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OS Quest Trail Log

The OS Quest Trail Log #25: WHS Edition

It was a week of Windows and Windows Home Server. I set up the UPS on the WHS. Then I did a factory reset due to some problems I was experiencing. After the factory reset things improved. No more sever power-offs and access from my Macs was problem free. So I then took the potentially warranty voiding step of upgrading the memory to 2GB.

With the WHS sorted out I was ready to start using it. I’ve been ripping some DVDs and saving them up to the server. I’m using MacTheRipper which extracts files from the DVD. It doesn’t do any encoding or format conversion. Unfortunately these files are too big to stream to my Mac Mini (on 802.11g) and can’t be used with the Apple TV.  So I’m considering ripping the DVD’s using Handbrake to re-encode and compress the files. I still need to figure out which will be the best format for me to use.

Once the Windows Home Server was sorted I installed Windows Vista Home Premium under VMware on my MacBook. It replaces the Vista Ultimate WM which I’ll move to my iMac. The main reason for this (besides being a new flavor of Vista) is that Vista Home Premium doesn’t support remote desktop. This won’t be a problem on my MacBook and I get try out WHS remote access to Vista on my iMac.

Software Updates

The updates slowed down this week. Just a quick keyboard firmware update for my MacBook and a minor iTunes update. There’s also an update to Skype that’s been out awhile but I still haven’t gotten around to updating it.

Then there’s the Aperture 2 update that I still haven’t gotten around to trying.

Frustration

It was a nice calm week on the quest without an frustrations worth mentioning.

The Upcoming Week

I’m not willing to guess what I’ll be doing this week. I started working through the Apple videos about Aperture 2. I have to give Apple credit for coming out with a complete series of tutorial videos.

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OS Quest Trail Log

The OS Quest Trail Log #24: Hardware and Software Updates Edition

Another busy week on the OS Quest but a lot of it felt like running in place due to the continued onslaught of software updates. The big updates, at least based on size and time, were OS X 10.5.2 and the follow-up Leopard Graphics Update. There were two other big updates, based on the software and features delivered, Aperture 2 and Apple TV Take 2. There were also the minor updates – Microsoft Patch Tuesday, a minor update for Yojimbo, and iLife ’08 update.

In among these updates I moved my dormant Spam Chronicles site to be hosted as a WordPress.com blog and had my first full week with my new inkjet printer.

Canon Pixma iP3500 Photo Printer

I’ve been running the Canon Pixma iP3500 Photo Printer for a little over a week. I bought it at Amazon for $57 delivered so I can’t complain about the price. That’s barely more than the cost of the included ink, which may say more about ink prices than the printer price. It’s a basic printer in every sense of the word. There’s no card slots or networking connections.

One feature I really like is the two paper feeds. There’s a rear feed that folds out from the printer and can handle any paper type. There’s also a front feed that’s just below the output. The front feed can only be used with plain/regular paper because the paper path has to bend around a roller. I set the driver to print from the front whenever plain paper is selected and keep about 80 sheets in the feed (the manual says 100 sheets can be fit there). In rare cases where I want another paper type I can put it in the rear feed and still have plain paper available.

Another nice feature is the auto on/off. The printer will power itself on when a print job is sent and will power off after 5 minutes of inactivity. The power off timer is configurable as 5, 10, 15, 30 or 60 minutes.

Because the printer is not within reach of my desk I really appreciate these two features.

When the printer is actually printing it’s pretty quiet, but it’s noisy when the paper is first fed into the printer or when it’s charging the ink. There is a quiet mode but a didn’t notice a difference when it was enabled. Print speed is very good.

Some people complained about jamming but I haven’t experienced any problems yet, with my largest document topping out at 12 pages.

I would call the print quality very good for a general purpose printer. The test photos I printed weren’t a good as the output from my Epson, but this printer is a fraction of the cost. The printer uses four inks, black, cyan, magenta and yellow. CNet has a full review and rates the printer a “7.4 – very good”

Software Updates

Since getting all my Macs on OS X 10.5.2 things have been a bit more stable. In the end I had to recreate the local iDisk on each of my Macs just like I had to on my iMac.

I did have a problem with SuperDuper on my iMac after the 10.5.2 upgrade. The scheduled updates were failing when it got to one of my WHS shares (which it had always correctly ignored in the past). But then there were other problems, such as not being able to change the target or source drives. The solution to the last one was to reboot my iMac and then I could do a manual clone. By the time a scheduled update rolled around I had rebuilt my Windows Home Server so it’s hard to say whether the reboot or the rebuild fixed the original problem.

