Category Archives: Apple

Fixing "files could not be moved" error in Boot Camp Assistant

Recently I've been trying to install Windows on an OS X laptop by using Boot Camp. However, every time the Boot Camp Assistant would tell me that "some files could not be moved" during the creation of the Windows partition. The most commonly suggested solution is a total reinstall of OS X, which I was absolutely not willing to perform.

I read online that this problem could sometimes be solved by using iDefrag in "Compact" mode to manually move all your files to the front of the disk before using the Assistant. However, buying and running this £24 software had absolutely no effect on the problem.

Looking at iDefrag's summary view, it seems like there was a single unmovable "alternate volume label" block right at the end of the drive which might account for the problem. Anyway, I never got to the bottom of this, since I found an alternate solution that worked: hold down Apple+S during startup to enter single user mode and then run these commands:

/sbin/fsck -fy

This just repairs any filesystem errors on your disk. It looks like filesystem errors were the true culprits, not unmovable files, since running the Assistant after this let me create the partition with no problems - Windows is installing right now.

How to build 32/64 bit fat (universal) binaries

The OS X version of the Glasgow Haskell Compiler compiles Haskell into 32-bit code. Unfortunately, this means that if you are on a system where it is the default for libraries to be built in 64-bit mode, you tend to get errors when linking Haskell code telling you that you are trying to link 32-bit code against 64-bit code.

The best solution to this problem is to build all libraries you intend to link to from Haskell code as universal binaries that include both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the code. These libraries will then work seamlessly with both Haskell code and also when pulled in as part of the build process for non-Haskell 64-bit executables.

If you can install the library using MacPorts, this is easy to do. Instead of doing:

sudo port install mylibrary

Just do:

sudo port install mylibrary +universal

However, if the library you want is not available through MacPorts or the MacPorts version is not up to date you will need to know how to build these universal libraries for yourself. This is the process that I aim to explain in this post. I'm going to use igraph as my example library because it's what I needed to install (I needed to install the unreleased v0.6).

The easy method

If you are lucky, building a universal library is as simple as changing how you invoke make. Run the library's configure scripts etc as usual, and then invoke make as follows:

make CXXFLAGS="-arch i386 -arch x86_64" CFLAGS="-arch i386 -arch x86_64" LDFLAGS="-arch i386 -arch x86_64"

The -arch flags tell GCC and the linker to build and link both versions of the library. If this works, you are done. In the case of igraph, this wasn't quite enough - the above command failed with this error:

gcc-4.2: -E, -S, -save-temps and -M options are not allowed with multiple -arch flags

The reason that this occurs is because igraph invokes GCC with the -M series of flags that generate makefile dependency rules from the C code - but GCC doesn't like generating those rules for two architectures simultaneously. Luckily, there was an easy workaround in my case - I just needed to reconfigure igraph as follows:

./configure --disable-dependency-tracking

The --disable-dependency-tracking flag just stops Automake from determining the dependencies of each C file as it compiles it. It is totally harmless to disable this because that dependency information is only used in order to rebuild less stuff upon subsequent invocations of make - the worst that happens when you disable it is that if you make more than once you will have to wait a bit longer. For more information on this feature see also the relevant section of the Automake manual.

After reconfiguring in this manner, the original make invocation worked correctly for igraph.

The hard method

The above method may perhaps fail for some libraries, in which case you can use this more arduous manual method. The idea is to run the library's build process from scratch twice: once to get the 32-bit library and once for the 64-bit library. We can then use the lipo to glue together the build artifacts from the two runs.

We start by building the 32-bit version:

make clean
make CXXFLAGS=-m32 CFLAGS=-m32 LDFLAGS=-m32 -j12

We now need to store the 32-bit build artifacts somewhere. Exactly which files you have to save will vary according to the library you are building, but for igraph this was sufficient:

mkdir -p ~/Junk/32 ~/Junk/64
cp src/.libs/libigraph.{a,0.dylib} ~/Junk/32

Now do the 64-bit build and once again save the artifacts somewhere:

make clean
make CXXFLAGS=-m64 CFLAGS=-m64 LDFLAGS=-m64 -j12
cp src/.libs/libigraph.{a,0.dylib} ~/Junk/64

Finally we can use lipo to finish up:

lipo -create ~/Junk/{32,64}/libigraph.a -output src/.libs/libigraph.a
lipo -create ~/Junk/{32,64}/libigraph.0.dylib -output src/.libs/libigraph.0.dylib

At this point, you can do sudo make install and get a universal version of the library installed.

