Sunday, August 31, 2008

Migrating a domain with related Google Apps and hosting files to a new service

A year ago I wrote about adding adding Google Apps services to our existing domain. Back then Lunarpages managed most of my domains and sites, but I fired them recently.

Now I'm migrating my domains and hosted files to DreamHost, including I was worried about that one. How do you migrate Google Apps?

Briefly, if you know the sequence to follow, the answer is -- very easily.

I've not only migrated, I've also added a new subdomain, to hold files (something Google doesn't really do) and I've restored the subdomain for our blogger blog (Lunarpages broke that).

The hardest part for me was understanding how things work. Once I knew that, I knew what to avoid and what to do. Understanding took a couple of days and help from DreamHost tech support; execution took minutes. (See migrating my domains and hosted files for the steps involved in switching the domain itself.)

To understand how the magic happens you have to know what 3 entities do:

  1. The registrar (Tucows, will be DreamHost): maintains the relationship between the domain names we type ( and the IP address of the name server you are using.
  2. The nameserver owner (DreamHost): routes all kinds of requests for web pages and services
  3. The web site provider (also DreamHost): provides file services, http and ftp, etc
  4. Google Apps for a domain: provides google apps (available only to person who can provide domain ownership)
Next you have to know two key things:
  1. You can do whatever you want to the DreamHost DNS settings, but until you tell your registrar to use the nameserver nothing will happen. So you can get everything ready at DreamHost, the turn it on by switching nameservers at your registrar. You can switch back to Lunarpages just as easily. It doesn't matter whether DreamHost or Tucows or Network Solutions or eNom or GoDaddy is the registrar.
  2. For a request for "" to work you need to do two things:
    a. set up a rule in your nameserver provider's DNS to route all traffic for to This is done by a CNAME (below)
    b. in your Google Apps you need to setup a custom name that exactly matches the name you created in the CNAME.
Ok, so that's complicated. Let's walk through an actual transaction.

When I enter "" in my browser, the Internet's DNS system first "asks" where to route the request. The registrar for knows to send all domain traffic DreamHost nameservers - because I told it to use those nameservers.

So the requests go to the DreamHost nameserver. As we see in this picture of DreamHost's nameserver the subdomain request is then routed through a CNAME to Google (

So the request for effectively goes to Google. On the other hand, for example, would have to be handled by DreamHost.

When Google gets this transaction it sees it's a request for "". It matches this request against the custom URL I assigned my Google Apps calendar through my Google Apps Dashboard, and it renders the correct calendar.

Ok, if you understand all of the above then you're ready to understand how I migrated, and its related Google Apps services, from Lunarpages to DreamHost. You may also see why Google Apps are so loosely related -- they are really only bound together at the DNS level.

In this case everything was already setup on the Google Apps side, including using Google's now obsolete Page Creator to manage our web pages.

I just had to setup the DNS at DH so it had the right CNAME settings to direct traffic and handle mail. These are totally generic, the traffic gets routed to the right Google Apps because of the matching domain names, not because of anything special in this table.

  1. I used DreamHost's "fully host domain at Google Apps" first. That created almost all the CNAME and MX (mail exchange, see DNS record types) settings in the above image.
  2. I manually added the CNAME entry of "". I'd made a corresponding change in a Blogger blog, publishing it to "".
  3. I changed the nameserver settings at my registrar (Tucows at the moment) to the, etc settings.
That was it. Everything worked as before, except that Lunarpages had broken things and couldn't fix them. So now it really worked.

I wanted one more thing though. I wanted a place to store files -- something Google Apps does very poorly.

That was easy too. At DreamHost I created a subdomain of

I configured that subdomain so anyone entering "" would go to "" (a DH configuration setting).

So now I had my files section -- with FTP services too.
It took a while to understand this, and a bit of time to write it up, but not time at all to do it. DreamHost tech support was very helpful, though they did have to correct themselves a couple of times.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bento Mobile? FileMaker feels the heat

From the official FileMaker forum, after dozens of fervent pleas for an iPhone version of Bento and/or FileMaker Mobile:
Re: iphone Bento Mobile? - Other suggestions - Bento Forums

... Thank you for your post.

