OSOMac http://www.osomac.com Making your life easier, one App at a time... Sun, 09 Mar 2014 22:51:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Why I am sticking with Drobo http://www.osomac.com/2014/03/10/sticking-drobo/ http://www.osomac.com/2014/03/10/sticking-drobo/#comments Sun, 09 Mar 2014 22:51:19 +0000 https://www.osomac.com/?p=1582 After giving much thought to the question, I have finally decided to stick with Drobo, and I have bought a new unit, the 5D. Wouldn’t I have preferred to create my own ZFS system? Yes indeed, but I have not done so, for the following reasons: In order to properly run ZFS you need a fully fledged computer, with a ...

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After giving much thought to the question, I have finally decided to stick with Drobo, and I have bought a new unit, the 5D. Wouldn’t I have preferred to create my own ZFS system? Yes indeed, but I have not done so, for the following reasons:

• In order to properly run ZFS you need a fully fledged computer, with a considerable amount of RAM (8GB being the bare minimum);
• If you are serious about it, the RAM has to be ECC: this is important, or you might end up with data corruption because of uncorrected errors in the RAM; ECC RAM is not a problem in itself (just more expensive), but it implies that you won’t buy an entry level PC as file server, or it won’t support the error correction;
• My main system is Mac OS X, and ZFS does not support a number of features of OS X, notably Spotlight and Time Machine; all this will likely come, but it’s not clear when;
• Although I would be pretty much certain of being able to read my data if the system failed, the downtime could be quite high (I would need to find a system capable of hosting all the disks, install a compatible version of Linux or FreeBSD, etc.).

Also, there are a number of things I like about Drobo:

• It does work: I have a Drobo 2nd generation that I bought in 2007 (replaced once in 2013, even though out of warranty), which has been working flawlessly 24/7, and always recovered my data when a disk failed (this happened twice);
• The support is stellar: I have local support in Singapore, the people who pick up the phone are knowledgeable and seem to care, and they go beyond the warranty clauses (as said, they replaced my 2nd generation Drobo with a new unit, even though the warranty expired several years ago);
• I do not need to think, and there are no possible mistakes I could make: I just put the disks in, and forget it;
• The new units offer dual disk redundancy, so I can sleep at night when a disk fails…

## First impressions with the Drobo 5D

After one week I have not found many defects in the Drobo 5D. It is silent, more so than the previous generation. The disks from my old 2nd generation Drobo were immediately recognized, and the new 3TB disk I have inserted was also instantly available. As soon as I have switched to dual disk redundancy, the unit told me that during the re-layout it could only recover from one disk failing, as expected. The re-layout itself was quite fast, and my data was available during the process. On the negative side, the Drobo is slower than competing products, but I don’t need more speed than what it provides. To be honest, my old 2nd gen. was already fast enough for my needs, and this is about 10 times faster. Unfortunately I don’t have a Thunderbolt plug on my Mac Pro 2010, but I have bought a cheap USB 3.0 PCI card and it works great. To give you some references, I have all Lightroom masters stored on the Drobo, as well as my entire iTunes library, and a number of VMware Virtual Machines (which I run directly from the Drobo).

As of now I have 4 X 1TB disks, and 1 x 3TB. I plan to replace two small disks with two more 3TB, so I’ll have some more space, and I can use the two 1TB in the old Drobo, which I would connect to one of my Airport Express and use for some additional backup.

While Drobo is not the perfect solution, I haven’t found any better options today, by far. Moreover, there are a couple of nice additional features on the 5D: a battery, which can keep uncommitted data in memory in case of power failure. Uncommitted data will be written to disk when the power is restored, protecting you from file-system corruption. If you need more speed, you can add an SSD (without using one of the HD bays), which the unit will use as cache. Again, the current speed is sufficient for me, so I have no plans to do that. Last but not least, the Drobo periodically scrubs the disks, looking for bad sectors. This is probably not as effective as what ZFS or Btrfs do, but it does provide an additional safeguard to maintain the integrity of your data.

I am still planning to build a fully automated integrity checker app for the Mac, and maybe add some recovery features (by storing redundant data). I have not had much time to work on that yet, but it’s quite high on my todo list.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Drobo in any way.

