OS Quest Trail Log

The OS Quest Trail Log #43: Problems & Solutions Edition

June was a slow month on the Quest but things began to pick up in July. It looks like problems that started in June now appear to be cleaned up. Along with that success I finally appear to be running the latest version of all my software both on my computers and on the web. Although Mr. Murphy did his best by releasing an WordPress update the day after I updated all my sites. But I lucked out and that was his only contribution.

Another fix that also slipped in this week was an update to the Search Unleashed plugin I use on my sites. It had broken when I upgrade to WordPress 2.8. Can’t say whether it was WP 2.8 or a recent plugin update, but it’s all better now.

After two weeks with my new Unicomp keyboard I still consider it the best keyboard ever. Well, at least among the keyboards I’ve used. Also on the positive side I proved my iMac didn’t have any hardware problems. At least I choose to view it as a positive and not that I wasted an hour of my time.

Among the updates was Firefox 3.5 (and 3.5.1). I’ve no complaints and I like it, but at least for how I use it I haven’t seen any great improvements. I probably need to explore more, but the upgrade was seamless and things continued to work as expected.

Nik Green posted a comment on my Synergy posted and suggested SynergyKM to provide a GUI interface to the setup. It adds a nice preference pane to the Mac so it can be easily configured to auto start. No need to set up any scripts. It’s only been a couple hours, but so far so good.

My Windows Home Server continues to grow it’s disk. I swapped out a 1TB drive for a 2TB drive this month so bring the total to 15TB as far as the manufacturers ratings are concerned. But between overhead and different definitions of a megabyte and formatting overhead the actual space is a tad under 14TB. Hard drive manufacturers use base ten math while OS’s use binary math. So a manufacturer’s 1,000 is an OS’s 1,024. A hard drive mfg says a kilobyte is 1,000 bytes while the OS says it’s 1,024. Not a big deal when drives were smaller but these days it adds up.

Web Site Outage

Things haven’t exactly been problem free. My site was down early this morning for some unknown reason. Haven’t come across the root cause yet. The problem was excessive swapping on the server but no clue as to the cause. The first alert was generated shortly after my backups started running. The SQL backup ran on schedule and seems to have finished before any problem. Then a job kicks off on my PC to connect to the server and backs up the files system. The time seems to coincide with the first alert (backup started about 3 minutes before) but according to the backup log there weren’t any problems and the backup finished as expected. Now this doesn’t mean it didn’t affect apache, but it hasn’t in the past and running it a few minutes ago was problem free.

I did update Ubuntu the day before and apache got some updates so maybe it’s related. But it hasn’t re-occurred so hard to tell. Maybe it’s time to reboot the server since it’s been up 96 days. Problem is, by the time I woke up and saw the problem free, top and everything else showed a healthy server.

Got to love computers. Models of consistency.

Random Access

The Best Keyboard Ever

Unicomp Keyboard I’m typing this on my new Unicomp keyboard. It cost about $70 but it was worth it. I’m showing my age again, but it’s a throwback to the great old IBM keyboards. Unicomp bought the technology from Lexmark which was itself spun off from IBM.

The keyboard uses the buckling spring technology developed by IBM and provides that clicking sound I like so much. (And my cubicle neighbors used to hate.) That old IBM technology is coupled with a modern USB connector. While I just got this one it seems as sturdy as the keyboards I remember and is solidly built. Not even close to the cheap plastic keyboard I’d been using. And the clicking makes me nostalgic.

Unicomp has various keyboard models available at The one I got is called the Customizer and is pictured above.

OS Quest Trail Log

The OS Quest Trail Log #42: Apple Sucks Edition

My Apple woes continue. Every since upgrading to OS X 10.5.7 my iMac has been locking up on a regular and frequent basis. I’m not alone with one thread on the Apple forum reaching 11 pages. So, since my initial problems I’ve re-installed my OS twice (a fresh install beginning with a drive format).

The second time  I incorporated all the tips in the various articles I’ve read and starting off by zapping the PRAM. All peripherals were disconnected during the install except the Apple keyboard, Logitech trackball (just the built in OS drivers) and a network cable. I did a fresh install and followed barjohng’s instructions for applying the update in a way to make sure nothing else is running. I even turned off the unused airport adapter as soon as the initial installation was done. Unlike previous times I applied every update that was offered including Safari 4.

I kept the software installations to a minimum.

  • iTunes and I restored the iTunes library from backup but I didn’t restore the preferences
  • Transmit (my ftp program) and this is the only program I restored the preferences since settings I need are saved here and I didn’t want to re-enter them all.
  • DropBox
  • JungleDisk – my Backup software
  • iLife ‘09 and applied all waiting patches. Like iTunes, I restored the libraries but not the preferences
  • ChronoSync
  • iStat Pro widget – I used this to monitor temperature

I didn’t install any other software but by the end of the day I was encountering frequent freezes. According to iStat there wasn’t any heat issue.

Since then I’ve been moving files off and setting up my Windows 7 PC as my primary PC. I finished moving most stuff off this past weekend. All that’s left is my iTunes library. iTunes wouldn’t be a problem except I keep files in a few locations. Since OS X and Windows address network drives differently I figure I’d have to jump through some hoops to get things to work and I’m not convinced it would be worth it, after all Windows will die eventually.

I figure the next step is to run some hardware diags and if those come out OK to start with another fresh install and then install apps one at a time with some testing in between.

Moving to Windows 7

I liked Windows 7 enough to move to it while my Mac was in rehab. I suspect it will be my primary PC for awhile, although there will be things the Mac is better suited for.

I moved out of iPhoto to Windows Live Photo Gallery (WLPG) (I hate that “Windows Live” naming theme) which was a pain. I used  iPhoto for photo organization and occasional printing. WLPG make organization easier than iPhoto, at least the way I use it because it just reads the directory structure once the directory is added to WLPG. It was tedious exporting the individual albums and folders form iPhoto which has taught me to keep things generic. The directories can be read by any OS and I can pull them back into iPhoto I’ll pick the option to keep them in their location.

On the printing side WLPG offers less than iPhoto. With iPhoto it’s possible to edit/adjust the photo before printing without updating the saved photo. With WLPG the photo has to be edited first. Not a big deal for what I do, but it could be an issue for some.

Most of my other data is either on the net or for cross-platform apps like I simply copied my Firefox profile from my iMac backup to my Windows 7 machine and everything was just like my Mac, add-ins and all.

Mac or Windows Future?

Things aren’t quit as polished on the Windows side of things as they are on the Mac side, at least not in the software I’ve found. I’m still working on duplicating some things I did on my Mac and while I’ll be able to do it, it’s not as straight-forward. In the past I’d been almost always Mac except for specific cases, such as writing blog posts in Windows Live Writer. I’ll probably be doing most of my work on Windows 7 now and use the Mac for things it’s better suited for. At least until my Windows 7 PC starts giving me problems and I move back to my iMac.