Rotate backup disks with SuperDuper

My network storage computer is an old Mac mini. Everything on it is replaceable via downloads, but I still prefer having a physical backup. Because it’s an old machine, Time Machine on it doesn’t support rotation of external drives (as Mountain Lion does). So I’m using SuperDuper instead. To get SuperDuper to support drive rotation, you need to follow these instructions: NSCoriolisBlog » Blog Archive » Rotate backup disks with SuperDuper. The one change is that it seems both the name and UUID must be the same.

(Drive rotation is so that I can always have one drive off-site. I keep one drive off-site, and occasionally swap the two drives over. Hopefully, even if everything in the house goes, I’ll still have access to my data.)

John Sculley interview

There’s a fantastic interview with John Sculley (former Apple CEO) about Steve Jobs. It’s very interesting if you are interested in Steve Jobs, but there are some other great bits in it too – e.g.

I remember going to CES when Microsoft launched Zune and it was literally so boring that people didn’t even go over to look at it… The Zunes were just dead. It was like someone had just put aging vegetables into a supermarket. Nobody wanted to go near it.

But I thought the most striking thing in the interview was how openly he describes his own failure to lead Apple successfully. How often do you see business leaders describe themselves with humility like this:

Looking back, it was a big mistake that I was ever hired as CEO. I was not the first choice that Steve wanted to be the CEO. He was the first choice, but the board wasn’t prepared to make him CEO when he was 25, 26 years old.

All the design ideas were clearly Steve’s. The one who should really be given credit for all that stuff while I was there is really Steve.

I made two really dumb mistakes that I really regret because I think they would have made a difference to Apple.

So we totally missed the boat. Intel would spend 11 billion dollars and evolve the Intel processor to do graphics… and it was a terrible technical decision. I wasn’t technically qualified, unfortunately, so I went along with the recommendation.

The other even bigger failure on my part was if I had thought about it better I should have gone back to Steve.

Web server updates

I’ve been planning to do some software updates to my web server for a while. Over the last couple of days I’ve been slowly doing bits and pieces – slowly because I had an operation for carpal tunnel syndrome and can’t use both hands. So far I’ve done the following:

  • Upgraded WordPress to the latest version – fairly simple process.
  • Automated backups of the site and databases.
  • Added Xcache to my PHP installation, which Ubuntu makes a very simple process.
  • Installed Awstats – again very simple under Ubuntu.
  • Added Google analytics, just to try for a while, using the Google Analyticator WP plugin.
  • Added the Google XML sitemap generator WP plugin – Google doesn’t seem to have picked this up yet.
  • Switched my web server from Apache to Cherokee. Cherokee is designed to be small and fast, and as I’ve been having some memory usage issues on the server I decided to give it a try. It’s a bit of a pain to get working with WordPress, but I eventually figured out the correct redirection rules and got it up and running. Pages are now being served much faster, and memory usage on the machine is significantly lower.
  • Added the TanTan Flickr plugin for WordPress, which seems to be better maintained than Falbum (which I was using previously).

Software I worked on makes the NY Times

Years ago I worked for Ross Ihaka at on the R project, a free software statistics environment that has become pretty popular (if you visit the website you can see my name in the contributors list – though my contributions were not exactly central to the project!). R has now featured in a New York Times article entitled R, the Software, Finds Fans in Data Analysts. There are some great quotes:

“R is really important to the point that it’s hard to overvalue it,” said Daryl Pregibon, a research scientist at Google, which uses the software widely. “It allows statisticians to do very intricate and complicated analyses without knowing the blood and guts of computing systems.”

It’s nice to see a great piece of free software recognised like this, and kind of cool for me to have something I worked on getting that kind of publicity. I’ve asked someone in NY to send me a copy of the print edition from that day, so hopefully I’ll have a memento to keep.

MCE Tunes

If you use Windows Media Center Edition (not a situation I hope will continue as I want to switch away from Windows back to Linux on my media centre computer), have a look at MCE Tunes. It synchronises your iTunes library with MCE, insulating you from MCE’s annoying inability to read tags in from iTunes ripped music. Unfortunately it still can’t provide a better navigation structure for MCE, which means that once you’ve chosen a genre you can’t browse by artist – you just get a list of all the albums in that genre.

Linksys WPC54GS-UK wireless card with Ubuntu Edgy

I dug up my ancient Toshiba Portege 3480CT laptop, and installed Ubuntu Edgy 6.10 on it by connecting the hard to my desktop PC (as the laptop doesn’t have a CD or DVD drive). Then I found that the wireless card I had, a Cisco Aironet 350, doesn’t support WPA. After trying and failing to get a Belkin card to work at all, I tried the Linksys WPC54GS-UK. With some help from the instructions on the Ubuntu wiki, which I’ve summarised in a new wiki page, the card works perfectly and I now have web access all around the house instead of having to go and sit in the study.