Merry Christmas Everybody (2007)

Yep, it’s that time of the year again: Christmas!

So I want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas and have a great time with your family.

I of course am home alone sick. Boo! My sister had this great dinner planned but that cold / flu I’ve been trying to fight came back this weekend. Last night I got sick and spend half the night feeling totally horrible. I’ve downed some Advils and Ibuprofen for my back pain, but to no relieve. I had to cancel.

My niece and my sister probably made this great dinner I am missing out on, plus I really miss not being there with my family this year. The thought of food right now however (ugh!). Since I am not doing too well today I am keeping this blog entry short.

I just finished giving the staff on my sites a pat on the back (donation in paypal) for their hard work in 2007, and mailed out a December newsletter to the members on my site with a season’s greeting. But I am going back to bed now, because this flu is slowly turning me into the grinch (humbug!)

Merry Christmas!

What Goes Where On My System?

My Mac Pro has a bunch of hard drives right now, and I have been adding, swapping, and removing drives the last few months. It was time for me to get a bit more organized and I think that’s a great tip for everybody. It gives you a much better understanding of what is on your computer system.

You might think “What is so hard about finding stuff on your hard drive”, well .. let me give you a simple example: Your browser might store downloaded files on your Desktop, while you have an OS ‘Downloads/’ folder, or perhaps your torrent client stores it in ‘programs/client/downloads/’, making it a bit annoying having to browse around while a single link on your desktop to your ‘Downloads/’ folder might make it a lot easier for you.

First things first of course, what goes where?

My first drive in the Mac Pro is currently a 250GB drive (called MacHD) which is used to store the OSX 10.5 operating system and the programs I use. Most of the data that result from those programs are stored on the second drive which I called the DataHD, it’s 320GB. This drive has a folder called backup_machd where I store backups of certain files from the MacHD drive. The MacHD drive by the way has a folder called backup_datahd where I store daily backups of the DataHD folders. Since there’s enough space no the DataHD I also have a htdocs/ folder in the root where I have my localhost ‘dev’ stuff, such as a test instance of vBulletin, or the svn build from DeskPro, stuff like that. The MacHD (almost forgot to mention) has a folder called bash where I have my custom coded bash scripts that help me run daily or weekly crontabs to make archived backups of certain folders (among other things).

These two drives, the MacHD and the DataHD drives are being backed up with the ‘Time Machine’ feature from Leopard. I have an external USB 2.0 box with 2x 160GB hard drives. Not perfect, but when I have a bit of extra cash in 2008 I will upgrade these a larger size so I can have bigger backups that go back further in time. These are the only back ups I make of my internal drives. I do not really back up my media drives.

I have 2 more USB 2.0 external drives, but they’re used to back up data for a few web sites. I don’t use them, and the back ups are done automatically. I just check once a month if things are still going ok. But it’s kept separate from my ‘live’ system.

I also have 2 media drives. One is called MediaHD (320GB) which stores my music, movies, games, and downloads. I point all my programs to that download things from the net to this downloads folder, which has sub folders to keep it organized and easy to find. The other drive is called TvHD where I store my purchased TV shows. I really like good tv shows and I watch a lot. It’s a 750GB drive. The drive is split in 2 partitions though. A very small portion is used by Adobe and ProTools as a ‘cache drive’ to help speed up running filters and renders on huge media files. Since there’s over a terabyte of data on the media drives I do not back them up. It’s a risk I am willing to take. I don’t want to hog my system backup moment because it’s trying to backup and compress huge files that I can re-download from iTunes or Amazon.

The Mac OSX comes with default folders for Music, Pictures, Documents, Downloads, etc, but I really don’t use them. They’re useless to me as they are on the Main HDD and I store everything on other drives. It’s a bit of a hassle to change the original symlinks and I just dragged them out of Finder, and dragged my own entry point folders into the sidebar. I also made my own small stack folder which are quick links to all these folders. Making it very easy and quick to use.

