NosillaCast 11/26/2006 Show #71

Thanksgiving, why my mom is cool, thankfulness for my amazing internet friends, corrections from last week, am I repeating myself?, the gruesome story of my move of Podfeet from VizaWeb to Go Daddy including the tools for phpmyadmin, phpbb, WordPress, TextWrangler from barebones.com, Skype, Scooby Doo voice, how to do a redirect, don’t forget your data, and Bart’s amazing gift of time to me. Review of Switch from nch.com.au/switch, BootCamp vs. Parallels, and Noah’s 6 years of photos.

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thanksgiving in the US – what I’m thankful for:

Mom – 86 & blind, taking a writing class, “reading” the book Google, more fun every year

computing – friends – Tim Verpoorten; Niraj, Bart, Matt helping me with the ‘cast – keep going with the list.

corrections from last week

I think RA Bart is giving QA director Steve a run for his money – he found two errors in the podcast last week. to be exact he said “I just wanted to point out a few wee things”. Remember I went through an elaborate and unnecessary explanation of GNU? I inadvertently described it as a recursive acronym for gnu’s not linux, when in reality it’s
gnu’s not unix. see how the U works better than the L?

Bart also gave me some information on what gnu actually is – wikipedia says it’s an operating system, but Bart explained it better to me. Here’s what he said: “An operating system can be considered to have three layers, kernel, user-land and GUI. Linux is only a kernel, GNU provides the user-land, and X11 + Gnome or X11 + KDE provide the GUI in a Linux distribution. So, GNU is a part of what most people call Linux, and the technically correct name for what people call Linux is actually GNU/Linux (though only a complete nerd will ever talk about GNU/Linux).”

I’m not sure I really followed all of that, but I figured there might be someone else out there who is as nerdy as Bart and was irritated at my sub part explanation of GNU, so now you’ll feel better! I know listener Tim will have enjoyed this, and will enjoy Bart’s further explanation that the P in LAMP was not originally php, but Perl! Tim is a perl developer and believes that you could pretty much effect world peace with perl if you really put your mind to it! thanks for the clarifications Bart, I’ll rest easy knowing you’re a good backup for QA director Steve.

Repeating myself

Those people who know me really well know that I have a terrible habit of repeating my stories. I have tried to keep that from you, but evidently i told the story of the magsafe connector and the great dane two weeks in a row! This is a lesson to me. I always write out my show notes word for word before the show, which helps me keep coherent thoughts as well as being of great benefit to those who prefer to read the blog over listen to the ‘cast. So when i went to tell the magsafe connector/great dane story, i had a feeling I might have told the story, so i went to the previous week’s notes and looked to see if I’d already told it. i found no evidence that it had been told, so I proceeded to tell it last week. Evidently i broke from tradition and actually spoke EXPORANEOUSLY! I guess I can’t take a wild risk like that again – QA director Steve, listener Ryan AND HDA Bob all called me on it! Sheesh. Can’t get any slack around here!

Moving of Podfeet

Let’s talk about moving podfeet now. My biggest advice I can give you is, no matter how awful your webhost is, never ever try to move. I don’t care if you have to give up thousands of listeners and readers, it’s not worth the trouble, just put up a “going out of business” sign and start over on a new site. Seriously. I took the week off this thanksgiving week, and i probably spent 30 hours working on this and I’m not sure i’m close to being done yet! and I’m not counting all the hours Bart, Niraj and Matt have spent on this!

Let me see if i can even vaguely construct what we did this week. The good news for you is that I have a poor memory, so it won’t take as long to explain as it did to actually do all the work! The first thing I had to do was buy the new hosting account over at Go Daddy to replace the Vizaweb disaster. I’ll give the technical terminology for this first, and then an explanation of what it really means. I had access to a server on Vizaweb that had an IP address that was associated with Podfeet.com and I had to move that over to Go Daddy through a change to the domain name registration, or DNS. think about it like this. You have an address for your house, say 123 Main street. that address is associated with the name, “my house”. If you move to 456 Central street – your ADDRESS has changed, but it’s still called “my house”. Does that make sense? Well, podfeet.com is the name of my site, and it was at one IP address, and I had to move it to a new IP address. Sounds simple, right? Well, technically that part was pretty easy in the big picture, but if I just moved the name over to the new address, nothing would have worked at podfeet.com because all the files are still over at the old IP address. It would be like if you went over to 456 Central street but you forgot to get a moving van to move all your stuff over to the new house!

As I explained before, I use a content management system called WordPress to create the podfeet.com website. So while it’s invisible to me, everything I write is actually filling out a field in a database, and then WordPress defines how that information is displayed. For example, there’s a structure to tell it where to put the sidebar, and where to put the header. then in the database I put in the stuff that lives i in the header and sidebar. with me so far? good, it get’s way worse.

So on the new server, Niraj and I installed Wordpres through Go Daddy’s installation script. Seems simple enough, right? then on the VW side I pushed the backup button for the WP database. Ok, now all I need to do is move the database backup up to the new site. should be easy, right? Not so easy, because evidently little goofy symbols got mucked up in the file as the backup came down to my machine. isn’t that swell? niraj had me download a freeware tool called Text Wrangler from barebones.com, the makers of the famous BBedit. We worked with Text Wrangler because as a text editor, it allows the user to search for what they call gremlins – the little pieces of junk that got into my file to hork it up. I don’t know WHY there were gremlins in my sql database, but trust me, there were. think it’s all a scam to get me to install more software.

Ok, so we got a clean sql database, and an installation of WP on GD, how do I stuff the database into WP? This is where I definitely needed adult supervision. there’s a tool called phpmyadmin, that luckily was on both VW and GD, it’s a way of looking at and managing the database. Again with Niraj’s expert help I was able to import my sql database. that sounded pretty good, but how do I tell WP to talk to that newly imported db? turns out there’s a file in WP called wp-config.php that does the work. I don’t know much about php, but it’s a programming language that lets you design web pages that are dynamic – just what I’m doing with wordpress.

Back to connecting the database of all my posts and your comments and the sidebar links into the new wordpress. this wp-config.php file tells wordpress how to find the database. Programmed that bad boy up, should be no problems at all, right? well, that didn’t go smoothly either, but I have to come back to this part.

As I was working on this big move from the old podfeet to the new podfeet, I realized I had one big problem: how do I tell if I’m looking at the new and improved podfeet over on GD or the old one on VW? I went to GD and made a post saying “test – ignore me” and that turned out to be INVALUABLE. So we finally get the new wp looking at the database, but the links on the right hand side were all horked up! well, I was pretty sure if I could log into wp I could fix it, but every time I went to log in I ended up back on the VW side. humph. fussed around with this for DAYS with Niraj’s help. ok, like one whole day, but it was a LONG day! Never did figure that out that day.

then on Wednesday RA Bart made the critical error of giving me his ICQ chat number so i could bother HIM about this whole nightmare. that was the end of HIS peace and quiet for last week! once I suckered him into chat, it was only a short leap to get him to go into Skype so we could converse more efficiently. I know it was a huge favor to ask of him, but Bart was so terribly gracious, and so entertaining while we worked! one of my favorite things about Bart is how when something odd happens, he says “oer?” in exactly the voice of Scooby Doo. We did about 2368 things to the database over the course of that first evening, but the real trick was he figured out that the new WP, being a higher revision of the code than the one on VW, was the real culprit. Niraj was onto this idea too, but we figured out the path to success when we simply dragged the old wp installation from VW over to GD, not installing or anything, just draggin’ them files. Of course we had to go back in and edit that admin.php file again, but once we got it going it worked without troubles!

to get to the next level, Bart and I then created a new subdomain called new.wordpress.com and got everything working in there. Yay, I figured I was just minutes away from complete! Oh wait, what about the forums? Oh no, guess what the forums are? ANOTHER mysql database! oh the horrors. I tried installing phpbb on the new server (which is the application that drives the forums) but I failed miserably, so Bart says, “um, why not just drag the installation over from VW to GD like we did with WP?” Well, of course THAT worked! There were a couple of changes we had to do to get the database in there correctly after that, but compared to the WP installation it was a dream, probably only took about 4 hours!

Ok, we’ve got to e done now, right? Turns out I totally forgot about all of the files that existed over on the original podfeet – like the audio files from before I moved them to Libsyn, and all of the pictures that are imbedded in the shownotes! So now it’s like I moved to 456 Central street, i remembered to send the moving truck over to bring all the boxes, but I forgot to actually pack anything up INTO the boxes so they’re empty when they got here! sheesh. One thing I should explain here, is that we never figured out a way to move files directly from VW over to GD, everything we did was from VW to my local disk and then back up to GD! what a pain! this was especially true with all of the audio files and images – it took 6.5 hours to drag everything down to my disk and then back up again! every ounce of bandwidth was taken up for most of yesterday!

