The OS Quest Trail Log #33: Potpourri

It’s been a pretty dry couple of month for blog posts so far. But there’s still a few things worth mentioning and rather than a couple small posts I decided to put them all here to make them easier to ignore.

WordPress 2.6.2 was released and I upgraded this site. It’s a security release so considered required although the developer blog indicates it’s mainly a concern if open registration is allowed. I decided to upgrade anyway. I have to admit, I’m getting a a bit lazy with these minor upgrades. I just check that the latest backups were done and do the upgrade. No installation in a test environment or other testing. Eventually I’ll get burned and mend my lazy ways.

There’s been some web site updates on some of the static pages. I’ve updated the hardware list on the What I Use page and also updated it to include more information about the software I use from Wakoopa. I’ve used the widgets Wakoopa provides to pull the information in real-time (well, as real-time as they want it to be). I’ve also updated the Mac Software page – removed software that I no longer use and added some new software.

New & Updated Software

There’s been some new software joining the quest. DropBox went public and no longer requires an invite code. It’s still in beta, but it’s no longer a private beta. I’ve been using it a couple of days and found it easy to use and set up. It integrates better with OS X than SugarSync did, in my opinion. A 2 GB DropBox account is free while 50GB accounts are $10/mth or $100/yr. Unfortunately there’s nothing between 2GB and 50GB. The good news is it already supports Windows, OS X and Linux. So far I’ve only used it on OS X. Syncing between two macs was quick and clean.

IZarc became my new file archiving software of choice for Windows due to it’s ISO support. Of course, being Windows it doesn’t get much use, but IZarc2Go has now found a home on my utility flash drive.

While not exactly new, I’m back to using Jungle Disk. It’s been dormant for awhile so it seems new. I installed the latest version and have been archiving some files off to Amazon S3.

Google Chrome is also out. I’ve used it briefly and it felt fast. But since it’s Windows only I’m not going to be using it a lot or dive into the features.

I still haven’t installed iTunes 8 or the associated Quicktime update. I haven’t wanted to deal with the problems that seem to accompany every software update these days. The new features haven’t excited me either so I’m in no rush. I like iTunes but it seems to be entering the realm of bloatware.

Drobo

I’m still using the Drobo, performance hasn’t been great but it’s acceptable. In short, performance seems to suffer greatly if there’s a lot of file opens/closes in a short period of time. Total disk I/O drops if I copy a lot of small files. ChronoSync also seems abnormally slow when using the drive. I haven’t done much testing since writing about it. Once commentor recommended rolling the software back to the earlier version but I haven’t done that. There’s supposed to be a firmware update just around the corner so I’ve decided to wait for that.

Odds & Ends

Other things that have been occupying my Quest time is my continued education and testing to get WordPress running on my own server. It’s up and running but I’m still working on security and trying out different things.

Windows Home Server Data Corruption Hits

My iTunes library is located on the Windows Home Server music share so that it can be managed from any of my Macs. I knew this was potential problem with the data corruption issue. Still, I continued to run the library from the WHS share since I suffer from “can’t happen to me” syndrome. I even continued to run it even after iTunes was specifically added to the list of possibly affected software. I liked the convenience and I had backups.

This weeks my backups were put to the test. And they worked as expected!

Because my iTunes library is so large (150GB+), backing it up is a problem. So my strategy is:

  1. I Sync the library with a copy on my iMac’s local hard drive (I use ChronoSync)
  2. Clone my iMac hard disk nightly – before the library sync mentioned in step 1 occurs

This give me three copies of iTunes:

1. The active copy on the Windows Home Server that I use.

2. A copy of last nights library on my local iMac.

3. A copy of the library from two nights ago on my cloned hard drive.

So I have a couple days to detect the corruption. As expected the corruption occurred when I was actually using iTunes. I was told it could not write the library. I tried to shut down iTunes but had to force quit after 3 hours of waiting for it to exit. At that point upon restarting iTunes, the library was empty (although the song files were still on the WHS share.).

I decided to run iTunes from my local iMac to avoid future occurrences of the issues, rather than restoring the corrupt library files. I held down the Option (alt) key while starting iTunes and selected the local copy as the library. I expected to have to change the settings so iTunes would look for music on the local disk but it was already set this way. This may have been due to it returning to default settings due to the corruption.

I now sync the local iTunes library with the WHS share as the backup.

I did lose any changes made during the day such as downloaded podcasts and play counts. The podcasts simply downloaded again and I deleted the ones I listed to. If I had added any songs I would have had to import them again.

There’s really no way to know if this was the data corruption bug or just some other problem. I’m leaning towards the bug because I have also been copying a lot of files to the Windows Home Server so the drives have been very busy, which seems to be a needed ingredient.