May 2004 Archives

While browsing the net today, I came across two interesting items, a USB Beverage Warmer, and a USB Fish Aquarium.

While cool, it seems that the only purpose of the USB connection is for power, no control is possible. So, pretty useless in that regard, if I can't do something cool like control the fish or adjust the heat of my beverage, they might as well just stick to DC adapters.

I've been having fun seeing the menus I created for my site pop up elsewhere. I usually find out about these when I see some page referrals in my web log from sites I don't recognize, so I go to investigate to see who's talking about me. ;)

I've found another site here in the US, dewjoy.net, another site in Australia, A Yobbo's View, and another site from Russia, The Private Daily Times. Pretty cool!

I've been exploring a new (to me) idea called Greylisting, which is kind of a middle ground between blacklisting (denying) and whitelisting (accepting) mail sent to a server. Basically, what this does is instruct the system trying to send you mail to 'try again later'. Legitimate mails will be retried at whatever interval the other system is set to, but most junk mails won't even try resending, effectively blocking those.

The postfix implementation of this seems a bit spotty currently, but may improve once a few more folks start playing with it. However, at least one person questions its effectiveness based on the amount of spam hitting his Hotmail account, and that fact that those servers are generally hard to reach anyway.

There are quite a few various chat clients available for the PocketPC, being a Mac and iChat user, I obviously wanted something compatible with AOL's AIM network. So, after installing the PocketPC version of AIM and some others, I've found that all of the clients currently out there (including AOL's own client) are well out of date, and none are able to use email address based account names (.Mac accounts, etc) for either logging in or for buddy lists.

So, my thoughts of using a wireless PDA for keeping in touch with friends and coworkers has now flown out the window...

Ok, I know that there are some nice high end digital cameras out there that can take huge pictures, but still... Apparently Pretec has announced that they plan to ship 12Gb Compact Flash memory cards soon, and they'll be available at the bargain price of $9999. For those of you that can't afford that puppy, they've dropped the price of their 6Gb CF card to the bargain price of $3499.

I've got a 128Mb card in my HP digital camera, and I can't take but a dozen shots or so before my 2100mAh batteries die... I can't even imagine the battery pack I'd need to be able to fill one of those cards up...

I've been trying to do a bit more research into the MT 3.0 upgrade, and thanks to a forum post with answers from Shelly, some of the licensing was clarified for me, specifically the part about multiple blogs at the same URL, which made no sense at first.

So, responding again to Mena's How are you using the tool? posting, I have some additional thoughts.

The ISP Wall Of Shame is up. These are ISPs that have had mails bounced because of problems with the way that their mail servers have been configured. Most of these are because of problems with how they handle the abuse@xxx.xxx email accounts, some others because of problems with the postmaster@xxx.xxx accounts. More info on these checks can be found at rfc-ignorant, but others are from other types of errors from other spam filters I'm running. Users at any of these systems can try sending me mail (see my contact info at right) and then forward the bounce error you get back to the appropriate support staff at your domain for them to address.

Well, thanks to some excellent spam filtering courtesy rfc-ignorant, virtually no junk mail is making it through my mail server. However, it seems that a number of fairly large ISPs have some problems with their mail servers...

I've tried contacting postmasters at several of these with little/no success, so for easy reference I'm creating another side section listing ISPs that have mail server problems, any users trying to email me from those systems will have their emails automatically bounced (sorry). Please contact your support folks with those ISPs to try to help them resolve the problem.

Mail admins that don't run tight ships aren't really doing anyone any favors, and are in my opinion a large part of the junk mail problem we have today.

I guess I've just been using Safari for too long, I've almost forgotten how annoying pop-up ads could be on the web... And PC users have an even more annoying form of these with the so called 'spyware' software that monitors where you surf and then pops up ads based on your surfing destinations.

Seems that L.L. Bean has had enough and is taking some retailers to court over these practices. I'm so glad I don't use PC's...

I came up with an interesting issue with Google this evening in how it was returning search results, and after some additional Googling to try to find out what was going on, decided it would be best to write their folks and ask for a clarification. So I fire off a note, and almost instantly a mail gets bounced on my server. Sure enough, what was probably a form response from Google got bounced because it came from an improperly set up server.

But, I don't blame Google... It seems that they're dealing with an outfit called Trakken, who according to their web site is a 'world-class eSupport solution'. I'm assuming that this knowledge doesn't extend to mail servers...

The folks over at six apart, creators of Movable Type, the software I use to write this blog, have recently announced their 3.0 version, and one of the major changes is their pricing structure. For instance, they now have one. ;)

A recent blog entry there asked how users are using the software, so I'm writing up my response here, and some thoughts on the pricing.