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Facebook ‘Watch naked video of friends’ malware scam infects 2 million people http://www.osomac.com/2014/03/09/facebook-watch-naked-video-friends-malware-scam-infects-2-million-people/ http://www.osomac.com/2014/03/09/facebook-watch-naked-video-friends-malware-scam-infects-2-million-people/#comments Sun, 09 Mar 2014 02:55:48 +0000 http://www.osomac.com/?p=1602 Seriously, do people still fall for this kind of things? The Picture appears to be uploaded by a friend and definitely, you might want to see some of your Facebook friends naked, But Beware! If you get curious and click, you will be redirected to a malicious website reports that your Flash Player is not working properly and needs to be re-installed. via ...

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Seriously, do people still fall for this kind of things?

The Picture appears to be uploaded by a friend and definitely, you might want to see some of your Facebook friends naked, But Beware! If you get curious and click, you will be redirected to a malicious website reports that your Flash Player is not working properly and needs to be re-installed.

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How to steal Bitcoins http://www.osomac.com/2014/03/09/how-to-steal-bitcoins/ http://www.osomac.com/2014/03/09/how-to-steal-bitcoins/#comments Sun, 09 Mar 2014 02:46:00 +0000 http://www.osomac.com/?p=1596 Interesting article. I can’t help wondering whether this kind of theft would even be punishable by law; good luck explaining to a judge what exactly has been stolen. Technically, the result of the theft is just an alteration of the Blockchain, which is public by design. Well, it seems that there is money to make, and here is the proof ...

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Interesting article. I can’t help wondering whether this kind of theft would even be punishable by law; good luck explaining to a judge what exactly has been stolen. Technically, the result of the theft is just an alteration of the Blockchain, which is public by design.

Well, it seems that there is money to make, and here is the proof that some people are already on it…

This also demonstrate that you can use a service like Brainwallet, but you need to choose a really strong passphrase, that will resist bruteforce. If any computer or any other human can think of it, you are doomed !

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Fixing the Emacs distnoted Problem on OS X 10.9 http://www.osomac.com/2014/03/08/fixing-emacs-distnoted-problem-os-x-10-9/ http://www.osomac.com/2014/03/08/fixing-emacs-distnoted-problem-os-x-10-9/#comments Sat, 08 Mar 2014 04:54:24 +0000 http://www.osomac.com/?p=1579 This issue was driving me crazy, but I was too lazy to go and find the patch… This article makes it extremely easy; I have just built and installed Emacs, will see in a couple of days it it solves the issue. With Emacs 24.3 (and possibly earlier versions) under OS X 10.9 there is a nasty problem that causes ...

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This issue was driving me crazy, but I was too lazy to go and find the patch… This article makes it extremely easy; I have just built and installed Emacs, will see in a couple of days it it solves the issue.

With Emacs 24.3 (and possibly earlier versions) under OS X 10.9 there is a nasty problem that causes distnoted, the OS X distributed notifications daemon, to periodically suck up processor resources and basically tie up the machine. Sometimes it recovers on its own, sometimes you have to restart Emacs. That is particularly apt to happen after waking up from sleep mode.

The problem is fixed in the 24.4 release and I’ve been ignoring it while I waited for the new release. The other day, though, I ran out of patience and hunted up a patch I’d seen for it some time ago. If you build Emacs from source, it’s trivial to apply it: just follow the instructions in the patch commentary.

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Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto revealed after years of mystery http://www.osomac.com/2014/03/08/bitcoin-creator-satoshi-nakamoto-revealed/ http://www.osomac.com/2014/03/08/bitcoin-creator-satoshi-nakamoto-revealed/#comments Sat, 08 Mar 2014 04:52:06 +0000 http://www.osomac.com/?p=1576 I am pretty sure he is not the only one… “He is the only person I have ever known to show up for a job interview and tell the interviewer he’s an idiot—and then prove it,” said Arthur Nakamoto, his younger brother. via Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto revealed after years of mystery (Updated) | Ars Technica.