I had to do the same thing to get the whole wordpress thing in the right place – remember I had it in new.podfeet.com? I had to move it UP to podfeet.com and the only way we could figure out how to do that was to ftp it down to my disk and then back up to the right location! Luckily this was mostly text so it only took an hour or so.

then I had a sudden thought – I better do a test of Feeder to send the RSS up to the site, to make sure when I podcasted today that it would work – and of course it was all horked up!!! I have actually no idea how I fixed it, just flipped switches and retried passwords and all that kinda stuff until it finally worked!

another thing that threw me for a loop was one you may not realize that happens in the background. If you type in podfeet.com or www.podfeet.com, it actually takes you to www.podfeet.com/wordpress. That’s called a redirect. I had a file in there that Bart made for me that redirects you, but it’s not the most elegant method because you can actually see it happening – a blank screen comes up saying that it’s doing a redirect, and if it doesn’t happen quickly enough, click this link. the real way to do it is to set up a redirect through your hosting service. I did this on VW, but couldn’t figure it out on GD. i thought I found it – they referred to domain forwarding as redirecting, so I put it in there – but then i ended up with the redirect in an infinite loop, so if you tried to go to podfeet.com, you’d actually get sent to podfeet.com/wordpress/wordpress/wordpress/wordpress/wordpress/wordpress! Again back to bother Bart, and he explained that VW had put in a nice button to create the redirect, but it was actually just creating a file called .htaccess that had one little line of code doing the redirect. all we had to do was drag that file over to GD and we were all set!

Well, that’s probably enough about all this, but since it consumed 100% of my free time for a week, and about 50% of Bart’s and Niraj’s time with some side hours from Matt, I didn’t get hardly anything done about testing out new tools to review for the show. i hope it was interesting to you hearing how all this works, or at least my version of what I think we did. I’m astonished at the generosity of these fine gentleman, giving so freely of their time. I asked Bart why he was willing to spend so much time on this for me, and he replied, “how many hours of entertainment have you given ME through your podcast?” Isn’t that a marvelous attitude? I guess I see his point, but it doesn’t reduce his generosity one bit. I will forever be in his debt for all the work he did. I’ve been trying to think up a good name for him – somehow Research Assistant Bart no longer sounds grand enough for his part in making this adventure a success. How about guru, or czar, or web hosting storm trooper? I’ll come up with something, but for now i think I’ll call him my dear friend Bart.

Switch

Listener Big C wrote in a great letter I’d like to read you, with a couple of great software tips. I’ll interrupt his letter to walk you through what I found out about the applications he recommends. Hope I don’t lose you!

Here’s Big C’s letter:

Hi – I am new to your show and enjoy it very much. I find you not so uber geeky that I can’t follow the information or lose interest. You keep showing us good things to do with our computers and I say thanks. Anyway I am a newly converted MAC user who knows the ins and outs of xp. So I approach problems a little differently than most mac users I think. I have been listening to a random selection of your shows to see if I would like it so you may have already heard of this product.

When I swapped to mac in the middle of my podcast run I was looking for all kinds of software to help me continue what I was doing in a way I was accustomed to. Of course mac does it better than xp but I was unfamilliar with most programs. I too recorded and edited in garage band, and since I was clueless about m4a I wanted to find a free converter. I found Switch from nch.com.au/switch).

Being unfamiliar with itunes I found it easier to export to disk first and then convert the file to mp3 with switch. I love this progam. It supports the drag and drop functionality of OS X, it will convert almost any audio file to almost any audio file, and you can set the standards of quality. Very easy and user friendly. When you were talking about itunes that sounded more convoluted.

I decided to give Switch a whirl. NCH’s website describes Switch as an audio file format converter for Windows and Mac – yay! cross platform! It can convert audio files from many different file formats into mp3 or wav files including wave to mp3, mp3 to wav, wma to mp3 and much more. (I put a link in the shownotes to the full listing of file formats supported.) I am so stoked to see this – I’ve been looking for a converter just like this, and I’ve searched both Mac and Windows sites looking for it. not only is Switch cross platform, it’s free!

They say “We make Switch audio file converter free in the hope you will like it so much you will decide to upgrade to Switch Plus which supports additional encode-to formats.” I love that kind of marketing, get you hooked with great software and then provide value beyond that for the real enthusiast. The free version does come with the additional features of Switch Plus for the first 14 days, which is good and bad. On the good side you get to try out the Plus features, on the bad side you might not be able to tell which features are which. I decided to check that out.

switch mp3 settings optionsswitch main panel
I downloaded and installed Switch on the Mac, and it came up with a nice clean interface. Basically you can add files, add folders, remove files, play files, or stop a process. I like to drag and drop as you know, so I tried just dragging a file on top of Switch and just like a good mac program it pulled that file right in. down at the bottom of the window you can set the output folder, it defaults to your Documents folder but that can get messy, so it’s nice that they make it obvious how to set it to a different location. You choose the output file format with a clean little pulldown – so for example if you’ve pulled in a .wav file, you can use the pulldown to choose .mp3. there is also a format settings button which changes depending on what file format you choose. For example, if you’re converting to a wav file, you can choose from high/medium/low/custom or auto formatting. If you choose mp3 as the output format, you have a lot more choices – such as different bitrates, variable vs. constant bit rate, channel encoding mode, all kinds of fun in there! If you choose AIFF, since it’s not a compressed format, the format settings button is simply greyed out because there are no choices to make.

