OS Quest Trail Log #63: Hurricane Edition

Hurricane photo

It’s been awhile since I updated the blog, and things have been similarly slow at the OS Quest. There haven’t been any major changes around the home data center, just some minor ones. I survived Irene without a power failure or other problems, unlike most of the state, and 65% of my town according to the power company. In fact, it had the benefit of delaying my planned Sunday flight until Tuesday, letting me trim two days off a business trip that was already painful enough.


I still like Lion on my MacBook Air and it’s been stable. Still, I’ve yet to install it on another Mac. Eventually I’ll install it on my desktop Mac Mini but I’ve wanted to avoid the inevitable hassle a change always brings, or even worse, breaking of apps. ┬áIt will probably get Lion in October. As for my bedroom iMac I’ll probably end up holding off on Lion. It’s an entertainment PC and I use Front Row to watch videos and Front Row is dropped from Lion. Finding replacement software probably wouldn’t be difficult, but expending effort just so I can make a change that gives me what I already have seems like a waste of time.

I’ve been tempted to buy Lion Server but it’s been more out of curiosity than any need. In looking over my Macs, I have two that meet the minimum requirements, my desktop and bedroom iMac, but I’m not willing to experiment with either of those. I do have a Mac Mini I’d be willing to use but it’s just shy of the requirements, I could probably install Lion but I fear I’d be more annoyed than anything else. It would be different if I thought I would actually use it for something.

Firefox Out – Google Chrome In

I’d gone back to Firefox several months ago, despite preferring Chrome. I had a conflict with my LastPass password manager add-in for Chrome and TextExpander on my Macs. When I was logged onto LastPass (which is always) TextExpander wouldn’t work. I noticed recently that it started working again, My MacBook Air running Lion still shows a warning sometimes, but TextExpander is working fine, I’m glad to be out of Firefox. Their recent 6 week upgrade cycle was a pain. I consistently had broken add-ins and it’s the add-ins that brought me to Firefox. Now some of it may have been that the add-in developers just needed to flag the add-ins as compatible, but still, the whole thing was handled poorly.

Firefox is still around, but I glad the speed and simplicity of Chrome is back as my default browser,

Home Entertainment

In my last trail log I mentioned that my LG Blu-Ray player was having problem playing some Handbrake encoded files. I mentioned the files played fine elsewhere, Well, they don’t play fine elsewhere and re-encoding them solved the problem. In the LG player they were scrambled from the beginning, on everything else they played fine until about the last 90 seconds where they showed obvious problems. So the LG player was affected more, but there were definite problems with the files.

Everything else is still working fine, Streaming from my Windows Home Server works great despite being wireless and running on HP MicroServer hardware.


Last month I started testing SpiderOak as a backup and syncing solution. I’ve since upgraded to a paid account. I’ve been using it to sync files between my PCs (including Macs) along with backups. I also use it to backup my Windows Home server despite not being an officially supported OS. For the WHS it’s actually a second offsite backup for my most important files so I’m not too concerned about the unofficial support. It’s probably worth a longer article, but the short review is I’m happy enough to have bought a 200 GB subscription, Which does trigger my one gripe about plans like this. I bout the 200 GB plan because I’m just over the 100 GB plan so needed the next level.

On Tap

Now that the summer is officially over and vacationers return to work I hope to get some time back. I’ve got a couple weeks vacation soon. No travel plans but that could change if the weather is nice. Still, I should be able to find some quality tech playtime, There’s a few things on my list, but since I won’t get to them all I won’t mention any. It’s been over a month since the last post, hopefully the updates will be a little more frequent for the rest of the year.

OS Quest Trail Log #62: Mid-Summer Edition

A Desert Scene

We finally got the summer heatwave here in the eastern U.S. and it was a good time to stay inside where it’s air conditioned. All-in-all a good time for being at the PC. Even if the heat they generate make the air conditioning work harder.

Website Updates

WordPress 3.2 was released at the beginning of the month and the the inevitable WordPress 3.2.1 followed soon after. Between those two releases I trashed my just implemented site redesign and went with a new design which held truer to the previous design. It was made possible by possible by a time saving WordPress plugin.

