Friday, November 25, 2011

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Price Wars: Apple vs. Dell

Dell Logo
Prior to owning my MacBook Pro 13, I had always subscribed to the belief that Macs were significantly more expensive than other computer brands (Dell, HP, etc.).  So, in 2009 when my Sony Vaio was no longer cutting the mustard, I started shopping for a new laptop and I found the (expensive) stigma that Macs had wasn't really true.  At the time I took the MacBook Pro 13 feature for feature with a comparable Dell laptop.  And it turned out that the Dell was actually $50.00 more expensive than the MacBook Pro 13 that I had chosen.  So, now I am curious if the same holds true today.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

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Nike+ iPod vs. Nike+ GPS

Nike+ iPod Sensor
I recently took up running and like every new runner I needed some motivation to keep me going.  Enter Nike+ iPod.  Nike+ iPod can be used with just about any iPod, and if you happen to have an iPhone or an iPod Touch then all you need is the transmitter since the sensor is built-in.

I had an iPhone, so all I needed was the Nike+ transmitter.  And after I bought the Nike+ transmitter, I realized that there is a $1.99 Nike+ GPS app that works with the iPhone with no transmitter required.  Did I just waste $20.00 on the Nike+ transmitter when I could have simply purchased a $1.99 app.  Well, yes and no.  Nike+ iPod and Nike+ GPS are two entirely different animals that serve similar purposes.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

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Replacing Cable TV with Internet TV

There have recently been a ton of stories about existing devices that can be used in place of cable: Apple TV, Roku, etc.  But these devices lack extensibility and they come with relatively few features.  Sure, you can get NetFlix on either Roku or Apple TV.  But is NetFlix enough to give up cable TV?  Not for me.  I want NetFlix, but I also want Hulu-style TV and my existing videos, music and pictures.  I want an HTPC and that's exactly what I got.  You can have one too and this post will tell you how.

Monday, September 5, 2011

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Moving to the Cloud: Amazon S3

Amazon Web Services
Amazon S3 is Amazon's cloud storage solution.  It's is accessible over the Internet through a web browser via Amazon's Management Console or via a web page (if you enable it) or through some of the S3 clients out there.  There is also an command line API for Amazon S3 that can be used on your local computer or it can be installed on an Amazon EC2 instance for easy transfer to and from S3.  And the best part is, it's pretty inexpensive for 'unlimited' storage.  This post is all about S3: what it does and how you can use it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

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The Power of Google App Engine?

Google App Engine Logo
I first used Google App Engine a little over a year ago.  Since then some things have changed: pricing, features, support.  OK, a lot of things have changed.  Google App Engine has grown up.  But is it ready to take on the likes of Amazon?

Google App Engine and Amazon Web Services (AWS) are entirely different animals.  So, comparing the two is not 100% straight forward; and I think that's on purpose.  Amazon gives you one or more virtual computers in their "cloud" on demand along with services to accompany your virtual environment.  Google App Engine, on the other hand is all about
just running applications; much of the details of how those applications are deployed and run is hidden from the end user/developer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

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Update: Virtualize Your Desktop

Microsoft Windows Logo
An interesting thing happened to me about a month after I virtualized my Windows 7 desktop and began running it on Linux: I was somehow dropped from the domain.  After doing a little online research, it turns out that I am not the first person to have this problem (surprise).  But the good news is that there is a way to fix it.

If you missed the original post, read Virtualize your Desktop.

Apparently, after 30 days my computer's domain password is set to update and that's where the problem happens.  When my computer updates it's password on the domain, it breaks the trust relationship with the domain.  I would think that a virtualized version of

Monday, August 22, 2011

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Moving iTunes to FreeNAS

Well, I've finally done it.  I've filled up my MacBook's hard drive with movies and music.  Basically, iTunes has taken over my computer.  In fact, if it wasn't for all the stuff I keep in iTunes then I would have a ton more space.

So after pondering my predicament for about 30 seconds, I decided to move my iTunes media off of my MacBook and onto my NAS (FreeNAS) storage.  This will allow me to keep and expand my media library and it will free up some space on my MacBook.  This post is all about how to move your iTunes media to FreeNAS.

If you are new to FreeNAS and need help setting it up then check out my Using Apple Time Machine with FreeNAS post.