THX 1138

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The cinema classic by director George Lucas, THX 1138, looks to be heading back to theaters soon as a special edition.

I loved the original but haven't seen it in years. Used to be you could find it running on late night TV from time to time, but not for some time. Nice to see the touches they've added, head on over to the official site to check out the trailer.

I must say at this point I seem to be blocking most everything coming my way, whenever something does manage to sneak through, I then go out in search of more tools to try blocking these new junk mails.

I thought it might be good to report my Postfix config since I've updated it quite a bit since last time I listed it here.

I've decided to try adding one more spam tool to my arsenal, it's an add in to Spamassassin called Vipul's Razor. I found a nice page on Apple's Developer site that gave some good steps on installing this. Installing the CPAN stuff was probably the most difficult, and that wasn't really hard at all.

Maybe there's a difference in what OS X Server installs from regular OS X, but apparently the Digest::SHA1 code wasn't the right version, so I had to install that separately in CPAN, but after that all was well with installing Razor. My only problem now is that no spam is making it through to my test mailbox so I can't test it! LOL

I came across an article this morning at MacCentral about Chinese PC maker Founder gearing up to install iTunes for Windows on all of its PCs next month. Sounds like a major win for Apple, there.

However, in other news, MacRumors has a report of users in China not being able to reach apple.com, and apparently this has gone on for some weeks, and is also apparently not an unusual situation for major domains to be blocked.

Hmmm...

PDAs have always been a niche market, being a Mac user with a PDA may possibly be the ultimate niche market. PDAs are very handy tools, there's no denying that. Ever since the Newton introduced the world to the concept of a PDA, many folks have enjoyed having a handy device for storing appointments, contact information, various diversions (games, etc), and even checking email or browsing the web. But, also since the beginning, there have been problems inherent in using such a scaled down device and integrating it into the user's workflow.

The latest generation of PDAs have more power and capabilities than ever before, Tablet PCs are even more powerful and capable, but also much more expensive, and again share the same fundamental flaws; limited functionality, hardware and OS restrictions, and of course, marketshare.

I just came across a page at Declude detailing a large number of current DNS based spam databases, also known as block lists. These include the usual DNSBL lists that block receiving mail from specific servers, and also include RHSBL lists as well.

The RHSBL lists are something I just recently discovered, they are used to filter mail based on the sender's email domain, as some spam may actually pass through legitimate servers, this will catch some additional junk mail that might pass through other filtering. I'm trying out some additional filtering based on RHSBL, I'll report on the results in a few days.

Well, I finally have AvantGo running on my new PocketPC. One of the support staff there finally got what I was saying and was able to email me the .CAB file necessary to install this from the Mac. It apparently isn't posted separately as PocketPCs can have any of a number of different processors and code has to be compiled for each one, and the job of the .exe installer is to make sure the correct .CAB gets loaded. Another of the fun Gotcha's with PocketPCs, but at least I'm able to sync again.

Generally, most developers will be able to get you the correct .CAB file if you request it and let them know what processor you need code for.

I really enjoy science fiction, I grew up reading Asimov, Poul Anderson, Fred Saberhagen, Heinlein, Piers Anthony, Larry Niven, and a host of others. And I love watching science fiction shows on TV, even the poorly made ones from years gone by. Like most fans of the genre, I can enjoy the shows for what they are and not concern myself when I notice the strings that hold the models, the fake backdrops, and the host of other flaws in older shows.

When the SciFi network first launched, they did a decent job at bringing various shows to their lineup, but lately they've really been slipping.

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow today gave birth to her first child, and has named her Apple. As far as I can tell from a quick look around the web, I may be the first to make the connection between this event and our favorite computer company.

Paltro is one of the stars of the upcoming Paramont film Sky Captain and The World Of Tomorrow, which relied heavily on Macs for the CGI work. Coincidence?

For quite some time, most major word processing application shave included their own spell checking facility, it's just one of those huge convenience features that most folks have come to expect. If you're a long time computer user, I'm sure that you, like me, remember the old days before some modern conveniences as spell checking, page formatting, fonts, or even lower case characters. But I digress...

It didn't take too long after folks got comfortable with spell checking to discover that this convenience was needed in other applications too, email (bulletin boards in the early days), databases, virtually any application that might require text input could probably benefit from a spell checker. Thus was born on the Macintosh an application named Thunder, a power spell checker that would work with most any application on your system. In fact, I'm typing this entry via Safari, my web browser of choice. Who would have though that a web browser needed a spell checker? These folks have been ahead of the game for years...

