Laptop Backup

In preparation to completely wipe my laptop hard drive clean and reinstall Mac OSX (it’s been a couple of years), I got a giant Western Digital My Book drive to back all my data to. Since it’s got two 500GB hard drives in it, I knew making it a mirrored RAID 1 drive would be the ideal solution for a peace of mind (that means making the two drives as if it’s only one, only files backed up to it will be mirrored, or synchronized, on both drives in case if one of the drives fails, all that data is still safe and sound on the 2nd drive).

Unfortunately Western Digital’s hardware doesn’t allow Apple’s Disk Utility to manage it. I ended up having to install Western Digital’s custom RAID utility. Sucks.

The initial backup took about 3 hours to backup about 35GB of data — not very fast. But then again, it’s software RAID. It’s not supposed to be fast anyway.

So now that I have all my stuff backed up. Next week I will be able to finally reinstall OSX and see if the damn machine runs any faster.

Next is to back up all those digital photos stored on Grace’s Mac, which was the real reason I bought this drive in the first place.

Minor Server Hiccups

After we moved all the data from our old Texas ServerBeach machine to the new one in L.A., the new server kept on rebooting itself sporadically. Loz and I monitored and went through the logs for almost two days but couldn’t find anything wrong with it (especially after Loz installed a couple of nice monitoring software). Let me tell ya, having a server that reboots itself whenever it wanted to was stressful.

Good thing the tech support guys at ServerBeach did their thing and swapped out the box for us within an hour of submitting a support ticket. And then 40 minutes after that, we were back in business. I gotta say, I agree with Lawrence, ServerBeach has been pretty good with the kind of service we’ve received so far!

On a similar note, I had a client whose dedicated server was (and I assume still is) hosted with EV1 Servers (now part of The Planet, a company Loz and I were thinking about using but went with ServerBeach instead). And their service was just awful. I received more support from peer users in their discussion board than from EV1′s tech support (all I got was a templated response which offended me quite a bit for the kind of money my client was paying them).

Life is good again.

Removing that Skunk Odor

Thank goodness for science. There is a way to remove the stupid skunk odor.

Skunk Odor Remover

We got a bottle of “Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover.” So far it’s not quite close to the claim of being “miracle” yet. But it’s removed about 90% of the smell. I am still trying to figure out where the remaining 10% is coming from… Even if the smell is completely gone, I have a feeling that psychologically we’ll always be able to smell it…

Server Move A Success

After spending with our ServerBeach servers in Texas for almost 3 years, Lawrence and I finally decided it was time to upgrade — especially since the cost of the new upgraded server is the same as the old one!

So Loz spent about a week prepping for the move, using rsync to backup files from the old server to the new…. etc. The move was relatively painless. But I just hate moving around, virtually or otherwise. But the move was a success albeit there were minor hiccups. I bet nobody even noticed… ;)

What Stinks Around Here?

I had to install Bryan’s car seat back to our loaner car after coming back from Los Gatos in Jason’s car on Saturday. But as I was installing it at around 1AM, a terrible smell of burning electric wires rushed through my nose… I stopped for a moment and looked for the source of the smell; nothing.

After I secured Bryan’s car seat, I continued walking around the backyard looking for the source of the foul smell — a strong and unique mixture of burning electric wires, badly burned onions and rotten eggs. Not able to pinpoint the source of the odor, I went back to the apartment and told Grace about it. But then the odor was RIGHT INSIDE the house! Then we both panicked and started sniffing carefully for the source.

Five minutes later (small apartment), we decided nothing was burning inside the house. So I took the flashlight and started sniffing for it outside. Still nothing. Curious and baffled, I questioned if we should call 911 and get the professionals to weigh in on this.

Sitting on my desk, Googling a short description of the smell, I noticed a couple of white spots on my pajamas… EWWWWWW — that was the source of the smell! And man, my head started to spin when the source of the odor was only inches from my nose.

