I’d like to extend a great deal of thanks to my friends at Mac Mini Vault for sponsoring this week’s feed. If you need fast and affordable co-location services, this is a great option.
They have a special promotion going in celebration of these latest upgrades and expansions. For the next couple of weeks, the Enterprise colocation plan will be discounted 90% down to $5.00 per month for 6 months when using the promo code MMV-5for6. Just go to the sign-up page, and the promotional code field will be available once the Enterprise colocation service has been added to the shopping cart. It’s super easy (and, boy, what a deal!)
Studio Neat has been in business for two years. We have launched two successful Kickstarter projects, in turn paving the way for a new era of independent hardware manufacturing, and recently entered the software world with our first iPhone app. We have learned a lot in a short period of time, and wanted to share this information with the world. So we wrote a book.
This is required reading for anyone even thinking about raising capital through crowd-sourced funding. It’s a short read but every bit of it is fantastic and essential.
So, how has technology impacted my life in a true and meaningful way? In every way that could have meaning. I don’t really think my life would be the life I have without it.
This interview with me literally took months. I took my time thinking deeply about each question and answer. Because of this, and Matt’s extreme patience with me, I think it is the best I’ve ever done.
If success is a catalyst for failure because it leads to the “undisciplined pursuit of more,” then one simple antidote is the disciplined pursuit of less. Not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials.
Mac Mini Vault is a unique service specializing in secure co-location of Mac mini servers.
The Mac mini makes the perfect server. It’s small, affordable, fast, and when running Mac OS X Server, has all of the features you need to offer enterprise-class services in a machine a fraction of the size and price.
That said, there are many reasons you may not want to host a server on your own. Security, power, and bandwidth are all very real concerns. Especially if you are doing hosting of web services, email or valuable personal data. For such things you want to ensure uptime and not everyone (i.e. only the privileged few) has a data center at their disposal.
Mac Mini Vault is a colocation provider specifically designed to host the Mac Mini. Colocation (or “colo” for short) means that you place the Mac Mini that you own in their secure data center. They supply the power, bandwidth, and physical security allowing your Mac Mini to be ‘hosted’ on the internet. You can access it’s desktop or its command line. You can use it for file storage, web & database hosting, an e-mail server, or some of the built in OS X Server tools such as calendar, address book, wiki servers, etc. Because the hardware is compatible with Windows and Linux as well, you can configure it anyway you’d like before sending your Mini to them.
Their latest cabinet has been wired up and is online. This brings the capacity to host Mac minis to over 400 units. This allows them to offer premium features included the base service. Free hands-on support, remote reboot, bandwidth graphs, and discounts from software partners are included with the Core colocation plan which starts at $29.99 per month.
They have a special promotion going in celebration of these latest upgrades and expansions. For the next couple of weeks, the Enterprise colocation plan will be discounted 90% down to $5.00 per month for 6 months when using the promo code MMV-5for6. Just go to the sign-up page, and the promotional code field will be available once the Enterprise colocation service has been added to the shopping cart.
iPad First, as the name implies, is my personal initiative to highlight those applications and projects that are being built or re-imagined for Apple’s iPad first. In part, it is my hope that it will encourage others — developers, makers, dreamers, and doers — to do the same.
This is an experimental side project on my part. Going to see how it goes for a little while and I will keep at it as long as my interest sustains.
Tweet Keeper is an amazingly easy way to save, search, and export tweets from a Twitter account. Not only is it a great way to backup your own tweets — but you can search and save any public tweets, since it works with any Twitter account.
As some may have heard, I’m currently on an extended Twitter sabbatical for many reasons. As a writer, I believe all that I write — even the seemingly inconsequential — has value. I did not want all of this writing that I have done for the past few years on Twitter to remain only there. Therefore, I was looking for a way, even before my departure, to easily backup as much of my own tweets as I could — plain text preferred if possible. Tweet Keeper came at just the right time for me. It was lightning quick at finding my last 3200 tweets (a limit imposed by the Twitter API… Don’t get me started.) and allowed me to create a permanent and portable backup.
Then, in email discussions with the developer, Ganter Ludwig, I found that he too had a similar philosophy and designed the app to serve it:
I’m a strong believer in backing up valuable digital “possessions.” I know tweets are often considered to be disposable, but my tweets are indeed valuable to me . With all the recent concerns about Twitter changing, the need to backup tweets became even more apparent. That’s why I wanted an easy way to store my tweets outside of Twitter so I always had them, and can control how they are presented in the future. There are other ways to back up tweets, but they all had limitations or were annoying difficult to setup and access.
Twitter, as we have known it until now, is changing. This is a great app that could not have come at a better time. If you care at all about digital archiving and data lock-in, or if you simply want a fast way to search through past tweets, this is the app you need.
I need to take some time out to thank the Splinter Software and the great new calendar app, Today, for sponsoring this week.
