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10/26/2000

That Mac problem again. I snuck up to that Mac server I was referring to earlier this week, you know, the one that was beyond my capability to fix? I continue to maintain that no Mac is beyond any experienced tech’s capability to fix (just like no PC is beyond an experienced tech’s ability to fix). However, a Mac is a high-maintenance machine. Normal, typical use of a Mac will cause numerous filesystem errors to build up over time. I’ve heard of people running the full battery of utilities suites once a week to keep their Macs happy. Once a month is probably adequate for most.

Anyway, on with the story. The whole department was out for a long lunch, which gave me an hour and a half. That’s long enough to run DiskWarrior and TechTool Pro (this machine has seven drives on it, and some of them are in excess of seven years old so it takes a while). They marveled that afternoon about how their problem had corrected itself. Can a PC do that?

Grrr…. Sure it can. Especially if a tech can get some time alone with it.

Ray, Ray, Ray… Why aren’t you running your site on Lotus Domino and Solaris or AIX? I try to connect to Groovenetworks.com, and what do I get?

Error Occurred While Processing Request
Error Diagnostic Information
An error occurred while attempting to establish a connection to the service.

The most likely cause of this problem is that the service is not currently running. You can use the ‘Services’ Control Panel to verify that the service is running and to restart it if necessary.

Windows NT error number 2 occurred.

On the other hand, an up-and-down Web server is a very good indication that people want your product.

Now that I’ve seen some screenshots and read some more interviews to get into Ray Ozzie’s mind a little deeper, I’m starting to get Groove. This isn’t so much warmed-over Notes, I think, as it is instant messaging done right. It’s instant messaging. It’s file transfer. It’s got a sketchpad for drawing ideas for sharing. Of course there’s a Web browser window. It’s infinitely extensible (like Notes). And it’ll let you talk voice if you prefer.

I did finally manage to download it but I haven’t had a chance to install and play with it yet. But I can already think of ways I’d use it. I’d even collaborate with myself. Leave stuff I need frequently in my Groove space on my machines at work. So what if I’m in the wrong building, or worse yet, I’m at home? No problem, connect to myself and get it. (Don’t laugh; if you think instant messaging myself is bad, you’ll love the fact that I sometimes send packages to myself.) For people like me who are called upon to do three peoples’ jobs, this could be a Godsend. And once those other two people get hired, we can still use Groove to work together.

Bigger than Netscape 1.0? I think those predictors have gotten sucked into the Cult of Ray a little too deep. Is it a big deal? Oh yeah. Bigger than Notes? Probably.

As for multiplatform support… Groove opted to support, for now, the 85-90 percent of the market that runs Windows. In interviews, Ray Ozzie has said Linux and Mac OS X ports will appear. Seeing as three years ago, Linux looked poised to become a force in the server arena but not yet on the desktop and the classic Mac OS looked to be replaced any day with what became Mac OS X, it looks to me like the company made a practical decision to go with what they knew would be around and adjust course as needed. Notes eventually appeared on every major platform, which contributed to its success. I have no doubt Groove will probably follow. I’m certainly not going to hold it against him that the only version to have reached beta is Win32.

Amiga influence on Linux

Amiga lives! (Well, sort of). When it comes to GUIs, I’m a minimalist. Call me spoiled; the first GUI I used was on a 7.16-MHz machine with a meg of RAM, and it was fast. Sure, it wasn’t long before software bloat set in and I had to add another meg, and then another, but at a time when Windows 3.1 was running like crap on 4 megs and only decently on 8, I had 6 megs on my Amiga and didn’t really know what to do with all of it. So I left 3 megs available to the system, ran a 3-meg ramdisk, and all was well with the world. Until Commodore’s raw dead fish marketing caught up with it and pulled it and the company under.
Under Linux, KDE and GNOME look good, but they run slower than Windows on my PCs. And I like the idea of my P120 being a usable box. I can do that under Linux, but not with KDE as my Window manager. There’s IceWM, which is nice and lean, and there’s xFCE, which resembles HP’s implementation of CDE (and also resembles OS/2, bringing back fond memories for me–why is it everything I like is marketed as raw dead fish?), and now, two years after its release, I’ve discovered AmiWM.

AmiWM (http://www.lysator.liu.se/~marcus/amiwm.html) is a clone of the Amiga Workbench, the Amiga’s minimalist GUI. It’s small and fast and reminds me of the good old days when computers were computers, and didn’t try to be CD players, dishwashers, toaster ovens, televisions, and the like. For an aging PC (or for a new one that you want to run as quickly as possible–hey, you must be mildly interested in that, seeing as you’re reading my site and that’s my specialty), this one’s hard to beat.

Selecting a mass storage medium

Thursday, 5/4/00
CD-RW vs. Zip vs. Superdisk. Mail from India.

I am writing from New Delhi, India.

I read your comments on the site concerning ‘super floppies’. I would be very grateful if you could help me in this matter.

I have been thinking for some time about whether to buy a CDR drive or a ZIP drive. Recently my computer was hit by the CIH virus. Some of my data was lost.

I am a graphic designer as well. Consequently I need to transfer heavy files of an average of 10-15 MB to the printers or to show to my clients. I have been using file splitting softwares of late — but now I feel the need of alternative means of carrying the data for them.

Also some people say that CDRW cannot be read by some CD ROMs. I primarily need the drives for data back-up and transferring 10-15 MB files b/w printers, clients and my office.

Should I be buying an HP CDR or an Iomega 250 MB zip drive ?

I would be extremely helpful, if you could help me in my decision.

Thanking you,

Anshuman Bhargava.

First off, I’m sorry to hear about CIH getting you. We really need to find other ways to amuse 15-year-olds.

You are correct that some CD-ROM drives won’t read CD-RW discs. It’s a sure bet that any drive more than about three years old (pre-1997) won’t. Drives made since 1997 are supposed to be able to read them, but that doesn’t always happen. But with CD-R discs selling for peanuts, at least in the United States, that’s not too much of a concern. I’m usually willing to spend 75 cents on a CD-R I only use once. (I try to think of it as wasting 75 cents, rather than wasting 600 megs when I use a CD-R to transport a 20-meg file. Somehow that seems less wasteful.)

I had a conversation at work about Zips vs. Superdisk vs. CD-R/CD-RW the other day. I have a Zip drive, and I use it exclusively for installing Windows on computers I can’t easily connect a CD-ROM drive to. That’s it. I don’t trust it with any data I value. I’ve just seen too many of them fail. I know graphic designers swear by Zips when they aren’t swearing at them, but I’ve seen too many disks and drives fail. The Superdisk looks good, and Imation is on more solid financial ground than Iomega so I’m much more confident that Imation will be around in 5 years than I am about Iomega, but the LS-120 superdisk is much less common, and its capacity is lower.

If I were in your position, I’d get a CD-RW drive (I like Yamaha and Plextor, though I’ve also used HP, Sony and Philips drives) along with a spindle of CD-Rs and CD-RWs. Once you have a good idea which of your clients can handle CD-RWs and which ones have to use CD-Rs, you’ll be in good shape.

From an archival standpoint, CD-Rs make me a lot less nervous than either Zip or LS-120, because they’re optical rather than magnetic. I have plenty of 15-year-old floppy disks still floating around, but I’m not very confident many of them are still readable. Longevity varies greatly depending on the quality of the media, but you should be able to expect a couple of decades at least from quality CD-R (Kodak, Taiyo Yuden, and Mitsui discs are the safest; Kodak is the easiest of the three to find), plus they’re cheap, plus they can’t be damaged by viruses or user error. I periodically burn everything that matters to me to CD.

I hope this helps.