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I am pretty sure he is not the only one…

“He is the only person I have ever known to show up for a job interview and tell the interviewer he’s an idiot—and then prove it,” said Arthur Nakamoto, his younger brother.

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Bitcoin: Just as Broken as Cash http://www.osomac.com/2014/03/07/bitcoin-just-as-broken-as-cash/ http://www.osomac.com/2014/03/07/bitcoin-just-as-broken-as-cash/#comments Fri, 07 Mar 2014 14:00:31 +0000 http://www.osomac.com/?p=1572 Christopher Schmidt on US Dollar vs Bitcoin: The clear ends of US Dollars for either transacting in illegal goods and services or speculative gambling make me weary of its use. Before the U.S. gets too far behind the curve on this important topic, I urge the regulators to work together, act quickly, and prohibit this dangerous currency from harming hard-working ...

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Christopher Schmidt on US Dollar vs Bitcoin:

The clear ends of US Dollars for either transacting in illegal goods and services or speculative gambling make me weary of its use. Before the U.S. gets too far behind the curve on this important topic, I urge the regulators to work together, act quickly, and prohibit this dangerous currency from harming hard-working Americans.

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Crowdfunding and the Future of Technology http://www.osomac.com/2014/02/10/crowdfunding-future-technology/ http://www.osomac.com/2014/02/10/crowdfunding-future-technology/#comments Sun, 09 Feb 2014 22:47:57 +0000 http://www.osomac.com/?p=1551 It’s been so exciting to watch how technology development has been influenced by the sudden access to considerable funds, courtesy of crowdfunding. Suddenly, the need for a financial backer, who may have been difficult to find, is no longer the only option even for the more obvious successes. Everything from the Oculus Rift to an iPad Nano watch strap has been funded via the power ...

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It’s been so exciting to watch how technology development has been influenced by the sudden access to considerable funds, courtesy of crowdfunding. Suddenly, the need for a financial backer, who may have been difficult to find, is no longer the only option even for the more obvious successes. Everything from the Oculus Rift to an iPad Nano watch strap has been funded via the power of the crowdsourced money pool.

But what does it mean for upcoming technology development? Well, for starters it means that you can now pitch directly to your future customers, who then become… this is where things get a little unclear. There’s an ongoing debate as to whether backing something financially makes you just a backer, an investor, or simply a customer with a very different kind of pre-order arrangement.

For this reason, pitching new projects, whether you’re coming from a newbie background or you’re responsible for some of the innovations in your Verizon handset, working on crowdfunded tech when funding can be fraught with additional tension. Financial backers may not understand the complexity of the development process and cause outcries when deadlines are missed or unforeseen obstacles arise.

Personally, I think crowdfunding is a really good way to step around the middleman issue and start developing technology with input from the people who would buy and use it. The benefits are obvious. Tech like the Oculus Rift could end up in the hands of not just developers, but even someone who’d like to see what Doom 3D feels like when combined with a VR headset and a treadmill.

What this means is that input on technology is now not solely coming from engineers, software designers and so on. Market research is nothing new to technology, but I’ve found that quite a few of my more interesting insights on development projects have come from people who have no involvement in development at all, who see things from outside the box you can sometimes accidentally build around yourself when you’re working on something new.

One of the main trends in crowdfunded tech is the fact that many of the projects being pitched are for hackable devices. The creators are actively encouraging people to do impressive, unintended things with the technology they create. The benefit is mutual, of course – those who created the tech get a lot of publicity for the product they’ve funded, and of course, those who hack tech are able to find new, exciting uses for things made by people similar to them – people who love exploring new frontiers and want people to join in on that front with them.

The main concern is that tech tends to be pricier than the entry fee for backing, say, a new type of knitted hat, and as a result, the financial risks can be greater. Backing a new form of VR tech could end in something less than satisfactory, and when the stakes are high and the tech has the potential to change the environment in which it appears forever, then any issues are magnified by the disappointment of the considerable number of financial backers it had.

I do wonder how this affects people’s willingness to be transparent about development processes after being funded – too many cooks may spoil the tech. But the upside is there’s a new game in town, and that’s asking the public to get behind you on something new and exciting, and doing so directly. That alone has changed the technology market. Let’s see what happens.

