April 30, 2004

Oops... Menu article corrected

It seems that I made a small error in writing my article on Drop down menus a few days ago... The code that I pasted into the article was actually the OUTPUT of what I was creating, not the code actually CREATING it.

So, if you're interested please jump back and review that article again, the proper code is now in that article. My apologies for any confusion.

Posted by Jim at 2:43 PM | TrackBack

Pepsi unable to carry a Tune

An iTune, that is. CNET reports on Pepsi's iTunes promotion which began at the Superbowl this year, hoping to give away up to 100 million iTunes. Instead, only 5 million songs were actually redeemed.

What the article doesn't mention was Pepsi's supply problems getting these out to the folks that wanted them. Personally, I never saw one of these bottles in the grocery stores I go to locally, though I did manage to find a few at a local convenience shop, and the local 7-11 briefly had specially marked 32oz cups at their soda fountain, which I promptly filled with Diet Dr. Pepper. Of the 5 promo items I purchased, I managed to only win a single song.

Many markets received these specially marked bottles late, if at all. And as far as I know the only real push on this promo was at the very beginning during the Superbowl. You have to wonder if Pepsi ever intended to have this promo be a sucess for Apple to begin with, since they were footing the bill for all iTunes redeemed during the contest. Since they just blew a few million in advertising during the Superbowl, maybe they figured they'd save a few by not getting the free songs into people's hands right away and waiting for the excitement to die down?

We may never really know the answer to that one, but I think if I was Steve Jobs, I'd be a bit pissed at Pepsi right about now...

Posted by Jim at 2:07 PM | TrackBack

iPod update problems

A report today from MacCentral regarding some problems with the iPod update recently released coinciding with iTunes 4.5.

I've personally run this on two second generation iPods and a 3rd generation iPod without problems, but I have heard of one 1st generation user that had a problem. His iPod was plugged in as the update was downloading and it ran immediately, and somewhere along the line locked up his iPod to the point that it rebooted wtih the flashing folder icon.

He was able to resolve it by rebooting his Mac and letting Disk Utility reformat his iPod as a Firewire drive, then ran an older iPod updater to restore the unit, then the new updater ran fine.

So far, I've not heard of any units permanently damaged by this, but it isn't clear why some units aren't updating as they should. As I see it, there probably isn't any reason why most folks shouldn't run the update now, but regardless Apple will probably have a fix for this soon.

Posted by Jim at 1:23 PM | TrackBack

April 28, 2004

Oh, the irony...

No sooner did I leave my feedback for Netfront to get the license that was promised, when my mail log shows another failed connection. You guessed it, the folks sending the license code info didn't have their reverse DNS set correctly and it bounced. So, another note to another postmaster...

Posted by Jim at 8:16 PM | TrackBack

Free NetFront browser

I came across an interesting link today from Nokia to get a free license for the Netfront web browser for the Series 60 phones (3650, 3660, 3620, etc). Not a bad deal, all you need to do is provide some feedback on the browser and they'll send you a license code.

Posted by Jim at 5:53 PM | TrackBack

April 27, 2004

PalmOne intros new models

PalmOne today introduced a new model, the Zire 31, and upgraded the Zire 71 to the Zire 72. More importantly, they've reaffirmed their support for the Mac market, despite PalmSource (a separate company responsible for the Palm OS itself) having indicated previously that Palm OS 6.0 (Code name Cobalt) would ship with no Mac support.

Since Cobalt isn't shipping yet, this isn't an immediate concern, but it's another reason why I ended up not sticking with their product. If PalmOne finds some way to work around this, they may yet see some of my business. Note to PalmOne, evaluation units gladly accepted...

Posted by Jim at 11:18 PM | TrackBack

450? Do I hear 550?

After going through my documentation on Postfix again, and trying to figure out why those problem mails keep resending to my system, I discovered that the error code I had set, 450, was basically telling the other end that there was a problem, and to try again. I've now changed this to 550, which should now reject those mails.

This seems to be good in that those sending me mail should not receive the error mails that indicate a problem mailing me, letting them know about the problem. I've begun sending postmasters of mail servers with issues notes containing clips from my logs in the hope that this might help them fix their systems. We'll see what happens.

This last error I saw from actually from what should have been a Mac system, so hopefully they'll get their act together quickly. ;)

Posted by Jim at 10:58 PM | TrackBack

April 26, 2004

Reverse DNS, or lack thereof

In setting up my mail server, I made the decision to use some fairly strict settings in order to reduce spam. I was aware that there might be some legitimate mails that may not make it through from improperly configured mail servers, and I figured the chances of this would be fairly slim. Last night it looks like I bounced my first legitimate mail.