Today was inspired, in part, by ideas written about right here. It’s designed to give you the detail about upcoming appointments you need, when you need it, about the things you need it most for. It’s clean and friendly and well worth your buck. Get it now on the app store.
Something else that really fascinated me is that even though the majority of the population has never touched a computer, most of the country is mobile. And though it’s slightly better in cities, the connection country-wide is 2G in the best of times. But everyone has a cell phone, most of which connect to the internet. Tim said a lot of businesses even have websites.
I am also aware of other tales like this. And that, for many in “developing” countries in Africa a smartphone is often used as the only computer and often is shared amongst many family members. Second or third hand, they often can be had far more cheaply than a full size computer or laptop.
Interesting perspective as we all wax on endlessly about the size, weight, and cost of products that are only rumored to, maybe, possibly, someday, perhaps, exist.
I wanted to highlight today’s episode of my podcast, Enough, as I think it is topical to the ongoing discussion here. That being, the idea of the “No-grade” — The choice not to upgrade to the latest, greatest, shiny-new-thing when there is no compelling reason to do so.
Some personal examples of this for me are not upgrading to Mountain Lion on my MacBook Air and still using my original, first generation, iPad. Unless something drastically changes in the near future, I have no plans to upgrade either anytime soon.
Now, I’m not saying there might not be reasons for others to upgrade. I’m just saying that we should be mindful and purpose driven when doing so.
This is a short episode but I’m pretty proud of the ideas expressed and the discussion that ensued. Take a listen and, if you like what you hear and have yet do do so, please subscribe.
Being the one in control of what moves me, what I feel obligated by, and what attachments I have to fleeting experiences is not an authority that I’m willing to concede to the arbitrary whims of an app on my mobile phone.
The ideal view would contain today’s events in great detail, then events from the next few days in less detail, then an overview of events in the next 3-5 weeks.
Well, Chris Hulbert took up that challenge and built such an app. It’s really great! Does just what it says on the tin and does so very well. Nice clean interface too. Just the settings and features one needs. It has quickly become my go-to calendar app.
Chris even shared screenshots and ideas with me throughout the development process. He allowed me a chance to give feedback and input at every turn. Just to make sure the look, feel, and ideas were in line with “what we believe in”.
For the past several years, our “TV” at home has not been a television at all. Instead, we watched video on demand, mostly via Netflix, on a 20 inch iMac several generations old (that setup can be seen in this old Shawn Blanc interview with me). This had served us just fine. We don’t watch much TV. My wife and I generally allow ourselves only one “show addiction” at a time. We watch one episode a week of said choice, at most. My daughter is generally allowed one half hour show in the morning and, less often, one in the evening. As stated, most all of this being whatever is available via Netflix streaming or, in rare cases, ordered on DVD or Amazon Instant or the TV network’s website. In the very rare case we needed to watch something broadcast over-the-air, I do have an Elgato eyeTV that I plug in. It is hooked up to a digital antenna to receive the broadcast HD that had come online in the past couple of years or so. The last time it was plugged in (until recently) was William & Kate’s wedding. My daughter, The Duchess, has a keen interest in keeping up with other royals.
To further drive home the point of how non-critical this was to us, the internal hard drive in the iMac actually died about 2 years ago. It has been running off of an 2TB external drive as its main HDD ever since.
Well, that drive began to exhibit some symptoms of failure and, at about the same time, we came into possession of a newer model of plasma TV. A cast off from a friend that just needed a hundred dollar part to be as good as new again. I saw both fortunes to be signs that, perhaps, the time had come to invest in a better setup. After a fair bit of planning and research, here is what I have now:
I’ve been up and running with this for a few weeks and I’m pretty jazzed about it. Here is what you see in the picture:
On the right:
Mac mini — The base $599.00 model but I maxed the RAM to 8GB. This is the heart of the center. The TV is connected to it via HDMI and is set to deliver 720p which seems to be default for this TV model. I really don’t care much about such things. All that matters is that I can read what is on the screen from the couch. I have an Apple Bluetooth Keyboard and Magic Mouse to control it from there. The eyeTV is currently plugged in to watch the Olympics but otherwise it will be disconnected until needed again. Also connected to the mini is…
Apple USB SuperDrive — Introduced as an add on for the MacBook Air, it works just fine as an optical drive for the mini as well. Needed for playing and burning DVDs. And…
2TB OWC Mercury Elite Pro — This contains all music and movie files. The iTunes library is stored on here for example. Plenty of room for growth.
Cable for iPad — This is where I plug it in at night.
That’s it. No special media center software like Plex or XMBC. I find it easy enough to just stream stuff in the browser or open stuff up in iTunes and go to full screen from there. Like I said, we don’t watch it or care enough to get fancy.
On the left:
Mac mini (Older Intel-based model) — This serves the main purpose of running as a backup server. It backs up all of our Macs as well as over thirty of my clients via CrashPlan Pro. It is running 10.5 Server and does so like a clock. 99% plus uptime. It is connected to…
OWC Mercury On-The-Go 320GB – This is solely for the nightly clone that is performed of the internal HDD and the drives within each are identical. Therefore, should the internal drive fail I can replace it with a duplicate in a few minutes time and be back up and running.
