Entries Tagged as 'Computers'

Virtual CloneDrive

I’ve tried a number of virtual CD/DVD drive tools for Windows over the years.

Daemon Tools was one of the first (free) solutions that really worked well; but success went to their heads and to describe it as anything but a POS would be way too kind.

Microsoft released a very basic driver for Windows XP, and everyone hoped that they would just include the feature in future releases of Windows; but disappointment from Microsoft isn’t new, and isn’t likely to stop anytime soon.  Neither Windows Vista or Windows 7 had the feature, and the Windows XP driver can’t be used in anything but Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

Gizmo was a descent solution; the free version had all the features I really needed, it worked — but there was just so much baggage that came with being able to mount drive images; and there were times when it just didn’t work properly.

Virtual CloneDrive has been around for a very long time —  and it’s free.  In the past it always seemed like a so-so solution to the problem, but history has a way of rewarding the companies that stick with a fairly simple paradigm and who builds a product that just works.

While I’m not a huge fan of SlySofts other products (AnyDVD just never seems to work as advertised — and it’s an expensive solution), I have to say that Virtual CloneDrive is probably one of the absolute best virtual CD/DVD solutions for Windows.

Virtual CloneDrive

NOTE: Virtual CD/DVD solutions are used to create a virtual CD/DVD drive from an image of the disk (ISO, BIN, CCD, etc).

Originally posted 2010-07-22 02:00:40.

Wikipedia Funding

I’m a big fan of Wikipedia— that should be clear from my previous posts on Wikipedia and my frequent use of Wikipedia as a reference tool (and to link to from my posts).

Wikipedia rose from the ashes of failue much like a phoenix… and currently operates one of the largest (if not the largest) repositories of human knowledge.

Wikipedia is freely accessed by anyone with an Internet connection (provided their provider does not block such access), and is currently funded completely through donations.

While I applaud the dreams of Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales to keep the site free of advertising, my feeling is that advertising might well be a better way to sustain the site.

My concept is that those who do not wish to see advertisement donate, and are free from advertisements as long as they have “credits”… when they run out of credits then they like those who choose not to donate see advertisements.

Since Wikipedia is one of the heaviest traveled sites on the internet, advertisers will likely pay top dollar, and there’s likely no need to work through an advertising network…

Originally posted 2010-01-24 02:00:35.

Nothing but the necessities…

In a school district that is struggling to keep teacher’s it’s amazing that that the Santa Rosa County Florida School District can find the money (and need) for 90 iPad2s for administrators (it’s also amazing that there are 90 administrators in a  county with only about 150,000 residents).

I’m glad to see that my tax dollars are well spent on essential items to insure that today’s school children will be properly educated and that the administrators responsible for overseeing that education will have new toys at the disposal to sit mostly unused in their desks — after all, an edict has been issued by the school district that these devices are only to be used in a professional capacity.

I wonder, will it be grounds for immediate termination the first time a games is played on,, a facebook post is made from or personal email is sent via one these essential educational tools — inquiring minds want to know.

My personal feeling would be this money would be better spent offsetting the $4.4 million dollar shortfall for the 2011-2012 school year that is necessitating the layoff of teaching staff — of course, why should I be surprised about iPad2s for administrators, after all most of them just got raises to address the inequities in their pay (I guess they couldn’t afford their own iPad2s — though they seem to expect teachers to buy a great deal of supplies for their classrooms out of their considerably smaller salaries).

Originally posted 2011-08-15 02:00:22.

SyncMate – Expert Edition

Several weeks ago I took a look at the free edition of SyncMate, and I had some fairly good things to say about it.  In fact, I was so impressed with it that I started using the free edition to synchronize my Windows Mobile device.

Eltima Software contacted me and offered me a license for the expert edition to enable to me more fully explore the capabilities of it (and to write a more in depth post about it).

I agreed, and here’s what I found…

I decided that this would be a fairly comprehensive test; it would involve a number of different operating systems, and synchronization environments.

