OS Quest Trail Log #64: Vacation Edition

Picture of palm trees on an islandAs October begins so does my two week break from my day job. Long before the word “stay-cation” became popular, my idea of a perfect vacation was one with no plans or clocks. That’s what my vacation will be this year. If the weathers good I’ll get out and about, otherwise I should get some quality time with computers and gadgets.  The last trail log was only a couple weeks ago but, I’m hoping to get back to the monthly frequency with this one.

Kindle Fire

Of all the recent gadget news and rumors, the Kindle Fire is the one I’m more interested in. So interested I already placed my pre-order. There’s still some who are comparing Amazon’s tablet to other low cost tablets based on the specs. The specs are irrelevant for it’s success. Most competitors try to come up with specs that match the iPad when placed on a checklist. Amazon buries the tech specs and leads with what the Kindle can be used for:

a beautiful full color Kindle for movies, TV shows, music, books, magazines, apps, games, web browsing and more, for only $199

Unlike other tablet manufacturers they built the content first and then built the tablet. Whether they planned it that way or stumbled into it doesn’t really matter. It appears that most (all?) of that content will be coming from Amazon. The more technically inclined may root the device or seek out web based content but for most people it will be what Kindle provides out of the box. The Kindle is the first non-iPad tablet that has an answer to the question “why should I buy this instead of an iPad?”.

As for me, I’m already part of the Amazon ecosystem so this is a natural extension. I have to give it to Amazon, they make it easy to buy from them and they make me pay for the privilege.  I pay for a yearly Amazon Prime subscription for free shipping (the video is a relatively new addition) and now I’ll pay for a tablet to consume content and then buy more.

While $200 isn’t small change, it was low enough to get me on board. I’ve been spending more time in Amazon Video and it can’t be played on my iPad so this will help. I am concerned this is a rush to market for the holiday season along with being a Gen 1 device. I suspect Kindle Fire 2 will be significantly different even if the rumors of Amazon trying to buy WebOS aren’t true. (Or are true and don’t lead to a deal. Although I would be surprised if Amazon moved off Android since they already have the apps.

SpiderOak – Syncing Is Hard

I’ve been using, and liking, SpiderOak for my backups. I use it on my Windows Home Server 2011 and on my Mac & Windows PCs. I had been using it to sync files, mainly between some WHS folders and my Macbook Air so that files would be with me on the road. It wasn’t long before I had my first significant problem with it.

I’d been using it to sync my Bento database. I made significant changes the other night on my Macbook Air and when I went back to it the next morning all the changes were gone. Best I could tell the sync had overwritten the files from another machine, basically rolling back the file. Since I hadn’t used Bento on any other machine I knew it wasn’t a file with old data getting updated. Luckily I never really trust any sync, having been burned numerous times, so I had backed up the database after all the changes and could just restore it.

So SpiderOak is out as my sync solution. I’m using ChronoSync but that does require me to make sure the latest file is on my laptop before I go mobile. I’m still liking SpiderOak as a backup solution.

Software Updates

While there have been plenty of software updates, only one seems worth mentioning.

VMWare Fusion was upgraded to version 4. Since I recently purchased Fusion 3 it was a free upgrade for me. I try to avoid running Windows programs on my Macs so I’ve never been interested in features such as Unity or even game performance. Based simply on the time the VM runs, my primary usage is to run a virtual machine so that I can VM into work and keep everything work related separate from personal stuff.  Add a second VM for Windows 7 testing and another as a test web server and that’s about all I use. The point being, my needs are minimal and to keep that in mind when I say I like Fusion and it performs well for me.

The competition between VMware and Parallels (along with VirtualBox) seems good for us as the crown of “best” seems to switch between Parallels and VMware on a regular basis and prices stay relatively low. I’m on VMware because that was the least expensive choice at the time (VirtualBox on the Mac was causing be problems.)

Website Changes?

I was recently able to register the domain osquest.com when it dropped. It makes things a little easier to drop the “the” and not have to tell people to include it when I mention the name. I’m still deciding exactly how I want to implement it. Swapping the URL is a pain (having to switch internal links and do redirections) with little gain. It would be easier to just redirect the new URL to the old one. On the other hand this may be a good opportunity for a major redesign since I can move stuff to the new URL when ready. This may be a good vacation project.

