The OS Quest Trail Log #48: iPad Anticipation Edition

Apple iPad ImageThe iPad frenzy is in full swing. Shipments are being tracked, store reservations are being confirmed, Apple marketing is trying to set new records in superlative usage, and yes, my iPad is due to arrive on Saturday.

I did have an urge to cancel my pre-order. Mainly because the price puts it in the luxury category for me, even at the base version. I take issue with Apple’s superlative laden adds that keep calling it a “magical and revolutionary product at an unbelievable price.” Ok, they don’t say “low price” but that’s their implication. And no, I’m not saying they’re overcharging for it. Like I said, I’d put it in the luxury category for me. But please stop implying this is a rock bottom price, especially considering this is a device Apple intends to use to sell us more content. All this hype is turning me off.

The hype I’ve been reading about seems to be emphasizing three uses: video, eBooks, and magazines/ newspapers. The main criticism I’ve seem is that it’s just a large iPod Touch.  I’ll start with the criticism. To me being a large iPod Touch isn’t a bad thing. I like my iPod Touch and just having more screen real estate would be a plus.

As for the three areas of hype – meh. I don’t see myself buying a lot of content to use primarily on the iPad (with one potential exception). I can see me copying some of my existing videos to it when I go on trips but I don’t anticipate a lot of that. I still using my Kindle for eBooks and I hope the rumored Kindle iPod app makes it through the Apple approval gauntlet. There are books that aren’t suitable for the Kindle’s e-paper screen so are limited to the Kindle PC (or Mac) app. Having them available on the a portable device would be a big plus. But I do like the Kindle as a book reader since it’s eeasy on the eyes. I’m skeptical whether I could read a book on the iPad without getting tired or a headache. Reference books or browsing on a PC screen is one thing, but reading a novel is another. So I’m unlikely to buy eBooks though Apple if they’re just limited to the iPad or my Mac. The Touch is to small for extensive book reading (too much scrolling required). Of course, it also depends on price and I’ll no doubt buy one book to try it out (then again, there will be the public domain books, just like on the Kindle).

It’s the magazine/newspaper area that may get me to fork over more money for content, at least the magazine area. The Kindle isn’t a great newspaper reader. It’s just not the same as a real newspaper, which is why my subscription never survived the trial period. It’s OK when I had time to read the content in a linear format. But the way the Kindle handles headlines (strange truncating) doesn’t make for pleasant browsing. The lack of any sort of layout also makes it difficult to notice which articles are intended to stand out. As for magazines, unless it’s a word intensive magazine there’s not much point. All this could be improved upon if properly implemented on the iPad. But then there’s price for this content, which appears to be all over the place. If publishers want to put ads in their magazines it’s fine with me, assuming they avoid intrusive tactics like pop-ups.

I currently use my iPod Touch for checking email around the house and a little web surfing and the iPad is a natural for that. But if I’m going to get my money’s worth out of the Kindle it’s going to be my own content (PDFs maybe) and some apps that haven’t even seen but will take advantage of the iPad in ways not possible on the Touch.

So the iPad should arrive Sunday. While I’ll be home to take delivery it’ll be a busy weekend and I might not have much time to play with it. On Friday and Saturday I’m stuck doing the weekend of work for a project and then Sunday it’s Easter with the family. So if the iPad lives up to its hype I may have to take time out of what’s usually reserved for sleep.

In other (non-iPad) news…

I upgraded my cell phone to a Motorola Droid last week. I’m still getting used to it but so far I like it. It doesn’t hurt that despite being a more capable phone I actually lowered my monthly bill.

It’s been a busy couple of months with the day job so even though I haven’t written much for this site, there’s not a lot I’ve been having fun with that hasn’t already been made it to the site. Hoping to get into having some fun with the computers real soon.

My Primary Windows Computer

My primary Windows Computer is a home built one I put together about a year ago. It started out as a Vista PC build but soon got some significant upgrades to bulk up its processing power. Most of those original parts were recycled in a PC I built for my parents. Still, despite being recently purchased most of the parts are no longer available, having been superseded by newer models.

  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-E7AUM-DS2H LGA 775 NVIDIA GeForce 9400 HDMI Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600, 2.40 GHz, 8M L2 Cache
  • Case: Antec New Solution NSK2480 Black/Silver.
  • RAM: 8GB total: Transcend 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel
  • Hard Drives: The system drive was recently upgraded to a 150GB Western Digital VelociRaptor drive that was recently on sale. The data drive is a Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB drive
  • The video card is a EVGA 512-P3-N954-TR GeForce 9500 GT 512MB purchased mainly because of the low price.
  • The optical drive is another recent upgrade to a LG CH08LS10 Blu-ray/DVD combo drive,
  • The keyboard is my favorite keyboard.

