The OS Quest Trail Log #54: Vacation is Over Edition

It had to happen sometime, my vacation is ending and it’s back to corporate America on Monday. This blog was silent for a month with barely a peep the month before that but things picked up recently. Recent fun included a new laptop, encryption and some WordPress related changes.

Mountains and clouds in New HampshireIt had to happen sometime, my vacation is ending and it’s back to corporate America on Monday. This blog was silent for a month with barely a peep the month before that but things picked up recently. Vacation was a trip to the White Mountains followed by a week around the house with a lot of computer time during the last week. As luck would have it the trip was during the bad week of weather.

A New Laptop & Encryption

Prior to vacation my new Dell laptop arrived with just enough time to get it set up. It’s always fun to get a new computer. I’ve been using it quit a bit around the apartment rather than my desktop. I’m sitting on the patio now as I type this up.

I also took a look at TrueCrypt as a way to secure my laptop on its travels. I started off playing it safe, planning to encrypt a USB drive which I would take with me. That went so well I decided to go for broke and encrypt the entire system drive. So far it’s working great and I don’t have any complaints about performance.

In retrospect the one thing I might have wanted to look for in a laptop with a CPU that supported AES hardware acceleration. I hadn’t seriously considered encryption until after I got my laptop and I didn’t even know the feature existed. As it is, a CPU that support hardware accelerated AES doesn’t appear to be an option in the Dell Inspiron line at this point, although some higher level i5 CPUs do support it.

WordPress Changes

I also spent some time looking at my sites and WordPress. I’d gotten sloppy in my testing so while I was busy keeping the site code up to date my WP Super Cache plugin stopped caching and went unnoticed. I spent some time trying to troubleshoot it but finally got frustrated enough to look for an alternative. I found two complementary caching plugins which are running now.

I also finally fixed the plugin I use to announce new posts on Twitter. In this case I knew it was broken due to the change to oAuth authentication. In my quest to keep things lean I wasn’t running the Curl library for PHP. Once I added PHP-Curl the plugin worked fine.

Security and Browsers

I also got around to plugging a month old security vulnerability that Microsoft isn’t fixing in order to avoid breaking any apps. Hopefully Microsoft will fix this on their own. I can kind of see their point, if an app is written properly and doesn’t rely on the default search order there’s no problem. If the app does rely of the default search order then their patch may break it. I haven’t had any problems since installing the patch although it’s only been a day. I suspect they’ll roll out the patch once there’s some history of problem free patching.

I also decided to give the IE 9 beta a spin. I must have some hidden desire to abuse this new laptop. Since IE isn’t my default browser there wasn’t much risk. I’m actually pretty impressed. It seems fast. The bad news is it has the same problem rendering the footer of my website’s home page that earlier IE version have. I long ago stopped caring about IE, as long as it was usable. If the site renders find in Firefox, Safari and Chrome then it’s OK with me.

Still, Internet Explorer 9 is going to be a lot of new code. I suspect it will have a lot of new security holes in that shiny new code. So while the first impression is it doesn’t suck anymore, I don’t see it replacing Chrome for me in the future.

On Deck

There’s a few more things I started looking at or working on while on vacation. History tells me I won’t get to them all, at least not soon.

I downloaded the latest Windows Home Server 2 (Vail) beta software. I’ve yet to install anything but home to do so on my spare test box. I need to look into things some more but I expect I’ll be building a new server for Vail. There’s not going to be any upgrade path on the old server since this is typically sold as an appliance by OEMs. Even if it could be upgraded it’s safer to go to new hardware with all that data. My test box is more powerful than my current WHS so it may actually end up being suitable for my new WHS. At least if I can start testing it I’ll get an idea of the hardware and memory requirements.

Despite the relatively bad weather I did take some pictures in the White Mountains of New Hampshire (like the one at the top of this article). I’m still getting used to the various photo software I have available to see which I like. The stuff that came with my Canon camera is remarkably good for bundled software. I’ve also been looking at Picasa and Windows Live Photo Gallery although these appear to be better suited for organization and minor editing. I’ve been working on getting familiar with Aperture 3 as it seems best suited as a combination organizer/manager and editor.

So it’s back to work tomorrow. Hopefully after the initial surge of work when I return I’ll have enough time for fun with computers and be able to keep the posts coming.