This blog is no longer active. Certain longer-form or meaningful posts have been left here for posterity, but otherwise this is entirely unmaintained.

An Update on Encrypting Backups

A couple weeks ago, I finally pulled the trigger and upgraded to Lion.

One of the best parts about Lion is FileVault 2.  This has completely eliminated the need for my (hacky and unsupported), prior backup encryption method.

Encrypting your backup drives is now not only fully supported, but is downright easy.  When you plug in a drive to set up Time Machine for the first time, it simply asks you if you’d like to encrypt it.  Bam!  Done.

There has been a security exploit, unfortunately, but it’s easy to mitigate.  Good enough for my uses anyway.

Encrypting a Time Machine Backup

Update for Lion (10.7+), please read!

I use Time Machine.

It’s not perfect1, but it’s automatic. Set it, forget it, and you have incremental backups. As I’m very serious about backing up, it is only one prong in a multi-tiered backup strategy—albeit, one of the easiest prongs.

In my office, I have an internal hard disk plugged into a Rosewill USB dock2. This works great, but I worry about one thing: it would be very easy to walk away with.

By default, Time Machine backups are not encrypted. The only Apple Supported method of having an encrypted Time Machine backup is to use FileVault to encrypt your home directory. Unfortunately, this has a serious downside—you must be logged out to back up. Since this defeats the purpose of set it and forget it, I tried to figure out another way to accomplish this. This is the method I have found through a variety of sources3. Note, as of writing this I have only done this under 10.6 (Snow Leopard). There are slightly different steps for Leopard.

Disclaimer: This method is unsupported by Apple. It’s working fine for me, but you do so at your own risk!

Starting a Fake Time Machine Backup

You will need access to a writeable AFP shared folder on another computer. This is easy if the other computer is also a Mac, but it can be accomplished in Linux too4. There might be a way to get this to work using a single computer, but as I have access to more than one Mac, I didn’t bother to attempt it. This process will go much faster if this other computer is on your local network. Below, I will use “computer two” to refer to this other computer.

  1. On computer two, set up a shared folder and give yourself write permissions.
  2. Back on computer one, mount the shared folder.
  3. Go into the Time Machine settings and set that mount as your backup disk.
  4. Go to the Time Machine menu item or Dock icon and select “Back Up Now.” Time Machine will start running and the status bar will say “Preparing…” for a bit. Do not cancel it until it switches from saying “Preparing…” to “Backing up [X] items.”
  5. Once it switches to saying “Backing up [X] items,” stop the backup. Time Machine will take a minute to cleanly finish. Once it is done, use the Time Machine preferences to turn Time Machine off (just to prevent it from trying to backup before we are ready).
  6. In the mounted shared folder on computer two, there will now be a file called [Computer Name].sparsebundle (where [Computer Name] is your computer’s name). Copy this to your computer somewhere temporary. You can now disconnect from computer two (and don’t forget to clean up and remove the shared folder if you created it just for this task).

Creating the Sparsebundle

  1. Fire up Disk Utility, and go to File > New > Blank Disk Image.
  2. In the Save As field, enter the same [Computer Name].sparsebundle that Time Machine created above, however save this to top level of your external hard drive.
  3. In the Name field, enter “Time Machine Backups”.
  4. In Size, go to “Custom…”. Here, enter the max size you would like to the Time Machine Backup to take. Ideally this should be at least twice the size of your primary volume and can be as big as your external drive. If you want to just set it to the size if your external drive, you can simply set it to something bigger than the external drive (e.g., 2TB if it’s a 1TB drive). Disk Utility will automatically scale it to the max size.
  5. In Format, select “Mac OS Extended (Case-sensitive, Journaled).”
  6. In Encryption, select “256-bit AES encryption (more secure, but slower).”
  7. In Partitions, select “Single partition – GUID Partition Map.”
  8. In Image Format, select “sparse bundle disk image.”
  9. Hit “Create”. It will then prompt you to create a password. Make it a good strong password, but also make sure you have it saved somewhere! If you lose this password, your backup will be unusable. Let Disk Utility finish creating the bundle. Once it completes, it will automatically mount the new disk image. Eject the disk image and then you can quit Disk Utility.
  10. Navigate to both disk images—the one Time Machine created and the one you created. On both, right-click (or ctrl-click) and go to “Show Package Contents.” In the disk image Time Machine created, there is a file called “”—copy this file to the disk image you just created.

