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Technology

Mini Host

Since around 2005 I have been paying for some sort of web hosting, every month, to pay for at least one WordPress site and some other, smaller, websites. It has been as low as $4/month and as high as $21/month (as it currently is, but they are not at all comparable). I’ve also tried my hand at hosting sites from my own home on a small server running with Intel’s Atom processor. That also worked well.

However, I’ve always wanted to take that last idea to the next level … to really set up my house as a mini host. Set aside a small part of the basement that I now own (WHOHOO!), get myself a server rack, purchase some rackmount hardware and then go at it! I would move everything over to those “new” servers (read: used) and run all of my business from my basement.

Yes, I currently use Rackspace Cloud Servers and have been very VERY happy with how they have worked. It has been great and made moving really simple because I just kept everything there and I could move wherever I wanted with no problems.

However, I want more power and the fun of doing this myself. There is also a need for a “large-ish” file server for backups here at home along with general file storage. A rack would mitigate the later need as well.

Right now I’m looking for a rack, talking with Comcast about what it would cost to get some static IP addresses to my home, and then searching out some used hardware to get started. I don’t need server-grade hardware, but I do want to get some rackmount cases and then get started.

Am I going to do it perfectly? Oh heck no, but I’m going to learn a lot and get to drill some holes and run some cable. I’m looking forward to it.

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Technology

WWDC 2011 Keynote: iCloud

This is decidedly the one announcement that is both the most cryptic and has the ability to be the most revolutionary. Everyone was expect “iCloud” in some form, mostly revolving around a streaming iTunes service (which we did not get), but I don’t think people were expecting a complete and total rethinking of the “digital hub” concept that Steve Jobs has touted for the past decade.

It is hard to talk about what iCloud means without talking about what iCloud is supposed to do in its current form this Fall.

Mail/Calendars/Contacts

Since iCloud is going to replace MobileMe (may she rest in peace), it will handle the main feature set that MobileMe was used for. Not much to talk about here. I’ve been very happy with MobileMe for these three, so I’m hoping that it will worked “as advertised” with iCloud as well.

Apps, Books, Backup

Easy enough as well. Apps can now be pushed to any device when you purchase (so push Twitter to your iPad after you installed it on your iPhone), and you have a list of purchased apps right in the App Store. Welcome addition.

Books work like they have before. Bookmarks and current reading positions are synced across devices. I’ve used this, it works.

You can also do partial backups right to iCloud. Here is what is saved:

  • Purchased music, apps, and books
  • Photos and videos in the camera roll
  • Device settings
  • App data
  • Home screen and app organization
  • Text and MMS messages
  • Ringtones

That’s a good amount of information. It isn’t everything, but if you connect to Wi-Fi, your iOS device will automatically download the latest backup if you put in your Apple ID. All part of untethering your iOS device from a computer.

The backup parts will happen only when connected to Wi-Fi, but it is a lot better than having a person lose all of their information if they break their iOS device.

Documents in the Cloud

Save a document on one device and have it on all devices. That’s what it will hopefully do. Right now it is baked into iWork, but Apple has opened this up for 3rd party developers as well. There isn’t a lot to talk about here, but I’m hoping this makes “cloud syncing” a feature that is just there … for everything.

Photo Stream

This one is a little more complicated. Basically, you take a picture on one iOS device and it gets pushed to the rest, including your Mac or PC. Photo Stream on your iOS device (including you Apple TV 2nd gen) will keep up to 1000 photos for 30 days until you are able to connect to Wi-Fi and back everything up (see above).

At the same time, your Mac or PC will save EVERY photo that you push through to your photo stream. So, you don’t have to worry about losing any pictures at any time, they’ll always be on your Mac or PC (or you can always move them into another album on your iOS device where they will be kept in perpetuity).

iTunes in the Cloud

No, it is not a streaming or subscription iTunes service.

What you now have access to is all of your purchased iTunes music on all of your devices where you can download your music as many times as you want.

This fixes the famous issue where someone loses their iTunes library and wants to get their music back. Now they can log into the iTunes Store and do just that. YAY! New purchases can be pushed to all of your devices as well, which is kind of nice.

iTunes Match

For $25/year, you can have access not just to music purchased through iTunes, but also to your other music as well!

