Torrent useful in legal ways

I'm pretty obsessed with Ubuntu so I was really excited about upgrading from 8.04 to 8.10. While the upgrade isn't that major per se, I had to upgrade Ubuntu to 8.10 because my video card is not supported by the current version of Intel drivers. I was playing with the Release Candidate last week and was pretty happy with it. Whenever Ubuntu releases a new update, the first few days are often brutal to get any updates or even downloading the ISO images. Bandwith across all the servers tend to be pretty slow. I started the download for the server install files last night and it estimated that it would take well over 17 hours and I was eager to try to install it at work in the morning. My workaround for it was to download it from Torrents instead. Got my entire file in less than hour. I wish that the desktop upgrade tool could work in a similar fashion. I have heard of companies using torrents to share large images across multiple countries as well. I'd love to hear or read of any other ideas of other legal uses of torrents.

Technorati Tags:

Newsgator – Initial Review

 

One of the most wonderful things about the Internet is that new information is so immediate that often times by the time the information gets to a magazine, the information is already stale. Being in the IT industry, I personally feel that it gives me an edge to always be as informed as possible. Another wonderful thing about the internet is the discussions that often happen that enriches the subject. This is what makes blogs interesting and relevant to me.

In general, I have often used Google Reader as my desktop RSS reader but I have been trying to find a whole host of other readers for my mobile device. I've tested pRSS Reader, Newsbreak, SPB Insight, Viigo and Fetch It. While all of them work well (some better than others of course) but the one feature that all of them lack is the ability to keep all of my reading synchronized. Enter Newsgator.

Apparently I've used the online version of Newsgator before as my email id was registered to it. However, it didn't make that great an impression. On the surface, it works like other RSS aggregators – it has the ability to tag an entry, the ability to import an OPML file, separates your blogs into folders, you can bookmark an entry by clipping it and you can email an entry to someone else. In short, it works and has the basic features that I would expect from such a service. After being used to Google Reader though, I will definitely miss the way Google Reader marks my entries as read. As you scroll over the bottom of an entry, it automatically marks the entries as read. It's such a small detail but it makes the reading experience so much more intuitive. In Newsgator, you can either mark an entry read as you go down or wait until you get to the bottom of the page to mark all entries as read. It still works but not as intuitive as Google's way of doing things.

On the mobile device front, it offers much of the same functionality of the other RSS readers such as ability to schedule a download of data, display articles by folders and share by email. One of the big benefits of being able to synchronize with the web version is that I don't have to import an OPML file which is nice. I like the fact that you can tag or clip articles and will synchronize with the web. Another neat feature is Top Stories. I believe that what this does is that it goes to the web and picks 50 stories or so that it thinks it's "top." I'm not that sure what algorithm it uses. It could just be based on currency.

So far I like the windows mobile version. Not quite in love with the web version but it's useable. If it impresses me, I'll write a full review for it. There's a premium subscription as well. Not sure what that does either.

Sent from my Windows Mobile® phone.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Randomness

Technorati Profile

Usually I like to play with random web technology. I was surprised when I found that I had a Technorati account from 2005. Makes me wonder about all the other random accounts that I have out there. I needed to put in the claim code for my site. Let's see if this works for me.

PockeTwit – Updated Review

I’ve been trying to get into microblogging a lot more lately as I find the concept fascinating. My microblog platform of choice is Twitter. Not so much because it’s a great platform but rather because it’s the one used the most and it has some interesting attached sevices like TwitPics. The cool thing about Twitter is that I’ve met at least one person that we share some things in common like BSG and our interest in HTC devices. She goes by the id of digital_jen these days. Anyway, I’ve used different Twitter apps like Twitterfox, PockeTwit,  Digsby, Yoono, Flock and Twitterberry comes to mind but I always seem to come back to PockeTwit as one of my two favourite Twitter tools.

PockeTwit is a Windows Mobile client for both the full and smartphone devices. At first pass, PockeTwit seems quite unintuitive to use. It screens is looks like it’s laid out poorly and it doesn’t use the soft keys that is now common to Windows Mobile devices. It took me a while to figure out that the developer uses a different paradigm for PockeTwit. Once I figured it out, it was very simple to use and very intuitive.

The way I think about the User Interface for PockeTwit is that there are 3 screens or levels. The first screen is the system screen. Over here you can have the following options:

sshot002 by you.

Errors
This is a new feature that alerts you when you run into network issues. From what I can see, it appears only when it occurs.

Friends Timelines

This is the most common feature used for me as it displays all your friends’ tweets.

Messages
This filters out your @replies and direct messages. I believe that the convention here seems to only filter out if @[your username] is the first thing of a tweet. I noticed that when my username was used in the middle of a sentence, it did not show up. Not sure if this is a problem with the Twiter API call or a PockeTwit problem.

Search/Local
I thought this was neat. This was the only client that allowed a search function. I don’t use this as much but it’s nice when I want to try to find out if something I’m interested in is being talked about.

Set Status
This is used to publish your status to your Microblogging site.

Settings
You can set up your various identities such as ping.fm or identi.ca. Also allows you to set up whether or not you want GPS to be turned on automatically or not.

About/Feedback
Gives you the version you’ve installed and the ability to check for new updates.

Exit
Not too exciting. Exit the application.

sshot001 by you.

The middle screen is the messaging screen where it’s filtered by the first screen. I didn’t notice this before but there’s a really tiny indicator on the right hand of the screen that indicates how far down in your messags you are. Typically pick either Friends Timeline or Messages. Press Enter or the Action key on your device. This will update the middle screen and you can use your right arrow key to bring your middle screen into full view.

sshot003 by you.

The last screen interacts with the person associated with the message on the middle screen. So let’s say that the message was sent by @someperson. If you scroll right from the middle screen you could see @someperson’s time line, reply using regular twitter, direct message @someone, make that message a favourite message, go to @someone’s profile page on the web, stop following a person and minimize the application.

There are a few quirks with PockeTwit. For one, the errors page is very much an anomaly. When you click on it, it takes you to a page that looks very different from the rest of the application. Now that I’m used to the UI, it makes absolute sense albeit a bit inconsistent. While I was writing about how I use the app, it was definitely quite apparent that I couldn’t write consistent rule of thumbs to a new user. However, once you start using it, it’s quite intuitive. A nice feature that I would like to have is the ability to do a manual update on top of the scheduled update.

The shortcomings of the application are for the most part cosmetic. It is even made even better by the fact that you know the developer uses his application constantly. He is responsive to both questions and suggestions. A prime example is that someone suggested that ping.fm would be a great addition to the app and within days, it was added to the app. Caveat though, not all suggestions make it into the app but at least the developer will consider it and test it before deciding whether or not it gets added to the final product. One other major benefit is that the application is open source. Overall, I really like the application. It works well, the developer is quite interactive and responsive on Twitter,

Sent from my Windows Mobile® phone.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Swamped

I'm
into week 3 here at Zoocasa and I've been swamped! Such is the life of
working at a startup. The technology is interesting but there are
definitely growing pains. At least the work is challenging. I'll
hopefully have the time to write more about my thoughts on Zoocasa over
the weekend. In the mean time, I've completed a more complete review of
PockeTwit. Just need to do some screenshots of the app. I am getting
around to do a review of Newsgator and Bright Kite. So more to come in
the next few days.

Other randomness that's going on in my tech
life: for the life of me, I can't seem to fix the 404 error redirect on
BlogEngine. It's also I haven't had time to sit down to figure it out
either. Also put together a mini (not micro) machine. I wanted to put
together a VMWare sandbox at work. Maybe I'll write about that too.

Sent from my Windows Mobile® phone.

It’s all about data

Lately I've been asked to give my opinion on NAS but the real question behind it typically points more towards data retention, storage or archive. As we get more savvy about computers, the internet and technology in general, there becomes a greater tendency to store more data. It becomes even more interesting if you have to account for other people like family and roommates. I like to categorize storage needs in the following categories: backups, shared storage and data archiving.