Apple TV Take 2 still seems nice. I like the way both the content on my iMac and content local to the Apple TV is mixed together in the menus. I did notice some slowness in Apple TV performance in the menus. Sometimes it’s a bit slow organizing the podcasts or tv shows which can be confusing as things appear multiple times until they’re organized. Scrolling though content can also be slow at times as it tries to load the preview picture. This causes missed clicks which can be annoying. They also seem to put store content ahead of my own content (in menus) which struck me as a bit self-serving at first. But the more I thought about it maybe it may make sense for the way people will use the device – to find rentals and online content.

I haven’t installed Aperture 2 yet but I’m looking forward to diving into it. I’m thinking of starting over with an empty library and going through Apple’s video tutorials. Since I never really got into the old Aperture it’s not a lot of rework.

Frustrations

My main frustration this week was with my Windows Home Server. I was having two very annoying problems:

  1. It would power itself off randomly. Nothing in the event logs other than the typical “Previous shutdown was unexpected” message. It happened occasionally for the last couple of weeks. Never when I was using it and usually overnight. Then it recently became more common with two occurrences on Saturday alone.
  2. My Macs were having problems connecting using IDs/Passwords saved in the keychain. I actually considered this more of a OS X keychain problem introduced by by 10.5.2 but there’s a slight chance it was WHS.

Possibly related to the second problem, the WHS name matched my .Mac ID. While I don’t really think this would cause any problems renaming the WHS would eliminate it as a potential problem. It would also allow me to use a less confusing, more appropriate server name.

So I Saturday I did a factory reset on my HP EX475 Windows Home Server. This wiped out everything (user IDs, data, etc…) on the server. I didn’t have much unique data on it so saving the data wasn’t a problem. Rather than take half-steps to troubleshoot the problem I went right to the “rebuild everything” solution. I’m considering upgrading the memory (to allow more add-ins) which will probably void the warranty (at least complicate things) so if there are hardware problems I want to identify them now and HP will probably require a factory reset before replacing the box. This wasn’t too bad, it took about 90 minutes to do the rebuild, excluding the time needed to copy my 150GB media library back to the server.

The Upcoming Week & Beyond

The aforementioned Windows Home Server upgrade will hopefully take place next weekend if the parts arrive. I’ve ordered memory and two 500GB hard drives to max out the internal bays. I’m also trying to figure out how to re-organize the ever growing size of my files and still have good backups. My 500GB iMac disk is over 80% full and it’s growing.

I hope to get back on track building the Ubuntu server but I just haven’t had a block of time big enough to concentrate on it. Didn’t I say this last week?

That’s all for this week’s Trail Log.

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Websites & Domains

Self-Hosted WordPress to Hosted WordPress.com

This article refers to an obsolete website. Links to it have been removed.

My Spam Chronicles site has been dormant since August. There’s a minor WordPress upgrade out now and a major one looming. I don’t want to spend the time needed to upgrade and I don’t want to run old, possibly vulnerable, software. Rather than kill the site I decided to move it to WordPress.com. WordPress.com is the hosted WordPress environment and would relieve me of the of the upgrade burden.

I didn’t want to kill off the site, I didn’t want to invest the time needed for upgrades, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time moving the site. So, WordPress.com seemed like the logical choice. They provided a free hosting environment and since I was already using WordPress the migration should be simple.

While the hosting is free I wanted to keep the www.spamchronicles.com address. This is a $10/yr. option.

In looking at WordPress.com I saw three minor problems.

1. The permalink structure of WordPress.com is not configurable and it did not match the permalink structure of my site. I figured links to my site will be broken. I was willing to accept this as the site usually has less than six visitors a day. I ended up being wrong about this and the old URLs where redirected to the correct page and Google search results continued to work.

2. WordPress.com does not allow advertising. I probably had a few affiliate links in my articles that I’d have to hunt down and remove. I didn’t expect this to be very time consuming and in fact only took me less than 15 minutes.

3. The third problem was pictures. Since WordPress.com is a hosted blog I had no access to the file system so I couldn’t just copy the graphic files. I’d have to upload them individually. I didn’t have many files so while this would probably be the most time consuming step it wasn’t unreasonable. This took me less than an hour while I also watched TV.

Move Checklist

The is what I did to move the site:

1. I exported the site (posts, comments, custom fields, tags, categories) using the Export command in the Admin pages of the old site. Export is listed under the manage tab.

This resulted in a xml file being saved to my local drive. There’s a 3MB import limit on WordPress.com, my file was well under that.

2. I turned off the “notify blogs” option in the admin panel (Options -> Discussion) so that any edits I make won’t spam other blogs with duplicate notifications.