*Feature Photo courtesy of Rocío Lara via Flickr Creative Commons

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SaneBox, the best thing that happened to my email http://www.osomac.com/2014/02/03/sanebox-email/ http://www.osomac.com/2014/02/03/sanebox-email/#comments Sun, 02 Feb 2014 23:00:45 +0000 http://www.osomac.com/?p=1530 I have always been on top of my email accounts: most of them are at Inbox Zero pretty much every day (often more than once a day). Frequent interruptions throughout the day are the main problem for me. I have tried to set up automatic rules, to classify my contacts, to remove notifications; still, I ended up checking my email ...

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I have always been on top of my email accounts: most of them are at Inbox Zero pretty much every day (often more than once a day). Frequent interruptions throughout the day are the main problem for me. I have tried to set up automatic rules, to classify my contacts, to remove notifications; still, I ended up checking my email several times per day, to avoid missing something urgent or important. What should have been a quick check and a short interruption, ended up in a much longer waste of time: once the Pandora’s box open, I inevitably ended up trying to clean up the mess. Deleting ads, thinking of how to deal with non-urgent stuff, etc.

## SaneBox in a nutshell

While testing out alternative iOS email clients, I stumbled upon a service called SaneBox (disclaimer: this is an affiliate link). This service is integrated (quite poorly, truth be told) with Boxer, an otherwise good email client. In short, here what SaneBox does:

• It pre-processes all your email, filing non-urgent / unimportant stuff for later;
• It reminds you if some emails you sent did not get a reply;
• It allows you to be reminded of any message at a later date;
• It allows you to unsubscribe from whatever unsolicited messages you might get, quickly and effectively.

The service does more than this, but the other features are not that important to me.

## The trial

When I first saw the service I dismissed it, mainly because of security concerns: how can I trust a third party to access all my email? Two things pushed me to try the service:

1. The service is not free, and not exactly cheap either: this is reassuring, it tells me that the SaneBox’s team has a business model, and that they don’t need to make money by snooping into my messages (if that were at all possible I would do it myself…) or selling my personal information;
2. I already trust my email providers with my messages, and they are not necessarily more trustworthy…

So I registered my main email account and started a free trial. To be honest the first impact was not good: SaneBox immediately tried to lure me into inviting all my contacts to try the service. First, my contacts are not for sale. Second, give me at least a chance to try your product before asking me to promote it… Last, if I decide to recommend a service (like I am doing now), I definitely won’t do it using a generic marketing message! This almost drove me away, before even trying the product… Hopefully SaneBox’s marketing people realize how bad this is.

Anyway, I decided to continue the trial, and I was quickly seduced by SaneBox’s functionality. The service is effective, intuitive, and robust; without any training, it does a very good job removing the noise from your Inbox. After a couple of days, I have activated email notifications on my iPhone, and I am interrupted pretty much only when there is something important. In the evening, I go through the rest of the stuff, which has been neatly moved to a folder called @SaneLater. If I find something interesting but not urgent, I move it to a folder called @SaneNextWeekend, and SaneBox will remind me about that next weekend. SaneBox is pretty flexible in terms of rescheduling: next weekend works for me, but you can create a folder for tomorrow, next month, or whatever timing works for you.

## Reminders

SaneBox allows you to set reminders, by sending emails to addresses like this: 1.week@sanebox.com (or 1.day, or tomorrow–2pm, or whatever you need). SaneBox will put that message back into your Inbox, at the desired time. You can just send or forward messages to these addresses, but there are simpler ways to set reminders: to understand the real power of this feature, you have to BCC a SaneBox reminder address, while writing to somebody else. You will be reminded only if your message does not get an answer by the specified time. Even better, when the message reappears in your Inbox, it has convenient Snooze buttons added to it.

## The Black Hole

There is an additional feature that I like a lot. Whenever I find myself on some sort of mass mailing that I do not like, I simply move the message to a folder called @SaneBlackHole, and I won’t receive anything more from them. This is the simplest and most effective way to unsubscribe that I have found. In reality, SaneBox is simply blacklisting the sender: I could achieve the same thing by creating a rule in my email client (or on the server), but there is a huge friction in that. Before SaneBox I ended up being frustrated and deleting unwanted messages every single time. Moving a message to a folder has little friction, it is comparable to deleting the message in terms of effort. After a couple of months of this, I get much less spam. I won’t enter in details, but you can remove any of the blacklisted senders at any time, from SaneBox’s website.

