Saturday, December 15, 2012

Carrying case for a dual-bay USB drive enclosure

I wrote in a previous post about upgrading my off-site backup hard drives from a standard, single-bay enclosure to a dual-bay USB enclosure.  The down side of that upgrade is that, being twice as wide, the enclosure no longer fit into the padded carrying case that I used to use when transporting the drives.  I searched high and low for a pre-made carrying case that would fit the new enclosure without being grossly oversized or horribly expensive, but to no avail.  What I ended up doing was buying a hard-sided lunch box for $10 and padding it myself with foam packing material from an LCD monitor carton.  The result works better than any pre-made option I could find.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Setting up MiniDLNA on Ubuntu

I've been wanting for some time now to setup a DLNA server on my primary desktop computer (running Ubuntu Linux) so that the songs and videos stored there would be available to all of the other devices in our home, including the blu-ray player in our entertainment center.  When I finally got around to doing it, it took only a few minutes.  I wish I'd done it sooner!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New computer backup hardware

My day job is computer programming and system administration, usually at small to medium sized businesses.  As such, backing up data and planning for disaster recovery is party of my job description.  As you'd expect, that aspect of my job flows over to my home network as well.  I've used the same overly-redundant backup scenario for my computer data for several years now.  I finally outgrew my current hardware recently and had to tweak my setup a little bit to help it scale better at a reasonable cost.  Read on for details.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

$50 upgrades to a Dell XPS M1210 laptop

I've got an old, 12" Dell laptop that I like to use when portability is my primary computing concern.  It's gotten pretty old, though, and the battery life pretty much sucked, providing less than an hour of use on a full charge.  I went looking for a replacement battery, and found that I could also triple the amount of RAM for only a few dollars more.  Together, these improvements should extend the life of this reliable little machine.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Velocity Micro Cruz T103 test drive

All the cool kids are buying tablets these days.  Not the kind of tablets that I had as a kid, of course, which required a pencil to scribble on.  I went through scores of those growing up, but was never "cool."  Anyway, after a friend upgraded to a new Google Nexus 7 tablet, he offered to sell me his "craptastic" (his word) Velocity Micro Cruz T103 7" tablet for a song.  I borrowed it for an evening and put it through its paces to see how well it worked.  I had pretty low requirements for a tablet, but this tablet failed to clear even that bar.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What are QR codes?

What are QR codes?  "Quick Response codes" are those little boxes full of black & white squares that you see all over printed advertising and product labels these days.  By scanning a QR code with your camera phone, you will be taken directly to a web site that presumably tells you more about the product.  With the proliferation of smart phones these days, QR codes do a much better job than do printed URL's of bringing people to your web page because they're so much simpler to use.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Upgrading Ubuntu 11.04 to 11.10 and 12.04

I run Linux on most of my computers at home.  I try to keep a few different distributions going at once, and currently have Ubuntu, Fedora, and CentOS in operation.  My main desktop box runs Ubuntu, and I try to stay on top of the latest releases.  Other work has pushed upgrades to the back burner lately, so I recently found myself running a year-old version.  I finally sat down this week and updated version 11.04 to 11.10 and then immediately to 12.04.  Not everything went smoothly, but I think we're all good now.  Let me explain...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Updating Transform (M920) to Transform Ultra (M930)

When we upgraded my son's Android smartphone, he wanted to copy all his info from the old phone to the new one.  This included not only the apps, but all of their associated data.  While copying things like contacts, pictures, and even apps is trivial, copying the app data is not.  I managed to get it done, though.  Here's how.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

3-column backgrounds with CSS

In a recent redesign of my other web site,, I wanted to use a three-column layout with one fixed-width column along each side (containing navigation links and ads) and a variable-width column filling the center (containing the actual page content).  That's simple enough... until you try to use a different background image for the two side columns than is used for the center column.  CSS makes it harder than you'd expect to create multiple columns of equal (but variable) height on a single web page.  After a little searching, I finally found a great method for doing this.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Photo editing software for Linux

I recently wrote an article on the Prairie Rim Images blog that talks about the software I currently use to postprocess photos for the events that I shoot.  Although I do all my processing on Linux, the applications discussed also run on Windows and MacOS.  I debated whether to put that article in the Images or Tech blog, and Images won.  This is just a brief summary and a pointer to the article on that blog.  In short, I've switched from digiKam to Corel AfterShot Pro for all but the most involved photo editing.  The remaining edits get performed in the GIMP.  I briefly compared AfterShot Pro to Adobe Lightroom.  Lightroom is better, but not enough to make me switch from Linux to Windows.  You can read the full article here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Seagate tech support for Samsung hard drives

I just had my second hard drive die within a 6 month period.  The first drive was a Western Digital, and replacement was a breeze.  This second drive was a Samsung, whose hard drive division was recently purchased by Seagate.  My experience this time around was quite frustrating.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Portable design software

I recently wrote an article on the Prairie Rim Home blog talking about the software that I'm using to create the floor plans for the custom home that we're building.  I debated whether to put that article in the Home or Tech blog, and Home won.  This is just a brief summary and a pointer to the article on that blog.  We chose to store our floor plans as DXF files, create them using QCad on Linux or Windows, and show them off using the AutoCAD WS app on our Android phones.  You can read the full article here.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Resolving BIOS problems

I've been fighting some weird computer problems over the last week or two.  My desktop computer has had a flaky drive.  As part of that diagnosis, I updated the motherboard BIOS from my Linux OS.  The whole saga is outlined below, including how I got past the problems I encountered.