A Few Final Steps

  1. Open Keychain Access. Search for [Computer Name].sparsebundle that you created. Right-click (or ctrl-click) that key and go to ‘Copy “[Computer Name].sparsebundle”.’ Then go to the “System” keychain, and right-click (or ctrl-click) in the right pane and go to ‘Paste “[Computer Name].sparsebundle”.’ You’ll probably need to enter an admin password.
  2. Finally, go back into Time Machine preferences and select your external hard drive as your backup disk. Turn Time Machine back on. You can also trash the sparse bundle that Time Machine created at the beginning of this process.

If you have followed all of these steps, you should now be backing up to an encrypted sparse bundle. To determine if it’s backing up right, when Time Machine backs up, there should be another mounted drive on your computer (other than the external drive) called “Time Machine Backups.”

Note, that due to a bug in Time Machine, you will no longer be able to go to “Enter Time Machine” to browse your backups using the slick Time Machine UI. If you want to get around this, mount the sparse bundle. Once it is mounted, go to the Time Machine menu item and hold the option key. This will make an option appear called “Browse Other Time Machine Disks.” Click it (while holding option). A menu will pop up that allows you to enter the Time Machine interface.

  1. I have had problems with the backups becoming corrupted, backup drives tanking, and spent extensive time trying to get a wireless backup solution working (nothing reliable yet). All said, Time Machine does what it advertises.
  2. Exactly what I use:

  3. While researching this, I came across a single article that contains all the steps. The author used a few different steps, but it’s basically the same. I went ahead with my post anyway just for reference (as this other site may or may not be live when I need to do this again). Encrypted Time Machine Backups (Quarter Life Crisis)

    In addition, I found the following useful:

  4. In the past, I found the following article pretty useful in configuring a Linux server to share over AFP. It’s specifically catered to Ubuntu, but it works just as well on Debian—with a few tweaks. HowTo: Make Ubuntu A Perfect Mac File Server And Time Machine Volume

Self-Enforcing Protocols

Bruce Schneier:

Self-enforcing protocols are safer than other types because participants don’t gain an advantage from cheating. Modern voting systems are rife with the potential for cheating, but an open show of hands in a room — one that everyone in the room can count for himself — is self-enforcing.

This is exactly why I believe Vermont’s ‘town meeting day’ style of democracy is so successful. People are far less corrupt when they are held accountable by their peers/neighbors.

(via daring fireball)

A car, a gorge and a wedding: Our trip to Vermont

3:43:08 PM man, you went after her like she was made of bacon!

My friend Ray commenting on this video.

Thanks to Ryan for making it!

Choosy out of beta

Choosy v1.0 has finally come out! You may recall I’ve mentioned my need for a hyperlink manager tool before.1

I’ve been using Choosy for over 6 months at this point and it has become an indispensable part of my workflow. Especially since George has added functionality for advanced rules.

My setup is as follows: I use Safari as my primary browser, however, my company has a number of internal web apps that have been built with Firefox in mind. This means at work I leave Firefox open all the time. So, using Choosy, I’ve set up some advanced rules for the web apps that make their URLs automatically route to Firefox.

I also have a few SSB instances in Fluid (Gmail, Fever, and others) and so I can direct links meant for these apps directly to them.

Everything else asks from the list of open browsers, defaulting to Safari when no browsers are open or if it’s the only open browser.

It’s fast, elegant, optimized for either mouse or keyboard users. The best part? It’s only $12.

Well done and congrats George!

1. Hyperlink Manager
Hyperlink Manager Followup: 2 Options

Hulu is shutting down Boxee, taking two steps backwards

Hulu Blog: Doing hard things.

Our content providers requested that we turn off access to our content via the Boxee product, and we are respecting their wishes. While we stubbornly believe in this brave new world of media convergence — bumps and all — we are also steadfast in our belief that the best way to achieve our ambitious, never-ending mission of making media easier for users is to work hand in hand with content owners. Without their content, none of what Hulu does would be possible, including providing you content via and our many distribution partner websites.

Apparently doing the right thing in this situation is simple: screw the users.


The right thing to do here is keep the users happy while working out the hard details. Ads are still being shown; revenue is still being generated.

When will these content producers realize that they can’t possibly “own” any content—without an audience to watch it? Keep screwing customers, but don’t come crying when they are compelled to steal the content instead.