The operating systems I tested were:

OS-X 10.6.1 (32 & 64 bit)

Windows 7 (32 & 64 bit)

Windows Vista (32 & 64 bit)

Windows 2003

Windows XP

Windows Mobile 6.5 (HTC Touch Pro 2 – XV6875)

Windows Mobile 5.1 (MotoQ)

Outlook Look 2003, 2007, 2010 on the PC

Entourage 2008 on the Mac

Windows Contact / Windows Calendar (on Vista and Windows 7)

Live Contacts / Live Calendar (on Windows XP, Windows 2003, Windows Vista, and Windows 7)

FireFox (Windows)

Safari (Windows and OS-X)

Additionally I took a quick look at iTunes and iPhoto (even though I don’t use either of those normally); and I took a quick look at Google synchronization (including synchronizing to an Android handset).

It’s a long list, and I assure you that the coverage of the tests were not exhaustive — but rather concentrated on suites of versions that would be most commonly found together (though I have a reasonably good feeling that unless there were some real flukes, the sample of tests I performed are probably indicative of all combinations).

My first test was to synchronize my Mac Book Pro with my Mac Pro… I’ve never really put any effort into making sure that the contacts and such agreed between the two, so I install unlocked the free version of SyncMate I’d installed on both and proceeded to enable all the plug-ins.  After fighting with both iPhoto and iTune (you wouldn’t need to worry about that if you actually used them they would have already been setup and ready to sync). the little spinners started and in just a few minutes I had everything on both machines (which also included all the calendar and contact information I’d gotten from my smart phone to start with) in sync.

I went ahead and disabled iPhoto and iTune for the rest of my tests — I’d seen it work, and certainly synchronizing those would easily be covered with the folder synchronization (which was a more generic test — but of course it was nice that the iTunes/iPhoto sync could be enabled with a simple click).

I decided next to see what the various versions of Windows and Office Suites would do… so I brought up virtual machines using various OS images and installed versions of Office in them.  I setup the Windows component of SyncMate and then decide to just do everything at once — so I added all the machines to SyncMate on the Mac Pro and hit the sync button.

It took a few minutes, but then on every machine in either (or both) the Windows Contacts and the Outlook Contacts there was a full copy of my contacts; as well as files I’d put in a test folder.

Things were going very well, so now I turned to a couple Windows Mobile devices.

Both were easy to setup via USB, and both synchronized perfectly (frankly I was a little surprised when the MotoQ running Mobile 5.1 worked as well as it did).  So then I tried WiFi sync on the XV6875 — worked just fine (there’s a nice feature of the SyncMate driver on the WinMo device that will tell you the IP and name of the device if you need).  Next was Bluetooth synchronization… and unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that on either device — during setting up the connection I kept getting “Uncompatible Device” (a newer version of SyncMate has corrected the awkward english construction; but unfortunately I still cannot use Bluetooth synchronization with either my XV6875 or Q), so I’m not exactly sure what the problem is, but I would consider Bluetooth synchronization more convenient than WIFi — though I generally use USB since I can charge the device as well.

Then I decided to try a few more scenarios from the SyncMate feature list.

Folder synchronization with a USB flash drive worked perfectly.  And from that I’d be fairly confident that iTunes/iPhoto/folders could be synchronized to any USB (disk) device.

Google synchronization worked just as documented; and synchronizing an Android handset with Google just happens (all you have to do is enter you account information into the handset and enable synchronization).

Here a few comments on individual features…

Call history and the SMS manager are both very nice features of the expert edition… I’m not sure it’s sufficient motivation to pay for an upgrade, but it certainly is a sweet feature.

Mounting a Window mobile phone as a USB disk is a feature that didn’t make much sense to me; my XV6875 has the ability to select whether or not it makes an ActiveSync style or USB drive connection when you connect it; though on an older device like my MotoQ it does let you see the file system on the Mac much as you would on a Windows desktop.

