Cool USB Drive Letter Manager

During the course of my classes, I may want to distribute additional files to the students. Normally I do this with their own USB drives. The problem is that everytime I stick in a new USB stick, Windows tries to map it to G: but our IT folks have already mapped that to an internal network drive. Now it is easy enough to remap the USB drive to another location, but I have to do that for every new USB stick I get. When I want to quickly share a file and move on, having to spend an extra minute to fix windows is a pain in the ass.

I started to look into ways to solve this. At first I thought a batch file, wscript, or powershell script might work. While looking for clues on how to do this, I ended up finding a perfect solution already written by someone else. USBDLM is a Windows service that will watch for new USB drive mappings, and remap them to one of a few specific letters you have configured to use for USB sticks.

This is perfect for me and I hope it works out. It has a 30 day eval license (though it doesn’t seem to have any timeout) and after that costs on 10 USD. If you are constantly having to mount foreign USB drives, this could be a great timesaver for you.

Persisting Content from Virtual Machines (or Why I Am Using Subversion)

One of the problems I always run into when working with several versions of virtual machines is figuring out where the “good” content is. I start up one, do something interesting such as build a neat application, or at least start building one, then shut it down and start working on a new VM. Usually I do this because I discovered a shortcoming of the VM during one of my classes. Then usually during the downtime between classes I sift through all the older VMs looking for interesting content, and then remember something else that was on that VM just days after deleting it entirely. I needed to find a different way of handling this issue.

There are plenty of interesting ways of doing this. One is to create a share on the Host OS that the guest VM can access. Then I can drag and drop the interesting content when I am done. There are plenty of tools to automate this synch making it easier to deal with. But at the same time I had another problem I needed to deal with: version control. I am not a member of a large dev team, but I do spend a bit of time in Visual Studio as well as Microsoft Office apps and wanted a version control system that could handle managing my content. At Captaris we make a document archival/document management tool called Alchemy, but it is not ideally suited to source code control.

Another solution is out there and is written about often. Its freely available, but has a major hurdle going against it. Its Subversion and its hurdle is documentation and ease of use. Documentation is great when you know how to use it, but finding documentation to teach you how to use it is difficult. Everything assumes you already know about source code version control. Its not difficult, but requires you to spend some quality time wrapping your head around it. I spent a good part of the day yesterday doing that and I think I have a solution that will work well for me.

The solution involves Subversion and TortoiseSVN on my host OS, and TortoiseSVN on each of my guest OSes. I am also seeing is VisualSVN makes life easier too. The result is that I can start a project in one VM and spend a little bit of time with setup. Then I can continue the project in my host OS or in any other VM without any extra steps, beyond that initial setup. Its pretty slick. I get the same benefit with Visual Studio projects, Microsoft Word documents, or any other file I create. Looking back at the install process to get this working, it wasn’t very tough. But that lack of good documentation, or more accurately an abundance of conflicting advice, made it a confusing job. And I still have no idea why I created a Branch, Trunk, and Tags directory for no apparent reason….still more reading to do. I’ll write up how I got this far as well as an account of my first experiences with this setup soon.


December Update

Wow, 6 weeks since my last post. Hmmm….been busy. Taught a Workflow class here in the Netherlands, flew to the other side of the planet (the longest way round), then taught a Rightfax class in Sydney then a Workflow class in Auckland, drove around New Zealand’s South Island for a week, flew back here, attended a Fax over IP mini-class in Brussels and taught a Rightfax class back here in the Netherlands. Yeah, all in 6 weeks. But perhaps one of the most exciting things happened just today. Well, maybe exciting isn’t quite the right word….relieving may be better.

I was able to go down to the Amsterdam City Hall and pick up my Dutch Drivers License. Ahhhhh…. The application for this little item was first filed in May and it has taken this long to process it. I might go into the full story another time, but if you ever thought that American government agencies work slowly, your local DMV is a model of efficiency compared to what we deal with here. It reminded me of what a few people told me before I left the US. They all said something like: get ready to wait, nothing is done the easy way in Europe. If there is a more difficult, less efficient, more costly way of doing things, someone in Europe has taken that process and made it worse.

One other thing I have been working on is getting a second site set up. That new site will deal with my travels around the world, my experiences outside of work. Then I can focus Technovangelist purely on technology. Things like Workflow (both our more established solution as well as the newer Microsoft offering), Rightfax, Alchemy, integrations, interesting projects, and more. Hopefully over the Christmas holidays I can spend a little more time setting that other site up and segregating content. I’ll be doing that from my parent’s place in Poulsbo, Washington starting next week.

Next year will prove to be as busy as this year, and potentially even more so. I already have three trips to Australia planned, a few weeks in Bangkok, 2 or 3 visits to Dubai, and perhaps even South Africa, the Philipines, and Sri Lanka, as well as personal trips to Vietnam, Cambodia, India, and more. It’s looking like it will be a great year.