Behind the door:
Drobo — Connected to the old Mac mini. This acts as the store for all of those backups as well as a personal file archive. Currently has two 2TB and two 1.5TB drives.
Sony Stereo — Fairly old. Still doing the job. The sound for the media mini is run through the aux here. It otherwise spends a lot of time playing NPR.
Stacks of blank optical media hiding the cable internet and phone modem.
If we watched more TV and/or subscribed to cable then perhaps, an Apple TV would have made more sense. But, as it stands right now, this setup gives us the most streaming options. I remain amazed about how easy it is to use a Mac mini in this way. Simply plug in the HDMI cable into the TV, power it all up, and it works.
As you can imagine, we are delighted with this new setup as it it years and miles ahead of our last.
I wanted to take some time out to give a big thanks to ShinyPlasticBag and their fantastic app, DragonDrop, for sponsoring the RSS Feed for this week.
As I said before, DragonDrop is one of those utilities that should be built into every Mac. It has become so reflexive for me that, when I find myself on a Mac without it, I still shake my mouse and wonder why the magic is not happening.
Plus, this week an update came out that gives a host of improvements to it including Quick Look support!
Seriously, if you have not gotten this yet go buy it now. You’ll thank me for it. Daily.
DragonDrop is, hands down, my favorite utility on my Mac. I use it everyday, several times a day. It is for this reason I’m pleased and honored to have them sponsoring the RSS Feed this week.
At it’s core, DragonDrop makes the action of dragging and dropping files on your Mac a bit easier by giving you a temporary place to set the file down while locating its destination. But, it is how it does this that is the real magic. You just give a little shake to your mouse while dragging and DragonDrop pops into action giving you a little HUD window to put your stuff on that stays on top of everything else. Once you find where you want to put your files just drag them off and the window disappears. Brilliant!
If you use full screen mode a lot, as I do, this is a godsend. For instance, if get an attachment to a Mail message, you can click it, drag it, give a shake, drop it down, then switch to the Finder or wherever else you wish to go.
Also, the developer tells me that there is a great new version coming soon that will add many of the top feature requests. Thus making an already great app even better!
It’s only $4.99 in the Mac App Store and, it will save you that much in time on the first day. But, if you are not quite sure if it is right for you there is a free trial you can download to give it a spin and then unlock the full version from there. But, be warned, once you use it you will not know how you ever lived without it.
“When I eat, I use the utensil that best serves my needs. I do not ask silly questions, like whether a spoon is a liquid consumption device and a fork is a solids consumption device. I do not ask whether a knife does “real” work just because it does not, ordinarily, convey food to my mouth. I do not obsess on the exceptionally rare times when I may use my spoon as a fork, my fork as a knife or my knife as a fork. Instead, I simply use the right tool at the right time.”—The iPad Put A Fork In Personal Computing | TechPinions
It seemed like everyone on the internet contacted me following my post this morning regarding the SanDisk Cruzer Fit about this Kickstarter project seeking to make something similar for the SD port on the newer MacBook Pro’s. These folks are so far past their funding goal it’s silly.
Since I have the model before this generation mine does not have an SD port so I’m happy with my purchase.
I purchased my Mac mini the day that Apple announced it — I mean the very first Mac mini Apple made — and I spent every last dollar I had on it at the time. I have used that Mac mini everyday since I purchased it and it’s only on its second hard drive. Suffice to say, I have gotten my value out of the machine.
For those that don’t know, my main Mac is the low end 64GB MacBook Air (last generation). It usually is enough for me. I have about 15GB of available space at any given time and, since I work mostly in plaintext files, I never feel like I’m running out of room. That said, there are times when I wish that, for a short term, I had a bit more. Sometimes I’m working on a project for a client that requires more room on a temporary basis while the project is active. Once complete, I archive it to my Drobo anyway. So, I really only need the space for a week or two.
The SanDisk Cruzer Fit (32GB in my case) is what I settled on to fill this need. It is a really, really, tiny USB drive. How tiny? Well, if you excuse my subpar iPhone photography:
It’s even hard to tell from this but it barely sticks out of the USB port. Just enough to grab it to take it out actually. A bit less than a quarter inch.
What this means is that I can just keep it in my Air. Unlike a regular style USB drive, there is little risk of it being broken off in a bag so I don’t have to remove it all the time. The speed is in line with what one would expect as well. I’m kind of spoiled by the Air’s SSD but I don’t notice any appreciable difference reading and writing to this drive and I would say that, of the USB drives I’ve had this seems to be the fastest.
So, if you are looking for a little drive you can just leave in a USB port for extended periods and barely notice it is there, this is the best I have found. Heck, I can think of another cool use — stick it into the back of your Airport Extreme and, with Back To My Mac enabled on it, create your own little personal “cloud” storage drive…