Entries Tagged as 'Software'

SugarSync Epic Failure

Today I decided I would test out SugarSync, they offer 5GB (not much by today’s standards) free cloud storage when you sign up through the Windows 10 App.

I signed up, downloaded the PC sync app, and got both the welcome as well as the verify email address email.

I clicked on the verify link — and below I what I got.  Just to be sure it wasn’t something pathological about Edge, I tried Chrome, FireFox, and Opera multiple times (I also tried a few more browsers, and clearly it’s no my network connection or DNS resolution — since I get an error from SugarSync).  To add insult to injury, there’s absolutely no way I could find to report this issue to them (other than write them a letter and send it via the US Postal Service).

Great way to build confidence in your product SugarSync — great way to make me want to shell out money…

FORGET IT!!!

You can never undo damage to your reputation like this.  My recommendation, close up shop — there are many choices in the cloud storage space, and they actually work.


SugarSync Epic Fail

SugarSync Epic Fail

Linux on the desktop

I’ve been experimenting with Linux as a server for several months now; and I have to say for the price it’s a clear winner over Microsoft Windows Server 2008.

Other than desktop search, Linux has been a clear winner across the board.  Network file sharing, application services, etc all seem to work, and work well.  Plus with the webmin GUI for managing the server, it’s extremely easy — easier in fact that figuring out where to go to do the task at hand in Windows Server 2008.

With my success using Linux as a server, I have decided (once again) to investigate Linux as a desktop replacement for Windows… after all, how much does one normally do with a desktop?

I experimented briefly with Ubuntu on a laptop when I was cloning the drive in it, but I didn’t put it through exhaustive paces (I was quite impressed that Ubuntu auto-magically installed drivers for all the hardware in the notebook; though that feat was no better than Windows 7).

I need to go over my requirements a few more times before I start the test, but what I believe is important is:

  • Hardware support; including multiple displays, scanners, web cams, etc
  • Office (which OpenOffice will work the same as it has been on Windows)
  • Financial Management (I guess I’ll have to move over to MoneyDance; it’s not free, but it’s fairly well thought out)
  • Media Playback (VLC runs on Linux just like Windows, plus there are a number of media players I’ll take a look at)
  • DVD RIPping (my last try to do that on Linux wasn’t very successful)
  • Video transcoding (I think HandBrake is broken on the current version of Ubuntu — so that might take a little work)

I’ll also evaluate it for ease of use and customization…

The evaluation will be done on an Intel DG45ID motherboard (G45 chipset)with an Intel Core2 E7200 with 4GB DDR2, multiple SATA2 hard drives, SATA DVD-RW, and I’ll test with both a nVidia 9500 and the Intel GMAC controller (X4500HD) running both a 32-bit and 64-bit Ubuntu 10.04LTS distribution.

Let the fun begin!

Originally posted 2010-08-12 02:00:28.

DHCP

DHCP, or Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, is an internet standard defined by RFC1541 and later by RFC2131(as well as a few other RFCs relevant to other physical mediums) as an extension to BOOTP.

DHCP is a fairly elegant method to give client computers configuration information to allow them access to an IP network.

Conceptually the protocol is straight forward:

  • A client machine boots and activates it’s network adapter
  • A client machine requests IP configuration information
  • A server provides IP configuration information with a time specific lease
  • A client consumes the IP configuration information and setups up it’s network adapter
  • A client attempts to renew it’s IP configuration information when the lease has half expired
  • A client releases it’s IP configuration information when done with it
  • A server release client specific configuration information either when it’s been released by the client or the lease has expired.

Most home and small businesses use DHCP and they use their router / gateway device as the DHCP server (most of these devices default to enabling their DHCP server).

Some gateways allow you a great deal of control over the DHCP server, they allow you to set MAC address to IP bindings, specify the DHCP records to be provided.  Some gateways only allow you to turn on or off the service.

An option to running the DHCP server in your router / gateway would be to run it on a machine that is always on (or at least is one when any machine that might need DHCP services might be on).

Microsoft provides a DHCP server as part of their server operating systems (Server 2003 and Server 2008), ISC provides a DHCP server that can be run on a variety of operating systems, and there are a few shareware and open source DHCP servers that might fit your needs.

There’s no question that DHCP is the way to manage IP configuration information in a small network, and most business and enterprises use DHCP as well.

