You MacBook Pro is not old enough to drink

3 05 2013

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men  / Gang aft a-gley.” – Robby Burns (Scottish Poet)

You can say that again!

And by “that” – I mean no one ever really plans to pour a drink into their computer while working under deadline. It lets the smoke out of the computer, and is technically “alcohol abuse.”

But, sometimes, that just happens.

So I thought I’d tell you, as a volunteer participant in Microsoft’s SkyDrive Insider’s program, how using a little pre-planning a long time ago paid off. We were able to recover my wife’s important documents, email, contacts, etc. in about 10 minutes. The best part was that she could continue her work staging of the World Premier of her adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion at the San Jose Stage Company.

What follows may seem like a lot of prerequisites

True… however, here is how the situation played out in real life:

I was driving home from rehearsal – listening to a podcast. My phone reads a text message to me:

“@*&^%!  #&*^! I just spilled a beer on my computer!”

Which, was robotically funny… but started the gears turning. “What are we going to do? How much was this going to cost? Was the data all gone? I wonder if the documents were saved?”

Answer: The computer itself was mostly dead. The time was about 10 minutes to get working again.

The cost… well… that’s up to you.

Here’s how the preparation paid off:

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How to rehearse a play with SkyDrive

17 03 2013

I was recently asked to act in a production of a new play. Now, I love to do new work. The process is interesting, and getting new work on its feet can be both taxing and rewarding at the same time. This is the first time the playwright entrusts their vision to about 4 to 15 other people all at once.

Technically, unless the playwright is going to rewrite the play, it’s time for him or her to step back and absorb the process. The execution of the material will result in discoveries that could never have been envisioned except by the most seasoned author.

So this part of the post isn’t about the creative process, but how I ended up using bits of technology to bring together elements of the show to make that creative process run smoother.

I figured it would be a good thing to talk about as part of the SkyDrive Insider program (a volunteer program where you basically explain how you use SkyDrive a few times a year) – because I literally had to use SkyDrive to get the play on its feet.

We had 4 weeks, 16 rehearsal hours, and 16 hours of “tech rehearsal” in the theatre prior to our first public performance. If anyone knows what it takes to produce a show, they know that this is not nearly enough time to do a full production. Least of all one where we are missing (or became devoid of) a few crucial elements (I won’t say exactly… but let’s say one starts with “d” and rhymes with “erector”…).

The Script…

First off, the script was emailed to me in chunks. Which was fine. Except it was in the “old Word” format. So, I upgraded that, and put that in my SkyDrive folder so I could review it on any number of devices (including my Windows Phone 8) whenever I needed to.

I also decided I needed to move print areas so it could print multiple sheets per page and later, create a cutting of the script for cues and props. So, I was able to fix those periodically in SkyDrive’s Web Apps, or via Word 2010 / 2013 whenever I needed to.

If others needed it, I could share it easily to them.

Audio Cues…

The script called for many many audio cues. So, I recorded them using my Zoom H2 Stereo Recorder with wired lavaliere microphones. We cut those up into separate tracks. And, so I could get familiar with them, I posted the raw audio files (captured in WAV format) in SkyDrive.

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Dual booting in Sync – lowering duplication

30 01 2013

There are quite a few reasons you may dual boot a computer. Some of them are great, and some are just for curiosity. But whatever the reason, you usually want to have important files with you at all times.

The problem I tend to have is “Where did I leave that document / presentation / photo?”

Typically it’s in some “My Documents” type folder, but in “the other OS” that I just booted out of. And, of course, in some cases you may mount the other partition you were using as a drive, and you can find that folder to get the file.

However, with the advent of Windows SkyDrive (and I started doing this with Mesh), I figured out that I could sync important files someplace outside each operating system so that I always had the right files when I needed them independent of what operating system I had booted into. So, now that I’m part of the SkyDrive Insider program with Microsoft (a volunteer program where you basically explain how you use SkyDrive a few times a year), I figured I’d share my setup.

Setting up your hard drive

I basically use laptops for everything. Hard drive space is a premium. Especially now that SSD’s are here. So when you plan to dual boot a computer there are a few things to consider sharing (especially with Windows 8) that can help you cut down on duplicated space:

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Syncing under the weight of the cloud

10 01 2013

This will have to be a two part post because, this problem isn’t easy to solve. But, I think I’ve found a solution. I haven’t tested it thoroughly enough to say “yes this is as awesome as I want it to be” but, it is getting there…

After 8 months of preparing for the death of Windows Live Mesh, that day is so near that it was time to take action. But the cloud has killed Peer to Peer file sync!

The two reasons I am unable to ONLY use SkyDrive are twofold:

  1. I need, really need, Peer to Peer Sync without the cloud. And the “partial sync” of SkyDrive is great, but Comcast will simply shut down my up / downlink if I need to re-sync a few hundred GB of RAW photos between hard drives via the cloud.
  2. I need to have folders that sync outside a single hierarchy.