Friday, August 19, 2011

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The Very Best of Clayton's Technobabble

Clayton's Technobabble
Today's post takes a look back at some of the more interesting, most viewed and most thought provoking posts from Clayton's Technobabble's archive.  Some of these posts are old and some are more recent.  Some were featured in online magazines and some were not.  But all of them were good posts and they are all still relevant today.

I hope you take the time to check out any posts listed below that you may have missed in the past.  And feel free to comment on which posts you like the best and the kinds of posts you would like

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Installing the Java JDK on Linux

If you are a Linux noob or if you are new to Java on Linux then you might have some questions concerning how to install Java on Linux, especially if you run Ubuntu.  This post tackles that exact issue.  So, read on if you want to know how to install and configure OpenJDK or Sun/Oracle Java on Ubuntu Linux.

With Ubuntu you get the choice of whether to install OpenJDK or Sun/Oracle Java.  OpenJDK is available in the default repositories for Synaptic/apt-get and Sun/Oracle Java is not.  So, it might be tempting to just use OpenJDK.  And for many applications that would be fine.  However, there are some Java extensions that are not included in OpenJDK which are included in the Sun/Oracle Java install.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

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Cool Gadget: Jawbone Era

Jawbone Era
Ever since I purchased this little device, people have been asking me about it.  So, I figured it was time to do a review on it.  This post is all about the Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset.

In the past, I owned the Jawbone 2 and the Jawbone Icon.  Now I use the Jawbone Era, and honestly it is the best Jawbone headset yet.  The call quality and the built in accelerometer (that's right, it has a built in accelerometer) clearly make it stand above any Bluetooth headset I have ever used.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

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What Does Defrag Really Do?

Hard Disk
We've all heard it from the "IT Guy" at one point in time: "You need to defrag your hard drive!"  But what does that really mean and what does it do?  This post answers the question of what defragmenting your hard drive really does.

What is Fragmentation?
In order to understand what defragmenting does, it's stands to reason that we should first examine what fragmentation is and why it's a bad thing.  Fragmentation and the degree of fragmentation

Sunday, August 14, 2011

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What is AI?

From the Movie I,Robot
I recently read an interesting article about Artificial Intelligence(AI) on Ars Technica, titled Brute force or intelligence? The slow rise of computer chess.  It posed the question, "What is AI?"  Can AI be gained through raw computing power (brute force) or is it something else?  You don't have to wait to get to the end of this post to find out: it's something else.

The most well known test for AI is the Turing Test, originally described by Alan Turing in 1950 as a way of answering the question, "Can machine's think?"  The basic idea is that a human

Thursday, August 11, 2011

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Amazon EC2: Moving to the Cloud

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Amazon Web Services Logo
Amazon EC2 is arguably the most robust cloud computing server platform available.  You can start up a cluster of servers tailored to meet your needs in under a couple of minutes and then discard them just as quickly.  This post walks you through how to get started with Amazon EC2.

Amazon EC2 is Amazon's virtual server cloud offering.  When you start up an EC2 server, you are really just starting up a virtual

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Amazon EC2: Moving to the Cloud (2)

page 1 · 2

Create an EC2 Instance
Now, before I actually ssh into an EC2 instance, it would stand to reason that I should have an EC2 instance currently running.  To start an EC2 instance, click on the EC2 tab in the AWS Management Console and then click the Launch Instance button.  Here you can select the type of instance to run.  You can select either a Quick Start instance or a Community Instance.  So, to make this easy I am going to select a Quick Start instance: Basic 32-bit Amazon Linux/Micro

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

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Linux Partitions Explained

Linux Penguin
Common Linux file partitions can be confusing, especially if you're used to Windows.  In Windows, it's not uncommon to have a single C volume where all of your files are kept in folders under the root of C.  In Linux, you have /usr, /opt, /bin, /etc, and other paths.  Some of these paths represent directories and some may represent partitions.  Once explained, Linux partitions make a lot of sense.  This post is all about common Linux partitions and directories, why we have them and what they mean.

Unlike Windows, in Linux there are multiple partitions mounted to

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

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Interfaces: The First Step Toward Maintainable Software

Design Tools
Not too long ago I had a junior developer ask me, "What do you use interfaces for?"  The answer of course is that there are many reasons to use interfaces.  Interfaces specify contracts that classes and their methods must adhere to.  Put simply, an interface describes a family of objects that are interchangeable.

To demonstrate this concept, let's look at an interface commonly used in Java: java.util.Collection.  Lists, queues, sets, etc. in Java implement the Collection interface or some extension of that interface.  The interface Collection therefore describes the family

Monday, August 8, 2011

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How Does Google Do It? Meet the Google File System

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Google Logo
Google does a lot of things a little different from other software companies.  But these differences are also part of the edge that allows them to effectively compete with companies like Microsoft and Apple.  They are all part of Google's special sauce and this post looks at one ingredient of that sauce, known as the Google File System (GFS).

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How Does Google Do It? Meet the Google File System (2)

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Google Labs Logo
How It Works
Unlike a general purpose file system, GFS is meant to work across a cluster instead of a single machine.  The basic architecture of a GFS cluster consists of a single master server and multiple chunkservers.  The master node is responsible for maintaining all of the file system metadata: access permissions, mappings from files to chunks, locations of chunks in the cluster, etc.  Each chunkserver is responsible for storing chunks as files on a local disks.  And chunks are fixed size units of storage that make up files in the GFS; they are often replicated across multiple chunkservers

Sunday, August 7, 2011

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Cool Gadget: Motorola S10-HD

Motorola S10-HD
I don't, or should I say haven't, really done a ton of consumer gadget reviews.  But I just couldn't pass up talking about this cool little device.  This post is all about the Motorola S10-HD.

When the Motorola S10-HD came out, I stayed away because of the reviews.  It seemed almost unanimous that the S9-HD was better liked than the new S10-HD.  But after some time, I decided to at least try out the S10-HD.  And man, was I pleasantly surprised.

What is It?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

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Restricting Access to Home Networks with DNS

Home Router
If you want to ensure that only acceptable websites are being browsed on your network then you may want to consider restricting sites using either your own DNS server or OpenDNS.

Before I go any further, allow me to explain the concept of DNS.  DNS stands for Domain Name System and it is basically what takes a name like or and translates it into an address like so that a computer connected to the Internet can find websites and other things.  The specifics of how DNS works in detail are beyond the scope of this post.  But

Thursday, August 4, 2011

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Run Any Program as a Windows Service

Microsoft Windows Logo
In this post, we are going to do the unthinkable: run a Java program as a Windows service.  Of course, to do the unthinkable we are going to need a little help from our old friends at Microsoft.  We are going to need the Windows Resource Kit.

The Windows Resource Kit gives us a few cool Windows tools, but for our purpose we only really need srvany.exe.  Srvany.exe is basically just a Windows service that allows us to run any other program as a service.  Since java.exe is also a program, we can use srvany.exe to run a Java program as a Windows service.  I'll demonstrate this by creating a Windows service that launches Selenium RC 1.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

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FAT, NTFS, and EXT File Systems... What's the Difference?

Hard Drive
OS makers don't talk about it, and most consumers don't know about it, but it's always there.  It's your file system.  Many consumers go through life never giving a second thought to their file system unless they run multiple OS's in their home.  But your file system is important to how files are stored, what systems it's compatible with, and how your system performs in certain situations.  In this post we'll talk about some of the more common file systems, their differences, merits and drawbacks.

Those of you who run Windows either run FAT32 (for older

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

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Apple in the Enterprise: Maybe not as Crazy as it Seems?

Apple Logo
If you work in a Microsoft shop then it's easy to believe that the world runs on Microsoft.  But the reality is desktop PC's by majority run on Microsoft.  Tablets, smartphones, and servers (especially high performance servers) predominantly do not run on Microsoft.  And even Microsoft's majority share on the desktop has been steadily eroding over the past few years due to Apple's emergence as a major computer manufacturer and the public's poor reception of Windows Vista.

For those of you who dispute my assertions, consider this: of the top 500 supercomputers in the world, less than 2% run Windows HPC, compared to over 80% that run Linux (  Also, according to, OS X has over 15% operating system market share (not including iOS devices) in the United States.  Compare that to 3

Sunday, July 31, 2011

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Running Linux from a Flash Drive

USB Flash Drive
One of my friends at work was talking about running Linux from a USB drive and I thought to myself, "Self, I've never done that.  I wonder what's involved."  As it turns out, creating a bootable USB Flash Drive with Ubuntu Linux is pretty easy.  This post shows you how to do it.