Any company that feels safe enough to screw their customers rather than innovate deserves to lose.

The problem with a website “redesign”

An important comment about the concept of a website “redesign,” from #3 on this list:

Because corporate websites are under-resourced, they are often neglected for long periods of time. They slowly become out of date with their content, design and technology.

Eventually, the website becomes such an embarrassment that management steps in and demands that it be sorted. This inevitably leads to a complete redesign at considerable expense.

This concept of investing considerable money to “reshape” as things get “stale” is a hold-out from two prior models: 1) the distributed, desktop software model from the IT perspective, and 2) the brochure model from a marketing perspective.

The truth is that websites defy the rigidity of both of these models. A website can change organically—that is, many slight changes over time—without the need for new distribution, packaging, etc. This is a more natural approach for users and allows the website to better adapt to the changing needs of the marketplace—without ever having an overbearing and costly “redesign.”

Read more from the list here:
10 Harsh Truths About Corporate Websites | How-To | Smashing Magazine.

Hyperlink Manager Followup: 2 Options

In a recent post, Hyperlink Manager, I discussed a hypothetical software tool I’d like to see. The goal is to have a better way to select the browser a link should be opened in.

Since that time, two solutions for Mac have popped up: Choosy and Highbrow.

I’ve been using Choosy for about a month now. While it doesn’t do everything I described, it does a very elegant job of what I need.

Here is how I have it set up. On clicking a link:

  • If I have no browsers running, it uses my default browser.
  • If I have one web browser running, it uses the one that is running.
  • If I have more than one browser running, it gives a little selection popup.

The only enhancement I’d really like to see is automated rules based on the URL.

Choosy is currently in beta and will be released as shareware eventually.

Highbrow came out right about the same time as choosy as a full-fledged 1.0 release. It costs $12. I haven’t used it, but it appears to be quite similar in function.

Know of any others or solutions for other platforms (Windows or Linux)? Let me know!

Hyperlink Manager

This is another tool I have not been able to find and would like to see out there. Know of something that accomplishes exactly what I’m looking for? Post a comment!

The problem

The default browser of my system is not always the browser I need to open a site in.

On my computer, my default browser is Camino. This is the browser that I do my day-to-day general browsing in, however some sites explicitly block Camino since their developers have probably never heard of it and are unaware that their site probably works just fine as long as they are testing in Firefox. In these cases, I use Safari instead since it is more widely supported.

While working, I keep Firefox open as it is our defacto supported browser for our internal applications. At my prior company, all internal applications were developed for IE6–a completely different environment, but the exact same challenge arises. Also, before putting the argument out there that I should just use Firefox as my default browser–I like my sub one-second launch time. Firefox (especially on Mac) is a beast.

Thus the challenge is when links are sent around, via email or IM. I want to be able to just click a link and have it open in the desired browser. Currently, I must copy/paste the URL from IM. Even worse, since Entourage (Microsoft’s very sub-par Mac equivalent for Outlook) doesn’t have a “copy link” contextual menu option, I must click the link, let it try to open in Camino, then copy the URL from the address bar!

This problem is especially magnified with the adoption of SSBs.

There is a nice Firefox plug-in for Windows users to solve this problem: IE Tab. This extension allows exactly what I mention about specifying URLs to render with IE, all from right within the Firefox window. This is neat, but still doesn’t account for SSBs nor does it help us Mac using folks.

The ideal solution

The best way to solve for this would be to have an extremely lightweight application or script that is set to the default browser (instead of a “real” browser). Making the script or application fast is the absolute most important criteria.

This application or script has one job only: to “listen” for URLs, parse them, decide what browser is appropriate, and send them on their merry way. Thanks to SSBs, it needs the ability to set a different browser for each URL type. For ease-of-use, it should allow a user to just enter a domain (for example “”) but for power users it would be great to accept a regular expression. This would allow some more advanced uses such as sending a link to media to a specific media player.


Though it has a niche user-base, there are plenty of people–power users–that would adopt it if it were free or very inexpensive. I doubt people would pay more than $10-15 for this functionality (if anything), but it might make decent donationware. I would certainly pay a modest fee for it.

Storage Device: Fast, redundant, fail-safe, easy

This is an idea that has been scratching at me for quite some time. The biggest reason: I need to find something like this!