Alternately if you don’t have a device that does DHCP and don’t want to or can’t use a software solution you can use the “Alternate Configuration” panel on a Windows PC to setup the IP address configuration information and if a DHCP server is ever present it will override the information you’ve entered on the PC.  This is very handy for laptops that need to be configured by DHCP when they’re out and about or at the office, but when you don’t have a DHCP server at home and need to connect to another machine.  This is different than statically setting the IP address on the machine, if you do that you have to change the configuration each time you need DHCP.

Originally posted 2009-01-11 12:39:33.

Windows 7 – Install With Multiple Disks

I set out this evening to install Windows 7 Ultimate on one of my “high end” desktops, and like all my desktops it has multiple SATA drives running in AHCI mode (after all, it’s “high end”).

No matter how I setup my drives in the BIOS or with the SATA cables I kept getting the larger (newer) drive as DISK0 in the Windows 7 install and the smaller (older) drive as DISK1.

Finally I started doing some reading on the Internet, and I’m not the only person who’s noticed this behavior.  In fact, some say it’s random.

Based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve read I suspect that Microsoft’s EFI BIOS implementation re-polls [discovery] the drives and ignores what the PC legacy BIOS tells it… and the first drive to respond is DISK0.  In my case the drive I want to be DISK0 is probably predictably slower than the drive I want to be DISK1, so I see consistent results.  However, if the drives are very similar (or identical) you could see either become ready first (a micro-second counts).

This is obviously a bug in Windows 7 (didn’t happen in Vista; but apprently is did happen in Vista SP1 and SP2), and can cause all kinds of problems down the road.

What’s the best way to deal with it?

Open up your case and unplug all but the first drive, do your installation, then power up the drives one-by one (if you have hot-swap capability with SATA you don’t need to power down, if you don’t you will have to power down to plug in each drive in turn).

You can easily change the drive letters in disk manager; and once Windows tattoos the drives they should be fixed in order in disk manager.

If you have a motherboard that uses the Intel chip set you may want to download and install the Intel® Matrix Storage Manager for Windows 7.

If PCs used EFI BIOS (like Macs) this probably wouldn’t be an issue, but since Microsoft uses a soft EFI BIOS to boot, they should have tested this better, and they should have fixed it (there are several people who indicated they reported this behavior during the beta testing).

While Windows 7 might be a nice overhaul of Vista; it’s not without it’s problems, and maybe the whole PC heritage is beginning to be too antiquated to keep updating; perhaps it’s time for a new design.

Originally posted 2009-11-12 01:00:38.

Windows 7 User Account Flaw

I’d say this is just an issue with Windows 7, but it’s actually been present in Windows and Windows Server since Vista…

Plainly put, the organization of information in Windows can become corrupt to the point that Windows is unable to create new users.

Really?

Windows (based on NT) is over a decade old… and to have such a basic flaw seems un-thinkable!

Let’s see, to create a user…

  1. Check to make sure the log-on identifier is unique;
  2. Create a security descriptor;
  3. Create a user home directory;
  4. Copy user default template files to the home directory;
  5. Apply the security descriptor to the user home directory and files; and
  6. Update the user database.

Seems pretty straight forward to me.

And not only is it an essential function of an operating system, but it’s one that we should have every expectation shouldn’t ever fail — and if it does, there should be a procedure to fix it.

Oh, there are procedures to fix it — in fact that are so many procedures you could probably re-install the operating system a hundred times before trying all of them… and there are more than one “Microsoft Fix-It” automated fixes as well, and trust me — your odds of winning the lottery are probably better than one of them actually resolving your issues.

All I can say is that regardless of the potential Windows might have, Microsoft’s actions indicate that it’s not intended to be anything more than a toy operating system — and never was.

Originally posted 2013-09-03 12:00:00.

Drupal Review

I’ve was waiting for Drupal 7 to do any major work; but with Alpha 2 only barely out (as of writing this) I decided to go ahead and use Drupal 6 and cross my fingers that the upgrade would go reasonably smoothly.

Drupal 7 will be released when Drupal 7 is ready for release.

NOTE:  Drupal does not maintain any backwards compatibility; while they do support upgrading between minor and major revisions it is possible that you may be using a module that does not have [and will not have] a compatible version.

Drupal is an open source software solution; you can read about the history on their web site, as well as get a little better feel for the zen of Drupal development and developers.

Drupal is a Content Management System (CMS); and in all fairness, I would call Drupal more of a Content Management Framework or as Drupal itself call it a Content Management Platform.

Why the distinction?

