Tag Archives: Tech

Flush Time

The quirks on my laptop were just getting too weird, so when the control panel stopped working I decided it was time to do a system recovery. I have actually never done one of these before as I’ve always used home-built systems except for my last laptop, and when I wanted to do a system recovery on that I couldn’t find the CDs. Well this came with six CDs to do just what I need, so I guess we’ll see how this goes. It’ll be a pain reinstalling everything, but I think deep down inside I really enjoy doing that. Funny side note: when it was starting up the CD drive made a sound like the violins from Psycho. How appropiate. 16 minutes and 59 seconds later, all done.

AOL vs. Microsoft

In his charmingly caustic way Hixie compares how AOL and Microsoft fared in the recent settlement. I am very disappointed, as AOL using Mozilla would have made things interesting. Around here Mozilla has been steadily climbing in the stats. What about the rest of the world? Check out the Google Zeitgeist. After an amazing climb, they show IE 6 tanking for the first time ever, while IE 5 jumps up to actually above IE 5.5. That’s a little disturbing. Also for the first time I’ve noticed they say “Netscape 5.0+ (including Mozilla)” is represented, but for the life of me I can’t find the purple line. Do you see the purple line?

On Unison

Ever since I first got a laptop I’ve struggled with trying to keep some semblance of uniformity between it and my desktop. My first and most significant obstacle was with email. Email parallax was killing me and so I made the leap to IMAP, and I haven’t looked back since. Before I decided to use IMAP though, I kept looking for a tool that would synchronize between my two Outlook files; I had become so spoilt by PalmOS synchronization that this seemed like a common sense feature. Apparently not though.

Anyway the 60GB hard drive on the new laptop opened the possibility of having my entire music collection with me at all times on the laptop. I remember surfing by a new tool that worked on both Windows and *nix and was essentially a two-way rsync. A little Googling led me to the Unison File Synchronizer. Bing.

I grabbed the Windows executable and fired it up on my laptop, thinking I would be able to point to the network share with the music on it. I had already transferred a couple of genres over so this would be a nice way to get the ones I hadn’t. Also the idea of synchronization because I might clean up a bunch of ID3 tags on my desktop or rip a new CD on my laptop when I’m out; my former (copy and paste) method of synchronizing these changes was messy and often missed things. Anyway it brought up a dialog that let me choose the directory on my local drive I wanted to synchronize, but it looked like before I choose a remote drive I had to start the Unison server on that computer. What followed was a long and complicated episode to boring and detailed to go into here, so if you just want Unison to work, here’s what I had to do.

  • Put the executable in the directory you want to sync. Yes, I know there is a path argument, it never worked right for me. So for me I have Unison.exe in d:\Music on my laptop and i:\Music on the desktop.
  • Start the server from the command line, I used: unison.win32-gtkui.exe -socket 1234.
  • Start up the client. I created a new profile using “socket” as the connection method, the local IP of the machine as the host ( and left the rest blank.
  • Run it, and hope for the best.

I should tell you that it never successfully synced my Jazz directory, which is about 17GB. It would get further and further along, and then crash. I should warn you that it’s very resource intensive as well. In the beginning it’s tough on the server machine, and later it’s very hard on the client. Both times before it crashed on my Jazz directory it was using about 400MB of memory and slowed the computer down to a crawl. I was able to work around the crash because it had actually already transferred most of the files over to the laptop, it just had them in a strangely named dot directory, so I simply moved all the files out of that, deleted the now-empty temporary directory, and ran it again. This time it tried to do a lot less at one time, and syncronized the remaining files and few file properties as well. I think it’s a testament to the quality of the program that its crash was relatively easy to recover from.

Since the initial bumpy setup, it’s been working well for me. I tested it out by updating some things on the desktop and the laptop, and it caught all the changes just fine. When it’s not sure what to do it just asks you and you can tell it how various conflicts can be resolved. I’m happy with this tool, but I’d be quite hesitant to recommend it to somebody without much computer experience. The documentation is relatively poor, and the interface and behaviour of the application are anything but intuitive. Now when I run it to catch up on minor changes it is CPU intensive for a little while, but nothing compared to the earlier runs. All in all, I think this is a nifty tool, but it isn’t quite at a level of development where I would recommend it to the masses.

