Crashplan Home RIP

With Crashplan Home on the way out I’m in a bind. I was using it to backup my Dad’s laptop to my machine. It was so very handy as it was plug-and-play. Fire up the app on his machine, type in the code and it started sending over his data whenever he was online, wherever he was. All that comes to a screeching halt in October 2018 when Crashplan drop their Home product.

I’m not sure what I’ll replace that with. I’m tempted to try Backuppc, and setup dynamic DNS on his router, but it’s a Windows machine, which is always a complicating factor. Maybe I’ll try that Backuppc Windows Client but all I need are a local ssh server and rsync, right? It might just be simpler in the long run to use Backblaze however. They even published a blog post to encourage Crashplan customers to migrate!

Besides using Crashplan for my Dad’s backup, I also used it to keep versioned copies of my photos directory on a separate external drive, but I zapped that and installed rsnapshot on my Macbook using Homebrew, and configured it to back up every few hours. It’s working fine so far too, and the simplicity of rsync and hard links is comforting. Sort of like Time Machine you can use Finder to navigate through the backups, and copy files from it to restore them. As an added bonus it’s not running in the background the whole time. A cronjob fires it up on a regular basis.

If that all sounds too technical, just use Backblaze. I’ve been with them for years, and recently renewed for another two years. If you want to get a month free (after signing up following the free trial) you could do worse than sign up using this signup link. I currently have over 2TB of data backed up there and it’s still going strong!

Edit: Over on /r/datahoarder there’s a lively discussion about Backblaze, including a rep from the company answering questions. Also, I’m not the only one looking for a replacement for PC to PC backup.
Edit 2: I wonder if Syncthing could be a replacement for PC to PC backup. The Backups aren’t encrypted unfortunately, but it has support for file versioning now which is a plus.

Remapping the Keyboard on a new Macbook Pro

I must have an odd keyboard, at least for one that’s paired with a Mac. It’s a Microsoft split keyboard and has a bunch of extra keys that aren’t on a Macbook Pro keyboard, like a dedicated # key and the keys are all over the place compared to the laptop keyboard. But I like it that way.

I’ve heard comments from people who use my laptop and they are confused by how shift-2 doesn’t print @ but ” instead, and the key by the left shift prints \ instead of ~ (which is over by the Return key). They’ll say, “Oh, it’s some sort of PC keyboard?” Well, yeah.

This is not the first time I’ve had to fix my keyboard. A long time ago Justin Mason created a useful Irish Fixed Keyboard Layout, but for some reason with this latest hardware upgrade it wasn’t working exactly as planned. The #, \ and ` keys were mixed up. Luckily, with the help of the Key Codes app I could detect the the key code of the physical key pressed. For example, the key next to the left shift is key code 10 so it was just a matter of editing the keyboard layout in a text editor and changing that to output “\”. Logout and login to refresh and the key works!

What’s odd, is that this keyboard layout has served me well for almost a decade and didn’t need editing, which is why I’m documenting it in this post.

I looked at both Ukelele and Karabiner but the former looked overwhelming (yeah, then I went editing XML by hand..) and the latter doesn’t work in macOS Sierra (there’s a simplified “elements” version for Sierra). Then I thought I should just edit the keyboard mapping directly. 🙂

Etch a Sketch, a Tribute

My colleague Mark found this amazing tribute to the inventor of the Etch a Sketch, André Cassagnes. It’s some sort of magic I think because I could never draw anything on one. My son recently bought “the smallest etch a sketch in the world” which is a tiny device but he’s having fun with it.

Then there’s this amazing artwork done on the little red box. How?

If you want to know more, the Wikipedia page on the subject has tons more information.

3 months free Backblaze again

A long time ago in 2013 Backblaze had a “sign up and get an extra three months free” offer and they’re back at it again.

For the next 32 days. click on this Backblaze signup link, you’ll get started on a free trial for a month to test it out, but if you decide to pay you’ll get an extra three months.

