Was your first mobile phone a Nokia too?

The first cell phone I ever owned was a Nokia 5190. I was moving down to Edmonton, away from my family, and my Dad wanted to make sure I had a cell phone. I remember going to the Fido store at Londonderry Mall and being quite excited to own something so futuristic!

nokia 5110

My phone was green, and it served me well for a few years. I used it mostly for phone calls, but also for Snake! Eventually I upgraded to a Motorola Timeport (the popular silver flip phone, I think it was a P8767). From there I went to a BlackBerry, then an LG, and now an HTC. Many people have gone to Apple or Samsung of course, but I bet the vast majority of us started with Nokia phones. They’ve shipped billions of devices over the years!

As a Windows Phone fan, I think it’s safe to say my next phone will be a Nokia, though it’ll be from a different company than the one I started with:

“Microsoft Corp. has announced the completion of its acquisition of Nokia Devices and Services business. The completion of the acquisition marks an important step in bringing these two organisations together as one team, a process that is expected to take 18 to 24 months to complete.

Stephen Elop, former Nokia President and CEO, will serve as executive vice president of Microsoft’s Devices Group, reporting to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Elop will lead an expanded team made up of Xbox, Xbox Live, Microsoft Studios, Microsoft Hardware, Surface and Nokia Devices and Services.”

This is really exciting. Nokia pretty much owns the Windows Phone market already, and all of the exciting hardware and feature advancements seem to come from Nokia. I’m happy with my HTC 8X (especially with the new Windows Phone 8.1), but there’s no question that Nokia devices are the way to go for Windows Phone.

Nokia Day One

Officially the division is now called Microsoft Mobile, but they do have an agreement to continue using the Nokia brand for a period of time. No word yet on what the branding of future phones will be, but it’s safe to say that Lumia will be the primary brand name.

Microsoft now controls the entire stack, from device to operating system to cloud, just like Apple, and just like Samsung is rumored to be exploring. Should make for interesting times in the mobile market over the next few years!

I’m not sure when I’ll switch phones, but I have found myself looking longingly at the new Lumia Icon. We’ll see how long I can hold out…

Thoughts on backups with MozyPro

At around 1:30am on August 6th, a hard drive in one of our database servers died. It took down our mail server and WordPress blogs, but everything else (such as Podcast Spot) was unaffected. It sucks, but it happens. We’ve had many drives die over the last few years, unfortunately. All you can do is learn from each experience.

In this case, we had a full image of the server backed up. All we had to do was stick in a new hard drive, and deploy the image. That worked fairly well, though it did take some time to complete. The only problem was that the image was about 24 hours old – fine for system files, but not good for the data files we needed. For the most up-to-date data files, we relied on MozyPro.

(I should point out that we generally configure things so that data files are on separate drives from the system. In this case, we had about 250 MB of data files on the system drive. I have since reconfigured that.)

For the most part, Mozy has worked well for us. We’ve had a few bumps along the way, but no major complaints or problems. Until I tried to restore the data files yesterday, that is. The first problem was that I couldn’t use the Windows interface. The Mozy client would not “see” the last backup, presumably because the image was older than the last backup. You’d think it could connect to Mozy and figure that out, but apparently not. So I tried to use the Web Restore. It eventually worked, but it took about four hours to get the files. I don’t mean to download them, but for Mozy to make them available for download. Thank goodness it was only about 1000 files and 250 MB or it could have taken days!

So I learned that Mozy is reliable, but certainly not quick. If you need to restore something quickly, make sure you have a local backup somewhere. If you’re just looking for reliable, inexpensive, offsite storage then Mozy will probably work fine for you.

My next task is to upgrade this server particular to a RAID configuration, something we had been planning to do anyway. Should have done it sooner!

Blast from the past: hard drives

The computer industry changes so rapidly that it’s easy to forget about the hardware and devices we had just a few years ago. I’ve been cleaning up the office, getting rid of some junk that we’ve had lying around for years, and I’m amazed at some of the hardware I’ve found. Hard drives best demonstrate the difference between then and now – they’ve had the same form factor for years, but the capacities are vastly different.