It doesn't seem to be a problem with this party's mail server, but rather something with their DNS, it isn't providing a reverse lookup for their IP address, so when my mail server sees a message coming from their IP address, it tries to determine the name of their mail server (ex. mail.yourcompany.com), and when no results are returned, the message is rejected.

I know of some companies that have set up restrictions on their mail systems to only accept mail from known hosts (those with reverse lookups) to help block junk mail, who quickly backed away from this, the article linked above specifically mentions that AT&T Worldnet ran this setup for only 24 hours in January 2003 before they had to turn it off because of legitimate mail being bounced.

So, I'm now left with a dilema, so do I disable this setting so this company's mail can finally reach me (I'm getting a bounce each hour right now as they attempt to resend the mail), giving in to the terrorists, er, technological nonconformists, or do I stand my ground against them like Spain, er, AT&T Worldnet didn't? For now, I'm standing my ground.

If someone can give me some legitimate reason why a full time mail server NEEDS to be misconfigured or have improper network settings, I'll be happy to listen, and possibly revise my opinion. At this time, I haven't seen any legitimate cases for this, all I've found so far is various companies and mail admins who have tried to enforce standards and given in because of others who continue to run out of date or sloppily written software. Granted, those that gave in seem to have done so because of complaints from paying customers (I suppose I'd be mad at my mail provider if they were blocking legitimate mail) or from employees who were unable to conduct business, but it seems that a line in the sand must be drawn, so for now, consider the line drawn.

Posted by Jim at 9:00 AM | TrackBack

April 23, 2004

Spam fighting, the Mac way

I've blogged previously setting up Postfix on my server, and wanted to share this link about Spamhaus, and how they're making use of Macs, including a G4 cube, to help ISPs around the world, as well as small time mail servers like mine, keep up the war against unwanted junk mail.

My mail logs show that I'm regularly hit from systems looking for an open mail relay for sending junk mail, Postfix by default blocks these. But I'm getting an increasing number of messages that are being rejected thanks to Spamhaus. So far, not one junk mail has made it to my inbox from a spammer.

Posted by Jim at 11:04 PM | TrackBack

Bloggers on parade

I found an interesting link today at Apartment Therapy. It's interesting for two reasons, that a group of bloggers is getting together in broad daylight (well, in public anyway), and that it's being held at an Apple Store.

I might need to look into this should an Apple Store open in my area...

Posted by Jim at 4:46 PM | TrackBack

Contest coming...

I'm kicking around the idea of having a contest to generate some traffic for the site. The rules will be simple, put a link to this site on your webpage, or convince a friend with a page to put a link on their page. This must be a link in the 'Links' or 'Blogroll' section of the web page (usually a space set aside for links in a column on the main web page), not a link burried in an article or blog entry.

Now to find something cool to give away. ;) More details later.

Posted by Jim at 4:38 PM | TrackBack

April 22, 2004

Of Macs and PocketPCs...

Life isn't easy for a Mac user with a PocketPC. They just weren't made to work together, situation normal for Windows systems, I suppose. However, the situation isn't entirely hopeless.

There are two software packages on the market for the Mac designed to ease the connectivity issues with PocketPCs, namely The Missing Sync and PocketMac Pro. Read on for more information on how they stack up.

Both applications boast a similar feature set; iCal and Address book sychronization, integration with iPhoto and iTunes, the ability to share your Mac's internet connection with the PDA, etc. PocketMac goes a bit further and also offers sync with Entourage, NOW Contact, and Mail. And both allow for installing PocketPC applications onto the PDA. The PocketMac software currently includes an added bonus of a PocketPC Theme that when installed gives the PocketPC a look very similar to a Mac running OS X, which is a nice bonus.

So, how do they compare then? For basic synchronization with iCal and Address book, both apps did a good job, transferring data in about the same amount of time, both integrate with iSync for facilitating this. iPhoto and iTunes syncing involves adding a plugin to both apps to allow syncing, but again these functions seem very well thought out, and work well in both products.

For me, the big difference was noticed when trying to install applications onto the PocketPC. The PocketPC uses a file format called .CAB, similar to the Mac's .pkg file, it's a self contained format that includes everything needed for the app to run. If the app you want to install is available in a .CAB file, then you're usually in good shape on the Mac. Should you not see this format available where you download the software, check with the author to see if this file format is available, usually it is.

With the Missing Sync software, installing items was as simple as clicking the Install File button in the application, the file is automatically transferred to the PocketPC, and if additional installation is necessary, the PocketPC pops up a window walking you through the steps.