The folks over at eWeek are reporting something that the market has already known, folks just aren't snapping up Tablet PCs. Oh, sure, they look cool, but get beyond that, and they're just overgrown PocketPCs.

And there are a number of reasons that they haven't caught on, but here's my short answer: OS. Now, unlike PocketPCs which run the Windows Mobile OS, the Tablet systems run Windows XP, but it's the Tablet PC Edition. So, yet another custom OS to support.

Apparently, the brain trust over at Intego has discovered a new 'Trojan' for the Mac, an AppleScript application with an icon somewhat similar to Microsoft Office that some fool apparently downloaded via the Gnutella network, a system commonly used for sharing files, including copyrighted music and applications.

The script, when run, supposedly will delete all files in the user's home directory. This is the second totally bogus warning issued by these folks in just over a month, demonstrating to me a total lack of integrity by their fear-mongering tactics.

For a while I've been wanting to comment on the use of trackbacking, or the linking of one blog entry or category with another blog's entry or category, and how it doesn't seem to be very widespread at this point. I will often run into a site that I want to mention, and would like the author of that article to know that I've written something about their posting, trackback lets you do this, creating a web based discussion thread.

Today I came across a discussion at Joi Ito's Web, which being trackback enabled allowed me to find a number of other excellent articles from other bloggers on the subject. Very good reading, and some food for thought.

A good spell checker can be worth its weight in gold. More, actually, since generally software doesn't weigh that much. Anyway, my long time favorite has been Spell Checker, possibly known to some of you old time Mac folks as Thunder or Thunder 7. I believe that I've ran almost every single version of this program over its extremely long history on the Mac.

Version 10.1.2 is about to be released, I promise to have a review of this excellent application in just a few days. There's even a version for Windows too, but I'm not holding that against them...

Well, for about a week now I've been trying to get the AvantGo support staff to send me a link to a .CAB installer so I can install the software on my PocketPC without having to sync with a Windoze system. I'm beginning to feel that English is not a language they fully comprehend there.

Their presumably form replies are nicely written, but are not bearing any resemblance to the problem I'm presenting them with. I usually don't mind emailing tech support folks, but when they don't even bother to try understanding the problem and are forced to stick with their 'script', it can be darned frustrating the for customer.

Ok, I've been running the filters posted at SecuritySage doing header_checks and mime_header_checks in Postfix for the last for days, and I've had a grand total of zero junk mails delivered to my dummy account. That's zero delivered, mind you, the mail server is rejecting these outright, so they never hit the mail account at all. In the same amount of time, my mac.com has been hit about 60 times, and that's just the ones that were actually delivered.

No, not quite a fair test since my mac.com account is in a bit wider circulation, including to some (unfortunately) PC email users, and we all know how often viruses and worms come along and steal entire mail lists from those folks... Still, if you're running your own mail server with Postfix, do yourself a favor and check out those filters. ;)

All I have to say so far is, wow. The spam filters I borrowed from SecuritySage have really done the trick on the mails I was getting, most of which were fake Microsoft 'patches' and other garbage. Now they're all getting rejected before they even get to my mailbox, or rather, the mailbox of the spam catcher account I set up.

Sweet.

I just came across the SecuritySage web site, it has some good info on fighting spam, specifically some header and mime checks to actually reject mail from hitting your server, rather than waiting for Spamassassin to try catching it.

I'm trying out some additional filtering to see if this cuts down on the mails going to the account I set up for spam. If anyone's curious about that, I created a new account, then set up my newsreader with that account, and posted a number of emails in various newsgroups wtih a clear subject and body that this message was being sent so spammers would get the email address. Within an hour, I was already getting spams, so obviously that trick worked. If you're setting up a new spam filter, you might want to do this to get a dummy address out in the wild for testing, just don't post with it too much or you'll be guilty of spamming too...

After doing some upgrades this week at work, I find that I now have a few spare Xserve drive sleds. After some web searching this afternoon, I wasn't able to find any external enclosures that I might be able to put them in.

I think it would be pretty sweet if someone could come up with an enclosure that would fit 2 or 4 of these drives that could sit next to my G4, maybe include the blue LED indicators like the Xserve and Xraid. I actually thought about building one, but it seems that finding a SCA to 40 pin ATA connector is about impossible, and without that, no way to connect to it. Too bad Apple doesn't release a nice enclosure like this...

I've acquired a slightly used Axim X3i, and I'm attempting to set it up entirely on the Mac without needing to resort to using Virtual PC. So far most things have gone according to plan, but I've run into two snags, and one may be beyond being doable Mac only.