The system scored a 1203 on Passmark 7. Because I like my primary machines to be stable I’m conservative and haven’t done any overclocking. The full benchmark report is on my benchmark page while the full system information as reported by the Passmark benchmarking software is below.

System Summary

Windows 7 (64-bit) Intel Core2 Quad Q6600 @ 2.40GHz 8190 MB RAM NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT 932GB HDD, 932GB HDD, 140GB HDD CD/DVD/BD/HD DVD-ROM, CD-RW/DVDRW/BD

System Information

  • System Name: computer
  • Operating System: Windows 7 (64-bit)
  • Motherboard Manufacturer: Gigabyte Technology Co., Ltd.
  • Motherboard Model: GA-E7AUM-DS2H
  • Motherboard Version: x.x
  • BIOS Manufacturer: Award Software International, Inc.
  • BIOS Version: F2
  • BIOS Release Date: 12/17/2008

Memory Information

  • Total Physical Memory: 8190 MB RAM
  • Available Physical Memory: 6870 MB RAM
  • Slot 1: Unknown, 2048MB, 800MHz  Slot 2: Unknown, 2048MB, 800MHz
  • Slot 3: Unknown, 2048MB, 800MHz Slot 4: Unknown, 2048MB, 800MHz
  • Virtual Memory: C:pagefile.sys (8190 MB)

CPU Information

  • Manufacturer: GenuineIntel  Type: Intel Core2 Quad Q6600 @ 2.40GHz
  • Manufacturer: Cores per CPU: 4
  • Hyperthreading: Not capable
  • Measured Speed: 2401.7 MHz
  • Multiplier: 9X
  • Bus Speed: 267Mhz  Front Side Bus Speed: 267Mhz
  • L1 Instruction Cache: 4 x 32 KB  L1 Data Cache: 4 x 32 KB
  • L2 Cache Size: 2 x 4 MB  L3 Cache: (N/A)

Disk Information

  • Drive Letter (Number): C (Physical drive 0)
  • Model Number: Unknown
  • Disk Size (Free space): 139.6 GBytes (95.5 GBytes)
  • Disk Cluster Size: 4 KBytes
  • File System: NTFS
  • Drive Letter (Number): D (Physical drive 0)
  • Model Number: Unknown
  • Disk Size (Free space): 931.5 GBytes (818.1 GBytes)
  • Disk Cluster Size: 4 KBytes
  • File System: NTFS

Video Adapters

  • Description: NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT
  • Chip Type: GeForce 9500 GT
  • DAC Type: Integrated RAMDAC
  • Memory: 512MB
  • Video BIOS: Version 62.94.29.0.50
  • Driver Provider: NVIDIA
  • Driver Version: 8.17.11.9621 Driver Date: 1-11-2010
  • Monitor 1: 1920x1080x32 60Hz (Primary monitor)

The New Handbrake Rocks

Handbrake icon graphicI’ve been using Handbrake to encode video for a couple years and love it. The open source Handbrake works on Windows, OS X and Linux. I’ve always preferred and used the OS X version. It had been about a year without a new version of Handbrake but the drought was ended in November 2009 with the release of Handbrake 0.94.

I was a bit slow to upgrade since the old version was working fine for me. Finally I upgraded. I had an issue (it wouldn’t encode) and kept using the old version when needed. Finally I researched the problem and found the simple solution – just delete the old presets in the Library/Application Support/Handbrake folder.

At first I was bummed because I’d lose my settings. But I soon realized that those settings were useless anything. The changes in Handbrake were significant which made it worthwhile to retest and come up with some new settings. The built-in presets now centered around getting the best quality while maintaining device compatibility.

I did a bunch of testing and ended up using the “Normal” preset with a Minor change to maintain Apple TV compatibility. I still have the Apple TV and while I don’t use it as frequently as I used to, I still do use it and want the video to work with it. I added the parameter weightp=0 to the Normal profile to maintain Apple TV compatibility.

The big benefit is the smaller file size that’s created for the video, yet the quality is maintained. The change has been so significant that I am re-encoding all my video in order to recover disk space. In general, my disk usage is shrinking about 50%. Some files are less than a quarter of the size while most are about 60% their previous size. There are some videos that shrink less and even a couple that have gotten larger so mileage will vary.