With the PocketMac software, a nice feature has been included that actually will look into a .exe file (the format most PocketPC software is distributed in) and will attempt to extract the .CAB files burried in the .exe. I say 'try to', because of about 6 different apps I tried this on, not one of these was able to be installed. To be fair, the application does caution that it may not work with all files, either I had incredibly bad luck, or this feature isn't quite ready for prime time just yet. Installing a straight .CAB file worked much better, but oddly these files took a very long time to transfer, much longer than it took for the Missing Sync software.

Now, let's take a look at the two companies. I initially contacted both companies about reviewing their software for my office, I received an almost immediate response from the folks at Mark/Space, makers of Missing Sync. In fact, I received the software even before my PocketPC arrived. I received absolutely no response from PocketMac, even after a second request was made for an evaluation copy. After some wheeling and dealing, I was able to procure a copy of PocketMac from a gentleman who was selling his PDA and including the PocketMac software, and it turned out the buyer wasn't a Mac guy, and he sent me the included CD at no cost. So, just to keep the record clear, both of these are official registered copies of the applications.

One thing that can really set apart one company over another is their support after the sale, assisting users in resolving their issues. The more complicated the software, the more important support should be in considering a purchase. Im the case of these two apps, I had minor problems that I needed assistance with once I had things up and running, so again both companies were contacted for assistance.

As before with Mark/Space, I received a quick answer to my issue, which turned out to be the need for a newer release of their software (I was having slow internet access when using the internet sharing feature), and that fixed me up nicely. With the PocketMac folks, my issue was in registering the software I'd gotten second hand in my name. Also as before, repeated contacts yielded absolutely no response. Almost a month later, I still have an open case with PocketMac that hasn't been updated by any of their support staff since the nice but unhelpful woman I spoke with on the phone entered the notes into their system.

So, all things considered, my own opinion is that the Missing Sync software wins this one hands down. It's a tightly integrated package, supported by what seem to be a great bunch of folks. With a retail price of $39.95 (Download version), it's money well spent.

Posted by Jim at 10:38 PM | TrackBack

theimposter.org, MIA

Well, I just referenced their site in my blog yesterday, and now that site seems to be unavailable. Hopefully it's only a temporary glitch on their end...

Posted by Jim at 9:58 PM | TrackBack

Drop down menus without Java

Since before I put this site up, I wanted to have a menu along the top for navigation and some quick links, and try to avoid the long list of stuff down the right side of the page. After reviewing a number of sites and doing many searches, I've finally come up with something I like (see menu above).

The primary thing I wanted was a pretty straight HTML solution, no Java. Why? Personal preference, mainly, and I don't feel like learning Java. So, with that in mind, I set out in search of sites that had menus somewhat like I wanted.

After a few days of hitting various pages and doing various web searches, I stumbled across a page at www.theimposter.org that was just about perfect for what I needed. Nice, straightforward code, easy to apply CSS styling to, and of course, no Java.

The examples on that page were fairly clear, but were missing the style sheet additions, so instead of looking at the examples I just looked at the source html for that web page. ;) After copying that to a local file, along with the style sheet used on that page, I was quickly able to tweak up my own version.

By now some of you are probably asking, 'but did you hard code all your categories in there?' Not at all, for that trick, I'll refer you to www.antipixel.com for a perfect way to handle the categories. The antipixel.com page was found thanks to an entry at www.thegirliematters.com, an excellent site full of all manner of web and Movabletype tips.

So, now for the guts. In Movabletype I created a new Index Template called 'Test Template', and had the contents of this be my current 'Main Index' template. To this I added my menu code, and tweaked and rebuilt until I had it where I wanted it. For my site, I wanted the menu to be just below the banner, stretching all the way across the page, so this needed to be before the Content block. I then needed to match the colors to what I was already using on the site so it wouldn't clash. After some work, I finally had it where I wanted it. Now came the task of getting this code into all my pages.

For that, I use the same trick I used to get the right hand side column on all my pages, I created a new Template Module in Movabletype, and I called this one Menu Template. Into this I pasted my new menu code, and then went into all my Index and Archive templates, and just before the content block in each pasted in this:



<MTInclude module="Menu Template"$>

Presto! Movabletype does all the work for me adding that code in, and if I change the menu later (or my right column), it only needs to be done in one place.

