How I Roll (from computer to computer)

As I’ve been going through the process of switching over to a new MacBook Pro this week, I’ve been noticing that it’s a lot less painful process then it was once. I think a big part of this is the use of new-ish technologies that allow me to not only move from one computer to the next with ease, but work on multiple computers at once as well. Let’s take a look:

Mail

Although it may seem trivial to most people these days, the fact that I don’t have to move any mail (and contacts, and calendars) around when I switch computers is a convenience that most of us take for granted. We use Exchange here at work, and I’m a Google Apps user for my personal mail. So, for migration I connect Mail.app to exchange and I immediately have all my email, contacts, and work calendar. For my personal mail, I just install the Google Notifier app, and use the web client. Now I’ve got my mail, I’m getting my mail, and we move the next step.

Firefox

Yes, I’m still a Firefox user, and I’m currently using the 4 beta. For a long while, I had been a beta user of their sync functionality, which at the beginning was called weave. Anyway, you just set up an account, pick some (hopefully strong) encryption passwords and keys, and like magic everywhere you use Firefox and add a bookmark, it will be synced to the cloud, and back to every other instance of the browser you use. This is unbelievably convenient. FYI – Chrome has a very similar functionality called Chrome Sync if you are so inclined. I’ve never tried it, but would if I switched to that being my primary browser. So, back to migration: fire up the machine, install Firefox 4, username/password entry, bookmarks synced. Moving on.

OSS Software

There are a fair amount of my day-to-day tasks that require the use of some open source software. To this end, I’ve been using the Homebrew package manager on OSX. Although this isn’t in sync with my old machine, it makes finding and installing a lot of the software I need quite trivial. For example, to install git I type “brew install git” into the terminal. I probably had a lot of stuff installed on my old machine I never use, or only used once, so in this case I prefer to start clean and add as I need. With some of the base software I needed installed, we’re on to the next step.

Version Control

My job involves a fair amount of coding, and to that end, I’ve got all sorts of folders full of source code on my machines. Working with that code in multiple places is extremely easy if you embrace source control. All of the major projects that I work on are in subversion, but I must say my favorite system is now git. In fact, it’s so damn easy to set up, I’ve put pretty much all of the little projects I’m working on into it as well, and sync them to another box I use. If you’ve never used it, definitely check out Brian and Hector’s tech talk and give it a shot. So to migrate to the new box: just check out the projects as needed to the new machine. Easy!

Non-Code Files

If you’ve never used Dropbox before, you’re seriously missing out. It’s another one of those tools that have become an integral part of the way I work. The basic idea is that you have a folder on your computer that is synchronized across every machine you install it on. If I’m working on anything non-code related that I want to have with me when I switch computers, it just gets dropped into my Dropbox, and when I fire up the next machine it’s there. In addition to full machine to full machine, I’ve found that Dropbox is also my go-to way to get files to the iPad, whether it’s a few images I want to show some, PDFs I’d like to read, or a presentation I’d like to review. If you’re not a user: Get an Account (and as a bonus, I get a little additional free space if you use my link!) So, for migration: install Dropbox, files appear. And on we go.

Note: I’m not a security expert, and I haven’t done a lot of personal investigation into the overall security of Dropbox, so I base my claim that it is relatively secure on the facts on their page about the topic. Having said that, the way I feel safest if I have to store any personally identifiable or sensitive information on there is to use a TrueCrypt drive that resides inside my Dropbox folder. This way, if it is somehow compromised, there’s a whole other set of hoops someone would have to jump through to get at my info.

Conclusion

At this point I’ve done very little work, and am nearly completely functional on my new machine. All that’s left is to install the software I use on a day to day basis, and my migration is complete.

Lesson One: What’s in a name?

I actually learned this last week, but you have to start somewhere, right?

Sometimes a minor detail will threaten to delay or derail your project. Don’t let it!

A lot of work on many people’s parts has gone into making the Beacon platform a reality here at Wharton. We’ve done development, migration testing, set up our environment in production, and held a code review. All of those things, which required real time investments, have gone quite smoothly, which is great. So, what threatens to hold up the whole project and/or cause unnecessary drama? The name! Something we’ve collectively put maybe 10 minutes of discussion into.

Honestly, my first instinct was to forge ahead. I feel like we had secured the name, and couldn’t imagine it being that big a sticking point. However, the deeper we looked, the more it seemed like even the users of a similar name had encountered some resistance to their use if it. Now, is it really worth having something like this hold up the whole project? Absolutely not. It’s just a name. Lesson learned, and we move on. Turns out the new name is growing on me by the day as well!

Hurrican’t Earl – Some Pics

To quote my cousin Ryan, Earl was a “hurrican’t”, and we got nothing but a light breeze and a few drops of rain in Cape May. However, he did provide for some cool-ish skies the nights before and after. The colors on the pre-Earl pictures were the wildest. Here’s a few, all from during or right after sunset. (Because of it’s position on the tip of the Dirty Jerz, you can watch the sunset over the water here.) I’m too lazy to Photoshop, so these are right out of the camera, reduced slightly for the web.