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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