May 30, 2004

Useless but cool USB gadgets

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.

Posted by Jim at 3:16 PM | TrackBack

My Menus are getting around...

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!

Posted by Jim at 1:50 AM | TrackBack

May 29, 2004

Greylisting via Postfix

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.

Posted by Jim at 10:07 PM | TrackBack

May 27, 2004

PocketPC AIM chat? Nope.

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of AIM and some others, I've found that all of the clients currently out there (including AOL's own client) are well out of date, and none are able to use email address based account names (.Mac accounts, etc) for either logging in or for buddy lists.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...

Posted by Jim at 9:47 PM | TrackBack

May 26, 2004

Holy Kodak Moment, Batman!

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...

Posted by Jim at 7:06 PM | TrackBack

More MT 3.0 thoughts

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.

It seems unlikely at this point if my wife will ever blog, I was kind of holding that out as an option, but it may never happen, so I won't worry about it. So the number of authors probably isn't an issue at this point. Though if I could pay some small amount ($9.95?) to add a second author, I might do that if it made sense.

Now, the big part about multiple blogs still seems somewhat hazy, but is slowly coming into focus. And it seems that the reason for this is that the MT 3.0 software isn't actally doing any checking on the number of blogs to see if you're violating the license, it seems to be more of the honor system at this point. Obviouslly checking Authors is probably easy and straightforward (I'm assuming this is checked by the license?), but blogs apparently aren't.

From what Shelly said, blogs that directly relate content to a main blog are allowed (side blogs, etc), but entirely separate blogs would count separately. So, it all comes down to the focus of your blog and how narrow or wide you want that definition to be.

At this time, I'm now leaning towards upgrading to the full 3.0 release when it ships, but I won't be installing the Developer Edition that's out now. And I'll continue to keep an eye on how the licensing saga unfolds.

Posted by Jim at 6:22 PM | TrackBack

May 24, 2004

ISP Wall Of Shame posted

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.

No mail admin wants to block legitimate mail, however the amount of junk mail floating around makes such filtering a necessity to avoid having user's accounts flooded with junk mails. I should point out that only one of the domains listed was actually legitimate mail to my server, the rest are all actually from spams and viruses attempted to be sent here. There were a number of other domains that sent mail that was rejected, but the list I posted were the worst offenders.

There is really no good excuse for not having a properly running mail server, there are a variety of tools to check outgoing mails as well as incoming to keep spam from actually leaving your own server, so these folks are just being enablers for malicious software and users, and it's even more troubling that most of these systems are charging their users for the privledge.

I'll update this list from time to time as I scan through my mail logs.

Posted by Jim at 11:42 PM | TrackBack

ISP wall of shame

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.

Posted by Jim at 3:13 PM | TrackBack

May 23, 2004

What's a pop-up?

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...

Posted by Jim at 11:01 PM | TrackBack

May 22, 2004

Wacky mail servers...

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...

Posted by Jim at 11:09 PM | TrackBack

May 21, 2004

Movable Type 3.0? Maybe.

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.

My blog is fairly straightforward, it's currently one blog, one author. So, with that setup, I can upgrade to the free version of MT 3.0, cool.

However, one of the things that I've been wanting since I set this blog up is to do some writing on topics other than what I've blogged about so far, and haven't, because that might detract from the theme I have going. Adding these would basically involve adding two separate blogs to my system.

Now, according to the new license, it 'sounds' like I should be able to do this with the free version, but all sub-weblogs must be at the same URL, so I'm going to need to figure out how to make that happen, since it would seem that my 'main' blog would remain at www.wrightthisway.com, and sub-weblogs might be at www.wrightthisway.com/newweblog and www.wrightthisway.com/otherweblog. Since those are different URLs, would they be counted as separate URLs or not? Maybe MT3.0 handles the files differently, I'll need to look into that.

But, the one thing I know that will push me away from the free version would be if my wife wanted a blog of her own, that would mean adding a second author to the system, so boom, I'd now have to pay $69.95 for that privledge.

One interesting note on the pricing, though, is that once you've actually paid for a version, an additional $9.95 will get you one more weblog and one more author. I'd be more than happy to pay that to add another author to the free version, I'd actually be willing to pay $19.95 for it. I'd been planning on making a $20 donation for the 2.661 release I'm running now once things had stabilized here a bit so I could have my blog listed on movable's 'Recently Updated' list, but $69.95 is just way out of line for what I'm doing here.

And to be quite honest, after looking at the feature listing for 3.0, it really doesn't seem that different from 2.661. Their 'feature listing' only lists the main features, and doesn't give an actual 'What's New' feature list, so at present all I can see that's actually new in 3.0 is the licensing.

Movable Type is a great piece of software, I'll definitely continue to recommend it. Right now, they're shipping the Developer Edition, which seems to include some extra goodies for folks that write extensions to MT, presumably the full 3.0 version will be available at a later point and possibly include some updated and officially supported plugins, more templates, etc. I'll definitely need to review that more closely at that time, but for now, I think I'm content to sit tight and watch from the sidelines.

Posted by Jim at 11:37 PM | TrackBack

THX 1138

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.

Posted by Jim at 10:58 PM | TrackBack

May 19, 2004

My current Postfix config

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.

In the config below, I'm doing some additional header_checks and mime_header_checks, the files referenced can be found at SecuritySage, just save their sample files to your local system (make sure the names are exactly right and don't have a hidden extension when you save them, I made that mistake the first time and of course they didn't work.

I'm also doing a body_checks, which like it sounds looks for specific text in the message body, my current file only has one line:




/this is the latest version of security update,/ REJECT Confirmed spam. Go away.


That line will catch a nasty email that is supposed to look like it's coming from Microsoft and they're being nice enough to send all of their customers a 'critical update', which I'm sure actually contains a worm that keeps spreading this nonsense. Generally this one gets blocked by some of my other filtering which eliminates mails with .exe, .com, and other PC executables, but some ISP's are actually nice enough to strip the executables off this mail since they know they're a virus, but they then leave the message intact instead of deleting it! So the spam gets through my filter since it'd been monkey'd with, that one line above seemed to be common in each of those mails, so if I see it, that message gets killed.

The folks at Declude have a great site with lots of filters for blocking mails, I've incorporated a number of these, but lately the best ones are the ones at rfc-ignorant.org, these are killing off a number of things that weren't being caught before, including a number of those MS critical update ones.

I'm also running Spamassassin which is installed by the latest build of Postfix Enabler for OS X, and just recently installed Vipul's Razor which works with Spamassassin.

The code below is a clip from my main.cf config file for Postfix, the first block is what Postfix Enabler does on its own, the various reject_rbl_client servers listed there need to be specified individually in Postfix Enabler, just enter them on the line given with commas separating each one. The second block is my 'custom Postfix settings', that whole thing gets pasted into the appropriate field in PostFix Enabler.


###Start PostfixEnabler###
alias_maps=hash:/etc/postfix/aliases
alias_database=hash:/etc/postfix/aliases
smtpd_sender_restrictions=hash:/etc/postfix/access
inet_interfaces=all
mynetworks_style=subnet
message_size_limit=10240000
mydomain=wrightthisway.com
myhostname=wrightthisway.com
smtpd_recipient_restrictions=permit_mynetworks,check_recipient_access hash:/etc/postfix/filtered_domains

smtpd_client_restrictions=hash:/etc/postfix/access,reject_rbl_client sbl-xbl.spamhaus.org,reject_rbl_client list.dsbl.org,reject_rbl_client relays.ordb.org,reject_rbl_client dnsbl.njabl.org,reject_rbl_client bl.spamcop.net,reject_rbl_client dnsbl.ahbl.org,reject_rbl_client opm.blitzed.org,reject_rbl_client dnsbl.sorbs.net,reject_rbl_client relays.visi.com,reject_rbl_client cbl.abuseat.org
default_rbl_reply=$rbl_code Service unavailable; $rbl_class [$rbl_what] blocked using $rbl_domain${rbl_reason?; $rbl_reason} - see http://$rbl_domain.
smtpd_helo_required=yes

unknown_local_recipient_reject_code=550
###End PostfixEnabler###

###Start Custom Config###
###Keep spammers from discovering real email's and alias expansions###
disable_vrfy_command = yes
default_process_limit = 10
smtpd_error_sleep_time = 30

strict_rfc821_envelopes = yes
smtpd_helo_required = yes
smtpd_helo_restrictions =
permit_mynetworks,
check_helo_access hash:/etc/postfix/access,
reject_unknown_hostname,
reject_invalid_hostname,
reject_non_fqdn_hostname

smtpd_recipient_restrictions =
permit_mynetworks,
reject_unknown_client,
reject_non_fqdn_sender,
reject_non_fqdn_recipient,
reject_unknown_sender_domain,
reject_unknown_recipient_domain,
reject_unauth_destination,
reject_rhsbl_client blackhole.securitysage.com,
reject_rhsbl_sender blackhole.securitysage.com,
reject_rhsbl_client rhsbl.ahbl.org,
reject_rhsbl_sender rhsbl.ahbl.org,
reject_rhsbl_client rhsbl.sorbs.net
reject_rhsbl_sender rhsbl.sorbs.net,
reject_rhsbl_client block.rhs.mailpolice.com,
reject_rhsbl_sender block.rhs.mailpolice.com,
reject_rhsbl_client dynamic.rhs.mailpolice.com,
reject_rhsbl_sender dynamic.rhs.mailpolice.com,
reject_rhsbl_client bogusmx.rfc-ignorant.org,
reject_rhsbl_sender bogusmx.rfc-ignorant.org,
reject_rhsbl_client abuse.rfc-ignorant.org,
reject_rhsbl_sender abuse.rfc-ignorant.org,
reject_rhsbl_client postmaster.rfc-ignorant.org,
reject_rhsbl_sender postmaster.rfc-ignorant.org,
reject_rhsbl_client dsn.rfc-ignorant.org,
reject_rhsbl_sender dsn.rfc-ignorant.org,
check_recipient_access hash:/etc/postfix/access,
check_sender_access hash:/etc/postfix/access,
check_client_access hash:/etc/postfix/access,
check_recipient_access hash:/etc/postfix/filtered_domains

smtpd_data_restrictions =
reject_unauth_pipelining,
permit


header_checks = regexp:/etc/postfix/maps/header_checks
mime_header_checks = regexp:/etc/postfix/maps/mime_header_checks
body_checks = regexp:/etc/postfix/maps/body_checks

unknown_address_reject_code = 550
unknown_client_reject_code = 550
unknown_hostname_reject_code = 550

###End Custom Config###



If you have questions about any of the commands, you can do a simple Google search on that command and usually find out what it's about in short order. Please be aware that the various RBL and RSHBL servers out there do tend to come and go, so it's a good idea to keep a list of what you're using bookmarked in your browser and check their home pages from time to time to see what might be new or changed, or if there's still there at all.

Posted by Jim at 1:02 PM | TrackBack

Vipul's Razor

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

Posted by Jim at 12:17 PM | TrackBack

May 18, 2004

But in 2 hours you'll want more music

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...

Posted by Jim at 12:29 PM | TrackBack

Thoughts on the next 'PDA'

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.

When I last reviewed what I wanted of a PDA, before settling for a PocketPC, I had a number of things that I desired; color screen, wireless capability, reasonably fast performance, integration with my desktop, and a decent selection of software. At the time, I felt that a PocketPC was a better choice than a Palm for my needs, but what I really wanted was something more, something more tightly integrated with my Mac.

I even looked at the Sharp Zaurus, a nice PDA that runs Linux, and though that would compliment the Mac pretty well, but there is almost no sync capability at this time for Mac users.

In the end, what I decided that I really needed was a very small Mac. The 12" iBook and PowerBooks were still too large, not something I could easily carry around in my hand, and certainly not clip to my belt. And I know that Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, has on a number of occasions said that Apple would not be doing another PDA, would never revive the Newton or anything along those lines, but the phrasing of what he said seemed to partially leave the door open for something else. And I know what I'd like that something else to be.

PDAs are basically peripherals, they are not meant to be a primary system for a computer user, just an extension. A PowerBook is meant to be a primary system, though many Mac users also use these as seconds machines. For that matter, some Windows users also use a PowerBook as a second machine, the PowerBook G4 became very popular with Windows users because of its capabilities, and worked very well for them as an extension of their normal workflow. So this got me thinking...

What Apple has never done to this point is designed a Mac that would truly be a secondary system. You don't run Photoshop on your Palm Zire, you don't edit DV video on your iPaq, a PDA doesn't need to be that capable. If you toss those things out the window, you can build a system much smaller and cheaper than a full featured system.

What I'm envisioning is a 6" PowerBook, similar in shape to the existing 12" PowerBook, just smaller and thinner. You won't need the CD drive, simply include FireWire and use it in Target Disk Mode to install software. You don't need a full size keyboard, it wouldn't be necessary to shrink the keys much to make them fit a 6" model. A touchpad could still fit, but the addition of a touchscreen like other PDAs would be a nice touch.

A smaller screen means smaller resolution, but you should still be able to run 640x480 (newer PDAs do on a smaller screen), even 800x600 should be possible, the current low end resolution for OS X. You wouldn't need a G4 processor, a G3 would really work quite well, and the graphics wouldn't have to be high end either, a lower power graphics chipset would suffice nicely. You wouldn't even need the 60Gb or larger drive you find in most portables, 10Gb or less would probably work nicely.

Almost every feature can be scaled back when you're not designing a unit to be a primary system, reducing heat, power, space, and cost. Obviously you'd still want to have built in Ethernet, USB, Firewire (1 port each), forget using a modem, but let AirPort be an option, if only 802.11b and not 802.11g, and definitely include Bluetooth. The only area that I can see now scaling back on would be the battery, PDAs get pretty good battery life, so stretching battery power to the max is a must, but with the lower power components used, I don't see a huge problem here.

Now, some of you are probably thinking that such a Mac would still cost a cunk of change, and I definitely agree. A low end iBook currently sells for $1099, I'd tend to say we could easily shave a few hundred off that price. And now you're saying that you can pick up a cheap Palm for 100 clams, and you're totally correct. But, being a Mac, this puppy wouldn't be shooting for the low end market, it'll take its place with the big boys in the PDA marketplace, the full featured units that have built in wireless and speed and all the other cool features that can go for $650 and up.

I remember how the PC magazines raved about the PoweBook G4 when it came out, and Windows users began snapping them up for their road machines. If such a small PowerBook could ship, and folks could dump their PDAs for something that would let them run full versions of MSOffice, incorporate a full featured browser and email client, and let you run a large percentage of all the Mac software out there, and if it were priced comparably to the high end PDAs on the market now, this machine would be as big a hit as the iPod Mini, they would absolutely not be able to keep them on the shelves.

And I'd probably be one of the first folks in line to buy one.

Posted by Jim at 11:25 AM | TrackBack

May 16, 2004

Great anti-spam helper page

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.

Posted by Jim at 10:48 PM | TrackBack

AvantGo working!

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.

Posted by Jim at 10:08 PM | TrackBack

Time for SciFi network to change their name

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.

Apparently the powers that be at SciFi have taken it upon themselves to pollute the genre with Fantasy and Occult offerings, shows better left for other networks like USA, such shows have no business being on the SciFi channel.

In recent memory of most viewers was the loss of the top rated show Farscape, cancelled at the height of its ratings. Then we were subjected to a variety of decidedly non-scifi shows such as John Edwards (fiction certainly, but not scifi), Scare Tactics, Mad Mad House, and others.

And now, today, views of SciFi are being treated to such apparent SciFi classic movies as Batman, Casper, a pair of Flintstones movies, and that ultimate SciFi classic, The Nutty Professor.

The folks at the increasingly misnamed SciFi channel have totally lost touch with their audience, a group of highly intelligent, often geeky, and very devoted viewers. People that will travel hundreds of miles to attend conventions, that have heated arguments about minor plot lines of obscure episodes, people that actually want shows that require thought to fully enjoy instead of the mindless pap offered by other networks.

It's time for the SciFi channel to get back to it's roots and give the viewers what they want. Bundle up all those other shows and send them over to USA, or split off a another network for all that other fluff. A true SciFi network is desperately needed, and if they're not able to deliver then they need to get out of the way and let someone else fill that void.

Posted by Jim at 4:55 PM | TrackBack

May 15, 2004

I guess Mac is a silly name for a girl...

