3/31/09

New Old Macs

Recently we purchased a few computers and I thought I would blog about that purchase. You might be thinking, "Not very interesting or exciting." Hang in there. The recent resurgence of "PCs are less expensive than Macs" pulled this into the forefront.

I'll not really talk about "which is cheaper." I'll just point you to the original article I read in this WSJ Blog entry. (Fortune Magazine via CNN also reported on it.)

Now, it has been parodied in The Joy of Tech and it has been rebuffed. I just read about one company that is doing what I am doing: buying new used, old Macs. (See Macs in the Enterprise: the Cost Factor.)

Living in our house are 3 adults and—counting my son away at school—6 children. Before this week we had 1 Mac (mine) and 5 PCs (my wife's, my two college kids have 1 each, 1 for my son in high school, and 1 shared by the others, as well as a Linux system for storage.

First, the mother board on the Linux box when bad. After struggling with it, I decided to replace it. To replace it, I bought a Apple Power Mac G4 (my notebook is a PowerBook G4). I bought it for $99 plus shipping from Mac of All Trades. $99! A friend gave us a second Power Mac G4. The friend called me up a few days later and said Mac of All Trades had $79 Power Macs, just like the one I bought. Did I want to buy another? I did! $79 for a computer! $79 for a very usable computer. For what? For web surfing. For music downloads. For Facebooking. For You Tubing. For writing documents and otherwise doing homework.

For heavy-duty music or photo editing? No. Software development? Probably not. More than adequate? A lot more than adequate.

And I forgot this about a new Mac, old, used, or otherwise. You plug it in, turn it on, confirm security settings (they are, after all, on my home network), and it is up and on the network, working. I mean in less than 5 minutes.

So, when the other new, old Mac shows up, it will be: 5 PCs and 4 Macs. So far. :-)

On inexpensive vodka

I look in on lifehacker via my news feed aggregator. Today, an entry pointed to Top Shelf Vodka, Bottom Shelf Price, which substantiated something I always suspected. But, the reason I am posting this is this sentence which really tickled my fancy (as we used to say in the old days).
I'd argue that the ultimate mark of a good vodka is that you can pull it out of the freezer, pour yourself a shot, and taste absolutely nothing except for the quick death of a few thousand brain cells.
Okay, maybe the weekend has worn off already.

It is an interesting read. But ignore the "James Bond" and Smirnoff" line. That was a tie-in from the movies, not the novels, which should be consider canon.

3/25/09

Publishing from iCal to Google Calendar Solved

In Publishing from iCal to Google Calendar, I mentioned I found a solution to what I wanted to do. (Read the original post for details first.)

As I said in a comment on that post,
I did get a solution. BusyMac's BusySync. It is not free, but it is only a one-time $25 purchase to do what I want to do. My iCal calendars easily publish to calendars on Google, and I can share them with my wife (and others).
It was straightforward and easy to set-up. On my Google Calendars I set up calendars to match the calendars in iCal—just the ones I want to synchronize— and that are synchronized with my iPod touch. I even picked the same colors. After that I just follow the very easy to follow pointing and clicking in BusySync, connecting iCal calendars and Google Calendars. iCal does not have to be running. Periodically, BusySync syncs iCal and Google Calendars. It sits up in the menu bar and periodically spins for a few seconds.

Now, away from my Mac at home. I have access to my calendar on my iPod , as well as on Google Calendars.

I can change the calendar in either place. Doing it in Google Calendars means that anyone I share my calendars with can see the updates. It automatically syncs up to iCal at home and when I plug in at home, it syncs down to my iPod as well.

Exactly the behavior I was looking for. It's not free. But, the $25 cost of the software is well worth it to me.

See the BusySync User Guide.

3/24/09

Router Security

I was quoted in Kelly Jackson Higgins's DarkReading column Hacking The Router Patching Conundrum.

I've blogged on the subject in Router and DMZ Best Practices.

3/14/09

My New iPod Touch

I ran over my iPod. It is not a great way to start this blog entry, but I feel so stupid, I wanted to get it out of the way.

In this blog entry I will first explain how it happened. Then I will tell you the remedy. And finally I will report on the restore/recovery process.

The damage.
I should explain how, because if you are like me, every time you read of someone running over their iPod, you think, "What, are you stupid? How could you do that?"

No. Never mind. I don't think I will tell. It is stupid. I will say that it was in my man-bag, which is black, and apparently cannot be easily seen if dropped under the car when getting in, and … oh, man am I stupid. Anyway, I didn't realize that it was damaged until I got to the coffee shop to meet a friend at 7:15 AM. As I sat down to my coffee and conversation, I pulled it out to turn it on and check email. Right away I knew what had happened.

