June 30, 2004

Tiger Widget clarification

Well, a lot of you are probably aware of the controversy of the Widgets that were introduces for Mac OS X 10.4, also known as Tiger, and their similarity to the Widgets made popular by Konfabulator. I'm not going to go into those issues here, but some clarification on exactly how Apple has implemented them has been written by Dave Hyatt, one of the Safari programmers.

Interestingly, they're a combination of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, basically mini web pages. Very cool, should open up development of new Tiger Widgets to more folks than a JavaScript only solution.

Posted by Jim at 9:10 PM | TrackBack

Bad diode...

Well, I figured out the problem with the homebrew video adapter I was trying to get working. I tested the diode I was using at work today and it was defective. Maybe I damaged it in trying different combinations of settings, or it was DOA to begin with, don't know.

I'll give it another go tomorrow with a new part and see what happens.

Posted by Jim at 8:32 PM | TrackBack

June 29, 2004

Monitor-less troubles

I've been struggling the last two weeks trying to troubleshoot a problem with my server here, seems that if I'd connect to it too quickly after booting via Timbuktu, or at other odd times, it would just stop responding, though web and mail services kept running. Since I couldn't control it, I had no choice but to do a hard reset...

Well, I've finally tracked down the issue as being Timbuktu not liking my Mac booting headless (no display), so now I'm in search of a cheap fix.

Apparently this issue with Timbuktu is fairly well known, and it's been a problem for some time. The quick fix is to make sure you always boot with a monitor attached, but that isn't an option for me.

Supposedly a video adapter that can fool the Mac into thinking there is a display attached can also get around the issue. I had an older adapter that would set the Mac to 1024x768 resolution, but that's a bit tiny by today's standards. I've been trying to come up with a hack to fool it into thinking I've got a multisync monitor attached, but so far the exact trick has eluded me...

I've scoured a number of sites and pulled up every scrap of information on Mac video I could find. For quick testing, I was just hot jumpering the VGA port itself, but I think I wasn't making proper contact, so tomorrow I go shopping and build a proper adapter and we'll see what happens.

Posted by Jim at 7:55 PM | TrackBack

June 28, 2004

Call to action, INDUCE Act

Ok, when I first heard about this, I thought it was just another internet hoax making the rounds, but it looks like there's meat to this one, and folks need to speak up and make their voices heard.

I'm speaking about the INDUCE Act, check that link for more info and what you can do about it. Also do a Google seach on 'INDUCE Act' and you'll come up with more info.

I'm a Wright leaning sort, but this bill needs to be stopped...

Posted by Jim at 8:49 PM | TrackBack

June 27, 2004

Redmond, we have a problem...

I came across some very funny photos of the banners being put up for Apple's Worldwide Developers Converence (WWDC) poking fun at Microsoft, check them out at MacMinute.com. It's always fun to see Apple poke fun at other parts of the industry.

Posted by Jim at 11:31 PM | TrackBack

June 24, 2004

Plantronics M3000 headset review

I've been using the Plantronics M3000 bluetooth headset for a while, and though slightly late to the party, I've finally had a chance to write up my review on it.

I got one of these shortly after they first came on the market, so I've had plenty of time to work with it. My primary goal in picking up a headset for use with my Nokia 3650 was that it have Bluetooth capability, be somewhat stylish, and also be very light.

I was originally looking at their M1000, apparently no longer made, it was a boom style affair with the microphone right up by your mouth, and was very light, but unfortunately supported an older Bluetooth profile not used on my newer phone, and so back it went.

The M3000 seemed to be what I needed, with a weight of only 30 grams, and a very long (advertised 8 hours) talk time, and a reasonably attactive look. After having had some real world experience with it, I'd like to share my thoughts.

First, the headset looks like something out of Star Trek, my wife always calls me Uhura when I forget to take it off after getting home. I've had a number of folks ask me about it both at work and while out in public, reactions are almost always very positive. Wireless headsets are a new concept to most folks, and I think that folks really can appreciate not having all those wires running down from your ear to wherever you keep your phone.

The range on the headset is also pretty good. Normally, my phone is worn on a belt clip, but I've also answered my phone from across the room, or sometimes left the phone at my desk accidentally while walking to another part of my office, and don't notice the phone's not with me till I'm at least 30 feet away or more (30 feet is the advertised limit, and is also the limit definied in the Bluetooth specs, and this may vary depending on your phone).

Battery life is impressive, the advertised specs are 8 hours of talk time, and 200 hours (about 8 days) of standby time. I've never once had the battery go dead, but I normally turn the unit off when not in use (evenings/nights), and only charge it about once every 3-4 weeks, or whenever it occurs to me that I haven't charged it in a while. Seriously, why would you leave the headset turned on when you're sleeping?