The problem

Everybody has growing file collections. Some of us definitely have more than others—my photo collection alone is reaching 80 GB! A single recording session can easily reach 20 GB. Acquired media aside (purchased/downloaded music, movies, etc—as it’s replaceable), everyone has a need for an elegant solution to back up this data.

There are a number of products and services popping up that attempt a solution to this problem, but none do it quite right. I have to give Apple a lot of credit here—they figured out a way to make backup so simple, the masses can finally do the right thing! Time Machine is not perfect for everyone, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.

The purpose of this post is not to discuss software solutions, but rather the hardware that accompanies it. While the right software is what gets people backing up, it always requires the right hardware1 to make it work.

The current solutions


Online services (aka “cloud” storage) allow users to upload their data to online servers. Some of these include backup software and all tout the benefits of being failure-safe and secure.

  • Safe: Redundantly hosted on large server farms so the data itself is safe and secure.
  • Portable: You can usually access your data anywhere you have a net connection.
  • Sharing: Many of these services let you share certain folders with colleagues, friends, etc.
  • Flexible/Scaleable: If the service has storage limits (some are unlimited), you can scale your costs with your direct backup needs.
  • Speed: Backing up a lot of data online is constrained to internet speeds, and residential upload speeds are typically 2Mbps or less. This makes it very poor for users with large data needs and any time a user needs to access some of the data there is a big lag time.
  • Software: A number of these solutions lock you into using their software. Often, their software is limited in big ways, e.g. not being able to backup external hard drives (unless they remain attached all the time).


Hardware solutions consist of external hard-drives, file servers, and more intelligent products such as the Drobo (which is extremely cool).

  • Fast: Accessing your data through a wired connection—or over a local wireless network—is much faster than through the internet. This makes it ideal for large amounts of data and all around much more accessible.
  • Secure: You have absolute control of the security settings, so it’s as secure as you want to make it.
  • Redundancy: Unless you are savvy enough to be able set up a RAID solution, or shell out for a Drobo, making external hard-drives redundant is a real pain.
  • Flexibility/Scaleability: With the exception of the Drobo none of these solutions making scaling very easy.
  • Physical Security: External hard drives, file-servers, and the like can all be easily stolen if you ever experience a break-in. Server farms often have very tight security: id badges, fingerprint/retina scanners, armed escorts, and all kinds of crazy cool precautions.
  • Disaster:2 Electronics are extremely susceptible to everything that comes with a house fire: heat, smoke, water, and chemicals. Backing up off-site is always a good idea.


The cons of both online and hardware solutions exclude any one solution from being ideal for me. I am a heavy data user that wants fast access and redundant, off-site backup. There is nothing that easily and elegantly fills this need. Sure, I could purchase “cloud” storage and manually back things up, but that requires quite a lot of time. I want something I can set and forget in the Time Machine sense.

The ideal solution

This leads me to what I think is the ideal solution to meet all of these needs. There would definitely be challenges in doing it right, but I think the need would make the investment worthwhile.

The Hardware

First, there is a hardware device that acts as the primary solution. This hardware device needs to redundant, easy to use, and smart.

  • Like the Drobo3, it must be easy to scale with hot-swappable drive bays and it needs to “take care” of making the data redundant.
  • It needs a variety of physical access methods: USB 2, FireWire 400/800+, eSATA, and Gigabit Ethernet.
  • It must be cross-platform and therefore accept a variety of protocols such as AFP, Samba, and NFS, and advertise itself using Bonjour and Avahi. Along the same lines, it must be compatible with any file-system thrown at it, such as NTFS, HFS+, and ext3, or even ZFS, WinFS, and ext4.4
  • It requires an easy-to-use and cross-platform compatible user-interface. A small web application would probably be best.
  • Finally, it needs rsync set up as a nightly process.

The Cloud

Behind the hardware device, sits the ever-present protection of an online backup solution. It’s only for the event of a truly catastrophic event.

  • It must be inexpensive. It doesn’t need lots of sharing features (though they are nice) and it needs to be priced in such a way that the user is ok with the on-going expense. Probably no more than $10/month, if that.
  • It must be scaleable. Since the hardware component must be easy to scale, the online service must be able to keep up, with little or no direct effort from the user.
  • It must be absolutely secure. When it comes to security, perhaps nothing is truly absolute, but it must be as secure as possible so that people can trust it. In addition, the data must be physically secure: it should be stored in more than one geographic location so it is impervious to natural disasters.
  • It can’t have weird limitations such as a maximum file size of 5 GB That said, perhaps a little intelligence on the hardware side could get around a limitation like that…
  • It must be stable and have very limited downtime.


