Category: Technology

CrashPlan Follow-up Review

I have been using the CrashPlan family plan now for a few months and all I can say is that I couldn’t be happier. My review might not be taken as objective anymore, though, since I was one of their 50 winners in a Twitter contest to get 25 months of free service. I would have gladly continued to pay for the service each month (I was paying month-to-month), but now that it’s free for me and up to 10 of my household’s computers until September 2014 I am ecstatic!

Thank you CrashPlan! I would recommend the service to anyone who is looking to back up their personal computers reliably and cost-effectively. I don’t have that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I could lose all of my photos at any moment.

Microsoft SQL Server Installation Issue Fix

I was installing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 on a development server and kept getting an annoying error message:

Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Install Error Message

The following error has occurred:

An error occurred during the installation of assembly ‘Microsoft.VC80.MFC,version=”8.0.50727.4053″,publicKeyToken=”1fc8b3b9a1e18e3b”,processorArchitecture=”x86″,type=”win32″‘. Please refer to Help and Support for more information. HRESULT: 0x800736CC.

For help, click: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink?LinkID=20476&ProdName=Microsoft%20SQL%20Server&EvtSrc=setup.rll&EvtID=50000&ProdVer=11.0.2100.60&EvtType=0xDF039760%25401201%25401

KB Article 2688946 describes a very similar issue. I eventually found a fix in the form of Cumulative Update 2 (KB2703275) Here is what you need to do to fix it:

  1. Completely close the SQL 2012 installer (it might just crash and close itself).
  2. Use Control Panel to uninstall Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 x64 Redistributable and Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 x86 Redistributable.
  3. Download Cumulative Update 2 from http://support.microsoft.com/hotfix/KBHotfix.aspx?kbnum=2703275&kbln=en-us (449398_intl_x64_zip.exe)
  4. Create C:\Updates
  5. Extract 449398_intl_x64_zip.exe to C:\Updates to get SQLServer2012-KB2703275-x64.exe
  6. Run the Installer again from the command line with the following (all on one line):
    setup.exe /Action=Install /UpdateEnabled=True /UpdateSource="C:\Updates"
  7. Install as usual and the issue goes away.

Let me know if this worked for you by leaving a comment. I’m curious to know how widespread this issue is.

CrashPlan Free Trial: Day 1

Yesterday I was listening to Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte on Security Now talking about cloud storage solutions. Ever since a friend of mine lost all the pictures from the first year of his daughter’s life due to hard disk failure, I have wanted to set up my own backup server in my home. Carbonite always seemed like the best option because they advertise all over the place, but they are kind of expensive. Also, I don’t use computers like most people, so a plan that only allows backups of a single computer just won’t work for me.

On the show, they talked a little bit about CrashPlan and it sounded too good to be true. They offer a cloud storage solution that allows backups from up to 10 computers for just a little over double what they charge for 1 computer, and it’s unlimited storage and bandwidth. It turns out that Carbonite, Mozy, and many others throttle downloads from their servers if you transfer too much data in a given period of time. To top it all off, CrashPlan costs less than everyone else for unlimited storage and they offer a 30-day trial that doesn’t require a credit card (read that as: no automatic billing if you let it expire).

I am uploading a total of about 400 GB and so far today I’ve uploaded 26 GB. It should only take about 10 days at this rate, assuming my ISP doesn’t start throttling my upload bandwidth sometime along the way.

CrashPlan offers some other interesting features for free like backing up to another hard disk locally or having a friend allocate space on their computer for you to backup files to. I probably won’t use the friend backup feature, but it could be a good solution if you have friends or family members that want to participate. They also never delete anything, including multiple versions of each file. No more worrying about accidentally deleting a file or hitting Ctrl-A, Delete, Ctrl-S on your 100-page research paper.

Steve Gibson was concerned about some of the security implications, since that is the primary subject of the show, but I am comfortable with the security that they offer. Next will be to find out how fast they let me download and recover my data once it’s all uploaded. My hope is that this will let me sleep a little better at night.

Drupal Poised to Move into the Enterprise

Last night I was about to go to sleep when I saw a tweet from Dries Buytaert, creator and benevolent dictator of Drupal, saying that he was about five minutes from delivering his State of Drupal Keynote. I really wanted to see it, so I stayed up for another hour to participate with the Londoners.

Most of the keynote revolved around the results of a survey of Drupal users and developers. Drupal’s core developers tend to follow the priorities of the community. Listed among the top opportunities for the future of Drupal was replacing legacy applications in the Enterprise. According to Dries, many large organizations grew their intranet and web presence organically and they now find themselves with multiple incompatible and expensive systems that support the main website, the CFO blog, the internal wiki, maybe a few microsites for special events, and let’s not forget SharePoint. I agree with Dries that this situation presents an excellent opportunity for companies to standardize on a single platform—Drupal—that can replace all of them. Standardizing on a single platform would make it easier and cheaper to maintain these sites.

I have been a Drupal user since 2003. I am really impressed with Drupal 7 and have been able to use it for many projects. Drupal is well-documented and extremely flexible. It is an excellent platform for small to medium-sized websites. It’s flexibility means it can do almost anything. It is extensible through plugins and the thriving developer community means that there is a plugin already available that allows Drupal to be used for almost anything.

I am looking forward to seeing where Drupal 8 takes us, but Drupal 7 is an amazing thing already. The user-centric development model Dries has embraced will continue to propel Drupal to ever-higher levels of notoriety and adoption in the Enterprise.

Using Social Media Boosts Productivity

When I’ve got a particularly difficult problem and I’m trying to figure out my options or puzzling over which option is the best, nurse the answer rarely comes while I’m straining to get it right. The answers come through diversions or performing menial tasks. Sometimes the best way to figure things out is by communicating with someone else about it; that’s where using social media comes in.

