Friday, January 15, 2010

Google finally getting into data backup!?!

With their latest announcement to host any type of files on Google Docs, Google is foraying into the arena of "your data in the cloud, access, organize, share - anytime from anywhere" business that we have been envisioning from a long time (over 4 years now!).

What's interesting is the approach that google has taken. Instead of traditional approach of building all the features that are geared towards providing this product vision from ground up and releasing the end product, Google has built seemingly independent product and tested the waters first. And once the users have accepted each of those individual pieces reasonably well, they are integrating them all to provide a powerful experience. (Privacy conspiracy theorist may say this is much like boiling a frog in the water slowly!).

Interestingly enough, Google's price of storage per GB seems to be the cheapest at the moment at $0.25/GB/year. But their initial free offering is just 1 GB with 250MB file size limit. At this price, it seems cheaper than amazon. And as expected for a end user product, there are no transfer charges (bandwidth costs). In comparison, Microsoft SkyDrive offers 25 GB free space with 50MB file size limit.

Even though Google doesn't have it's own backup client that can run on your desktop like traditional backup clients, I'm sure, given their good data apis available to 3rd party developers, there will be many cropping up like mushrooms.

Surely this will change the market for good in the long term. Let's see how the traditional backup companies (including us) will react to this.
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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Macbook Pro Battery

One thing I realized with my last Macbook (White) is that putting your macbook to sleep all the time and never shutting it down (especially overnight) is not good for your battery. By doing that I've had consumed more battery cycles and now the battery discharge time has come down to just over 2 hours. Last week I got a new macbook pro. And this time I figured out how to make it hibernate (not sleep) upon closing the lid. With that, I've managed to do only 3 cycles of battery recharge in last one week.

Here's how to put your macbook to deep-sleep (hibernate):
Put these two lines in your ~/.bash_profile:

alias hibernateoff='sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0'
alias hibernateon='sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 5'

And whenever you are about to close your lid (like before you go to bed), just turn hibernate on by invoking hibernateon in terminal. At other times, when you don't want it to go to deep-sleep, just turn hibernate off. This is useful when you close your lid while moving between meeting rooms etc in office.

Also, I realized that these new batteries don't need to be discharged and recharged regularly as they don't have the "memory" problem like the older technology batteries did. So I use battery only when I need to and stay on power adaptor when I can. This way I can keep my battery cycle count low.

Here's my battery info for future (self-) reference:
+-o AppleSmartBattery  
    {
      "ExternalConnected" = Yes
      "TimeRemaining" = 0
      "InstantTimeToEmpty" = 65535
      "ExternalChargeCapable" = Yes
      "CellVoltage" = (4189,4189,4190,0)
      "PermanentFailureStatus" = 0
      "BatteryInvalidWakeSeconds" = 30
      "AdapterInfo" = 0
      "MaxCapacity" = 5573
      "Voltage" = 12568
      "Quick Poll" = No
      "Manufacturer" = "DP"
      "Location" = 0
      "CurrentCapacity" = 5573
      "LegacyBatteryInfo" = {"Amperage"=226,"Flags"=5,"Capacity"=5573,"Current"=5573,"Voltage"=12568,"Cycle Count"=3}
      "BatteryInstalled" = Yes
      "FirmwareSerialNumber" = 9626
      "CycleCount" = 3
      "AvgTimeToFull" = 0
      "DesignCapacity" = 5450
      "ManufactureDate" = 15124
      "BatterySerialNumber" = "xxxxxxxxxxxx"
      "PostDischargeWaitSeconds" = 120
      "Temperature" = 3099
      "InstantAmperage" = 0
      "ManufacturerData" = <000000000000000000000000xxxxxxxxxx000000000000000>
      "MaxErr" = 1
      "FullyCharged" = Yes
      "DeviceName" = "xxxxxxxxx"
      "IOGeneralInterest" = "IOCommand is not serializable"
      "Amperage" = 226
      "IsCharging" = No
      "DesignCycleCount9C" = 1000
      "PostChargeWaitSeconds" = 120
      "AvgTimeToEmpty" = 65535
    }


As this battery is deigned to last 1000 cycles I'm hoping this battery will give me 6hrs backup when I need it for a long long time - at least 3 years.
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Thunderbird 3: Better search user-experience, not there yet.

For my work e-mail, I've used Microsoft Outlook with Exchange server for 2 years and I liked it a lot. Especially the global address book integration, expanding distribution lists, calendar/meeting scheduling features are awesome. In my current workplace, we don't have Exchange. And I'm on a macbook. So I've a choice of Apple Mail or Thunderbird or Microsoft Entourage.
Tried Microsoft Entourage - didn't like it - it's nothing like outlook and it's UI is as if it's been resurrected from 1970s. And without exchange server to connect with, it doesn't have much advantage compared to others.

I tried Apple mail also for a couple of months. Didn't like it either. Although it looks great compared to entourage or thunderbird, it isn't great for handling lots of e-mails in lots of IMAP folders. It's search is also lacking in speed.

Then I tried Thunderbird. I've been a big fan of Mozilla for a long time. And being a supporter of open-source (where appropriate!), I decided that I could put up with minor quirks here and there with Thunderbird and woud use it as my primary mail client. And so I've been using it for past 2 years.

Over the years, Thunderbird has improved quite significantly. Especially it's ability to handle huge number of e-mails in huge number IMAP folders is great. It's search is also quite fast. Although there have been lots of crashes (as I'm always on beta or even alpha builds, that's expected), the latest Thunderbird 3 release has been quite stable. No crashes so far. So overall I'm happy.

But I think thunderbird can do much better with just a few minor improvements. Here's my list of low-hanging-fruit enhancements to thunderbird that can greatly improve it's UX.

  • Keyboard accelerator or special keywords (search operators) that maps to search filters in the quick search drop down. This would speed up the search experience in a big way. I've filed this as a enhancement request in the thunderbird bug tracking. https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=538738. Please leave your comment there if you also think it's important.
  • Multiple addresses in a single line in the compose window. This is annoying when we are replying to a message having a lot of recipients. Here's the enhancement request for this one. https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=495241
  • In thread view, when a new message arrives, if the thread is collapsed, it should be shown in bold to indicate there is a unread message hidden there. Otherwise, the user may miss reading the message.
If you are a thunderbird hacker, please consider working on this. I myself would like to spend time on this. Maybe with jetpack for thunderbird, this may be a simple jetpack to get both these things done.
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