## Some considerations on security

Although SaneBox claims to use solid security principles, email is a very sensitive channel in our life online: most of the services you may use (think Twitter, Facebook, Google, Paypal, etc.) send emails to help you reset your password when required. If somebody gets access to the email account you use for password resets, they can control all your other accounts. Have a look at this article that appeared on Ars Technica a couple of days ago: even if you use secure passwords, two-factor authentication, and you are careful, an attacker can still use basic social engineering techniques to get your data.

Should SaneBox get hacked, the attacker could potentially get access to your email accounts’ credentials. I think the problem here is not with SaneBox, but with the fact that most of us use a single email address for most things. What I am implementing is similar to what Naoki Hiroshima suggests on Ars: I am creating a separate email account, with a trusted provider, that I will use to request password resets for the services I consider critical. I won’t disclose this address to anybody, and won’t use it for any type of communication.

## Conclusion

SaneBox provides a service that is valuable to me, and I have decided to subscribe. Small piece of advice: if you decide to subscribe, wait till the last day of the trial, or you will lose the remainder of your trial period… This is a point that SaneBox should address.

If you liked this post and decide to give SaneBox a try, I would be grateful if you used my affiliate link (we will both get \$5 credit).

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Bit Rot on OS X – Myth or Reality? http://www.osomac.com/2014/01/13/bit-rot/ http://www.osomac.com/2014/01/13/bit-rot/#comments Sun, 12 Jan 2014 22:43:48 +0000 http://www.osomac.com/?p=1494 Bit rot, in case you do not know, is a scary word which makes you lose all confidence in your storage. To make it simple, it means that there is a slight chance that your data might change over time, getting corrupted. This leads to all sort of issues, especially with data which is not accessed often and not easily ...

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As an example, git, one of the best known source code repository used by developers, uses SHA1 to detect whether a file has been modified.
Bit rot, in case you do not know, is a scary word which makes you lose all confidence in your storage. To make it simple, it means that there is a slight chance that your data might change over time, getting corrupted. This leads to all sort of issues, especially with data which is not accessed often and not easily replaceable, if at all. Imagine losing your old family photos, movies of your kids, or the private key of your Bitcoin wallet…

### Some theory

Space on hard disks is subdivided in sectors, and the density is so high that minimal degradations of the disk inevitably lead to corruption. Modern hard disks are smart enough to detect this problem, and silently replace corrupted sectors with new ones before they are unreadable (a new hard disk contain some amount of spare sectors, on top of the specified capacity, which are used for this). In simple words, this is what happens:

• The physical portion of a disk which correspond to a specific bit of your data is magnetized in a precise way, indicating whether that specific bit is a binary zero, or a one;
• When you access the data for reading, the hard disk head reads the data; if the magnetic field is still strong, all is good;
• If the magnetic field gets weaker (basically making a zero look more like a one or vice versa), the hard disk controller tries to magnetize it again;
• If, after this operation, there are still doubts, the sector is flagged as corrupted, and replaced with a new one from the spare pool (all data on the corrupted sector is moved to the new one while it’s still readable).

This process has a weakness: what if you don’t access your data for a long time? In this scenario, it is possible that a sector is accessed only when it’s too late for the controller to clearly understand whether some of the bits stored there are actually zeros or ones. Given that a sector contains several bits, it is likely that many of them will be corrupted at the same time. In this case you have data corruption.

The reality is more complex than this, and hard disks store redundant information, which allows them to silently correct most errors. According to Wikipedia, in 2013, manufacturers claimed a non-recoverable error every $10^{16}$ bits read (which is 1.25 Peta-bytes, or 1,250 TB). This is small, but not so small to make it totally irrelevant, and it is only for enterprise-grade hardware. I do not know if manufacturers publish these figures for consumer-grade disks, but you can assume that they are sensibly worse.