Hearing you loud and clear! Please give us more credit. There have been a lot of users who have requested an iPhone solution, and I have also forwarded your post to our Development and Marketing departments for consideration...
So I'm not the only guy waiting impatiently for iPhone Bento and/or a resurrected iPhone version of FileMaker Mobile to appear. Definitely get the impression it's just a matter of time.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The DreamHost migration: moving the first domain

[Update: if you enter my promo code on signing up with DreamHost, you get $50 off your 1st year fee. The code is: KATEVA.]

I'm continuing the process of moving my Tucows/Lunarpages domains and files to DreamHost. In a prior post I described how to obtain a transfer authorization code.

Now I can describe the details of how I moved the first domain and files. Naturally I discovered a bug in DreamHost's process -- I hope they can fix things up. I'll describe the sequence I think one is supposed to follow, I actually did things a bit out of order (see below).

With my next domain transfer I'll get to validate this sequence. I'll call the domain I moved "".

Key Principles
  1. You can setup "" with companion Google Apps at DreamHost before you make any DNS changes.
  2. Changing DNS settings for "" at the old registrar will direct traffic to the files you've put on DreamHost. I use OpenDNSfor our home network; it picked up the DNS settings changes within minutes.
  3. The registrar transfer is a separate, slower process.
There are 3 phases to the file and domain migration:

Phase I
a. setup domain hosting at DreamHost. The interative form creates a directory for file ftp and creates the Google App services, it provides a link to configure them. [2]
b. setup companion Google Apps and email (same as one would with any Google App setup)
c. collect all email redirections or email accounts from old domain, recreate them in new domain. (note email stores will be lost, I don't know of a way around that)
d. collect all subdomains and remap those
Phase II

From the domain control panel ( in this case [1])
a. set domain DNS settings to use DreamHost
b. Get domain transfer authorization code (Lunarpages quickly sent me a password - had an old lunarpages pw for
c. Change all contacts, admin, technical, etc to email address you control - preferably unrelated to your domains. (This is where I found the Dreamhost bug -- their web page says they'll send confirmation email to admin contact, they sent it to technical contact -- which was Lunarpages, not me!)
Phase III
a. Go to DreamHost and request domain transfer, entering the network authorization code from Phase II.
What I actually did
I did things somewhat backwards. I requested the domain tranfer first. That gave me a link that took me to the create a hosting setup, then I finally changed the DNS codes. It worked, the sequence phasing is not too strict. The problem was the DreamHost bug as noted above.
[1] I ran into another LunarPages glitch. They use Tucows for domain registration, hence In theory the Tucows pw should be my LunarPages pw. It wasn't -- it was an old pw. I guess there's no propagation of changes! As usual LunarPages tech support was able to fix the problem, but this is typical of their challenges. They're very disorganized and prone to glitches.

[2] When I first started loading files from my primary LunarPages domain, I copied them into my temporary "dreamhosters" directory. I thought when I switched my domains the primary would point to this folder. Wrong -- that was how things worked at Lunarpages. At DreamHost every domain gets its own folder; that folder is created from the "Add domain" step described in Phase I. If you want to see how a domain looks before you bring it "live" by switching the DNS settings over to DreamHost, you "mirror" it into the dreamhosters directory and access it using a dreamhosters URL. It took me some effort to grok this. Of course now I had all my files in the wrong directory, but I used the DreamHost net2ftp web ftp tool to move them.

Tethering: buying a 3G phone just to tether?

Shortly after Pogue wrote about using the Nokia E71 tethering service, another blogger chimes in
A Glimpse of Our Tethering Future - Inside iPhone Blog

... I'm doing this using a prepaid AT&T GoPhone account that I picked up at the AT&T Mobility Store that's half a block from my office in Manhattan. Andy Abramson, a friend who writes the blog VoIPWatch and runs the Nokia Blogger Relations Program, told me that using a 3G phone in conjunction with a GoPhone account was not only possible, but cheap in comparison with what I would pay for AT&T wireless data services delivered on a 3G-compatible ExpressCard plugged into my MacBook Pro...
I have an unused Nokia 3G phone at home. I wonder if there's a tethering solution for it? The GoPhone angle is interesting.

