Scheduling with Tungle

Tungle.me is a great new service that’s making some big waves.  It is a scheduling application that integrates with your calendar (I’m using it very successfully with Google calendar).  It allows you to invite a group of people to schedule a mutually agreeable time for a meeting or appointment (while automatically handling timezones), so no more emails back and forth about “When are you available? I’m available…”.  It also allows you to mark times that you are ‘generally available’ and people can just visit your Tungle page and schedule a meeting with you (which can be a little weird, but kinda cool).  My page is: http://tungle.me/drewblas .

They’ve started a contest, and I love me a free t-shirt, so here’s my answers:

  1. What made you decide to start Tungling? My friend Chris had the link in his e-mail signature and I was hooked.
  2. What’s one thing we do better than any other productivity app out there?  I’d like to see a ‘buffer’ option to avoid getting things scheduled too close together.  An Android app would be awesome.  And more options/transparency for choosing a time when you have a lot of people invited.
  3. What’s one thing we could do to create a better experience for you? Keep up with lots of new features.  The invite “wizard” gets in my way too much.
  4. Do you refer Tungle.me to others?  If yes, why? Yes, the link is going in my sig soon.
  5. What would you Google to find an app like Tungle.me?  Easy meeting scheduler

Finally, their support is awesome.  I got a custom email from the founders after signing up and very quick responses to my questions.  I hope they keep the personalized service going!

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Presenting gem_cloner

Besides being a Ruby/Rails/Merb developer, I’m also a part-time sysadmin for a number of previous clients.  Usually I’m responsible for maintaining Rails stacks, either for apps that I’ve written or just for another developer that doesn’t have as much Linux experience.

Lately, I’ve had to do a move of a number of Rails installations to completely new/clean servers.  I’ve got lots of scripts for doing initial setups of the stack as they need to be.  But one thing that comes up is that, especially with older apps, the gem dependencies can be very finicky.  Installing the latest versions will almost certainly break something.  Plus some times the system can have quite an extensive list.

Yes, I know that the gems should be packaged with the app, but there are a lot of reasons that it doesn’t always happen or doesn’t always work.  To that end, I’ve found the most effective method is just to re-install the exact same set of gems on the new box as the old one.  To automate this process, I present: gem_cloner.

gem_cloner is a very tiny but useful script that will take the text output of `gem list`from one machine and execute the `gem install` command on the new machine.  Usage is very simple:

  1. On the old machine, run `gem list > gems.txt`
  2. Copy gems.txt to the new machine.
  3. Copy the gem_cloner.rb file to the same place
  4. With sudo or as root, run `ruby gem_cloner.rb`

The script will read that file and install the exact same gem versions.  You’ll definitely want to browse and tweak the script.  Possibly by adding ‘sudo‘ in the command call or adding ‘–no-rdoc –no-ri‘ (I personally use a gemrc to eliminate the doc files on production systems).

Fork, patch, & praise ad nauseum on github and drop me a line if you like it.

Help me out, Pragmatic!

I’m an avid Pragmatic Bookshelf reader.  I probably own 30%-40% of their book titles.  The writing is always great, editing is even better, and they’re often the first to print on some great up-and-coming topics.

I saw recently that they are offering ‘Friday-series’ PDF books for $9 and I found one on using memcached that I decided to buy.  I’m pretty good with memcached and use it quite regularly, but there are always new things to learn and I figured this would make a great reference if nothing else.  I also thought it would make for great reading on the plane trip during my upcoming trip to RailsConf (call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather carry the physical version rather than read it off my laptop, especially while traveling).