### What can you do against bit rot

There are several things that can be done against this phenomenon, and all involve some amount of scrubbing (i.e. forcing the disk to read all the data stored on it periodically).

#### Simple scrubbing

This is the minimum protection that you can have. You just force the disk to periodically scrub its entire surface, hoping that no sectors could have gone bad since the last time you did that, and trusting the controller to move data to new sectors whenever necessary. While this should help, you have no way to know if problems are fixed, or even if there were problems in the first place: the hard disk controller will do its magic silently.

#### Data validation

In this case, you don’t just read the data, but you validate all files to make sure they are still what they are supposed to be. You can do this using simple cryptographic hash functions, that you have computed and stored previously: SHA1 is probably the most commonly used for this purpose, it is fast and the probability of collision (i.e. two different files generating the same hash) is minimal. Hash collisions in this scenario are quite irrelevant anyway: given how cryptographic hashes work, for two different files to have the same hash, the files would have to be very different from each other. If the files differ by a couple of bits only, the hashes would necessarily be different, allowing you to detect the corruption easily.

Computing the SHA1 hash for a file is very easy, on OS X you can use the following command (which is actually a perl script) in the Terminal: `shasum FILE_NAME` (shasum has several options, you can check the man page for more details). If you want to do the same thing in ruby, you can use the following snippet (it can be done in one single line, but in this way you will read big files in chunks, to avoid filling up the memory):

This is not as trivial as it seems, because there are a number of files which change regularly, so you need to be smart enough to recognize and ignore them (possibly updating their hashes so they can be checked next time). In general files that change often are less at risk, the risk of bit rot being higher for files that are rarely accessed (read or written).

When you scrub your data and find a corrupted file, your only option is to restore it from a backup: the hash do not contain any redundant information allowing you to fix the corruption.

#### Advanced file systems

There are file systems which automatically do all the above, and on top of that they store redundant parity information, which allows corrupted data to be corrected on the fly. These file systems periodically check that everything is in order, fixing issues. I am not a file system expert, and the only file systems doing this that I am aware of are ZFS and Btrfs. Apple was supposed to switch to ZFS for OS X a while back, but for some reasons this never happened. There are rumors according to which Apple is actually working on a new proprietary file system, with the same advanced features as ZFS. Anyway, this is not going to come tomorrow.

Up to OS X 10.8 there used to be a great solution to use ZFS, from a company called GreenBytes. The name of this product is Zevo; unfortunately the company has decided to drop the product, which will not be updated to support the current OS X 10.9. There is a chance that GreenBytes is trying to sell their implementation to somebody else, or release it as open-source, but nothing confirmed, and again no time frame for this. There are also open source implementations of ZFS:

• MacZFS: stable, but not compatible with OS X 10.9, and feature limited;
• ZFS-OSX: “well-developed alpha”, ready for testing; it is not feature complete yet, and they recommend not to trust it with any valuable data yet.

#### Trusting some hardware vendor

Drobo claims they are regularly scrubbing the disks to solve this issue (no on all their units though), but they do not give any detail on how this is done and how effective it is.

Probably other vendors in this space have similar claims, I have not done enough research to know for sure.

### What can you concretely do today

I am not sure I really got at the bottom of this yet, but the only real solution I have found today for OS X, without setting up a separate Linux file server with ZFS, is to periodically validate your files. Beside some half-backed apps on the Mac App Store, there is only one tool sufficiently advanced for this: IntegrityChecker, sold as part of diglloydTools. What I do not like of this package is that I need to buy two products useless to me, in order to get IntegrityChecker. Moreover, I would like to get more advanced features to help automate the entire process and just get a periodic report on with errors and warnings.

### Conclusion

To get back to the title of this post: is bit rot myth or reality? I do not know, some people claim to have witnessed it, others claim that it’s so unlikely to make it irrelevant. This said, I am now officially worried about the integrity of my data, and I do want to shed some light on this. I have decided to start actively monitoring the health of my important files. I might use IntegrityChecker, or I might roll my own tool (which you will see on OSOMac in a while if I manage to polish it sufficiently). Running this check for some time should give me a clear idea of the likelihood of data corruption, on top of allowing me to restore corrupted files from a backup; if the problem is really serious, I will probably invest in a small file server where I will use ZFS, which would give me peace of mind (this does not replace a proper backup strategy, of course).

