happen? Maybe it was less well ventilated and there were cables strewn about the tall 42U shelves and sometimes we found a Mac hidden underneath spaghetti. Sometimes. I vaguely remember the long shiny metal servers, they talked to me, they sang, a whiny pitch of whale song. Dream on, dream on.

Now. Today. Apple Music on my iPhone plays every single Arcade Fire album in a long playlist, in order. And I follow the white rabbit of Thunderbolt cables. This is my thunderbolt nightmare. Dead drive in a Thunderbolt Promise Pegasus unit, web ticket filed for registered hardware. Legacy. That’s the word they used. Where’s Marshall McLuhan when you need a proper redux of the shit storm you’re in? Thunderbolt 3 uses USB-C and everything is possible. Can’t wait to step into that confusing identity crisis. OK, back to the present day when I stared at the red blinking drive, a replacement drive from not long ago dead again, sitting in the last row of a now legacy Pegasus R6 unit. RAID 5, the most dangerous kind, this is what stood between me and uncertainty. The worst kind of RAID. Well, not as bad RAID 0. Raid nothing. Raid 5 is one bad drive away from a bad day. Backups? Hmm, I got those, I got plenty of those, but I don’t want to be tested today. No, not today. Not this bloody day.

I open the Pegasus utility and the GUI wants an update. Hmm, that’s not in autopkg, I think. Why is out of date? Munki let me down. I start to drift, to side shift into adding newer better recipes to autopkg, to tweaking my Munki repo, to what sessions would be awesome at the next MacDevOps:YVR conference. Gee whiz, I love open source, and everyone in the Mac Admins community…. Snap out of! I slap myself in the face. I was hallucinating. Stay on task. I update the Pegasus utility. I stare at the critical reports from one of the three R6 units attached to this Mac Mini server. Did I say server? But it’s so small, so little. It works. It’s magical, kinda neat. Until you stare too close at the back. The Thunderbolt cables go from the Mac Mini to the first Pegasus unit to the SANlink fibre channel adapter to the LTO 6 tape library to the next Pegasus utility to the second SANlink adapter to a third and final Pegasus RAID unit. What’s is going on? Where does this cable go? Let me just follow it to the next jumping off point. My brain slows, the lack of oxygen in this cold machine room start to affect my thinking. I lose my way.

I download the report for the Pegasus unit. I had to unlock a pretty neat lock icon and click on the save report. I upload it to the web support and add it to the ticket. Tech support gets backs to me in a day and said all is good, and to carry on. I can’t. The drive is dead. What are they not seeing? It’s right in front of me. I download the report again. Again the same response. Fine. It’s time to stop messing around and pop open Terminal. Loading up promiseutil I check out the options and switches and get into an argument with myself about the currently valid optionals of letters and numbers that are required. I check my notes, online knowledge base, and try again. It’s broken. It doesn’t work. Stumbling around the command line typing imprecisely incorrect statements gets nowhere fast. I realize that there’s no way for the cli utility to properly change its focus to the broken unit with the busted drive. Both the GUI and the binary are stuck on the one R6 unit and won’t see what’s in front of my face.

I call tech support. This is humiliating. This was supposed to be easy. Drive dead, drive reported, drive ordered, drive replaced, then no one the wiser. Data saved, not dead. Backups not tested. Not today. No, not today. Tech support treats me like the imaginary newbie IT people sometimes treat everyone with. He repeats his instructions to me. He is polite. Download the report. I can’t. It won’t work. Unplug the unit. Plug it into something else. I can’t. The cables. The Thunderbolt cables are everywhere. It’s magical, and daisy-chained, and stuck. “Can I remote in and see?” he asks, hoping to resolve this quickly. Sorry. That’s impossible. Even if I thought it was a good idea. I remind him that I have a dead drive. That’s why I called. I want to get a replacement drive. “Sorry sir that legacy unit is not under support most likely,” I know that. I realize that now. That I wasted my time. It happens sometimes. The truth is staring at you. You need a mirror to see. “You need to order compatible drive from the compatibility list.” I am a well spring of emotions. I thank him. I am nice. He was polite. But now I know what I need to do. Oh wait, what? Order a drive now! Order two.

McLuhan never had a chance to evaluate Thunderbolt storage technology but the insane genius and simplicity of Thunderbolt reduced expensive enterprise fibre channel storage to the dust bin. Magical SAN for video editing with a Mac Mini and Thunderbolt RAIDs. Cheap enough to buy with a departmental credit card, fewer meetings to attend, more films to shoot and edit. Backup, archive, repeat. McLuhan would have no doubt reminded me that the tetrad of technology would have flipped Thunderbolt on its head, Fibre channel never went into a dust bin, but was firmly relegated to well cooled storage room, and long ago legacy drives in the enterprise units are humming a long while the cursing wind and emotions swell over the Thunderbolt mountain. Fibre channel just became cool again. Retro smart.

