Give Your Computer a Gift This Christmas

Here are some ideas of extremely useful computer software that you can test out over your Christmas break. I make use of each of these every single day and expect you’ll find them useful as well.

FamilyShield by OpenDNS – FREE
FamilyShield blocks adult websites across your Internet connection.  Just turn it on and go.  The filter is always up-to-date, adding new sites 24/7.

1Password – $49.99
1Password can create strong, unique passwords for you, remember them, and restore them, all directly in your web browser.  It can use Dropbox (below) to sync passwords across multiple computers, smart phones, and the web.

Dropbox – FREE
Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily.

Spotify – FREE
Spotify is an online digital music service that gives you access to millions of songs.

Secure cloud backup for your personal files and features like continuous, minute-by-minute remote backup.

LogMeIn – FREE
Remote control of your desktop so you can open files, check your email, run programs and stay productive.

Drobo Woes

Friday, Oct 15:

After a couple of years of considering it, I finally bought a Drobo for home use.

Monday, Oct 18:

The Drobo (2nd generation) arrived and I set it up with my Mac Mini.  I installed 1 1TB drive and 2 500GB drives.  I set it up with HFS+ and configured email alerts, etc. as recommended. Then I started migrating data from the existing external 1TB drive.

Tuesday, Oct 19:

Added another 1TB disk that I removed from an old Seagate external drive. Everything seemed fine as I migrated the remaining data from the still existing 1TB external drive.

Wednesday, Oct 20:

All data had migrated to the Drobo and things had been working fine for a few hours. So, I unplugged the external drive, removed it’s 1TB Seagate drive, and replaced one of the 500GB drives with the 1TB drive.  So, at this point the Drobo has 3 1TB drives and 1 500GB drive.  The Drobo began to rebuild the Data Protection. It calculated it would take about 13 hours to complete.

Thursday, Oct 21:

At about 6a this morning (about 12 hours after replacing the drive) I got another critical alert notification that “Drobo cannot currently protect your data against hard drive failures.”

At about 9a the Mac Mini that the Drobo is connected to froze, so I had to power cycle that computer. When the Mac Mini finished rebooting, the Drobo was no longer connected to the Mac Mini. After attempting to reconnect the Drobo several times, I ended up power cycling the Drobo. It came back online and showed the file system for a several minutes, despite continuing to state that “Data Protection” was still in progress.

Then, a few minutes later the Drobo unmounted from the Mac Mini again, but it shows up as unmounted and unformatted in the Apple Disk Utility. At that point the Drobo Dashboard started showing the Drobo’s file system is now “Unformatted” instead of it’s original “HFS+” file system.

I suspect that one of my drives are bad, but the Drobo never tells me that and it is still “In Progress” of rebuilding the data protection.

Around 7p I received a 2nd reply from Drobo support:

Lets try this next then:
1. Power down the computer.
2. Disconnect Firewire, then power to the Drobo.
3. Eject all of the drives.
4. Reconnect Firewire, then power to the Drobo.
5. Wait for the Drobo to connect to the Drobo Dashboard.
6. Put the Drobo into standby: Drobo Dashboard > Advanced Controls… > Tools > Standby.
7. Disconnect Firewire, then power.
8. Re-insert all of the drives.
9. Reconnect Firewire, then USB.

Let me know if this enables the Drobo to complete it’s re-layout.

I followed those steps exactly, except for replacing “then USB” with “then power” in step 9 (which I presumed was a typo).  3 hours later it was still showing the filesystem as “unformatted” and “appox. 1 minute remaining” on the data protection rebuild.

Friday, Oct 22:

Still not working and no further response from Drobo.  I’m stuck and frustrated, since I can’t really see what is happening behind the scenes with the Drobo.

Are there any Drobo ubergeeks out there that can help me?

Latest iPhone App Picks

Today we finally became a 2 iPhone family. As I was gathering up my suggestions of iPhone apps to share with my wife, I decided I’d go ahead and share them with everyone. Most of these apps are free. I’ve attempted to group them into types of apps as best as I can.

Location Aware Apps:

  • AroundMe – find things near you
  • Google – localized search, voice enabled, access to all Google apps
  • Gowalla – track and share where you are
  • iWant – find things near you
  • Showtimes – view local movie show times, read reviews, view trailers
  • Urbanspoon – get random local restaurant recommendations
  • CoPilot Live – relatively inexpensive GPS navigation


  • Bible – best free Bible app with most versions – developed by
  • WordPress – manage your WordPress blog
  • Photoshop Mobile – Photoshop for simple editing of your iPhone photos
  • Remote – control iTunes on your computer from your phone
  • ESPN ScoreCenter – view scores and game updates
  • Walgreens – we use this to manage our prescription orders

Social Networking

  • Tweetie – best Twitter app available
  • Facebook – connect with Facebook
  • AIM – instant messaging on the go
  • Yahoo Messenger – instant messaging on the go
  • Pandora Radio – streaming music to your taste – check out Rockin’ Holidays channel


  • Quicken – financial account overview via free Quicken Online
  • PayPal – pay people securely
  • USAA – best online bank – deposit checks with your camera – transfer money live


  • Paper Toss – waste more time than imaginable
  • Sol Free – best free solitaire games
  • iBowl – like a Wii on your phone

Remote Connectivity

  • TouchTerm – ssh client for linux sysadmins
  • VNC – remote vnc viewer for screen sharing
  • RDP – remote desktop for Windows

My office mate, Matt, currenly has 254 apps installed on his iPhone.  That’s more than the iPhone is actually capable of displaying on it’s home pages.  Anyway, I also asked him for his recommendations of best apps.

Matt’s Picks:

What are your favorite iPhone apps that you use at least once a week?

A Deal on a Sony PSP and Game

My teen ordered some PSP gear without permission.  Let my loss can be your gain.

Sony PSP 2000 – Piano Black   $155
Used about 1 hour till I confiscated it from him.  In excellent
condition.  Comes with opened box, battery, and power charger.

God of War  – Chains of Olympus – for Sony PSP   $28
New in sealed box.  Never used or opened.

Email me if you’re interested in either of these items.