Archive for March, 2010

Podcasts list – or, a better use of your free time

March 25th, 2010 Comments off

Black Mp3 Player Isolated On White, by Photographer Michal Marcol, from freedigitalphotos.netBecause of working far from home, I have an unusually long commute every day. To make the most of it, over the years I’ve gathered a list of podcasts which I consider interesting and informative. And also of high technical quality, because no one likes even the best content if the sound is crappy or the production is amateurish.

Grabbing those podcasts is easy: for those who use iTunes, most of these podcasts are available free of charge on the iTunes store, just search by name. If not available, you can always hit “Advanced / Subscribe to Podcast” and enter the feed’s URL directly. Other podcatcher software  has similar features to subscribe to specific feeds, so just look around.

Now, to the list of programs, in no particular order …

NPR – National Public Radio:

NPR is the National Public Radio, from the USA, and it has several very interesting podcasts worth checking out. Of those, there are two of which I keep on my regular list:

NPR Business Story of the Day: that’s the day’s editor pick from the business news; the feed consists of one short story each day, mostly around 5min long. Feed:

NPR’s Planet Money: a podcast and a blog by the same name; the focus is on economy and the take on the subject is always relaxed and looking for the unusual angle on the story. I highly recommend! Feed  Blog:

BBC – British Broadcasting Corporation:

The BBC is a legend on bringing great programs to the world. When I was a kid I’d listen to the “World Service” on short-wave radio (and understand almost nothing), and this service is still on air today. But you also find a huge number of podcasts available, three of which I selected here:

In Business: that’s Peter Day’s business program. Most of the programs are in the half-hour range, sometimes a story is broken into more than one episode to fit the space. Topics vary, from inquiries into entrepreneurship, to new technologies, start-ups, changes in the geo-political arena, etc … The program is updated somewhat infrequently, so it is not strange to go a few weeks without new episodes.  Feed Website:

Documentary Archive: a podcast from BBC’s World Service, it presents a variety of themes and styles, as some programs are produced by different branches and/or companies. There are real gems as well as not so good ones, but overall the quality of the content is very good. Feed Website: 

File on 4: an investigative program; mainly focused on British affairs, but very interesting even for those on the outside. Feed:  Website:

PWOP Productions:

The next podcasts all come from the same producer, Carl Franklin, owner of PWOP Productions and also host of the .NET Rocks and DNRTV shows mentioned below. One common theme across all four is that they are all IT-related; in fact, the first three target a software developer audience specifically.

.NET Rocks: this an hour long interview show centered around Microsoft Technologies, mostly the .NET Framework, but very often also talking about other supporting platforms and applications. Website:  Feed:

DNRTV: this is not an audio podcast, but rather a screencast. It consists of a screen capture and audio commentary session focusing on some specific programming topic. A very good way to learn the basics of some topic of interest. Website:  Feed:

Hanselminutes: Presented by (now) Microsoft’s Scott Hanselman, this is a fast-paced 20min interview show focusing on development and technology topics. Mostly related to Microsoft .NET and/or web development. Website:  Feed:

Runas Radio: This is the one in this pack which is not aimed at software developers; presented by Richard Campbell, co-host of .NET Rocks, and Greg Hughes, the target audiences is IT professionals on Microsoft shops. As such, the topics range from Exchange and SharePoint to Active Directory, server administration and monitoring, etc. If that’s what put the bread on your table, well worth the listen. Website: Feed:

Django Dose:

Django is a very popular web development framework written on the Python programming language.  For those using Django (like myself), Django Dose is a very good source of “what’s going on”-type of news. Website:  The podcasts are split into different categories: (notice, there hasn’t been much new activity as of lately)

Tracking Trunk: this is a commentary on recent changes to the Django codebase, both in trunk (as the name implies) but sometimes in important development branches too. Feed:

Callcasts: interviews with guests. Feed:

Community Catchup: Commentary on important news from the Django community at large.  Feed:

Everything: all of the above combined into a single stream. Feed:

This Week in Django: while this is not part of Django Dose, and is no longer being produced, it is worth mentioning because this is the original podcasts which was the foundation for Django Dose. And, while being somewhat dated, it is still a good reference for some of the earlier developments in Django. Website:  Feed:  (there are also separate feeds per content, see the website)

The World’s Technology Podcast: interesting show with varied news, mostly around tech. A co-production of the BBC and PRI (Public Radio International, USA) and WBGH, and presented by Clark Boyd. Website:  Feed:

Killer Innovations: All-things innovation, from tips and techniques to enhance one’s potential, to interviews with pioneers and innovators. Hosted and presented by Phill McKinney, HP’s CTO on the Personal Systems Group. Website  Feed

IT Conversations: This one requires a bit of a longer explanation. On IT Conversations there’s a huge amount of audio material, some of my personal favourites are the presentations from shows like Emerging Communications, OSCON, Web 2.0 and Where 2.0; and also radio shows like Tech Nation and Biotech Nation. However, the list of stuff available is so huge that subscribing to the main feed would be like drinking from the firehose, a little too much for my taste. Instead, ITC has an ingenious feature: if you register yourself on the website, every program you see on the front page or everywhere on the site carries a little “save” button. If you click “save”, that program is added to your own personal queue; with that in place, you can point iTunes to the RSS feed for your own personal queue, so the software will only download those programs you review on the website and click “save”. Simple and excellent!  Website:

Hooray! You made it to the end without falling asleep, congratulations!  That’s about it for right now. (podcast list updated March/2010)

Categories: howto, podcast Tags:

How to open a 64bit command prompt from a 32bit application

March 16th, 2010 5 comments

When running a 64bit OS you sometimes run into the situation in which you want to start a 64bit command prompt (cmd.exe) from within a 32bit application, and discover that this is not as straightforward one could imagine at first. In my particular case, I ran into this issue because of an application launcher I use – SlickRun, excellent tool, subject for a whole post on its own merit.

SlickRun being a 32bit app, on 64bit Windows it runs under the Windows-on-Windows (WOW64) compatibility layer. Among a host of services offered to apps, one of the things WOW64 does is to intercept calls to C:\Windows\System32 and redirect them to C:\Windows

So, if you want to run cmd.exe, which lives under the System32 folder, if you start it from a 32bit app you are in fact calling into  C:\Windows
\SysWOW64\cmd.exe. The difference is subtle; notice the *32 in the second command window in this screenshot from Task Manager:

TaskManager showing cmd 32bit opened from SlickRun

While for most purposes this does not make any difference, there are a few edge cases. For the sake of an example, chkdsk.exe does not behave correctly if ran from a 32bit command prompt – it will complain about corruption on the filesystem when in fact there’s none, as can be attested by running it from a 64bit command prompt.

OK, so what’s the solution?

Trying to invoke C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe by using the full path doesn’t work, because the redirection happens at the OS level. In fact, when in 32bit mode your are shielded from touching the C:\Windows\System32 folder at all. But there’s a trick that can bypass the redirection: on an NTFS volume one can create a symbolic link to the 64bit cmd.exe and invoke that link instead. Just follow these easy steps:

  1. You have to start from a 64bit command prompt in the first place; just open one from the start menu instead of the 32bit app mentioned earlier.
  2. From the 64bit command line, create a link to cmd.exe, say like this:
  3.         cd \Windows
            mklink cmd64.exe "c:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe"

  4. Now you have a symlink on c:\Windows called cmd64.exe, which points to the 64bit command prompt. Since c:\Windows is on the system path, you can just invoke cmd54.exe anytime you need to open a 64bit command prompt from within a 32bit app.

For example, here’s a screenshot from Process Explorer depicting the result of calling cmd64.exe from SlickRun (sr.exe). Note how now it is the 64bit version of cmd.exe running:

ProcessExplorer and 64bit cmd.exe started by SlickRun

It is worth noting that mklink has many interesting uses, specially if one wants to view the filesystem less like a tree and more like a graph – which of course is something the Unix crowd has been doing for a long time now.


Categories: howto Tags: , ,

On backup strategies and discipline

March 14th, 2010 Comments off

If your main computer was completely destroyed today, how’d you feel about it? Knowing you’d have no way to recover any information on it whatsoever …

I had important hardrives fail on me three times already.  The first time I didn’t have good backups, but got lucky and recovered most of it; the second time I had a somewhat up-to-date set of CD backups (back when you could fit a backup on optical media) and also got out on top.

Then last week came. The controller from the disk on my main desktop melted away. That drive was holding several years of code projects, documents, ideas and, most importantly, my whole library of digital pictures, all ~80GB of it. Photos covering well over ten years now, including the record of the first three and a half years of my first son.

Not to worry! This time I was ready: then disaster struck, the last incremental backup had ran less than one hour prior; in the incident I didn’t lose a single file, mind you! Ever since I started to keep digital photos, I decided to stop the madness of DVD backups and USB drives that you never remember to plug and update, and move to a safer solution which was automatic and would ensure off-site backup – such that in the event of a fire or burglar I’d not have to worry about the data.

Current strategy

I opted for an online backup service. Which one? There are several options, so shop around to see what you like and dislike about each one. I did a bit of research and ended-up choosing Mozy for the task (but Carbonite was a close runner-up). The main drivers to the decision where it’s low cost with no storage limits, and it’s “fire and forget” approach (once you install and configure it, it just works).

There are a few more complex solutions, inclusing some which build on top of Amazon’s cloud storage service (S3), but it all seem too complex to setup and maintain, and I wanted something *very* simple, so that nothing could go wrong …

Tip: it is worth noting that these services usually have a good trial mode. Mozy is no exception, and before you commit to it you can use it in trial free mode for as long as you want, with one limitation: you can oly backup up to 2GB with the free version. By the way, if you’d like to try it out and in the process use a referer code to give me some perks, click here: ) 

Bottom line:whatever you choose to do, if you have important stuff stored on a computer, make sure you have a good backup strategy in place.


Update Jan/2011: Since this post was first written, Mozy has changed its terms and conditions, doing away with the unlimited plans. I’ll update this post once I have an updated backup strategy.

Categories: musings Tags: