My Experience with Carbonite Home and CrashPlan+

I don’t like losing data, and I’m guessing that you don’t, either. I already do local backups, but not only can it a little cumbersome and easy to forget (not to mention drive failures), fire or theft could result in the loss of the both the data and the backup.

So, I also want a backup that’s off-site, easy, and reliable. I’ve taken it upon myself to set up online backup for my wife, parents, and brother, so I’ve had the opportunity to try more than one provider, and wanted to share my experience.

My Criteria for our Online Backup Service

I’ll start by sharing what’s important to me in backup provider so that you know what biases I have and how my opinions may apply to you. Also, my research and review are primarily from Q4, 2011. Features and pricing may have changed.

Unlimited for a low, flat price

I have roughly 300 GB of personal data. The bulk of that are digital photos and videos, and that’s with almost no RAW photos and only rarely is there HD video. Any non-unlimited plan would have been significantly more expensive.

My wife, dad, and brother each have between 50-100 GB, and that grows with every photo-opp. Not only would it have been unpleasant to have to think that each new document, photo, and video could result in an increased recurring payment, I simply did not find anything compelling in the services offered by non-unlimited providers.
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Posted in Personal Technology | 11 Comments

OpenVPN over DSL with PPPoE

I work remotely and use OpenVPN to access development services such as SVN and our file server, both of which are at our colocation facility.

While at a new location, I first encountered a problem trying to do any SVN operations. Turned out that any significant traffic to any server at the colo would cause my SSH session to freeze. For example, I would SSH into a machine and issue the ‘ps‘ command and the short list of processes would be returned just fine. When issuing ‘ps aux‘, however, only the first couple of the processes would be displayed, but then the SSH session would become permanently unresponsive. Other significant activity, including ‘vi‘, would also cause the session to become unresponsive, and ‘svn up‘ over svn+ssh would also fail.


My DSL connection at the new location was PPPoE, which adds a little bit of overhead to each packet. Our OpenVPN server is configured with UDP and a 1,542 byte MTU, which is apparently too large to fit into a UDP-in-PPPoE packet (and UDP can’t adapt like TCP can).

So, when it came time for the colo server to send a large packet to the client (or v.v.), the packets would be discarded and the session would become unusable.


You can force OpenVPN on the client side to use a smaller MTU so that all packets will fit within the PPPoE packets by adding the following line to your ‘my_connection.ovpn‘ file and then reconnecting:

link-mtu 1395

While unlikely, you may need to use a smaller value (or you could also experiment with larger values up to the 1,542 default).

Posted in Networking | 2 Comments

Logging Levels


Use this logging level to help you develop or find bugs in something you’re currently working on, and when the information being logged is not useful once the current task is done. So, trace logging should usually be removed when the task is done, which often means that it should not be committed. Pair this with ‘TODO-XXXX‘ to help prevent accidental commits.


Debug logging provides information that might be useful to developers while they’re working on other tasks (related or unrelated). Examples might include “The client’s session has been cleared because they logged out,” or “A feature has been hidden because a camera was not detected on this device.”
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A system for getting the most out of “TODO” comments in code

Annotating code with “TODO” can help remind us what code needs attention. It’s easy, however, for them to build up, get out of hand, and no longer be useful.

Below is a system I came up with to keep TODOs useful. Some of what I like about it are that:

  • It is based on the basic use of the “todo” string in comments. By retaining the use of the “todo” string, all uses are automatically highlighted for those who environments are set up to by default (including many or most IDEs)
  • When searching or filtering, the search or filter will also automatically include higher urgency items.

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Posted in Software Development | 1 Comment

Fixing the Google Android USB driver to work with the NOOK Color ADB on Windows


When attaching a Barnes & Noble NOOK Color to a Windows computer for app development, Windows is not able to automatically install a device driver that allows ADB to communicate with the NOOK Color.

You may see a message similar to the following:

“Device driver software was not successfully installed” (with details: “No driver found”)

Further, once the driver is installed, the NOOK Color may not show up in the ADB list of devices.


