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Archive for February, 2007

A Few Things Still Broken or Missing in Google Apps

February 28th, 2007 No comments

I’ve been using Google Apps for Your Domain for almost a year now. I love it and it’s totally changed the way I work with email and simple spreadsheets. Now that Google Apps is all official and stuff, I thought I’d point out a couple things that are still broken or missing…

Google Docs

  • Now that Google Docs has been integrated into GAFYD, there is a conflict if you have a Google Account with the same email address as your GAFYD account. It’s a real pain because sharing docs to your email address doesn’t always work the way you want it to. It doesn’t seem to show up in your GAFYD account so you actually have to log out and then log back in at the docs site WITH THE SAME ACCOUNT NAME! This is lame and needs to be fixed. This issue exists for a lot of us because Docs didn’t used to be part of the Apps suite so I (along with a lot of other people) just created a Docs account with the same email address.
  • The menu is missing the “more »” item that appears in Mail.

Google Reader

  • Google Reader – If I try to email something I’m reading from Google Reader, I have to login to a gmail account. I can’t email with my GAFYD account.
  • It would also be great if the domain admin could set up a page where you could see what everyone on the domain is sharing. A clearing house for all shared items with members of your family or business.

Calendar

  • For some inexplicable reason, Calendar doesn’t have the same menu choices at the top left as Mail and Docs. It needs a link to the GAFYD Docs app and “more »”

Mail

  • I can’t attach a Google Docs document to an email. Sure I can share from the Docs app, but sometimes it would be nice to just send the document as an attachment via email, especially to someone outside of my GAFYD domain or to another company.
  • I need a better way to capture “mailto://” links on web sites. Google Notifier will do this on the Mac, but it’s broken now for GAFYD.

Notifier

  • Google Talk works very well as a notifier on the Windows side. It will tell you when you receive new emails in your GAFYD account On the Mac side though, Google Notifiers doesn’t work with GAFYD. It actually used to, but the functionality was broken when Google Apps went official.
  • Like I mentioned above, Google Notifier no longer correctly captures “mailto://” links because it wants to direct them to the public Gmail service rather than GAFYD.

Groups

  • Google Groups isn’t part of the Apps suite yet, but it would be great to incorporate this into GAFYD. That way you could set up groups that would be private to your domain. I could see lots of uses for this. If you want a public group, you would just use the “normal” Google Groups site.

All My Services

  • On the public side of Google, you get a link to “All My Services” which shows you exactly what you signed up for. It includes Reader, Adwords, Analytics, Notebook, Blogger, Picasa, Webmaster Tools, Search History, and more. What you get on the GAFYD side is a link to “more »” which takes you to a list of everything that Google offers ON THE PUBLIC SIDE! There is no equivalent feature to show you everything that is available to you as part of your GAFYD account.
Categories: Technology Tags: , , ,

WWDC 2007 Leopard Innovations Track – Nothing New?

February 27th, 2007 No comments

I read the email announcement about the tracks at the upcoming Worldwide Developer’s Conference with some interest. Could this be a source of new info about OS X 10.5? There’s a whole track devoted to the next version of OS X, called Leopard Innovations. Unfortunately, it only mentions things we have heard of before like Core Animation, QuickLook, iChat Theater, 64-bitness, Synch services. Elsewhere, CoreData and CoreImage  get mentions too.

In the end, nothing to see hear, folks. Keep moving. Leopard announcements will be coming later.

Categories: Apple, Technology Tags: , , , ,

False start with Solaris 10 and ZFS

February 27th, 2007 4 comments

I’m pretty stoked about ZFS. It’s got a lot of advantages over other filesystems. Frankly, any time you can get increased reliability with improved simplicity in the computer world, that’s a big win.

Since I’m switching to a MacBook for most of my daily computing, I really needed a file server to store all my big projects and media files. I’ve got 75GB in my iTunes library right now and it just won’t work to keep that on my laptop. I really wanted something with some redundancy (RAID5, Mirroring, etc.) so I could have a first line of defence in place in case backups are behind or unavailable.