My job is inherently creative. While most of the people in my department have prescribed tasks that they do over and over again using the same prescribed tools, I am often asked to do things that no one has ever done at our company before. This kind of work requires access to as many research tools as possible. In the February 2002 issue of Wired, Brendan I. Koerner wrote an article called How Twitter and Facebook Make Us More Productive. While I agree that Facebook is probably not very productive, I argue that Twitter is one of the best resources I have for innovative ideas. I have a network of creative contacts who will respond within minutes to requests for ideas. Some workers might waste time, but creative, passionate workers will use these tools to get their job done.

Twitter is also an outlet. Sometimes I just want to let someone know what I’m thinking, feeling, or doing. Instead of bothering my coworkers while they are working away, Twitter is an easy way to take a quick step back and summarize what I’m currently doing. If I’m not getting much done, I don’t have much to say. One reward for hard work is being able to post something meaningful to Twitter. It might seem silly, but it is true for me.

Knowledge workers should be trusted to get the job done. Don’t worry if they seem like they’re spending a lot of time away from what is strictly called work. Typing faster doesn’t make me more productive. Having more ideas makes me more productive, and using social media helps spark my creativity.

Accessing Mac OS X Leopard Grayed-out Preference Panes

UPDATE: This also works on Snow Leopard if you are having the same problem accsessing any preference panes.

I have a work-issued MacBook Pro with Leopard, specifically Mac OS X 10.5.8, installed. It is a test image that was installed to test ideas about ways to administer systems for users without Administrative rights. At the end of the test, my access was changed to grant my user administrative rights on the laptop, but it still has many problems. I am waiting for the new Snow Leopard image to be completed to have my laptop reimaged. In the mean time, I have been struggling with a few issues.

The system blocks access to certain preference panes in System Preferences. This was probably an oversight or the leftovers of some experiment, because it does not block access to some of the more sensitive preferences. I can add new users to the laptop and do all sorts of things that I should probably not do on the network. The preferences I could not access were not too important for me to change, like Growl, for instance. Then I tried to use Apple’s Magic Mouse. When I installed the system update that enables its advanced features, I could not access the new Mouse preference pane. When I hover over it, the tooltip says “Your access to this preference has been restricted.” If you try to open the pane directly the error says “You cannot open “[name of preference pane]” preferences pane because it is not available to you at this time. You might need to connect a device to your computer to see this preferences pane.” It looks like this:

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Open the Applications folder and find the System Preferences.app file.
  2. Right click or Command-click System Preferences.app and choose Create Duplicate.
  3. Right click or Command-click the new System Preferences copy.app and choose Show Package Contents.
  4. Navigate to Contents > Resources and find the NSPrefPaneGroups.xml file.
  5. Move NSPrefPaneGroups.xml to the Trash.
  6. Make sure System Preferences is not running and double click System Preferences copy.app to run it. All the preference panes appear to be gone!
  7. In the System Preferences application click the View menu at the top of the screen. All the preference panes are now accessible from the View menu.
  8. When you have changed the preferences you need to change, close System Preferences.

Any time you need to access the disabled system preferences, just use System Preferences copy.app, otherwise you can still use the original System Preferences.app for changing system preferences normally.

EtherPad is Dead: Long Live EtherPad!

I announced that EtherPad was dead, case but it looks like the public outcry was heard loud and clear and now a new transition plan has been announced in which EtherPad will be released as Open Source software! New free public pads can be created again effective immediately, nurse which was the biggest short-term complaint many people had with the move to close EtherPad. Now that the project will be released to the public, this is even better than if EtherPad had remained an independent entity.

Thanks Google for killing EtherPad

UPDATE: EtherPad will be released as open source software!

I love EtherPad. It’s a collaborative text pad that lets you see what others write in realtime, character by character, and automatically highlights text in a different color based on who typed it. One of the best things about EtherPad was that a free public pad could be created instantly without logging in. Other users could be invited to collaborate with only a link to the pad. Now that has all gone away. When I tried to create a new pad today I got the following message:

Creation of new free pads is permanently disabled as part of EtherPad’s acquisition by Google.

Google Wave is an interesting experiment, but it’s nowhere even close to being a replacement for EtherPad. It doesn’t even highlight text automatically! My hope is that these guys will get put on the Google Docs team to add realtime collaboration there. Having to wait 15-30 seconds for page updates makes the tool practically useless for simultaneous editing.

Read about the EtherPad acquisition by Google and see how many people are disappointed.

100% Free Digital Converter Boxes at Amazon

I just bought two Zinwell ZAT-970A Digital to Analog TV Converter Boxes at Amazon.com and I didn’t have to pay shipping or tax! They didn’t even ask for a credit card. I used my two TV Converter Box coupons for $40 each off the purchase of qualifying boxes. Since the price of the box on Amazon is exactly $40 and it qualifies for free shipping and no tax for Arizona residents the grand total was $0.00.

Now all I have to do is wait, and when they finally get here that old TV I’ve had since I was a kid will work like a charm! These are great to have on hand in case of an emergency if all you can find is an analog TV and you need to get TV reception.

Consumer Reports has excellent Digital to Analog TV Converter Box ratings.

LinkedIn Updates

I have been working on getting my LinkedIn profile up to date so I can feel comfortable inviting more people to link to me. I have included new functionality to have relevant blog posts included on my LinkedIn profile. I was struggling with how to enter my freelance web design and Linux consulting while I was a student, troche but I think I came up with a solution, so the gaps in my employment history are gone. Excellent!