Nifty Breakthrough for USB Flash Drives

I accidentally discovered a new breakthrough in USB thumbdrive technology from Crucial memory. I was ordering some memory from them and they had an offer for a free 1GB Gizmo Jr drive. I wasn't really interested because most 1GB drives have dropped so far in price that they are practically "disposable". What did I need another thumbdrive for? We have a box full of them that we hand out when someone needs one.

Well, once the package arrived, I was stunned to find...

Dell Bluetooth Mouse Headache

So I pick up a nice new bluetooth keyboard and mouse combo for a client whilst ordering a laptop from Dell. The keyboard would sync right up (after entering the prompted for bluetooth pass code), but I couldn't get the mouse to sync. I checked the documentation and the latest on the Dell site for those devices, but it said nothing about being prompted for a passcode for the mouse. It turns out that you need to enter 0000 for the passcode, then the mouse will sync up. Sheesh. For reference, this is for P/N 810-000264 and it also shows a D P/N of UN733.

VirtualBox

I've been a big fan of virtualization for a few years, especially after VMWARE released their Server product for free. I've used it on several projects for things like software development, software testing, OS testing, and "trial runs" for new product testing. I haven't really liked Microsoft's Virutal PC product, mostly because of the restrictions they had on it early on.

These days, virtualization is really taking off. I think this is largely because the virtualization products and commodity hardware are catching up with the hype. With disk, processor, and memory as cheap as it is, you can build several screaming fast, isolated, virtual servers running foreign OSes on one physical server for less than you'd think.

Always looking for something newer and "free-er", I decided to give innotek's (http://www.virtualbox.org) VirtualBox a try. An open source version is available, but you have to go with binaries if you want some of the special new features such as the RDP server.

I went with the binaries because the project I'm working on was to find a way to allow remote access to Quickbooks without installing a Windows Server Terminal Server or another PC by better utilizing an existing Ubuntu server running SAMBA. The binaries provided for RDP access without having to allow it from XP.

I figured if I could use the Ubuntu server to run a virtual XP box, I could provide a single remote user with access to the local network, QB running natively, and allow it to connect to the current QB database server running on an XP workstation. If that worked, I could try to switch the database to run on the virtual box itself and get the data back on the server where it belongs and like it was before the client upgraded to QB 2007 (which required the data be on the local disk of a QB-database-server-capable XP box).

If this works, the cost to the client will be for one license for XP or about $140. This will save them about $500 for a dedicated XP box with remote control (plus the power to run it 24x7 for the occassional use it might get from the remote user) or even $2000 for a system and software to run Windows Server with Terminal Server for 5 users, given that architectually they really want to move the database off an XP box and onto a real server.

So, here's my process...

Setting Up Ubuntu for Kernel or Module Compiling

When you want to build your own kernel or some new modules from source, you need to get the source tree setup properly. Here's how...

AT&T Offers Free Wi Fi Hotspots to DSL Subscribers

AT&T is now offering free wifi wireless access throughout the US, if you are an AT&T DSL subscriber. For more information, see http://www.att.com/gen/general?pid=5949 Access is available at over 17,000 locations in the US (including participating Starbucks and McDonalds) and is included with your DSL plan, if you have anything faster than BASIC service (768k).

Polycom VSX 5000 Video Conference Device

I'm working on a video conferencing project for a client that does work in India. We wanted to set up a video link between the USA and India that would allow weekly status meetings and to help build relationships between staff in both countries. After looking at various solutions from PCs with Webcams to very high end systems, we ended up picking up some used Polycom VSX 5000 Video Conference devices (1 for each end) and hooking them up to a 40" Samsung 720p LCD TV in the USA and a 22" Samsung LCD monitor in India.

Drupal Cron.php Failure After Upgrade

I had a problem with cron not running after upgrading from 4.7 to 6.2 (with a hop thru 5.x). The log kept showing the error "Cron run exceeded the time limit and was aborted.". I could kick off the cron.php script, but it would always come right back with the error.

I checked php.ini it allowed longer running scripts, so the error was spurious.

New Website Updates

I upgraded to the latest version of Drupal and installed a nifty new theme. Let me know if you have any problems or see any errors.

100 Years of Converse

The Grand Rapids Press had a nice article on the 100th anniversary of Converse.

I love Converse! (I have 4 pair, but my immediate family has about 10 pair.)

Outook 2003 Hangs During Shutdown

I had several users, including me, having problems with Outlook not shutting down. Many copies would be left running. This used up a lot of memory and would result in messages not being delivered as Outlook fought with itself and wouldn't get or send messages, until all but one copy was running.

Most of the time, when I restarted Outlook, it would force a repair of the Outlook PST.

The reason for the hang was pretty simple, but it took several days of debugging to find it...

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