External APFS Fusion Drive

Earlier this year and on a previous post, I explained how I constructed and configured an external fusion drive using Apple’s CoreStorage via the diskutil utility. Since I upgraded to macOS Mojave and it has the Apple File System (APFS) with Fusion Drive support, I decided that I want to convert my old external Fusion Drive setup to APFS. Always being an early adopter!

I tried to find online instructions on how to accomplish this, but there were just bits and pieces.  So in case I forget in the future and also someone else may find this useful, I decided to place the instructions here.

First, I did try to convert my old external fusion named, MediaFusion, with the diskutil application. Unfortunately that was unsuccessful and it returned an error. Therefore, I had to backup all the contents in MediaFusion, split the old fusion drive and create a brand new APFS container with multiple drives and partitions. Following are all the command line steps that I executed via the Terminal application.

First, let me show you what I had to begin with:

$ diskutil cs list

CoreStorage logical volume groups (1 found)
+-- Logical Volume Group 33383C9C-0CE7-4361-8A72-0DD606CDB079
    Name:         mediafusion
    Status:       Online
    Size:         4500172365824 B (4.5 TB)
    Free Space:   40960 B (41.0 KB)
    +-< Physical Volume 42A28BA6-0C40-4650-BE03-23FF7F377E58
    |   ----------------------------------------------------
    |   Index:    0
    |   Disk:     disk4s2
    |   Status:   Online
    |   Size:     499762860032 B (499.8 GB)
    +-< Physical Volume E7E51D4E-B65A-44C9-961C-B1ACB70ACF92
    |   ----------------------------------------------------
    |   Index:    1
    |   Disk:     disk3s2
    |   Status:   Online
    |   Size:     4000409505792 B (4.0 TB)
    +-> Logical Volume Family C1F85922-A4C2-42B2-A8FF-BF46ED8B2641
        Encryption Type:         None
        +-> Logical Volume 6C87BA11-AC3D-449B-B591-D53C99C98078
            Disk:                  disk5
            Status:                Online
            Size (Total):          4499551551488 B (4.5 TB)
            Revertible:            No
            LV Name:               MediaFusion
            Volume Name:           MediaFusion
            Content Hint:          Apple_HFS
            LVG Type:              Sparse

Next, I have to split the two drives, the disk4s2 (SSD 500GB) and the disk3s2 (HDD 4TB) mechanical drive.

$ diskutil cs deleteVolume 6C87BA11-AC3D-449B-B591-D53C99C98078

The Core Storage Logical Volume UUID is 6C87BA11-AC3D-449B-B591-D53C99C98078
Started CoreStorage operation on disk5 MediaFusion
Unmounting disk5
Removing Logical Volume from Logical Volume Group
Finished CoreStorage operation on disk5 MediaFusion

$ diskutil cs delete 33383C9C-0CE7-4361-8A72-0DD606CDB079

Started CoreStorage operation
Destroying Logical Volume Group
Erasing disk4s2
Initialized /dev/rdisk4s2 as a 465 GB case-insensitive HFS Plus volume with a 40960k journal
Mounting disk
Erasing disk3s2
Initialized /dev/rdisk3s2 as a 4 TB case-insensitive HFS Plus volume with a 311296k journal
Mounting disk
Finished CoreStorage operation

$ diskutil list

/dev/disk3 (external, physical):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *4.0 TB     disk3
   1:                        EFI EFI                     209.7 MB   disk3s1
   2:                  Apple_HFS Untitled                4.0 TB     disk3s2

/dev/disk4 (external, physical):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *500.1 GB   disk4
   1:                        EFI EFI                     209.7 MB   disk4s1
   2:                  Apple_HFS Untitled                499.8 GB   disk4s2

Once the drives are properly split and reverted back to their original partition maps, I can then create my multi-device APFS Container.

$ diskutil ap createContainer disk4s2 disk3s2

Creating container with disk4s2 disk3s2
Started APFS operation on disk4s2 Untitled
Creating a new empty APFS Container
Unmounting Volumes
Switching disk4s2 to APFS
Switching disk3s2 to APFS
Creating APFS Container
FusionLC autodetect: regular Fusion
Created new APFS Container disk5
Disk from APFS operation: disk5
Finished APFS operation on disk4s2 Untitled

$ diskutil ap addVolume disk5 APFS MediaFusion

Exporting new APFS Volume "MediaFusion" from APFS Container Reference disk5
Started APFS operation on disk5
Preparing to add APFS Volume to APFS Container disk5
Creating APFS Volume
Created new APFS Volume disk5s1
Mounting APFS Volume
Setting volume permissions
Disk from APFS operation: disk5s1
Finished APFS operation on disk5

Be sure to specify the faster drive (disk4s2) as the first device! Once both the container and volume is completed I now have two APFS based fusion drives.

