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.