Friday Afternoon Grab Bag

Share via Twitter Share via Facebook Share via Linkedin Share via Reddit

Per our Friday custom, here are a couple of miscellaneous and mostly unrelated items that don’t deserve posts of their own. Need to crank through these because Matuszaka’s making his Sox debut in about an hour and I don’t want to miss it (not that I would, thanks to Tivo, but you get the point).


There’ve been a lot of discussions of calendaring technologies in recent weeks and months, and there are a couple of very interesting projects in the area that I’m looking forward to seeing released. In part because of my own issues, in part because of the limitations of the current system from a user perspective. When I explained to my mother yesterday that she was going to have to use something other than her Exchange calendar at work to share her summer scheduling with the family, she was not pleased. That, of course, is a natural consequence of IBM, Microsoft, Novell, Zimbra et al’s design point: namely, that collaboration is for people on the same system. To be fair, Zimbra’s a bit ahead here in that it exposes its application data via clean REST APIs, but I haven’t seen a lot of community traction there, and unfortunately most tools won’t handle something as simple as, say, HTTP authenticated iCal feeds.

But here’s the other reason I’m looking forward to calendar solutions. Right now, I do a subpar job of keeping my calendar up-to-date, because the incentive is low. The only audience for it apart from myself are my three colleagues, and they know how to reach me via IM and phone if something’s not totally current. But if all of a sudden I have the ability to share my calendar on a wider basis – say through something like Google Apps free/busy (speaking of, if any of you have a script that will sync an iCal into Google Calendar let me know)- the dynamics of my interaction with that calendar change dramatically. All of a sudden I’d have a reason to put details like flight schedules and so on in there. I’d be surprised if some of the coming calendar advances don’t encourage greater calendar activity much as blogging has spurred publishing.

Gmail Manager

For a long time, I’ve been using the Gmail Notifier extension for Firefox to alert me to new mail in my account there. Frustratingly, however, it did not give me the ability to check the other personal account I maintain on Google Apps and domains. Enter Gmail Manager. If you have more than one Gmail or Apps account, this extension’s for you, as it’ll check multiple accounts and swap over to the one that’s got mail in it.

Privacy Update

Thanks to all of the folks who wrote in with advice and or suggestions regarding my friend of a friend’s privacy issue. To keep you in the loop, I’m very pleased to report that through the kind efforts of our mutual friend, the address in question has been purged from the site, and thus from Google. This doesn’t address the issue on a general basis, but I’m happy there’s a happy ending at least in this case.


Some of you may remember that I cut over to the Mozilla based media player Songbird a while back. For the most part I’ve been a very happy camper with Songbird, particularly when I use it in conjunction with both emusic.com and The Hype Machine.

Given my well known affection for the latter tool in particular, I was very pleased when Erik Staats checked in to let us know that he’d followed up his emusic.com plugin for Songbird with a Hype Machine plugin.

The good news is that the plugin works great; seamlessly integrating The Hype Machine into the Songbird experience. The bad news is that the tool requires the 0.2.5 development builds of Songbird, which have a bug or two. I’m sure the Songbird guys will work that out, however, and it’s great to get early looks at what plugin technologies can do for media players.

Ubuntu Backup

As we often do, Alex and I recently got to debating the relative merits of the differing package management approaches taken in OS X and Linux. While I’ll leave that debate for a post of its own, I thought it’d be useful to highlight one advantage to the centralized approach employed by the various Linux distributions generally and Debian/Ubuntu specifically. That advantage being backup and restoration.

It’s not enough, after all, to backup merely my data – pictures, documents and so on. Ideally, I’d like to have the ability restore my machine with all of the various and sundry applications I’ve installed over the time I’ve used it. With Ubuntu, you can do that as described here. Basically, I have the following line inserted in my crontab:

30 1 * * * dpkg --get-selections | grep -v deinstall > /home/sog/backups/ubuntu-files

Via this little command, my Ubuntu machine reads the list of applications I’ve installed via the Ubuntu package management every night at 1:30 in the morning and dumps it into a file. That file is then backed up to Strongspace along with the rest of my data in the regular backup.

In the event of a machine failure then, which I seem to trigger on a regular basis, I can simply pull that file back down and do a

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
dpkg --set-selections < ubuntu-files
sudo dselect

And everything will be put back to the way it was. On Windows, I’m not sure how you’d do that. You’d probably have to Ghost the whole system, I think. On OS X, I suspect you’d have to backup all of the .dmgs as they rely on the individual applications to handle application management rather than doing it centrally, which seems like overkill to me.

In this case at least, I think Linux has a significant technical advantage via its centralized repositories.

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *