RSync Files to a Unix/BSD Backup Device from your Mac Laptop

My photo-taking workflow while on vacation usually involves taking a lot of photos daily, dumping them to a laptop, processing, then backing them up once I have returned home.
Previously, I accomplished this manually using BeyondCompare for Windows, as that would run on Windows Home Server.
Since moving to ZFS-based storage, however, this is no longer an option as BeyondCompare only has a Linux client (nothing for Unix/BSD).
There are other ways to get around this:

  • SSHFS and Meld – Complicated, somewhat bloated, but great BeyondCompare alternative
  • *Commander Utilities – Midnight Commander derivatives can accomplish similar tasks using the ctrl+x,d shortcut
  • Rsync – typically installed by default, easy to script

I chose Rsync as I wanted something more automated, but I do find myself using Midnight Commander from time-to-time to simply “get things done” when syncing files other than my images.

Here’s how I did it:

rsync -a -e ssh /volumes/PICTURES/ 'username@mymac:/Volumes/BIGRAID/'

Let’s break this down into smaller pieces:

rsync – this is the command that will do our heavy lifting and file comparison

-a – archive mode

-e – specify an RSH replacement

ssh  – use SSH

/volumes/PICTURES/ – this specifies the “Volumes” folder on my Mac, and the “PICTURES” drive within it. Replace this with the location of your items to backup

 – note the use of single quotes here. We’re using these in case there are spaces in the folder names, and we could have done the same above.

username@mymac – We’re logging on to the host “mymac” with the username “username”. You’ll probably want to change these. I use a hostname here, but you could just as easily use an IP address if you use static IP addresses.

:/volumes/BIGRAID/ – the colon denotes a subfolder on the server we are backing up to, and /volumes/BIGRAID in this case refers to a ZFS pool called “BIGRAID”.

Do you have a similar backup strategy for BSD/Unix targets that you would like to share?

Disco Disc Burner App Public Beta for Mac OS X

Why is it that I always find myself ponying up the small amounts of cash it takes to purchase Mac shareware applications? Black fire and a disco ball? I gotta have it.

Today I fell victim to MacZot‘s current promotion (ends in 23 hours!) that saw me gobbling up the public beta of the Disco CD/DVD burning application for Mac OS X, and boy am I content with this lil 700KB number.

Firstly, the hype: when you purchase the beta at the silly-low price, you also get the opportunity to send a free license to someone else. So here goes – the first person to leave an intelligent comment gets the license! (I’ll need a real email address) This is a great marketing idea that see people not only using the beta of a terrifically designed piece of software, but also spreading the word to others so they can try it as well. Good show.

Disco Windows

Next, the features: Disco copies discs in two clicks. Say that ten times fast. Disco can span CDs and DVDs automagically. They call it Spandex, I call it dead sexy. This is extremely handy when backing up iPhoto or iTunes, trust me. Disco can burn VIDEO_TS folders by just dragging them onto the application, which makes it great for burning your DVD backups. Disco has realtime 3D interactive smoke that actually wafts up from the application as you burn discs. If you blow into your microphone, the smoke will dissipate, and if you move your cursor around the smoke itself, it reportedly moves accordingly – but I didn’t get to see this on the low-end test box. Disco has an amazingly simplistic interface that is very easy to follow as it prompts you at every step. Last, but certainly not the least in terms of features, and should really be in caps: Disco remembers every single burn and keeps a catalog of the burn sessions using what it calls “discography” so that you can easily do things like print labels, disk jackets, or simply keep handy for when you need that dot release or the pre-altered code that you can never find. Let Disco be your personal sherpa.

Disco runs very well for a beta application. I have yet to see it crash under Panther, Tiger, or even Leopard (WWDC or the 9a ADC build). Oh, and it worked fine in Tiger server as well. Unfortunately the test box is a 1st generation Mac Mini (PPC), so there was no “smoke” to speak of (anyone have screenshots?), so that will need to be tested later. I burned some mix audio CDs, a backup copy of the disk image for Disco public beta itself, an ISO image of Ubuntu Edgy Eft Beta, and a bunch of Gentoo releases, for good measure. No hiccups. I erased a very old scratched CDRW. I even inserted a scratched blank CDR to see what would happen… Well it wouldn’t burn correctly but Disco kept on keepin’ on – like some sort of Disco inferno – no bouncing beachballs of death here. And you call this a beta? I expected flames, not smoke. No crash and burn here.

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In these screenshots you see the Disco app in full swing, from installation to a test burn, and a view of all the windows it provides. I really like the design of this app, and it was well worth the 15$ pricetag. If you’re new to MacZot, and need a referrer, feel free to use “blandname”. Now go write some optical media and dance around like a schoolgirl.

Oh and on the topic of Disco, and in the name of Halloween here’s a joke:

“Why didn’t the skeleton dance at the disco?”

“He had no body to dance with”

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!

Poll Results in: Ubuntu for the win!

Though we are just a small site at this point in time, we’re sure to grow and need to know and what direction. So we decided to run a poll for a few weeks to see what was garnering more interest from blandname readers.

The results are now in and it looks like Ubuntu is the current topic of choice, with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard coming in behind.

Ubuntu Wins

It seems some of you have a good sense of humour because you added Windows Me. Some good suggestions were found in the addition of CentOS which we are currently writing an article for, and Gentoo linux, one of favorite operating systems to play around with.

In the coming months, we’ll try to touch on all of these topics, focusing more attention on the winner of course.

Feel free to leave suggestions for future polls or other topics you’d like us to cover – we’re here to help.