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When the OS X Installer can’t be verified.

So you’ve got an OS X installer app saved (or maybe you’ve followed some instructions and made yourself a bootable USB drive for installing Mac OS X), used it a few times without any issue, forgotten about it, then some time later tried to use it again and run into an error message like this…

This copy of the Install OS X El Capitan application can’t be verified. It may have been corrupted or tampered with during downloading.

(Obviously “El Capitan” here could just as easily be the name of any of the versions of OS X that have been released via the Mac App Store - Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite or El Capitan.)

…and now you’re wondering what’s going on?

You’ll quickly find lots of helpful stuff online suggesting that this problem can be rectified by changing your Mac’s system date1. And, as far as I can tell, that’s exactly right. That does work. But some people have success with setting the clock to the current date, while others report that the system date already is correct and they’re having to set it to a date in the past to get anywhere. Well, after lots of scouring, here’s the best explanation I’ve found, buried in the middle the comments section of an article:

[…] the reason why you get the error (and it’s not because it’s “buggy”) is because the installer app is digitally signed with a certificate (along with every other Mac App Store app, and others app you might download), every certificate has two immutable dates built into it, a “not valid until” (Start) date, and a “valid until” (End) date.

When you run an app, it verifies the digital signature/certificate, and part of this validation is checking the date bounds, if your computer is set to an invalid date such as 1984… It’s going to fail to verify the certificate.

Right, so thanks to Russell, we now know there’s actually a window of validity on these installers. So if you’re saving them outside the Applications folder (so that they don’t get auto-deleted after use) or making bootable USB drives with them, you’re probably going to need to download fresh copies from the App Store when required, or temporarily set your system date to a point approximately around the time you originally downloaded it. You did make a note of that, right?

Update: I stumbled across this page which says the certificate used to sign Mac App Store downloads expired on 15th February 2016. This coincides perfectly with my own problems. So, if you don’t want to mess about temporarily altering your Mac’s date when you need to install, go download fresh copies from the MAS (now signed until 7th February 2023).

Oh, but if you do want/need to check the certificate start/end dates of an installer you already have saved, throw this command into Terminal and scan the resulting output:

openssl pkcs7 -inform der -in /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ -print_certs -text

(This example checks the Mavericks installer in the Applications folder. Adjust the path accordingly for your own needs.)

  1. You can change the date via System Preferences if you still have a working OS X installation aboard the Mac, or by using the ‘date’ command in Terminal if you’re having to boot from a createinstallmedia-made USB drive. 

Make a bootable USB drive with createinstallmedia.

If you’re a Mac user, it can’t have escaped your attention that all updates to OS X come via the Mac App Store nowadays. Most of the time this is great – a welcome advance in the software world – but sometimes, like when you need to re-install the whole OS, a 5GB download isn’t particularly convenient. Especially if you’ve a flakey internet connection. Or if your only means of downloading the file is the computer in front of you that needs said OS installation.

So the answer? Bootable USB installers for OS X. Download that 5GB file once, then use any old USB stick1 with Apple’s createinstallmedia utility to create a bootable drive you can use again and again. And again. Apple even provides the instructions on how to do this. Lovely stuff.

If you want a bit more hand-holding through the process then I heartily recommend Dan Frakes’ how-to guides over at Macworld. These are particularly useful if you need to make a drive for installing OS X Lion (10.7) or Mountain Lion (10.8), since the createinstallmedia tool didn’t exist back then and the process is a little different (but no more difficult). Here are the necessary links:

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion

Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion

Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks

Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite

Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan

And if you’re hoping to make a bootable USB installer for Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6) then there is, sort of, a way to do it. You’ll need an image of the Snow Leopard install DVD first though, of course. Take a look at this Macworld article for instructions.

  1. Your USB stick needs to have space to fit the OS X installer – so at least 8GB. And make sure you’ve nothing precious saved on it, because it will get blanked during this procedure. You might also want to find one that has decent read/write speeds, since this will reduce the amount of time it takes to create a bootable installer and to install OS X onto to your Mac. 

Download YouTube videos without dodgy software.

You’ve found a video on Youtube that you’d like to download to watch later offline. Or maybe you want to save a copy of a YouTube video for posterity. Or perhaps you uploaded a clip to YouTube and no longer have the original but want one. So, how do you do that? Well, there are hundreds of free programs, websites and browser toolbars, add-ons, add-ins and extensions that purport to help you do this. The problem with the majority of these is that they’re plain useless if you’re lucky and serve-up malware if you’re not.