With a small amount of driver hacking, you can get the standard Google Android USB driver to work with the NOOK Color. The modification you’ll make is clear; no downloading and installing of driver packages or batch files from spurious sources.
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Posted in Software Development | 1 Comment

GSmartControl for Hard Disk S.M.A.R.T. Information and Tests

It’s surprising how few good tools there are for Windows for hard drive Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology System (S.M.A.R.T.) functionality.

In addition to providing basic attributes like ‘Power-on Hours’ or ‘Temperature’, SMART can also include self-test ability and logs about recent errors.

Windows itself offers zero SMART information. Even hard drive manufacturer’s utilities, such at ‘SeaTools’ or Western Digital’s ‘Data Lifeguard Diagnostic’ barely support self-test functionality and only show each SMART attributes’ basic values (no raw values).

GSmartControl is a quality, free, open source GUI interface for the smartctl utility (also open source, part of the smartmontools package) exposing the very-thorough information and functionality provided by smartctl and expected by sysadmins. If you want anything more than a green checkmark, don’t bother with any other tools (including SeaTools, Data Lifeguard, or SpeedFan)

Here are some of the highlights (note: not all drives will support all features and each will have its own limits on how much data it keeps):

  • Raw Attribute values – for example, see the temperature in Celsius instead of as a normalized or worst value
  • Multi-tasking – view information and perform tests on different drives simultaneously
  • Error Log – information about the most recent errors that the drive has reported
  • Self-test Log – a log of the most recent self-tests performed and their results
  • More self-test types – Short, Extended, and Conveyance
  • Informative – Explanations of information and functionality are built into the UI; minimizing the need to consult Help or the website to find out what something does or means

Where to go from here

Posted in Windows Tech Support | Leave a comment

Error 1327 “Invalid Drive” while installing or updating applications in Windows


When trying to install or update an application, you receive an error message similar to the following:

Error 1327. Invalid Drive: Z:

I’ve encountered this error installing Google Earth and another application, and it also apparently happens with many others including Microsoft and Adobe applications.


These installers/updaters are failing to access the drive that one of your shell folders is on — probably your Personal folder, ‘My Documents’. This could be because: Continue reading

Posted in Windows Tech Support | 24 Comments

AT&T U-verse for the Curious Consumer – The Residential Gateway and Wiring Options

AT&T U-verse is an Internet, TV (IPTV), and phone (VOIP) service delivered primarily by fiber and existing copper. This article is targeted at consumers who would like a little bit of light shed on the in-home hardware (what it does, how it works, and the different ways it can be set up) and wiring options.
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Posted in Personal Technology | 8 Comments


bebooper [bee-boo-per]: beep + boop + computer


  1. Those things in movies that look like computers, but beep or boop every time something is clicked on, whir whenever there’s a progress bar, or ever show an “ACCESS DENIED” message in a 36 pt. or greater font size. These devices are often also likely to be able to enhance images, interpolating up to 729 pixels where there were originally only nine.
Posted in portmanteau | 1 Comment

View Your Google Apps Calendar in Outlook 2007/2010

Microsoft Outlook (2007 and 2010) and Google calendar both support the iCalendar format, which means you can view your Google calendars in Outlook. This is great if you, for example, want to be able to see your Google Apps personal calendar and Exchange work calendars in one place. It looks like this:

Outlook and Google Calendars overlaid in one view. The color of an item indicates which calendar it's from.

If you’re a regular Gmail user, you may follow the directions at How-To Geek. However, if you’re using Google Apps for your domain/business (or organization, family, or whatever), you would likely run into a couple obstacles with those steps.

Note that this is for just viewing your calendar — you will not be able to add or edit events to your Google Calendar. This might be your best option when other solutions aren’t appropriate, for example:

  • you’re not a Premium Edition user and can’t use Google Apps Sync or
  • you can’t use Google Apps Sync because you need full use of Exchange at the same time

Here’s what you’ll need to do to add a Google Apps calendar to Outlook, which includes enabling this feature for your domain (needs to be done by an Administrator) and a tiny bit of URL hacking…
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Posted in Personal Technology, Web Technology | 19 Comments