Happy Ending to a Long Story

Sony Vaio Z1AIf any of you have been following in the counter on my sidebar, you know that as of today my laptop has been under Best Buy repair for 31 days now. That’s a very long time to go without a laptop when you’ve become quite accustomed to one, and I went in to the store today with every intention of talking to them quite harshly. When the service man checked the status of my repair though, he said, “Oh, that’s been marked for replacement. Go pick a new one out.”

Sweeter words have never been spoken. I went to the car to get my receipt information. A quick glance in the laptop section revealed they had the exact model I was hoping for, the Vaio Z1A. The exchange still had some credit left over, so I picked up a nice case for it and they renewed the service plan to cover another 3 years and another replacement. I might regret that later, but right now I couldn’t be happier.

This new laptop is everything I could want. It’s light, which my previous powerful but heavy (10 pounds with power supply!) companion wasn’t. It’s faster, the 1.3ghz Centrino processor feels as snappy as my faster clock speed desktop, and benchmarks seem to put it on par with at least a 1.8ghz Pentium 4-M. Integrated WiFi is a must for all future laptops. 512MB of memory gives my programs room to breathe, and the ginormous 60GB hard drive will let me carry my entire music collection around with room to spare.

Best of all, it’s really beautiful. Most PCs are really not well designed, but with this one I can sit in a circle of Powerbooks at SxSW next year and not feel like the ugly cousin. My faith in Sony has been restored. All is forgiven. Pictures are most definitely forthcoming. Maybe an entire gallery worth. 🙂

Call Me Speedy

Well the 512MB of DDR333 memory I ordered came in today, and so now I’m up to 768MB, which is quite nice. I feel like my applications can breath again. Even more importantly I upgraded the 900MHz processor that was in there on accident to a Athlon XP 1600, and it’s making a huge difference. My desktop is starting to feel like a real work environment again.

In other news, we’re going on 3 weeks since they took my laptop, and it’s really starting to get to me. I really could have used it to keep up with things these last few weeks, which incidentally have been my busiest in a long, long time. I had my next to last final today, and I was really ecstatic afterward. Knowing there is just one more (on Thursday) is a great feeling, and I can’t wait for summer to finally get started.

It’s going to be a summer of road trips, beaches, tans, jogging, and some very cool web stuff.

Danger Tom and Jerry

According to a dilalog box that just popped up, the batteries in my mouse are dangerously low. Yes, my friends, they could go any second. It’s just a matter of time. I truly hope that I can click the submit button on this post before it’s too late.

But really, sometimes I think error message writers have an overly high opinion of their task’s importance. I guess it puts things in perspective though.

New What’s Playing

This plugin looks like exactly what I’ve been searching for. Right now I use one called DoSomething to ping a URL that inserts the data into a database, presumably so I can do something with all that juicy data later. (Right now it has over 9000 rows.) However my current plugin has a lot of drawbacks, mostly that it won’t read any data from ID3v2 tags and doesn’t work with Winamp 3, neither of which are a problem with this newer plugin. So this is mostly so I can find it later, as while I’d like to install this, figure out the POST variables, update my ping script, and come up with some novel ways to parse all the data I have, there are a thousand things I need to do first. I can’t recall ever being this busy. Hat tip: Dougal.

Spam in a Can

I usually clean out my spam folder nightly and watch for any false positives, but partly because I’ve been quite busy and partly because I have gotten one false positive in the past month it has slipped my mind for about a week. I just checked it and between my two accounts I had gotten 691 spams. What’s great is I don’t mind a bit. Every bit of spam I get, especially the ones that aren’t caught before they get to my inbox, makes my personal filters a little smarter and more likely to catch the next one. It’s a beautiful thing. For the first time since I’ve been online, I feel like I’m winning the war against spammers.

