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OS Quest Trail Log

The OS Quest Trail Log #4

 

New Ground

I spent my free computer time this week organizing my photos and moving them from iPhoto into Aperture. The one feature that has me into Aperture is the way it handles edits. The original photo is in Aperture once as a master and any number of edits can be made. Each edit is simply the settings that need to be applied to the master, not a copy of the photo. iPhoto has one edit per photo and the edit replaces the master for all actions (although the master is saved and can be restored). Multiple edits require making copies of the photos.

I also looked at online photo sites. Actually I looked briefly and then spent most of the time digging into Flickr. I like Flickr because of it’s ability to organize photos with tags, sets and collections and also give them various levels of access. I uploaded about 1,000 photos to Flickr but only about 20 of them are public. Another subset are available to Family and a whole bunch are private.

I also looked at Photobucket and Picassa Web Albums. Photobucket’s Album (sub-albums actually) structure seemed cumbersome to me. I also couldn’t find how to do (and view) tagging even though the upload tool I tried supported tags. Picassa Web Albums was also album oriented but supported tags. Flickr just seemed more flexible and a better fit for me.

I found out that I actually had the “Pro” account because ATT/Yahoo is my ISP so if you have ATT/Yahoo check your account page in Flickr. It was news to me.

More Upgrades and Patches

The upgrade/patch cycle continued this week.

WordPress 2.2.2 was released about 3 weeks ago and I finally got around to upgrading my blogs. One benefit of procrastinating waiting is that the Fantastico scripts (used by Bluehost) have been updated and can be used to quickly upgrade. It fixes 10 bugs including a cross-site scripting vulnerability.

iMovie ’08 (a.k.a. version 7) was updated to version 7.0.1. According to the update it “addresses issues associated with publishing to .Mac Web Gallery. It also improves overall stability and addresses a number of other minor issues.” I’ve yet to fire up iMovie ’08 but applied the update anyway. It was a 10.4MB download through Software Update for me on my Mac’s. No reboot is needed.

Pathfinder, one of my must have Mac apps, was updated from 4.7.1(385) to 4.7.2(389) awhile back but I didn’t get around to updating it until this week. It’s primarily a bug fix release.

I upgraded, iPhoto Library Manager to version 3.3 which added support for iPhoto ’08 and a few other things. I had been using version 3.2.5 to start the different iPhoto libraries I had, but I avoided using any additional features. I immediately used it to create a library and move photos from an existing library to the new library. I talk about my first use of iPhoto Library Manager here. It’s young and needs to grow, but I’m intrigued.

I also updated to Parallels 3 but already talked about that.

Links & News

  • Wakoopa – I usually find things that track me creepy. And at first Wakoopa fell into that category but I found I liked it and it wasn’t too much information, especially for a website like The OS Quest. Wakoopa is a Web 2.0 social site built around software. I signed up and installed their tracking software on my iMac and iBook so far. It tracks the software I use and sends it to my profile. Profiles can be public or private. I made mine public and it can be viewed here.

…about one of the great wonders of capitalism: It is driven by morons who are circling the drain, and yet. . . it works!

  • Saturday Was Pirate Day – In another shining example of how DRM helps us consumers Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage system suffered an outage over the weekend. Original reports said it may be out until Tuesday but it was back online after a day. There were numerous stories, here’s the one from Ars Technica. Customers trying to validate couldn’t and anyone who needed to re-validate couldn’t. If Vista can’t validate it goes into “Reduced Functionality Mode” (let the jokes begin).
  • MacToSchool is offering $300 worth of Mac software for $50. Worth it if the software is worth more than $50 to you.
  • Dean Robinson is the guy who designed the Redoable theme that I’m using for this site. He recently redesigned his own website and it’s worth checking out. He has some great web designs.
Categories
Internet OS

Google Apps for My Domain – Part 1

the Google Apps LogoThis article is obsolete. Images and broken external links have been removed.

I’ve completed my move to Google Apps and now all my mail goes into my inbox there, one way or the the other. In Part 1 I’ll cover the domain setup and IMAP mail migration using the migration tool, while in part 2 I’ll cover the features that are available to all GMail users.

My reasons for moving to Google Apps were:

  • Sometimes they can be a bit creepy but I trust them as much as I trust any other ISP or mail provider.
  • I want to provide email to family members.
  • My current setup has my mail provided by Bluehost as part of my hosting service. This pretty much puts me in charge of the email server. I just don’t want to have to worry about backups and email problems. It was OK when I was the only one using it, but if I’m going to bring other’s on board it’s just a disaster waiting to happen.
  • EMail is not tied to an ISP.
  • GMail has the best spam filter I’ve ever used.

