Skype For iPhone Is Full Of WIN!

We’re on vacation in Colonial Williamsburg, and the AT&T signal in and around our hotel sucks! This seems to be a common theme for me. At home, I have next to no AT&T signal. I swear, if it weren’t for the iPhone being such a loverly machine, I would never have gone with AT&T. Anyway, so we’re here in Williamsburg, and in the hotel, there is no cellular signal at all. But there is free, and fast, WiFi. So I fired up the Skype program on my iPhone and would you believe it worked a treat? It did. I have now made two calls with it. One to a restaurant in town, and the other to my brother-in-law back in GA to check on our dog. Both calls were crystal clear, with no lag or dropouts. I only have a 1G iPhone, so I can’t test it over the cellular network, but over WiFi, it was darn near perfect. I have a Skype unlimited subscription, so these calls were essnetially free. In any event, it was better than paying the $0.75 the hotel would have charged me for each call, plus whatever rate the local phone company charged. But beyond the cost, it was just plain cool!

I’ve been a fan of Skype for several years and we use it extensively where I work. I call into meetings and conference calls using it all the time, and I only very rarely have problems. I am now equally impressed with Skype for iPhone. Great job, guys! Keep up the great work.


The Danger Of Living In the Cloud: No Backups

Yesterday about 4:30 I tried to check my email, but got nothing more than a string of 502 errors from the server. My mail server is a Google Domain Apps account, which means my MX record points to Google, and they handle the rest. I was about to leave the office, so I figured I would just check later when I got home. I checked from my iPhone a few times on the way, but it was still borked. About two hours after the problem began, it cleared up again, and is still working fine.

During the outage, I started thinking about this situation. I have 916 megabytes of email stored in my Gmail account. That’s a lot, though it is only 12% of my quota. That’s three years of email that I don’t want to lose. And I’m completely at the mercy of “the cloud” with respect to my email. There is no way for me to back that email up and Google makes no guarantees about data retention. They give us 7G+ of space, but they don’t claim to do any backups or that they can get your email back if it goes away. Is this just a cost of living in the cloud? I wouldn’t trade my Gmail account for anything, so I guess I just have to live with the danger, right? Is there anything a Gmail user can do to ensure their email has some sort of protection? I know that I could open another gmail account and have every incoming email forward to that other account, but is that really the only choice? Google does offer a plan that is $50/email address/year, and while it does have a 99.9% uptime guarantee, it doesn’t say anything about backups.

What would be nice is an interface from Gmail to Mozy or Carbonite or some other online backup service. Each Gmail user could then decide if he wanted to contract with one of those third-party services for backups, or just take his chances.

w00t! Latest Wii System Update Addresses Storage Issues

I complained before about the abysmal storage situation on our Wii. Well, our troubles are lessened, if not necessarily over. On March 25, Nintendo released the latest version of the Wii OS. I only got it three days ago, because our Wii has been acting up, hardware-wise, and I’ve had it turned off. IGN has the full skinny on the update.

Basically, it makes much better use of your SD card, allowing you to keep things on the SD card, and automatically swapping them to the system memory when you need them. I bought two SD cards Monday night, and have moved all our lesser-used channels we want to keep to one card, and setup the other as my Rock Band 2 downloadable content card. I now have nearly 900 free “blocks” on the internal storage, which should mean I won’t run out when downloading RB2 songs again.

For those of you who saw my tweets about losing all my Rock Band 2 data, here’s the full story. A couple of weeks ago, I was buying songs from the RB2 store when I ran out of space on the internal storage. I figured I’d just try again later, so I went to play a song. After playing a song, the game complained that it couldn’t save my progress. I exited the game and restarted, only to be asked if I wanted to create a new save file (uh oh). I said “no” and it said that since I didn’t create a new file, my progress couldn’t be saved. I exited and restarted, this time saying “yes” to create the file. Of course, it created a new one, and all my data was lost. Actually, it was already lost, but this was the final nail in the coffin. I’ve reconnected the new save file to my online account, but all of my character and band data are gone forever. That really sucks, because I’d unlocked tons of songs, cities and venues. Now I have to start over from scratch. 😦 At least with the new OS upgrade, I shouldn’t lose my data again because of space issues.

As for the hardware issues I mentioned, the disc drive has been getting extremely noisy and, lately, flaky. Basically, the drive makes lots of noise and sometimes stops spinning altogether. Once it stops spinning, the game chokes and dies and you have to reboot. Based on some things I’ve read on the web, booting the Wii without a disc in the drive helps, and that’s what I’m seeing, too. I really don’t want to have to buy a new Wii, but we may have to before long.

Today’s Plinky: My Somewhat Lame Claims To Fame

I don’t know that I’d say I’m truly famous, but I am somewhat well-known, in certain circles. I am co-author of the book “Ant Developer’s Handbook”, published by SAMS in 2002. It sold moderately well. I have been published in Java Developer’s Journal twice, in 2002 and 2003.

I am also the creator of MiddleClickClose, a Safari plugin that enables the closing of tabs by clicking your middle mouse button, and for ExportToArchive, a plugin for iPhoto that allows exporting of photos to Zip and other compressed formats.

Some of my friends know that I was an uncredited extra in the box office flop, “Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers”, from way back in 1988. For three days in 1988 I sat around an abandoned YMCA camp in Waco, GA, waiting to be called to the set. I eventually made it into one scene.