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Monday
Feb222016

Why Doesn’t Anybody Backup Their Computer?

At the risk of being repetitive, I’ll remind you guys that I’ve been in the IT business for over 30 years. In that time, I’ve been called at least a hundred times by people whose computer crashed or is in some sort of un-bootable condition. The first question I ask is, “Do you have a recent backup?” With only one exception in all that time, the answer has been, “No.”

This bewilders me. For the life of me I can’t understand why, when backing up is so easy and inexpensive. This is especially true for Mac owners. Apple has included Time Machine with OS X for ten years. Like everything Apple makes, Time Machine is the simplest and most user-friendly backup system imaginable. If you bought a Mac, you spent at least $700 ($499 Mac Mini, $200 for cheap monitor, mouse & keyboard). Why wouldn’t you spend another $60 for a USB drive to keep your data safe in case the worst happens. It’s not like it takes a big effort to set it up. You simply plug the drive into one of your Mac’s USB ports and when OS X pops up a dialog asking if you’d like to use the drive for Time Machine you click “Yes”. That’s it! Admittedly, a Time Machine backup isn’t the most flexible or robust, but it’s light years ahead of “nuthin”.  Even the knuckleheads in Redmond finally caught on. Windows has included free backup software since Vista. It’s not the easiest to setup and use, but hey, it’s Microsoft. At least the price is right.

Most external hard drives you buy these days comes with some home-grown backup software right on the disk, yet people still refuse to use it. Things have gotten a little better with the proliferation of cloud services offered by dozens of companies. At least people who keep things on Dropbox or Google Drive for sharing or convenience don’t lose those files when their hard drive eats itself. And make no mistake. ALL hard drives eat themselves eventually. The jury is still out, but it’s looking like the same goes for SSDs. I owned a 256 GB Crucial SSD that simply quit working after 14 months. No errors. No warning. Just POOF! The good news: I was using it as a Time Machine disk. The only thing I lost was my backup and I quickly replaced it.

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Sunday
Feb142016

UNIX: The Operating System Running (Virtually) Everything

Yep. You heard me right. Unix, not Windows powers today’s servers, portable devices and more desktops than ever.

But, MacTexan, what about all those bizillions of Windows computers? Like everybody has one of those, right?

Well, yes, but slowly but surely those desktops are becoming more and more irrelevant. Read the title again please. It speaks about the OS that’s running everything, not the OS used to access everything.

But, but, MacTexan, if UNIX is running everything, why haven’t I heard about it?

You hear about it every day, but it is rarely referred to by the name “UNIX”. You know it by the names OS X, iOS, Android, Ubuntu, Chrome OS and a host of others. Yes, all these operating systems are based on some variant of UNIX. By way of (very oversimplified) explanation, all these OSs start with a UNIX kernel and add a GUI (Graphical User Interface) on top. These GUIs are what we’ve come to recognize as the various, above-mentioned operating systems.

Add to all these the hundreds of thousands of anonymous servers that power companies like Google, Amazon, Yahoo!, Wikipedia and EBAY, to name a few. Virtually every one run some flavor of Linux (a UNIX variant developed by Linus Torvalds released in 1991) running a software stack called LAMP. LAMP is an acronym for Linux, Apache web server, MySQL database and Perl or PHP development platform.

Why do so many companies run LAMP servers, MacTexan?

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Wednesday
Jan272016

OS X Server? Why the Hell Not?

I’ve spent the last fifteen years as an IT professional. I was an IT manager for a Fortune 500 company for nine years and an independent consultant for the past six. I’ve spent too many late nights up to my ass in Windows, Novell and Linux server problems of every flavor to ever want a server in my home to care for, right? Well, no.

You see, that was my attitude a year ago. I still had a very bad taste in my mouth resulting from some bad experiences dealing with mission-critical servers while under pressure to make things right for a couple hundred users whose files, email, profiles, etc. all resided on said boxes. If the servers weren’t working properly, no one was working properly. I just got a shudder thinking about it.

Now, the word “server” has an entirely different connotation. Yes, I’m now working from home and the only users I have to deal with are my wife and daughter, so why would I need a server? It really comes down to only one thing, convenience. When I thought about it, I realized my home probably needs a robust network as much as most small businesses I deal with. In our household there are 3 Macs, 2 Windows and 1 Linux computer, 3 iPhones, 2 iPads, an iPod Touch and a Nexus 7 Android tablet. Out of 13 devices, 9 of them are made by Apple.

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Wednesday
Jan062016

Cord-cutting is Difficult

My beautiful wife and I recently retired and bought a wonderful home in Sedona, AZ. We plan to move there this summer, but in the meantime we’ve been going back and forth as much as possible. There’s lots of decisions to be made as we plan our move. Which furniture do we pay to move and what do we buy new? Which cars do we keep? Do we really need a Jeep to take advantage of the hundreds of miles of trails surrounding our new home? Do we move our DirecTV subscription or try cable-cutting?

The first trip to our new home was all about getting things set up. Power, natural gas, water, sewer, garbage pick-up and the like. There was no doubt about needing an Internet connection, so I studied the options and talked to existing customers about their service experience. I settled on the local cable company, Suddenlink. They offered the fastest and most affordable service. I purchased their small business package with 100 Mb down and 20 Mb up service for ~$60/month. I just happen to be a Suddenlink customer at our current residence and I was pleased that our new home connection is over three times faster for the same money. I arranged for them to install our new service the second day after we arrived. Everything went smoothly. I chose the high-speed Internet-only option for now since we’ll only be there one week per month until we move. I took along one of my 3rd generation TVs and hooked it up to a 27” monitor so we’d at least have something to watch while we’re there in the interim.

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Saturday
Dec262015

A Fantastic Stereo for ~ $300

You may be asking, “Why is a Mac geek writing about stereo gear?” Well, Apple is really good at a lot of things. One of which is delivering an enormous selection of music in a number of creative and industry-shattering ways. iTunes opens a portal to Apple’s unrivaled music library, from which you can choose to purchase by song or album or take the “all you can eat” approach by subscribing to Apple Music. Your music can be on your Mac, iPhone, iPad or iPod or all the above. You can also choose to not store any of it and rely on streaming your library from the cloud. Yes, Apple has revolutionized the way we acquire and store music.

The one area where Apple leaves us to our own devices is in actually listening to the music we own (or rent). Apple’s sparse offerings for this includes their EarPods included with every new iPhone or iPod, their (only slightly better) In-Ear Headphones and now the recently-acquired Beats line of headphones and portable speakers. If you want a room-filling stereo, Apple has no offering for that.

MacTexan to the rescue!

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