2. I opened the XML file in a text editor (I use Smultron). I searched for my affiliate links and either deleted or edited the post on the live site. I also deleted all posts in the SideNotes category on the live site.

3. Once all the updates were done I did a second export to get an updated xml file.

4. I set up the blog at wordpress.com with the name spamchronicles.wordpress.com. Among the configuration changes I made was to also turn off notifications for this blog (same as step 2) so that the import and subsequent edits won’t spam sites with multiple notifications. Then I ran through the options tab in the admin console and set things for my preferences.

5. Once I knew the site was ready I went to my domain manager and set the DNS server to the WordPress.com DNS server (NS1.WORDPRESS.COM, NS2.WORDPRESS.COM, NS3.WORDPRESS.COM). It’s takes awhile for this change to propagate.

6. I imported the xml file from the original site. This added all the posts, comments, tags & categories. Because the old site was still valid in DNS (the DNS server change hadn’t propagated yet) the pictures were still shown. I went through and uploaded/re-pointed the images to the wordpress.com address. This was easy to do since I keep a site backup on my local drive and the backup directory structure was the same.

7. It took a few hours for the DNS change to propagate. Once it did I was able to go into the “Upgrades” tab of the Admin panel and select the domain upgrade. You can’t add the domain until the DNS propagates so you’ll receive an error if it’s too early. Once the DNS propagates I was presented with the steps to spend the $10 and set up the domain.

At this point the site is accessible using www.spamchronicles.com and I’m done.

Because the permalink style had changed I had expected the old links to break. But what I found is that they are being redirected. On the original site my article about blocking IntelliTxt adds was at http://www.spamchronicles.com/pop-up-ads/block-intellitxt-ads/ while at the new site it’s at http://spamchronicles.com/2007/04/01/block-intellitxt-ads/. When I click the link in the Google search results it’s properly redirected to the correct page at my new site.

I still have the old sites files and database up so if I had to go back to it all I’d have to do is change the DNS servers back to my old host. But things seem to be going OK so I’ll probably clean up all the old stuff over the weekend and be done with it.

All totaled, it was about 2 hours of actual work and I no longer have to worry about upgrading the site in order to plug vulnerabilities.

Categories
Websites & Domains

Self-Hosted WordPress to WordPress.com

The Spam Chronicles site no longer exists. Obsolete images and links have been removed from this post.

My Spam Chronicles site has been dormant since August. There’s a minor WordPress upgrade out now and a major one looming. I don’t want to spend the time needed to upgrade and I don’t want to run old, possibly vulnerable, software. Rather than kill the site I decided to move it to WordPress.com. WordPress.com is the hosted WordPress environment and would relieve me of the of the upgrade burden.

I didn’t want to kill off the site, I didn’t want to invest the time needed for upgrades, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time moving the site. So, WordPress.com seemed like the logical choice. They provided a free hosting environment and since I was already using WordPress the migration should be simple.

While the hosting is free I wanted to keep the www.spamchronicles.com address. This is a $10/yr. option.

In looking at WordPress.com I saw three minor problems.

1. The permalink structure of WordPress.com is not configurable and it did not match the permalink structure of my site. I figured links to my site will be broken. I was willing to accept this as the site usually has less than six visitors a day. I ended up being wrong about this and the old URLs where redirected to the correct page and Google search results continued to work.

2. WordPress.com does not allow advertising. I probably had a few affiliate links in my articles that I’d have to hunt down and remove. I didn’t expect this to be very time consuming and in fact only took me less than 15 minutes.

3. The third problem was pictures. Since WordPress.com is a hosted blog I had no access to the file system so I couldn’t just copy the graphic files. I’d have to upload them individually. I didn’t have many files so while this would probably be the most time consuming step it wasn’t unreasonable. This took me less than an hour while I also watched TV.

Move Checklist

The is what I did to move the site:

1. I exported the site (posts, comments, custom fields, tags, categories) using the Export command in the Admin pages of the old site. Export is listed under the manage tab.

This resulted in a xml file being saved to my local drive. There’s a 3MB import limit on WordPress.com, my file was well under that.

2. I turned off the “notify blogs” option in the admin panel (Options -> Discussion) so that any edits I make won’t spam other blogs with duplicate notifications.

2. I opened the XML file in a text editor (I use Smultron). I searched for my affiliate links and either deleted or edited the post on the live site. I also deleted all posts in the SideNotes category on the live site.

3. Once all the updates were done I did a second export to get an updated xml file.

4. I set up the blog at wordpress.com with the name spamchronicles.wordpress.com. Among the configuration changes I made was to also turn off notifications for this blog (same as step 2) so that the import and subsequent edits won’t spam sites with multiple notifications. Then I ran through the options tab in the admin console and set things for my preferences.

