My First 10k

This past weekend was the 11th Ukrops Monument Ave. 10k. I’ve wanted to do this the last few years, but never got around to it, until this year. While I really wanted to run the whole thing, I was happy to just finish it.

I started training a little bit late, towards the end of January. I was starting to get up to speed, but towards the beginning of March, I started feeling a lot of pain and had to back down on my training. But last week, I managed to do my own personal 10k on Thursday, 2 days before the actual race.

Saturday morning I got up quite early, met up with friends, and headed down to VCU (where the race was starting). I ran into a few friends, saw a bunch of interesting people, and then got ready to start. I moved down from my running group down to the fastest walking/jogging group.

I was amazed by just the number of people there. For as far as you could see up and down Monument, people were everywhere. I posted a little to twitter during the race, as well as took a few pictures along the way. Towards the end I decided to pick up the pace and finish the last mile and a half running. My final time was just over 90 minutes.

Overall, I can’t wait to do this again, and do better. But even with what I did do, I managed to loose a few pounds, get into a good rhythm of going to the gym, and finishing something I had not done before. Im going to keep up with my workouts (except for obsessing about the distance), and hope to do much better next year.

Tech talk moving back

I started another blog almost a year ago, Jon’s Tech Talk, mainly to help separate more personal stuff from more technical stuff. Well, with only a few posts over there in the last year, compared to the decline of blogging here, I think I may just shut the other down.

Honestly, In the last month or so, I have really been trying to pick this up again, and have been enjoying it. But the idea of having this stuff all over the place just over complicates things, and not worth the hassle. That, and over the last year I have even had people that actually read this page ask where some of the more technical stuff went.

So that blog may be shutting down soon, and may repost some of the posts here. Ill start talking about tech here more as well.

What not to do with your external drive

Over the weekend, the Seagate 1TB Free Agent Desktop drive we had decided to fail. No warning signs, no feedback, just no longer working. I lost a little bit of data, and I am not happy.

I was stupid. With all my knowledge (and experience) in redundant systems, server environments, and backups, keeping files on this large of a drive without a real backup was a REAL (and stupid) risk. I had split this drive into two volumes, 400GB for Time Machine, 600GB for Storage. Most of the Storage volume just had original off-the-DSLR photos (which are actually kept in the iPhoto library as well), some manual backups, and certain downloads. All of this, plus a year of Time Machine backups, just gone.

It could have been worse, much worse, but still a stupid move on my part.

So what happened? While I am still not 100% of the details, basically a general drive failure. The disk corrupted, mainly ruining its Catalog File. The drive still knew it had two volumes, and in some testing, could actually see the root level file names, but no content or deeper levels. I did just about everything I could think, even using an HFS+ reader on our old PC. I also tried DiskWarrior, which I have written about before. DiskWarrior immedialty mentioned hardware failure. When rebooting from the DVD, it started to repair the drive, but failed as well. I am sure there are a few things I am missing, but if DiskWarrior doesn’t work – you are really in a bad spot. This drive was so bad off – I can’t mount it anywhere anymore, nor even format it.

Luckily this drive has a 5 year warranty, and already being sent back to get a new one. I’ve never really been a fan of this drive, mainly for:

  1. Seagates lack of true Mac support. You would think this wouldn’t matter, but I shouldn’t have to find a windows machine to flash the external case’s firmware.
  2. The tool they provide for updating drive settings is Windows only
  3. This drive has a known sleep issue, and due to #3, was a pain to fix (Their tech support agreed to this).
  4. This drive is also known for running a little hot, as well as having power supply issues at times.

So after wasting an entire afternoon trying to revive this disk, I started to way-overthink solutions. The easiest, fastest, best, but also most expensive solution was to go buy a Drobo and a bunch of disks. The Drobo provides a very elegant and easy solution, and many of my fellow Mac users have been recommending them. But with a kitchen and bathroom remodel, plus an upcoming west-coast vacation, this is just to far out of my price range.

There are RAID’ed smaller external drives too, but while some of these support RAID 1, in some cases these RAID enclosures were doing some tricky work between your computer and your backup. I do not want this.

My near final solution was to actually build my own RAID/Fileserver, something I had wanted to do for a while. We have an old PC sitting around that I use to store some files already, plus some old code and VS 2005. Right before purchasing 2 WD Drives, I decided it would be a smart move to check my motherboard specs – which reminded me I only had 2 SATA ports – one already in use. This means I would have to move my current install to an IDE drive, reformat a ton of things, and generally spend a ton of time I would rather put elsewhere. If I was going to go that far – I would rather build a new machine (or purchase a Windows Home Server) – which at that point would be out of the price range.