The controls on the headset are conveniently placed, answering and disconnecting is accomplished by pressing the large button in the center of the headset, volume up/down are along the top edge, and the power on/off/mute button is right next to the volume buttons.

The one feature I'm not crazy about is that while on mute, the headset will produce a tone about every 30 seconds to remind you that you're on mute. This wouldn't be so bad if the tone were a bit softer, and it also interrupts the call you're listening to, rather than just beeping in the background, so you may miss bits of conversation, which can be quite annoying.

The noise cancelling microphone is very good, the audio quality is equal to that of my Nokia 3650, people I've asked can't tell if I'm using a headset versus the cell phone itself, which is good. Wind is probably the worst problem, but my cell phone has the same problem. I've found that while in the car, I'll need to turn down the blower and roll up the windows to cut down on wind noise, but again this is no different than what I'd do with my cell phone anyway.

My one major complain is with the plastic ear loop included with the headset. The earloops included are reversible for left/right ear, and come in two sizes, a large and a small, to better fit your ear. I've found the plastic loops to be rather stiff and uncomfortable when worn for long periods, but the fact that I also wear glasses may also be a large factor here. Plantronics does however offer what they describe as 'extra comfort ear loops' for an additional charge, but my feeling is that these should have been included with the headset from the beginning. I've always found Plantronics headsets to be very comfortable to wear (I used to have one on my desk phone at work), and would have thought that the more comfortable ear loops should have been standard. This extra set though does include a third, medium size earloop, so you're almost guaranteed to have an excellent fit between those available choices.

The M3000 has a suggested retail price of $139.95, but a quick web search has found prices as low as $61.77 currently.

Recently Plantronics has begun shipping the new M3500 headset, an identical form factor, but with improved noice cancellation and audio fidelity thanks to digital signal processing circuitry. Battery time has been reduced greatly (3.5 hours talk, 76 hours standby), but this model does include the extra comfort ear loops, a car lighter charging cable, and a form fitting pouch for when you're not wearing the headset. This unit retails for $169.95, and can be found online for as low as $85. For my money, I'd go with the M3500 over the M3000, the improved ear loops alone make it money well spent.

Posted by Jim at 10:04 PM | TrackBack

Presidential Ringtones

My friend CK over at 3650 and a 12 inch has linked to a blurb over at Engadget about Presidential candidate ringtones for your cell phone.

I don't share CK's political leanings, but these ringtones seemed a bit humorous so I thought I'd pass the info on.

Posted by Jim at 8:30 PM | TrackBack

Gld docs coming, also new version

I'll soon have online my docs on getting Gld, a greylisting utility for Postfix, to compile and run under Mac OS X. It took a bit for me to get this working, but I'm learning as I go. ;)

Also, the author informs me that a new release of gld is in the works, and I hope to be running a beta of that shortly. The 1.0 release was pretty raw, the 1.2 version on the way should be a fair step forward.

Posted by Jim at 12:18 AM | TrackBack

June 23, 2004

Gld greylisting working

After some false starts and some tips from the author, I now have gld working to greylist incoming mail. It took a bit to get this all going, I plan to write it all up in a few days and will post the steps involved here.

Posted by Jim at 12:56 AM | TrackBack

June 19, 2004

Postfix 2.1.3 on OS X working

Well, after dorking around for a while tonight, I finally got Postfix 2.1.3 up and running, using the basic steps from AFP548.com, but without the problematic SASL code incorporated. So far, it seems to be working fine, but I've learned a few lessons...

I should start out by saying that I'm not a unix geek, I'm a Mac guy. I know enough about unix to be dangerous, which is to say, I don't really know that much, hence the danger. ;)

The box my mail and web server is running on is a dedicated system, I'm not using it for anything else. When I first set it up and was working on getting things up and running, I had to download a number of various routines and bits of code to make everything I wanted work and compile properly, and of course when I downloaded these, everything wound up on the desktop. Not minding much, I left it all there.

So, tonight I decided to clean up some folders, and organize things a bit. In the process of doing this, I created a folder called 'Mail code' and put the new Postfix and some other items in there, and then proceeded to try to get Postfix to compile. All went well until the last step, the 'make upgrade' command. Well, that one kept erroring with a line telling me I didn't have write access to the postfix folder the new code was in, even though I was running as root. After fussing with it for over half an hour, I finally discovered that the problem was that the Make command didn't like the space in the middle of the folder name, after I then changed it to an underscore, and recompiled everything to have the new path set, it worked great.

Second lesson... All those bits of code on my desktop, I have no idea if after compiling the final code was moved someplace more permanent (/etc/bin?) or if the live code is still living in those folders. I don't want to move anything for fear of breaking something, so for now I'm leaving them where they are. But, in the future I'll be a bit more careful about what goes where.