The new Handbrake is faster too. In general I assumed 1 hour to encode every 45 minutes of video using the previous Handbrake. On the same hardware Handbrake 0.94 as reduced these estimates t0 being able to encode 1 hour of video in 1 hour. Again, these are rough estimates which vary with the video. Also, different hardware will yield different speeds. My new Mac Mini only needs about 30 minutes to encode an hour’s worth of video.

If you already use Handbrake you need to upgrade to Handbrake 0.94 even if it means taking some time to evaluate the settings. If you haven’t been using Handbrake and want to encode video you should check it out.

New Mac Mini Joins The Quest

Picture of a Mac Mini

Picture of a Mac MiniI decided to replace my late 2006 iMac and had been pondering its replacement since the beginning of the year. By February I decided to go with a Mac Mini. I decided against another iMac because:

  • I didn’t want to give up the desktop real estate
  • I didn’t want another all-in-one. I wanted the flexibility of separate components
  • Price (I didn’t need a monitor or keyboard) which eliminated the Mac Pro with it’s $2,500 starting price
  • I didn’t want a laptop as my primary Mac, this would be desk bound

So once I decided on the Mac Mini I followed my past practice and kept increasing the hardware. I ended up with the higher end of the two models:

  • 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo (fastest currently available)
  • 4GB RAM (maximum supported)
  • 320 GB hard drive – this is the one component I didn’t upgrade, skipping the 500 GB upgrade. I plan to connect my Drobo and have disk on my Windows Home Server. The 320 GB hard drive is big enough to take everything currently on my iMac with room to spare.
  • Superdrive DVD/CD drive

I currently have an older Intel Mac Mini with a 20” Apple Cinema Display in my bedroom. My plan was to move the iMac into the bedroom as an entertainment computer, replacing the Mac Mini that was there. The Apple Cinema display is now on my desk, connected to the new Mac Mini. That old Mac Mini is set up to run headless and I remote into it when needed. If I ever get a new TV that Mac Mini will probably be connected to it (not worth the hassle with my current tube TV).

Despite what passes as relatively low end Apple hardware these days, the new Mac Mini is noticeably faster than my 3+ year old iMac. While benchmarks need to be taken with a grain of salt, my iMac scored a 114.63 on XBench while the freshly minted Mac Mini scored a 126.01. Not a  huge difference when viewed from the perspective of comparing a new machine to a 3 year old machine. But as I said, the performance is noticeably better, especially when I multitask.

With the iMac I was unable to run Handbrake and stream video at the same time. The Mac Mini handles this cleanly. Likewise running other apps with Handbrake is smooth. Handbrake keeps the CPU maxed out and on the iMac this would cause other apps to stutter, the Mac Mini handles them smoothly. Things that take time (like Handbrake encodes) are considerably faster.

I was hesitant to go with the iMac because I was concerned there wouldn’t be a noticeable improvement over my iMac. Sure it was 3 years old, but it was high-end at the time.

My only complaint is the video connection. I use the included mini-DVI to DVI adapter. It’s a few inches long and the DVI end of the cable has some weight to it. The mini-DVI connection on the Mac Mini is only held in place by friction. If the end of the cable slips of the edge of my desk the connection on the Mac Mini gets pulled away, but not completely. Rather than losing video, I usually just lose one color. A clamp would be nice.

But overall I’m very happy with my latest acquisition.

Comcast Bandwidth Meter Arrives

Comcast Usage History Chart

Comcast Usage History ChartWhen Comcast announced their 250 GB bandwidth cap there were legitimate complaints that Comcast users had no way to tell how much bandwidth they had used. So Comcast promised a bandwidth meter, and they’ve finally begun to deliver (they’re calling it a usage meter). The email I received implies it’s a phased rollout as the usage meter is available “in my area”.

The Comcast usage meter is available from the “Users & Settings” section of what Comcast calls “customerCentral” where I can manage my account. While a bit of a pain to find for someone like me who uses Comcast as an internet connection and nothing more, it is a logical place to put it.

Comcast usage meter

The Comcast usage meter is shown to the left. It gives a quick snapshot of how much bandwidth has been used. There’s no differentiation between uploads and downloads (upstream and downstream), both are lumped together. Since I do backups to the cloud much of my bandwidth usage is upstream usage.

Clicking on the “view details” links add the usage history to the display (click the picture for a full size view):

Comcast Usage DetailI’ve been running the Tomato Router router which includes bandwidth usage history. I was pleasantly surprised that the usage between the two was extremely close:

tomatousage

The Tomato router shows a bit higher usage, which will hurt those inevitable conspiracy theories that Comcast is over counting.