Time synchronization is another feature that just doesn’t make sense; all devices get synchronized to the network (and thus to atomic clocks) so I see little value (and a number of reasons not to) synchronize them to each other and defeat the mechanisms already in place (if this were a camera, not a cellular phone I’d consider this a plus — but I’m going to say this feature should be removed; and certainly not used).

As noted before, synchronization to Windows Live isn’t support (and since this is a Mac centric product I don’t think that should come as a surprise — but, of course, some people who have Windows Mobile phones may use some of the Live services).

One thing I haven’t really covered to this point is how you setup a sync partner in SyncMate; and I guess I haven’t focused on it because it’s fairly easy, and definitely straight forward.  It isn’t “automatic” (and I actually consider that a plus — I absolutely hate ActiveSync trying take ownership of a device I just want to attach once).  A nice touch to the way you add a partner is that you can both name it, and include an image for it (though it might be a little nicer if Eltima included more stock images with SyncMate, or created a web interface to find images of handsets — but I just downloaded one of each of my phones and then used that).

The number one quality of SyncMate is that it works — and by far and large it works as advertised.  In this round of tests I didn’t have any instability in the version of the Windows sync driver I installed (unlike in the previous tests where I did have some issues with the Windows sync driver crashing).

One feature I felt might be interesting for Eltima to add would be a “mesh” type synchronization — really all they’d need to do is have an ability to synchronize the partnerships between Mac hosts (ie — all the synchronization partnerships I entered on my Mac Pro could instantly appear on my Mac Book Pro the next time the two machines sync’d — and then conflicts would just be handled throughout the mesh on a peer-by-peer basis just as they are now).

As I’ve stated previously I find the price a little steep — but you and your wallet will have to decide for yourself…  If you like the free version, and have needs for some of the additional plug-ins; I suspect you’ll be favorably impressed by what you get once you purchase a license.

Eltima Software
SyncMate

Originally posted 2010-07-26 18:04:01.

Macs Don’t Have The Problems PCs Do!

And I have a bridge for sale…

I’m sure you’ve heard your friend the Mac bigot tell you this and that about the Mac is better.

You know, the file system doesn’t fragment, it doesn’t crash, it’s easy to use, software uninstalls properly…

I’ve talked about fragmentation before; and there’s no reason to cover that ground again.  As to it doesn’t crash, well… you don’t see the sad Mac or the bomb any more — but it crashes, sometimes you get a kernel panic, sometimes it just reboots (I’ve seen both)…

But the really amusing thing is the software uninstall myth.

That’s a load of CRAP.  The real problem is most Mac user’s wouldn’t know if software uninstalled or not — as long as the entry disappears from the Applications folder they think it’s been uninstalled.

Open up a “Terminal” window and ‘sudo bash’ — then have a look around at all the garbage that gets left by uninstalls and upgrades (including Apple software).

Two that are great are VMware Fusion, and Parallels Desktop — but almost every piece of software I’ve uninstalled or upgraded seems to leave something behind.

Installing and un-installing software really isn’t as easy as it seems it should be; but a lot of the problems with the install and un-install are the operating systems really weren’t well engineered for that in the first place.

Both Microsoft and Apple attempted to come up with standards for software installation; and for the most part I think vendors follow those standards… at least where the standards are clear.  But it’s just more complicated than it really needs to be, and the software developers are expected to track too many things.  Like I said, Apple can’t seem to do it on OS-X, and Microsoft can’t seem to do it on Windows — so what chance has the mortal software developer got?

Originally posted 2009-02-24 01:00:26.

Fix It

About a year before Microsoft Windows 7 hit the street, Microsoft had started to introduce the “Fix It” logo associated with “solutions” to problems in Windows.

In Windows 7 Microsoft incorporated the solution center to partially automate finding and fixing issues that could cause problems with Windows.

Now Microsoft has expanded “Fix It” to include Windows Vista and Windows XP…

Thank you for your interest in Microsoft Fix it. We’re working hard to automate solutions to common software problems in an easy, intuitive way that is available when and where you need it. So whether you are looking for a solution in help or support content, or an error report, Fix it provides a way to apply automated fixes, workarounds, or configuration changes so you don’t have to perform a long list of manual steps yourself.