If you want to check that your libraries are indeed universal, you can use lipo -info:

$ lipo -info src/.libs/libigraph.a
Architectures in the fat file: src/.libs/libigraph.a are: i386 x86_64


Building universal 32-bit/64-bit binaries is apparently fairly straightforward but it was tricky to find documentation for the process. I hope this article helps others who need to get this done.

Upgrading An Unactivated Windows Install To Parallels 4.0

This is a pretty obscure problem, but I'm going to put a post up about it on the off chance I can help someone else out. My regular reader (hi dad!) will probably find this of no interest and should give it a miss 🙂

The situation I found myself in was upgrading a Boot Camp install of Windows Vista for the new release of Parallels Desktop 4.0 - no big deal, you may think. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that that particular install of Windows Vista wasn't activated, which caused the automatic upgrade process to bork, dropping me back to manual mode.

To complete the upgrade I needed to run the Parallels Tools setup executable. However, since I hadn't activated, I could only log in as far as getting the "please activate Windows now" screen. As it happened, I knew that I could get rid of this screen by feeding it the details of a Windows Vista license I own, but in order to do that I needed an Internet connection (I don't think my PAYG phone had enough credit on it for an extended Microsoft call centre experience). However, to get an Internet connection I had to install the Parallels Ethernet Connection drivers, and hence the Tools. Catch 22!

The workaround is convoluted, to say the least. First, we need a command prompt in the restricted Vista activation session. You do this by clicking any of the links in the activation window: they should cause a browser to open. From here, you can ask the browser to "Open a file" and direct it to C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe - this should initiate "download" of the executable. Click the option to run the file and voila!

Now you have a command prompt the fun really begins. You might think you could just type D:\setup.exe and the Tools would begin installing, but life just isn't that simple - in Their infinite wisdom, Microsoft have imposed quotas on the resource consumption of the session they set up for the purposes of activation. This is probably the Right Thing to do from their POV, but it's just a pain in the arse for us.

The workaround is to get the internet connection working, so you can do the activation and hence lift the resource limits. To do this, create a floppy disk image containing the Windows 2000 drivers for a Realtek 8029AS adapter (you should be able to get those from here, until Realtek break their incoming links again). Personally I did this by using another virtual machine to download the files and extract them onto a new floppy disk image (you can create a blank image on the Floppy Drive tab of the VM settings). I would make the fruits of this labour available to you as a simple download if it were not for (unfounded?) fear of Realtek's highly trained attack lawyers.

Once you have the requisite image in your sweaty virtual paws you can proceed to mount it into the Vista VM. To finish up, type compmgmt.msc into that command prompt and update the drivers for the detected network adapter by searching for new ones on the A:\ drive.

You should now be free to run the online activation and break the Catch 22, allowing installation of the Tools - at this point feel free to help yourself to a cup of coffee and a ginger-snap biscuit to celebrate a difficult job done well (I know I did...).

I'm really quite suprised that I had to jump through this many hoops - the Realtek drivers allegedly come with Vista, for one thing. But - c'est la vie! It's also quite pleasing that the humble, long outmoded, floppy drive still has a place in solving modern IT problems 🙂

Fixing File Associations Eaten By Parallels Desktop

I use OS X, and so for those rare cases where I must deign to run a program designed for Windows I make use of my copy of it hosted in Parallels Desktop. Now, Parallels has been generally good to me, but I recently came across the problem documented in this forum thread where its ability to launch Mac applications from Windows caused some basic file associations in Windows-land to stop working. For example, Excel files were listed as "xls_auto_file" by Explorer and double clicking on them only gave me the "Open With" dialog: not very helpful.

The thread does suggest a means of solving the problem, by creating a batch file that re-associates a white-list of some of the possibly affected extensions, like this:

REM Restores MS Office File Type Associations
assoc .doc=Word.Document.8
assoc .dochtml=wordhtmlfile
assoc .docmhtml=wordmhtmlfile
assoc .docxml=wordxmlfile
assoc .dot=Word.Template.8
assoc .pot=PowerPoint.Template.8
assoc .pps=PowerPoint.SlideShow.8
assoc .ppt=PowerPoint.Show.8
assoc .rtf=Word.RTF.8
assoc .wbk=Word.Backup.8
assoc .xlc=Excel.Chart.8
assoc .xlm=Excel.Macrosheet
assoc .xls=Excel.Sheet.8
assoc .xlt=Excel.Template
assoc .xlw=Excel.Workspace

However, this felt a bit ad-hoc to me, and in particular some of the extensions that were affected for me were not on the list. Thus, like any good programmer I went off and whipped up a utility designed to undo the damage inflicted on my poor defenseless HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT by Parallels.

