As many other people have posted today (congratulations to all of them!), Microsoft MVP awards for the October cycle came out today. As a result, I’ve been awarded this year as a BizTalk Server MVP once more. Thanks everyone!
I went shopping around yesterday, and ended up getting 4GB of additional memory for my desktop machine, so now it has 8GB of RAM (the maximum this motherboard supports). This should help a lot, as I’ve been starting to run a couple of Virtual Machines at the same time more often now.
For example, I recently needed to test that some stuff was working correctly on a 64-bit Linux system, so with the added memory running an Ubuntu 64-bit image and a 32-bit or 64-bit Windows VM at the same time becomes a lot easier.
Of course, I use Virtual Box for this, since Virtual PC doesn’t support 64-bit at all, and running multiple VMs at the same time with a decent amount of memory each is just not possible with it, either. The recent v2.2.2 release seems to have made things a bit more stable for me; particularly using VHD disk images. I was also pleasantly surprised with the great performance of my 64-bit Ubuntu image on VBox: Even with full desktop effects on the guest enabled, the UI was very smooth and responsive. I never turn those anyway, but it was an interesting test to see how it performed.
With the new memory, I’ve turned off paging files on the host OS (Windows Server 2008 x64), which should help a little bit with performance in some cases. Other than that, the only downside is that with so much memory, using hibernation is really no longer an option; using it with 4GB of RAM was already stretching things…
Yesterday on my post about mice, I mentioned that I was still seeing a little problem with my new mouse:
For some strange reason I haven't been able to figure out, however, I'm still seeing moments where the mouse will stop responding (stop moving) for short periods of time.
It now appears that I found the cause of the problem: I had the wireless receiver of the mouse connected to one of the USB ports on my Dell UltraSharp 2208WFP monitor.
As soon as I plugged the receiver directly into one of the USB on my latop, the problem went away. It's not all that surprising, since I had already noticed problems before when I tried Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 connected to the monitor: keys would randomly repeat in very inconvenient ways!
It would appear then that either the USB ports on my monitor have some issues that cause devices to function incorrectly (possibly a timing problem?), but not sure if it's a general problem with this monitor line or if it's a problem with my unit specifically.
The two previous mice I've using lately are my trusty Microsoft Trackball Explorer, which, though a bit old, still works flawlessly, and a Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000.
I just recently gave up on the Trackball explorer for a simple reason: Pain. I'm not a very heavy gamer, and most of the games I own are fairly old ones, but the problem with the Trackball Explorer is that I end up doing too much effort with my thumb, causing a nasty pain in the thumb muscle.
The Notebook Presenter Mouse is great in idea: Bluetooth, has 5 buttons and the control/presentation buttons on the lower side are great for controlling your media player. I don't even have much of a problem with its small size. However, the mouse has several really annoying features:
I just got a new Microsoft Natural Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 (who comes up with these names?!?), and I'm trying to get used to it, but to be honest, I still don't know if I really like it.
The mouse has a different feel to it because of it's shape. It's a lot taller, almost like a ball, in a way, which forces your hand into a different position than the previous mice I owned.
Basically, instead of your hand being more or less parallel to the table, it's in a more natural position inclined to one side. It feels reasonably comfortable for the fingers and the arm, but I've already discovered something I don't enjoy about it: I have a really crappy way of using the mouse and I've always tended to drag the lower part of my hand and rest it behind the mouse.
I know I shouldn't do this (mostly) but it's an habit that's hard to break, and hasn't really caused me much trouble in the past. With the Laser Mouse, however, it has now become a problem.
The reason is that with the new position, it means that if I rest the lower side of the hand on the pad, the hand doesn't rest on one side only, which puts all its weight right on the bone, where I don't have much muscle to cushion it. So it's now a bit painful. I'm now going to try and find a mouse pad with some wrist protection and I'm hoping it will significantly improve this.
There are some things I did like quite a bit:
For some strange reason I haven't been able to figure out, however, I'm still seeing moments where the mouse will stop responding (stop moving) for short periods of time. It's not the surface I'm using, of that I'm sure, so I'm starting to suspect it is something in my Vista installation that's causing the trouble or interference of some kind. If anyone happens to have any idea as to what it may be, it would sure be appreciated.