That’s all for now, more in the coming weeks if I decide to go ahead and develop something to check the integrity of files.

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Newsblur, my new RSS reader http://www.osomac.com/2013/12/16/newsblur/ http://www.osomac.com/2013/12/16/newsblur/#comments Sun, 15 Dec 2013 22:09:21 +0000 http://www.osomac.com/?p=1465 When I wrote this post about RSS readers, a couple of weeks ago, a friend insisted that I should try NewsBlur as well. I always avoided this service, developed by Samuel Clay, mainly because I did not like the homepage (I know, this does not sound serious, but bear with me). The couple of times I actually checked the demo, it looked so messy ...

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When I wrote this post about RSS readers, a couple of weeks ago, a friend insisted that I should try NewsBlur as well. I always avoided this service, developed by Samuel Clay, mainly because I did not like the homepage (I know, this does not sound serious, but bear with me). The couple of times I actually checked the demo, it looked so messy that it scared me away. But this time I took the time to create a trial account, and after playing with it a couple of days, I subscribed; actually I liked it so much that I decided to pay \$36 rather than \$24, which is the minimum required.

Since the beginning of the year, I have used in depth three products: Fever, Feed Wrangler, and NewsBlur. The death of Google Reader was actually a good thing for this market: most of the readers available today can do more than Reader ever could, if you take the time to adapt your workflow. They are also better designed. As far as I am concerned, I have decided to stick with NewsBlur, and the more I use the service the more I like it.

### What I like in NewsBlur

• A great web app: though not exactly pretty, the web app is very functional and gives you all the information you need while reading; it also supports all the keyboard shortcuts I am used to (including the fact that “v” does open a post in a background tab, while most other apps annoyingly open the tab in the foreground);
• An interesting training engine: I was very skeptical about this, being afraid of some black-box mechanism, hiding or highlighting random stories. It turns out that the engine is solid and very predictable: you can “like” or “dislike” the title of a story (or part of it), its author, tags, or the entire feed. NewsBlur then hides or highlights other stories with the same characteristics. Simple and effective;
• A “text” view: this is simply great. If you subscribe to feeds like Hacker News, this is a must, otherwise for most posts you will just see the title, and will have to open the corresponding links to access the content. In text view, NewsBlur downloads the text and main images from the actual site, and it can be a permanent setting for a particular feed. Again, GREAT;
• A simple and effective way of sharing news and creating a “blurblog”, collecting all the stories you share, with your comment (it’s basically a “Linked List”, something like Daring Fireball). You can also post your comments with a link to your blurblog to Twitter, App.net, and Facebook. Of course all the usual sharing options are also available (email, Pocket, Instapaper, Pinboard, Pinterest, Evernote, etc.);
• Decent iOS apps: unfortunately there are only a few third party apps supporting NewsBlur (actually I found only one, which I haven’t even tried because of the poor reviews on the app store). That said, NewsBlur’s iOS apps are OK: again, not pretty, but they get the job done. I really hope to see Silvio Rizzi’s Reeder, and Oliver Fürniβ’s Mr. Reader soon. Unfortunately Oliver told me that he has no plans to include NewsBlur, but who knows, maybe if more people asked
• The sync is very fast, at least on par with Feed Wrangler and Feedly (I did not take any real measure, this is just a qualitative assessment).

### What is missing

What is really missing in NewsBlur at the moment is a good search option; for this reason I still keep my list of feeds updated on Feed Wrangler. Hopefully this will be added soon!

### Final thoughts

Might be of interest that NewsBlur is completely open source (source code available on github), so if you don’t want to pay for the hosted version, you can host your own. Be warned, this is not for the faint of heart, the technology stack used is quite rich and complex.

It is important to notice that Samuel Clay is behind the entire ecosystem around NewsBlur (web, iOS, and Android apps). This is an impressive work for a single developer, and I do hope that Samuel will keep publishing updates as he is doing now.

NewsBlur is the best RSS reader today, by far.

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