A solution like this—done correctly—would solve backup problems for some time to come. It gives users access to data quickly, redundant local backup, and off-site protection. The beauty is that the software is irrelevent: users can use any software solution they like, e.g. Time Machine, SuperDuper!, Retrospect, FlyBack, or anything else.

It might not be a product that everyone in the world would need, but it would be great for power users, professional or prosumer photographers, and just about anyone else that doesn’t have needs quite as high as video editor. Most importantly for me, I would buy one.

1 In this case, “hardware” can mean online backup services as well.
2 As someone that has woken up in the middle of a house fire and lived to tell about it, this is a bit of an ever-present threat in the back of my mind. A fire is a terrible thing, but losing all of your photos on top of it is icing on the suck cake. Plus, you never, ever, want to worry about grabbing things like that when evacuating. We are fortunate we live in a time where we can store things like photos off-site and still have access to them!
3 I swear, I’m not being paid for this. That said, offers are always welcome.
4 Obviously, it should be as forward-looking as possible. That said, if any potential future file-systems have specific hardware requirements that are unrealistic, they would have to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Coming Attraction: Random Product Ideas

I have always had random product ideas. My father once told me that he had seen many product ideas he’d had turn out to be real products 5-10 years later. I have the same affliction, however since many of my ideas are internet related, it’s often only 6 months to a year before I find the idea in some form of application.

I suppose a lot of people have ideas, but what sets the entrepreneur apart from everyone else is the knowledge, motivation, and courage to follow through on one of them–and stick with it until it either fails or succeeds. The fact that I’ve seen so many of my ideas turn out to be real later means I’m either very plugged in, or perhaps a bit unoriginal, but either way I have them and very briefly get excited about them.

I am going to blog about these ideas.

The first reason to do this is that it gives me an outlet for the ideas. I’m hoping that an outlet will help me put them to rest as my mind often obsesses on what it feels is the next big thing. Right now, I want to stay focused where I am.

The second is a bit of hope that the idea is so unoriginal, it actually already exists and I just haven’t heard about it yet. As a side to this, it might help those entrepreneurs out there trying to decide whether to go for it. If I’ve blogged about it, it’s something I would use so here is at least one consumer!

Finally, and by far the most self-serving of the bunch, I get a bit of personal gratification from having “called” an idea well ahead of time. Like the idea of Political Base over a year and a half before they launched. Or Fire Eagle a good 6 months before they were even announced (though many others had similar ideas too).

One final note: while most of the ideas are things that I really think would make a good product, there will be a few splashed in that are humorous only. Like the ‘Spaint and Soyda ideas I helped dream up in college. I’ll let you decide which ideas are serious.

Tipjoy – A Neat Concept That I Hope Sticks

Tipjoy is a neat new company that aims to make it easy for people to reward content producers. The premise is simple: content producers embed the tipjoy button on their website (as I have done on the left) and any person that clicks it agrees to “tip” 10 cents. Alternately, a surfer can use tipjoy’s bookmarklet to tip any website–even if the site owner has not signed up.

The idea is profoundly different than any model that exists now. This is what makes the idea so neat, but is also their biggest challenge.

Presently, the vast majority of independent financial gain that comes from publishing content is based on advertising. Generally speaking, this advertising is a good thing (though I may never admit I said that) for a few reasons: it increases brand awareness, it takes financial burden off of the end-user, and most importantly it allows the content producer to keep going.

Without delving too deeply into the world of web advertising, there are typically three things for which a content producer might get paid:

  • Impressions (ie, how many times the ad is viewed)
  • Clicks (ie, how many times the ad is, erm, clicked)
  • Actions (ie, how many times a user that clicked that ad went on to buy something, or sign up for a subscription service)

Different forms of advertising tend to reward based on different actions. If the advertiser is paying based on actions only (such as most affiliate programs), the content producer receives no financial gains unless their users spend money on the advertiser’s product(s) directly–or to a lesser extent if the user gives up their personal information to the advertiser to become a lead.