I dashed outside to look for the true culprit and how it got on my pajamas… That’s when Grace and I saw the REAL mastermind behind this criminally intoxicating smell — a skunk. It slowly crawl from hiding on the other side of the car in the carpool…

The damn skunk must have been frightened and sprayed me when I unexpectedly showed up with Bryan’s car seat. Our neighbor has been leaving tons of cat food around in hopes to catch some stray cats (she’s been on a mission to rescue all cats). But lately animals of all kinds have been lining up for her generosity. This kind of act has to stop when it starts to negatively impact other people. So further actions will be taken on that for hygienic, safety and health reasons…

As for me, I threw away everything that was sprayed on except Bryan’s car seat. I am still looking for effective solutions to deodorize and sanitize it. It may very well be that we have to ditch the car seat and just get another one for the sake of hygienes. Maybe our neighbor should help pay for it…

Woz

Jason and Alicia took us to Los Gatos for a nice day out. That’s when we bumped into Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, Inc…

Woz on his Segway

I had a cup of gelato with me at the time, plus I had to stroll Bryan so I really didn’t have a hand to grab my camera. Plus Woz was on his Segway, so by the time I was able to do something about it, he was long gone. But you can see Woz in this shot I managed to snap (hint: look for the Segway).

Ah~ A case of brush with “Greatness”.

Vegas, A Family Unfriendly City (for Now)

While most of our stay at Vegas was pleasant, there were a few annoying attributes about the city that was quite disturbing:

1. Smokers die hard — literally. Coming from a relatively smoke-free state like California to the Sin City is like I died and fell to smoking hell (no puns intended). There were free second hand smokes on every square inch of the Las Vegas Blvd.

2. Liquor anyone? — Beer bottles were everywhere on Las Vegas Blvd, from one end of the strip to the other. Coupled with clueless college kids with cigarettes, who are out to prove themselves, that’s formula for trouble (and super, super annoyance, especially when they are in groups of three or more).

3. Relatively terrible food — Las Vegas is famous for extravagant buffets. But if you are not into sirloin steaks or meatloaf, the veggie stuff is all pretty much the same. Besides, how many kinds of food can they really serve up in buffets? Let me just say they didn’t even try at places we went to. Ironically, the fatter the people we saw eating the buffets, the less we felt like eating. And then there’s the “Bryan factor.” Whenever we were eating relatively expensive food, he started getting cranky and became Mr. Choosy on what he wanted. But this one time when we decided to grab a quick Panda Express, he was the happiest child on Earth. The upside is, now I know I can make Bryan happy on the cheap.

4. Sex Sells — The free pirates show outside of Treasure Island used to be decent. It was a show about pirates. I mean, how else could “Treasure Island” be interpreted? But I guess some idiot in the TI management figured sex was the next big thing and changed the whole theme with a hidden sexual connotation to it (get it?). Half of the pirate crew was now a bunch of barely dressed, sexy, foxy dancing young girls (not that I am complaining). But that made the whole show stupid and pointless. People actually started leaving about 1/3 into the show.

5. No show (but 2 stupid ones) would allow kids 5 or younger to attend. Com’on… that’s the whole point of going to Las Vegas for non-gamblers or people who aren’t there for businesses!

6. If you have a baby that requires a tub to take bath in, good luck finding a hotel with a tub. This really ticked me off.

7. The air in Vegas is as polluted as those mobile chimneys I talked about in point #1. Some pictures I took have tonnes of dust particles caught by the flash of my camera. I don’t know how anyone can live in that city without getting some kind of respiratory problems.

I took Grace and Bryan to Vegas forgetting there were all these things attached to an adult-oriented themes in every corner of the city. Come to think of it, I think Vegas would make a great vacation spot for bachelors who can’t get laid anywhere else, newly weds looking for a different experience and gamblers who don’t know what else to do with their money. Whatever Las Vegas is, it’s no place for family vacations. That’s for sure.

