November 30, 2007

Cross-Platform File Synchronization Software Needed

This is a bit of a lazyweb request, hoping that someone out there has already cracked this nut and is willing to tell me what they learned.

I've been using FolderShare, which was bought by Microsoft a few years ago, to keep a set of files in sync between my desktop and my notebook computer. Both run Windows.

But I'd like to do two additional things, both of which make FolderShare problematic:

  1. Sync a much larger tree of folders. This is where I run into FolderShare's 10,000 files per "collection" limit. That's becoming a show-stopper for me.
  2. Include a Linux client in the mix, if at all possible.

Ideally, I'd like a similar "set it and forget it" tool that just runs in the background, does the Right Thing in most cases, and which is intelligent about recognizing those times when both computers are on the same LAN (and therefore can sync very quickly peer-to-peer without a server in the middle).

Looking at the options out there, I've seen two credible solutions, both of which have annoying aspects.


A lot of folks consider BeInSync a sort of FolderShare on steroids. But it seems to require that all of my data be synced to one of their servers out in the cloud. I'm not sure I like that. I already have Mozy doing that on my laptop for backup purposes. I wonder if someone could build a tool that works with Mozy to accomplish what I need. Hmm.

Secondly, BeInSync isn't cross-platform, so it's not going to help with my goal of including a Linux host.


It looks like PowerFolder may do more of what I want. It seems to be a form of Open Source Crippleware and that bugs me a little bit too.

On the plus side, it's written in Java and is therefore cross-platform. It also has pre-build synchronization profiles that seem built to solve most of the common cases.


I'm a bit hesitant to build my own thing using cygwin, rsync, and whatever else I'd need to string together. Inevitably it'd require a server out there to be involved. That's okay, since it'd be my own server, but I have that nagging feeling that this is already a largely solved problem.

Have you managed to solve this problem? If so, how?

Posted by jzawodn at 08:55 AM

November 27, 2007

Asynchronous Gmail Bugs Me

The recent upgrades to the Gmail interface are, in general, okay by me. They haven't changed much of anything that I really care about too much. But there were some under-the-hood changes made to presumably make Gmail feel faster. One of them has managed to piss me off on a semi-regular basis.

I end up seeing that about 20% of the time when I go to close my Gmail tab. And that just annoys me. I feel like this effort to focus on perceived responsiveness has actually slowed down the system overall and I end up paying the price when I'm trying to get in and back out of my mailbox quickly.

Am I alone in this?

Posted by jzawodn at 02:58 PM

November 26, 2007

Translations of my blog posts available...

This is a bit of site news, which really doesn't happen a lot around here. File this in the "meta" category, I guess.

My blog is now available in numerous non-English languages thanks to the folks at TechCzar. They approached me a couple months ago about a partnership that'd provide content from my blog in other languages as part of their blog network. In return for that, I've added a banner to the top of the site that contains several links to TechCzar along with national flags that link to the translated content.

techczar screenshot

I have committed to try this out for a few months, so I'd love to hear your feedback if you'd rather read my site in a language other than English. Either drop a comment on this post, or email me.

I will also mention the translated content and TechCzar in general a couple times a month, much like other blogs thank their sponsors from time to time.

Just to be clear, they're getting exclusive access to translate my content and host the translated copy on their site. They're also getting links to that from my site (in the form of that new header). I'm getting exposure to more potential readers for the stuff I write and a bit of extra cash each month.

The original version of all my content stays right here on as you'd might expect.

Now back to your regularly scheduled geeking...

Posted by jzawodn at 10:15 PM

Flying the Cessna 182 Skylane: My Checkout Story

A couple months ago, we bought a 1979 Cessna 182Q (N601SF) that's currently sitting in Michigan. It's been having a bit of work and upgrades performed, and that's a good thing on several levels. We've been so busy that I haven't had the time to go pick it up (and by "pick it up" I mean "fly it back to California") or even fly one locally to get the hang of it.


Unlike the Citabria I fly, the Cessna 182 "Skylane" is bigger, faster, and more complicated. It has a 230 horsepower engine, 4 seats, flaps, a constant speed propeller, and a much more populated instrument panel. Oh, and it has the little wheel on the nose, too.

N601SF Panel (left)

The original plan was for me to fly out with an instructor and bring the airplane back, while getting 182 experience and my insurance requirements along the way--much like I did for bringing Citabria N5156X back to California in April of 2006.

