Tag Archives: geek

How Much Weight Can Clouds Hold?

I have been running my computers primarily on an Ubuntu system since Sept 2006.  Over time, through a lot of tinkering and experimenting, I have generally “gunked up” my laptop installation.  With the next Long-Term Service release of Ubuntu now in beta, with the final release due later this month, I decided that the new version will be a good point for a complete format-and-reinstall on that machine.

So if you’re going to roll with that sort of program, you have to do a lot of backing up.  My /home folders are all due for a sound cleaning out; a bigger project than one might realize.  Lifehacker coincidentally had a post late in March that I begrudgingly took to heart (get rid of your ‘Miscellaneous’ filing category) as I set upon this task.  I have always had trouble locating anything on my computers without at least a halfway-decent organizational structure, so a lot of what I need to do is just clean up stuff that’s been straggling, maybe add some new categories here or there.

When I checked out what I have on my server, there are lots of folders that are just going to be huge by nature–Movies, TV, Music, Photos, setup files–all are major data hogs.  I can’t and don’t expect to pare those down much.  After you isolate those big swaths of info, though, what I have left isn’t taking up much room at all– for me, it was just barely over 4 gigs.  This is the area I can attack.

I’m using the free version of Dropbox for a variety of things: it’s an easy way to stash small files (word processing docs, spreadsheets, PDFs, maybe photos) that you’re planning to use in multiple places.  I have a folder for “employment” documents, for example (resumes, cover letters, reference lists), that saves me from worrying if I remembered to grab something that I need before I left the house.  Also, it’s tons smoother than logging in to the server at work for those occasions that I’m working remotely.  Lists that I frequently need all have their place in the Dropbox1

Between the 2 gigs that I can get for zero monies from Dropbox, and another 2 that are available through the Ubuntu One service (almost exactly the same thing as Dropbox), I just about have myself covered.  Why not just leave all this backup stress behind and toss my non-media data into the cloud?  *sigh*  Well, there are a few things:

  • First, and obviously, one 2-gig service isn’t going to give me enough space.  I’d be spreading myself out on multiple services, and that sort of negates the inherent efficiency of moving in this direction.  Do I value the convenience enough to pay a hundred bucks a year (the going Dropbox rate) for 50 GB?
  • Also, we’ve got your typical cloud-pushing paranoia.  “Can I trust someone else to secure my data?”  “I’ve never seen where this data is physically located,” etc., etc., etc.  I have to say I’m starting to get over this one (these services all appropriately tout their security features), but it’s going to take time.
  • Any technical limitations that I wouldn’t have with everything being stored “locally”?  Doesn’t seem like it, but in my experience, you need some thorough real-world testing to know for sure.

I guess the toughest pill for me to swallow right now is the 100 bucks.  You want me to plunk down a fairly significant wad of cash for 25 times more storage.  What I would really prefer is slightly more storage (say, 20 or 25 gigs) at half the annual price.  That would make it easier for me.

But either way, make no mistake – as we link our digital lives to more and more devices, seamless interoperability and access across multiple platforms becomes more and more important.  I don’t know for sure if I’m ready to completely leap into cloud-based storage, but I’m going to have to think long and hard about it2, and this probably won’t be the last time.

  1. Did I mention that I don’t need to sweat having one of *my* computers, with the client installed, immediately available, either?  Because there’s a web interface.  Pretty nice. []
  2. That’s what she said. []

Some Housecleaning

After we moved, there was a long period of time where all our spare moments were taken up with sorting through stuff, moving things around, putting things away, etc., and then all of a sudden it was the holiday season.  By about mid-January, I could sense that we were moving past that stuff and a little extra time would be opening up.  I’m glad, not only for the sake of my sanity, but I feel like I can start making lists of other things to worry about again.  A little quality time with this site is one of them.

I changed to a new ‘theme’ shortly before we moved out of Milwaukee, and I still like it quite a bit.  It has some limitations with a few things– the photo gallery “sub-pages” no longer display correctly, and using an image in the banner at the top is troublesome.  These are things I want to work on sooner than later.