By now I'm sure some of you have probably skipped ahead and viewed the source of this page to see what I was doing, but if you haven't, here's the full details:

In your Style Sheet, you'll need additional code for the menus. The colors listed are what I used, change these to match your color scheme:


#menubox{
background-color: #036;
margin: 1px;
height: 23px;
z-index: 9;
}
#menucont {
color: #069;
background-color : transparent;
position: absolute;
z-index: 2;
}
.menublock, .display {
float:left;
width:100px;
background-color: #036;
}
.subs{
background-color: #036;
}
.subs a{
display: block;
}
.menublock .subs{
display: none;
}
#menucont a.tl, #menucont a.tl:hover, #menucont a.tl:active, #menucont a.sl, #menucont a.sl:hover, #menucont a.sl:active {
font-family: "lucida grande", "Lucida Sans Unicode", verdana, sans-serif;
font-size: 10px;line-height: 17px;
display: block;
text-decoration: none;
color: #fff;
background-color: #069;
margin: 1px 1px 1px 1px;
padding: 2px 2px 2px 2px;
order: none;
text-align: center;
font-weight: normal;
}
#menucont a.tl:hover, #menucont a.tl:active , #menucont a.sl:hover, #menucont a.sl:active{
background-color: #036;
text-align: center;
}
#menucont a.sl, #menucont a.sl:hover, #menucont a.sl:active{
text-align: left;
}


And below is the actual menu itself. The first two menus only have one item, so the menu name is actually the link. The Categories menu has multiple items, so the link on that one is null, so clicking it doesn't do anything, but it could if you wanted.


<div id="menubox">
<!-- BEGIN MENU -->
<div id="menucont">
<div class="menublock" onmouseover="this.className='display'" onmouseout="this.className='menublock'">
<a class="tl" href="http://www.wrightthisway.com/AboutThisSite.html">About This Site</a>
<div class="subs">
</div>
</div>
<div class="menublock" onmouseover="this.className='display'" onmouseout="this.className='menublock'">
<a class="tl" href="http://www.wrightthisway.com/Downloads.html">Downloads</a>
<div class="subs">
</div>
</div>
<div class="menublock" onmouseover="this.className='display'" onmouseout="this.className='menublock'">
<a class="tl" href="">Categories</a>
<div class="subs">
<MTCategories>
<a class="sl" href="<$MTCategoryArchiveLink$>"><$MTCategoryLabel></a>
</MTCategories>
</div>
</div>
</div>
<!-- CLOSE menucont -->
</div>
<!-- CLOSE box and the menu -->



One important point to note is the z-index: 9 in the style sheet for the menubox, that moves that layer more towards the front, if you're using layers, just pick a sufficiently high number to get it on top, that way when it drops down, it will still be visible.

For future reference, I've created an example page showing what this menu looks like, should the site menus change in the future.




Update 4/30/04 - Corrected problem with code pasted above, original didn't include proper MT tags, but instead was actual output of my code. The code given is now correct source.

Update 5/1/04 - An example menu has been put in to show what this menu looks like, as it is likely they will change in the future.

Update 5/10/04 - This menu is now officially out of date, see me new menu here.

Posted by Jim at 12:21 AM | TrackBack

April 21, 2004

New menus

Sorry for not getting to the software I'd promised to talk about yesterday, I've been working on a new menu and finally have it online. More details to follow.

Posted by Jim at 11:43 PM | TrackBack

April 19, 2004

Journey to the dark side

Ok, so after reading my last entry, you're probably wondering just what is so evil about the 3650 that I made the reference to the dark side, and the short answer is, nothing. ;) It's a great phone, and a great platform, I sync it to my work system all the time to keep my contacts and schedule up to date, and it works great. So, what's all this about the dark side then? I'm glad you asked.

If you've been following along, you'll remember that something I really wanted was AvantGo. And for some reason, the AvantGo software just wasn't cooperating with the 3650. So I was back to replacing my Palm III. I figured I had two choices, a newer Palm running the Palm OS, or a PocketPC running (gasp) Windows CE. It was an incredibly hard decision, but eventually, I went with the PocketPC.

Those of you that know me know just how much I loath Windows. It's Bloated, Inelegant, full of Techno-babble, Cumbersome to use, and just plain Hell to use. I'm sure there's a fitting acronym that sums this all up somewhere...

So, what made me pick a Windoze system? The short answer is, Palm just wasn't impressing me as much as they used to. I had researched a number of models, and one thing I was interested in was upgradability of the OS. What I found was that there did not seem to be an upgrade path to upgrade the OS on older, or even some current Palms to the latest OS. To me, this just did not make any sense. In analyzing what I wanted, the two things topping my list were a color screen, and wireless (802.11) capability. Palm had only one model available with 802.11 built in, and though it seemed that others could have this as a separate upgrade, I found the driver and OS requirements to be conflicting, and often dependent on future upgrades from with the manufacturer or Palm. This didn't instill me with a lot of confidence.