Provided the American Airlines problems from this week get sorted out, I'll be attending the MVP Summit again this year. I'll be arriving Sunday pretty late but will be staying until Friday.
If anyone wants to meet, chat, or just say Hi, send me an email (tomas at winterdom.com) or ping me via twitter.
Here's some music I've recently gotten my hands on:
There's a thread going on at reddit regarding an old FYI RFC about computer naming conventions. This made me think a bit about how I name my machines, and realize I don't really have a convention at all. Or, rather, I've had several over the years ranging from places/characters from books (from the traditional Lord of the Rings lore to science fiction) to famous scientists.
The machines I'm currently using are named like this:
Some other names I've used previously include kepler (in honor of Johannes Kepler), caladan (from Frank Herbert's dune), copernico (the Spanish spelling for Nicolaus Copernicus), radiant, arrakis (again, a dune reference), lothlorien, and colossus (a reference to the computer, not the comic superhero). There are probably plenty others I've forgotten over the years :-).
Another common choice seems to be using letters from the Greek alphabet. That was the convention at my college. I still remember our first account used to be in delta, which turned out to be an old Sun workstation hosting email, web and shell access to the CS department (and later decomissioned).
What do you name your computers?
Jeff Atwood's post on backup strategies made me reflect on what I was doing myself to keep my data safe. I don't really have a "backup strategy", though I do try to keep a good backup around (and I'm always careful to, for example, backup my laptop when I'm traveling with it).
But definitely, I have some major holes in my current backup management. Currently, I have a very simplistic backup procedure:
For (1) and (2) I've been using Microsoft's SyncToy for a number of years, and for the most part it usually works OK (as long as you don't have too many read-only files and make sure no files are in use). It's not perfect, but it does the trick, though I guess I could easily replace it with a batch file and robocopy.
There's one thing I haven't covered yet in my backups: Source Code. Actually, this is for the most part easy because most of it is in source control already, so I don't have too much of a need to back it up explicitly (and most of it is my client's servers, so I don't have to take care of it). I do keep a local CVS repository (yes, one day I'll migrate it off that, I promise!), which I do backup regularly as part of my backup sets.
Though these simple mechanisms have worked for me so far, there are a few significant things I'd definitely like to improve:
A while ago I had given Mozy a quick try, and rather liked the idea. The problem at that time was that our internet access here in Colombia still isn't all that very good (unless you're willing to pay very large sums of money for it). Specifically, we have very crappy upload speeds, which pretty much made a service like Mozy impossible to use effectively.
Recently, after our local phone company started getting some competition this has changed a bit, and now they have doubled our upload speeds to a whooping 256Kbps (on good days!), so I decided to give Mozy a try again. It took all day, but I was able to create and upload a new 850MB backup of some of the most important stuff (mostly documents and such), so at least this gives me hope that I can start using this more effectively now. We'll see.
A few months ago I signed up again for emusic. The plans are not as good as they used to be, but they are still fairly cheap, and there was tons of new music I wanted to try out. Also helped that finding good music here, particularly if you like Metal, is no easy task.
Here are some of the albums I've recently bought:
A couple of weeks ago I got myself a new MS Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000, that is, the black one with the split keys, and I'm loving it! I'm using it with my laptop, which I've now got on my desk in a simple stand so that the screen is raised at eye level and it works very nicely.
Before this, I used to use one of the older original Microsoft Natural Keyboards (the split one with the cursor keys in the right position) and I really liked it. It was working perfectly still after several years, but it was a lot dirtier and the keys made a lot of noise. The new keyboard makes a lot less noise, except for the space key which is usually pretty noisy anyway.
I did use the IntelliType software to change the behavior of a few of the special keys:
One thing I did found pretty useless on the keyboard is the zoom thingie. Seems like it only really does something useful with the zoom capabilities in IE7, but since I rarely use IE it's not very useful. Also, it seems to work on most other programs by simulating the some Ctrl+Key combo, which is extremely annoying if you have the "Show location of pointer when I press the CTRL key" option enabled in the mouse settings, like I do.