Eventually I realized I was really over thinking all of this. While I create a bunch of things (code, photos, etc) at home, and all of this is very important – this isn’t where I spend most of my days. I don’t get to spend as much time as I wished creating items on my Macs, and therefore don’t have all that much to back up or store yet. In most cases, everything I use/create easily fits on the iMac (or in Deb’s case – the MacBook). With fine-tuned Time Machine preferences, I could make my backups go a long way for much cheaper.

So what did I decide?

I ended up just buying a Western Digital 1TB My Book Studio. This device has USB 2, FW400, and FW800, which the iMac can support each. I will end up using FW800, due to its much higher transfer rate. And this drive will have the whole 1TB dedicated for Time Machine. I will take more time than I have before to fine tune my backup settings on Time Machine, something I didn’t do much of before. I may go as far as to exclude iPhoto and iTunes libraries – and just have them automatically rsync to the device on a set basis as well. I won’t store anything else on this drive that isn’t already somewhere else.

I am also moving Deb’s music and other files to the MacBook, where she spends 95% of her time on computing. This way, we reclaim a little bit of space back on the iMac, so I can store more on the internal disk. I will also be picking her up a smaller (500GB or smaller) USB 2.0 drive, so she can use it for Time Machine as well.

I hope that maybe for Christmas we may expand this a bit and purchase a Drobo or NAS device for the house, if we find ourselves running out of room on internal drives in machines. I don’t see this happening just yet, but will someday.

Cliffs Notes: Don’t be stupid. Backup drives should be for just that – backup. Just because you have 1TB of space doesn’t mean you should use it. And if you have a Mac, get a drive now and start using Time Machine. If you have a PC – Windows 7 has a built in backup solution that works great as well (both my stepdad and mom are using this on their PC’s). Oh, and Hard Drives will always fail. Be ready for that.

Odd popping noise with 24″ iMac with external speakers

I noticed recently this odd popping noise coming from my speakers over the weekend, right before any audio was played. I’m not sure how long this had been going on, because when I use the iMac, I almost always have music playing. But on Sunday when I only had iChat running for a bit – every few minutes when someone would sign on or off, the speakers would pop and then play the audio.

After doing a little bit of research, I found that a few other people had this problem, but no one could ever find the final cause. Here are some of the fixes that I found:

  • Doing a OS update (either with the Combo updater or some other updaters). This is mainly because often you are replacing the audio drivers
  • Zap PRAM
  • Remove some of your sound preferences.

Since we are so close to 10.6.3 coming out, I decided to not do another update right now. My plan of attack ended up just zapping the PRAM (hold down Command, Option, P, and R when booting, you will hear the chimes, it will reboot again, once you see the Apple logo, let go – the same way its been since even Classic Mac OS) and removing the following

  • ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.soundpref.plist
  • /Library/Preferences/com.apple.soundpref.plist
  • /Library/Preferences/com.apple.audio.DeviceSettings.plist

Not all four existed on my system, but this is the list I put together from other sites so far.

After a reboot, things seem to be better, but not 100% fixed just  yet. I have noticed my tests no longer replicate the issue, but when I come home from work and play audio for the first time (which would leave the machine sitting idle for ~10 hours), it still pops. Also, the audio system does ‘sleep’ when not in use, and possibly the above methods just reset whatever that timer was.

Testing out the Raynox DCR-250 Macro Conversion Lens

Thumbtacks on cork board next do our desk (click for more on Flickr)

In the February 2010 Popular Photography Magazine, their ‘You Can Do It’ column – titled ‘Breaking Point’ –  they covered a close up shot using a sound trigger, flash, and macro conversion lens ( I tried to find it on their website, but could not). This lens was the Raynox DCR-250 conversion lens, that gives you 2.5 times magnification, and attaches to most lenses (it will work on the 3 I already have).

I have always been interested and amazed with macro photography – but it can be very expensive, especially for an amateur like me. But when I saw the price of this conversion lens – less than $60 – I decided to try this out. My dad sent me a few bucks for my birthday, and this would pretty much offset the cost of a new toy.

I took a few shots around the house tonight, without any setup. I pretty much walked around the house, using whatever available light was there, and took shots of things I thought would look cool close up. I was surprised, because in some cases, I didn’t feel like this conversion was doing much. But in other cases – I was amazed by the cool results I got with no setup whatsoever.

I plan on taking tons more photos with this little adapter soon. Especially with spring right around the corner, I think there will be some amazing opportunities with trees and flowers blooming, as well as insects coming back around.