My plan for the future is to add a 1TB drive into the system, replacing the 320GB MediaHD one. And use the 320GB MediaHD as an Ethernet network drive. I have 1 port on my router unused, and it would be nice if all systems in the apartment or visitors coming over, can use this network drive. Eventually I also want to replace the MacHD that’s 250GB with a bigger one. And move the 250GB as a dedicated MusicHD on the FireWire800 port. And if I ignore the lack of money in my wallet, I could imagine having the MyBook of 1 or 2TB as external backup drive on the other firewire800 port, for backing up the MacHD and the DataHD with TimeMachine.

For now I have enough space obviously, and there’s no problem making new space either. There’s enough data like old music, or a few movies or tv shows that I won’t ‘watch’ again. Or I could throw away backups older then 6 months.

But back to the topic. On my old PC I just had it where the OS threw it, or that particular program. And it was quite annoying to find it back, or to take the time and organize it. Or just accept that the Desktop is filled with icons. On my Mac now I have things a lot more organized in a way that it is, for me personally, easy to find. Media goes to the media drives, data goes to the data drive. And software goes to the Mac drive.

Now, if anything breaks, I loose either all my Data (which I have a backup of) or my programs (and I will still have all my data after a re-install) or I loose my media (and then I cry a little, but at least I still have all my data). Hard drives are a lot cheaper these days, getting a 500gb for around 100 bucks is kind of easy to find. The Mac Pro can have up to four drives in it. And it takes the 7200.11 Sata2 drives from Seagate which are 1TB. So that’s 4 TB of data! Then there are of course the options to expand over USB ports, Firewire ports, and eventually over the Network on Ethernet or even add Wifi drives.

Who needs DVD burners right?

Here are some pictures of me adding the new 320GB and 750GB to the system (which I done earlier this year)

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I Got Myself A LOLCAT

During the summer my parents got a pair of kittens, a brother and sister. Now that the weather is getting colder the cats are trying to figure out where they belong on the farm. In the barn with the other cats and animals, or in the house where my parents live, with the other cat and the dog. Uhm .. the brother has no problem fighting back and staying in the barn, but the sister gets a good beating and eventually decides to stay outside. That’s fine, sometimes she can go inside and sometimes she stays in the barn, but my parents noticed she stayed outside all night. And with the temperature dropping to freezing point, and with the beating the kitty gets from the other cats and the little dog, they’ve asked me kindly if I wouldn’t mind a new kitty. Who doesn’t want a lolcat?

My personal life is pretty simple right now, I can go and leave my apartment for a weekend or week or few weeks, etc. And that’s not a problem, I live alone right now and any girlfriend stays over for a night or two and isn’t living together with me. It would be nice to have a cat around, and a cat doesn’t mind if you stay away for a night. Plus, if needed, my niece or my parents could come over to take care of the cat if I am not here. So I’ve decided to say yes and take on the challenge.

Kitty is used to run around outside, and is used to jump on things and all that. So having her inside an apartment and not allowing her to just jump on everything will be a challenge, but surely it will be fine.

So far I’ve learned she’s very cuddly, loves the attention and has enough patience to wait for food. I left her alone for a few hours in the living room and she just went and played a bit and then jumped on the chair for a bit of sleeping. She seems to be quite happy here.

Here are some pictures, trust me, more will follow for many years to come.

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Goodbye 2007

Yep, I did it. I’ve said goodbye to the year 2007. This means I am making a fresh start with my blog. New blog, new theme, new blog entries. So, this means Happy Holidays and a Healthy 2008 to all my friends and family!

Thank you all for browsing my blog site in 2007, I’ve received wonderful comments for the entries I’ve posted.

And if you wish to see my new blogs, check back once a week :).

Switched to Mac Pro from Windows 100%!!

My Mac Pro arrived, completing my switch from Windows to Apple 100%. I took pictures and threw together a gallery for my friends. (Build using just Lightbox2 / Prototype / XHTML  CSS) Bye Windows, you crappy crashing, data corrupting, poor performing OS. First impression: Boy what good looking, easy to upgrade, high performance, quality machine!

[edit: gallery no longer available]

Paying $700 More For Mac Pro In Europe?

