Facebook Chat, With 40% less suck!

Consider me about 2 days late to this game, but it looks like Facebook finally turned on XMPP chatting. This means that as opposed to the horrible, godawful, REST-driven javascript chat client, you can chat with a desktop client! To those familiar with dropped or duplicated chat messages, trying to IM someone online to find that they're actually offline, and the other oddities that come of Facebook Chat, this should be a welcome change. To make things better, Facebook is attaching to the same open protocol Google uses, so existing chat client software can easily get on Facebook.

Details on how to attach are provided by Facebook, but it's generally just "Add an XMPP account as <user>@chat.facebook.com with your Facebook password" Since I found this out at 3am, I really haven't had any way to test the chat functionality's reliability. I remain confident, however, that Facebook got this up correctly.

SSD: Lots of Bang, not too many bucks

For Christmas this year, I was gifted with money, given the stipulation that I must spend it in the coming week. Of course, after having viewed this Screencast on installing an SSD in a MacBook Pro, I decided to emulate the procedure and give my laptop a boost of speed. As noted in the linked page, SSD's are fast, but expensive. Larger capacity drives cost upwards of $500, an amount I wasn't looking to spend. Since I have a decent amount of data on the laptop, doing a full-on replacement of the drive would normally mean trimming out a bunch of data and being constrained by a small drive. However, a company called MCE sells an adapter bay called OptiBay that allows you to install an auxiliary hard drive in the optical drive slot. One of those and a 64GB SSD later, I was ready to install :D

The steps were pretty easy to follow, although the installation was slightly tricky when replacing the optical drive

  • Mount the SSD into the OptiBay with 2 screws (included)
  • Follow the instructions on iFixit on replacing the optical drive.
  • Use SuperDuper to copy your old hard drive to the new SSD (Note that if you have too much data in your home folder at the moment, you will need to delete enough of it to fit and recover it from backup later)
  • Boot up off of the new SSD (and be amazed at the boot time)!
  • If you want to wipe off the old drive (and make it non-bootable, just storage), go to Disk Utility and reformat the old drive.
    • Use the following command to recopy your home folder over to your old drive
    • mkdir -p /Volumes/<VolumeName>/<username> && ditto -rsrc /Users/<username> /Volumes/<VolumeName>/<username>/

      This will make a folder on the old hard drive to store your local data then do a full clone of your home folder over to it.

  • From the User Accounts Preference Pane, Alt-Click your username, then click Advanced Options... Click Open in the dialog, then point to your home folder on the old drive. Reboot your computer, then voila!


Now you have a super-fast boot drive (and applications), while keeping a larger storage for all your mail, documents, etc.

Moving to Google Apps

After a period of intense hatred of Apple for their decision to reject Google's Google Voice application from the iTunes App Store, as well as yanking two other related applications from the store, I decided it was time to switch off the iPhone and move to a more open smartphone. (For more details on this debacle, see links at the bottom of the post) The obvious choice: the Android smartphone.

Luckily, my decision to move off the iPhone coincided with the release of the myTouch 3G Android phone from T-Mobile. I had played around with this phone a bit earlier, and I liked the feel for it. After signing away my soul to T-Mobile (and eating the Early Termination fee from AT&T), I signed into my gmail account on the android phone, and all the expected information got pushed into my phone just like that. It's the same seamless experience one gets with MobileMe, but, yknow, free.

What irked me about the android platform is while the built-in gmail application is quite serviceable, the auxiliary mail application BLOWS. It needs to die, with fire. And of course, all my mail goes to my non-gmail address, rendering all the push goodness of gmail moot. The solution: Move to Google Apps!

Google provides the most-used services from the Googlesphere to us folk with custom domain names: Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Google Chat, and iGoogle. All of this is pushed to Android phones, can be synced with Outlook, and a bunch of other nifty features. In other words, exactly what I want! (Sign up for the free version @ http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/group/index.html)

Having signed up and activated the account, I needed to port my existing email, contacts, and calendars over. Contacts were straightforward: export from Gmail and import into my Google Apps. A similar solution exists for Calendars. However, email was a tricky one.

Since all my email was on my old nickglorioso.com server in an IMAP store, I wanted to move the entire folder structure over without losing read messages, reception time, and all the other problems that tend to arise when moving about large amounts of email. Enter larch, a deceptively simple, yet "awesome" Ruby script that does exactly what the github source page says it does:

Larch syncs messages from one IMAP server to another. Awesomely.

Can't argue with that.

The easiest way to install larch is to find someone with a mac or a linux machine with ruby (Macs with Leopard or Linuxes that have 'rubygems' installed are good to go) and then enter (in the console):

sudo gem install larch

Having installed this awesome script, direct your computer thusly:

larch --all --from=imap://[your-server-address] --to=imaps://imap.gmail.com

Enter the correct usernames, passwords, then wait. A lot. You can run this as many times as you'd like, and it will intelligently copy only newer messages.

Congratulations! You now have all your email on Google Apps. Have fun, and enjoy webmail that doesn't suck!

----- Those links