I'm going to leave things running like they are for a bit before messing with anything else. Once I'm sure that Postfix is working properly, I'm going to try out the Gld greylisting utility for Postfix and see how that works. Since it required Postfix 2.1 or later, I'll finally be able to give it a spin.

Posted by Jim at 10:29 PM | TrackBack

June 18, 2004

Does your phone have worms?

News is making the rounds about the first worm to infect Symbian Series 60 phones (Nokia 3650/6600, N-Gage, etc). The link posted even has a few screen shots of this proof-of-concept worm in action.

Like most worms/trojans of this type, it relies on the user to actually install it. Why anyone would just install something beamed to them via Bluetooth is beyond me, but it happens all the time with mail attachments in the Windoze world. P.T. Barnum's words were never truer than they are today... There's a sucker born every minute.

Posted by Jim at 3:12 PM | TrackBack

June 17, 2004

Movable Type almost gets it right...

Well, looks like I'm a bit late to the party, but the folks at Six Apart have announced their revised pricing for Movable Type, and it's almost there...

Many of you last month read various criticisms of the originally announced pricing, and the new pricing is much better for the most part. But my feeling is that there should still be something in between the Free version (1 author, 3 weblogs, no support), and the $69.95 version (5 authors, unlimited weblogs, unlimited support).

I still think that there needs to be something at around the $19.95 price point. Possibly a second author, 5 weblogs, and some form of limited support. I'm thinking that enough folks who would be running the free version might just see the value of chipping in for the software and getting the low cost version even if they don't need it, and I doubt it would seriously errode sales of the $69.95 version.

There are too many other free or very low cost solutions out there, and as I've said before, I don't mind paying a small bit for something I find useful, especially if I've gone through all the trouble just to set up a web server specifically for the task. I think that the folks at Six Apart are totally underestimating the number of people that might be interested in a low cost version of the software. If you feel the same way, please let them know by doing a trackback in your blog to their announcement, or by shooting them a mail if you're not yet a blogger.

Posted by Jim at 11:28 PM | TrackBack

June 16, 2004

The night the lights went out...

Sad news from Wired, Thousands of Blogs Fall Silent. I'd like to wish all effected bloggers the best of luck in getting archives of their blogs, and would like to encourage those readers looking for these blogs to give folks time to get up and running on new sites.

It is a fairly straightforward matter of getting a spare computer up and running and serving your own website (a search through the early postings here will document my process), and there are a number of hosting providers out there for those that need such services. It's a shame that some transition time wasn't allowed for this, but unfortunately having a backup isn't something most folks consider until it's too late...

Posted by Jim at 4:16 PM | TrackBack

June 15, 2004

This is your brain...

This is your brain with a USB interface... Any questions?

Posted by Jim at 9:22 PM | TrackBack

No do-not-spam list

I think this is good news... The FTC will NOT be creating their do-not-spam list. This is one battle that needs to be better fought with technology, and not by legistlation.

Posted by Jim at 7:41 PM | TrackBack

June 14, 2004

No SASL for Posfix, yet...

The AFP548.com article I mentioned over the weekend is offlne for now, though that link will still work since it was direct to the article. The author is having some SASL issues that he's still working to resolve. The steps in the article are still good for compiling a newer version of Postfix, if you don't need the SASL support.

Apparently the newer versions of SASL were causing problems with OS X Server, but 2.1.15 'seemed' to work, but still apparently has issues.

Posted by Jim at 8:20 PM | TrackBack

Spam help from Comcast

Well, some good news on the spam front, it seems. Comcast has fessed up to being a major source of spam.

Good for them, let's hope their efforts pay off to cut down on that estimated 700 million spam mails a day their subscribers are sending out...

Posted by Jim at 1:06 AM | TrackBack

June 11, 2004

Postfix 2.1 on OS X

While surfing around for anyone that got Postfix 2.1 running under OS X tonight, I came across this article at AFP548.com. Not only does it give info on getting this running under Mac OS X 10.3, it also includes info on enabling PCRE, or Perl Compatible Regular Expression, a useful feature if you have more involved mail filtering rules set up. Most basic setups will use regex, more involved rules will require pcre, I've seen this most with some user created Spamassassin filters.

Also described are including support for SASL (Simple Authentication and Security Layer), but the article includes a (bad) link to an older version of this software, and isn't clear why the latest version (available when the article was published) wasn't used. I'm trying to contact the author for clarification. Also, the article seems geared towards OS X Server, but I'm assuming it should work well under standard OS X.

Posted by Jim at 11:22 PM | TrackBack

June 10, 2004

Doh!

Argh! Well, on the good news front, I finally got Gld, a greylisting Postfix add-on, to compile, and it looks like it's pretty much ready to go. The bad news is, greylisting requires Postfix 2.1 or later, and of course Mac OS X 10.3.4 only has Postfix 2.0.10.

