Thursday, September 20

(Not) Finding Citizens Bank with iOS 6

I need to go to the bank! Let’s find it.

Here’s our reference, based on the Citizens Bank branch locator:

Featuring adorable “click to move map” technology.

Ok, I can go to my usual branch at 3rd and Cambridge St, and it looks like there’s one down near the plaza with The Friendly Toast and CBC.

Let’s ask my iPhone (on iOS 5) what it thinks…

This is pretty accurate.

Open question about the Binney St. location: is it in the plaza as Google says, or across the street the way the branch locator tells it? (I’ll find out when I go to lunch.)

UPDATE: The branch is indeed where the Citizens Bank map places it, which is a bit down the street from Google’s location. Still, beats not finding it at all.

Great. Now, if I check iOS 6 maps, let’s see…

Accuracy is for aluminum cases, not for places you want to go with your feet.

The branch at 3rd and Cambridge is there, though a little off (it’s right on the corner across from Sweet Touch; Google Maps gets it right). Then we have phantom branches at the T station, Kendall Square and halfway to Central.


Sunday, August 12

Putting the “Time” in “Time Machine”

This weekend I had the pleasure of testing out my backup setup for the first real time. We do onsite backups to a 1TB Time Capsule that handles two laptops, and offsite backups of irreplaceable stuff (photos and documents) to CrashPlan. 

Cait came home on Thursday complaining of her MacBook freezing immediately after startup, beach-balling and being otherwise unresponsive. When DiskWarrior said it couldn't write its replacement directory due to a hardware failure, I figured it was time to replace the drive. 

(Side note: the drive that was in there was barely a year old. Blargh.)

I swapped the new drive in without issue. (I've learned how not to fry a logic board with a drive update, but only through trial and error.) Then came time to restore the hard drive to its last state. 

Maybe it was being conservative, or maybe I really wanted to try out Time Machine, but I decided to restore from the backup rather than try to clone the failing drive directly.

The restore USB key I had made prior to this process couldn't actually boot the MacBook (it was Mountain Lion, which doesn't support “Early 2008” MacBooks) but I was able to dig out my old Snow Leopard DVD to do the Time Machine restore. I hooked the MacBook up with an Ethernet cable for maximum speed, and started the restore. 

“Maximum speed,” it turns out, clocked in at a bit over 27 hours to copy 380GB. That's kind of a lot, more than 4 minutes per GB. 

The worst of it, however, came later, when the new machine was ready to do its Time Machine backup for the first time. Rather than realize that it had been cloned from an existing backup, it tried to do everything over from scratch.

In order to do this, I had to delete the existing sparse image backup for this computer to make room. Thankfully I found a “trick” to do this via the command line, as deleting it via the Finder would have taken many many hours on its own. 

Unfortunately I came across hacks to change the disk UUID associated with a Time Machine backup too late to use them. (The disk image had already been rendered invalid due to a partial deletion.)

So, back to Ethernet to ship more bytes. Uploading 380GB to the Time Capsule didn't take quite as long, only 15 hours or so. In theory Cait could have used her laptop during this time if she was able to stay in Ethernet range, but that wasn't really feasible. 

All in all, between waiting for the new drive to arrive from Amazon and the two Time Machine delays, her laptop was out of commission for three days straight. 

I'm starting to plan for retiring the Time Capsule's role as a backup server. Its health is too opaque, and these delays are barely tolerable (good thing it was the weekend, good thing Cait could borrow my laptop, good thing we were able to rescue files she could work on off the old drive). 

Instead, I'm going to get an external dive, possibly a mirrored RAID setup, and connect that to the Time Capsule. That would give more space flexibility, and also allow me to directly use USB for restores and initial backups, rather than go through file sharing over Ethernet. 

Sunday, April 24

Eye-Fi Fun #1: Sharing with Dropbox

When Eye-Fi announced that they were coming out with a feature to connect their Wi-Fi SD cards directly to iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, I lept to buy one.

My use cases were spotty; while it would certainly be cool to upload photos from parks, graveyards, or interstates, we’ve never felt particularly hampered by waiting until we got home to an Internet connection to make a blog post. Furthermore, blogging from an iPhone is a pretty bad experience even if you had nice photos.

I did have some ideas, though:
  • We sometimes liveblog taking care of Molly to create “day in the life” records. Getting photos off the camera can be kind of a pain, especially since Cait needs to dig up the SD card reader for her MacBook.
  • Technology is cool.

Sunday, September 12

Summer Board Gaming: Long Distance

I started a new job recently, which had me staying in San Francisco for two weeks. To stay connected, Cait and I tried playing some board games together online. We used because it has a wide variety of games that play asynchronously. Due to the time difference, it wouldn’t have been very practical to carve out a chunk of time to play in real time.

Asynchronous gaming has its challenges; not every game adapts well to the format. Certainly nothing where players are directly negotiating with each other, though at least that mechanic is rare in two-player games. The most fitting games are ones where:

  • One player can take an entire turn without any interaction with the other.
  • Turns are on the longer side, or at least have some interesting decisions.
  • Strategies are either obvious enough or non-existant enough (i.e.: pure tactics) that there isn’t anything to forget between play sessions.

Stone Age is our favorite of the games that Yucata has available, so we went with it first, but we gave up after trying a round or two. The game has so much back and forth each turn as you alternate placing your meeples. Since your actions over the course of the turn tend to be pretty coordinated, we couldn’t imagine playing it effectively with so much time between each move.

Thurn and Taxis was the next one we tried, and it fit the playing model perfectly. You have enough to do on each turn, you can play independently, and your current route is always there reminding you of what you were trying to get done from the last time. Unfortunately, playing asynchronously just highlighted how much Thurn and Taxis is multiplayer solitaire, a race to the end without one player affecting the other. Being non-realtime actually exacerbated this: at least face-to-face you can see your opponent take the card that you really wanted. With hours between turns, you tend to forget which cards were face up the last time you played, so you tend not to miss any that were snatched away before you could get them. We played two games of this, but didn’t think it worth starting another. There was no feeling of actually playing against the other person.

Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers was the best of the games we played. Though Carcassonne has low interaction (at least when we play it we don’t do too much stealing), the amount that it does have survives online, unlike with Thurn and Taxis. Though it requires many short turns to complete a game, each of those turns is nice and discrete: you look at your tile and play it. You know it won’t take you very long, and there’s nothing to keep in your head for when you next go back.

Wednesday, September 8

My Blog vs. Cait’s on Google Instant

I showed Cait Google Instant this evening, and, as befitting a blogger, her first search was a vanity one. Her blog title was picked up after just “vast pu,” which I think is fairly respectable.

Here’s my attempt:


Wait for it…

That’s right: “Did you mean: frogmaster