Here are the options I’m considering…

  • Solaris 10 with ZFS
  • Linux w/ software RAID
  • Windows Home Server
  • Windows XP with JBOD

Solaris 10 has been my first choice because ZFS will be in Mac OS X 10.5 and I wanted to get an early look at it. I’m considering Linux so I can have a box to play around with Ubuntu on it. It’s also got a lot more hardware drivers than Solaris (more about that in a minute). Linux would also be interesting to run the SageTV or Myth backend server for recording TV. Windows Home Server looks interesting, but it relies on mirroring which is less efficient than RAIDZ or RAID5. And if all of that doesn’t work, I can always just share out a bunch of disks with Windows XP.

I decided to see how cheaply I could build a Solaris server, so I headed over to NewEgg.com to start putting together a list of parts. I decided on a ASUS P5GZ-MX motherboard with a Celeron D processor (~$110). I coupled that with 1GB of DDR2 PC4200 RAM and an Antec PSU for about $220 total (after a $30 MIR).

The micro ATX motherboard installed quickly in a spare tower case I had lying around. The LGA775 CPU mount was a little tight with the Intel retail cooler, but it snapped in just fine. The board has 4 SATA ports and 1 IDE port which worked out just great for the 4 250GB SATA drives and the one 120GB IDE drive I was going to use for this project. The SATA drives cost $260 total. So I’m at $480 for 750GB of redundant storage. Pretty nice.

But then I started running into problems. Solaris didn’t recognize the Intel GMA950 integrated graphics or the ethernet port on this board. I had an Intel Pro gigabit card available (awesome card, btw) and that was recognized immediately. But because Solaris installed without a NIC, I had to reinstall to get all the networking services running (easier than turning them back on by hand). Of course, then I couldn’t boot into Java Desktop or CDE. I tried configuring Xorg 7.2 to use the updated drivers, but with no luck. No big deal, I’ll just use the command line, right?

Fortunately, it did recognize the SATA ports, so I did get ZFS up and running with very little effort. ZFS is the bomb. I love it.

In the end, the incompatability with the graphics chip and the LAN chip convinced me that this wasn’t working and I needed to rethink the project. I’ve decided to start over with a motherboard that has better Solaris support. I’m returning the Intel parts and buying an ASUS M2NPV-VM board (love ASUS) coupled with an AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600+. I’m also getting DDR2 PC26400 RAM (always Corsair for me) which is faster, but more expensive. All in all, it’s going to cost about $100 more, but it should work much better. This board has a nVidia GeForce 6150 and I get a dual-core CPU. Overkill for a fileserver, but it could make the computer more useful if I decide to change its function later.

I’ll probably have the parts early next week, when I’ll post again about putting the box together and actually using ZFS with Mac and Windows clients.

Categories: Technology Tags:

SXSW MP3 Torrent is Up!

February 26th, 2007 No comments

The 2007 SXSW web site has a link to their Artist Showcase for acts that will be performing at this year’s festival. It’s a torrent, so you’ll need a p2p client to download this. It’s got a pretty good swarm going (I was able to download at 700KB/s). My client is still cleaning up some pieces that didn’t pass the hash check, but it shouldn’t take that long to download. I got 960 songs last year, and this year has 739 mp3’s in the first release. There will be a film torrent posted at the same page, so keep your eyes open.

Trailrunner updated to work with Garmin and Nike +

February 26th, 2007 No comments

The good folks at TUAW posted that the very cool Trailrunner has been updated to directly import GPS track logs from Garmin Training Center and workout information from the Nike + Sport kit (which keeps distance.

There’s a tutorial available that explains how to use your Garmin Forerunner with Trailrunner. I don’t have a Foreunner, but I’d love to hear from someone that does.

How Google Changed My Life

February 22nd, 2007 No comments

I tried to like webmail, but it just didn’t work for me. Using SquirrelMail felt like it was literally powered by a squirrel on a wheel, and Horde was about the same. My address book wasn’t available from the web app and sent mail was only kept on the server. I was still dependent on Outlook and I just didn’t like webmail. Until Gmail that is.

Gmail finally hit the right combination of features and speed to make it more than tolerable and almost fun to use webmail. Their clever use of AJAX to make the app more responsive and intuitive is a key reason for its success, and the reason that I decided that I liked using it. I tried Google Calendar and then Google Docs and I decided that I really liked these web apps. For perhaps the first time, I found a web app that I almost preferred to the desktop verion.