A few other miscellaneous tidbits:

  • I’ll be getting an event created on FB in the next several hours as well, but be advised that Michelle and I are inviting all sorts of peeps we know to come out to Sun Prairie/Portage on Saturday, 2/27, for a ski weekend at Cascade, followed by a party back at the “lodge” (i.e., our residence) about 30 minutes to the south.  More details to come soon.
  • Speaking of event planning, it’s time to think about Brewers baseball (even though I hope to get *plenty* of skiing in before opening day).  I’ll add some other details about possible outing(s) to the Brewers 2010 page in the next couple days.
  • I just realized that the Mozilla project Sea Monkey just recently came out with a 2.0 release.  They say there’s a better/easier extension system with this version, so I’m going to give it a go; if I can get most of my Firefox and Thunderbird extensions to work with SM, that would be cool.

OK, I should probably return some phone calls.  Have a good weekend!

New Lappy Setup

This is another in my series of “posts of reference for my future self about computer crap,” so be advised.

So I got my new laptop from the UPS man yesterday. Since I’ve become sort of a hardcore Linux man, I am wiping the hard drive before I use it. I called Lenovo customer service first, and asked about obtaining a refund for the Windows license. I ran out of patience with that process really quickly. I sent them an email instead, and we’ll see what happens. More to come on that front (or not).

After not accepting the software license(s), the next thing I did was boot into SystemRescueCD from my USB drive so I could run GParted and wipe the hard drive.  I found out that the “rescue” partition took up an ungodly THIRTY GIGS of that hard drive.  I mean, this is a 320-gig drive, so you actually have about 290 to work with to start, and then after that rescue partition, you’ve got somewhere between 250 and 260 to go.  Quite a difference.  It was nice to (A) wipe out those unneeded partitions, and (B) know that I’m good enough with these machines now that I DON’T need them.

The Windows 7 release candidate just came out, so I thought it might be worth it to test an install of THAT OS on the new laptop, since I have the space for it, and I’m sort of curious.  I installed Windows first, because when I add Ubuntu, it’s going to very polite about the boot loader (adding more options, not over-writing), where Windows is usually a dick.

I was thinking of taking Joe’s advice and setting up encryption with Ubuntu to protect my data in case of loss/theft.  I even found a nice guide on how to do multiple partitions inside an encypted volume.  However, since I am restoring my /home partition from my old machine, I don’t believe encrypting will be possible.  Maybe next time I do a total reinstallation (but I don’t know when that will be).  And I don’t believe I would be able to dual-boot with that setup, either…

When I booted up the Ubuntu installation disc, I was pretty stoked about how nice it looked immediately (without any extraneous drivers), and quickly set up the drive to partition the way I like.  From the time I clicked the “INSTALL” button, it took about 15 minutes to be ready to boot into Linux.

So with my OS of choice ready to go, I was all set to restore the /home partition.  This is the part that took longest.  I had the data backed up to my server, so transferring it all over the network was going to take some time.  And I needed to copy over 32 gigs.

I will need to pick up a small bluetooth adapter for the laptop.  I found a bluetooth adapter on NewEgg that apparently works with Ubuntu pretty well.  The other nice part is that it’s small enough that you can just leave it plugged in forever and forget about it.  There are still two more USB ports on the other side, so that should be plenty.  I’m also going to have to reinstall a bunch of extra software that doesn’t get included by default, but that’s not too tough with APT.

Pretty smooth overall, all things considered.

(Partially) Swearing Off DVD

At some point during this week (not sure when, the days and mornings are sort of starting to blend together), I ended up on Amazon browsing at CDs and DVDs.  With so many of my friends and fam now making the jump to BluRay, I realized– maybe I ought to quit buying DVDs (for now) altogether.

Jen agreed that for those films where outstanding picture clarity and sound truly add to the experience, that’s a good idea (your special effects extraveganzas, etc.), but for certain other movies or TV (like The Mosquito Coast, for example, which I’ve got coming next week), it’s probably not vital.  I decided I won’t be collecting any more seasons of Heroes until I’m rockin the BluRay, and ditto for BSG.  There’s just not much point when you know that you’re not getting the best that the current tech has to offer, right?

One point I will not waver on, though, is this: I absolutely refuse to put one more goddamned dime in George frakkin Lucas’s oversized pockets.  I’ve bought your son-of-a-bitchin trilogy 6 times now, Georgey-boy, and that will be quite enough.  I don’t care if the BluRay edition comes with a coupon for a free, lifesize X-Wing fighter replica1, I am done.