After much anticipation Steve finally introduced to us his latest addition to the Intel powered Mac family, the new 2x Xeon dual core powered Mac Pro and, with an reasonable price of only $2499 I was ready to make a purchase. However, as always, the prices in Europe in Euros are the same as the US prices in Dollars.

Setting me back over $700, which I could have used to upgrade the Mac Pro, or purchase additional hardware, how honest is this gap? As a consumer I must say it does not feel that honest. Maybe ‘honest’ is not the right word, try ‘reasonable’ instead then.

Using the build-in Widget on my Powerbook I see that EUR2499 Euro is about $3208 USD. A difference of $709 USD. To compensate the difference I must downgrade the CPU to 2Ghz and the Hard Drive to 160GB.

I rather have spend the money to upgrade to the 3Ghz CPU and double my RAM, get the 500 GB hard drive and the ATI videocard. If I would do that now, the different would be even bigger. This would be $ 4149 USD, and in the Netherlands EUR4147 Euro. And EUR4147 Euro converts to $5324 USD, a difference of $1175 USD. I rather spend that money myself on a weekend to the US, fly there and enjoy the trip, scenery, meet my friends from the internet etc, instead of just throwing it away.

Is it worth yet to upgrade my Desktop from Windows to Mac, if I can get a proper Dell comparable system for less, only losing the ability to run OS X 10.4? And knowing if I buy the Mac Pro now that even more Euros get lost when Leopard gets released Spring 2007?

The standard configuration was equal in British Pound Sterling, perhaps I can assume this applies to Europe? It at least does here in the Netherlands. And if anybody knows why the difference is this big please post it as a comment. I wonder what Apple tells me when I call them with this question.

Be well,

Floris

Rebuilding The Office

Over the last six months I have spend quite a bit of time and money into updating my home entertainment system and my little office. Changes included upgrading my internet service provider account and purchase new hardware, and most recently replacing a few ugly wooden planks with a new, more shiny, bigger one. And there is more to come.

Let’s just call the computer room the office because it is from this room that I connect to the Internet using a dedicated workstation. And with dedicated I mean a computer system that does not change location, unlike the Powerbook which I move around with. I use the system as a hobby-, work-, and game station. It is nice to have a room like this and as work location where I can sit down and dedicate myself to doing work, and not be distracted by other things- keeping it separate from my living room. And if this office space is something I need to escape from I just pick up the Powerbook and continue what I was doing from my couch, dinner table, balcony or even from bed – or put it in my backpack and visit friends or family and Internet from there, or in their garden, wherever.

About a year ago I was on analogue television from UPC, had analogue phone from KPN and a small consumer broadband account from Chello. The costs were about EUR120 a month, and this did not even include the costs for placing phone calls. The Internet connection was around 2 to 4 megabit down-, and about 512 kilobit upstream. The TV had a limited amount of channels and the phone didn’t include any free services like voice mail or caller id. And I needed to save money to pay for increased bills and because I wanted to purchase new hardware like good speaker set or other computer parts, or just something like a whiteboard for the office. Earlier this year the UPC services changed their policy and offered a more expansive but more realistic broadband and introduced free upgrades to VOIP phone accounts and cheap introductions and upgrades to digital TV, etc. I looked into it and realized that upgrading my accounts actually saves me quite a bit each month. Currently I have a 20 megabit down-, and 2 megabit upstream internet broadband account with no traffic limit. Free VOIP phone account and almost 50% cheaper per minute costs for calling. Oh, and the VOIP has free calls between 19:00 and 07:00. And I now have digital TV with 120+ digital channels. All in one UPC account for EUR80 a month. And the costs for calling is around EUR5 if I make a lot of calls during the daytime. This saves me at least 50 a month. And in return I have better services like a faster Internet connection.

From the money I saved I purchase a few new things. Like a Logitech z-2300 THX certified 2.1 speaker set. Which was intented to be used with the Powerbook and PC, but after trying it out on my digital topset mediabox I am now using it dedicated for my TV system. Hopefully at the end of the year I have some money left over again to buy another set, perhaps investing now in a 5.1 surround system for the computers.