Using it is pretty simple: just click "Scan" and then "Fix Selected" repeatedly until the scan finds nothing more of interest. Now, before I give you a download link to the utility, I need to give you the standard disclaimer to which you must agree in order to use it:

This utility is provided on an 'as is' basis, without warranties of any kind, and no warranty, express or implied, is given that the operation of the utility is correct or safe to use. I do not accept any liability for any error or omission. Use of the utility is at your own risk.

Sorry for the legalese but this utility is modifying your registry and hence (though I feel it is highly unlikely) could get something quite, quite wrong. You would be also wise to have a backup of the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT registry branch to restore in case you aren't happy with the changes made by the utility.

That said, without further ado here is the utility and its source code (C# 3.0), both of which (being of my sole authorship) I release into the public domain. I hope someone else finds it useful!

Leaving Windows Behind

So, I finally switched to Mac a month ago. I've had a Mac laptop since last summer and have been very pleased with the experience, so since Windows Vista has been giving me huge amounts of trouble (e.g. see my last post on getting Cygwin to work, though I won't go into the full gamut of issues I had here) I decided to go for an Apple desktop machine too.

Happily, Steve Jobs has heard my cries of Windows-inflicted pain and ordered his minions to release a new revision of this baby:

Mac Pro

Beautiful, isn't it? With 8 cores of Xeon love, it's no slouch in the performance department either. Salivation-inducing hardware aside, it comes with OS X, which is so much better than Vista that its simply not even funny. Overall it's fair to say that I've been very pleased with my purchase 🙂

There have been some problems switching, of course. I have Parallels Desktop installed so that I can still develop using C# and I will probably end up installing Office 2007 on there at some point as well, but for pretty much everything else I've been able to find an acceptable or beyond-acceptable alternative for OS X. Here are some of my favourites:


LaunchBar is a very neat application that you can use to quickly access many things on your Mac. For instance, if I want to play the album "Twin Cinema" in iTunes, I just press Option-Space, type "twin" into the box that comes up and press enter: fast and convenient. Similarly, if I wanted to open TextMate I simply press Option-Space and type "mate". Of course, there are loads more things you can do with it such as running any AppleScript you like or make a Google search.. the list goes on. LaunchBar learns over time what abbreviations you want to associate with an action, and hence it becomes so natural that so you soon find it hard to live without it!

Unfortunately it is payware, but it's certainly well worth the price tag.


Plot is a really nice graphing application. On Windows I was using Gnuplot, which is doubtless powerful but insanely hard to use. Plot just works and supports pretty much every feature I need. The graphs it outputs look very professional: see for yourself.


LyX is what I'm using instead of Office (NeoOffice, the OS X OpenOffice port, is too sluggish for words so I'm trying to avoid it). It's a nice friendly interface onto an OS X LaTeX distribution that makes the common case fast while still letting you access the full power of LaTeX when you need it. The application is actually nominally cross platform but I had numerous problems with crashes and weird behavior in the Windows version that have yet to occur on Mac.


I bought 1Password (it actually came as part of the MacHeist deal) to replace my long-time Windows password manager Password Manager XP. I have no complaints: on the contrary, 1Passwords integration with Firefox and the OS is much more reliable and complete than Password Manager XP ever managed.

What's more, they are about to release a service called my1Password that will let me get web-enabled access to my passwords from any location and platform! I'm happy as a clam about this as it's proven impossible to find a decent cross platform desktop password manager application. I should give a shout out to Clipperz here as they have had a decent implementation of this for a while, but the lack of integration with my main password manager (so I have to maintain two lists) and minuscule password limit have put me off using it regularly. UPDATE: Marco Barulli from Clipperz has responded to what I said here: please read this post to get the full story.

Time Machine

Time Machine, oh Time Machine, how did I ever get backups done before I had you? The answer is: with great difficulty. On Windows I set up a scheduled task to use SyncBack to clone my hard disk to another server. Unfortunately, this was pretty unreliable (partly because I was backing up onto a Linux file system that had an imperfect emulation of Windows security and didn't seem to support Unicode properly) and also meant that I only had a backup of the most recent version of my filesystem. With Time Machine everything is seamless and I can go back weeks or months in time to see my files at any point, all from within the Finder! Awesome!


And finally, maybe you don't find the OS X Terminal very exciting, but for someone who has wasted many hours struggling with Cygwin and its numerous problems (e.g. the awkward attempt to reconcile the Windows and Unix permission models) it is a godsend to finally have a real Unix shell available 🙂

I haven't even mentioned some perennial favourites like Transmission, Perian or AppFresh, but my time is limited! If you really feel the need to peek into all the applications I have installed, take a peek at my iusethis profile.

Overall my switching experience has been almost entirely painless and has certainly made me more productive and satisfied with my machine. Here's to many more happy years with Apple computers!