But what options are left if you want to NOT include the cloud?

It turns out, not very many. And, by the time you read this post, there may be fewer. At least 2 of those options that do P2P sync use Java – which is a non-starter for me personally right now. If the security profile of Java improves, that’s fine. However, a file sync engine with Java as its basis seems like an invitation to badness.

(Those two are Wuala and AeroFS – which is still in private beta.)

Also, most of the offerings that do P2P sync require a monthly fee, which includes cloud storage – which I already have SkyDrive for.

Why copying files is so freaking hard

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Tracking Protection, Ad Blocking in IE 10 with the Surface RT

9 11 2012

A friend of mine got his Surface RT and promptly went on vacation. And, because he didn’t want to take any work with him, he handed me the device and gave me a login so I could play with it while he was away.

I’ve used Windows 8, the Windows Phone 7.5, and a hacked together Windows Phone 7.8(ish) type phone for a while now, so I’m pretty used to how the Surface RT will work.

One thing I thought I would try out was “Tracking Protection” and a little bit of “Ad Blocking” via Internet Explorer 10’s In-Private settings. The settings are shared between the Windows 8 and Desktop browsers.

You really should get a Tracking Protection List in Internet Explorer no matter what. And it works in IE 10 in the Surface. Adblock is up to you… You can skip my thoughts on the Surface RT itself if you want… just click right here!

What the Surface RT is and Isn’t

Most of the reviews of the Surface RT concentrate on how it is NOT an iPad. Which is true. It is not made by Apple, and does not run anything from its app store.

It also runs Flash, full versions of Office 2013 (except Outlook), and offers a completely different way to consume, connect, and create content.

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Inappropriately Touching Windows 8

5 03 2012

It’s time to dust off the cobwebs here.

I’ve got a few things to do in 2012 technology-wise and I may shift the focus of this blog so that its content better includes what I’m actually doing. Including more content like photography and shooting information in addition to computing and technology topics.

Most of my technology these days involves cloud computing and lots of data management. Photography happens to be involved or reliant upon both those things!

Onto Windows 8…

Starting with the Developer Preview, I knew that this would be something interesting. In fact, prior to its release, I bought my new Tablet PC Convertible with multi-touch, and a pressure-sensitive Wacom stylus (for Photoshop) knowing that “the future of computing” involved touchscreen computing.

(And, I have looked at the iPad for a long time. I’ve used them, and I’ve used the iPhone as a primary device, Mac OS X etc. I’ve also been watching Android tablets closely to see if they would fit my needs…)

Now, I’ve used Tablet PC’s for the past 8 years, so that’s nothing new. I know Apple says that “if you see a stylus, they blew it,” but Wacom appears to have made an OK business out of it. And now, I have a mini Cintiq that is also a computer with me (note – I would not refuse owning a real Cintiq!).

The Windows 8 Developer Preview was pretty lumpy. I did use it as my “primary desktop” for a few months. But, I used Windows 7 as my “photography OS” for using Capture One, FastPictureViewer, Photoshop, etc. while using Windows 8 for Office tasks and Visual Studio.

The current Windows 8 Consumer Preview seems like a totally new, much smoother experience. And, I will state up front, that this experience will be very familiar to me because of the following factors:

  • I have a Windows Phone 7 (going on 18 months) – but my LG is dying
  • I used the Developer Preview
  • I have a multi-touch device

That said, I use the keyboard and mouse just as much (I don’t use my tablet as a “tablet” – I just touch the screen).

You’re going to love this when Apple invents it!

If I’m in a public setting, inevitably surrounded by iPads, and I boot up my laptop, I have to touch the screen to boot into an OS… it’s a dual boot system. And the boot screen uses the Zune / Windows Phone 7 “swipe up” type unlock move which isn’t subtle on a bigger screen.

I get asked: “Did you just touch your laptop?!”

No kidding…

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Innovation process and theatre

25 05 2011

Here’s a weird mashup of my life and work… some may know, and some not, that I do a lot of disparate things. They all relate in my head, but perhaps not to the outside observer.

They do contribute to the reason this speck of the internet is called “Spackle”. By combining the things I get paid to do and like to do, I get disruptive and refreshing ideas.

Innovation and development as a process to “attaining the remarkable result” is slow in the technology space compared to a confined time frame of a theatre production. And, after nearly 10 years of being off stage and taking pictures of people doing theatre (and basically being jelly of them), I decided I’d try acting again.

You can see pictures I take of productions over here at my photography web site.

The process of creating a remarkable theatre production is very similar to creating a remarkable product of any sort. Except your tools are humans, words, and your physical assets don’t need the same rigorous testing as a product you’d allow the general public to use. I mean, they’re actors, so who cares about safety, right? (Note: Actor’s Equity Association exists so that catastrophes like Spiderman don’t kill people… they need to do a better job on that production, but I digress…)

So in essence, with theatre, you get to bring to market an amazing prototype and sell it.

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