5. Once I knew the site was ready I went to my domain manager and set the DNS server to the WordPress.com DNS server (NS1.WORDPRESS.COM, NS2.WORDPRESS.COM, NS3.WORDPRESS.COM). It’s takes awhile for this change to propagate.

6. I imported the xml file from the original site. This added all the posts, comments, tags & categories. Because the old site was still valid in DNS (the DNS server change hadn’t propagated yet) the pictures were still shown. I went through and uploaded/re-pointed the images to the wordpress.com address. This was easy to do since I keep a site backup on my local drive and the backup directory structure was the same.

7. It took a few hours for the DNS change to propagate. Once it did I was able to go into the “Upgrades” tab of the Admin panel and select the domain upgrade. You can’t add the domain until the DNS propagates so you’ll receive an error if it’s too early. Once the DNS propagates I was presented with the steps to spend the $10 and set up the domain. Once it’s set up I have the following screen on the domains tab.

At this point the site is accessible using www.spamchronicles.com and I’m done.

Because the permalink style had changed I had expected the old links to break. But what I found is that they are being redirected. On the original site my article about blocking IntelliTxt adds was at http://www.spamchronicles.com/pop-up-ads/block-intellitxt-ads/ while at the new site it’s at http://spamchronicles.com/2007/04/01/block-intellitxt-ads/. When I click the link in the Google search results it’s properly redirected to the correct page at my new site.

I still have the old sites files and database up so if I had to go back to it all I’d have to do is change the DNS servers back to my old host. But things seem to be going OK so I’ll probably clean up all the old stuff over the weekend and be done with it.

All totaled, it was about 2 hours of actual work and I no longer have to worry about upgrading the site in order to plug vulnerabilities.

Categories
OS Quest Trail Log

The OS Quest Trail Log #23: Update Edition

It’s been two weeks since the last trail log and pretty much all that’s happened on the quest is a bunch of software updates. I won’t bother mentioning them all again or linking to the posts. Clicking the previous post link down at the bottom of each post will scroll you through them if your not reading this in the feed or on the main page.

I’ve had even more updates than the ones I’ve mentioned in previous posts:

MacMozy was updated to MacMozy 0.9.1 and the release notes call it a release candidate. It seems to be working fine but I haven’t had a chance to do my usual backup/restore testing. Mozy has since posted MacMozy 0.9.2 although I haven’t downloaded it yet. I hope to download it this week and do my backup/restore testing.

VMware Fusion was updated to version 1.1.1. I didn’t have any problem installing it on my MacBook. I did have a problem on my iMac. I think I have the iMac issue worked out although I haven’t tested all my VMs yet. I’ll have more about VMware Fusion once I’ve had a chance to use it awhile. But so far the way it maps the OS X keyboard shortcuts to windows is a big hit for me.

WordPress 2.3.3 was released on February 5th and it’s primarily security update although it includes a could of bug fixes. I didn’t want to go through a full WordPress upgrade so I followed the procedure in the release notes and just applied the security fix. The bug fixes can wait for another day.

Firefox also received an upgrade to 2.0.0.12 which is called a security and stability fix.

In total, I upgraded a dozen apps since the trail log two weeks ago.

Frustrations

Of course, the past week wasn’t without it’s frustrations.

As I previously mentioned I had problems upgrading VMware on my iMac. I should have remembered a lesson learned from Windows – sometimes it helps to reboot before doing an installation. I don’t know if it would have helped to do the reboot first thing, but in the end I had to reboot before the installation worked.

Then there was the death of my Epson Stylus Photo R340 printer. Naturally it’s out of warranty. Also, the ink it used is now obsolete so my choice was either a used printer to save the ink I had. Luckily I had just re-supplied so I could return some of the ink for a full refund. I decided to replace it with a low cost ($56 from Amazon) Canon iP3500. I was barely more than the cost of ink and actually about the same price as a full resupply of ink for my Epson. I’ve only had it two days but it prints fast and the quality is good so far. I haven’t tried photo printing on Canon photo paper (which should give the best quality) but I don’t  expect it to be as good as the Epson.

The Upcoming Week

I just finished the first week at my new job so things should be back to normal and I can get back to the Quest. I want to finish off testing the latest version of SuperDuper and Mozy along with getting VMware upgraded on my iMac. I’ve also been playing around with a few add-ins for Windows Home Server which I want to pay more time with. Unfortunately I have to keep my day job and those things will take up my free time this week, but I hope to get back on track with the Ubuntu server project next weekend.