‘computing’ Category


Not really silent

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything here. It’s not that I’ve stopped being social online; rather I’ve been using Twitter so much that writing a full-on blog post has seemed both time-consuming and unnecessary.

So what’s been going on? Three things mostly: work, xbox gaming, and Ruby on Rails programming. I’m happy to say I’ve finally got RoR pretty well figured out, and have created some pretty neat stuff with it so far (mostly around xbox social networking). My long-term goal is to use it the next time I re-design the Lab Rescue web site.

I’m off work this week, and it’s nice to relax at home, see family, visit friends, and generally relax.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!

Bad weekend for hard disks

Bad weekend for hard disks

The Linux server in the basement crashed Saturday, and after some diagnosis, it turned out to be a failed 500 GB internal hard disk. The drive was the “backup” disk for the two 250 GB data disks in the Linux server, our two MacBooks, my desktop Mac, as well as for a variety of content I have hosted elsewhere, such as mfischer.com (at techno’s co-lo), lrr.org (at bluehost.com), etc. I had rsnapshot set up to make incremental backups of all these other disks every 4 hours to the 500 GB disk. So, losing it wasn’t the end of the world, since it was just backups of the original data. I went onto NewEgg.com on Saturday and ordered a new 1 TB disk for $139 including 3-day delivery.

A few minutes later, Kathie returned from Scott and Sue‘s, and announced that the hard disk in Scott’s MacBook had just died. Interestingly, the hard disk in my MacBook (purchased the same day as Scott’s) failed about two months ago, a couple weeks before the 1-year warranty ended.

So, while anxiously waiting for my new 1 TB disk to ship so I could start keeping backups again, today another disk in the Linux server failed. This time it was one of the two 250 GB disks. Now, I have no backups, so the data is gone. I did get lucky though, since it was the disk containing my music archive, which means all I have to do is re-rip 600 CDs into FLAC format. Not fun, but also not very urgent. The other 250 GB disk has all the important stuff… years of documents, photos, software I’ve developed, etc. If that disk had failed instead of the music disk, I’d be in sad shape right now.

So, I spent the evening frantically backing up everything I could from the “important” disk to various other places in the house (spare space on the desktop Mac, laptops, etc.). That’s done, so I’m at least going to sleep knowing I have a backup of the important stuff “just in case”. I also ordered a second 1 TB disk which I’ll be putting in Scott’s house as an off-site backup. Considering the cost of hard disks these days, it doesn’t hurt to be overly cautious.


Blog: Smashing Magazine

I don’t intend for my blog to turn into a review of other blogs, but this one I just have to mention. I recently came across the Smashing Magazine “blog” while looking for some help with web design. The site has an incredible depth of information on web site design — an area where I feel woefully inadequate, but desperately wish I was better at. However, it also has lots of other interesting articles that set it apart. Here’s a smattering of ones I’ve found interesting so far, but there are hundreds of similar articles on the site:



Ruby on Rails

For the past few weeks I’ve been teaching myself how to program in Ruby and Rails. Given that it’s hyped as “web development that doesn’t hurt” and is supposed to be easy to learn, I’ve been having more trouble than I expected. Two years ago I learned PHP in a week or so, and last year Javascript in a few weeks. The Ruby language itself isn’t the problem, as it’s similar enough to many other languages I’ve used in the past. Rails however is a dramatic departure from anything I’ve used in the past. It’s a programming framework for rapidly developing easily maintainable web applications, and is “opinionated” software — that is, it has a specific way it wants you (and often forces you) to program, including variable names, filenames, breaking a project into a set of models, controllers, and views, etc.

There are hundreds of Rails tutorials all over the web, but they’re all very similar to each other, and just cover the basics. I’ve come to the conclusion that at least part of my problem is that I don’t have a good learning and reference book. Agile Web Development with Rails is the definitive work, but the currently available edition only covers an old version of Rails, and the updated edition won’t be printed until October. So, until then I’ll continue stumbling through my first project, learning a little bit at a time.

On the bright side, I’ve seen enough to be confident that once I do become proficient, I’ll be able to use Rails to develop web applications more easily (and with less errors) than I did in the past with PHP.

Safari vs. Firefox

Safari vs. Firefox

I’ve been a Firefox user… for as long as I can remember. It started because I was a Windows user, and FF was vastly better than Internet Explorer (and still is). Since switching to Mac about two years ago, I’ve stayed with Firefox. I gave Apple’s Safari browser a few tries now and then, but always ran into major complaints with how it worked, and didn’t see the need to investigate them.

Since I know most Mac people use Safari, and a fair number of “people who know what they’re doing” use it, I’m going to give it another try. One of my favorite things about Firefox is its plug-in architecture, allowing anyone to develop very useful add-ins to the program. Firebug is essential for any web developer, so unless Safari has something similar, I’ll still be falling back on Firefox for development.

Do you have any preferences one way or another?

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