Google Apps includes Mail (including Talk & Calendar), Docs & Spreadsheets, Personal Start Page and Page Creator. There are two versions, free and Premium. Free allows 2GB for email and is ad supported. Premium allows 10GB for email and allows the ads to be turned off. Premium also has a 99.9% email uptime guarantee, along with mail migration tools and integration tools a business may look for. My only interest in Google Apps is for email.

I started with the free edition but quickly signed up for the 30 day Premium trial so that I can use the IMAP mail migration tools that’s included.

Domain Structure

The domain I use for email is my primary domain with my Bluehost account but there’s no website associated with it. While I *should* be able to use the same domain as the primary domain with Google Apps I decide to be cautious since I’ve never done this before. I registered a new domain with 1&1 and use it as the primary domain with Google Apps. The domains I’ll use are (not the real names):

myfamilyblue.com – this is primary domain with Bluehost and the domain I use with email. I want to use this domain for email addresses.

myfamilyga.com – this is a new domain I’ll register and use as the primary domain for Google Apps. This will be available for email addresses and deliver to the same mailboxes as the other domain, but I won’t hand out the domain name.

In addition, while I can change MX records myself with Bluehost I have to go through tech support to change CName records. With 1&1 I can change both MX and CName records. This means I can make changes myself without having to go through tech support. This will be less annoying to me and less annoying for them if I decide to undo changes.

For the subdomains I’ll want mail.myfamilyga.com to access mail but I’ll use the default URLs for the other tools. You don’t need to use subdomains since Google Apps will give you URLs but I wanted the sub-domain for easy access to the frequently used mail. I can setup redirection for the subdomains of myfamilyblue.com to redirect to the Google App URLs.

There are additional restrictions if you buy the domain from Google, such as not being able to cancel Google Apps for a year. I’ll use my own domain that’s already registered.

Setting Up the Domain

  1. I registered the new domain, myfamilyga.com, at 1&1 and waited for the DNS to replicate.
  2. Then I registered with Google Apps for Domains. I set up the first user during registration and this will is the admin ID.
  3. Google does create a test address so you can test email before changing your MX records. The address is displayed when you first set up Google Apps.
  4. I need to verify the domain with Google before the services will actually start working. Google provides a couple of ways to do this. Either copy a specific html file to the site or create a CName record. I went the CName record route since I wanted one anyway. Google provides instructions for various domain hosts and I used the ones they provided for 1&1. In the case of 1&1 I needed to create a sub-domain then go in and create a CName record for that sub-domain and point it to ghs.google.com. I didn’t have to wait for this to replicate before I could continue, although it does need to replicate before email can be fully used.

    Note: It’s a bit hidden in the help but Google also allows a MX record to verify domain registration. So if your mail system is ready to go you can just create the MX record. Remember, mail deliver will go to Google once the MX record is created so make sure all users are created if they have mailboxes on another server. My domain verification seemed slow so I created an MX record and then verification completed immediately. It may have been a coincidence.

  5. The next step is to set up the users which will also create the mailboxes. I already created a user name for myself while setting up Google Apps. So I set up nicknames for all the other mailboxes and forwarding addresses that I had set up on the old myfamilyblue.com.
  6. The next step is to change the MX records for the domain. As soon as the MX records are changed all the email will start going to GMail so you’ll want all the users set up before making the change. In my case I have a new domain so I changed the MX records immediately so they have time to replicate. The MX record information provided by Google is here. The setup may vary depending on your domain host. Just make sure the entries are in the order listed by Google and that the priorities go from higher to lower. My setup for 1and1 MX records is shown below (click for full screen).
  7. Since I wanted multiple domains reporting into Google Apps I went into the “Domain Settings” section, “Domain Names” tab and added the myfamilyblue.com domain as an alias. Then I went to Bluehost and changed the MX records. Here’s how to set up the MX records at Bluehost.
  8. Test mail delivery to the users that have been set up. It may take time for the MX records to take effect.

You can use this NSLOOKUP(kloth.net) tool to see if the CName and MX records have changed on your DNS server. Enter your domain in the domain field and enter the DNS server (from your hosting/DNS provider) in the server field, then select the record type from the dropdown list. If you registered a new domain in step 1 it may take time for the change to replicate through the internet. For the first 48 hours the query may show your DNS server has the correct information but the rest of the internet may not know that your domain info is on that server.