On the PocketPC side, I found a number of offerings that included 802.11, and those that didn't include it could add it easily. Eventually, after much reading of reviews and comparing models, I settled on the Dell Axim, in particular, the X5. What I wanted was the X3i, which included 802.11 built in, but I got a great deal on the X5 second hand, and it included a compact flash 802.11 card, so I was all set.

The unit apparently shipped with the AvantGo software bundled, so it was a breeze to set up and get going. And the wireless networking worked fine with minimal fiddling both at the office and at home (AirPort network in both locations), and even have my email mostly working. I say mostly, because I still haven't quite figured out the trick to getting VPN working quite right at the office, but that isn't a big deal at this point.

In short, I'm relatively happy with the unit. I didn't expect it to be perfect (I've already mentioned it runs Windoze), but it's doing the bulk of what I want. Tomorrow, I'll go into some more detail on the software I'm using to sync with the Mac, and some other software gotchas I discovered.

Posted by Jim at 3:20 PM | TrackBack

April 17, 2004

Replacing my Palm III with a Nokia 3650

Yes, it's true, I've gone over to the dark side. For as long as I can remember, I've been a gadget freak; I love having cool toys, especially ones I can use with my Mac. I had one of the original Apple Newtons, the first PDA, heck, Apple even originated that term. I later abandoned that (after many years of use) for a used Palm III, which lasted me up till about last year or so. I'm sure it still works, but it was no longer useful for me.

I wanted color, mainly. I needed something that would sync with my Mac and keep contacts and appointments, and most importantly, AvantGo. I'd gotten to be kind of a news junkie, and loved being able to sync up my Palm and take the news with me and read it over lunch. Apple's iSync was brand new at the time, and that's when discovered the Nokia 3650.

I'd heard about Bluetooth, and knew this was the way to go, no more having to sync up via wires, I wouldn't even need to take the phone out of my pocket. Sweet! I'd had my current phone for a few years, it was pretty beat up, and the battery connector was loose, so I convinced myself that it was time for a new phone. Nokia's 3650 was right at the top of my list, it had everything I wanted: a color screen and Bluetooth. OK, it was a short list. It also included a camera, which I figured I'd never use (I was wrong, but I do rarely ever use it), but I just wasn't finding a better phone, so that was my choice. I got a fantastic deal at the time through Amazon, $150 rebate from AT&T, $150 rebate from Amazon, meaning a free phone for me! Couldn't beat that deal.

The one thing that I didn't want, though, was AT&T's nasty data plan. I knew that it I was going to run AvantGo on the phone, I'd be pulling down some serious data, for the data plan I'd need, the cost would be well over what I pay at home for my high speed internet, so forget that. Some browsing around the net found some links to folks who had used their PC's internet connection shared to their phone, I figured that this would be perfect, if I could get it working on the Mac. So, when I finally received the phone, I set to work. And for a while, it was slow going.

Fortunately, several other folks were pursuing the same lines of research, and having some luck with other Bluetooth phones (mostly Sony-Ericsson models), and after posting messages on a number of discussion boards, sharing lots of low level code and shell scripts, and at long last my friend C.K. Sample of 3650 and a 12-inch finally whipped up a working script that managed to do the trick. If you're intersted, check out his early blog entries for more info on that. Sadly, the main thread we were using at the time on discussions.info.apple.com was at some point deleted when it hadn't been updated in some time, so most of that original research and conversation has been lost, but it certainly hasn't been forgotten. If you have a Bluetooth phone (especially a Nokia) and a Mac, be sure to check out his Share2Blue2th software.

Unfortunately, I never did get my AvantGo software working quite right on the 3650, and eventually gave up on that. I knew that at some point I'd need to get a real PDA again (the 3650 is great, and has a fair number of apps, utilities, and games available), but I'll save that story for another day. ;)

You may have a hard time finding the 3650 these days, after all, it's been on the market for about a year. The Nokia 3660 has replaced it, it has all the same featured, but with a better screen, and a more standard keypad layout. The Nokia 3620 is a close cousin, very similar to the 3660, but operating at a different frequency band, so the one you find will mainly depend on your wireless phone service.

Posted by Jim at 11:55 PM | TrackBack

I'm in the top 12% on Technorati?!?

My blog had been getting a few hits from Technorati, a site set up for tracking blogs and for helping folks find interesting blogs that match their interests. I'm sure these hits were courtesty of a few other folks with sites already on Technorati who linked to me.