The primary purpose of backups are usually to store less frequently used data in a somewhat accessible solution. This is sometimes termed as near-line. Usually what drives this need is when your current hard disk drive is nearing capacity and you have to free some space but you
still need to access the data at some point.

Shared storage is usually when you have multiple devices that need access to the same data. Most common among those of us who have multiple computers in the house. In my case, I have my Xbox 360, my N800 and my multiple computers that need access to either shared music or shared files.

Most of us don't think of data archiving until we hit that moment where we've deleted a file that we shouldn't have. Data archiving is really multiple generations of backups. Good to have quite cumbersome to manage :D.

Depending on what you need, there are tonnes of different solutions in terms of software, hardware and online services that can meet your needs. Some broad categorizations are external disk storage, static disk NAS, dynamic disk NAS, online backup services.

Sent from my Windows Mobile® phone.

Fall Colours

DSC_8744.NEFDSC_8749.NEFDSC_8802.NEFDSC_8885.NEF

I've been antsy to go take photos this past few days and the colours in our part of town has been so vibrant. As it was Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, we decided to take a walk in Leslieville and then take our niece and nephew apple picking at Chudleigh's farm. Here are some of the results from the day. For pictures from the entire set, see them on my Flickr collection.

Update: Had to fix the broken link from before. I was playing with the new Flickr Uploadr and the new security features confused me.

All Done!

I've always wanted to get my basement done but could never really come to a final decision on what to do with it. Almost after half a year of debate, a design was decided on and a vendor was chosen. The final design was relatively simple. Outside of just covering up the furnace area, we also decided to move the entrance door of the basement and move the location of our washer and dryer.



We opted to go with a company called Owens Corning Basement who has their own Basement Finishing System. Owens Corning is the same company which makes the insulation commonly known as the Pink Panther. We chose them really for a variety of reasons. One was that I really liked the material and the second was that they were structured where a build manager would be assigned to us to take care of all of our building needs.
I didn't regret the choice of building material but it was expensive. The end result was a phenomenal basement. The journey to get us there was definitely less than satisfying. First, we ended up managing a lot of the tasks and co-ordination of work which we expected our build manager to do. The downside is that Owens Corning does not install flooring unless it's their own carpeting system. We wanted to use up the remaining bamboo floors that we had bought earlier. Installing the floors turned out to be harder as the job we wanted to do was relatively small for most contractors to do. Once the basement was complete, getting warranty work was very slow.
That being said though, the workmanship of the basement was quite good. We would definitely recommend our installer which was a subcontractor to Owens Corning.

Sent from my Windows Mobile® phone.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

VMWare Server 2.0 – Initial Review

I've
been a big fan of the VMWare server product for a while now. I started
out with the issue where I was running a multi-server environment at
home. I always thought it was a good idea to have at least one spare
environment to act as a redundant as I was constantly experimenting. As
my concepts became more complex, the number of machines grew and at
some point, I couldn't afford to keep up with the number of machines
required to operate both my home management environment and my lab
environment.

Then my friend, Camille, introduced me to VMWare
server, which was launched as an open-sourced product. I was on a home
refresh cycle anyway, so I decided to upgrade my home environment to
the then newly launched AMD X2 3800+ cpu running the Windows Server
2003 operating system. I rebuilt my entire environment from ground up.
After 6 months, I discovered that there was a serious flaw in my design
for Operations by using Windows Server 2003 as the underlying server
for the virtual machines (vm) and this was most apparent on Microsoft
Patch Tuesday of every month. Secondly, I had a very difficult time
with my AMD machines. So I used this opportunity to go to Intel Quad
Core on the 64 bit version of Ubuntu Linux. The migration of the VMs
were flawless. From that point on, I was sold on VMWare Server.