For instance, the hard drive from an old Toshiba T4900CT laptop is only 810 MB! Technically that’s 770 MB I believe, yes megabytes. I don’t know why I’ve kept this laptop for so long, it hasn’t worked for years. I guess I’m a bit of a digital pack rat. It was the first laptop I ever used. My family used it at the pet store back in Inuvik when I was a kid, and it worked great. I even took it on a field trip back in high school (Dickson reminded me that we played Grand Theft Auto on the bus).

I found this description on the Toshiba Europe site:

The T4900CT and its 75 MHz Pentium processor will give you such speed and power when you’re out on the road that you’ll really move along the data super-highway. Back in the office, there’s hardly a desktop that can keep up with it.

How times have changed! Not only does it weigh about 15 pounds, but it’s a good four inches thick! The last thing that processor makes me think of is speed and power.

Here are a few photos I took tonight: the 810 MB hard drive, a 9.1 GB SCSI hard drive, and a 20.5 GB IDE hard drive.

810 MB hard drive 9.1 GB hard drive 20.5 GB hard drive

I wouldn’t consider buying anything smaller than a 300 GB SATA II hard drive now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that seems tiny in a couple years. Hard to imagine that a hard drive with only 770 MB was ever actually usable!

Drobo: Infrant's ReadyNAS NV+ with better marketing

Post ImageHave you heard of Drobo? It’s a new storage device billed as “the world’s first storage robot.” I am not quite sure what that means, because there doesn’t seem to be anything robotic about it. Drobo has been receiving a ton of press lately, but I don’t know why. Take for instance, Michael Gartenberg’s post:

For the past few weeks, I’ve been using a new device that totally changed the way I think of external storage that finally does works the way I want and lets me leverage low cost and high capacity drives in their sweet spot. It’s called a Drobo and while some have called it a RAID array, it’s really much more than that.

What he likes about it is that everything is automatic. Drobo provides all of the advantages of a RAID array without having to do any configuration. Furthermore, you can replace drives with larger ones and your data is automatically migrated.

Thing is, there’s already a product that does all that. It’s called the ReadyNAS NV+ and it’s made by Infrant Technologies (recently aquired by Netgear). Their “automatic” RAID technology is called X-RAID, and it works like a charm. Actually, it does quite a bit more than the Drobo, and it’s only $150 more ($649 vs $499 USD). For instance, it allows you to specify a RAID-configuration if you want, and it also has a wicked management tool to configure monitoring, automatic backups, and more.

I guess the main difference between the two (besides the price) is that the Drobo is connected to your PC or Mac via USB, whereas the ReadyNAS is connected to your network via ethernet. But seriously, network storage is a much better choice. Most people have more than one computer, so all of them can access the ReadyNAS at once. Furthermore, if you turn off the computer that the Drobo is connected to, your data is no longer accessible. Not so with the ReadyNAS – your data is always accessible. Also, you’ll probably get better data rates over ethernet than over USB.

All of these points are mentioned in Engadget’s excellent review of the Drobo.

We’ve had both a ReadyNAS NV+ and an older ReadyNAS 600/X6 here at Paramagnus for over a year, and I have absolutely no complaints. I would highly recommend Infrant products if you’re looking for a storage solution.

I suppose the Drobo is positioned more as a consumer device, whereas the ReadyNAS NV+ has not been (at least not until being acquired by Netgear). I think Drobo probably has a wicked marketing team too, and props to them, they’ve managed to garner a lot of positive coverage.

That said, the ReadyNAS NV+ is a much better choice in my opinion. It’s too bad it hasn’t received the press coverage it deserves.

Read: Engadget

I like focused gadgets

Post ImageIt’s very easy to get excited about cool new gadgets and devices, isn’t it? I am guilty of it. Thing is, these gadgets are often far too complex. Their creators often try to cram in too many wonderful features. It happens in software too, but I think the effect is far more noticeable with physical devices. I doubt I will stop getting so excited about new gadgets anytime soon, but I have been thinking about it, and the devices I appreciate most are focused on doing one thing well.

It’s kind of like the 37signals philosophy:

We’re focused on executing on the basics beautifully.

I wish more gadget makers made that their goal. A camera is a camera. A media player is a media player. A phone is a phone. Why do they have to be combined into one? Usually what ends up happening is that the device suffers. Take my phone for example. It’s great at making and receiving calls, and sending text messages back and forth. As a still or video camera, it totally sucks. And as an audio player? It’s not even worth the trouble.

