Category Archives: geeky

Microsoft … the new Apple

As apple goes more and more main stream, they are getting more cautious with their roll out. The enhancements are incremental, especially in software.

Once in a while, apple still have some surprises in the hardware, but gone are the days where i get terribly excited by what they have announced.

Microsoft on the other hand is taking all the risks. From a major departure of UI with Metro UI to the well executed (based on what i have read) new office. Even the UI for the new office has that apple simplistic feel to it. It is like back to basic. With technologies like Kinect, Surface, the table as well as the tablet, and Office 365, they are coming out with more exciting products than apple.

Lion, Chrome, Netflix trick

Mac OS X Lion, multiple monitors and Chrome.

Lion full screen app does not allow you to make use of multiple monitors. When you bring Safari into full screen mode you can only use the main monitor and the secondary monitor is virtually useless. However, if you use Chrome, and click on the same Lion fullscreen mode icon, it actually goes into fullscreen in the current monitor on the current desktop. It does not create another desktop for the fullscreen mode. This way you get to have full screen browser and still have a secondary monitor to use. This makes it perfect for watching netflix in fullscreen on one of your monitor as you work on another.

Netflix in Asia

To watch Netflix outside of US you will need a VPN service. I tried both ExpressVPN and StrongVPN. StrongVPN seems to be more common but it is not flexible. I did not do very extensive testing on StrongVPN as my main purpose originally was to get it to be configured into my router. But i was not successful even after wasting the whole saturday on it. As the VPN service does reduces the speed of transfer, thus making it slow for watching streaming videos on netflix, i did find that netflix only verify the IP address location during the start of the video. Thus, while it is buffering, once i disconnect the VPN, it will stream much faster and i will be able to watch without interruption.  It also means i can continue to work on the Internet at local speed. Back to enjoying my Kyle XY.


Backup and Recovery

Recently my macbook pro hard drive crashed. I did not think it was a big issue initially as i have multiple backups. Firstly, i have TimeMachine running a backup to a NAS (network access storage) device, the Drobo FS. Now this Drobo FS is my pride and joy. Almost 3 times the cost of other multi-disk array NAS for home use. I had previously posted about the benefits of a Drobo and why i was so happy with it. Secondly, i subscribe to Carbonite, an online backup service. What Carbonite does is that it will backup the data on your machine onto the cloud in the background. You barely notice it is there, and it just keeps working in the background. In addition to that, i also have a few dropbox accounts that mirrors some of my working documents to the cloud and to other computers. Example, my day job work documents mirrors with another XP machine and my night job work documents mirrors with my macbook air. Given the KS (translated to mean “afraid to lose”) nature of Singaporeans, i occasionally also does a local TimeMachine back up to my USB drive.

I guess you get the picture now how many backups i have. However, when disaster finally strike, all my preparation was unfortunately not that efficient for recovery and i eventually also lost some photos. The latest photos i took on my New Zealand trips. In short, some of the lessons learnt and the pros and cons of the various backups i had are below.

1. TimeMachine

  • TimeMachine on a NAS is very slow and was virtually impossible to restore a complete system. It works for versioning where my system is still working and i need to go back in time to retrieve deleted or amended files.
  • The main advantage of the TimeMachine on NAS is that my macbooks can backup to it via Wifi in the room and it is always and working in the background.
  • However, i hardly ever, in fact never, had the  need (touch wood) to go into TimeMachine to retrieve a file. What i have always done and found super useful was to use the TimeMachine with Migration Assistant to restore a computer or setup a brand new computer. Only thing is that it works very well if it is on a USB drive.
  • I ended up copying my huge TimeMachine backup files from the NAS over to my USB drive and then restoring from there.
  • Lesson learnt -> keep a regular TimeMachine backup on USB drive.