IMAP Mail Import

I registered for the free-trial of the premium version so I could use the IMAP migration tool. My Bluehost email was in IMAP mailboxes and was the bulk of my EMail.

The IMAP email migration tool is under the “Advanced Tools” tab (premium edition only). I set up the server connection to Bluehost. For server software I picked “Cyrus” (first choice for trial and error) no security and port 143. Some mail systems may require an “IMAP Path” such as “Inbox”. I told the wizard I’d specify a few accounts and then I entered the user id and logon information for the accounts to migrate. I was pulling everything into my one new GMail mailbox.

The migration took some time, about 45 minutes in my case, and is dependent on quantity and size. A progress bar displays the status or you can click into the details and see how many emails have been migrated. As the mail was pulled in the migration tool added two tags, one was the email address of the old mailbox and the other was the full folder path that the email was in. The tagging was an unexpected and nice bonus.

My AOL My eAddress mailboxes are also IMAP mailboxes. I tried the migration tool on them but always received errors soon after the migration began. I only had about 100 emails in those mailboxes and only a couple of folders. So after a few migration failures I went to plan B. The My eAddress mailboxes were already set up in Thunderbird so I created a new IMAP mailbox on Bluehost, added it to Thunderbird and dragged the AOL email to the new account. Then I used the IMAP import utility to pull it into GMail.

Summary

At this point I had GMail working in my own domain. I really don’t have an interest in the other Google App pieces.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • I have two domains. When I set up a user ID it gets one mailbox that is addressable with both domains. So ray -at- myfamilyblue.com and ray -at- myfamilyga.com deliver mail to the same user mailbox.
  • Nicknames can be set up for users. I consolidated all my myfamilyblue.com mailboxes and forwarding addresses into one GMail mailbox by setting up a nickname for each one.

In part 2 I’ll cover importing mail from POP accounts (such as my other GMail accounts) and consolidating all my email in this one mailbox. All things which are available with regular GMail accounts.

Categories
OS Quest Trail Log

The OS Quest Trail Log #3

Upgrades – Patches – Please Stop the Madness

It seems like all I did this past week was patch and upgrade. I already mentioned the iWeb ’08 update.

Microsoft released 9 security updates so it took awhile to patch my VMs.

Apple also updated Boot Camp to version 1.4 and I got around to updating it this week.

VMWare Fusion also moved out of beta recently. I’d been running the beta version on my MacBook and finally got around to upgrading it to the final release. I haven’t upgraded to the latest Parallels version yet so it’s not really fair to compare, but I’ve been very impressed with VMWare’s Fusion. The Parallels upgrade is on tap for this week.

CNet’s Crave blog has a comparison of Parallels Desktop for Mac and VMWare Fusion, along with Boot Camp and CrossOver Mac 6.0. From a pure performance perspective VMWare Fusion came out on top although their conclusion was:

All that said, if you all you need to do is run more pedestrian Windows applications on your Mac, such as Outlook or Excel, you are not likely to notice significant performance differences between any of the virtualization options mentioned here–for less resource-intensive applications, the performance of any of these virtulization applications is probably fast enough.

Then there was the iLife ’08 upgrade. So far I’m not overly impressed with the update to iPhoto. I use it mainly as a organizer, not an editor. Some of the features improve organization but at the price of performance. The pinwheel makes a frequent appearance when I’m using the upgraded iPhoto.

I also installed iWork ’08 and fired up Pages enough to know it at least presents a nice clean screen for typing and doesn’t force me into page layout mode.

A couple of other programs I use have prompted me to let me know they have upgrades available too. But so far I’ve held off upgrading them so they’ll be some more upgrades next week too. Wonder if I’ll have time to actually use some software this week?

MacMozy

The last update to MacMozy is still causing me problems. It has a habit of getting stuck in a “Backup started…” state with no files processed. It hasn’t been too much of a problem because I’ve been turning off my iMac during the day when I’m at work and MacMozy usually runs fine between reboots. It’s also fine on my MacBook which gets shutdown after each use. It’s on weekends like this, when my iMac stays on, that I have problems. I’m hoping the problem just goes away with the next update.

News

  • The addition of Numbers to iWork ’08 won’t kill off Microsoft Office, but it does appear to have claimed Apple Works as its first victim. The AppleWorks page is gone from Apple, www.apple.com/appleworks redirects to the Support page for Apple Works. So it appears Apple has killed off Apple Works. Apple Works came with my first Mac Mini and as much as I wanted to like and use it I just couldn’t, so I can’t say I’ll miss it.