The other week my father helped me rebuild parts of my office. I starting with removing all my hardware and furniture, and cleaning the place up a bit. And we borrowed a big strong drill from the neighbors to drill some holes in the concrete walls where I needed to hang up some paintings, a plank and my new whiteboard. We put the whiteboard up and went to purchase the plank and placed the paintings on the wall again. In the meantime we also worked on repositioning a lamp in the livingroom. My two IKEA tables are back in the office again and the computer systems back in place. The electricity has been taken care off and there are less wires lying around and things like that.

The whiteboard was worth the money, I am using it daily now for planning and todo lists and whatnot. If you haven’t bought one yet, get one now. As great as a pen and paper might be. The whiteboard is easy and within reach. Easy to fix mistakes and helps with writing out an idea using different colored markers without running out of paper. And in the end I use Omnigraphl on the Mac if I need to share the idea and make it look pretty. No – some people might who swear by it, not me.

The next step is to actually clean and fix the PC but before I can do that I have to install a secure program on the Mac where I can collect all my passwords etc for reference. Otherwise if I format the PC and I forget to do that I will have a lot of trouble restoring all my access. I use hard to guess and remember passwords for every different login I have. And I have a big list of software licenses that have been purchased online, things like that. Right now the PC boots again so step 1 has been completed. And the Mac has been set up this week with SVN and Apache2, PHP and MySQL behind a secure setup. And the data from my PC ‘localhost’ have been moved to the Mac’s ‘localhost’. However, this week I won’t have time as I have to work quite a bit for vBulletin and my own web site – and I will not be home as much as I am now in the next few weeks, occupied with other events. The finalizing of the office and PC have to wait until the end of the month, unless I find some time inbetween.

I know, all in all it is not much. But I usually only do things in the house when I feel comfortable with doing them, and when I feel I have the time and motivation to do them. Little steps, improving each time, and eventually it will be like I want it to be. And right now I am quite happy with the improvements and progress.

Plans for the future are getting a new computer system as the current PC is breaking down, and 64 bit 4 quad is around the corner and I need a data storage server, and a media box and a switch to improve internal network speed and have access for when more people come over. But more about that in a future blog entry.

When I am done with the whole little office setup and the PC is fixed and put in place I will take some pictures and put them up.

Be well,

Floris

How About A Blog?

Every once in a while I have a friend or family member that asks me the question “Do you have a blog?”, or “What’s the url to your blog?” and I have to tell them no.

Truth is, I do have one, it just is not public. The private one I use as an outlet to the world and I post it on an anonymous domain by an anonymous name. The question for my blog url is being asked at least once a month now, and I think it is time for a more public one. So here it is. My blog site. Here you can read more about me and what goes on in my life; On line and off line. And I invite you to visit it once in awhile for updates, you’re of course free to link to it from your own site.

In the next few weeks I will probably feel motivated to publish my events, and hopefully I keep motivated to continue to do so. I am not blogging because of, uhm, how do some people say this “This is the new rock and roll”. I have to disappoint you as I am more down to earth, the reason for me to have a blog is to have a little (private) spot on the Internet where I can write away what I think and feel. And to let others know what goes on in my life. Since my first day on the web I have always tried to put a distinct line between my personal off line life and my on line one. Over the last few years this line has faded away and I have let more on line friends become off line friends too.

When I will post is as irregular as my sleeping pattern. It comes and goes, it can skip a few days or when I feel like it I might just post even twice a day. Most important about this blog site is that I take time away from everything I am doing and spend it on writing down my thoughts and think about what’s going on, put that in perspective and decide whether or not to share that experience.

Personally I do not find it important if a person comments, or even just reads my blog entries. But you are reading this now, so thank you, I appreciate that. I hope enjoy reading my entries, and I hope you can see the difference between when I am really serious, or when I am just blah-ing away, or when you’re supposed to take my words with a grain of salt. Regardless of how you take what I’ve written, if you agree or not, if you share my opinion or not > remember that this is about me; may it be my on- or off line life, it is real life.

Be well,

Floris