Tag Archives: network

Speedier connectivity

I’ve been thinking about making a change to my broadband arrangements for some time now. When I heard that Tiscali (owners of my long-term ISP Pipex) had been snapped up by Carphone Warehouse, it seemed like a great time to make a switch.

I’d heard very good things about O2/Be from my Twitter friends and since I’m an iPhone customer I was able to get a lower bundle price, which was even better.

The transfer process was painless – actually the hardest part was arranging the delivery of the new router! Incidentally the router itself (the “O2 Wireless Box III”, a Thomson TG585n, although I disabled the 802.11n wireless in favour of my Airport Extreme) is pretty big and ugly compared to the Netgear box I’d had before, but I had to change in order to take advantage of ADSL2+. It came pre-configured with everything except my static IP address (I had to call O2 in order to find that out). One issue was that the default time server that’s set on the box is apparently dead… I found some commands on the forums which enabled me to add some known valid time servers and that sorted it out, but weirdly the web front end didn’t give me a way to change them when logged in as the default Administrator user – hunting the forums produced the SuperUser information, which opens up a whole bunch of more useful options in the web UI (including, for example, logs!).

9 months ago I was getting a speed reasonably close to my theoretical 8Mbps max out of Pipex:

The funny thing was that when I called to get my MAC code to transfer, the Pipex chap insisted that I’d only ever get a max of 7-8Mbps off my line “it’s the official BT number, sir”. O2 were quoting a theoretical max of 14Mbps. Turns out that this is probably due to the ADSL2+ technology that O2/Be use… here’s a sample of the speed this morning, I think the peak I’ve actually achieved has been a shade under 13Mbps.

What will I do with this extra bandwidth? Well, let’s just say that Facebook and FriendFeed had better be ready for me 🙂

The great iTunes library migration of 2009

Last week, I finally got fed up with the constant pain of bumping up against the disk size of my MacBook Pro. The largest chunk of space on the 120Gb drive was the ~35Gb taken up by my iTunes library. It was time to move it.

Moving out, making space

I’d previously thought about moving all of my music to the network and serving it out of daap-server on Ubuntu. The issue is that I sync my iPhone with the MBP and therefore I want my music library available locally, rather than streamed. I have a smart playlist which randomly selects about 7Gb of stuff from my library, leaving room for my apps, podcasts, and photos in the rest of the 16Gb space on the iPhone.

The thought of moving my iTunes library has just been such a painful one that I’d been putting it off for ages. I finally found a really good guide to the subject that reassured me, though – I could move the bulk of the library to another drive, and iTunes would still “work” (in the sense of enabling me to rip more, or download new podcasts) even when it was disconnected. I’m not going to go into the steps in detail here, read the iLounge guide to Transferring your iTunes Library – but it was basically a case of attaching a big external disk, changing the location of the iTunes library in the preferences, and Consolidating it; then deleting the local files on the internal drive.

Once all ~35Gb of music, video and podcasts was safely relocated, I decided to try something else. I unplugged the external USB drive, and attached it to my Airport Extreme base station. It appeared as an Airport Disk (with the same name as it had as a local disk) on my desktop. I started iTunes, and… hey presto, It Just Worked. So I now have my main iTunes library on my home network, visible to the iTunes application when the MacBook is on the same network, and can sync my iPhone when I’m there.

Time to rip

Once I’d finally made space, and also got the library into a location with room to breathe, I decided to make a start on something I should have done a long time ago. Up until now, I’d ripped CDs randomly according to when I wanted to hear particular albums or tracks… now, it was time to systematically get the whole collection into digital format.  Plus, I don’t actually own a stereo / hifi with a CD player anymore, so the only way I’m consuming music is through the computer. There are about 500 CDs to rip, so this is an ongoing project.

A few people asked on Twitter what format I’m going for. Purely on the basis of convenience and accessibility of format, I’ve decided to go with high quality MP3 rather than OGG, AAC or FLAC. I know MP3s will pretty much play anywhere I might choose to put them. Sorry to the audio aficionados.

Bumps in the road

There are just a few things which continue to mildly bother me:

  • If I’m not on the home network, iTunes reverts to a temporary/default (local) library location. I tend to Sleep the Mac rather than shutting apps down, so if I go home and reconnect to the network, I have to remember to close and restart iTunes for it to pick up the “proper” library location… otherwise it continues to point itself at the internal location. Selecting “Consolidate Library” by accident when the library preference points to the local disk can have bad consequences (it tries to copy everything back from the external disk to the internal one!)
  • iTunes has a weird relationship with album art. It can find some, but not others… does it depend on what is in the iTunes store? I’m partway through the D section of my CD library right now, and in general the rippage has been fine, but none of the Beatles or (oddly) Def Leppard albums have album art that iTunes can find. AllCDCovers.com (and, sometimes, my scanner) to the rescue!
  • There’s another, smaller iTunes library on a Thinkpad that I’d like to be able to merge in. I’ve seen some third-party tools which can apparently do merges and retain play counts and ratings, and also do duplicate checking… I need to look into those.

Generally though – really happy with how this has worked out, and I wish that the solution to my full disk problem had been more obvious some time ago. Now I have some disk space to play around with iMovie 09 🙂

When Love and Hate Collide: MySpace

Remember MySpace? I guess it was one of the first really mainstream social networking sites… remember, it was all big and fluffy and exciting a couple of years back, everyone who was anyone was flocking there. And then along came Facebook, and Twitter, and a whole range of other sites, and suddenly MySpace was “like, so last year”, and lots of people stopped caring.