Meanwhile, speaking of DVDs, I really need to find a reasonably priced storage medium for discs.  Don’t like the clunky (and expensive) cases, so I’d like to get a book.  But what sort of storage capacity do I really need?  That’s the question.

Hey, since YOU went BluRay, which are your favorite movies so far?  Have you caught yourself licking the screen at any point?  That’s kinda gross, dude, but I understand.

  1. I DO care about that, and if that was the actual offer, I would be at the front of the line. []

Fun With Fonts

Like 20 thousand other Lifehacker readers, I picked up on this post a couple days ago that mentioned a website where you could generate your own hand-written fonts FOR FREE.  It took about 2 and a half days for the traffic to settle down, but early this morning, I was able to get in there and scan in a few different “Bocko” fonts.  The timing on the post was funny, because I had asked Michelle just a day or two before if she knew how to design one’s own font; I have a couple projects on which I’d like to use my own digital handwriting…

Anyway, I was really impressed with how they turned out.  I even changed a few default fonts on my system to use my new handwritten ones instead; we’ll see how long that lasts before it gets too annoying for words (I have a feeling that the first time someone else comes over to the house and sits down at the computer, we’ll need to switch back to something else.  But I can read these JUST fine…).

On the geeky-website-news front, I was excited to see that there should be a bug-fixing version of WordPress due out soon.  I took a look at the list of tickets that have been closed on version 2.7.1, and it seems like a couple of my plugin problems might get fixed.  I’m anxious because there are a couple new features in the next version I’d like to be able to implement here on the site.  I don’t think I’m going to bother testing the beta, but as soon as there is an official x.x.1 release, I’ll be on it.

On the geeky-television-news front, Jen figures that Sylar’s dad is invisible.  In more ways than one, Jen, in more ways than one…

On the sisters’-bithdays front, Christy is 26 today!!  I talked to her yesterday and mentioned that it’s time to start that next quarter-century– no lookin back now; next stop: 30!  Happy b-day, Kid.

Time to head out to work– have a fabulous Wednesday.

A Little Do-Over

So I’m pretty sure I mentioned I got a new camera.  I started using it this past weekend, and I’m going to enjoy shooting with it (some of those photos may be available for viewing right here on this website soon)!

As I imported my images to the photo-catalogging software that I used, I realized that my system for storing pictures is a little bit antiquated; I used to keep a certain number of pictures “sync’d” between my laptop’s hard drive and the server.  Thing is, how often do I really haul my laptop around to show people pictures (unless it’s a special event)?  And secondly, it seems like it would be a lot easier to work on editing pictures when you have them stored locally, versus on a network.

So I trashed the database that my computer had built of the pictures, I did a total reinstall of F-Spot, and I’m starting over with a local storage directory on my desktop machine that will be backed up nightly to the server.  Seems like that fits in a little better with the current state of affairs.

I also overslept this morning and need to start getting ready for work soon, I’ll have to catch you up on the rest of my weekend later on.

Have a good Monday!

Fair Play For All

At work, I usually listen to an Internet radio stream from here or there (or even here), but sometimes I have a hankerin’ to play my own mp3s that I’ve downloaded from my collection at home or brought in my some other means.  I don’t like iTunes or Windows Media Player, so it’s been something of an experimental journey to find a good alternative player.

I messed around for a while with Jajuk, a java-based, cross-platform media player.  It wasn’t bad, but there were certain aspects of the GUI that I wasn’t very font of.  Often, if I just wanted to listen to one specific album at a time, VLC did the job very effectively.  But there were a few ‘CDs’ on which it was having trouble reading the tags.  I didn’t have the time or interest to try to solve that problem.

I revisited Songbird instead.  I’ve had it installed as a means of testing the ‘subscription’ functionality of our podcast.  While the ‘bird still doesn’t seem to handle that feed the right way, the current 1.0.x version has come a long way from when the project was first announced (in Internet time, approximately a thousand years ago).  I built a small “library” from the tunes I have on this harddrive, and one of the coolest things about the software (like any Gecko-based product) is the extensibility that you can get through plugins and add-ons.  There seems to be a large and continually expanding array of options that you can tack on to your Songbird player; they’ve come on a lot faster than I expected.  If you’re so inclined, give it a look.  If I can get a “album shuffle” plugin, I would consider switching from Amarok at home…

K, I’m going to go back to listening to this record that I produced, back when I was a record producer