Project List

Prior to my vacation I put together a list of things I wanted to work on. Even with the days off I don’t expect to get through everything on list list but I’ll list it all here just to see how bad I do. So in no particular order…

  • The previously mentioned website redesign. Off-hand I’m guessing this won’t see much progress during my vacation, at least not enough to go public with.
  • pfSense router – I’m happy with Untangle as both a router and UTM but I’m still interested in pfSense as a router. If nothing else it has more bells and whistles on the router side. I hadn’t used it because it didn’t work with my DSL. I no longer have that DSL line (it was a backup and to handle traffic when I went over my Comcast quota). Plus, there’s a new version of pfSense out.
  • Ubuntu Home Server – I’m happy with Windows Home Server 2011 but I’d like to get a Ubuntu server running as a home server too. I don’t think it will replace the WHS, but it may be fun to experiment with.

I’ll see how much progress I make on these. Between other shiny things catching my attention and vacation I’ll have to pick a choose. We’ll see how much progress there’s been with the next trail log.

The OS Quest Trail Log #3

Upgrades – Patches – Please Stop the Madness

It seems like all I did this past week was patch and upgrade. I already mentioned the iWeb ’08 update.

Microsoft released 9 security updates so it took awhile to patch my VMs.

Apple also updated Boot Camp to version 1.4 and I got around to updating it this week.

VMWare Fusion also moved out of beta recently. I’d been running the beta version on my MacBook and finally got around to upgrading it to the final release. I haven’t upgraded to the latest Parallels version yet so it’s not really fair to compare, but I’ve been very impressed with VMWare’s Fusion. The Parallels upgrade is on tap for this week.

CNet’s Crave blog has a comparison of Parallels Desktop for Mac and VMWare Fusion, along with Boot Camp and CrossOver Mac 6.0. From a pure performance perspective VMWare Fusion came out on top although their conclusion was:

All that said, if you all you need to do is run more pedestrian Windows applications on your Mac, such as Outlook or Excel, you are not likely to notice significant performance differences between any of the virtualization options mentioned here–for less resource-intensive applications, the performance of any of these virtulization applications is probably fast enough.

Then there was the iLife ’08 upgrade. So far I’m not overly impressed with the update to iPhoto. I use it mainly as a organizer, not an editor. Some of the features improve organization but at the price of performance. The pinwheel makes a frequent appearance when I’m using the upgraded iPhoto.

I also installed iWork ’08 and fired up Pages enough to know it at least presents a nice clean screen for typing and doesn’t force me into page layout mode.

A couple of other programs I use have prompted me to let me know they have upgrades available too. But so far I’ve held off upgrading them so they’ll be some more upgrades next week too. Wonder if I’ll have time to actually use some software this week?


The last update to MacMozy is still causing me problems. It has a habit of getting stuck in a “Backup started…” state with no files processed. It hasn’t been too much of a problem because I’ve been turning off my iMac during the day when I’m at work and MacMozy usually runs fine between reboots. It’s also fine on my MacBook which gets shutdown after each use. It’s on weekends like this, when my iMac stays on, that I have problems. I’m hoping the problem just goes away with the next update.


  • The addition of Numbers to iWork ’08 won’t kill off Microsoft Office, but it does appear to have claimed Apple Works as its first victim. The AppleWorks page is gone from Apple, www.apple.com/appleworks redirects to the Support page for Apple Works. So it appears Apple has killed off Apple Works. Apple Works came with my first Mac Mini and as much as I wanted to like and use it I just couldn’t, so I can’t say I’ll miss it.


Software Links

Links to software I’ve come across but haven’t had a chance to try out yet. Post a comment if you have any experience with them.

  • FastApps – Automator actions for Apple software. FastApps includes: FastBackPic, FastMusic, FastDVD, FastWebSite, and FastSlide
  • Lifehacker brought a link to OpenProj. OpenProj is a free, open-source project management application intended to replace Microsoft Project.
  • Lifehacker has a Mac link this time with Drive-In, a DVD ripper for the Mac. It’s currently free in beta form but may stop being free when it leaves beta.