$ diskutil ap list

APFS Containers (2 found)
+-- Container disk2 1D566DF6-F26A-4E92-BE2F-5C38B62C579B
|   ====================================================
|   APFS Container Reference:     disk2 (Fusion)
|   Size (Capacity Ceiling):      3121506295808 B (3.1 TB)
|   Capacity In Use By Volumes:   1924724002816 B (1.9 TB) (61.7% used)
|   Capacity Not Allocated:       1196782292992 B (1.2 TB) (38.3% free)
|   |
|   +-< Physical Store disk0s2 123F0CDD-E154-4CC6-8F2D-D344166F04E8
|   |   -----------------------------------------------------------
|   |   APFS Physical Store Disk:   disk0s2 (Main)
|   |   Size:                       121123069952 B (121.1 GB)
|   |
|   +-< Physical Store disk1s2 9A6CCF8F-D0A1-4791-9F1C-DBFB1BB38461
|   |   -----------------------------------------------------------
|   |   APFS Physical Store Disk:   disk1s2 (Secondary, Designated Aux Use)
|   |   Size:                       3000383225856 B (3.0 TB)
|   |
|   +-> Volume disk2s1 0C36C0CE-B273-3626-A17C-E04BC605FA25
|   |   ---------------------------------------------------
|   |   APFS Volume Disk (Role):   disk2s1 (No specific role)
|   |   Name:                      Macintosh HD (Case-insensitive)
|   |   Mount Point:               /
|   |   Capacity Consumed:         1913007661056 B (1.9 TB)
|   |   FileVault:                 No
|   |
|   +-> Volume disk2s2 58E58B2A-7F7E-4E02-944B-5F1FF84B0BAF
|   |   ---------------------------------------------------
|   |   APFS Volume Disk (Role):   disk2s2 (Preboot)
|   |   Name:                      Preboot (Case-insensitive)
|   |   Mount Point:               Not Mounted
|   |   Capacity Consumed:         30584832 B (30.6 MB)
|   |   FileVault:                 No
|   |
|   +-> Volume disk2s3 EEF4C40B-75B8-4D86-90A4-85AD764F3BD4
|   |   ---------------------------------------------------
|   |   APFS Volume Disk (Role):   disk2s3 (Recovery)
|   |   Name:                      Recovery (Case-insensitive)
|   |   Mount Point:               Not Mounted
|   |   Capacity Consumed:         509845504 B (509.8 MB)
|   |   FileVault:                 No
|   |
|   +-> Volume disk2s4 CC23597C-9267-4F93-8DE3-73892FEA6ABF
|       ---------------------------------------------------
|       APFS Volume Disk (Role):   disk2s4 (VM)
|       Name:                      VM (Case-insensitive)
|       Mount Point:               /private/var/vm
|       Capacity Consumed:         2147516416 B (2.1 GB)
|       FileVault:                 No
+-- Container disk5 2A73D327-63D2-4BFA-973C-B62B00CA5B70
    APFS Container Reference:     disk5 (Fusion)
    Size (Capacity Ceiling):      4500440801280 B (4.5 TB)
    Capacity In Use By Volumes:   9130835968 B (9.1 GB) (0.2% used)
    Capacity Not Allocated:       4491309965312 B (4.5 TB) (99.8% free)
    +-< Physical Store disk3s2 851807A7-E19E-47CD-85E7-5A6EC82FBFD1
    |   -----------------------------------------------------------
    |   APFS Physical Store Disk:   disk3s2 (Secondary, Designated Aux Use)
    |   Size:                       4000543723520 B (4.0 TB)
    +-< Physical Store disk4s2 1811B401-B8B7-4C49-802F-91F24F535962
    |   -----------------------------------------------------------
    |   APFS Physical Store Disk:   disk4s2 (Main)
    |   Size:                       499897077760 B (499.9 GB)
    +-> Volume disk5s1 AF4C9AE1-1236-4171-8C73-F4BB4387CC8A
        APFS Volume Disk (Role):   disk5s1 (No specific role)
        Name:                      MediaFusion (Case-insensitive)
        Mount Point:               /Volumes/MediaFusion
        Capacity Consumed:         839680 B (839.7 KB)
        FileVault:                 No

The first (disk2) is the internal fusion drive converted by the Mojave installation process. The second (disk5) is the newly created drive.