First, apparently the AvangGo Connect application is not installed on this device by default, and requires that being able to sync AvantGo content be enabled in ActiveSync (the Windows sync software) prior to it being usable, despite the fact that this device has built in wireless and will be getting AvantGo content on it's own, thank you very much. I'm assuming that the required app on the PocketPC side is installed after this is set up under Windows. I've already written to the AvantGo support folks looking for a .cab installer file to transfer to the PocketPC to install this, they have an installer posted but the .exe they've made available won't launch on the PocketPC, so it's made to run under Windows.

The second problem I've run into is that there has been a ROM update to this model, and again it's a .exe file, and I'm fairly sure that there's more to the ROM update than just installing a simple app... It's always something...

Well, maybe I shouldn't have turned my back on the Newton after all. Seems that the Newton is alive and well thanks to a thriving community, and Mike Manzano is even writing his blog from a Newton.

Wired has a nice link about Mike and his Newton, see Mike's site for more info.

This has to be one of the cooler things I've seen recently. Microvision has a product on the market now, and takes computer generated imagery to a whole new level, projecting images directly onto the retina using a low powered laser beam.

At $4000, it's a bit much for the average home user, but could have a big impact at the corporate level. But plans 5 years out could see this in a variety of consumer devices...

I've written previously about using Postfix Enabler to set up the mail server I'm using for the site. The author, Bernard Teo, was nice enough to hook me up with a beta of version 1.1 that I've been running here for a bit over a week, and it is now available via the link above for anyone that wants to give it a shot. It now includes an optional setup for Spamassassin, as well as a handy Mail Stats generator to keep track of what your server is doing. Also included is a new field to set a RBL (Realtime block List) server, such as Spamhaus to help with spam checking.

I thought I had the Spamassassin part set up correctly, but after setting up a new account here for testing and then going out of my way to put that account where spammers would find it, I found that Spamassasin wasn't checking my mail at all. Read on for how I fixed this, and learned a bit about Postfix's main.cf configuration file.

Thomas Lunde wrote in to let me know that Open Office supports the conversion of notes from a PocketPC. The format of these files is .pwi, also known as PocketWord Ink format. Not quite worth my installing X11 just for that, but Open Office is pretty cool for folks that need the functionality of Microsoft Office but want an alternative to M$.

Also, PocketMac apparently includes a Word Reader that will open the .pwi files as well. I'm still looking for any other apps that will handle this, but for not emailing the contents seems to work for me.

Found something interesting today, apparently neither of the sync apps I'm using has the ability to convert the Notes from the PocketPC to the Mac, not even the Mac version of Word will open them, go figure. I've found the only way to get the contents over to the Mac is to open the Notes, then copy and paste into an email and send it to myself.

Also, today I installed a 256Mb SD RAM card, and went through the joy of using a Registry Editor to get some of the built in apps (email, AvantGo, etc) to use that for data instead of the built-in RAM. Apparently, PocketPC apps aren't smart enough to know how to use another memory module, and you have to hack them to set this up, basically like editing a .plist file on the Mac, but apparently this needs to be done a lot more often on Windoze systems. And to top it off, even though this was a high speed SD module, it apparently accesses much slower than the built in RAM. An AvantGo sync used to take about 15 seconds, and it now takes 3 minutes. Ugh!

Ok, the new menus are online, and I have a writeup here documenting what I did to modify the menus to make them work.

Is there still anyone on the Mac that's using Internet Explorer? Keeping compatibility is getting to be a lot more trouble then it's worth, I think if there is anyone using a browser that isn't fully CSS compliant, they should really think about upgrading.

I need do some reading to see if the latest version of IE on the Windoze side is fully up to code, that'll make things a LOT easier if that's the case...

After much frustration over the weekend I finally got the new menus working, I'll be putting them online tonight and will post another article on what was involved in getting them to work.

Safari worked well for most of my testing, but getting the menus to display correctly in Internet Explorer took all sorts of work. The CSS code is pretty much as it was before, but with larger fields, but the HTML driving the menus needed some major work. But still, no Java was required, the menus are all pure CSS, just driven by some ugly HTML code.

I've been playing with the menu I'm using on the site, and added in a 'Recent Entries' column. If you look at it, you can see it looks pretty bad since the width isn't wide enough to fit all the text in. And it's not a simple task to change this the way the menu is laid out...

I 'almost' had a solution that worked perfectly by making the menus wider, then sticking a negative offset in to have them moved to the left a varying amount based on the menu position. In Safari, this worked great, the main menu label was using a smaller width, and the items below used the larger width. But this didn't work in Internet Explorer at all... Back to the drawing board.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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