So, tonight I set up my blog to automatically ping (notify of updates) Technorati when I add new articles to my site, and when I finished this up, discovered that my little site is already ranked 251,286 out of 2,133,638 weblogs, putting me in the top 12%!

Either I'm doing something right, or there are a lot of low traffic blogs out there... Either way, thanks for visiting!

Posted by Jim at 12:10 AM | TrackBack

April 16, 2004

CDs made of paper and corn

Some interesting news out today from Sony and Sanyo, who are making disks from paper and corn, respectively. The best part, while being environmentally friendly, the new Sony CDs will hold up to 25Gb per disk!

The key to Sony's capacity is the use of lasers that emit a blue beam instead of a red beam, allowing data to be packed tighter on the disk. I remember talking with a rep from a CD drive manufacturer back in the very late 80's, and he claimed then that the blue lasers would see some incredible breakthroughs when they hit the market in 'a few years'. Good to know there's finally some light at the end of the tunnel...

Posted by Jim at 12:48 PM | TrackBack

April 15, 2004

Happy Tax Day!

I heard an interesting story on the news this AM on my way in to work. It seems that there is a movement afoot to return the right to vote to convicted felons, after they have served their time and paid their debt to society. To me, this seems fair, and at this point I don't think I have any problems with that.

The story then went on that they're using the slogan 'Taxation without representation', claiming that since these folks are taxpaying citizens, they should have a voice. Here's where I start having problems...

The fact that someone is a taxpayer has never guaranteed anyone a right to vote. I've held down jobs and paid taxes since I was 15, so I was paying taxes before I was even voting age. And then once I was able to vote, I generally ended up getting a full refund of my taxes.

So, I'm wondering just what sort of can of worms these folks are trying to open here? By their logic, should someone not paying taxes (getting a full refund does in fact mean that you've paid no taxes in this context, since the government didn't keep the money) not have the right to vote? What about someone that pays above average taxes compared to other citizens, should they have more votes than others?

Should government be run more like a corporation, and the taxpayers essentially being the stockholders? Shouldn't the people actually funding the government actually be those most qualified to dictate how that money is used?

Of course, we'll never have such a system in the United States, one of our founding principals being that of one person, one vote. But I can't help but wonder if things might be better if this weren't the case...

Posted by Jim at 5:21 PM | TrackBack

I just SO hate Microsoft...

Here I am, minding my own business, and I decide to run Analog again tonight to see what sort of activity my web site has been getting. My site has been running about a week, and Analog usually came back with a report in about 30 seconds or so. So I wait, watching little status messages go by, wait some more, thinking 'hmmm, must have had a few visitors today', and wait some more...

To shorten the suspense (I could have gone on for a while there), what was a 30 second report last night has been going on for 12 HOURS tonight! And the source of all this? Apparently it's a combination of some IIS WebDAV exploits (whatever that is), the CodeRED worm (I remember hearing about that), and some other worm/virus/Microsoft product that's attacking anything with an IP address...

First of all, I know that M$ this week released like four MAJOR patches to its OS. I'm so glad that security is such a large focus for them, but sheesh, couldn't they have fixed some of these problems a few years ago when they shipped the OS to begin with? It's no wonder that Longhorn has apparently been pushed back another year...

So, I'm sitting here, perfectly immune from any harm as a result of all those worms and viruses floating around the net happily spreading from one M$ system to another (I actually consider Windoze itself to be a virus, but I digress...), and even though the little Mac next to my desk is happily chugging along replying back to all of those requests 'nope, none of that here', my logs are filling up at an alarming rate, and I'm now at 12+ hours elapsed waiting for my log analysis.

This is the price Mac (and Linux) users pay for living in a M$ dominated world. Our systems happily keep chugging along, waiting for ISPs to come back online after being choked to death with floods of traffic from wayward software, waiting patiently while server admins around the globe quickly (or not...) apply the latest patches to stop the worm-o-the-day from spreading, and putting up with log files that ballooning out of control faster than if someone dumped a few truckloads of Viagra off at the bunny farm.

Posted by Jim at 1:17 AM | TrackBack

April 14, 2004

About this site...

Ok, so far my posts here have only been about getting the site up and running, and I'm sure that may interest a very few folks who have visited, but for the rest of you, I'm sure you're probably wondering where I'm going with all of this.