That is it! After I recopy my original contents back onto the newly created APFS, I am good to go.

Another benefit for knowing how to do this is that new Apple hardware configuration is becoming more limiting, only offering internal SSD configurations. This is great for performance but not so great for one’s pocket books. Knowing that we can create an external APFS fusion drive using USB 3 or Thunderbolt 3 is very reassuring that we can still have this frugal compromise, while keeping up with Apple’s latest file system advancements.

I hope you find this useful.

The Hidden Gem to AirPlay 2

A couple of weeks ago I came across a 9to5Mac article indicating that Apple has updated all Airport Express 2nd Gen (A1392) firmware to 7.8. This means that if you have one of these little gems you can pretty well enable any active speakers or receivers that can take RCA, 3.5 mm, and optical toslink inputs (with appropriate cables).

I immediately scour my local Kijiji site and Facebook marketplace for these devices. I ended up buying five of these little devices. One for $25 CAD and the others for $50 CAD. All are in working order and I added all five of them to my network, enabling all of my speakers in the house. Now every speakers on all three floors in my house are AirPlay 2 enabled.

My Airport Utility Status Display

To test the new setup, I ended playing Christmas Carols on all three floors. The songs are all in sync. As I walk around the house, it is pretty surreal to have the same song omnipresent around your head.

The boys are happy because their bedroom speakers are now enabled via AirPlay. This means they can be more lazy by switching songs while laying in bed. Before, they had to plug their iPhones into their receivers.

If these devices are still around, you cannot beat the $50 value to enable any speakers of your choice to be AirPlay 2 compatible. Start looking around!

Nutrition Label for Planet Earth

In Canada when we buy groceries, we can inspect their nutritional make up. The idea is to make better or more fitting diet choices to improve our health. Whether to reduce our saturated fat, sodium or carbohydrates. All of this makes perfect sense. We can extend this concept by having a nutritional label for every item that we purchase. How do we do that?

We can create a new eco-label. This label can consists of a summary of the cost that we impose on our planet to create and make this item available for you to purchase, along with any recyclable or waste disposal characteristics. Instead of making a conscious decision in regards to our own health, this eco-label can be used to help us make good decisions that will improve the health of the planet.

The eco-label can indicate how much energy in joules was consumed and how much harmful emissions were created to produce and deliver this product. The label can also indicate whether the product is recyclable and what will it take to recycle the product. We can start simple, and does not have to be complete to make a difference. I know that it would affect my purchasing decision if I knew how much CO2 gases were generated by the next pair of running shoes that I will buy.

Having such a label will have ancillary influences on how manufacturers will design and make their products. Businesses will be more accountable in terms of auditing their planetary impact. Perhaps a new dedicate discipline of eco-centric chartered accountants can focus on the auditing of such activities as well. Market forces can also help businesses to be more competitive by attaining certain goals on the eco-labels.

We all need to be actively concern and participate in a continuous fashion if we are to make an impact on how we change our planet. The eco-label can make climate change a topic of concern at every point of purchase. Even if you are not a climate change believer, the eco-label provides more eco transparency in addition to the financial and health costs.

I think this is very powerful. I am willing to bet that most of you will have similar feelings and thoughts on this topic as well. What do you think, a good idea?

3D Printed Qi Wireless Charger

Last year when I purchased the iPhone X, I was curious whether Qi Wireless Transmitters were available. To my surprise, I was able to search for a Qi Wireless Transmitter PCB board from eBay. Out of curiosity I purchased one for about $5 CAD (free shipping). It took awhile to arrive but I was in no hurry.

The intent is to design a 3D printed container for the PCB board and I would have a very cheap functional Qi compliant wireless charger.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to this project until last weekend. I spent almost an entire day designing the container and printed 4 prototypes before I got the measurements perfect.

This morning, I finally got the two pieces printed, a simple top cover along with a bottom container. It was pure joy when all the pieces fitted perfectly together. Please witness the pieces here, along with a video showing how everything just works!

I have to say, super proud of myself on this one.