The OS Quest Trail Log #49: It’s Gonna Get Messy Edition

The latest issue of The OS Quest Trail Log brings new of a website redesign in progress, some home networking changes, a new printer and the beginning of the evaluation of some new backup software.

Cartoon of Mr Fix It

Cartoon of Mr Fix ItThere’s been a lot going on around the OS Quest household, but mostly in small bits and pieces. One of the more involved things (at least based on the amount of my time it will take) is a change to the website design & structure. I’ve been using the Thesis theme since last October, and while I’ve liked it overall it hasn’t been as easy to make design changes as I would like. The recent upgrades, and the types of features added, also indicated to me that it was moving away from what I wanted.

So after looking and making changes via Thesis I’ve pretty much decided to go another route. I’ll leave the details for another post (or posts). Suffice it to say it’s going to be messy for awhile. While my day job requires thorough testing and analysis before moving something into production that regimen doesn’t translate well to this website. I’d rather jump right in and make the changes on the live site to see how they look. So as long as I can back stuff out quickly the changes will be in pieces. So on Saturday I put on my cowboy hat and started making the changes so if your a regular site visitor you’ll start seeing the changes. There’s no drastic change to the look of the site so far, but I’ve started to change the plumbing so it can accommodate some features I want.

My biggest problem is that the changes will go beyond just the look of the website. I’ll be restructuring the categories and will probably have to redo some of the posts. Having to redo the posts gets to another of my complaints about Thesis – several of the features I used are Thesis specific and will be lost with this change. I’ll be trying to stay as close to core WordPress features as I can.

So depending upon when you visit the site over the next week or so things may or may not be working.

Home Network Rebuild

Continuing along the messy theme of this issue, on Friday I redid the OS Quest home network which included a complete rebuild of the home wireless network. In this case I removed a mess consisting of two router/WAPs, a couple Powerline network adapters, a switch, and a bunch of cables. They got replaced them with one Netgear Router/WAP. So far performance has been good (better than expected in some cases). Much to my surprise I didn’t have any wireless connection issues. I was so sure I’d have problems that I used new network names and configs so I could just fire the old stuff back up. Historically I’ve had issues with signal strength and interference. But there was none of that so far (fingers crossed/knock wood/waving rubber chicken).

My initial goal was to just update my existing network. I’m looking to do some additions in the future. Mainly the addition of a wireless bridge to my work table. Right now I run a cable across the floor when I’m working at the table. I’m looking for the wireless bridge to eliminate that messy and slightly dangerous cable along with letting me connect multiple PCs.

Backup Changes Being Evaluated

I’ve been using Jungle Disk as my offsite backup solution. It backs up to either Amazon S3 or Rackspace Cloud Files. There’s no bandwidth related charges with Rackspace Cloud Files so I’ve been using that since it is slightly cheaper and has been reliable. While Amazon S3 or Rackspace are cheap in the beginning the costs do grow over time as what’s being backed up grows. Naturally my bill has been trending upwards and the March bill was just over $11 for just over 70GB of storage. Since this is only going to grow I’ve been looking for alternatives. I have one non-negotiable requirements (besides reliability) in that the files must be encrypted before they leave my PC and I must be the only one that knows the encryption key. This goes along with the “trust no one” philosophy although I admit I need to trust the vendor to be telling the truth if they say they meet the requirements.

So this weekend I started evaluating KeepVault. The main thing that drew me to KeepVault was it’s Windows Home Server Add-In. The KeepVault PC Connector for WHS is a nice addition to. Still too early to tell what I think of it, but with my current backup volume it was save me about $50 a year.  I already use Windows Home Server to store almost all my files. Even though I ran Jungle Disk from my desktop it was mainly backup the files from the server.

A New Printer

MP560 I’ve been cleaning up closets and file cabinets, shredding old papers and stacking papers that I want to scan before shredding. I do have a flatbed scanner but it’s use had been so infrequent it lost its space and has been thrown in a corner. I’ve been putting off setting up the scanner because I didn’t have a good place to set it up.

As luck would have it my existing printer started acting up, or more precisely, stopped acting (aka working) with increasing frequency. This happened to be at a time when I didn’t have any extra ink cartridges. So since new printers barely cost more than the ink that comes with them I decided to go for an all-in-one printer with a wireless connection. I ended up picking the Canon PIXMA MP560 inkjet all-in-one printer. I don’t do a lot of printing and this had a good mix of features and price. I’ve yet to scan on it but setting up the wireless printing on my Windows and Mac PCs was a breeze. I still need to use it more before I can really judge it.

This brings another Trail Log to an end. Let’s see if I can keep the momentum going through the week and get some articles posted along with the website changes.