Sick Days

Grace and Bryan came home from Vegas with a fever. I was okay until the next day… Then I became so sick that I could barely get out of the bed. But then I still had to finish my Java homework and attended my Java class with a 102° fever. And let me say this — listening to programming lecture with a mild fever is a terrible experience. But then I just hate to miss out on the classes I’ve already paid for…

Bryan seems to have recovered already. Hopefully we’ll all feel better tomorrow.

A Trip to the Sin City

Michael Neely incorporated BSBtv, Inc earlier this year and asked me to join him as the developer for web-based applications we plan on rolling out. This past week, we both met up in Las Vegas for a trade show to see what the competition is up to. But instead of going alone, I thought it’d be wonderful to bring our families as well.

Outside of Paris

Both Grace and Bryan were very excited. Bryan waved and said “hi” to everyone the whole trip as if he’d forgotten to be shy like he always does.

The trip was great except Grace got sick on the way back (almost completely lost her voice by the next morning). But we snapped quite a few pictures during the trip (over 250 for a 3 day trip). And I am glad I upgraded my camera before we went. I guess I’ll talk more about the trip in different pieces in the next few days when I can organize my thoughts better. But in the meantime, enjoy the photos.

How Flickr Saves Me Time

I basically stopped processing all the digital photos we shot last August when my work finally caught up with me. That caused an uproar among some friends and family (mostly from Grace). So I started looking at some alternatives on digital photo management for online sharing.

I looked at Google’s Picasa (which is basically a lame duck now that Google’s sitting on top of it), Yahoo’s latest prized acquisition, Flickr, Sony’s ImageStation and hosting my own using Gallery 2. There are also a few other online photo sharing services I considered, but none worth my time to look deep.

Picasa
Pros: Probably won’t disappear after a couple of years; decent interface for photo management; relatively fast site; iPhoto plugin readily available and free.

Cons: Though the online photo management interface is not bad, it still lacks the “polish” that Flickr has; Google doesn’t seem to be doing much with it lately; limited API for people who want to tinker with its photo sharing API; no cheap photo prints via its service.

Flickr
Pros: Very nice and actively used API for tinkerers like me. In fact, there’s a wrapper to its API in virtually all major modern languages — PHP, Java, Perl, Python… etc; offers incredible control on manipulating its photo sharing services via the API; active developer community; incredible and polished user interface; easy to use; excellent iPhoto plugins (more about this later); great photo management capabilities; excellent WordPress plugin for publishing Flickr photos.

Cons: Photo printing service is a rip off for what they charge.

ImageStation
Pros: Offers cheapest photo processing per print by far. Otherwise, technically, none significant.

Cons: No developer APIs; horrible user interface (try making a calendar with it… yikes!)

Gallery2
Pros: Control over almost every aspect of the photo sharing since it’d be hosted on my own server; some decent iPhoto plugins.

Cons: The site’s screwed if the server is fried or there’s too much traffic; obviously no connection to any kind of photo printing service; dependent of me uploading the photos.

So, clearly, Flickr is the easy winner of the bunch. Now more about how I am using Flickr services. I have a streamlined operation where everything from picking photos, writing captions to publishing just takes a few minutes. The key here is a nice little iPhoto plugin called FlickrExport for iPhoto (there’s a more powerful version for Aperture for you Pro users out there). Basically all I do is a simple 3 step process in publishing the photos from downloading from the camera all the way to Flickr.

1. Apple-click all the images I want to upload to Flickr in iPhoto. When done, go to “File” and choose “Export”. Select the FlickrExport tab.
2. Select all the thumbnails, set the maximum size to upload (dimension wise). Assign tags; write captions.
3. Upload. Done.

Once the images are up there at Flickr, I don’t have to worry about them anymore. But the nice added bonus is the APIs for when I feel like building my own gallery using images that are already being hosted at Flickr. All my application has to do it to pull those images and arrange them in the way I choose to in my own designs. Very NICE!

Most importantly, for me to easily publish those photos on my own blog, there’s a nice WordPress plugin called Flickr Photo Album that allows me to browse through images in my Flickr account from within WordPress and choose which images I want to include in my entries. No more manually pre-processing images before I blog! Sweet!