Links

Software Links

Links to software I’ve come across but haven’t had a chance to try out yet. Post a comment if you have any experience with them.

  • FastApps – Automator actions for Apple software. FastApps includes: FastBackPic, FastMusic, FastDVD, FastWebSite, and FastSlide
  • Lifehacker brought a link to OpenProj. OpenProj is a free, open-source project management application intended to replace Microsoft Project.
  • Lifehacker has a Mac link this time with Drive-In, a DVD ripper for the Mac. It’s currently free in beta form but may stop being free when it leaves beta.
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Random Access

Big Waste of Time and Energy Launched

[Update: This site is no longer available.]

I finally opened up my new WordPress blog – Big Waste of Time and Energy (osquest.com).

I’ve been posting to it for a couple of weeks to see what it would turn into and to see if I’d keep posting to it. I really didn’t pick the name as a theme but it seems to have turned into one. Why I picked the name is covered in the first post.

The blog is hosted on WordPress.com so I don’t have to worry about software upgrades and website maintenance. Head on over for a visit and let me know what you think.

Categories
OS Quest Trail Log

The OS Quest Trail Log #2

It’s only been four days since my last log entry but I want to get on a weekly cycle with these and weekends seem to be the best time to do it. So here goes…

Google Apps

I continue to use Google Apps and like it. Really all I use it for is email, but it’s allowed me to consolidate all my email addresses into one mailbox for delivery. I finally got the hang of using search and labels (aka tags) rather than folders and it makes things much quicker and more efficient.

I never thought I’d see the day but I no longer use a desktop email client, it’s all web based. That does scare me a bit so I’ll probably set up Thunderbird or Mail.app to suck down the email on a regular basis so I have a local copy.

MacMozy

My Mozy Mac backup software had been a solid performer until I updated to the latest version on the 9th. Today the backup hung up in a “Backup Started” mode. It’s been that way for 10 hours. I just clicked cancel and it’s still hung up. If this is the same problem I had several version ago it’ll stay that way until a reboot (or I manually kill and restart all the processes.)

Blog at WordPress.com

My new blog is going along well. Looks like I haven’t been wasting my time and will probably make it public next week. Because WordPress.com hosts the blogs they are restrictions on what can be changed and added. The boundaries are good for me as it keeps me from going down the ratholes of themes, plugins and widgets. This blog is for the ratholes.

.Mac Returns

I subscribed to .Mac again. It’s one of those things I couldn’t stay away from. Now that I have a laptop that I use a lot it’s beneficial for me to sync with it. Standalone Sync software costs $50 or so. .Mac is an extra $30 or so (don’t buy it from Apple unless you get it bundled with a new Mac). The extra disk space, now 10GB, helps a lot since I can use it as a data directory for just about everything I want on the laptop and it will automatically be backed up and synced with my iMac. I’m still liking Yojimbo and will probably keep it so the .Mac sync for Yojimbo is a real plus.

New Software

My copies of iLife ’08 and iWork ’08 arrived late in the week. I haven’t had a chance to really dig into the software.

For iPhoto ’08 the Events seem to be simply rolls renamed. Except now they make sense and the new features make them more useful. Of course I was burned. Rolls were so useless that I simply combined all my photos into about a dozen rolls of over 1000 photos each. Getting them into events may be more trouble than it’s worth. I haven’t had a chance to dig into anything else.

For iWork (yea, I broke down and bought it) I like Pages now. It seems more accessible to someone like me who just needs a simple document every now and then. Numbers seems really cool. In typical Apple fashion they seem to be emphasizing looks. There’s 18 templates most of which are heavy on the eye candy. The UI elements that stand out are related to styles and formatting.

Bits and Pieces From the Web

Power Replacements for Built-In Windows Utilities (Lifehacker) – All free

Microsoft has released Vista Performance and Compatibility updates – But not through Windows Update yet.

Wired has a BitTorrent starter Guide.

iMovie ’08 Users Can use iMovie ’06 (TUAW) – Some people don’t like the completely rewritten iMovie ’08. Apple has a download available for them so they can also use iMovie ’06.

How have your travels along the PC trail been this week?

Categories
OS Quest Trail Log

The OS Quest Trail Log #1

It’d time to introduce the “Trail” to the OS Quest blog. It seems like the type of thing that should be done on a weekend, or maybe just once a month, or maybe whenever I can fill a post. (I’ve really thought this through) I’ll recap the things I’ve been working on and the things I’m thinking of working on in my little world of personal computers. I’ll also throw in tidbits I’ve come across but don’t warrant their own post (or I don’t have time to do them justice).