I love the Backblaze service. It’s a cloud backup service where you can backup your files. I won’t go on and on about it. I did that in my 2013 post, but if it’s any indication of how good they are, I’m still a customer all these years later with over 2TB of data backed up there now.

The signup link is an affiliate link of course (I get three months free as well if someone signs up) but if you don’t want to use it and don’t want that extra three months sign up through this link instead.

And to think, I used to rely on backing up my photos to CD..

Sky obviously never check their customer surveys

Someone used my gmail address when they signed up for Sky Television. They must have lots of spare time and money to burn as they’re getting the “Variety with Sports & Movies” package at 83 Euro a month. Yikes.

I filled in the Sky customer survey a few times but they appear to have been ignored. One more time then.

Their emails aren’t really helpful, but Gmail does somehow know how to unsubscribe from Sky emails. I’ve sent Sky a reply telling them they have the wrong email for this account. Updates in the comments if I hear back from them!

You received this because you enquired about subscribing or subscribe to Sky. If you have received this email in error, please accept our apologies.

Sky Survey

Sky Survey Results

Building the BBC Micro

I never used the BBC Micro much but it was a prominent feature of schools across Ireland the UK in the 80s and early 90s.

I love that Professor Steve Furber’s admitted they didn’t know why certain chips worked or the work arounds they needed to get other bits working!

Some tips to make Mac OS X Finder easier to use

Making the switch from Windows or Linux to Mac OS X is not without pain. The extra CMD key plays havoc with muscle memory, and the “Windows Explorer” of Mac OS X, Finder, is quite a different beast to what you might be used to in the Windows or Linux worlds.

About two weeks ago I decided to make the switch again to Mac OS X and I lamented the difficulty in using Finder to do simple tasks. I’m still not 100% happy with Mac OS X it but the tips on the following pages made things easier:

  • Home and End keys work on a line, not a document, silly.
  • Disable natural scrolling.
  • Switch CMD and ALT if you’re using a PC keyboard. I have a lovely split keyboard but the default configuration hurt my fingers.
  • Change the keyboard layout if your keyboard doesn’t work the way you’re used to. I still haven’t got this set up exactly as I want it to. In my terminal some keys act differently I think but I haven’t set aside time to work out which. I need to swap ” (shift-2) with @ (key to the top/left of right-shift). My muscle memory gets them mixed up all the time.
  • Automount SMB drives automatically. I haven’t been able to get the fstab method to work yet because my password has spaces but the “User Login” one works well enough.
  • Change Finder search so it searches the current directory by default.
  • Type the path into Finder.
  • 9 tips to improve Finder.
  • Sorting and arranging in Finder.
  • Right click on the directory name in Finder and show a dropdown of the path to that directory.
  • Install Mac Ports to get a working copy of Rsync and a better ls that lets me put parameters after the filename.

There are still oddities. When Mac OS X mounts an SMB share it does so with permissions that only allows the current user to edit files in the share. That’s perfectly understandable but it messes things up for Rsync when I’m syncing directories with a remote host. I’ve had to resort to using the “–size-only” parameter of Rsync so it won’t attempt to sync every file each time. I need to figure out if that can be fixed somehow.

I’ll update this post from time to time as I come across more oddities.

Beware! The Java Updater installs the Ask Toolbar

I had to update Java this morning and I was in a hurry. I clicked through the first page of the install wizard without really looking and then remembered I should have paid attention and noticed it said it would install the Ask.com app. Grrr.

Java Updater
(Here’s a screenshot I captured a few months ago)

I could have cancelled it but I ploughed on. However there was no sign of the extension after the install. When I restarted it, Chrome reported that the extension “Search App By Ask v2” was added!

Search App By Ask v2

I did not enable it of course, and checked my search engine settings. The site ask.com had been added, but was not set as the default engine. Gone with that then!

I hate that Oracle put a browser toolbar in the install of the Java runtime. I wonder how many kids who installed Java to run Minecraft have this toolbar installed now?