Travel-Preperations, or Procrastination · 2. Februar 2005, 02:28

I will be away for the next couple of weeks. But before I left I had to make some preparations (apart from the regular travel-related things). I don’t know if this reflects more on my cunning ability to spend my time doing not-really-necessary-stuff instead of tackling the important stuff I should be working on to get on with life (Procrastination, I sometimes fear that dictionaries will put a picture of me next to that word), or wether it’s just my geeky side that sometimes takes control of me and enjoys finding applications for the wonders of recent technology.

Ever since I replaced my Notebook Harddrive a few weeks earlier (it started making weird noises; replacing it, was the most efficient and effective way I spent money on computer hardware for years), I started getting more and more paranoid about my data. I am working on my diploma thesis for some time now, and having backups has gone up my priority list rapidly. I do have a spare computer at home with a large Harddisk, and I work at it sometimes, so a while back I installed and configured Unison which is a bit like rsync, but works both ways, and cross-platform, too. It was a really good tool, to finally tackle the task of snychronizing my “digital library” (a few hundred MB of books, articles and resources – I use Copernic Desktop Search to find stuff in it) which had changed in very different ways on both machines over time. And it also was a very convenient (totally scriptable) way of backing up my diploma-thesis related data.

Being away soon means, not having easy access to my other PC. But Unison also works very efficiently over remote connections, so I wanted an sshd on the Desktop-PC. But why take the easy route when this is perfectly good excuse to get to know the freshly released Windows Services for Unix. Of course this package came in a strangely pre-configured way, so I was busy making SFU more comfortable. And after that, of course, Unison wouldn’t work right away because of a temporary compatibility Issue with Cygwin (I use it on my notebook). So I spent some hours finding a (working) workaround with plink, instead of the Cygwin ssh-client. But I admit, there is a sense of satisfaction and feeling “productive”, now that it all works.

I had also experimented with Skype a while ago: it is very easy to use and easy to set up, even for technophobes & has very nice audio quality (actually a lot better than all the other things I had tried in earlier years). So I set up Skype for my parents, explained them how to use it and the they seemed to be ok with it. My Dad is > 70, but he’s been using E-Mail and the Internet to read news for years now. Of course the first real try once I was away did overwhelm them a bit. I thought: Play it safe, so I set up TightVNC over ssh to be able to help them from far away, if they have trouble.

Since all that reading about and using Skype (re-)ignited my interest in VoIP (which is about to break-through into the mainstream for, what, 10 years now?), I kept reading up on that and found out that now VoIP might actually have a lasting and broad effect. Skype is of course very cool for PC to PC (free) and PC to Telephone (Skypeout, good rates, at least for the western hemisphere), but you can’t receive Calls from the old telephone network. So I found sipgate : They offer a Telephone Number with your local area code (depending on where you live) and route calls to wherever you are on the Internet. And if you’re offline, callers can leave a voice-message that gets delivered via E-Mail (very fast). They (sipgate) explicitly warned not to install the X-Lite Softphone on the same computer as Skype. So I thought: Great, I’ll try that. But I was disappointed, since everything just worked right away – no conflicts. Bummer. Btw: Setting up X-Lite with sipgate made me appreciate the extreme ease of use of Skype even more. Although it was well documented and worked just as described, I am sure lots of people are immediately turned off by those instructions (can’t link, only for registered users). But to be fair: Sipgate is mostly targeting People that are going to use VoIP-Hardware-Phones which of course shield the user from technical details even better than Skype.

So now I was all set up Communication wise, or was I? Sharing pictures is a nice thing, and being away from home, gives me even more reason to do so. So I set up a flickr account; upgraded my txp installation to the latest development version, and installed XML-RPC for txp. After fiddling with flickr (more instructions) I can now E-Mail pictures straight from my Camera-Phone on to this site. I have no idea, wether this will be something that I’ll actually do, but it sure was a good excuse for setting everything up.

I could of course go on for quiet a while, e.g. talking about how I tried to tunnel Windows-File-Sharing over ssh, because I installed Lookout and wanted to index all my E-Mail archives (350MB) without having to copy over the files, but still be able to access those E-Mails from 10.000km away, just in case. (However I couldn’t get that to work, so I settled for scp and just copied over those damn files – I did already have that new harddrive, right?) But I think you get the picture. So now you know why, when I go back and look at that short movie, I can relate. And instead of putting this (not really new) Enlightenment to good work, I sit down to type it all up. Go figure.

By the way: I am flying to San Francisco. This might make me write more stuff up on this site (at least more so, than sitting at home or the uni at a desk). But then again, it might not: I have to get that paper finished. So don’t hold your breath.