Well, I think primarily to clearly delineate Drupal’s strengths from CMSs.

Drupal talks about it’s organization in terms of a “stack” (or layers) and “objects”… and glue that binds and manages these to form a web site.

Unlike some of the heavy weight CMS products on the market Drupal allows a user to build a fully custom web site through custom theming and customizing object interaction.  And you can see from the list of sites that use Drupal it’s amazing what has been done (and can fairly easily be done) with Drupal.

Now for the fine print.

Drupal isn’t easy to learn, and you’re not going to be building an incredible site with Drupal ten minutes after installing it (though it is very straight forward to install).

First, you need to wrap you head around the Drupal model, and then you have to think about your web site in terms of object relationships in a very database centric model… and it’s very likely you’re going to have to read, play, and learn (a lot).

Why put this much effort into learning a tool to build a web site?

Well, clearly if you’re building a one or two page web site you’re wasting your time.  In fact if you’re building hundreds of one or two page web sites there are much more efficient tools to use… but if you’re building a large (complex) web site, that you have a very specific user experience in mind for, and it will be dynamic (meaning content and maybe even appearance will change) then you should be interested in Drupal.

Drupal is very power; Drupal is very complex; Drupal is what Drupal does…

The real power of Drupal is that maintaining a well designed Drupal site is straight forward, making sweeping changes to a well designed Drupal site is straight forward — and all of that is largely irrelevant to the size of the site.

It’s a lot of work to learn Drupal; particularly if you’re only going to build one complex site in your life; but if you’re a consultant, or you’re going to make a career out of building (or re-building) web sites… it’s a tool you will want in your toolbox.

http://drupal.org/

Originally posted 2010-04-05 02:00:12.

Concrete5 Review

Content Management Systems (CMSs) strive to make maintaining a web site simple; they generally are focused on allowing one person or many people to effectively contribute and edit content, change the overall appearance (without needing to re-enter content), produce reports, etc.

Many CMSs have a fairly steep learning curve before a user can build and deploy or even manage a site.

Concrete5 is different.

Concrete5 makes the task of managing a small to medium size web site as easy as using a WYSIWYG editor.  I installed the software and had it running in less than ten minutes.  The administrative interface was straight forward enough that I really didn’t need to refer to any documentation at all to use the product to publish content, change content, and add pages.

Downloading themes required me to register for the Concrete5 Market Place (registration is free, and many of the downloads are free, but some of them are not).

Concrete5 core is open source, and free; some of the add-ons for Concrete5 are free, some are not.  Concrete5 actually started as a closed source, commercial CMS, which recently became an open source (and free) product.  Concrete5 software can be downloaded and installed on your web site / server, or you can run a hosted site on Concrete5.

Concrete5 includes a RSS/ATOM feed add-on (I actually wrote one that’s a great deal more flexible for use on my web site, but you get this for free with no work) which makes it easy to provide live content on your web site.  Additionally there are free Flash, Google Maps (you need a Google Maps API key to use it), YouTube, and several other free add-ons as well.

One great feature of Concrete5 is that it keeps page revisions, so it’s easy to roll back to a previous version of a page; or to just see what’s changed (I do this on web sites I author from scratch using a source control system — and many CMSs provide this ability, but not as cleanly and as simply as Concrete5).

Overall, Concrete5 is simple, and will likely handle the vast majority of user’s needs — though a two page boiler-plate web site will handle the vast majority of user’s needs, so that’s not a high mark.

Snippy remarks aside…

If you can use a WYSIWYG editor, and you understand simple drag-and-drop paradigms and you’re comfortable using a web application and moving through menus you can maintain a web site.  You might need help setting up the web site, and you likely will need help installing the software — but even those are straight forward and something you could learn in less time than it would take to do simple tasks in a more sophisticated CMS.

The short of it, Concrete5 has a very low learning curve (almost no learning curve indeed); and will allow most any user to build and maintain their own web site with [virtually] no training.

The number of add-ons available for Concrete5 is small; but it appears from reading the information on their site and several other reviews that the add-ons all work, and work together (which isn’t necessarily the case with other CMSs).  Though as I’ve already enumerated, many useful add-ons are available and free.

For users who understand CSS, HTML, PHP it’s very straight forward to build your own themes; and actually extending Concrete5 would not be a daunting task.

What I like about Concrete5…

It’s easy to install, easy to use, and provides most basic functionality that a CMS should provide — and the core is free.  It does not overly abstract core parts of a web site (no doubt that’s where it get’s it’s name).  Concrete5 has a lot of potential.

