That’s why we do what we do

More than Lion, iLife or the new awesome MacBook Air, the one thing I liked best about today’s Apple event was that sentence, pronounced by Steve Jobs during the iLife presentation: “That’s why we do what we do”. Why?

Today I left a meeting a few minutes after the beginning of the Back to my Mac event. I went to my car to drive home, and before turning on the engine, I grabbed my iPhone, launched Safari and tuned in to the live video feed. I placed the phone somewhere on my car where I could listen to it, and took off. During all the 20 minute drive home, I could listen to the event (I didn’t watch it, because, well, I was driving!), and only twice did the iPhone pushed it back a few seconds to recover (immediately) from dropped packets. I then got home, and switched to the Mac using my fiber connection.

Putting all this in perspective, Steve and his team were speaking in Cupertino, a bunch of equipment was capturing the event, encoding it and streaming it to half a world away, to a (fast) moving car on a freeway, where I was receiving it with a powerful, stunning device that has more CPU power than any computer I had when I was a kid and still fits in my pocket. And the quality was perfect.

Yes, this is why all of us, in this industry, in this passion, do what we do.

RESTNotes code sample

A few days ago I released RESTNotes. RESTNotes is a code sample package of a distributed notes application. It consists of an iPhone application that stores all its data in an WebObjects server app. Communication is done using REST style techniques.

I’ve done this to learn about REST, and get the feeling of how should things be made, what problems would I find, and so on. I spent some time creating an easy-to-use methodology on the iPhone side, making the communication APIs simple but flexible. Also, I looked at problems like authentication and error reporting.

If you’re interested, the source is published on Google Code, together with some nice documentation on the project wiki, explaining the general architecture of the client and solutions to some of the problems I found. Hope you find it useful. :)

Amanda: recovering a Mac OS X client

This is the third post about Amanda, an open source backup system for UNIX-based computers. The previous two posts were a general introduction to Amanda inner workings, and instructions for configuring a Mac OS X amanda client.

In this post I’ll explain how to recover from a catastrophic failure, like when a hard drive dies. Although much of the steps are identical, this post is focused on how to recover the entire file system and not a small set of files that an user accidentally deleted. To recover something like that, you can simply run amrecover on the server, recover the files you need and transfer them using SFTP or any other protocol to the client machine.

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Amanda: installing a Mac OS X client

In my previous article, I presented Amanda, its basic concepts, and how does it compare to Time Machine. Now, I’ll give you an example of how to install and configure a Mac OS X machine to be an Amanda client. The next post will explain how to properly recover after a catastrophic failure.

As with any UNIX tool, Amanda can be compiled, installed and configured in a lot of different ways. How you should do it depends on your needs, so don’t feel pressured to do everything in the same way I did, as it’s not “the right way”, just one way. Also, everything I describe here should work on the Leopard or Snow Leopard versions of either Mac OS X or Mac OS X Server on Intel or PowerPC Macs. I’m not sure about previous versions of the OS, but you may find more information about those in the Mac OS X installation notes page of the Amanda wiki.

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Memtest update

Just a quick note related to my old memory-testing related post: memtest86+ now runs on Intel Macs just fine. Just download the pre-compiled bootable ISO file, use Disk Utility to create a CD out of it, and boot from it. This is much better than the previous solution where you had to boot Mac OS X in single-user mode, because memtest86+ won’t need Mac OS X (or any other OS) to run, which means it uses a very, very small memory footprint. The least memory you’re using, the more memory memtest will be able to test. This version of memtest uses a few KB of RAM. Booting Mac OS X, even in single user mode, will use at least 50 MB. It’s a really huge difference. And being able to boot directly from a CD is pretty handy.

Amanda on Mac OS X

Given that Retrospect 8 is essentially a piece of crap, I’ve been searching for an alternative I can use when Time Machine is not an option for backing up Macs. The main two points I’m focused on is reliability and speed. I want a backup system I can trust that won’t take the age of the universe to recover a file.

I’ve been using Amanda for a while now to backup all the Macs in our workgroup (10 machines) and so far I’m nothing but happy. Amanda is an open source backup system for UNIX-based operating systems, Mac OS X included (I believe it can also backup Windows clients, but I couldn’t care less).

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iPad – Why not flying solo?

OK, I admit it, I don’t see why the iPad would be an useful device. For me. On the street, I have my iPhone, at home, I have my Mac. So why do I need a third device? For nothing, probably. But that’s me.

What I find paradoxical is that most people who are buying iPads are the ones who need it less. It’s the people who love gadgets, and those people already have everything – iPhones, laptops, desktops, you name it. What will they be able to do with an iPad that can’t be done with every other piece of electronics they have? Nothing.

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Dirty Movies

My father gave me a classic movie on DVD some weeks ago. I opened it today. The box was sealed with plastic. Despite that, it came with that weird glue (that I had to wash out) and the disk surface full os scratches. One more reason for pirating movies: you don’t have to wash your MKV file in the sink to avoid destroying your DVD player.