I first started using BitTorrent Sync back during its Alpha release in early 2013 as an alternative to Dropbox for syncing large quantities of files across my work computers. I needed an easy way to automatically transfer data from my collection computer to the lab server for storage and to my office computer for post-processing. While I have much more free storage than your average non-paying Dropbox user, I needed to regularly transfer tens of gigabytes of files without any need of uploading to the Internet/cloud. BitTorrent Sync seemed to fulfill that need almost perfectly and was vastly easier than constantly running rsync commands.
A couple years ago I made a simple Twitter Stats page to depict my tweeting activity. It was originally powered by some datasets pulled from TweetStats but I eventually upgraded it to run entirely from my own server. It was extremely barebones and grabbed my Twitter feed every hour and downloaded all the tweets that had been added since the previous update. Unfortunately, because Twitter does not offer the entire tweeting history via the website or this XML feed, I was missing well over a year of data. Combined with problems accessing this feed, I would regularly lose my entire (local) cache of my Twitter feed and have to spend a lot of time fixing everything. I eventually just decided to kill off the page since I was losing more and more of the older tweets every time I had to fix the cache and Twitter was changing the way the feed was presented.
As a graduate student, one of the most important tools I use practically every single day is a citation and bibliography reference manager. I’ve gone through several (Endnote, Mendeley, Zotero, etc.) over the years before finding one I truly liked: Papers. Initially a Mac-only client, Papers seemed like a native extension of the OS X environment, akin to that of iTunes or iPhoto. With the ability to search online databases, import articles into a “library” for organization, and cite papers and assemble bibliographies, Papers does everything I needed and wanted from a reference management program. Over the course of its development, numerous features have been added including an iOS app and Windows counterpart.
One of the biggest risks of immediately upgrading to a new operating system is the loss of functionality for vital programs. While developers will scramble to get their apps ready for the sweeping changes oft accompanied by an upgrade to an operating system, it is inevitable that bugs/quirks/errors will surface. As an engineering graduate student, one of the programs I use quite frequently is MATLAB, which is built upon the X11 window system for the Apple OS environment. In the latest update to OS X, Apple decided to remove X11 in favor of an open-source development called XQuartz. What this means is that if you upgrade to Mountain Lion, MATLAB cannot run because X11 is no longer included in the operating system. While I’m sure many will complain about Apple’s apparent lack of support for one of the most commonly used technical programs, they did not truly abandon X11. Rather, they have provided development support to the XQuartz project which is effectively an updated version of X11 which was first included in Mac OS X 10.5.
The release of the latest Apple computer operating system OS X 10.8 ‘Mountain Lion’ has been a resounding success with over 3 million copies sold in less than four days. As with any system update, the Hackintosh community anxiously starts refreshing their favorite websites (TonyMacx86) in hopes of reading tales of successful installations before attempting it themselves. After installing the $20 update onto my laptop, I finally decided to give it a whirl on my Hackintosh. I used the Unibeast tool from the aforementioned TonyMacx86 community to create a bootable flash drive with the Mountain Lion installer. A typical installation would then simply require booting off the flash drive, selecting the installation drive, and then enjoying the new OS. Unfortunately, my graphics card (ATI Radeon HD 6870) has had issues with the installation process and requires a few extra steps to get everything working. Without these additional modifications, the installer hangs at the launch screen indefinitely. This fix should work for any ATI Radeon 6XXX card but I have only tried it on the 6870.
Ever since I got my desktop and relegated my laptop to predominately being my work office computer, I have become heavily reliant upon the incredible Dropbox for keeping my files synchronized across the two computers. I had already been keeping my documents backed up to the cloud for several years and amassed about 22GB of free storage space thanks to the invite bonus and a variety of extra space opportunities. I now use the service for keeping my passwords (1Password), my research library (Papers), and even the desktops on both my computers up-to-date.
In the weeks leading up to my winter break from classes, I decided I was going to build a gaming computer since I was tired of playing on my laptop. While I was originally planning on just building a beastly Windows machine, I realized it was now ridiculously easy to throw together parts to make a “Hackintosh,” or a computer running Mac OS X minus the Apple hardware and price. I spent several weeks researching the viability of the Hackintosh build, predominately on TonyMacX86, and selecting the components for my system. I ended up settling on the following list of hardware, rocking a SSD for my operating system and a regular HD for everything else.
I recently started looking for an Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” ROM for my HTC Inspire (Desire HD) after using CyanogenMod for quite some time. The last nightly CM7 build for Ace was back in November and they’re still working hard at getting CM9 up an running. While perusing the XDA Forums for some alternatives to CM7, I ran across an awesome Desire HD build called aospX by Existz. After a quick backup and swap to the recommended radio, I flashed the new ICS-based ROM and was quite pleasantly surprised by the improvements in the latest iteration of the Android operating system (4.0.3 in this case). Aside from feeling considerably more responsive, this ICS build really seems to fix a lot of issues that afflicted the older Gingerbread ROMs I’ve used in the past. The built-in data tracking system and seemingly longer battery life are huge factors for me. The ability to launch a camera from the lock screen is incredibly convenient and the new-and-improved Google apps and widgets are orders of magnitude better than their predecessors.