iPod or Zune

Last week Scoble posted an interesting item comparing the iPod to the Microsoft Zune.

Subsequent to that David Caulton, who works on the Zune posted a response countering many of the points that Scoble raised.

However, what struck me as interesting is that the points that aren’t countered are the cool factor, nor the iTunes lock-in – something that all the competition in the marketplace has to try to beat, and has so far failed to do so.

Whilst I’ve seen various other geeks with different sorts of MP3 players, Scoble is absolutely right, for the kids we know in the UK it has to be an iPod too. He’s also correct that they’ve bought a lot of songs from the iTunes Store. Even if any of the competition produce a better player than the iPod (and indeed they have), the fact that it isn’t an iPod, and isn’t compatible with all the songs they’ve bought means that I doubt it will come close to knocking the iPod off the top spot.

Backing Up

Terastation

Over time, as the volume of data we’ve got sitting around has built up, the prospect of what would happen were a hard drive to go wrong has become more and more of an issue. Whilst we could reinstall software, loosing things like our digital pictures is a lot more of an issue.

For a while I’ve been picking up external hard drives, which are okay, but what I really needed was something big that could take backups of everything. After searching around, I looked at building my own network attached server using an old PC, but price wise it seemed better to go for something built for the job as I’d have to spend a bit of money bringing an old PC up to a suitable spec. I eventually went for the Buffalo Terastation, a unit that contains four separate 250Gb hard drives, which can be configured in a number of ways. Out of the box it is set up in a single 750Gb RAID-5 array – which balances size over security – in theory were one of the four drives to fail and have to be replaced, the unit would be able to rebuild the missing data automatically from the remaining three drives. On paper the unit also supports both the PC’s and the Mac, offering Windows networking, FTP and also AppleTalk. The only major standard it doesn’t support is NFS.

The unit actually arrived a couple of weeks ago, however one problem I quickly discovered is that whilst it isn’t particularly noisy, it does vibrate, more annoyingly the vibration level varies in a regular cycle which at certain frequencies resonates the floorboards in the house. This means that whilst it is relatively quiet in the room upstairs, downstairs it is much more audible. I’ve paid a visit to QuietPC and it’s slightly better, but I’m still not leaving the unit on unless I’m backing up to it.

Today I started on the backups. On the PC I’m using Acronis True Image, as they have finally added support for XP64 to their home product. The problems I’ve run into with the Mac side though are down to combinations of limitations with the hardware and the software. I’ve had a copy of Superduper for a while, and it’s a nice little bit of software for backing up hard drives, with some nice features. However when it comes to backing up to a network drive, the suggested solution is a big problem – using a mountable disk image.

Looking at the Terastation there are two choices for mounting a share up on the Mac, using the Windows networking, or AppleTalk. In terms of speed, AppleTalk is by far the best, however it has a major limitation – the maximum file size is 2Gb. Now I don’t have any 2Gb files sitting around, so all would be fine if Superduper would do a straight backup, but it won’t. As it is creating a drive image, this is going to end up as over 2Gb, so it’s back to the much slower Windows networking implementation. It is worth noting that Apple only really retain AppleTalk for backwards compatibility, their favoured option being NFS – indeed a read of their Windows Compatibility document finds them recommending using AppleTalk and NFS over Windows networking for home directories. The other way around the problem may be to use FTP instead – create the backup image and FTP it across. Some further experimentation is called for methinks.

Mac Expo 2006

So after the stress of earlier in the week, we took a nice outing to the annual feast of Mac and iPod that is the Mac Expo, which thanks to our free tickets that I picked up two months ago only cost us the train fare (a lot less than the £24 it would have cost us both to go in normally).

Google Stand

The exhibition was in the same place as last year, Kensington Olympia in London. There was an interesting selection of exhibitors with big stands from HP, Quark, Adobe and Wacom, a big stand from Google who were new for this year, but no presence this year from Microsoft. Apple again had the largest stand, but had noticeably changed the balance, with a lot fewer machines to play with in favour of a larger space for the theatre area where they gave regular demonstration throughout the day.

Podcasting seemed to be a definite theme with a number of people circulating round with digital recorders interviewing people on the stands, and Apple themselves majoring on the podcasting features in their software. They even had the Capital Radio Routemaster bus inside the hall which was being used to record regular podcasts throughout the event.

iMac Range

As in previous years the iMac was much in evidence, being the demonstration machine of choice across the show, with the majority being the latest Intel models, and only one of the original G3 and one G4 in evidence. Apple had their full current range, right up to the 24 inch monster – which on it’s own didn’t seem that big, until you compared it with the smaller models alongside. At the other end of the size spectrum was the MacBook which was being shown in both black and white guises, has a great screen, and is significantly smaller than I was expecting. Whilst it definitely seemed quite attractive, with the recent news that the Intel Core Duo 2 has gone into the MacBook Pro, I’m tempted to wait and see if the same processor makes it into the MacBooks too.

Anyway, despite some temptations, and the usual selection of show special offers, we managed to make it out without spending vast sums of money, needless to say there may come a Macbook or 24 inch iMac discussion at sometime soon… 😀

Phew!

So after the nightmare at the beginning of the week, Richard Worth have really pulled all the stops out. Within 48 hours we’d had three viewings and two offers. Although there were another couple of viewings lined up at the weekend, one of the offers was from a first time buyer, with a mortgage arranged, and went straight in at the asking price, on condition that we immediately withdraw the property from the market, which we were happy to do. Apparently they’d had two previous purchases fall through, so were keen not to mess around. Hopefully things won’t be pushed back too far – Beth has said that even if we have to have Christmas surrounded by boxes she wants to get in by then!