My New Netbook

Posted Leave a commentPosted in General
Acer 19.1" Netbook
Acer 10.1" Netbook

Picked this up last weekend.  Netbooks are all the rage right now.  A simple, compact laptop that provides enough power and performance to do email, offer Internet access, and use Office apps.  Battery life is between 4-8 hours depending upon what you do.  The Acer that I purchased is suppose to get about 7-8 hours of power.  The first batch apparently is shipping with the larger (longer lasting) battery, while later productions will ship with a smaller battery capable of 4-5 hours; which is still great.

I loaded mine with Windows 7, Office 2007, and a few other apps that I use regularly.  This is the perfect device for travelers who regularly have to present (VGA output), like to take notes in a meeting or lecture, or just need quick access to email.  It weighs under 3 lbs., so you can’t ask for much more.  It ships with 1GB RAM, but for $20 you can swap out the 1GB chip for 2GB.

So far, I’m very impressed with it.  I did my research on these, which was a very frustrating process.  It is really hard to find full specs on a lot of these units, specifically information about upgradability of RAM and hard drive.  Needless to say, I saw a few people out in Redmond running with the Acer (both 8″ and 10″ screens), and were very happy with them.  The Acer is available through Amazon, CostCo, and MicroCenter.

MacFUSE and NTFS-3G

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Mac, Windows

I was looking for a creative way to be able to share my USB hard drive that I had formatted for the Mac with my PC.  HFS Explorer, worked fine, but required me to extract files instead of being able to expose the volume as a drive letter.  I decided I would search for something that would allow my Mac to not only read (which OS X does by default), but also write to an NTFS partition.  I was going to reformat my USB hard drive as NTFS since I now primarily use it with my PCs.

My search turned up an app called MacFUSE.  MacFUSE, as the website indicated, “implements a mechanism that makes it possible to implement a fully functional file system in a user-space program on Mac OS X (10.4 and above). It provides multiple APIs, one of which is a superset of the FUSE (File-system in USEr space) API that originated on Linux. Therefore, many existing FUSE file systems become readily usable on Mac OS X.”

Next, my search turned up NTFS-3G, a driver that sits on top of MacFUSE and enables full read and write capabilities of NTFS under the Mac OS.  I installed MacFUSE, and then NTFS-3G.  After a reboot, I was on my way to copying files from the Mac to a USB hard drive, now formatted as NTFS.  Well, kinda.

What I figured out is that the NTFS-3G driver seemed to cause a lot of problems with my Mac OS.  Any time file access was taking place, whether it be on an HFS or NTFS file system, things seemed to “konk” out after a while.  For example, I was copying a few ISOs over, and half way through the copy would error out, but it seem to hang the entire operating system.  I tried several different files, large and smaller, with the same result.

I quickly removed MacFUSE and NTFS-3G and my problems relating to file system operations seemed to go away.  Not sure what was happening there.  For now I have decided to copy files through my virtual machine to the external drive.  It adds a layer of abstraction, and seems to hinder the performance somewhat, but the copy operations do finish successfully.

Have you used MacFUSE or NTFS-3G and had a different experience?

Accessing SQL Databases with PHP

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Development

Modifying pre-existing WordPress themes…  That’s my extent of PHP programming.  I got to thinking that it would be cool to turn my weather site into a regular WordPress blog and somehow incorporate the data that I currently have into some sort of theme.  All of my historical data is stored in a SQL Server database, while forecast and current conditions data is stored in XML.

I did some searching on PHP with SQL Server and came across the blog for the Microsoft SQL Server Driver for PHP Team.  Who knew such a team existed?  From there I found a link to an article on MSDN, “Accessing SQL Server Databases with PHP“.  Exactly what I was looking for.

So, in the coming days I plan to explore PHP territory.  I’ve used .NET for all of my web programming.  We’ll see what kind of learning curve I run into.

What is your favorite language for the web?

‘Polish Eagle’ perfect fit for Barn

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Sports

Jim Souhan did a nice article on Dick Jonckowski in today’s Star Tribune. Dick has been a figure in Minnesota sports for some time including the Vikings, Gopher Baseball and Gopher Basketball. He’s only the 2nd announcer to ever take the mike at Williams Arena.

For those of you that don’t know Dick, he’s got a great radio voice and unique personality. He’s the current PA announcer for Gopher Basketball and Baseball. He’s also got a lot of passion for the games he calls and has shown up over the last several years for his reading of “The Night Before Christmas” as part of my niece’s Christmas dance recital.

I had the opportunity to coach against him in American Legion baseball several years ago when he assisted his son, Jeff, in running the Shakopee ballclub and I was coaching Prior Lake. Always joking around and had plenty of stories. He’s a class act.

You can also see some of Dick’s favorite memories here.

How AppleCare Can Save the Day (or ruin it)

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Mac
My MacBook Pro
My MacBook Pro

I use my MacBook Pro for both business and personal. At home, I try to use the Mac side as much as possible while still running a Windows Vista virtual machine at the same time for development stuff. When I’m at work, all I run is Vista from my virtual machine on the MacBook and then iTunes in the background from the Mac side.I was getting ready for a conference call last Thursday. I closed my MacBook and with that in tow, I headed for one of the conference rooms. When I got to the room, I opened my lid and to my surprise my screen didn’t come right back on like it usually does. I power cycled it … still no screen. After my call I went back to my desk and plugged into my external LCD display … nothing.

Granted my Time Machine backup was current, so that wasn’t a concern, but what is wrong and how am I going to fix it?

My buddy Jim at work, who is a Mac guru tried all the secret keyboard handshakes as I watched in disbelief, still trying to figure out how this was going to get fixed. Whatever Jim did, the screen came back and worked for the rest of the day.

But then came Friday morning.

I hit the power button as I arrived at work. Again, no display. I reached into my desk drawer and pulled out my Dell laptop, what I consider to be my reserve… The “break glass in case of emergency” laptop. This and webmail would have to get me through the day.

I did some quick searching and discovered a tech article from Apple on display distortion and video card problems relating to a malfunctioning NVIDIA video card.

The real problem here was my MacBook was 14 months old. Essentially past the one year warranty period. Others who had video problems mentioned a $310 minimum charge.

I went to the Apple Store at Southdale. They put it through a few tests and figured out it was related to the graphics card and that had to be replaced. The good news … It was covered under their “Quality Service” program. Even though I was out of the warranty period, I was still going to get my repair at no charge. They told me it would take 1-2 days. No big deal. It was the weekend. I’d have it before today.

At 5 PM Friday, the Apple Store called me and said it was fixed and ready to be picked up. What service. I can honestly say that my experiences with Apple have been nothing but positive.

The moral of the story? AppleCare, Apple’s warranty program covers a product for a total of 3 years (1 year included with the product, AppleCare extends that an additional 2 years). It costs you about $300 for that warranty on the MacBook Pro and has to be purchased before the end of the first year. I didn’t do that.

The guy at the Apple Store told me that same repair when not under warranty is $310. If you have it done in-store, it is closer to $600. Ouch.

$300 seems like a lot up front, but this case alone has convinced me that next time I will purchase the AppleCare. You may never need it, but it takes one repair like this to make it all worthwhile.