2. Carbonite

  • The main purpose of a Carbonite cloud storage is to have backup against hard drive crushing scenarios like an earthquake. The the complete lost of all physical drives like someone breaking in and stealing the computer, NAS and all physical backups.
  • However, because it is in the cloud and working in the background, it does take sometime for it to upload everything into the cloud. Given my hard drive failed within a few days of me offloading all my New Zealand photos from my SD card to the macbook, not all of my photos were successfully backup to the cloud.
  • In a way it served its purpose and i should just be more aware of its limitation and how it presented a gap in my backup strategy.
  • Lesson learnt -> do not delete all photos from SD card until i have all the photos backup

3. SuperDuper!

  • Since my hard drive crash and after one week of restoration, i am going back to SuperDuper! What it does is to just make a carbon copy of my current hard drive on an external USB drive. In fact, that copy will be bootable as well. Although i have not tried USB booting on Mac, but it worked on firewire previously.
  • So now, in addition to all my other backups, i am adding SuperDuper! into my arsenal.
  • I am connecting an USB drive to my USB hub/iPhone dock so that it is regularly connected to my macbook.
  • Using the built in scheduler in SuperDuper! i have a SmartCopy job that will run every 1.30am. The initial full copy started at 1.30am and completed at 6am. But subsequent smartcopy will be much faster, depending on the amount of changes. The good thing about the scheduler is that it uses the Mac OS cron job and does not need the SuperDuper! program to be running.
  • It does not have the versioning history of TimeMachine but it is fast to backup and recover the latest copy of my system.


    iOS5 beta now?

    As a registered developer, i have access to the iOS5 beta now. I have it on my iPad 2 already simply because i cannot jailbreak it. However, i have JB my appleTV and my iPhone4. iPhone4 iOS5 beta 1 is already jailbroken however it is a tethered one. I think the chances of having to reboot my iPhone that is running on a beta os is very high and so i am not keen to do it.

    But there are so many new features in iOS5, it really is tempting. One of the feature i am so hoping to test out is the airplay mirroring of the iPad2 to appleTV. But with my JB appleTV i get to play so many more videos directly on my TV.

    Then there is Lion ….. just cant wait.



    Ever since MacBreak Weekly has been sponsored by Drobo ( i have been lusting for one. I finally bought one in HK yesterday. I got the drobo fs which is a 5 bay NAS. It is about 2 to 3 times the price of other brands on the market but i strongly believe it is worth it. The 2 main features of this system that makes it worth its price are:

    1. BeyondRaid. It has a technology that takes care of RAID for you so you do not have to decide, compromise or worry about how to set up the HDDs to have good protection and maximum capacity.

    2. The Drobo is the only multiple bays hard disk array that allows you to insert HDDs of any capacity, model, size and speed.What this mean is that i can start off with 2 x 1TB HDDs. When needed, i just insert a 2TB when the price is cheaper and it just automatically adds the capacity without me needing to do anything! In addition, when all the bays are full and HDD capacity has gone up, i can just remove the smallest capacity HDD and insert a new higher capacity HDD and all my data will still be there and my total capacity increased! This is like the coolest technology out there for disk array and is worth every penny. It is basically future proof as you can just keep adding capacity and no need for me to manually move the data or manage the volume.

    The other cool feature is that it has a DroboApps feature that allows third party apps to be installed an run on it, almost just like a server. Some example of apps include apache and bittorrent client. It also has all the other common features like DroboCopy, hot swap, shares and accounts setup etc.

    Now i just have to decide how i am going to transport it back to Sg with me.

    iPad, Macbook Air and Macbook Pro

    Just some current thoughts on my gadget situation. I bought the Macbook Air in Singapore recently. Was initially planning on the 11″ 128gb and 4gb RAM. But the RAM upgrade would mean i cannot do any impulse purchase from the shop. So i decided on the 2gb RAM version. It turns out to be a good choice. The only reason i wanted more RAM was to run Windows 7 in Parallels. But i just saw an youtube video that Win7 in Parallels run pretty fast on 2gb RAM on the MBA. Reason is that the SSD drive makes swapping very fast although not as fast as RAM. But the MBA is about compromising for the size and putting all factors together including cost, size and performance, the 2gb RAM and 128gb SSD is properly the best combination. There is one caveat. SSD currently have limited write cycle lifespan and using it for swap drive will quickly use that up. There is also another issue about SSD slowing down after many read/write cycles and require a format but this seem to be something that apple has taken care of already.