What I don’t like about Concrete5…

The web site goes out of it’s way to criticize other content management systems (and that to me is ridiculous; both Joomla and Drupal are capable of being used to build more sophisticated sites — but both of those are much harder to use to build a simple site); it doesn’t support tables prefixes (which means each instance of Concrete5 needs it’s own database, and it’s dangerous to try and share a database between Concrete5 and any other software (this is significant because some hosting plans greatly limit the number of databases you are allowed); it’s a relatively new “community” project, and thus does not have a large body of people working on it or eyes reviewing it (which means it’s more likely to have security issues than some of the more mature CMSs).

I’m neutral on the fact that parts of Concrete5 are offered free, and parts are offered at a (generally) modest price.  I agree that developers are entitled to make a living off their software, and as long as it doesn’t become a razor/razor-blade type model I’m fine with it; but success often breeds greed (like familiarity breeds contempt).

One thing to keep in mind:  always select the right tool for the job.

What Concrete5 does it does well; but decide what it is you want to do before you select the tool.

http://concrete5.org/

Originally posted 2010-04-03 02:00:42.

Ubuntu – RAID Creation

I think learning how to use mdadm (/sbin/mdadm) is a good idea, but in Ubuntu Desktop you can use Disk Utility (/usr/bin/palimpsest) to create most any of your RAID (“multiple disk”) configurations.

In Disk Utility, just access “File->Create->Raid Array…” on the menu and choose the options.  Before doing that, you might want to clear off the drives you’re going to use (I generally create a fresh GTP partition to insure the drive is ready to be used as a component of the RAID array).

Once you’ve created the container with Disk Utility; you can even format it with a file system; however, you will still need to manually add the entries to /etc/mdadm/mdadm.conf and /etc/fstab.

One other minor issue I noticed.

I gave my multiple disk containers names (mirror00, mirror01, …) and Disk Utility will show them mounted on device /dev/md/mirror00 — in point of fact, you want to use device names like /dev/md0, /dev/md1, … in the /etc/mdadm/mdadm.conf file.  Also, once again, I highly recommend that you use the UUID for the array configuration (in mdadm.conf) and for the file system (in fstab).

Originally posted 2010-07-12 02:00:33.

Microsoft Live Essentials 2011

Late last week Microsoft pushed out Microsoft Live Essentials 2011 as a “critical” update…

I don’t ever recall a new version of a piece of software being labeled as a critical update; and perhaps there was some security flaw found in the last version of Microsoft Live Essentials that Microsoft felt wasn’t fixable, or perhaps they just wanted to have people downloading an update that probably few will really want.

The only part of Live Essentials that I use is Windows Live Mail; so I can’t really speak to the rest of the pieces — but my first impression was that I’d be moving to a different email program soon, very soon.

Everything has changed, and menus you need to setup the program (it only copies some of your setting from the previous version) are buried deep, and in confusing places.

Additionally this isn’t just an email client any longer; it’s moving closer and closer to what Outlook is rather than what Outlook Express was… and to me that’s a shame.

I really can’t imagine most people have a surplus of screen real estate to comfortably accommodate all the eye candy and glitz that Microsoft has wasted time and energy into putting into Live Mail when they could have fixed some of the bugs (actually a bug that I reported during the beta over two years ago is still in even this version — I guess the kids in Redmond just don’t know how to keep a scrollable window in the same place after a change… and now rather than putting you at the top of the scroll you’re at a random location — so it looks like someone tried to hacked a “fix” in, and didn’t bother testing it… as seems to be all too true of most software these days).

My advice is don’t take the update… just continue using the version you have now until Microsoft forces you to upgrade; and if you don’t need the Hotmail/Live mail interface afforded by the Windows Live Mail program, consider one of the other free alternatives.

Originally posted 2010-10-24 02:00:38.

Apple – Double or Nothing?

Yesterday Apple announced another record quarter in sales.  In fact, iPhone sales doubled in Q4 2009 (a good holiday present for Apple).

Tomorrow Apples announces a new tablet computer (at least that’s the rumor of what they will announce).

Google has a lot of ground to catch up with Apple in the phone market, and it certainly doesn’t appear that Apple is going to just stand by and wait for them.

I guess the one thing that Apples numbers show is that there is money to be made in economic hard times if you’ve got something people want.

Originally posted 2010-01-26 01:00:44.