Fortunately, there’s a fairly simple way to do it using just your web browser of choice and the free, open-source, cross-platform and generally awesome VLC media player:

  • Copy the URL of the YouTube video you’re wanting to save
  • Start VLC and go to “Open Network…”
  • Paste in the youtube link, then click Open
  • The video will start playing. Pause it and go to the media information window
  • The “Location” field should contain a (long, complicated-looking) URL – this is a link to the actual video file – copy it
  • Now go back to your browser, paste that URL into the address bar and hit enter
  • You have video! (depending on browser used the file will either ask to be saved or start playing automatically, in which case you can just do File > Save As)

I’m not sure what the container and video format are of these saved files are yet but they play happily enough in VLC. It would be nice to know though – please let me know if you work it out!

The other limitation of this method that you should be aware of is that there’s no way choosing video quality – again, shout up if you know how to get at one of the particular qualities that YouTube has stored.

If the above looks too convoluted for you, then you might try, which, despite being covered in ads and looking a bit dodgy, does appear to do something extremely similar but makes the process as simple as pasting in the YouTube link. I’ve grabbed a few videos using the site and, as far as I can tell, not caught anything nasty. Your mileage may vary, of course. Obviously you should take precautions before visiting the site, just in case.

Update: Alternatively, looks like an even better website to try if you don’t fancy the VLC option. Just paste in the vid URL and you’re presented with links to all the various formats and qualities that YouTube has available for that clip. I’m not sure you could want for more.

Cheapest headphones.

After discovering that decent headphones could be had for as little as £6, I started wondering what the very cheapest headphones would sound like. And where I might source them. Amazon and eBay have plenty of tiny-budget offerings but if I wanted something truly dirt cheap I needed to eliminate postage costs. With this in mind, I set my sights on high street tat retailer Poundland and the exciting low-cost wonders I might find dumped in their technology aisle… But I never got that far, instead spotting some ‘phones quite by chance in rival austerity bazaar B&M. Ninety-nine pence later I was the proud owner of some Maxell EB-95 (190560) earphones. Here’s a quick review.

If you were hoping for me to write anything positive about the EB-95s then let me start this with the only thing I have for you: they don’t immediately sound dreadful. Don’t misunderstand, they are bad, but you might not realise how bad if you’ve nothing to compare them with. Spoken word is actually listenable through these but any sort of music just sounds distant, washy and several other kinds of awful. No, I wouldn’t call myself an audiophile but I do know that audio-wise these earphones are sorely lacking in, well, everything.

Don’t worry too much about the poor sound quality though because you’ll probably not be able to use them anyway. Firstly, at about 90cm in length, the cord is far, far too short to really use the headphones in any practical, meaningful way. And secondly, even if you can deal with the short cord, the hard plastic rest-in-your-ear buds are painfully uncomfortable to wear for any more than about 10 minutes. A truly unpleasant experience.

In conclusion, if you’re absolutely desperate then I can confirm that Maxell’s EB-95s do work. But ultimately you might just be better off being that inconsiderate dick who plays music through his phone’s speaker in public.

Panasonic RP-HJE125 earphones.

There was a time when a gold bikini brought in most of my site’s traffic but now i’d say its definitely all about the Cheap Headphones. Apparently people are very interested in Panasonic’s RP-HJE125 earphones and I imagine that is because of the Wirecutter’s recommendation in their “Best In-Ear Headphones Under $30” review1. So, despite being quite happy with my RHAs, I bought a pair of the Panasonics to test – at just £6 it was hard not to. Here are my thoughts after more than a year’s use of them.

Let’s start with the most important aspect – sound quality. As the Wirecutter reviewers suggested, it is good. Very good. The bass is perhaps not as deep as with the RHA MA350s but I find them to provide good clear sound.

In terms of build quality, the earbuds are light but feel sturdy enough. They fit my ear nicely but it’s worth noting that the slightly odd shaped design might not suit everyone. Also, despite being more obviously Left and Right than any other bud i’ve owned before, I still somehow manage to try putting them the wrong way around every time. The cord used by Panasonic looks and feels very cheap. In fact, I’m not sure it could look worse. It also tangles very easily and, personally, I find it slightly too short a lot of time, unable to reach from my head to deep trouser pockets. But all this said, more than 12 months down the line, it’s all still working fine and showing no signs of wear. Thankfully the plain cord construction also means there’s not much cable-rub noise, but they are in-ear headphones so a little disturbance is inevitable. It’s safe to say you wouldn’t want to run wearing these.

When I originally mentioned these headphones, I noted that the US version (RP-TCM125) seemed to have in-line mic while the UK version did not. I can now confirm this is indeed the case, if that’s a deal-breaker for you.

So, overall verdict? While I have a few minor gripes, they’re all very easily forgiven on a pair of earphones that sound so good but cost so little. I think you can definitely trust the Wirecutter’s decision on these.

  1. They’ve since updated the original article and the old version doesn’t appear anywhere on the Wirecutter site sadly. It’s now “Best In-Ear Headphones under $40” and the Panasonics no longer take the top spot, though they do still get an honourable mention. Fortunately, the Wayback Machine has a copy of the original text saved at