The Wait

Well my laptop is now in the hands of the Best Buy service people. For a little background, last time they had it I didn’t get it back for almost two months. It wasn’t so bad because I had another laptop I used as a loaner, but that’s not an option this time and it’s going to be tough. I’ve added a day counter to the sidebar to track how long this takes, thoug I truly hope they surprise me and have it back with a week or two. On the bright side, since this is the third or fourth time it’s going back there is a possibility I’ll have the option to get a new laptop, in which case I’m definitely eyeing the new Z1 series.


The charger on my laptop has finally given out, mere weeks after it came back from its two month repair trip. I’m preparing to do a brain transplant of the hard drive right now. Hopefully this will turn out better than attempts to fix it have before. For now though I’m going to be computing primarily on my desktop, with its new motherboard, and I’m moving all my development stuff over here. I’ve forgotten how snappy a nice desktop can be, and it’s actually a relatively pleasant experience. The thing I can’t stand is being tied to a desk though, I had gotten quite acustomed to working anywhere and everywhere, bouncing from WiFi hotspot to hotspot throughout my day.

New If This Darn Thing…

Well I picked up a motherboard at Fry’s with my dad, and hopefully this will resolve the desktop issues I’ve been having. The new motherboard is pretty sweet, and was quite cheap. I’m quite disillusioned of expensive motherboards with this one failing months after I got it. With the strong prospect that I’m taking my laptop back again it’s important that I at least have a working desktop though, so this will be good. It works!

Mouse Pad

Mouse pads are probably the most personal and often changed components of most people’s computing setup. I have come to the conclusion that every mouse-pad has a story behind it, and I’m curious to hear them. What’s yours?

I’ll start it off. I have two mouse-pads, the first has a Picasso painting on it, Three Musicians. My mother got it for me as a present, and I believe she got it from a museum store. The other one I use at my desktop has each of the Presidents of the United States on it in chronological order. I bought it when I was in Washington D.C. for the G8 camp over the summer, which was a wonderful experience by the way, and we visited the Lincoln Memorial. Your turn. 🙂

MySQL 4.1

Well everyone and their dog’s host is using MySQL 4.0 now, so in my quest to forever remain on the bleeding edge (and after some local testing) I installed it on the server and it’s humming along nicely. People may think that staying with the latest version is less stable or something, but I’ve been following the 4 branch since it went public and in all that time I’ve only had one problem (with 4.0.4 I believe), and a minute later I just downgraded back to my old version and reported the bug to the mailing list. It was fixed in the next release. What’s that you say? Your host is still on 3.23? You want a query cache and sub-queries and UNION? Well I know a place where the bandwidth flows freely and the software is always up to date. Let me know you’re signing up and I’ll hook you up with a discount. Update: Whoa! Either there’s something wrong with my benchmarks or there have been some major performance improvements in this version. I’m extremely impressed.


Just found a quite nifty add-on for IE that gives you nicely done tabbed browsing, a sweet search bar, pop-up blocking, some auto-login stuff I haven’t played with yet, and a page zoom. Sound like what you’ve been waiting for? It uses the same engine as IE, so I see now reason why this shouldn’t replace it for me. My only compliant so far is it won’t let me reorder my links toolbar, but I can live with alphabetical. Did I mention it’s freeware? Hat tip: Dougal Campbell. Okay favelets don’t work. Bummer.

My Plan for Spam

Well I’ve had more spam getting through my previously perfect Spam Assassin wall so I’ve spent a good part of tonight teaching my personal Bayesian filter about my mail and what I think is spam. I’m feeding it all the good mail right now, because I’ve been deleting all the spam rather than saving it in a folder. In hindsight I should have been holding on, but my emotions got the best of me and that delete button feels so good. In the coming weeks I’m going to be posting a series of essays talking about improving your email, a subject I have given a great deal of thought to. These will be slanted toward average Joe hosted on a shared Cpanel server (like from Spyder Hosting or Blogomania) but they will be universally applicable to anyone technically minded. That said, I’m looking for one or two people to proof the articles and try these things out before I post them, so if you’re interested in taking control of your email and wouldn’t mind helping out, drop me a note and I’ll put you on the list.