It wasn't crushed, nor was the glass cracked, but there were horizontal lines on the screen. When I powered it up, nothing showed except the very top of the screen. I saw that the wireless was working. So was the lock. Plenty of battery power. And the time was right, as I could tell from the top half of the time that was showing. I played with it a bit, seeing if I could affect a change, but even if I could slide the "unlock" slider (that I could not see), and if I could then miraculously type in the passcode without seeing anything except the top quarter inch of the screen, what would it tell me? It was broken

Blast it.

The remedy.
I tried to remember when I bought it. Was it still under warranty? Almost surely not. I erroneously (it would turn out) thought that it was 90 days. I bought it at Best Buy. Maybe I bought their extended care plan. My wife does for the kids' Nintendo handhelds. It allows replacement for any reason for 2 years, but, I never get those. Never. But, maybe I screwed up and did.

So, my plan was to go home, check the receipt, check my budget, and then with it head to Best Buy, with a side trip (it is on the way) to The Apple Store. Maybe they would just wink, shrug, and give me a new one. Actually, I was thinking that they could tell me how much to send it in to repair if, if it was repairable. I found that I bought it October 10, 2008. I did not get the extended care plan. But, I did have just enough in budget to buy a new one. Apple Store and leave it there for repair or on to Best Buy and a new one, but another $400.

At 10-ish, the Apple Store did not have a waiting line. Genius Jeff D did not laugh, smirk, or say, "What, are you stupid? How could you do that?" He looked up the serial number and my name and said, "The good news is it is still under warranty." (Huh?) "I see you bought it November 2." (I guess there is a lag between purchase at a reseller and registering the sale.) "The screen is not covered, except for replacing the iPod touch with a new one. It will cost you $199 plus tax."

They call it a "repair," but to repair it Apple takes the broken iPod to salvage parts and gives a new one. So, after a few minutes I had a new iPod touch.

Restoring.
Jeff told me, "Just plug it in and it will notice it is a new iPod and it will ask you if you want to restore everything from your library and a backup." It did not. But, it was close. Maybe I did something wrong. But, it did no damage.

iTunes recognized it as a new iPod. It asked if I wanted to sync with my Library. I did. It took awhile, but everything was added to the new iPod including my calendar entries and Contacts. But, nothing else. I mean, the App locations (which screen each was on) was wrong, but that is minor. I opened Notes and it was empty. No knowledge of my wireless access points. No data was saved in these other applications.

I know it regularly does something called a back-up. How to recover? I looked in iTunes help. "Recover?" No results. "Restore?" It tells you how to restore factory settings. I had to look on the Internet to find that Command-Control on the iPod name in iTunes brings down a menu that includes Backup and Restore from Backup.

Under Restore from Backup, it gave me 3 different Backups to pick from with no real indication of when they were made. (I found out that going to Preferences and Devices show the names, the order, and the date the backup was made. Cool, but I think it should be obvious in the Restore window.)

After the Restore, I found the data from Settings and every other App—Notes, Weather, Bible Reader, eBook, games, etc.—restored from the previous day. Good deal!

(All App data restored except LockBox Pro. I used that to cryptographically hold passwords and other such information. It worked great. It just does not survive being backed up and restored. I had the right number of records. They had just lost their labels and data. Out went LockBox Pro, and in went mSecure, which allows storing a backup on the computer. I'm good to go.)

[Addeddum: Wireless passwords did not survive either.]

Lessons learned.
First, if I drop my iPod, I will look until I find it, and I will never move the car if I lost it when anywhere near it. Next, I will always check in with The Apple store, as I did. Last, it really does back it up. I am so glad I do and did, and that I back up my files to an external drive. I didn't need that last bit, but by backing up my iPod with iTunes, the whole ordeal took hours instead of days or weeks.

Did I mention that this happened on Friday the 13th?

3/13/09

Switching from PC to Mac

My "pc2mac" label on this blog started with my move from the PC to the Mac platform back in August 2005. (See Dude, You're Getting a Mac!)
I just read a series of articles that I though would be interesting to anyone who arrived here wondering whether they should make the switch. (Short answer, "Yes!")

Check out My Dad, the Switcher.

(Oh, and, Macs still end up being cheaper.)

3/5/09

Cocktail resource

I just recently found The Cocktail Spirit with Robert Hess. If you are into or want to learn more about cocktail making or drinking, check it out.