I wanted this convenience and simplicity for my primary internet identity at dodd.org. I thought about forwarding messages to Gmail and tried importing via POP3 and all that, but when Google announced that they were going to open up these apps so that they could be tied to your own domain, I hurried over to the web site to sign up for the waiting list. When I got the invitation to setup my domain with Google last March, I was thrilled.

It actually took me a week or so to work up the courage to make the switch. I was worried about losing email during the transition and that it wouldn’t work well with Outlook. Getting it done was actually pretty simple. I filled out the information on Google’s site and then had my webhost, A Small Orange, make some changes to the DNS and MX records for my domain. I’ve got to put a plug in here for ASO, they have incredibly responsive customer service at all hours of the day. I think my DNS records were updated within 15 minutes of submitting the request.

Once I switched to GAFYD to handle my email, I kept using Outlook as my main email client. I changed my settings so that Google would archive any messages that I downloaded to Outlook. This meant I could continue to use Outlook but still get access to all my email (both new and old) on the web when I was away from my desktop computer. It turns out that setting Google to “keep copies in the Inbox” was the better choice. This will still leave messages in the archive as well.

One side benefit, is that Google will also allow your POP3 client to download your sent messages as well. I created a simple rule in Outlook that would move any messages *from* my email address to the “sent” folder. Even better, Google keeps a copy of email messages that you send through their SMTP servers from your POP3 client.

So in the end, I was able to continue using my main email client (Outlook at the time) and Google would maintain a complete online archive of email sent to me. In turn, it would also maintain a complete archive of email I sent both from my POP3 client or online from the GAFYD site. Perfect.

My next post will detail the step-by-step process to achieve this messaging nirvana. After that, I’ll explain why I ditched my desktop client to use the Google site exclusively and the tools that I use to make that work efficiently.

Categories: Technology Tags: , , , ,

Google announces Google Apps Premier Edition

February 22nd, 2007 No comments

I’m a huge fan of Google Apps. Google has just announced the Premier Edition of Google Apps. This subscription based service adds higher storage limits (10GB), uptime guarantees for email, API’s for account management and application integration, an option to remove ads, and 24/7 support. Google has posted a comparison chart to make the differences clear, but they don’t point out the user limits per domain on the free version.

A couple other features of interest. Google Apps email now works with the Blackberry in addition to mobile phones. You have to visit http://m.google.com/a from your mobile device to download the software.

The $50/user/year compares favorably with hosted Exchange solutions but I think you could probably rely on the free edition unless you have more than 25 users or you want to use the API’s to integrate your business apps with Google Apps. I could definitely imagine some very cool ways to integrate the Calendar and Docs & Spreadsheets into business apps.

This announcement has also prompted me to finish my post on converting my domain to Google Apps. That will up right away.

Categories: Technology Tags: , , , ,

Multitouch Again

February 18th, 2007 No comments

I wrote earlier about Jeff Han and multitouch. He’s formed a company called Perceptive Pixel to commercialize the technology and they have created this cool video to show it off. I was going to post this a couple weeks ago, but I sat on it while I got busy with school and then other people picked up the story. When updating my blog today I thought I would go ahead and finish this post just in case someone hasn’t seen it yet. Just watch the video. It’s totally wicked. Continue reading to get the embedded video. Read more…

Categories: Apple, Technology Tags: , ,

One Thing I Love, and One Thing I Hate About OS X

February 18th, 2007 1 comment

I wrote yesterday about how OS X makes all that UNIX fun easy to use. After a couple days of playing with Windows & Solaris Java Desktop, I was reminded of one thing that I really like about OS X, and one thing that I absolutely despise. Read more…

Categories: Apple, Technology Tags: ,

Solaris, ZFS, and Why OS X Rocks My Socks

February 17th, 2007 No comments

I’ve been away for a few days, but I’ve actually been pretty busy. One of things I’ve been working on is installing Solaris 10 on a PC at home so I can setup a ZFS pool using four 250GB drives. It hasn’t been too bad, but a few hardware incompatabilities have reminded me why I like OS X. Read more…

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