Buffer – A data stream for the brain

After many revisions on the basic to-do list idea, I’ve settled on what is essentially a buffer.  I love immersing myself in information – books, music, podcasts, blogs, traditional media, emails, radio, newspaper, tv, etc. but there’s just too much to do justice to.  If I tried to find a straight path through the mess, there would be lots of good content slipping by.

Continue Reading →

Backups

I’ve recently had a number of friends lose large amounts of information (music, essays, and photos that can never be replaced) due to hard drive damage and it has gotten me thinking about how easy backups can be, but how rarely people use them.

Windows – Backup to external hard drive: Backup Magic

Network Linux Box – Great article on network backups

Online options: Carbonite

Selective backups made easy

I reformat occasionally to clean out all the built up junk and speed things up. The process of backing things up and getting them all set up again takes awhile. Every time I find myself worried that I will forgot something important and discover it only after I’ve hit the “Format Disk” button and blown past the warnings about deleted information.

Backup Magic automates and simplifies the process by allowing you to select certain folders to mirror on an external drive somewhere. I can set things up once and then periodically (or automatically on a cron job) run these backups. Just as easily, I can create another job to restore the backed up files/directories to their original location after a format (dead hard drive, sibling abuse, virus infestation, etc.).

Free to use. Pay if you really like it. Backup Magic

Let Curiosity Off the Leash

Though generally serving as a waste of time and not-so-clever procrastination device, there are a few occasions when lists step in to keep me sane.  I’ve recently begun a list of things – random things – I’d like to know more about.

For example:

  • how to make pad thai
  • weather prediction
  • barbeque
  • the workings of nuclear power
  • how plumbing works
  • the art of the symphony
  • early modes of transportation
  • venture capital
  • transatlantic ocean currents
  • national parks of the us
  • carrier-pidgeons

Often when I’m biking home from work, or falling asleep, or making dinner, etc. I think of things that would be worth knowing.  Sadly most of these thoughts are discarded and lost in the depths of my terrible terrible memory.

Try keeping a list – a leftover envelope, a notepad file, whatever – and take note of these things to look up later.  There’s the kind of knowledge we learn in classes where we memorize the names of elements in the periodic table, physics equations, dates of important events or classic novels.  Then there’s the kind of knowledge that really enriches the mind.

To fully digest something, it needs to be interesting enough to drive you to dig in and do move beyond memorization.  This list is my way of setting aside some time to set aside the stresses of life and immerse myself in things, random things, that enrich my view of the world.

Moving and Organizing iTunes Music Files

I’ve been looking for this solution for awhile but only just stumbled across it.  Over the years I’ve built up a sizeable collection of music from CDs, family members, friends, free downloads, iTunes purchases, Amazon purchases, etc.  Unfortunately, I never restricted myself to a consistent convention for storing and keeping track of these different files.

What I need is a way to pull all of the physical files into one place from which I can organize and run backups on those files.  Accompanying those files, however, is a wealth of meta-information in the form of ratings, playlists, play counts and album information that I don’t want to lose.

Solution: iTunes now includes a “Consolidate Music” option under the “Advanced” tab.  Running this process will copy every file listed in your Music library to the home location (this setting: Edit -> Preferences -> Advanced tab).  In my case, I ran this process once, moving everything to an external hard drive, deleted the original copies of the music, and then running it a second time to copy everything back to a single folder on the local drive.

Update:  “Copying music failed. The file name was invalid or too long.”

  • This is a result of filenames being too long, generally a result of artist and album information included directly within the file name.
  • To get around this problem, open up the file My Documents/My Music/iTunes/Itunes Music Library.xml and search for the location of the directory you’re moving things from.  The first instance of this directory will be that associated with the file iTunes had trouble with.  Navigate to this file and shorten its name to something more appropriate.  Next, find the song in iTunes, double-click on it, choose “yes” and find the newly renamed file.  You can now resume the consolidation process, repeating these steps whenever iTunes has problems.
  • The process may sound daunting but my collection includes ~6000 songs and encountered only 6 such errors.