I dragged a .wav file in and told it to make it an mp3 and it did it, I gave it an mp3 and told it to be a wav, and it did that too! I know that’s not exactly a scientific, robust experiment, but it did what I asked it to do! The only complaint i can come up with is that the windowing seems a little bit hinky, if I command-tab to another application and then command-tab back to Switch it doesn’t come right up, I have to click on another app and click back to get it to pay attention to me. In any case, I’ve been looking for an application just like this, I’m glad there’s finally a freeware tool to do this little bit of work for me! Plus it has a cool icon, looks like a big ol’ light switch! Thanks Big C for finding this for us!

And finally Big C asks: “One question for you now. I have just installed xp on the mack via bootcamp. I absolutely love the dual functionality, and how amazingly intuitive MAC is by creating this program. Due to my programs I still need some XP unfortunately and this seems to work best for me now. The question is what do you think of Bootcamp, and would you recommend a different dual OS program instead of Bootcamp? Thanks for reading my ramblings.”

I played with Boot Camp once – maybe you remember the story – oddly enough i was doing an experiment to see if I could completely eliminated OSX on a Mac (and I succeeded!)

I personally love Parallels – have you checked that out? forgive the verbose explanation if you have! Parallels allows you to run XP literally in parallel with Mac OSX. it costs $79 list from http://parallels.com. There’s a bunch of reasons it’s cooler than Boot Camp. 1) you don’t have to reboot, 2) you don’t have to run XP SP2 – you can run anything from Windows 3.1 to XP to even the release candidates for Vista! and you can run Linux too. 3) you don’t have to dedicate as much disk space – you tell it the max it can expand to, but until it needs it, it doesn’t take it. for example, I told XP it could grow to 12GB, but it’s only using 8 right now. Parallels comes with a compressor program that will squish it down (at least for a while) so I can make a backup DVD of it. if Windows ever gets horked (virus, etc.) I can just throw away the single file that represents the entire installation and just put the backup copy right in there.

the one reason to go with Boot Camp is that you have access to real drivers. For example, you might want to play high end games and you need the graphics card – Parallels has these fake drivers that work pretty well, but can’t do high end graphics. USB support is a little weird (like to run webcams and that kind of stuff – in fact it’s USB 1.1 not 2.0 (which seems really odd to me). a few other things like that are hinky, but not enough to make it worth going to BootCamp for me.

One of the other cool things about Parallels to me, is that I can store files within Windows over on the Mac side. I can actually mount a network drive in Windows that is the Mac OSX file system! that way I don’t really have to back up the Windows side – all real data files are on the Mac side. Thanks for all the great ideas and questions Big C!

Ejector

ejector showing a bunch of disk images to eject
My dear friend Bart sent in a little tiny app that does one thing – it’s called Ejector from jeb.com.fr/en/ejector.shtml. Ejector’s sole function is to give you a really easy way to eject disks, disk images, iPods, and CD’s
on the Mac. Ejector is a menu bar item – it gives you a little eject symbol up in the menu bar, and when you click it you get a list of devices you have attached.

I tested Ejector and it did what it said it would do, quickly and efficiently. It didn’t see my iPod though, but it doesn’t show up in the Finder either, except for a quick couple of seconds before iTunes takes control. I’m assuming Ejector could see it if I had it set up for plain old disk usage. I’m not sure if Ejector provides much more functionality that just hitting the eject next to the disk images in the finder, but it might be a good tool for you. it’s free, so it’s worth a try (although Jeb does mention that if you’re so inclined you could throw some money in his paypal account!)

365 days per year for 6 years

We haven’t done a good youtube video in a while. there’s a guy named Noah who took a picture of himself in the exact same position every single day for 6 years. think about it – 365 days x 6 years is 2,190 photographs! then he put them together in a little video on youtube. It’s strangely compelling, mainly I find myself trying to figure out how he got his eyes lined up the same in every shot! anyway, there’s a link in the show notes to Noah’s 6 years of photos.

Well, that’s going to wrap it up for a very long week of technology work, but a lot of fun learning so much. Please keep your great feedback coming to allison@podfeet.com, or you can send me a voice recordingi at nosillacast@gmail.com, and of course head on over to the newly relocated podfeet forums (we have avatars now!) at podfeet.com/forums. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed!

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