Tipjoy’s service fills an interesting void by allowing an end-user to reward a content producer much more directly. Under the advertising model, a user could click on an advertisement, but it’s very difficult for users to know whether this even helps the content producer. If the advertiser is paying for impressions, then it can be argued that the user’s presence on the site is reward, but it’s still very difficult to know whether this is the case. By giving users the option to more directly reward good content, it can inform the content producer of the true perceived value of their content–and thus their work–rather than a much less tangible number such as number of visits.

The inherent challenge of this is that it relies on users to pay for things they would otherwise get for free. If a user tips one great blog post per day, this adds up to $36.50/year that s/he otherwise would not have had to pay. Arguably, the user probably received much more value than that from all of that great content, but it’s a problem of motivation. It requires the content consumers to have a sense of altruism in their day-to-day surfing.

Due to this challenge, I don’t know that Tipjoy would work as a sole form of income. I do think that it works nicely beside already existing forms of income and also for content producers that don’t look to make a living off of their content, using more of a “donation” style of model. Whether this will generate enough revenue for Tipjoy to stay in business remains to be seen.

In the meantime, those of you that enjoy my content–and feel ever-so-slightly altruistic–feel free to leave me a tip. To my fellow content producers, watch out as you may have some tips coming your way.

As Robert A. Henlein wrote through his character Lazarus Long, “If tempted by something that feels ‘altruistic,’ examine your motives and root out that self-deception. Then, if you still want to do it, wallow in it.”

Changed hosting providers (aka why Dreamhost sucked)

Dreamhost is awful. They were always a bit slow, but hey, they are cheap (cough, inexpensive).

As you probably know if you’ve visited my web site, one of the primary reasons I keep a site is to have a place to upload my photos. Sure, I could use Flickr, or Picasa Web Albums, or even SmugMug like Elizabeth does.

The issue of image ownership and usage rights aside, the bottom line is that I’m a control-freak. I like doing things my way. This means that I want full control over the display, linking, searching, protection, and usage of my photos. Though the set up of my photo gallery is far from perfect, it’s my own.1 I’d eventually like to build my own photo gallery software, but that is a bit speculative right now.

Back to the point, on my previous host my photo gallery crawled. In a large collection of photos, say over 100–which is small by my photographic tendencies–it would often take 10+ seconds to load a single page. At first, I thought it was just because of the sheer number of photos. When I paired down the galleries, I noticed that it was still quite slow. It was almost embarrassing to send out links to something I should take pride in–a gallery of wedding photos for a friend for example! The performance would get even worse with more users.

As I had done a number of customizations to the gallery software, I immediately assumed I had made some mistake somewhere that was causing slow performance. Though I can hack my way through code and make customizations, I’m a product manager, not a developer. Thus, I set about doing some tests. The first test was to remove all customizations from the code–I reverted it back to an “out of the box” installation. There was a slight performance increase from doing this, but the site was still very slow. I then slowly added back my customizations one by one, first my overall appearance, then my custom breadcrumbs, then Google Analytics. Finally, I added back the (rather large) scripts that controls the “Lightbox” effect. Ah ha! There was a noticeable performance decrease in using these scripts.

My first assumption was that it was purely the size of the scripts at play. Thus, I set about one more test: I disabled the Lightbox scripts, but left an exorbitantly large quantity of unused scripts embedded in the page. My theory was that if the size of the scripts were at play, there would be little to no performance increase. I was wrong. Clearly, something else was at play here. At the time, I probably should have also realized that file transfer from my site had always been speedy–something anyone that had downloaded a straight file (ie, music mix-tape) from my site could attest.

This left me one conclusion: the extra database queries required to make the Lightbox effect work were slowing things down.

Sometime later, I realized that it was not just my gallery that had performance problems. After installing a blog, a wiki, a project management tool, and other miscellaneous open source projects and scripts, I realized every application that depends on the database was slow. Mind-numbingly slow. Dare I say, dial-up slow!?

Finally I bit the bullet and contacted Dreamhost’s customer service. I always prefer to figure things out on my own rather than dealing with the hassle of customer service channels–I like the learning experiences involved–so this was a rather big deal. After a quick response, they immediately tried to place blame on the software, on me, on anyone other than themselves really. They even had the audacity to try to up sell me! I figure that as a web operator that has a “peak” of 50 users in a day across ALL sites, there was no reason I should be too big to fit in a shared hosting package.

Dreamhost has grown too fast for their own good.