    Now, back to my situation. Ideally, one should need only a powerful machine at home and one portable for traveling. I was planning on selling my MBP but so far there has been no taker. The reason could be because it is a very powerful machine and i wasnt looking to sell it cheap. It is a 15″ Core i7, 4gb, Hi-Res, 128SSD (swap in myself) AND 500gb 7200rpm internal drive. I took out the DVD drive and have it in an USB casing. Any case it is more powerful than any mac mini on sale and i am not going for the Mac Pro, so i will just keep it as the powerful home machine.

    Now for MBA and iPad. The overlap is big here, but the non-overlap is also small but significant. The MBA is straight forward light and small computer. The iPad on the otherhand is a totally different device and has the following unique features:

    1. It is much better device for taking notes in meetings than a laptop.

    2. As a mobile device, you can use it standing or without a table. Example in site meetings.

    3. The touchscreen allows for drawing and quick notes.

    4. The multitouch allows for apps with very unique interaction.

    5. Much better device for reading (magazines, pdf and ebooks) and viewing photos.

    6. Much better device for games.

    7. Longer battery life.

    8. Great for the bath tub (with a waterproof case over it)

    Having said all that, i still find myself not using the iPad as much as i should. For now i guess i will resign myself to traveling with the MBA and iPad and office laptop.

    iPhone4 parts and metal back

    I want this iPhone 4 back. It is not a case. It is not stick on. You actually have to remove the glass back to replace it with this. Check out this link to see how easy it is. Add a Metal Back to Your iPhone 4

    If you like some other material, or color or any other spare parts like the now not included SIM ejector or sim tray etc … check out this site at It is damn cool for the geeky DIY. But will see if i can find shops in HK.

    To buy or not to buy …. iPad

    One of my blog readers asked why did I give in and get an iPad now. Below are my thoughts about whether now is the right time to buy an iPad.

    Apple seldom release anything after sep event . But Jobs usually end with something like “this is our holiday lineup”, he didn’t say that this time round. In addition the delayed release of iOS 4.2 specially for iPad and the fact that developers are not even given a glimpse of it yet does go to suggest a possible new hardware in nov with the release of the new os. Now that 4.1 is live, we will see how late apple releases the 4.2 to developers. The later the higher chance of them keeping some secret.

    Having said that, it is also logistic nightmare for apple to be that close to the Christmas season to release a new product. So at this stage I will say it is a 50-50 chance but growing towards new hw the longer they delay developer preview. So if you are not in a hurry, wait another month or two.

    As for my final breakdown, that was because

    1. I was having a not so good day in office and decided to give myself a real belated birthday gift. (android smart pad does not count as it is paperweight now)

    2. As an IT gadget guy, my reputation was starting to get tarnished when asked about the iPad and I was not able to give a more passionate answer.

    3. I wasn’t impressed with my mum’s iPad as I wasn’t able to do a lot with it without confusing her. Like the iPhone, the iPad is a personal device that requires personal configuration and attention. Apps built on it’s very good but basic foundation are the reasons why it works so well. I only started to appreciate it when I installed apps and have my data synchronised on it.

    4. My weakness has always been a very early adopter when I can afford it. I was doom to fail when I started this delayed gratification endeavour. Normally I would have paid a lot more to get the iPad before it is officially on sale in Asia like what i did for my mum. Given that I managed to hold it off and got one at official apple price for myself, I think I have succeeded a bit in delaying my gratification.

    5. The last break to the dam was Jobs not announcing anything in the sep event. I can wait till nov but by then if there is no new hw, it will be almost half way through the life cycle of the iPad’s annual refresh (likely case).

    6. In any case, likelihood of me selling and upgrading if there is indeed new hw is high.

    So I am not the average user. You have to decide for yourself. If you are the kind that needs the newest all the time, no point waiting. If you are the kind that is still holding an iPhone 3G then wait till nov, if still no new hw go and buy it, with the knowledge that a few months later in 2011 apple will announce the new version for sure. But it should not matter to you then.

    – Posted using BlogPress from my iPad