I purchased the PDF, downloaded it, and when I went to print it I found that the background of every page is tan!  I bought it with the specific purpose of printing, but that’s a waste of a LOT of ink to print a solid background on every page.  I went through a very lengthy process to try and fix this so I could have a nice hard-copy:

  1. Adobe Professional has a great accessibility tool that will re-color the background.  It worked perfectly to remove the background and leave the rest of the document intact.  Unfortunately, despite what the print-preview shows, the pages still print with the tan background.
  2. Adobe Pro also has a tool called ‘Remove background’ but it only works on backgrounds added by Adobe Pro.  Not the case with this PDF, so that doesn’t work.
  3. I searched the web for removing backgrounds from PDFs but found very little.  I tried xpdf but it couldn’t handle this file and any watermark removal tools I found were sub-par.
  4. I e-mailed Pragmatic asking if there was any way of getting a white-background version.  Obviously a long shot, but I figured I had to at least ask.  To their credit, I received a response from Dave Thomas in a matter of minutes.  This is what he had to say:

To be honest, the Friday’s are really not formatted for printing in many different ways–the font is optimized for screen viewing, and there’s tons of white space. It never really occurred to us that someone would print one.

Really, I have no problem with the font or the white space, but I found it VERY surprising that it never occurred to them that someone would print one.  I could have sworn that the purpose of a PDF was to provide a format that would display and print consistently across platforms.  To be honest, I can’t find a PDF I’ve bought that I haven’t printed.   Thankfully Peepcode PDFs (which I own almost all of) are B&W and print terrifically.

In the end, I printed it with the tan background and I’m thankful I ordered new ink cartridges last week that should be arriving very soon.  Hopefully, the Pragmatic guys will think twice about a colored background with their future PDFs.

Why I switched from Mozy to Carbonite

I’ve been using Mozy for my personal backup solution for nearly a year and a half. It is a great service that basically relieved me from ever worrying about my backups. It is a great service, but lately it has really gone down hill.

Starting about six months ago, I started having trouble where Mozy would just fail to backup for several days at a time. I’d get a message that it had been 3 or more days since the last successful backup. I’d have to manually start a bac kup several times before it would actually upload some files. After contacting Mozy support, it appeared that their latest auto-update had failed and my configuration and whatnot was corrupt. After a total uninstall, reinstall, and complete re-upload of all my data, things went back to normal for awhile.

Recently, I’ve been having a new problem. Whenever I would use Windows explorer, and would try to cut/copy/paste files around my hard drive, explorer.exe would crash. One day, while cleaning out files, I had at least 20 crashes in an hour. When I dug deeper I found the crash to be caused by mozy.dll. This time, a complete uninstall/reinstall didn’t fix the problem.

The straw that broke the camel’s back is when I opened the mozy status app and discovered that my backups were almost a month behind! And I wasn’t even getting notified that my backups had failed! Obviously, this is no longer worry free.

Switching to SugarSync
I happened to get my hands on an invite to SugarSync, so I decided to give that a try. It sounded like it would the answer to all my needs. Not only would it automatically backup all my files, but I could also sync between several computers (a function previously filled by FolderShare). Unfortunately, after trying it out for a few days I discovered two major issues:

  1. Files would fail to upload / sync regularly. I’d have to wait days for a file that I created on my desktop to show up on my laptop. That doesn’t bode well for the backups either.
  2. Many files would have issues with read locks. I’d constantly get error messages from files that were being updated but were still open (specifically: Quickbooks files & KeePass files). Both programs create temp lock files and keep the databases locked open while in use. SugarSync just couldn’t handle this and I was extremely worried about data corruption.

Switching to Carbonite
After about two months of these issues, I decided to try Carbonite. I switched my syncing back to Foldershare and installed the client. So far it has been terrific. I’ve got a laundry list of great pros:

  1. It has no problem handling locked open files
  2. It’s fast (uploads much faster than Mozy or SugarSync)
  3. It uploads changed files almost instantly (it doesn’t even seem to wait until night-time or anything)
  4. It has explorer integration to quickly decide what to backup (Mozy has integration for restoring, but backup/status)
  5. Best of all: It adds little dots to backed up folders in explorer. Yellow dots: files not yet backed up. Green dots: Everything a-ok.

The price is comparable to Mozy and I think will be worth every cent. Here’s to Carbonite!



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