Archiware P5 and Synology NAS.

Update: As of version 5.4.3 there is an official P5 add-on package for Synology NAS

Archiware P5 available for Synology

Note: The P5 app for Synology NAS first debuted with P5 v.5.3.3

On the Archiware P5 new-features page there’s a blurb about the Synology NAS integration:

From Version 5.3.3, Archiware P5 supports Synology NAS devices without restrictions.  

Synology NAS can serve as a data source or target for P5 Synchronize, P5 Backup and P5 Archive. The Archiware P5 application can now be installed on the Synology NAS itself.

Thanks to the snapshot capability of the DSM platform, powerful enterprise Synology NAS devices can also be used as repository for Backup2Go. This setup opens the possibility of introducing a professional data security solution at an affordable price point.

Let’s look in closer detail how to install Archiware P5 on a new Synology NAS.

For this post I have a new Synology 1515+ NAS, installed with five 6TB hard drives (It is very easy to install hard drives. No tools required). Note: I’ve purchased the NAS with my own money and was not paid to write this article.

At the time of this blog post the latest Synology DSM release is 6.1 and Archiware P5 is at version 5.4.2.

Step 1. Download Synology package from Archiware.com/download

Download Archiware P5 for Synology

 

awpst542spk

Requirements are DSM 5.2+ and Intel x86 64-Bit CPU only. (i.e. Atom but not Marvell).

Step 2. Find and Log into your NAS

Find your new NAS with the Synology Assistant app or use this handy website link:

Find your NAS

I had no luck with the app (it found my existing NAS, but not the new one). Using the website I was able to quickly locate the new NAS that I need to log into and setup. Very nice feature.

synology-1515-setup-welcome2crop

Step 3. Install the new DSM

Install or update new software. You will be prompted to go through the initial setup to prepare your new NAS.

synology-1515-install-diskstation-manager2

Step 4. Set up a new volume

Chose the Btrfs or ext4 filesystem. Btrfs supports snapshots, replication, and much more.

synology-1515-btrfs-setup

Step 5. Monitor the volume setup

Verifying the hard disks will take a moment. Take a break here.

synology-1515-storage-manager

Step 6. Open Package Center

packagecenter

Step 7. Install manually

Install Archiware P5 by selecting the “install manually” option to upload the awpst542.spk downloaded file from archiware.com

synology-1515-archiware-p5-package-center-upload

Step 8. Agree to continue.

Load the Synology P5 installer by agreeing to continue with this “unknown” publisher.

synology-1515-archiware-p5-package-center-unknown

Sep 9. Agree to trust the installer

synology-1515-archiware-p5-package-center-license

Step 10. Confirm the Install

synology-1515-archiware-p5-package-center-confirm-install

Step 11. P5 is now running on the Synology NAS.

Hooray! P5 is now installed. Select the app to examine the details.

synology-1515-archiware-p5-package-center-installed

synology-1515-archiware-p5-package-center2

 

Step 12. Examine the option to stop or uninstall the P5 application

synology-1515-archiware-p5-package-center-stop-uninstall

Step 13. Login to the P5 server running on NAS

To login to P5 open a new tab. Pay attention to the port number: “20,000” (vs 8000 on other platforms such as Solaris, Linux, OSX etc).

synology-1515-archiware-p5-port

 

Step 14. Set up your NAS as a client on another Server

To test the new Synology 1515+ NAS I then set up the NAS as a client on another P5 server, and set up a P5 Sync job to copy data from server with a ZFS based filesystem to the Synology NAS with a btrfs volume.

Testing: Set up the new client in P5 with a name and IP address, then set up a new sync job with source and destination. Start now. Watch the bits fly through the ether. Be happy.

Step 15. Other things to configure

To make your new NAS is working smoothly don’t forget to set up the email notifications, and set up some AFP, SMB, or NFS shares as required.

Take some time to explore the Package Center app and see what other great applications are offered on the Synology NAS.

Synology makes a great low-cost NAS appliance. For SMB or production setups I would recommend two or more (for redundancy, hot or cold spares, disaster recovery, offsite backups/replication). With P5 installed you can Sync your server data to a NAS for onsite or offsite backups, backup your NAS to tape, or use the NAS for your client workstation backups using Backup2Go. Using the new Btrfs filesystem provides many of the same advances as ZFS, including snapshots and replication, over traditional filesystems such as ext4 and hfs which sadly lack these features.

Conclusion:

The Synology NAS is a great experience. Adding Archiware P5 is a recommended way to include this NAS as part of any good backup, archive or DR (disaster recovery) scenario. Two thumbs up. Way up.

References:

Archiware P5 new features

Synology DSM