As is probably the case with most blogs out there, this will be my own personal soapbox for sharing items that interest me, including, but not limited to, various things Macintosh, cool technology, irreverant humor, outright rants, car talk, politics, and whatever else strikes my fancy. In short, there's no particular theme. ;)

I'd like to thank my friend C.K. over at 3650 and a 12-inch for linking to my site. His site there is dedicated (primarily) to discussions regarding the Nokia 3650 (a most excellent phone, closely related to Nokia's 3660 and 3620 models), and the PowerBook 12". Be sure to check his site out.

Posted by Jim at 6:38 PM | TrackBack

April 13, 2004

The joys of web design

Yesterday I accidentally launched Internet Explorer instead of Safari, so I figured that since I waited so long for it to launch I might as well see how my site looked. Ugh. Now I remember why I hated IE so much.

I've changed some of the style sheet code around a bit to make IE just a bit happier and display the page like it was supposed to, and now it's fairly close to how Safari displays. I've got a bit more tweaking to do with the look of the site, but it's getting there.

One thing that I've done that most of the folks running MovableType apparently haven't (even some folks that I consider HTML and style sheet wizards) is to make my individual articles, date and category listings all use the same sort of look as my main page, with the banner across the top, links along the side, etc.

It was fairly easy to do, too. Movable has a neat function that lets you define common sections of code into Template Modules, and then use special Tags to call those modules (basically a #include function) when the pages are created. It was just a matter of putting all of my code after the main blog content in a separate module, then just substitute this into the various other pages.

One other thing I changed, after running Analog , a web traffic reporting tool, I discovered that the little boxes I use over on the right were much larger in size than I intended, I believe around 32k each! I opened them up with GraphicConverter, and saved them as PNG files, and now the largest one is only 277 bytes. ;)

Posted by Jim at 10:20 PM | TrackBack

April 11, 2004

Setting up my mail server

Mac OS X 10.3 includes the Postfix , a low level email server utilty for sending and receiving mail. Prior version of OS X relied on Sendmail for this task, but Postfix is superior in a number of ways, mainly performance and security.

Since I was setting up a site under my own domain name, I though that it'd be nice to set up my own mail server, fully under my own control. To help in this, I'm using a great utility called Postfix Enabler .

Postfix Enabler lets you activate Postfix under OS X, and configure it for both sending and receiving mail. Many folks have set their systems up to simply allow them to sent mail and bypass the outgoing mail servers on networks they're connected to. This is primarily useful for mobile users who connect to the internet at a variety of locations, and may not always be able to determine the proper mail settings needed. Some ISPs or corporate networks may only allow outgoing mail traffic to pass through their own servers, so your mileage may vary.

I've elected to set this up for incoming mail only, and use my ISP's own outgoing mail server, there is no real advantage in setting up my own for that. But, since I'm running my own mail server, my primary concern will be spam. No, not that tasty meat from Hormel , I'm talking about junk mail. Over on the right hand side I've got a few links to some sites that were very helpful in getting Postfix set up to filter junk mail, and the excellent spam blocker Spamhaus, all of which help to keep unwanted mail from even appearing in my In Box to begin with.

Since I'm not receiving any mail right now, it's a bit hard to check how well this is working, but I'll report back over the next few weeks as mail starts to roll in and detail my findings.

One word of caution, the settings I've selected to perform some fairly strict checking of the mail protocols used between servers to communicate. Spammers and virus writers are notorious for not following standards, topping even writers of Windoze applications, so the checks I have in place should filter out a good bit of unwanted mail before the actual checks for spam even kick in. There's a good chance that some 'legitimate' mail might get bounced from misconfigured mail servers or Windoze users, but I think I can live with that.

Posted by Jim at 7:44 PM | TrackBack

Movable Type

The particular software I'm using for creating the content on this website is Movable Type . There are other blogging packages out there, but this one suited my needs pretty well. If you're not planning to host your own site, there are a few more choices out there, but MovableType let me handle everything locally, and works just fine on the Mac.

The folks over at MacZealots have a nice tutorial on getting Movable installed under Panther (Mac OS X 10.3). If you decide to follow their steps, be advised that the version of MySQL they're linking to is out of date, go here for the latest production release. It's probably best to avoid alpha and development releases unless you know what you're doing.

Be sure to read through the comments on the MacZealots page for info that others have written in regarding the procedures listed, some folks had issues and some good fixes are listed. In particular, I didn't care for my past entried to be in a directory called 'Archives', especially since even the most recent entry is stored in that directory, which becomes part of the URL if someone pulls up that entry directly. Instead, I called that folder 'Articles'. If you decide to go with a different name, be sure to change any other references to 'Archives' when you set this up.

The main Movable site has a running list of sites running this software that were recently updates, check through those for some ideas on what you can do with the software, there are some creative folks out there. You don't need to be a master web designer to get something decent up and running, and there's always time to play with the settings once you've got a site online.

Posted by Jim at 7:12 PM | TrackBack

April 10, 2004

Dark Horizons

I've been playing Dark Horizons - Lore since the first public call for beta testers went out several months ago. My main interest at the time was that, as a Mac users, I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to help not only with the development of a new Mac game, but a game that was to be simultaneously available on both Mac and Windows platforms at release!

So often Mac users end up getting ports of cool games that had been available to Windows users for a year or more, by which point all of the excitement of those games has drifted away and focused on the next big release, and then developers conclude that there is no Mac market for games.

Let me tell you, the folks at Max Gaming have really done an outstanding job in creating a wonderful game, and in fostering a growing user community. The gameplay is fast paced, but also requires a certain amount of strategy. The upcoming war should prove quite interesting, with a persistent universe that will play out over time, with changing battlefields and objectives for the players. And to keep things interesting, the upcoming expansion packs will I'm sure add new and exciting twists to the game.

If you haven't played an online game, this one is really a treat. Kicking a computer player's butt on your own desktop is OK, but actually playing in real time with other players across the globe is totally amazing.

The game is value priced at only $24.95, I can't remember the last time I paid this little for a game I enjoyed so much.

Posted by Jim at 9:52 PM | TrackBack

Getting the site online

Well, all my domain changes have kicked in, and my site is now live on the web. Time to notify a few friends that it's out there now.

As promised, I'd like to post some information on how I got my site up and running, hopefully this might be of use to some of you out there if you're looking at doing something similar yourselves.

Probably the most important decision in setting up a site for yourself is deciding on a name for the site, in my case, the Domain Name folks would use to get here. I can't really help you pick out a name, but once you do, you'll first want to see if that name is even available. Most registrars that sell domain names will have a page that lets you look up your potential names to see if they're available. It's quite likely that your first or second choices are going to be taken (the Internet's a big place...), so it might be good to work up a short list. Also, remember that in addition to .com, many other domains are also available (.net, .org, .us, etc). I had originally wanted to go with a .us name (it was cheaper than .com), but finally found a .com name I could live with.

The particular registrar I'm using is GoDaddy, apparently one of the more popular registrars out there. There are a number of others out there offering different services at various prices, so you may want to do a web search on 'cheap domain names' or something similar to find your own.

Next, and extremely important, I needed to find a company that offered dynamic DNS. This is needed if your internet connection does not have a static IP address. You'll know if you have one, because usually your internet provider will charge you a lot of extra money for this... A dynamic DNS service will let you set up a particular domain name (either one you've purchased through a registrar, or one available through the dynamic DNS service) and link it to the changing IP address of your home system. The one key ingredient needed here is some utility for monitoring the IP address in use on your cable/DSL modem, and pass these changes up to the dynamic DNS provider.

Most dynamic DNS providers will list at their site a number of clients that will perform this task. The particular company I chose, Sitelutions, didn't offer a Mac specific client, but with a little bit of AppleScript and cobbling together a few shell scripts, I think I've come up with a working application to handle this. It needs a bit more tweaking for public use, but I should be able to finish this up in a week or so.

So, now you've got what you need to make your computer at home visible to the rest of the world. I should probably point out that if you're one of the folks that are still using a dial-up internet connection, you'll want to forget everything you've just read. If you're going to have a public site, you need your system to be always available, and available at a decent speed. Dial-up just won't cut it, broadband (cable modem, DSL) is the way to go.

Hopefully before you've even thought of putting your home system online, you've already installed a router with firewall protection to keep unwanted visitors (viruses, malicious users, Windows users, etc) from getting at your unprotected system. Mac OS X includes a very nice firewall built into the Sharing settings, but if you have multiple systems on the net, you'll need a router, and it darned well better have a firewall built in.

There are a number of very nice routers on the market, I prefer Asante's routers, mainly because they provide an easy way for Mac users to be able to upgrade firmware (the software that runs the hardware) via a web interface, unlike some other routers I looked at that required a Windoze app to be run. Do some research before making a selection, and find the right one that fits your needs.

Posted by Jim at 5:27 PM | TrackBack

First Post

Every web page has to start somewhere, so here's the first official posting on mine. ;)

I've added a few links over on the side of some web sites that were very helpful in getting my site going. I'll be writing more on a few of them in the following entries.

As I write this, my new domain isn't even active yet, but hopefully this will kick in over the weekend.

Posted by Jim at 12:06 AM | TrackBack