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?

Posted by Jim at 6:51 PM | TrackBack

May 14, 2004

Spell Catcher X 10.1.2

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 latest version of this application is called Spell Catcher X, the latest version is 10.1.2. Rewritten from the ground up in version 10.0 for Mac OS X, a steady stream of updates has continued to add features and improve the user experience, culminating in this latest release.

In addition to spell checking, it also includes an extensive dictionary and thesaurus. Included dictionaries even include medical, legal, scientific and technical terms, as well as dictionaries for German, French, Italian, British English, Canadian French, Spanish, Swedish, Swiss German.

Spell Catcher is able to catch a variety of errors both spelling and punctuation as you're typing, or by checking a selection of text. Additional words can be added to your own custom dictionary, and you can even build short cuts, abbreviations that can expand out to several lines for commonly used phrases, email signatures, or whatever else you can think to use them for.

New in version 10.1.2 is speech recognition, adding the ability to make corrections, change languages, ignore or learn words, create shorthands and more all without typing a thing. Also new is the Instantaneous Correction feature available under MacOS 10.3 or later. This allows virtually instant corrections to text without the use of backspacing over an entry and 'retyping' it that was used previously for corrections. The backspacing thing was actually kind of cool (especially when you were using a shortcut that expanded out to several lines of text), but seeing things instantly transform is even cooler.

For years, I've relied on Spell Catcher in almost all of my writing. No matter how good a writer you are, it's nice to have Spell Catcher looking over your shoulder to catch typos and other errors, and have it ready and waiting to look up the spelling of seldom used words, or offer alternatives through its thesaurus for those over used words.

A free trial of the software is available through Rainmaker's web site, you can also purchase the software online for only $39.95, volume licensing is also available.

Posted by Jim at 5:32 PM | TrackBack

May 13, 2004

Tablet PCs, a dying breed

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.

What this means is that it can run some, but not all, Windows XP software, and this comes with it's own support issues because of having a different OS, and a fundamentally different hardware platform.

To me, these same issues are what's held the PocketPC and Palm systems back, each run their own specific OS, making software development more difficult than developing for a mainstream system, and hardware limitations in handheld type devices have forced them down a different road from traditional computer systems.

Apple's CEO Steve Jobs has previously predicted the death of the PDA and the Tablet PC, and though they're not dead yet, they both hold a rather limited segment of the market, but those that do use such devices love them. So, what we seem to need at this point is the proverbial nail in the coffin to seal their fate. I have a few thoughts on that, so stay tuned.

Posted by Jim at 8:33 AM | TrackBack

May 12, 2004

Go peddle crazy somewhere else...

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.

Last month's fiasco was another 'trojan' that was an application disguised as an MP3 file, and would even play in iTunes like an MP3 when clicked, even though the file was clearly an application.

It really doesn't take all that much work to build files such as these, they can barely even be called trojans, but since they are one thing disguised as something else, they get in just under the wire for the definition to stick. Anyone even moderately experienced with AppleScript can whip something like this out in an afternoon. Script kiddies have been doing the same thing for years in the Windows world writing batch files that when run will do all sorts of nasty business to the system, absolutely nothing new going on here at all.

Like probably the great majority of Mac users, I was totally unaware of Intego and their offerings until their first warning last month, at which point I decided that there was no way I'd ever purchase anything from them. This latest warning only cements that opinion further, such Chicken Little tactics won't work here.

Posted by Jim at 10:30 PM | TrackBack

Trackback Blogging

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.

On my site, I've made the decision to eliminate comments to my posting. I've seen too many other blogs get all bogged down with lots of little comments that don't add anything to the discussion, or worse, are just blatant plugs at other sites with no relevant text at all, the blogging equivilent of junk mail. There are some new techniques coming along that allow better control of this, it's something that I'm still keeping an eye on.

I figured trackbacks would be safer, coming from other bloggers, and folks who I figured would be more responsible and be able to contribute more useful information if they were bothering to link back to my page. But this new wave of one way trackback doesn't seem any better than the junk comments I was trying to avoid, but does at this point have the benefit of not being as widespread.