However, scheduling problems have conspired against that, so I went with the backup plan: getting checked out locally in a 182 and taking a more experienced pilot to make the journey with me--someone with an instrument rating, just in case we need it (this time of year, odds are that we will).

Since I have over 100 hours of tailwheel time already, the insurance company only requires that I get 4 hours of dual time (instruction) in a 182 before they're willing to insure me. That shocked me at first, but by the time I had a few hours in the airplane I began to understand why: it's pretty easy to fly.

Overall Checkout

In looking at the local options, I found that Shoreline Flying Club, based at KPAO in Palo Alto, was my best option. They had a 1980 Cessna 182 (N5302N) on the line, have no monthly dues, an no initiation fee. Granted, the avionics are different, but the airplane and engine were virtually identical to the 1979 model that we'd purchased.

N5302N at Palo Alto

I scheduled several hours on both Sunday and Monday of last week to fly with William Hightower. When we first met, I explained my background and experience a bit, and then told him that my main concern was learning how to takeoff and land the 182. I reasoned that I could figure most everything else out along the way.

He agreed and we planned to fly on Sunday from Palo Alto airport down to Hollister airport so that I could get some practice on a big runway at a familiar and relatively quite airport. That'd let me focus on the airplane and not dealing with tons of other planes and/or controllers.

I spent most of the fight down there understanding how to trim the airplane and getting a sense of what it feels/sounds like at various power settings and whatnot. Down at the airport, we shot about seven full stop landings in the light crosswind on runway 31 before returning back to Palo Alto under a 1,500 foot cloud layer.

Much to my surprise, I was already fairly comfortable in the airplane after about 2.4 hours behind the controls.

Heading Back to Palo Alto...

On Monday we did basically the same thing, but we headed to South County airport instead. There we experimented more with landings in different flap settings--everything from zero flaps to the full 40 degree flaps (that was fun!). I also performed a simulated engine-out landing and a soft field takeoff. On the way home I got to play with the simple auto pilot a bit as well.

We ended the day with another 1.8 hours of time logged, enough to make me and the insurance company comfortable with my ability to keep from doing anything too stupid in the 182.

On both days, we did some other air work on the way to/from our destination. That included turns, stalls, slow flight, and the usual stuff one would expect in a new aircraft checkout.

Here are thoughts on a few specific aspects of the checkout that I was concerned about.


For some reason, I figured that flying with flaps would be more complicated that I thought. In reality, however, it was not a big deal at all. In the 182 it seems like flying the takeoff with 20 degrees is almost always ideal, and landing with either 20 or 30 degrees works well unless you're in unusual circumstances.

Beyond the few minutes near the ground, I never had to think about the flaps. I did manage to forget to retract them to extend my glide during a simulated engine-out landing, but that's the only time they managed to surprise me. Given a good checklist for takeoff and landing (which I have), I don't really anticipate any problems.

I must say, landing with FULL FLAPS the first time is quite an experience. :-)

Constant Speed Propeller

My biggest concern was the extra workload associated with having a constant speed propeller. For whatever reason, the various material I'd read beforehand made it all sound far more complicated than what it really is.

The bottom line is that I don't have to think much about touching the prop control until we're safely away from the airport and getting into cruise mode. And then, like the flaps, I don't have to worry about it again (during normal operations) until entering the landing pattern when I'd start to reduce power, slow down, and so on.


Knowing that this particular airplane had mostly original equipment, meant that I could test out the simple Cessna 300A "Navomatic" autopilot. That's exactly what N601SF has too.

On one flight, I set the heading bug on the direction gyro to something about 15 degrees off our current heading made sure that the HDS SEL button was pushed, and turned the autopilot on. As if by magic, the airplane turned to that heading and then flew wings level (minus a small rudder trim problem) on course without me having to touch anything.

That's pretty cool. I can definitely see how this is going to be useful on longer flights now. Even without the altitude hold feature that fancier S-TEC autopilots have, it means you can fly mostly hands-free for a good stretch.

N5302N Panel


I no longer think the insurance companies are crazy for requiring so little time to fly a Cessna 182. And if you happen to be in the Bay Area looking for a smaller flying club with no dues and a good selection of airplanes, checkout Shoreline Flying Club.