My camera on the other hand, is wonderful. It’s a Canon Digital Rebel, and it does one thing and one thing only: it takes photos very well. Unlike my phone, which had to be designed to support the extra features (so maybe a little thicker for the camera, an extra button to start the video, etc), my camera is a focused device. Every feature is there specifically to help me take photos. And I appreciate it.

I know the idea is that you could carry less stuff if you had one gadget that did everything, but I’d rather have separate gadgets that do their jobs very well than one gadget that does a bunch of jobs poorly. Maybe one day we’ll have a gadget that can morph into a contextually appropriate focused gadget…but that’s a long way off.

Coming Zune from Microsoft

Post ImageTurns out the rumor is true! Microsoft is working on a new project to take on Apple and the iPod called Zune. Information is flying fast and furious around the web, but Engadget has come to the rescue with a pretty good status check of what is known thus far. They also posted a quote from Microsoft’s GM of Marketing, Chris Stephenson:

“Today we confirmed a new music and entertainment project called Zune. Under the Zune brand, we will deliver a family of hardware and software products, the first of which will be available this year. We see a great opportunity to bring together technology and community to allow consumers to explore and discover music together.”

From the CNET News.com article on Zune, I found the teaser website which is pretty unimpressive, though it does give you the ability to sign up for news and updates.

As has been noted elsewhere, this marks a significant change in Microsoft’s media and entertainment strategy, which thus far has relied upon partners to build and sell devices. I don’t think it will be quite the problem that many believe though – Microsoft competes with partners all the time, in a wide range of different industries. In fact I hope Zune turns out to be great, so Microsoft’s partners can follow their lead and improve their own players.

With keyboards, mice, webcams, the Xbox 360, and probably other stuff I don’t know about, Microsoft’s hardware business is already somewhat substantial. Add media players to the mix, the rumored portable gaming device, and maybe Microsoft sees a future in hardware? I wonder how long it will be until they manufacture their own Media Center PC.

In any case, bring on the Zune!

Read: Engadget

Format and Reinstall

After attempting to install another gigabyte of RAM into my computer yesterday, it went completely bonkers. I don’t know what happened, but I couldn’t seem to fix it (and actually I don’t think it was related to the RAM itself). I have lots of experience fixing computers, and yes I tried everything, but I just couldn’t get it to work again. So I went to my last resort – format and reinstall.

Everything is back up and running perfectly now, which makes me happy. For the longest time I have kept one drive for Windows and applications, and one or two other drives for data. I even remap My Documents and all of those folders to the data drives. Because of this, I can format and reinstall the system drive without losing any data. The only negative effect of a format and reinstall is the time it takes to install all my applications again! So that’s my advice – keep your system and data drives separate.

Another nice side benefit of formatting and reinstalling – everything is super fast 🙂

Dickson and I were talking about this yesterday, and we got on to the topic of virtualization. He suggested that it would make a lot of sense to simply run a virtual OS all the time, because you could move it around to any host. It’s a pretty good idea, but I am not sure how well it would work in practice. For one thing, it still wouldn’t fix a device driver or something from crashing and ruining Windows. On the other hand, I guess you could backup your OS image to an external device every night so that in the worst case, you could go back to yesterday! The other thing is the hardware – you probably wouldn’t be able to take advantage of an awesome graphics card or sound card or something inside a virtual machine. Maybe one day!

Apple to run Windows?

Post ImageHow would you like to buy a Mac and run Windows on it instead of OS X? All the style of an Apple computer with the ubiquity of Windows – there are many people that would love to have the option. Looks like they may get it sooner or later:

Word is out now that Apple has joined BAPco, an industry group that does one thing and one thing only: create benchmarks for testing the performance of Windows-based PCs. The move comes on top of rumors that Apple will include VMWare-style virtualization capabilities in the next version of OS X, which could enable the Mac OS to run Windows apps without requiring a third-party emulator or a reboot.

Apple does hardware. Microsoft is a software company, Apple a hardware company. Now that they are using Intel chips anyway, why not run Windows? There have been many essays written arguing for and against such a decision, but I think it would be cool. Apple could concentrate on making sexy computers and leave the OS stuff to Microsoft.

I’d buy a Mac if it ran Windows Vista.

Read: Engadget