Server changes

With the release of OS X 10.5 (Leopard), I decided to take advantage of my work’s enterprise discount to purchase a license of Leopard Server for use at home. As a result, all of the services (dns, mail, and web) have been moved from the kids’ Mac mini upstairs (running Tiger client with hand-managed services) to the media Mac mini downstairs.

I believe that I got everything moved over correctly (e.g., this blog as well as the one for Kaelyn and Becky) as well as the mail services. I haven’t yet fixed my Gallery installation but should have that fixed shortly.

It really is a good place to work

Gamasutra did a nice write-up of my work in San Diego. They barely mentioned IT, but my involvement with the groups hi-lighted is frequent. My group’s responsibility is to support the studios in San Diego and, specifically, I support Alienbrain, Perforce, and other “inward facing” services that the groups need to get their work done as well as the OS X infrastructure throughout the studios.

Mac is where IT’s at

As anyone who knows me (or has read this blog) knows, I am a Mac user and pretty serious fan. Some would go so far as say “fanboy” but I like to think that I am honest enough to see the warts, too.

Having said that, one thing that has been quite interesting to me is the adoption (conversion?) rate of OS X and Macintosh hardware in my department at work recently. I work in IT and in my “section” there are sixteen of us. When I first transferred in about two years ago I was one of only two Mac users (the department was only 11 then). As our department grew, OS X improved, and products like Parallels came about, Apple hardware started showing up. At this point, nine of thirteen laptops are MacBooks and as I write this, my manager is anxiously awaiting his MacBook (updating to ten of thirteen).

I work with a lot of smart people.

Don’t worry, no bits were harmed

Over the last few weeks, the MacBook Pro at home had been having some issues where it would go off to la la land for a bit before resuming whatever you were trying to do at the time. After some evaluation, I decided to reinstall the OS (which isn’t very troublesome as it leaves existing apps and copies over your user directories) which didn’t improve things.

Thinking it was the hard drive which was failing, I decided to purchase a new one but wanted to get a good backup of the original drive before replacing it. Of course, I already had numerous current copies of the user directories but the “up-to-the-moment” copies were on the drive itself. I spent the better part of the weekend trying to get a complete copy of the data off the drive which became quite tedious as the drive would pause and/or hang as it warmed up. My geek side just wasn’t satisfied with a day old backup.

In the end it all worked out. I got a refurb Seagate 120G (from the original 80G), have a clean OS install and restored the user directories just fine. Now I just can’t bring myself to throw the old (largely useless) drive away. I think there’s a drawer in the den I can put it…

A lot of geek in a small package

Through the generous donation of time from my dear friend, Kristin, I was able to purchase an iPhone this past Saturday morning. I have to say that I’m quite pleased. Sure, I could have stuck with my current phone, but the fact is that the commercials are accurate. The device works as they say it does. I truly have a full web browser, functional email, impressive iPod, and a functional PIM all about the size of a deck of cards. I am still getting accustomed to how everything works and there are some minor nitpicks, but I think I will be quite pleased for the foreseable future.

Confused about Kristin’s involvement? Well, since the iPhone was released just over a week ago, supplies have been somewhat limited. Apple was kind enough to identify every night which of their retail stores will have some in the morning. Since the only reasonably close Apple stores are in San Diego (UTC and Fashion Valley), Kristin offered to get there early in case supplies are limited as she lives much closer. I argued with her that such an offer was unnecessary but since she insisted that she would enjoy the time away from the house to read, it would have been rude of me to decline.

All-in-all, I have a cool gadget and an even cooler friend.

Very sexy storage option

Even if you’re not in I.T. I’m sure you realize that having all your important data on a single drive is risky and the way data has a tendency to grow, you never have enough storage.

I recently found out about Drobo which is being touted as the world’s first storage robot. Kinda silly tag line, but the demo is extremely impressive. It’s a four disk enclosure that connects to your system (Windows or Mac) via USB and provides a very flexible and resilient storage volume for all your data. It doesn’t come with any drives but they will accept any SATA drive of any size and will automatically grow the volume and replicate the data while the system still runs. If a drive fails, just pull it out and replace it with one of equal or more size and it will rebuild the array and grow the volume, if possible.

If you watch the demo movie, you’ll get a much better idea of how it works. The downside is that the unit is $499 with no drives. I’ll have to think about it, but may have to start saving pennies.

How to get your DVDs ripped for your iPod

One side project that I’ve been working on for about a week is ripping my catalog of DVDs for use on my iPod and the recently built Mac Mini media center. The iPod has supported video for about 18 months now and I have a video iPod but up until recently, the resolution of the video had to be 320×240 (or 480×480 in some situations). That resolution, while decent on the small iPod screen, isn’t respectable enough for TV playback and that was a pre-requisite for ripping my DVDs. I don’t have enough desire to watch videos only on my iPod to rip my DVDs once for it and then have a second copy for TV playback.

When Apple started selling download-able movies from the iTunes Music Store (iTMS) they made them available at 640×480 and released a firmware update for the video iPod that supported that resolution. For the unfamiliar, that is the effective resolution of NTSC (analog TV) video.

A popular program for ripping DVDs for iPod/computer/Sony PSP use is HandBrake. There are many programs to convert video for iPod use (including iTunes itself), but HandBrake can convert encrypted (read commercial) DVDs that represent most first-run store-bought DVDs.

The original HandBrake program has more-or-less been abandoned by the original author but has been picked up volunteers who have recently added full 640×480 resolution encoding (currently in beta form) and have renamed it MediaFork.

As a disclaimer I have to state that circumventing the encryption on a DVD is currently against the law. Personally, I feel that my use falls logically under fair use as I am doing this for my personal use only on DVDs that I have already bought and paid for. I don’t see why I must spend another $15 to get a lesser quality copy of a DVD I own just to have it on my iPod.

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MythTV + Front Row + Mac Mini = HD happiness

I’ve been using MythTV which is the open source DVR and home theater system for Linux for years. I originally set it up because I wanted a TiVo but disliked the concept of a monthly fee to use something that I paid for. Of course, I’m a geek, so it’s reasonable for me to put together a new box, install Linux, and install and configure a fairly complex product that was, at the time, early in development.
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Can’t wait to get home

While attending WWDC has been fun and educational this week, I am certainly ready to get home.

Last night, I was able to spend time with my old friend Cary, who works for Apple, at the beer bash at the Apple campus. That was fun, I got a small tour of his building and his office. He has seven computers crammed in there, but somehow, it works.

Of course, with the current raised travel threat level the flight home may be fun. I’m going to check one of my bags (I normally try to do carry-on only) to make sure I can get everything home. I also decided to move my reservation to one that leaves 45 minutes later to make sure that any delays getting through security don’t cost me my flight home.

Well, that was a stupid move

While killing some time between sessions at WWDC, I saw that my mother-in-law was online so I thought “Hey! what a good time to back up her data.” So took but a moment to start a rsync backup that I do of her user directory on her machine to my system at home. To keep things from getting out-of-hand with regards to space, I use the –delete option which removes any files not in the source directory.

Like all mistakes, they happen because you don’t pay attention and that is exactly what happened to me. I was in the wrong destination directory and was syncing the files to ‘.’ (the current directory) so it happily started deleting files that weren’t in the source. Unfortunately, I was in my home directory at the time. Once I realized, my mistake, I stopped it but not before it had deleted my mail repository, my website, and my blog (this one).

Fortunately, regardless of my horribly rookie mistake, I also back up my user directory two different ways every day. A few restores later and I had all but a few hours of email restored and the entire website and blog.

Good for me, I guess, but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Lesson learned, use explicit paths.