Posted by jzawodn at 12:53 PM

November 16, 2007

DiggKiller Considered Harmful

It seems that I have a real weakness for addictive and somewhat mindless Flash games. You may recall Desktop Tower Defense Considered Harmful from earlier this year. I spent countless hours playing that stupid little game. It was a ton of fun. :-)

My latest addiction is the even less complicated DiggKiller. I haven't yet won the game, partly because it requires the caps lock key (which is re-mapped to control key on my keyboard), but that doesn't stop me from trying. Every time I find myself wanting to take a break from work or whatever, I instinctively fire up DiggKiller and play a round.

The best part of the game is that I can kind of, sort of, maybe justify talking about it in a work context. You see, it's not only a great use of the Digg API, the author Kurt Margenau, has provided the source code under a Creative Commons License.

So not only can you get hooked on an addictive little game, you can use it to learn about the Digg API, Flash programming, and even add your own tweaks and improvements.

But as with Desktop Tower Defense, exercise extreme caution. All of your "spare" time is on the line! :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 08:26 AM

November 15, 2007

Defrag and Fragmented Services: My Defrag 2007 Talk & Some Videos

Last week, in At Defrag Conference, I wondered a bit about what I'd discuss in my presentation.

And I think that from there I can talk about the socialization of the Internet and tools/sites we use every day. But I can also go in a slightly different way, talking about the "internet-based tools" and "transform loads of information into knowledge", and how we (Yahoo) can be suppliers of technology and services at many points in that chain.

It turns out that I ended up doing something closer to the later of those two. The video from my talk is now available via YDN Theather and I'm pretty happy with how it came out--especially when you consider the uncertainty over what people at the conference would want to hear, the fact that I was right before lunch, and the fact that I'd never done this talk before.

download (m4v)

I even managed to mostly stay within the alloted time.

There really isn't a strong message or conclusion other than "things are still in progress and not all sorted out yet", but that's pretty consistent with the discussions at the conference.

We shot a few other videos at Defrag too.

  • Dick Hardt of Sxip on Perl, Mozilla, Open Source, Identity, and more...
  • Phil Windley on government, information technology, on-line marketing, identity, and more...

A couple more will be online soon.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:58 AM

How not to catch the early flight...

I'm supposed to be on my way to Atlanta right now for a quick visit to ApacheCon. I'm not speaking or anything, but I was planning to see what's going on in the Hadoop world and maybe catch a few people for video interviews, just like we did at Defrag a week ago.

My flight was set to depart at 6:00am from San Francisco airport today (Thursday). So I thought about what to do last night. I could either pack and get ready before taking a roughly 2 hour nap. I'd want to leave the house at about 3:45am for the 1 hour drive plus parking & shuttle time. That'd get me to the terminal at about 5:00am, leaving me time to check a bag or two (video gear), get through security, and find my gate.

The other option was to simply stay up all night, follow the above procedure, and plan to sleep for the bulk of the 5 hour flight to Atlanta.

Unfortunately, neither happened.

At about 11:30pm last night, I was waiting for a load of laundry to finish and decided to put the laptop down so that I could spend some quality time with the cats. I sort of half laid down on the couch to pet two of them, hoping that the laundry would be done soon. I was starting to feel like that nap would be a good idea.

The next thing I knew, I was waking up on the couch. And it was light outside.


It was a bit after 8:30am. The cats were still sleeping next to me, of course.

A quick scan of the airline schedule revealed pretty much what I expected after my heart stopped pounding: if I flew out today, I'd practically have to get right back on the next return flight and spend almost no time at the show.


So my lesson of the day is simple: don't book the 6:00am flight out of SFO again. I'm not 23 years old anymore. My body actually likes to sleep. In retrospect, my reasons for not flying out last night weren't nearly as solid as I thought. I wish I'd known.

On the plus side, I'll have a bit more time than anticipated to work on some things that I'm rather behind on.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:30 AM

November 14, 2007

Announcing the YDN Hadoop & Distributed Computing blog

hadoop Ever sine I wrote Open Source Distributed Computing: Yahoo's Hadoop Support back in July, interest in Hadoop and Yahoo's work has been on the rise. So I started to get to know the Hadoop team at Yahoo a bit better and help them figure out how to tell more of the story.

We decided that it'd make sense to have a new blog on the Yahoo! Developer Network where we can collect & post news, tips, announcements, videos, and anything else related to Hadoop and distributed computing work.