It took awhile for Comcast to deliver their meter, but it seems to do the job just fine.

Apple iPad Pre-ordered

Apple iPad Image

Apple iPad ImageWell, I went ahead and pre-ordered an Apple iPad on Friday. I usually don’t pre-order a $500 piece of tech site unseen. OK, I pre-ordered the iPod Touch 3rd gen when it was announced but I’d seen and touched the earlier versions and was simply waiting on the latest upgrades before buying.

So first I had to justify pre-ordering a new piece of technology. I trust Apple to have thought about the design and function of the iPad to create a usable interface. Sure it looks nice in the video but all the hype actually turns me off. Still, I have faith, while based on the iPod Touch I don’t see Apple simply making a big iPod Touch. I am concerned about bugs and manufacturing issues as they seem to be affecting Apple lately and this is a completely new piece of hardware. But the bottom line was I know I would be buying this version of the iPad and not waiting for the next version, so might as well get it as soon as possible.

So the next question was: Which model? I knew I didn’t need or want wi-fi. The AT&T link kills the iPhone for me as I won’t do business with AT&T due my own experiences with them. But even if I could use another carrier I don’t see myself needing 3G on this. So that eliminated the 3G models.

Typically with Apple I end up getting the fastest CPU and most memory I can afford, finding it easy to justify the extra hardware. In this case I couldn’t come up with good reasons to go above 16GB. It will be mostly used around the house or at least return home every night. Most of my current 16GB iPod touch is currently consumed by music. While I might keep a few playlists on the iPad I don’t see it containing a significant number of songs.

So I broke with tradition and bought the cheapest model.

So what will I use the iPad for:

  1. Reference – I have high hopes for  Evernote on the iPad and that’s my primary filing system. But I also hope to put my own PDFs that I use for reference.
  2. Books – I like the Kindle and enjoy reading on it. But there are types of books that aren’t suitable for the Kindle. While there are exceptions, books with a lot of charts and tables or programming books with code samples are usually hard to read. Things got a little better with the Kindle 2 but a nice color screen should be better. I suspect I’ll still read novels on the Kindle as I expect it to be easier on the eyes. I am concerned about book pricing through Apple but even if I stick with my own books already available on PDF or a non-DRM’d format I’ll be Happy.
  3. Magazines & Newspapers – While I’ve gotten away from newspapers and magazines I grew up reading them and still like them. I’ve drifted away from them because of the clutter they cause and my inability to keep them organized. I’m cautiously optimistic pricing will be in line with current subscriptions and not priced as a “premium service”. I kind of liked newspapers on the Kindle in that it was easy to go through the info. But it was a linear experience and I couldn’t flip through the paper to see what catches my eye. The headlines in a table of contents just isn’t the same thing. Sure, the iPad will have some demo friendly page turn animation but hopefully that can be turned off once it becomes annoying (which will be about 90-seconds in).
  4. Video – I’m hoping the video viewing matches the hype. It’ll be nice to be able to have a few videos on it and watch them.
  5. Readily available computer. Rather than grabbing my Netbook or going to my desktop to check out something on the web or make a note I’ll probably use the iPad. (Much of this has already gravitated to my iPod Touch anyway.)

I suppose it depends upon how you define success but I think the iPad will be a success for Apple. Mainly because it can be different things to different people. Despite Apple’s claim of reasonable pricing I do think the biggest question for someone is whether the planned use of the iPad worth the cost. I’m not sure I could justify the iPad cost against my planned usage, at least not until the iPad actually exists in public. And let’s face it, books, movies and newspapers/magazines are an added cost. But I’m a tech and gadget geek which goes a long way to justifying the cost. Adding to that is I’m sure I’ll still be using it in a year.

So it’ll arrive April 3rd and we’ll see if I regret the decision.

Windows Home Server Add-Ins I Use

Home Server Smart add-in consoleI was recently asked what Windows Home Server Add-Ins I us and figured it was a good topic for a blog post. So this morning I took a look and see that I have six loaded. I don’t use a lot of add-ins for two main reasons:

  1. In general I like my important systems to be as clean as possible. My Windows Home Server is no different. I don’t do a lot of hacks on any computer I use day in and day out. Adding a ton of WHS add-ins could potentially cause conflicts and reduce performance so I avoid anything I’m just curious about.
  2. I use my Windows Home Server mainly as a file server, not as an application server. While I do use it to “stream” video and music to other computers or my TV there’s some client (iTunes or VLC these days) reading the file.

