Welcome, G4, to your New Home

May 28, 2006


Thanks to a very generous group of people, I now have in my possession a lovely new (for me) Power-mac G4.

It's a bit slow (400 MHz) but its running Tiger just fine. I looked this particular model up in MacTracker and it looks like it is a pretty decent machine.

What I plan on using it for is to combine all my server processes into one machine. Up until now, I had been using two computers to handle various tasks: web server, printer server, backup server, ftp server, afp server. The two machines I used before were a very old / slow machine running FreeBSD, and my newer 1 GHz Ubuntu box.

Printer sharing was a pain to set up in FreeBSD. That seemingly simple process took me probably a week to get it up and going. With Mac OS X, all the processes were set up simply by going into System Preferences and checking some boxes.

My afore mentioned custom backup system needed to get setup again on the new machine, but that wasn't difficult as Mac OS X already has rsync on it. I did have to add a new hard-drive in it, as the 10 gig default doesn't give much extra storage space, after the OS install. Hopefully that disk drive will last for awhile, but they are pretty old.

With all the excitement of the new Intel based Macs, it was kind of fun to be just as excited with a machine built in 1999.

My favorite feature of the PowerMac: The built in speaker. Combine this with iTunes and the "say" command and you get endless opportunities, like setting an alarm and have iTunes play me a song in the morning. Or press a button and have my Mac tell me the current time… or even the current temperature! Pretty exciting stuff. I'll have to play around with some scripts and see how much my Mac will tell me.


gCal Cleared my Dock

May 20, 2006

dockAs seen in the <small> picture, I now have only two items on my dock: Firefox and NetNewsWire Lite. Quicksilver takes care of accessing every other application easily without the need to see it down there all the time.

Until recently, I had included iCal with the docked applications. Not because I used it all the time, but because I felt I should be using it more, and thought that if I saw it, I would be more likely to use it.

However, Google's new Calendar has now permanently removed iCal from that exalted position.

gCal (as I will now refer to it) gives me everything I need in a calendar application. I can access from any computer, I can add new events without having to navigate to the specific date, and I can see my wife's calendar at the same time, so we both know what's going on when. Universal access was always a big limitation in iCal. As I'm at school or work for much of the day, to use iCal I would have to try to remember any events until I get home, and then put them into the calendar.

I also like to be efficient (which my wife calls 'laziness') and so gCal's intuitive short-cuts to adding new events really helps me with that 'efficientness'. I can essentially click anywhere and add an event by typing something like "Tim's birthday party 5:30 – 7:30 on May 19th" and it is automagically added to the correct day and correct time.

Also, when someone calls and invites us to something (which happens oh so often) I can call up gCal and check both my and my wife's schedule right there. Here is a pretty good web site that explains a lot of the tips and tricks of google calendar.

And with Quicksilver, its just as easy to access gCal as any other 'application'. I simply set up a key-binding (Command+shift+c) to open gCal in a new tab.

I also have it email me every morning with my schedule (looks like you can have it send it to your phone as well, but it won't work with my Verizon plan as of yet) so in-case something big is going down, I'll be ready.

Give it a try, and add me to your shared calendar space. Soon people won't have to talk to one another, just check GMail and gCal, and you know what's what.

ibackup (Finally)

May 13, 2006

Picture 1.pngSo I finally brought automated backups to the household. It took awhile because I am lazy, and because most current backup systems I’ve seen didn’t seem quite right for our setup.

I wanted to be able to backup critical data (i.e. school papers, homework, etc) on our 3 Macs to a Ubuntu server in my office, upstairs. I like using a Linux-based server for this kind of stuff because of the reliability of the operating system, and the relatively cheap cost of the hardware. I have been using this particular system for a few months now to develop our RTS game, and actually got the entire machine for a total of 0 dollars.

What makes our set-up a little unique is that both of our primary computers are laptops. So a scheduled sort of backup wouldn’t work as the machines aren’t always on at one particular point. Also, my wife is more techy than most, but still wouldn’t be comfortable opening up the Terminal to run shell scripts.The backup system I came up with uses Rsync to transfer files and is setup so that we only have to double-click on an icon and the backup starts up.

I used this great tutorial to set it up so that my machines could connect to the Linux server using SSH without needing a password. Then I used this tutorial (by the same person) to formulate a shell script that will automatically backup our Documents folder and our Desktop folder. Here is basically the entire script I used:

rsync -e “ssh” -rca –delete-after ~/Documents/ jim@ -v
rsync -e “ssh” -rca –delete-after ~/Desktop/ jim@ -v

Then I found a great program called Platypus 3.3. This lets you make applications out of scripts. So I loaded my script into Platypus and out came a fully function program to put on each machine. (I modified the script slightly for each system so that they are backed-up into different folders inside of “back”)

Now I know this isn’t a perfect solution as we will still have to find the time to run the backup program (it takes around 5 minutes to work its magic), but its certainly better than no backup at all. I might create a separate script to backup other folders like images and bookmarks and what not. Also for redundancy, I think I’m going to have the Linux server backup the backup folder to another folder on another physical drive. And since the server WILL be always on, this can be handled by cron easily.

This system seems like it will work well for what we need. Once I tweak the script a bit to include a few other critical files, I won’t have to worry too much about our aging laptop hard drives failing any time soon.