Why not, they are offering one of the cheapest packages in hosting around? I finally decided to bite the bullet and switch providers. After a fairly exhausting search, I settled on GeekStorage. They don’t offer nearly as much space or bandwidth for the price, but I like working with the owners. I worked with them 5 years ago and up until they were acquired by a less than reputable company.

The experience with GeekStorage has been pleasant (barring one customer service snafu with a friend I recommended them to). Migrating websites is not a fun task, but the head geeks at GeekStorage have been accommodating and helpful. The performance increases alone have been well worth it! Their pricing is also not bad. Not nearly as much space/bandwidth as some other hosts, but I value performance and working with people I trust much more. Plus, at those rates they are not likely to oversell their resources.

So please, enjoy the improved performance around here. Browse around some photos without wanting to poke your eyeballs out with a big stick. And watch for some improvements to the site coming in the next few months.

1. The software is actually the open source and very powerful Gallery 2. I mean that I have total control over the display and organization of my photos.

Sony BMG to offer DRM free digital music… with more hassle than CDs.

As anyone that follows my Google Reader Shared Items knows, I enjoy sharing a lot of news from TechCrunch.

This one is absolutely preposterous. Sony BMG has announced that they will now [finally] be selling DRM free music. This makes them the last of the “big four” to wake up and smell the coffee.

With one small catch. In order to purchase said music, you must go to a store, choose the album you want, buy a special card for $12.99, bring it home, log on to a special website, and voila!… you may now download your DRM free album.

At that point, why wouldn’t you just buy the album on CD where you get the uncompressed full version? If you have a computer with internet access, it’s not much of a stretch to presume you would have access to a CD drive that can rip your music. The major reason I haven’t hopped on the digital music bandwagon is the compression issue.

This begs the question, “Do record companies really wonder why people are compelled to steal music?” If they continue to make it this difficult to legally purchase digital music, nobody is going to start buying any time soon.

I’m Blocking Evite–A Preemptive Apology

I am now blocking evite invitations. I’m sorry to my friends that try to invite me to things, but I just can’t deal with them any more. I’m not doing it to try to change them for the better, I just have no desire to take part.

Anytime I receive an evite invitation, my email account will automatically send the following message and delete the invite.

It appears you tried to send me an invitation.  I’m sorry, but all invitations have been blocked at this email address.

I apologize for the inconvenience–I do it for the following reasons (in no particular order):

  1. They sell your personal information.
  2. They are associated with TicketMaster.
  3. They haven’t bothered making any major enhancements to their platform in years and are stagnant.  There are much better alternatives.
  4. They require users to click through the emails to their lousy site just to see the details.  This stinks on a mobile device.

If you wish to invite me to something, I recommend one of the following methods, in order of preference:

  1. Email me.
  2. Call me.
  3. Text me.
  4. Message me on another service, such as or Twitter.
  5. If you want to use a website, I personally recommend  You can very easily import your evite contacts and it takes mere seconds to set up a really nice invitation.  Best of all, guests can see all of the details of the event in the email that gets sent.

To read more, check out the following sites:

Cheers and have a wonderful event!



Today, a guy I went to RPI with helped launched a new website: CommandShift3.

The site aims to be a “Hot or Not” of website design. Users are presented with two options and simply “vote” (by clicking) for the site they feel is more well designed.

Kudos to the entire team on a job well done!

My photos website has managed to land in the bottom of the list (aka “Worst ever”), falling just behind

While I personally feel that my site design trumps at the very least, it also is purposefully simplistic. At least my site has Lightbox! Anyway, it serves its purpose. One of these days I’ll put in the time to make it look snazzier.


On Monday night I took the plunge. I installed the latest version of Mac OS, version 10.5 (aka Leopard). This is an account of the installation, my initial thoughts on the OS on the whole, and a list of software that works after the install.

Leopard day arrives!

I pre-ordered Leopard a few weeks prior to it coming out and selected the free shipping option. Now that I think back, it may have been the only option provided but I wouldn’t have gone for an upgrade even if it were available. I anticipated that I’d receive my copy sometime the week after it came out.

10:00 AM on Friday, October 26, 2007, I had my copy in my hands. Wow! It was neat to have it in my hands prior to the official “release” of 6pm Pacific time (9pm my time).