Microsoft Fix It

Fix It

Originally posted 2010-04-27 02:00:21.

Macbuntu

Macbuntu isn’t a sanctioned distribution of Ubuntu like Kubuntu, Xubuntu, etc; rather it’s a set of scripts that turns an Ubuntu desktop into something that resembles a Mac running OS-X… but it’s till very much Ubuntu running gdm (GNOME).

I don’t recommend install Macbuntu on a production machine, or even a real machine until you’ve taken it for a spin around the block.  For the most part it’s eye candy; but that said, it does make a Mac user feel a little more comfortable at an Ubuntu workstation, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with the desktop paradigm (remember, the way GNOME, KDE, XFCE, Enlightenment, Windows, OS-X, etc work is largely arbitrary — it’s just a development effort intended to make routine user operations intuitive and simply; but no two people are the same, and not everyone finds a the “solution” to a particular use case optimal).

What I recommend you do is create a virtual machine with your favorite virtualization software; if you don’t have virtualization software, consider VirtualBox — it’s still free (until Larry Ellison decides to pull the plug on it), and it’s very straight forward for even novices to use.

Install Ubuntu 10.10 Desktop (32-bit is fine for the test) in it, and just take all the defaults — it’s easy, and no reason to fine tune a virtual machine that’s really just a proof-of-concept.

After that, install the virtual guest additions and do a complete update…

Once you’re done with all that, just open a command prompt and type each of the following (without elevated privileges).

  • wget https://downloads.sourceforge.net/project/macbuntu/macbuntu-10.10/v2.3/Macbuntu-10.10.tar.gz -O /tmp/Macbuntu-10.10.tar.gz
  • tar xzvf /tmp/Macbuntu-10.10.tar.gz -C /tmp
  • cd /tmp/Macbuntu-10.10/
  • ./install.sh

Once you’ve followed the on-screen instructions and answered everything to install all the themes, icons, wallpapers, widgets, and tools (you’ll have to modify Firefox and Thunderbird a little more manually — browser windows are opened for you, but you have to install the plug-ins yourself), you reboot and you’re presented with what looks very much like OS-X (you actually get to see some of the eye candy as it’s installed).

Log in… and you see even more Mac-isms… play play play and you begin to get a feel of how Apple created the slick, unified OS-X experience on top of BSD.

Now if you’re a purist you’re going to push your lower lip out and say this isn’t anything like OS-X… well, maybe it doesn’t carry Steve Job’s DNA fingerprint, but for many users I think you’ll hear them exclaim that this is a significant step forward for making Linux more Mac-ish.

There are a couple different efforts to create a Mac like experience under Linux; Macbuntu is centric on making Ubuntu more like OS-X, and as far as I can see it’s probably one of the cleanest and simplest ways to play with an OS-X theme on top of Linux…

If you find you like it, then go ahead and install on a real machine (the eye candy will be much more pleasing with a manly video card and gpu accelerated effects), and you can uninstall it if you like — but with something this invasive I’d strongly encourage you to follow my advice and try before you buy (so to speak — it’s free, but time and effort count for a great deal).

I’ll make a post on installing Macbuntu for tomorrow so that it’s a better reference.

Macbuntu on SourceForge.net

Macbuntu

Originally posted 2010-11-14 02:00:36.

rsync

I’ve gotta ask the question why no one has ever invested the time and energy into making a port of the client code in rsync as a native Windows executable.

Yes, you can certainly run rsync client (and server even) under Cygwin; but it just seems like backing up files on a workstation to a central store efficiently is something that might have occurred to a Windows person over the years.

Could it be that people only think in terms of homogeneous solutions?  That they simply can’t conceive that the best selection of a server might not involve the same operating system as a workstation or desktop?

