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Friday, August 31, 2007

Fried Computer

Last Monday, my wife turned on my computer, and after running for about 10 minutes, it shut itself down, along with a slight electrical smell. Not good. I asked her to unplug it, and it was a good thing: the plug was really hot, and might have even caused a fire if left alone.

Since I purchased the computer from one of those computer building shops, and I had a 5-year labor warranty on it (at least that's what I thought before they charged me $110 for labor - still not convinced I didn't just get robbed), I decided to let them replace the power supply, and get this thing back up and running. At least that's all I figured it would need.

As it turns out, not only did the power supply burn up, it took the motherboard, and my primary hard drive with it. According to the guys that fixed the computer, the hard drive spins, but just isn't recognized as a peripheral by the computer BIOS, so there's no way to get at the data. No cheap way, that is.

The good news, is that I ALWAYS make a backup of my code, and carry it around on a USB stick, and occasionally (2-3 months) make a backup of my repository to a CD. Though my last backup of the code repository is way back in May, I have the most current code safe and sound in three different places now (I made a bunch of copies after the incident). I'll lose a bunch of "checkin" history, but the end result is safe, and that's good enough for me.

I did lose a number of other things: a couple months worth of digital pictures, documents, a number of e-books, and who knows what else. I guess I'll just have to say goodbye to those things. I am considering buying a SATA external drive enclosure, and see if I can get at the data at all, but I'm not really holding up much hope for that.

Did I learn any lessons? Despite never having lost a hard drive in my 25+ years of computing, it can still happen, and there is no excuse for not having a good backup strategy. Granted, it could have been worse (I would have cried for weeks, if anything happened to RealmSpeak), but it could have been better.

I'm looking into some real backup software for the first time in about 5 years, because my strategy of "oh, I guess I'll burn some files to a CD now cuz it would suck to lose them" just isn't sufficient. A friend of mine recommended Dantz Retrospect, but if any of you PC users out there have any suggestions, I'm all ears.

I do have a new version of RealmSpeak nearly ready, so I may get that online pretty soon. It really depends on how long it takes me to get the fixed computer back up to a point where I'm able to build and upload the software. Of course, when that happens, you'll see it here first!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Backtranslating RealmSpeak

A couple of months back, I got an e-mail from a RealmSpeak user (Jorge) who was stuck using a Mac with an old version of OS-X. Apparently this version (10.3) did not support Java 1.5, and so he was unable play the latest version of RealmSpeak. He suggested to me that I look into an open source project called Retrotranslator, that allows you to take a Java 1.5 compiled project, and backtranslate it to Java 1.4, without doing any coding. I tried it, and it actually works!

If any of you are in the same boat as my friend Jorge, then I recommend you look at the new RealmSpeak Tools Page (someday I hope to add more here). There you'll find a link to a page that gives you instructions on how to process the latest RealmSpeak.jar into Java 1.4 compliant code. Though I strongly recommend you use the latest Java available, this will get you going if you can't.

Some of you will ask: "Why don't you simply provide both versions?" The primary reason, is that the need is going to be fairly low, and I really don't have any interest in maintaining two files instead of one. However, if you are one of the people that need the conversion, it will be as simple as running a translation script.

Hope this helps!