I suppose I'll need to look into something like MT-Blacklist or something similar before too much longer. My mail system is secure against such garbage, my blog should be protected as well (and yours should too).

Posted by Jim at 1:03 AM | TrackBack

Spiel Chucking

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...

Posted by Jim at 12:28 AM | TrackBack

May 11, 2004

AvantGo non-support

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.

Posted by Jim at 5:22 PM | TrackBack

Wow, still

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. ;)

Posted by Jim at 12:01 AM | TrackBack

May 8, 2004

Much better...

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.

Posted by Jim at 9:04 PM | TrackBack

May 7, 2004

More spam blocking

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...

Posted by Jim at 11:44 PM | TrackBack

May 5, 2004

Something for someone else to build...

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...

Posted by Jim at 10:12 PM | TrackBack

New PocketPC grumbles

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...

Posted by Jim at 4:19 PM | TrackBack

Newton Blogging

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.

Posted by Jim at 3:34 PM | TrackBack

May 4, 2004

Laser Vision

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...

Posted by Jim at 10:32 PM | TrackBack

Postfix and Spamassassin

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.

The main think I discovered with Postfix and its config file (main.cf), was that if you give the same config line twice with two different sets of parameters, the second instance will replace the first. I suppose my work with CSS style sheets had me confused since one line could build on top of what came before, but this isn't the case with Postfix.

What was happening was that the Postfix Enabler was setting up the necessary commands for Spamassassin to filter the mail using the smtpd_recipient_restrictions control, but it turned out that I was using this for some additional filtering of my own, and Postfix Enabler was putting my custom config after its own settings, thereby overriding the settings for Spamassassin.

Once I finally realized what was going on, it was a simple matter to copy the relevant line from the config and put it into my custom settings and restart Postfix. A quick test mail then confirmed that Spamassassin was alive and well, filtering my mail.

For anyone curious, here are the custom commands that Postfix Enabler is setting, and my own custom settings below that. This sets some fairly strict filtering, so be warned.

###Start PostfixEnabler###
alias_maps=hash:/etc/postfix/aliases
alias_database=hash:/etc/postfix/aliases
inet_interfaces=all
mynetworks_style=subnet
message_size_limit=10240000
mydomain=wrightthisway.com
myhostname=wrightthisway.com
smtpd_recipient_restrictions=permit_mynetworks,check_recipient_access hash:/etc/postfix/filtered_domains

smtpd_client_restrictions=hash:/etc/postfix/access,reject_rbl_client sbl-xbl.spamhaus.org
default_rbl_reply=$rbl_code Service unavailable; $rbl_class [$rbl_what] blocked using $rbl_domain${rbl_reason?; $rbl_reason} - see http://$rbl_domain.
smtpd_helo_required=yes

unknown_local_recipient_reject_code=550
###End PostfixEnabler###

###Start Custom Config###
strict_rfc821_envelopes = yes
smtpd_helo_required = yes
smtpd_helo_restrictions =
permit_mynetworks,
check_helo_access hash:/etc/postfix/access, reject_unknown_hostname,
reject_invalid_hostname,
reject_non_fqdn_hostname

smtpd_recipient_restrictions =
permit_mynetworks,
reject_unknown_client,
reject_non_fqdn_sender,
reject_unknown_sender_domain,
reject_unknown_recipient_domain,
reject_unauth_destination,
check_recipient_access hash:/etc/postfix/access,
check_sender_access hash:/etc/postfix/access,
check_client_access hash:/etc/postfix/access,
check_recipient_access hash:/etc/postfix/filtered_domains

smtpd_data_restrictions =
reject_unauth_pipelining,
permit

unknown_address_reject_code = 550
unknown_client_reject_code = 550
unknown_hostname_reject_code = 550

Posted by Jim at 9:37 PM | TrackBack

PocketPC Notes conversion

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.

Posted by Jim at 9:04 PM | TrackBack

May 3, 2004

More PocketPC notes...

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!

Posted by Jim at 11:45 PM | TrackBack

New menus online

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...

Posted by Jim at 3:29 PM | TrackBack

New menus working

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.

Posted by Jim at 11:29 AM | TrackBack

May 1, 2004

More menu changes, CSS problems

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.

Posted by Jim at 11:44 PM | TrackBack