When Unison just does too much

Unison File Synchronizer has served me well over many years, helping to keep my work and personal life up-to-date on several computers in at least three different locations. Lately, however, I have been trying to keep a very large collections of large files in sync on two different external hard drives and Unison is just too slow for this because it is so thorough. If you are essentially just adding files to a collection, the much easier way to keep directories A and B synchronized is
cp -nrv A/* B/
cp -nrv B/* A/
which simply places all files in (subdirectories of) A/ in B/ and vice versa, skipping files that already exist. If the transfer is interrupted and restarted however, it will not resume the copying of a file that had been partially copied earlier but otherwise this is a very simple and easy way to get the two-way archiving job done!


Lightspeed on Google Latitude?

The sometimes erratic location reporting in Google Latitude is interesting, not least because I like to think about possible measures of consistency for the time-location pairs that it generates. This week produced a good example of a dodgy location report that should have been eliminated. I was at Sydney airport for several hours prior to the late departure of my flight to Johannesburg on Tuesday. My location was logged correctly inside the airport many times, including at the departure gate, the last time at 09:54. There was one more timestamp inside Australia, at 10:08 after which the next recorded location was roughly 15 hours later in Johannesburg. The last Australian location however, was near Brisbane, more than 1000 km from Sydney!

Now, except for NASA, no-one can get from Sydney to southern Queensland in 14 minutes so this timestamp is obviously inconsistent. Furthermore, the fact that it was followed by 15 hours of nothing would make it a very solid candidate for discarding. I am quite sure that the reason for it was a mobile WiFi hotspot (possibly on a mobile phone just arriving from Queensland) the location of which Google had mapped in Queensland. I have observed similar problems in South Africa with mobile WiFi devices but surely a bit of data processing could really improve things quite a bit!


Die saak GeenStijl.nl en Frankryk se Internet-polisie

Frankryk het 'n man met €150 beboet omdat sy vriendin musiek oor sy Internet-verbinding afgelaai het. Dit is blykbaar onwettig in Frankryk om te versuim om 'n Internet-verbinding te beveilig (byvoorbeeld deur 'n wagwoord vir die draadlose netwerk te gebruik). Kan die toepassing van só iets ooit meer as lukraak wees? In 'n ander interessante saak in Europe hierdie week, het 'n Nederlandse hof vir PlayBoy gelyk gegee in 'n klag teen GeenStijl.nl (nie veilig vir die kantoor nie). Laasgenoemde het self geen kopié van eersgenoemde se materiaal gehuisves nie maar het deurlopend 'n skakel na 'n kopié elders opdateer sodat besoekers aan dié webwerf met één klik kon toegang kry tot die betrokke PlayBoy-materiaal.


“The Error Type is: None” or Word, be gone

Honestly, I use the word “never” less frequently than many expletives but I certainly hope that I can more successfully avoid working in MS-Word / LibreOffice (whatever!) in future. A pleasant and enlightening recent collaboration ended up in many rounds of revisions, under instructions from Manhattan, with myself and a colleague in Pretoria. Just as I thought the project was finally nailed this week, the bibliographic footnotes (and what else?) simply disappeared from the latest version of the document after I had adjusted some of the tables. So, I tried it again and, grasping at straws, found the website www.comparemydocs.com which promised a lot but delivered only the message “The Error Type is: None”!


“Tik en wen” – Facebook translation fail

I love my Queensland ginger beer so it's hardly necessary for Facebook to pitch it to me in the ads on the right of the page but they should really work on their (machine) translation! Since Google Translate gets “ginger beer” correctly as “gemmerbier” in Afrikaans, there is really no excuse. In the end I clicked the Like button anyway since this was so much better than some of the other things that they've been trying to get me interested in. 


Neotel's handy little carphone

I finally know an actual Neotel customer – me! After four months in new offices without landlines, I took the plunge and bought a prepaid Neotel phone (on the left) for R399 from the shop at Menlyn Retail Park where the RICA process of showing an ID and proof of address was irritating but particularly quick. The phone comes with a 012 geographic (Pretoria) number and works on the Neotel CDMA cellular network which has reasonable coverage in Pretoria. There is no monthly fee for keeping the 012 number, which is great.

The phone actually works like a normal retro cellular phone and charges from a normal USB port, which is convenient. I cannot confirm it but I think that there is cell handover since I was able to sustain particularly long calls while driving through the city. The call rates are very inexpensive (compared to SA mobiles), essentially always slightly lower than calls from a Telkom landline which makes it a great option for calls to landlines and abroad especially. Due to what are supposedly ICASA restrictions, the phone simply stops working once it leaves Pretoria and in Johannesburg I was unable to make calls and incoming calls simply went to a “subscriber not available” message. It was slightly annoying that the phone's display showed the same network statistics that it showed while actually working in Pretoria! Frankly, Neotel seems a great option for many including those frequently calling the office, home or mom from the road. The device has a headset jack for those preferring handsfree use. The battery doesn't really last the day if use is intensive.


Android-paniek in die voorstede

Die afgelope week of vier raak ek stadig gewoond aan 'n Android-foon van Samsung, die Galaxy Y Pro met sy relatief beskeie prys van sowat $200. Daar was die gewone gesukkel (ook bekend aan vroeë iPhone-gebruikers) aan die begin met die beantwoord van oproepe endiesmeer maar vandag het dinge 'n dramatiese wending geneem toe ek skielik geen klank meer had in oproepe nie. Dit het „net” sowat 'n uur geneem om uit te werk dat die mikrofoon nog gewerk het indien die eksterne luidspreker van die Speakerphone-funksie aangeskakel was, m.a.w. dat die probleem nie die reën van die dag of die klein bier in die laatmiddag was nie.

Eintlik was alle normale klanke weg, o.a. die ligte klikgeluide wanneer 'n mens gewone handelings op die raakskerm uitvoer. Duidelik dus 'n probleem met die programmatuur en gelukkig het ek onthou dat iemand geskryf het dat hulle toepassings van die foon begin afhaal het. Met die eerste probeerslag het ek WhatsApp wat al elders vir my probleme veroorsaak het, verwyder en siedaar – my klank was terug en ek kan rustig slaap!!


Bandwydte 100/100 in Boedapest

Ek het hierdie week die Corvinus-universiteit in Boedapest besoek en by my lessenaar die Internet-spoed getoets. Dit is sowat 100 keer beter as my kantoor-Internet in Pretoria op 'n goeie dag! Kan iemand my vertel waar ek in Gauteng so iets kan kry?