As the total “NP” that I am, I had not prepped my computer at all for this. I always prefer to install new operating systems fresh as it guarantees it will go smoothly and also prevents system bloat (or Win Rot as a colleague adeptly put it yesterday). In the past, this has meant burning CDs or DVDs galore.

On the recommendation of my brother, I checked out this program called SuperDuper! This program allows a user to create a fully bootable backup of your entire machine (minus “the temporary and system-specific files that Apple recommends excluding”).

I had some difficulty running the backup, but it was entirely a result of my tendency to not read directions before jumping right in and trying something. I ran the backup and continued on using my computer as normal which turned out to be a big mistake. Apparently web browsers writing to their cache/history files breaks the backup. A few tries, a number of hours, and some time letting my computer mull things over on its own later I had a working disk image back-up of my entire system. Props to the Shirt Pocket team on making a great product!

Finally, I proceeded with a complete reformat and installation. I took the opportunity to work out as I heard it would take a couple hours. Within 40 minutes, I had a new cat purring at me!

Contrary to many opinions out there, I really like the new “3D” dock-bar.

It’s pretty slick.

The most notable UI enhancement is the final eradication of the “brushed metal” aesthetic. About time. Spaces is already my best friend. There are also some jokes thrown in!

A Mac computer on my network:

A Windows computer on my network:

Finally, the part that people are probably looking for: the rundown of what works.

Programs that work perfectly just by copying them over:
Chicken of the VNC
Google Earth
Microsoft Office 2004 (Believe it or not. The apps felt a bit sluggish at first, but they are fine now!)
Remote Desktop Connection (Beta 2)
The Rosetta Stone
Toast 8 Titanium

Programs that required reinstallation, but work with no problems:
Cisco VPN Client
iLife 08
Little Snitch
TextWrangler (in order to get the command line tools)
VMWare Fusion (Beta)

Programs that don’t work at all or have issues:
CoRD – It seems to have an issue redrawing under Leopard.
Skype – This is a problem. I can run it once, but have to reinstall to run it again. They say it’s a known issue and it’s being worked on.
SuperDuper! – Haven’t tried to install as they specified it’s not yet Leopard compatible on their homepage

AT&T Rant

Ridiculous. I called AT&T from Thailand to complain about the fact that they STILL had not sent me my phone's unlock code.

Today, they finally revealed to me that they had sent the code way back on 9/11, TO THE WRONG EMAIL ADDRESS. After I got off the phone with original rep, I received a confirmation email from which I could only assume they had it correctly (especially since I had spelled it for her 4 TIMES). Nope. Turns out whoever I spoke with a) doesn't know how to spell "finance" (finace???) and b) doesn't know how to listen when I spelled it for her 4 times.

The state of customer service in this world continues to decline.

AT&T and phone unlock codes

It takes 8 days for AT&T to send you the unlock code for your phone. Why??

Coal and the mouse

From E:

Chuck just sent the funniest story about a mouse in our apartment. For those who haven't met him, Coal is a cat, which you could probably figure out from context…

I was sitting in the living room at my computer when Coal came trotting in with something in his mouth. I did a double take and got up and ran after him. He ran back to the kitchen, dropped the mouse, chased it a bit, and grabbed it again. He then made a b-line for our bedroom. Not wanting a mouse in the bedroom in case it should get away, I chased after Coal once more. He dropped the mouse, chased it under the bed, and retrieved it and came back to the hallway. He came right up to me and dropped the mouse again! He then went back to the bedroom, did another set of letting it go and chasing it under the bed, caught it, and went for the spare room. I went after him and shut both doors. Every time I would approach Coal, he would drop the mouse (as an offering, or what??). The mouse was able to get into small nooks where Coal couldn't reach him. I'd move whatever was in the way and try to grab the mouse, it would of course evade me, and Coal would have at it once more. Finally after making a disaster area of the spare room, Coal and I cornered the mouse in an open corner–the corner by the door and closet door. I grabbed the mouse and vanquished it from the apartment (by taking it up the street a ways and letting it go in a bushy area a few blocks away).

Pinup Mosaic

Note: NSFW

A pic I created a while ago. I found a program called MacOSaiX that allows you to create these using various sources–such as your own photos, Flickr tag search, or Google Images keyword search!

(Click for full size)

How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet

By Douglas Adams, September 01, 1999

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

Apply this list to movies, rock music, word processors and mobile phones to work out how old you are.

-Douglas Adams

How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet…

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