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Failed Core Storage Conversion

We have a Mac mini connected to an external storage box via FireWire. In a reasonably sensible manner, someone pointed Time Machine at one of the volumes on the DAS, thinking they should back the machine up to this location. They also thought also it would be best to encrypt the backup; very laudable.

However, this triggered a conversion process into an Apple Core Storage volume, which did not complete successfully. Luckily, OS X stopped trying and remounted the volume as HFS+. All appeared to be well, but after a reboot things were much less cheerful.

On restarting the machine, the volume was missing. Checking with diskutil list returned this layout:

/dev/disk1
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *17.6 TB    disk1
   1:                        EFI EFI                     209.7 MB   disk1s1
   2:                  Apple_HFS Backup                  2.0 TB     disk1s2
   3:          Apple_CoreStorage                         15.6 TB    disk1s3
   4:                 Apple_Boot Boot OS X               134.2 MB   disk1s4

But diskutil cs list returned this:

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Running pfSense on a Mac Pro

I’m a big fan of pfSense. If you’ve not heard of it, it’s an open source firewall that’s got more options that you can shake a stick at, but most importantly, is as solid as a rock and takes about a second to back up.

I’d been running it as a virtual machine on a couple of servers, but with a recent round of hardware changes I found myself with a 2006 vintage Mac Pro with no job to do. True, it’s massively overpowered for the job, but it’s got two good gigabit Intel NICs built-in and would make the VM setup, which I never liked, redundant. Plus, it would otherwise be sat on the floor doing nothing.

Setup

It’s trivial; I prepped the Mac with a single 80GB hard drive and zapped the PRAM just to be on the safe side (CMD-ALT-P-R). Then I burned the AMD64 image to a disc, booted the Mac with ALT held down and chose the ‘Windows’ CD. It’s obviously not Windows; that’s just what the Mac is programmed to title boot devices that aren’t OS X.

From there it’s just a case of choosing the installer when prompted and telling it to do a ‘Quick / Easy Install’. Everything from there is handled by pfSense, except for removing the CD (hold down the left mouse button to force a CD eject on reboot). Very easy.

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Recovery of ASMedia ASM1051

An ASMedia ASM1051 chip on a small circuit board, attached to a SATA hard drive.

Quite some time ago, I bought a super-cheap 2.5” USB 3.0 enclosure on eBay. It was no more than a few pounds, so when it suddenly stopped working one day, I didn’t cry about it. But it was a tad annoying, because I’d keep reaching for it in the drawer, knowing it had a sizeable drive in there.

One day I picked it up and, imagining its time in the drawer might have healed it, plugged it into a laptop. Magically, it worked! But when it came to transferring the files to another machine – dead again. It sat there with its light on, drive spinning, but never appearing as a USB device.

Then I twigged. The laptop had USB 3.0. My desktop machine did not. How bizarre! I tested my theory between a few more machines until the proof was in; connecting the drive to any USB 2.0 machine would not work, while USB 3.0 was just dandy.

It went back in the drawer.

The Fix

Today I reached for it again and this time decided to see if a repair was possible. Firmware would seem to be the culprit, but nobody is sensible enough to produce a firmware flash utility for such things, surely?

Taking a closer look shows an ASMedia ASM1051 bridge chip. Luckily, the nice folks at Plugable based their USB3-SATA-U3 around the same chip and they do indeed provide an ASM1051 firmware update utility known as MP Tool! Sensible people! The best news is that it targets the chip and doesn’t do any weird manufacturer-specific fiddling to prevent you from running it on other devices. I had very little to lose, so I simply followed their instructions; plug in, run software, press ‘Start’.

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