Blog “Re-envisioning”

This is just a fancy way of saying I’ve been looking for a way to keep blogging and computers interesting by changing things up. So the Trail Log is one way to keep blogging regularly and to be able to move among different projects depending on what I feel like doing at the moment without feeling the need to finish up something so I can post about it.

And less face it. By keeping track of things as I move along, rather then at the end I’ll be able to answer the question “What the hell was a thinking?” six months later.

Google Apps (formerly known as Google Apps for Domains)

I started considering Google Apps mainly as a family email solution. For better or worse I decided to jump right in and committed to it. Bluehost does provide email and I’ve been using that primarily. But two things concerned me. The first was the lack of SSL or other secure connections (this can be remedied at added cost) and the second was that really didn’t really want to be my own email support if I added family members.

Naturally I made it a little more complicated than it had to be but I ended up where I wanted. I’ll provide more details in a future post.

While some of the things Google does creeps me out I basically trust them as much as my ISP (AT&T/Yahoo) and other email choices. Google shows me more respect using their free product than I get from AT&T/Yahoo as a paying customer. I took the Premiere free trial so I could use their email migration tool but I’ll probably go back to the free version. I have three domains pointed to Google apps for email (like I said, more complicated than it needed to be.)

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the free blog hosting service offered by the WordPress people. My motivation here is two-fold:

  1. Due to the whole “blog re-envisioning” thing I’m considering doing another more general blog and I don’t think I want to make this one more general.
  2. Along with family email there may be some family blogs or websites in the future so I want to get familiar with it and the best way I can do that is use it.
  3. (yea, I know I said two-fold) A minor reason is I don’t want to add the full support for another website or blog at this time.

Photobucket/Flickr/Picasa

Keeping with the general trend of webs services that family can use but I don’t have a lot of support issues. At least not issues specific to keeping software going. In addition, WordPress.com seems to lend itself to hosting media on one of these sites.

I’m leaning to Photobucket but haven’t decided. Any suggestions or potholes?

Google Reader

I’ve also switched to Google Reader over the last month. When Google Reader first came out I didn’t like it and I guess just didn’t get it. I’d been using Yahoo’s web email client to read some feeds and then using the Mac specific Newsfire (received with Macheist bundle). I never really liked either one of those. I tried Google Reader since it was browser based and I could get to it from anywhere, unlike Yahoo (my company block web email so the built in RSS was collateral damage) and Newsfire. After a couple of weeks of forcing myself to use Google Reader my brain cells lined up and I got “it”. The “it” being the benefit of RSS over visiting the sites from my blogroll links. The couple of weeks time-line isn’t fair to Google Reader, I’d frequently just go to the website instead, especially the first week where it was more not using the old reader than using Google Reader. But now I’ve gone from a handful of subscriptions to 78 and I’m more efficient.

What RSS reader are you using? Any experience with Google Reader?

Yojimbo

I’ve started using Yojimbo (a Mac info organizer by Barebones Software). I was going to look at various options before picking one but I decided to save time and go with Yojimbo. It doesn’t have the longest feature list but it seems to be the easiest to use. I don’t make a living doing research, I’ll give up features for ease of use. I’m still in the trial period and only have a few records entered but unless I find a problem I’ll be buying it.

Bits and Pieces from the Web

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of articles that annoy me and find that AT&T is at the root. In another case of AT&T disrespecting their customers CrunchGear has an article about AT&T raising rates and cutting service to customers using legacy systems. Come on AT&T, wanting them off is fine, send them a letter saying the service is ending by XX/XX/XX. Maybe even show good faith and offer a special deal to upgrade. Instead you screw them.

During last Tuesday’s Apple event TUAW.COM posted an article about someone who noticed a new icon was on Steve Jobs PC and they speculated it was for Numbers. I realize Apple is the master of hype but is it really a scoop and all that important to try a “break” news during an event that will make the announcement?

Kudos to Talino.org for posting an article on how to delete the U3 partition from USB thumbdrives that have them. I had to do it once and I couldn’t do it from a Mac. The article tells us how to do it when the software’s been broken by a reformat attempt on a Mac. Guess I was lucky, windows was handy for me. U3 is such a bad idea, I avoid buying USB keys with it even if I pay a dollar or two more.

Since I’m bashing AT&T I’ll end with one more anti-AT&T mention. AT&T made news by saying no one wants $10 DSL. They say their not hiding it, although others say it’s hard to find, and even they admit it’s not shown as an option until a phone number is entered.

That’s all for the first Trail Log. What have been your experiences this week?