This blog has, IMO, some great resources. Unfortunately, some of those resources are becoming less relevant. I'm still blogging, learning tech and helping others...please find me at my new home on

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Too Many Computers

Many have cited the demise of the PC. Now that tablet X is on the market or that smartphone y has sold millions, it’s only a matter of time before you pitch your PC out the window, right?

I actually believe it’s going to be around for a long time (and that’s not just because I need to get paid).  What we are starting to witness is the transcendence of functionality beyond what our devices were originally used for.

Let’s be honest, here: you don’t need a PC to check email and surf the web.  The way I see it, too many people have computers; the evolution of smart, integrated devices will correct the size of the PC market.

Workstations used to be used for solving problems, not checking your bank balance and surfing Facebook.  I think they are entering a time of homecoming, where people who use computers for their original intent will reclaim the PC and purpose-driven devices will fill in the void for others.

The Need For PCs

Let’s consider a worldwide acceptance of the tenet that PCs are dust.  On International Ditch Your PC Day, everyone throws out their computer in favor of whatever device they are carrying around.  What happens next?

Nothing.  All the applications you have on your device will be all you ever have.  Device development would halt.  There would be no new gaming systems, much less games.  There would be no new prototypes for handheld devices (as many of these start out by taking up several square feet, built off of an emulator on a superfast PC).  Advances in medical research would be crippled.

They can’t all go away, simply for the reason that the bulky little buggers we’ve grown used to on our desktops over the last two decades are needed to advance the things we take with us when we leave our desk.

I don’t mean to discount mainframe computing and virtualized workstations, those will have their place as well, but there are types of folks – myself included – that will need the localized, on-demand power and processing capabilities of a personal workstation.

Cheap Things and Consumerism

This whole situation we’re in is partly a problem with the way we’ve taken everything in our culture to the extreme.  I won’t rant on this too much, but if a 21 year old office clerk can service the debt of an SUV, she does.  If there’s a new computer out that is 8x the speed of your old one with 4x the memory, and it’s only $400, you tend to want to purchase it.  Bigger, better, faster, shiny-er.  That’s how we roll.

So computers fall below $1000 and lots of people start to buy them.  Lots too many, actually.  Then reasonable PCs come in at $750 and you’re shopping with Grams so she can get pictures emailed to her of your new kids.  Then $500.  Now $400, monitor included.  Laptops at $379, netbooks running at $289.  Everyone getting something.

The Balance

We won’t ever see PCs abolished from planet Earth, but they will start to sell less and less.  Prices will even adjust to reflect demand, and we can expect to see PCs priced back up around $1000 (in today’s dollars, that is, not just due to inflation).

This will happen because Grams doesn’t need a laptop to see pictures, she needs a digital picture frame.  Your dad doesn’t need a PC to surf the web, just a small touch tablet.

Desktops will not go away, and their end is not nigh, but I suspect they have peaked in popularity.  They will morph, take new shapes, miniaturize and maybe even become a remote device to our desktop (which has only inputs and a display of some kind).

For anyone who actually uses computers, they will be here for a long time to come.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

2 Media Families are Expected

I’ve just got a couple of 1TB drives (WD Caviar Blacks…woohoo!) as my new boot stripe and I’m getting prepared to start builing my new workstation.

I stage many of my spike solutions on this machine, so I need to backup my web sites and databases that are used to show these snippets of functionality off and allow users to play-test them.  There are usually 3-4 of these active at any given time.

Through SSMS I tried to backup one of the databases and got the 2 Media Families error:

The media loaded on "c:\path\database.bak" is formatted to support 1 media families, but 2 media families are expected according to the backup device specification.

I’ve run into this before, so I had a good inkling that there was a bad backup set.  This isn’t good news if you’re in a production environment, but it’s not so bad in my case.

While it’s not “fixing” the issue, you can get around this error by performing the following steps:

  1. Remove the existing/offending backup locations from the list.  You can do this in the backup task window or by generating a backup script and removing the DISK="your_bad_path" from the command.
  2. Specify a new backup filename in a pre-existing folder.  If the folder doesn’t exist you’ll get an OS3 error with no text, but it just means you’re trying to write to a directory that doesn’t exist.

The NOFORMAT, NOINIT, NOREWIND texts come from tape backup origins and the documentation is not really clear on how they affect system drives.  For example, the MSDN documentation suggests that using FORMAT will render the media set useless.  So what does that do to my C:\ drive?  FORMAT will rewrite the headers for instances where there are different media family counts (whereas INIT will not).

So, I maybe don’t want to use FORMAT?  I don’t have a striped backup set of tapes, so I don’t think this matters.

At any rate, I don’t need whatever corrupt backup file was on my disk, so I changed my destination, removed the bad file from the backup list and carried on.