VMWare
Server released version 2.0 recently. Overall, it is an improvement to
1.0.x of the product. For one, the install seems to be simpler. It
bundles both the server and management user interface install on Ubuntu
in one script. I couldn't get the mui to work consistently with any of
my versions of Ubuntu. For 2.0, it worked flawlessly. The other change
is that the server console is now web based which is different from the
client-based consoles which was used before. This has both pros and
cons. It's much easier to now manage and access vms without the need to
install the console client on multiple desktops. On the other hand,
VMWare seems to have changed the way you locate VMs. They've created a
concept called storage where all vms created are stored in the root
directory of your storage directory. I typically create mount points
for each of the external drives that I attached to my server and
mounted them as sub-directories to the default vm folder. There is no
way to select a sub-folder in the interface and I would have to create
a new storage location. What makes this especially tricky is that you
can't chooses a sub directory of an existing storage folder as a new
storage folder. While it makes sense, it's a bit of a conundrum for me.

It's
hard to compare versions of the MUI because mine was never stable
enough to do any thorough testing. However, the features which I really
like now that it is working are that I can sequence which vms boot up
first. This is particularly useful because in my windows environment, I
prefer the Active Directory come up before any other machines come up.
The other thing which I like is that I can control the shutdown
behaviour of the vms. In my environment, I am able to set the vms to
suspend to disk rather than shut down when the host shuts down. The
reason why this is useful is that the only time I forsee me not
manually shutting down a vm is during a power outage in which case, I
would like the vms to shutdown as quickly as possible.

I like
the idea of abstracting the hardware in building out my environments
and vmware has served me well in that regard. So far, it's been a lot
easier for me to recover from outages because I usually have a backup
of a VM somewhere. The abstraction of hardware has allowed me to
quickly port a machine from one physical machine to the next with
minimal effort on my part. It's also allowed me to build and test new
software easily, painlessly and more importantly safely. Recovering
from a botched install is often as easy as just copying a base vm image
and starting again.

Sent from my Windows Mobile® phone.

Digsby – Initial Review

digsby

I've always been an instant messaging fiend and lately I've found myself leaving the Trillian Astra alpha for Digsby. Lately Trillian has been a bit flakey for me. I had a really bizarre problem where whenever I have Trillian running and if I plugged in a USB device, Windows Media Player would crash. If you can follow that, you'll realize how bizarre it is. It took me a really long time to isolate that issue and that involved reinstalling the laptop. So I decided to give Digsby a try.

After all the random problems I had with Trillian, Digsby was a welcomed change. There's really nothing not to like about Digsby. Digsby was also a tool that more closely matched my life and interests. I love how it integrates all of my instant messengers and it also consolidates my social networks and emails all in one client. It's puts my entire communication universe all in one tool.
For the most part, Digsby works like most of the multi-headed instant messengers. You can log on to MSN, Gtalk, Yahoo, AIM, ICQ, and Jabber. It also includes integration with Facebook chat but it's slightly delayed especially if you have Facebook chat open on the browser as well. Although Trillian Alpha implemented the Facebook chat feature as well, I couldn't seem to get it to work without crashing. What makes Facebook chat integration important is really that it broadens the audience of the friends I can chat to. A lot of people who are hesitant to instant message using the traditional applications such as MSN or Yahoo are often more than happy to message using Facebook. Go figure. Both Pidgin and Trillian allow you to merge multiple contacts into one contact but Digsby is the only one that I've figured out how to priotize if a contact has multiple IMs. So for instance, if someone I know is on Yahoo, MSN and Gtalk but I prefer to talk to them on Gtalk whereever possible, I can make the individual's Gtalk client be the default.
Digsby built quite a powerful email client within it's product and the integration with the IM client is quite seamless. You can interact with any contact through email, IM or SMS from the chat window.

The way I set up Digsby is that I have my email and social network accounts show up as bars at the bottom of the IM client. When you hover on the account bar, it lists the last 50 odd interactions of each account. With the email accounts, I can mark an email as read, mark as spam and delete it.

Overall, I personally think Digsby is the new king of multiheaded Instant Messenger clients. It's done a great job capturing how people use it today by integrating instant messenger with email and social networks. It is the killer social networking tool of today.

Blogged with the Flock Browser