There are two tiers here:

  1. music that you ripped or downloaded somewhere else that is in the iTunes Store can be downloaded on your other devices just fine without having to upload any files
  2. music that iTunes cannot identify is uploaded to iCloud and then is passed around for you to enjoy (up to 20,000 files … I think)

That’s pretty cool as well, but you do have to pay for it.

Price/Overall Impressions

Everything listed above (except iTunes Match) is now … FREE!

Yup, that’s right, Apple has released something huge for free. I’m imagining that they are not going to have a huge issue covering the costs, but this is a major shift for them and it also opens it up even more for 3rd party developers to include iCloud in their offerings. If every Mac/iOS/PC customer with an Apple ID can have access to iCloud … that’s a large market.

This entire offering (and it is really a collection of many services under a single name instead of one large offering) is going to define Apple going ahead. They’ve moved iOS to being on-par with the Mac platform in many ways, and this is another huge push.

However, what remains to be seen is how this all works. MobileMe, for how well it has worked for me, got off to a rocky start and I expect some growing pains with iCloud as well.

With the Apple Stores obviously pushing iCloud to as many iOS and Mac customers as possible, the uptake could be quick (which would be great for data retention). However, iCloud comes with the same fears as any “cloud” technology: privacy, reliability and data caps for three. Will they be an impenetrable barrier, or has Apple finally figured out how to get people to move into “the cloud”?

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Life Technology

Standing Desk – A Little Later

Well, the good news it that I still have my desk on top of banana boxes at the moment and I have not gone back to simply sitting.

The bad news is that I haven’t found anything better than the banana boxes to prop my desk up on. Add to that the fact that I haven’t been able to spend much time at my desk recently and I don’t have a definitive conclusion as to whether I like this better or not.

Next on my list is to find a way to make this a little more permanent, or at least sturdy. I have some stringers in my garage that I might hack up into stilts for the desk and then try and rig together a stand for the monitor so that I don’t have to look down at it.

I’ve also started just closing the MacBook and running with a single monitor so that I eliminate some of my head movement back-and-forth. A minor thing, but I like having just a single focus. Wish it was a 27″ Cinema Display … but what are you going to do.

There have been time when I wished I could have sat down, but the desk isn’t set up for that so I’ve stuck it out. Maybe that is the point of having it be stationary at the moment so that I don’t have an easy way out. I’m still thinking that a GeekDesk Max might be in my future, but I would need to greatly expand Deck78 and pay down some debt before that would happen.

While it has been inconclusive so far, I have enjoyed the standing more than I thought I would. Part of that might be that I sit at work all day, so the standing is a good change of pace.

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Announcements Life Technology

Launching

So I finally just bit the bullet and put something out. After maybe four internal revisions and plenty of trial and error (and talking to myself), I have pushed out http://deck78.com.

There are going to be changes to the site in the future, but what you see right now is what you are getting until I find some more time to really sink my teeth into it. The main objective now is to actually start making some money and also get ready for the addition to our family come the end of July and other projects around here.

Tomorrow also marks the first unofficial gathering of tech people in New Ulm. It should be a good time and I am really looking forward to it. I’m hoping to have more information about that group in the future.

That’s about it at the moment. Thanks!

Categories
Life Technology

Being Geek

This is a short review of Being Geek by Michael Lopp. I’m writing it up now because I finally had my wife read the chapter she was supposed to and we were able to have a good discussion of who I am.

I’ll give my recommendation first: if you are any kind of software developer or “geek”, just save yourself the trouble and get this book right now. You’ll enjoy it and Lopp is a great author. Now, we get to the little itty bitty amount of meat in this post.

Being Geek is a book that closely  mirrors what Lopp has been writing at Rands in Repose for the past few years. If you have been reading him there, you will feel right at home reading this book.

It gives excellent advice for people who are looking to break into managing geeks (or nerds as he more often calls us). However, it also is beneficial for those who are being managed in one way or the other so that you can understand what is going on and how to handle those strange situations where you have no idea what is going on.

I took away many good things, but I won’t recount them here. The real gem, however, lies in the single chapter that is written for the other, non-geeks in your life. It is a primer on how we think, how we view the world and gives a taste for why you and I are the way we are. It is written with the usual wit and humor that Lopp writes with, but it brings up many fine points as to why we seem to be so strange to so many.

I’m purposefully not saying much here because I would like you to go and read the book for yourself or at least read some of Lopp’s other writings out there. Just go.