Myspace” by moyix.

The benefits

I’m still on MySpace, but I can’t say that I’m an active participant. My page essentially acts as a placeholder, provides a link over here to my primary blog, and acts as a way of keeping in touch with a small group of folks who I know over there. If someone searches for me on MySpace, they’ll find at least one way to contact me, and hopefully find my “main” web presences.

I also find that MySpace, along with Last.FM, is one of my key “music networks”. I have discovered a number of new artists through MySpace – particularly Alex Cornish who is increasingly beginning to break through into the mainstream in the UK (looking forward to his London gig in a couple of weeks’ time). I’ve also connected with smaller bands and found more obscure (to the UK) artists I’ve been following for a while. I believe that MySpace is an interesting way for artists to release music, get themselves known, and interact with fans.

The way the music thing has generally worked is that I’ve found and “friended” an artist, and then explored their connections and sampled their music on the site. In a couple of cases other musicians have introduced themselves to me as “friends of xxx” artist that I like, and again I’ve usually at least visited their page to check them out. I’ve bought at least 2 albums by unsigned or minor artists that way, but conversely in other cases I’ve also decided that no, I still really don’t like hip-hop and not bothered with the musician that has tried to friend me.

There’s an iPhone application now, and I guess that has helped me to keep up with the status of folks on there and what they are doing, too. It has rekindled my interest a little.

The annoyances

A couple of things really are not great, though.

First, there’s a the perennial make-your-eyes-bleed-its-so-horrible design of MySpace pages. They really are awful, and although the refreshed header and button design introduced this year makes it a little cleaner, the majority of MySpace pages still look as though a 5 year old has plastered the most gaudy advert they can find onto a computer screen and then scribbled on it with crayon. There’s also the language and slang used by the majority of regular users WHO FINK THAT SHOUTING MAKES U KULER LOL (you get the point).

Today I received 3 emails from a guy who was trying to promote his MySpace profile and music. There were a few annoyances here… firstly he was using some automated mailing list thing to spam me, not using MySpace at all… secondly he sent me THREE of the darned emails, one of which contained the HTML code for a Flash player of his music, which I assume he thought would play directly in my mail… and again, there was that lack of grammar or spelling that characterises certain MySpace users.

Reader, on receipt of the third email, I took a look at the guy’s site.

Not my kind of music, to be perfectly honest. So I sent him a mail on MySpace asking him not to spam, and explaining that although I’m sure he’s a great guy, sending me repeated messages about himself was not going to encourage me to either listen, or tell others to listen – quite the opposite in fact.

The response?

not spam if ya aint sellin nothing, Sry Your pissed off over email, try Being born in poverty and haveing to become somthing with no help, if you got that many that just means im doing my job

*sigh* Well that’s another MySpace user blocked, then…

Social bridgebuilding is about real world connections

It’s all about the groundwork

It was James Governor who coined the term “social bridgebuilder”, in response to my musings about what it is I do with all this social media. Here’s a good example of what I like to do: I enjoy connecting people.

One of the things about blogging is that good bloggers take the time to engage in conversations, explore the blogosphere, and make new connections. Read widely, read outside of your “subject area”, comment and establish new acquaintances. Sometimes, just click through to that linked article for the sake of broadening your interest. If it does strike a chord, comment and let the author know you liked it.

Probably about 18 months ago I randomly connected with Heidi Hansen… I’m fairly sure it was via Plazes, now I think about it, but I can’t really remember the reason… I started reading her blog, commenting on posts that I found interesting, and we’ve subsequently become friends through a multitude of different connections in social networks. We’re in very different spheres, both professionally and geographically, but it is one of those connections that I’m glad I’ve been able to make.

The scenario

A couple of weeks ago, Heidi contacted me to ask whether I had any ideas about areas of possible research into social networking and social software. As it happens, I have been involved in a number of research studies over the past couple of years, both inside and outside of IBM, so we got to talking about things that might be worth exploring. I was also able to recommend a number of good folks that I thought it would be worth her following, such as my colleagues Jasmin Tragas and Sacha Chua (sidenote: if I ever get around to updating my blogroll, I’m sure Heidi would find a bunch of others!).

At the same time, I realised that Sacha and Heidi would probably have a whole lot in common. I know Sacha through blogs, both internally and externally at IBM… Sacha is one of those people who is impossible to ignore, and a lot of IBMers will have encountered her infectious enthusiasm, particularly inside our firewall 🙂 I also knew she had recently finished studying herself, so it seemed like a natural connection to make. I pinged Sacha on Sametime and dropped her an email to follow-up.

Without realising it, I’d pointed Heidi at Sacha only days before she was due to travel to Toronto, where Sacha is based.

Result? I was able to connect two friends I’ve never met, for a real-world meeting in Toronto last week… and it sounds like it was a successful encounter. With a couple of emails, Twitters and IMs, a new connection was made.

Why is social software valuable?

This isn’t about the “dollar value of a transaction”. A lot of folks seem to want to know what financial benefit they can gain from engaging in these new social media.

Forget that.

I’ve no idea whether Heidi will buy IBM software in the future as a result of knowing me (actually, I’m pretty certain she won’t, but who knows where the world will take her!). The point is that I’m enriching my own network by knowing her, and by knowing Sacha, and tapping into their skills and expertise; and of course my own network and knowledge is completely open to either of them. I don’t know what dollar value to place on that; but I know that to me, the personal connections and friendships I build using these social tools are invaluable.