Maybe I'll upgrade this weekend...

Posted by Jim at 12:59 AM | TrackBack

June 9, 2004

US Constitution on your iPod

This link found it's way into my mailbox today, you can now have a copy of the US Constitution on your iPod, courtesy the American Constitution Society.

Posted by Jim at 4:44 PM | TrackBack

June 8, 2004

Apple Store in Dell's back yard...

So, I was at the mall today, and what do I see but a new Apple Store coming to my area. The new Barton Creek location in Austin will have its grand opening this Saturday. Crews were hard at work behind brown paper covered windows getting things ready. If you're in the area, stop by and join the crowds, it's sure to be a lot of fun.

Posted by Jim at 10:52 PM | TrackBack

June 7, 2004

AirPort Express!

This little gadget is totally the coolest thing I've seen all day. It may be one of the coolest things I've seen all year, for that matter. If you haven't seen it, check out the AirPort Express, the smallest wireless access point around, retailing for only $129.

MacWorld has a bit more about it here, as well as some info on the AirTunes software, used for streaming music from iTunes to your home stereo. While not quite as flexible as a full fledged AirPort base station, it's an incredible deal for what it does.

Posted by Jim at 8:20 PM | TrackBack

June 6, 2004

More Greylisting

I've been giving more thought to greylisting, a process for temporarily delaying emails sent to my server, to help cut down on the spam that ultimately makes it through to my server. Some of my filters are being a bit problematic, and I've had a very small number of legitimate mails that didn't make it through, so I'm needing to revisit things again.

I've found an interesting piece of code called Gld, it uses MySQL so it should be fairly efficient, but I'm having trouble compiling the darned thing for OS X. Unfortunately, it's poorly documented and I'm waiting for the author to respond to my plea for help. But, it sounds promising, if I can make it work here.

Posted by Jim at 10:42 PM | TrackBack

June 3, 2004

Welcome to the iStore

Or maybe the PowerStore. Check this story over at Metropolis Magazine on the architecture of the San Francisco Apple Store. Some interesting details there that share similaritites with several different Macs.

I haven't been to this store yet (hopefully later this fall), I'm wondering if the Chicago Michigan Avenue store or any others share similar features? When the store closes for the night, do the overhead lights pulse softly till morning? Hmmm...

Posted by Jim at 10:17 AM | TrackBack

June 2, 2004

Camcorder batteries for camera?

Ok, I had weird idea yesterday. In searching for batteries, I've found some larger battery packs that plug into a digital camera's DC IN port, and can mount using the same screw used by a tripod to the camera. Some of these packs don't appear to even have the power of the batteries I'm using based on the maH (Mili-amps per hour) rating, so I'm assuming the larger packs can put out power for a longer period at that rate.

So, I got to thinking of my Sony Camcorder and how I have a spare battery for it, and could I use that for my digital camera? Short answer would be yes, if it were 6v, but my Sony battery is rated at 7.2, and actually with a charge is over 8v. Ack!

I used to be very into electronics, but haven't done much in that area for years, and so I'm not able to really see an obvious (cheap/efficient) solution to this dilema. I know I can drop the power down to 6v using some resistors to create a voltage drop, but that will shorten the life of the battery. I know I can use a regulator and drop that down to 5v or 6v, but since the difference between vOut and vIn isn't but 2v or so, that complicates things further.

Any circuit I can think of would either waste that precious battery power, or wouldn't work with the voltage levels needed, or not be able to handle the current draw of the camera.

So, it looks like my Sony battery is out of the question, unless anyone out there has some thoughts on an efficient & cheap circuit that would do the job.

Now, I do know that some camcorders use 6v batteries, so I might just need to see if I can scrape up any of those. No need for fancy circuits there.

Posted by Jim at 9:55 PM | TrackBack

Digital Camera batteries

I wrote the other day about bad battery life in my digital camera. After doing some research, it seems that the Nickel Metal Hydride batteries have a pretty low shelf life, they start to lose their charge once they leave the charger. That explains why I'm having bad luck, my batteries might sit in my cam for weeks before I take a shot. Guess I should work on that a bit...

Steve's Digicams has a nice page about these batteries, some alternatives out there, and better chargers to help improve the life of the batteries you already have. Check it out...

Posted by Jim at 7:48 AM | TrackBack

June 1, 2004

New script coming...

As I commented here last month, my Apache log file has been getting a lot of bogus entries like "SEARCH /\x90\x02\xb1 etc, which is from a worm/trojan/whatever from the Windoze world where such things are the norm. Problem is that it was screwing up my log analysis software.

So, I've finally written an AppleScript to remove those offending lines from my log. I'm doing the final testing now, and should have it posted in the downloads area soon.

Posted by Jim at 11:10 PM | TrackBack