To kick off the blog, which we're calling Hadoop and Distributed Computing at Yahoo!, I sat down with Eric Baldeschwieler ("Eric14") to do a video interview about Hadoop and Yahoo's involvement.

download video

The more I dig into Hadoop the other projects emerging around it, the more I'm reminded of the early days of MySQL and the maturing of the LAMP stack. It's an exciting time to get involved. You can expect to hear more from me on this topic, both here and on the YDN Hadoop blog.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:31 AM

November 06, 2007

Yahoo! Developer Network Theater Launched

One of the projects I've been part of has launched this week. We're calling it YDN Theater, and it's a blog that collects all the videos we're filming for the Yahoo! Developer Network. We're creating videos of stuff that we hope is interesting to a wide audience of developers and technologists and making it available in Quicktime, Flash (via Yahoo! Video), and on iTunes.

Some of the videos are of people who present at Yahoo and another set is video of talks that Yahoos give at technical conferences around the world. I'm also making an effort to grab famous folks at conferences and get them to talk about things too. We shot a few at Defrag in Denver this week.

We're also introducing a few shows to the lineup. I'm doing one called Experts@Work that came out of the realization that we have a ton of experts in a wide variety of technical fields at Yahoo! If only someone could get them on camera for a 15-45 minute discussion, we could probably uncover some very interesting stuff...

Well, that's what I'm doing. :-)

Here's the first video in the series. I sat down with Steve Souders (author of High Performance Web Sites and co-creator of YSlow) as a sort of follow-up to the YSlow screencast and interview that I made with him a few month back.

Needless to say, there's a growing list of folks on our interview wishlist. If you know of a Yahoo you'd like to see on camera talking about what they know best, drop me a line. (And if you're a Yahoo reading this, feel free to nominate yourself or a coworker.)

None of this would be possible without the expertise and skill of Ricky Montalvo (our video producer, editor, and guru) and Matt McAlister (our ring leader). Matt encouraged this at every step of the way and talks more about Investing in video at YDN on his blog as well.

I tell ya, this video stuff is kind of fun. Look for lots more from us in 2008. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 09:50 PM

November 05, 2007

At Defrag Conference

I'm Ligit! I'm out in Denver for the Defrag Conference that Eric and crew put together. Today was pretty interesting. I had a chance to meet up with a few folks I don't get to see as often as I used to. But more importantly, I met many new folks who are sure to be part of tomorrow's interesting discussions.

I'm at a bit of a loss right now. I have a speaking slot at 11:30am on Tuesday (agenda) and am still trying to figure out what to talk about. Coming out here, I thought about it and had some ideas. But looking at what the conference talk has all been about, I'm less convinced that I'm on the right track. I have two directions I can run in with it now and need to sort that out.

The first bit of text on the about page is this:

Defrag is the first conference focused solely on the internet-based tools that transform loads of information into layers of knowledge, and accelerate the “aha” moment.

And I think that from there I can talk about the socialization of the Internet and tools/sites we use every day. But I can also go in a slightly different way, talking about the "internet-based tools" and "transform loads of information into knowledge", and how we (Yahoo) can be suppliers of technology and services at many points in that chain.

Or maybe something in between. I'm just not sure yet.

Any ideas?

Posted by jzawodn at 06:54 PM

November 01, 2007

Tostitos with Hint of Lime: Yummy Tortilla Chips!

We were at the store the other day and decided to get some more chips for the occasional chips & salsa snack. We spied something that neither of us had seen before: Tostitos with Hint of Lime.

tostitos with hint of lime

There's nothing wrong with a bit of lime, we figured. So we picked up a bag.

Kathleen had some the other night and really liked 'em. I had one during lunch yesterday and found myself needing to hit the bag myself to grab a handful. They're really good. Almost addictively good.

The lime flavoring is clear but not over-powering. They're sweet and salty at the same time. And, best of all, they're so good that you can chow on a pile without even bothering to get out the salsa (not that it'd hurt to add some).

If you're a fan of tortilla chips, I highly recommend picking up a bag. You might be surprised.

Update: A few people have pointed out that they get some of that flavor from MSG. That unfortunately explains the minor headache I got last night after eating a few more of them. *sigh* :-(

Posted by jzawodn at 07:55 AM