If you already have Ubuntu Linux (v.11.04) installed then simply boot up your computer and from the main menu (of the Classic Desktop) select System -> Administration -> Startup Disk Creator.  If you don't have Linux installed, then insert the Ubuntu Linux DVD, restart your computer and run Ubuntu from the DVD (don't install Linux, just "try Linux").  Once Linux has booted then select Startup Disk Creator by clicking on the Ubuntu icon in the

Friday, July 29, 2011

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Cron and SSH: No Password Required

Tux: The Linux Penguin
Setting up cron jobs with ssh can sometimes be useful.  The problem is that ssh requires a password.  Well, not really.  In this post, I'll walk through how you can set up ssh so that you don't need a password and how you can put an ssh command into a cron job to transfer files from one machine to another on a schedule.

Before we get started, allow me to briefly explain cron for those of who don't know.  Cron is a daemon (a program that runs in the background and is not controlled by a user) that kicks off periodically as defined by your crontab settings.  Each user has

Thursday, July 28, 2011

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Replacing Your Windows Desktop with Linux: Pidgin and Evolution

Logo from
I use Exchange for my work email.  But I like to use Ubuntu Linux for my OS at work.  Historically, the two do not mix.  I actually know some people who gave up trying to make them mix and just run Windows inside a virtual on Linux for checking their mail and communicating over Office Communicator.  For me, this would not do.  So, armed with Evolution and Pidgin, I decided to find a way to make my Linux desktop work with Exchange.

First, you'll notice that Pidgin does not hook into Office Communicator out of the box.  You need a third party extension for this to happen.  Meet the Sipe project (  You simply install Sipe, start up Pidgin and add your Office Communicator account and credentials.  It's as simple as that.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

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exFAT (FAT64) on Linux

Hard Drive Platter and Arm
I have a Mac for my home computer and I use Linux and Windows at work.  One of the biggest problems I have is that there is really only one file system that works between all 3: FAT32.  FAT32 is old and clunky but it is compatible across all major operating systems, so it is the defacto choice for formatting  external drives.  The only problem with FAT32... um... it's FAT32; you can't have files larger than 4GB in FAT32.

The solution: FAT64 or exFAT.  exFAT is Microsoft's solution to large flash drives, USB sticks and the like.  It works well with Mac

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

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Java vs. .Net

Well, it was only a matter of time before I had to post something about Java vs. .Net.  I have worked with both platforms and admittedly I have my own opinions.  But, unlike many who have strong opinions one way or the other, I have actually worked with both platforms.  Here's my take.

(1) If you are a Microsoft fan, if all you want to do is work with the Microsoft platform then .Net is for you.  Microsoft has integrated .Net pretty tightly into Windows and if you are 100% Microsoft then you do get some nice benefits out of the box with .Net.  However, if you work in a mixed environment or if you are developing a product that may have to run or inter-operate with other non-Microsoft platforms then Java has the edge.  Everything about Java is platform agnostic.  From the JVM's available to the multi-vendor support.  Java is about crossing boundaries. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

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Virtualize Your Desktop

Microsoft Windows Logo
Do you have a Windows desktop?  Would you rather have a Linux desktop?  Would you like to run Linux as your primary OS but keep your Windows desktop on hand as a virtual desktop?  This is the situation I found myself in.

My employer issued me a 32-bit Windows 7 OS on a 64-bit i5 laptop with 8Gig of RAM.  Not only is that extremely wasteful (32-bit OS's can only address 4Gig of physical memory), it was also not my OS of choice.  So, I decided to virtualize my Windows 7 install and run it inside a 64-bit Linux OS.  My goal was to keep all my corporate standard programs and settings (including Windows domain registration) and just simply run Windows as a virtual desktop instead of my primary OS.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

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Tethering Your iPhone

iPhone and MacBook Pro
It's been a long time since my last post and a lot of things have happened.  Aside from the personal stuff that was going on in my life, I made the switch from my Blackberry to the iPhone.  It took me about a weekend to get used to not having a physical keyboard.  But after that small hurdle, I have found the capabilities of the iPhone to be far superior to my Blackberry in almost every way, except one: tethering.

T-Mobile was always good about allowing me to tether my Blackberry.  Sure, it took a little investigation and some trial and