So my Windows Home Server Add-Ins reflect this conservative philosophy and revolve around maintaining and monitoring the server. So on to the list:

Disk Management for Windows Home Server by Tentacle Software (Sam Wood) – I’m using version 1.1.2.1997 (There’s a slightly newer version out). With the release of version 1.1 this became a paid add-in. I’m still on the 30—day evaluation but will be paying the $10. This has long been my favorite add-in and this latest version took it to a new level (sorry for the overused cliché).

The interface has been completely redesigned to present a great deal of information in an organized manner. The server hard disks tab will show the status of all drives in the system. (Click any of these images for the larger size.) Visit the website (linked up above) for details.

disk_management-DiskTab_big

The Disk Management tab gives additional information about the storage pool and individual drives.

Disk Management Storage Tab Disk Management Information for One Disk

The wire frame diagram to the right in each screen shot is important if you’ve built your own server or have a server that doesn’t let you know which physical drive your dealing with or which drive has gone bad. The red drives are missing (or bad). In this case it’s no big deal because I’ve removed them from the storage pool. I just haven’t physically disconnected them or removed them from the wire frame configuration. The green drive is the selected drive when your managing it. You can build your own wireframe diagram or download one from the web-site. If you build your own you can contribute it to the community. For me, someone had already built one for my case by the time I needed it.

Highly recommended and worth the ten bucks.

Home Server SMART by Dojo North Software is a Windows Home Server add-in that reports the Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T) information from the hard drives in the Windows Home Server.

Home Server SMART screenI came across this WHS add-in when I was having hard drive problems with my Windows Home Server. It made it easy for me to find the problem hard drive. We Got Served has a in-depth and accurate review of this add-in.

This is a free add-in. I have a certain affection for software that does a job simply and cleanly and this certainly fits that bill. Add to that the time this saved me troubleshooting my drive problem and I ended up throwing a small donation their way. So this one is also highly recommended.

Grid Junction by Kentdome Technologies is an add-in for managing a Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). Not much to say about this one. It’s free and it’s worked with the two different UPS’s I used it with. It records power events (such as brown outs) and properly shuts down my server when power fails.

Windows Home Server Toolkit 1.1 by Microsoft. Provides error reporting and troubleshooting guides. Good to have around in case it’s needed but not something I use with any frequency.

Windows Home Server Toolkit screen

If you use remote console to connect to your server then the command prompt and event viewer options aren’t any benefit but their nice to have available on the console.

PerfectDisk 11 by Raxco Software is disk defragmentation software. PerfectDisk 11 for Windows Home Server is part of the PerfectDisk family of defrag software. It’s $40 for the WHS license alone but is also part of a couple licensing bundles. (Also look or wait for discounts, I bought it for about half price. Here’s a 20% discount through March 26th, 2010) It’s debatable whether or not defragging a WHS hard disk provides any noticeable benefit and the answer may depend upon how you use the WHS. I looked at a couple defraggers after finding that the built-in WHS defragger wasn’t usable for me (slow, manual and a big performance hit). I decided on PerfectDisk 10 awhile back, mainly on price.

I haven’t really noticed a performance improvement since I’ve been using a defragger. Perfect Disk 11 hasn’t impacted my performance in a negative way when it’s running. The exception being if I force it to keep running on a physical disk that a file I’m streaming is also on. But typically PerfectDisk will pause when disk i/o picks up.

If you want to defragment your Windows Home Server then I’d recommend PerfectDisk 11 based on it’s price and configuration options. But I’m no so enamored with it that I’d recommend it over a lower cost but comparable product. I’m also not convinced that defragmentation will noticeably improve performance on a Windows Home Server.

AdminiMe by ASoft is another paid Windows Home Server Add-In ($8). I did pay for it but based more on the feature list and a couple recommendations than actual use. In retrospect, if I had run the trial for awhile I may not have bought it. Early on I had some problems with it although that may have been due to other WHS problems. I find the interface a bit complex. I have the service turned off so while I have the add-in installed, it’s not really being used. I may return to it some day and find some benefit in it.

Those are the six add-ins I currently have installed. I also looked at Avast’s Antivirus software for Windows Home Server about a year ago.  Avast has been updating their AV software but I think the WHS software is still at the older version. It’s also hard to find on their website so I’m not sure how committed that are to the product. The WHS AV software seems to have little to chose from, so if you want AV software for your WHS then check out the 60-day eval.  I fall into the camp that doesn’t want AV on their WHS since I don’t want the overheard and I don’t use the WHS in a risky manner (no internet browsing or direct downloads). The Avast software seemed nice enough although a bit rough around the edges as they tried to shoehorn their product into the WHS console. The real-time scans didn’t seem to have a noticeable impact when I used the server. But the disk scans did cause a noticeable performance hit.

