g4u and Virtualization

A quick note about g4u – g4u (Ghost for you) is a hard disk imaging tool similar to Norton Ghost, but without the cost. g4u allows you to image hard disks to both files and physical media. This can be accomplished within a physical machine, a virtual machine, or by using an FTP server on either of the two.

9 Great, Free Applications that Work with Vista

This is a list of my favorite Windows applications that I honestly couldn’t live without that also work on Microsoft Windows Vista RC as well, much to my surprise. All of the software is free to download and use, and in fact most of them are open source.

ConTEXT – ConTEXT is a free and lightweight editor for programming or can be used as a notepad replacement. ConTEXT supports find and replace in multiple files at once so changing one method in loads of files is no longer an issue. Works in Vista with no problems whatsoever.

Synergy – Synergy is like a software KVM, but only shares keyboard and mouse capabilities. Synergy is multiplatform, and I currently use it to have my keyboard and mouse work in Ubuntu, Vista, and my Mac Mini running Leopard with no problem at all! This way I get to use my favorite keyboard and mouse and get to free up some space on my desk at the same time.

VLC – VLC has been my favorite media player for years now. VLC comes with most of the codecs you will need to watch videos on your PC already. VLC is very lightweight, and JUST WORKS, something that can’t be said about many media players. The only issue with VLC in Vista is that it turns Aero Glass off while it is playing.

FileZilla – I use FileZilla to interface with clients that still haven’t moved to SCP. FileZilla is an open source FTP client that gets the job done, supporting drag and drop, SSL, and NAT to NAT connections. The only thing it is missing is FXP support, but that’s not really a big deal in my case. Works fine in Vista with no problems at all.

IMGBurn – I love IMGBurn. This is hands-down the easiest way to burn .IMG, .ISO and BIN/CUE disk images to backup CDs or DVDs. Free, open source, and awesome. Works a treat in Microsoft Vista Beta 2 as well.

WinSnap – I use WinSnap to make many of the screen shots you see on blandname. WinSnap supports full screen and windowed screen shots, and also allows for rotation and drop shadows if you feel the need.

Electric Sheep – I often refer to Electric Sheep as “the best screensaver ever”, but truth be told, it’s really a collection of computer-generated screensavers that allow users to vote on them using a Digg-like system. On Windows, Electric Sheep uses bit torrent to transfer the sheep data. Again, working just fine in Vista!

Xming – Xming is my prefered interface to remote Linux boxes. Xming is for Linux what RDP is for Windows – you get a local X server and acceleration that displays data from remote applications running on Linux machines. Tested more than a few times to a remote Ubuntu computer, and one Gentoo box with no caveats.

WinSCP3 – SCP is now my preferred file transfer method. Luckily my favorite client also works on Vista, or I may not have used it at all. Much like FileZilla, WinSCP3 has a very simple, streamlined interface that is feature-rich and gets the job done, even on Vista.

So there you have it: 9 free applications I couldn’t live without that work just fine on Vista, and make it easy for me to do my day-to-day tasks. Hopefully someday this list will include F-Spot and Amarok, but I’m happy with this as a start considering neither of them work on Windows XP SP2 either!

Copy Files From a Mac to Windows Using SCP

Whenever you start adding funny-flavored operating systems to a network, you eventually run into filesharing problems. Even if you only have a few machines, coming to a consensus on how to get files from point A to B can be quite taxing – especially if there’s work to be done.

Over the years I’ve tried FTP, Samba, NFS and a host of others. When configured well they work like a charm. However, when a new node joins the network (that shiny new Mac Pro of yours), things need to be reconfigured and can generally be a royal pain that´s why i always chose the best web hosting.

That has changed, though. We now have an acceptable solution that is free, easy to use and above all, secure. Introducing… SCP.

SCP has been around for a while now, and is gaining quite a bit of traction in the hosting world where it is (albeit slowly) starting to replace FTP for upload and download tasks. SCP stand for Secure Copy (CP being Copy on *nix variants). SCP works a lot like FTP in that you require an address to connect to, a username (login) and a password (we won’t get into stored keys today).

Now that we’ve decided what to try in our ad hoc network, how do we set it up? If you’re blessed with any variant of Linux or Unix, the work has been done for you already – the tools come with the operating system, and are generally found under the network tools in your fancy menus.

Fugu on OS X Server

It’s a different story on Apple Macs and PCs, though. For example, Tiger comes with an SCP server, but no client. Right, about the Mac server. In order to activate it in Panther, Tiger and even Leopard, head on over to the System Preferences pane, and choose the Sharing applet (the folder with the caution sign on it). Once it has opened, check the Remote Login checkbox. This will enable SSH, and in turn, SCP. We’re halfway there. You can connect to an SCP server by using the Terminal on a Mac, but from what I can tell most Mac users are frightfully scared of it. But that gives me the oppurtunity to tell you about one of my favorite applications – Fugu (japanese for blowfish – and sporting a suitably cute icon to boot). Fugu allows you to connect to an SCP server to both download and upload files. Fugu is quite easy to use, so we won’t get into that, but will save it for another time if need be (just like stored keys). Oh, and as the screenshot shows you, it works with Mac OS X Server 10.4.7 too! (as well as Leopard)

WinSCP Screenshot

In the PC world, WinSCP is Fugu’s sibling. You get an extremly easy to use interface, complete with drag and drop. Installation is a breeze, and best of all it’s free as in both beer and speech. Just like those soapbox ramblers. Getting a Windows SCP server is a bit more difficult, but currently exists in the form of BitVise WinSSHD. WinSSHD is slightly complicated, but most of the configuration is done during the installation procedure. They supply you with the needed variables, and one you have finished you will have set up an account you can use to test from your other workstations. The screenshot above was taken with the wonderful WinSnap – it comes highly recommended.
Let the cross-platform filesharing begin!

If you have any questions, or would like to suggest a topic for a future article, head on over to the blandname contact page and we’ll see what we can do!

Oh, and by the way, since you’ve noticed I always talk about virtualization, this certainly applies to getting files to and fro from your virtual machines in VMWare Server, Virtual Server (Virtual PC if need be) and Parallels – I have even found it to be faster than any other technique!

Ruby and FTP

I came across a great tip that should help anyone trying to make an FTP client in Ruby. Basically it seems the Net/FTP library is attempting reverse lookups of addresses you try to connect to (which is in itself fine, but perhaps unnecessary). The problem arises because the reverse lookup is called each time a new file transfer is initiated. http://blade.nagaokaut.ac.jp/cgi-bin/scat.rb/ruby/ruby-talk/112801

Here’s the resolution I found in the japanese forum:

BasicSocket.do_not_reverse_lookup = true