Yeah — I understand that since many Windows desktops talk to Windows servers rsync isn’t a commercially viable solution (or even hobbyist solution) unless you have both server and client, but in many cases a Windows desktop talks to a *nix based sever (or NAS) and all you really need to be able to do is run an rsync client.

The benefits of rsync seems to be to be well worth implementing a client on Windows — while the newest version of the file sharing protocol in Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, and Windows 7 have the ability to do differential file copy, it’s not something that’s likely to implemented in an optimized fashion in non-Microsoft storage systems (and isn’t going to be implement in Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 at all); nor is there any reason to really depend of a file sharing protocol for synchronization.

Anyway — rsync is a very efficient tool, and something you might want to keep in your toolbox.

Originally posted 2010-06-04 02:00:01.

Computer Cables

Whether you have a Windows PC, a Mac, or a *nix box, the one thing you’ll have a headache with is all the cables.

And for those of you who try to say you don’t — all I’ve got to say in The Nile ain’t just a river in Egypt!

There are all kind of products sold on the market to manage the cables on your computer, and many of them will make it look better, but most of them just make it that much harder to do anything with them — so if you’ve got an Architectural Digest shoot coming up you might want to run out and buy one of those, but for those of you who just want to get a handle on the cables I’ve found something that might help.

What I’ve started doing is taking a couple (sometimes three) Velcro ties and bundling all the cables that come out of the back of the computer for about a foot to a foot and a half… what that does is it keeps them together and out of the way for sliding the computer back and forth, but doesn’t create a nightmare every time you need to do something.

You want to make sure that you allow all the cables to gently bend into the bundle (not sharp kinks — it’s just not good for the cables of the connectors), and make sure that there’s reasonable clearance behind the computer (if not, you can bend the bundle to one side).

The Velcro ties are fairly inexpensive, and you can get them at office stores, dollar stores, etc.

Originally posted 2008-12-22 12:00:42.

Upgrading Drive Firmware

First, if you’re not having problems with your drive (unless it’s brand new, has no data on it, and you don’t have an issue returning it to the place of purchase or manufacturer) DO NOT DO IT.

Second, make sure you give yourself plenty of time, don’t try and do it quickly, or in between other commitments.  Do it when it’s quiet.  Make sure you have a UPS on your computer and that the weather is clear (so that there’s no likelihood of power outages).

Third, run the drive diagnostics from the manufacturer first.  If the drive shows it’s having problems — return it to the manufacturer for replacement (most manufacturers will do advance replacement at no charge with a credit card; that gives you a drive to migrate your data onto, and a shipping container to return the failing drive in).

Fourth, many manufacturers support upgrading firmware directly from Windows (a few from other operating systems).  I high recommend you choose the bootable CD approach — that way there’s no question whether or not you have something installed on your computer that might interfere.  And if you’re using SATA I recommend you set your computer to SATA IDE/Legacy mode to insure that the upgrade (and diagnostics) don’t have any issues with your SATA controller (IDE/Legacy as opposed to SATA/Native, SATA/RAID, SATA/AHCI — different BIOS manufacturers will call it by a different term, but it’s the lowest setting for the controller, likely it’s what the default was).

Fifth, make sure you obtain the firmware update only from the manufacturer’s web site; and make sure that it is for your drive; and that it’s recommended as a general installation or specifically addresses an issue you’re having.

Sixth, make sure you read and follow the manufacturer’s procedure for updating firmware.

Seventh, power off your drive before you attempt to use it after updating the firmware.  Most drives will not use the newer firmware until they are power-cycled; some drives just flat out won’t work until they’ve been “hard reset”.

Hopefully all goes well, but many drives become a brick if your firmware upgrade fails; a few can revert to the previous firmware and keep on running.  If you have problems, contact the manufacturer, most drives under warranty can be replaced — but data recovery is not included.

NOTE:

Upgrading drive firmware may also change the first several sectors of the drive; I highly recommend that you backup the drive before upgrading the firmware.

Originally posted 2010-02-09 01:00:56.