What add-ins do you use or recommend?

A New Web Host – Linode

image of laptops connected to WWW

image of laptops connected to WWWJust before the New Years holiday I moved this site to a new web host, Linode. I’ve been with Slicehost for just over two years and don’t have any complaints and think they’re great. There’s an interesting thread on the Slicehost forum about how other vendors have matched and exceeded Slicehost’s offerings. In the thread even Slicehost has admitted they stagnated and haven’t taken advantage of the resources available to them through Rackspace which purchased them about a year ago. That’s part of my reason for shopping around, the same plan at the same price after two years. There were some other hosts that offered more for the same or less money. I  moved because I get more of what I need for the same cost (well, actually a nickel a month less).

I like using a VPS (virtual private server) for my websites. It gives me a lot of control and nearly unlimited flexibility so I wasn’t looking for anything different. I wanted more memory, either by having more physical memory or by more efficient memory usage.

Finally, I’m not running a business. While reliability performance are important, as is good tech support when it’s needed, I’m not willing to pay a premium “just in case”.

Slicehost provided 10GB of disk and 100GB of bandwidth to go with my 256MB of RAM on the slice. The only thing that really mattered to me was the RAM. I never even came close to my bandwidth limits, likewise on the disk space. Slicehost offers only 64-bit OS’s (actually, they now offer 32 bit apps on a 64 bit kernel) while Linode offers 32-bit images.

The two main reasons I picked Linode were:

  • More memory for the same price (360MB vs. 256MB)
  • 32-bit OS which provides more available memory on my server

Linode also provides more disk and bandwidth but I don’t even come close to what Slicehost offers so it wasn’t a factor in my decision.

Slicehost has been extremely reliable and their tech support has been quick and efficient when needed. I couldn’t expect more from any provider. My Linode suffered an unexpected reboot due to a RAID disk failure early on so I was a bit worried. But they’ve been rock solid since then. Slicehost also had some hardware issues in my two years with them and I had a brief outage for an unexpected reboot and later when they moved me to a replacement server.

One differentiator with Slicehost is the ability to do automated backups which make restores simple and fast. But the backup service is an added cost ($5/mth for the small slices. Linode did offer a beta backup service that I was trying out. It was extremely unreliable and they’ve currently suspended the beta pending some architectural changes. If an image type backup was important to me I’d probably have looked a Zerigo (see below) in greater depth since they seemed to offer the most flexibility. (I currently backup my websites, databases and configuration files to my local PC every night and I’m happy with this.)

Linode’s management console has a few more features than Slicehost’s console and I like working with it a little better, but it’s nothing that I’d be willing to pay more for. While Linode doesn’t offer a backup service one feature I like is the ability to copy a disk image. I have 16GB of disk and I can partition this up any way I want. I have three 5GB partitions of which 1 is my actual server partition. The other two are rotating copies. While not truly a backup, before I make a change I dump the oldest copy and make a new copy the production image. I screw up the server I can boot off the copy (or just copy it back). This isn’t truly a backup since it’s all on my server but it’s a nice way to recover from a bad upgrade. It proved useful while testing out Linode.

By switching to the 32-bit version of Ubuntu server I picked up about 30 MB of free memory over my 64-bit Slicehost server. Added to the additional physical memory this gave me much more breathing room on my server. Occasionally my Slicehost server would resort to swapping which my Linode has yet to do despite having more available Apache processes and concurrent connections configured.

I also briefly looked at Zerigo. They’re pricing is competitive with Slicehost (Linode is cheaper) and Zerigo offers 32-bit OS’s . They offer a 4 day test drive and I took them for a spin over a weekend.  Zerigo also offers server snapshots for backups. The snapshots are more flexible than Slicehost’s backup offering. (At least as their described, I didn’t test this feature). There wasn’t anything compelling to make me pick them. I did have problems getting their DNS to resolve to my server, although it worked fine with a 3rd party DNS service. I didn’t open a support ticket since I didn’t plan to stay beyond the trial period.

All-in-all I’m very happy with Linode despite an early hiccup. They have a good reputation which they seem to be living up to. Even with the reboot a support ticket was generated and emailed to me explaining the reason and actions taken.