Overall it’s gone pretty well with just a few speed bumps along the way. I still have a couple open issues. The most annoying is I can no longer use tools that connect via xmlrpc such as Windows Live Writer and MarsEdit. They just give an xmlrpc error when connecting. Google searches show a few potential causes with solutions. None of those solutions worked for me. The problem seemd to coincide with the 3.2.1 upgrade although it had been awhile before that since I used Windows Live Writer and there were a few other changes during that time. Usualy troubleshooting such as turning off all plugins and reverting to the default theme didn’t eliminate the problem So it seems to be a WordPress or server issue.

SpiderOak In – Dropbox Out

I finally got fed up enough with Dropbox and decided to find an alternative. There’s still nothing than Dropbox for syncing between mobile devices and computers. Especially since a lot of apps integrate Dropbox support. Still, I decided to go with SpiderOak and have been happy with it.

As Alan said in a comment to my post, Dropbox is the clear winner when it comes to syncing while SpiderOak is a clear security winner and better backup client. I decided to go with a paid account to have the extra space. I’ve been using it for backing up my Windows Home Server in addition to my Macs and Windows PCs. It’s been working well.

I’ve also been using it to sync and it’s been working but it only syncs after backing up which is a potential problem, although mainly during the initial backup phase where backups take a long time which could delay syncs. So far it hasn’t been a problem. I back up very little from my PCs while most syncing is PC to PC so the timing hasn’t been a problem.

I’ve also been testing it as a backup for my Windows Home Server 2011. I’m not particularly enthused that there’s no add-in or official server support. But at least SpiderOak did publish an article for getting it to work on a server and without having a user logged on. Although for the most part I have a log on session always open through RDP.

I still haven’t been using it long enough to be completely sold on SpiderOak, but I like what I see so far. Next step will be to try and get it working as a backup for my web server.

New MacBook Air and Lion

As I already mentioned, Apple sucked me into replacing my MacBook Air. I’ve had the new Air for just under a week and love it. It’s peppier than my older Air, naturally. For the most part that wasn’t a huge benefit and more power doesn’t let me read or type any faster. But I just built a couple VMs on it and there is a noticeable improvement there. Plus, as I begin to use it more I’ll be running more apps simultaneously.

I upgraded my old MacBook Air to Lion and the new MacBook Air came with Lion pre-installed. So far I’ve only used Lion on the Airs and have to say Lion seems better suited for a laptop with a trackpad and relatively small screen. The big trackpad on the Air makes Lion that much easier to use. I’ve yet to put Lion on any desktop Mac since I use trackballs with scroll wheels on them. To make matters worse I either share a keyboard/mouse with a Windows PC (through Synergy) or RDP into the Mac.

With any new software or upgrade I like to stick with any out-of-the-box settings for as long as possible. If for no other reason than it makes it that much easier to move from computer to computer. So I’ve been sticking with the Lion defaults. I got used to the scrolling quicker than I thought I would. Extremely annoying at first, but more natural in a day or two. I still scroll wrong every now and then but my muscle memory is learning the difference between a mouse and trackpad. I’m not sure I buy the argument that it’s “natural” but I do admit it makes sense and maybe someone who’s never used a computer would find it natural. It’s not like Apple didn’t understand the change. After firing up Lion there’s an intro video on scrolling and you have to pass a “scrolling test” before getting into Lion.

It took awhile but I finally got the new MacBook Air configured and can start using it as my daily computer. It’s time to format the old Air and ship it off so I’ll should get a better feel for Lion pretty quick. I don’t find the gestures or pieces of the interface all that intuitive so it’ll take some time to learn them.

Home Entertainment

In the last Trail Log I mentioned that my living room finally entered the 21st century with a LED TV. I added a LG BD570 Blu-ray player. The main reasons I picked it where the built-in wireless along with DLNA support and a USB port should the DLNA fail. I was pleasantly surprised that the streaming worked with Windows Home Server 2011 running on my HP MicroServer. I was a little concerned the HP wouldn’t have the processing power but it’s been working fine so far.

I have had problems with the LG player playing some of my video encodes. It’s not related to Windows Home Server since the files also fail when played through the USB drive. I’ve yet to figure out what the problem is as the files play elsewhere and I encode all my videos with the same Handbrake settings, yet only a few have problems.

On Tap

Coming up in August I’ll get more familiar with Lion. That’s unavoidable since it’s on my Air which is a PC I use every day, There’s a few website related things to work on – setting up SpiderOak for backing up and a couple minor issues.

Beyond that we’ll have to see what comes up.