I wonder if the tethering solution on the Nokia E71 is really approved by AT&T ...

In any case, I need a tethering solution. I gather I'm not alone! I suspect that sooner or later Apple will sell a solution with the iPhone and it will cost at least $30/month to use it with AT&T.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The DreamHost migration: getting a transfer authorization code

[Update: if you enter my promo code on signing up with DreamHost, you get $50 off your 1st year fee. The code is: KATEVA.]

To begin migrating my domains from LunarPages to DreamHost, I need to obtain a "transfer authorization code" from the current registrar (which is, in this case, TuCows -- not Lunarpages).

I'm starting out with the simplest parked domain, then gradually moving up the ladder until I migrate my primary domain -- which is actually managed by Network Solutions. For that one I may simply change the DNS settings and wait to see how DreamHost works out over time.

I found this reference to be very helpful: Obtaining An Authorization Code (Auth Code) from Various Registrars.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, my Lunarpages un/pw isn't working with So I'll have to see if I can get Lunarpages support to fix that. Once that's fixed it appears I can obtain the "TAC" and then complete the form that will migrate it to the DreamHost registrar.

And so on down the line ...

DreamHost: a better Google Apps choice than Google?

[Update: if you enter my promo code on signing up with DreamHost, you get $50 off your 1st year fee (max discount). The code is: KATEVA.]

Lunarpages finally pushed me over the brink.

I suspect Lunarpages is discovering the limits of an outsourcing strategy. I've seen more than one company make that mistake.

The good news is that I'm discovering greener grass at DreamHost, such as WebDav support, full control over DNS CNAME and email MX configuration, SSH/Telnet support and robust Google Apps integration.

As I've noted in prior posts, Google Apps works tolerably well when you do register your domain and sign up for the services at the same time. Google hands off the registrar function to eNom or Go Daddy and everything works. The downsides are you don't have unified management of your domains and you're limited to what Google offers. Meaning no real file management.

On other hand, Google Apps can be pretty frustrating when you try to use a domain held by, say, Lunarpages. The MX and CNAME configuration is complex, and when something breaks there's no-one who owns the problem.

From what I see of DreamHost, it looks like the best of both worlds. Every domain, even the throwaway "dreamhoster" domain I'm using for initial setup, can have a companion Google Apps service. So you get consolidated domain ownership through DreamHost (they're a registrar as well as a hosting service), Google Apps functionality, and file services.

I'll update this post as I learn more during my upcoming domain migrations.

Update 8/30/08:

There are two ways to configure your companion Google Apps with Dreamhost

  1. optimal: In this case and resolve to the files you host at DreamHost. Calendar, docs, mail, sites, and start map via CNAME to You can't change these CNAME values. You can add new ones, but these are fixed.
  2. Google Apps only: and resolve as controlled by Google Apps; there's no real role for DreamHost file hosting. DreamHost assigns fixed, non-editable, CNAME values for calendar, docs, sites, start and www and configures email for Google Apps. Unlike Google's usual Google Apps registrars (eNom for example), you can't change these settings. So if you prefer "wiki" to sites there will still be a CNAME for sites.

How to move files from one web site hosting service to another

I'm working through my migration from Lunarpages to Dreamhost.

I'll have a series of posts outlining what I learn during this migration; it seems like the kind of topic that could sue some sharing.

The first step in my migration was to sign up with Dreamhost. I googled on "dreamhost coupon" and found a code that gave me $50 off, so my 1 year contract cost $70. I have 2 months left on my Lunarpags contract so I can take my time on the migration, transferring one domain at a time.

I haven't told Lunarpages I'm leaving of course; there's no need to muddy the waters. If they care they'll figure it out from the domain transfers anyway.

The next step is to move my files. I figured I'd learn about SSH/Telnet and tar balls -- but Lunarpages doesn't includes SSH with my account.

Lesson: Confident hosting vendors, like Dreamhost, provide services that make it easy to switch -- like Telnet/SSH on every account. You want a confident vendor.

If I did have SSH/Telnet access I'd use the advice in these two posts. The author's site is a bit hard on my eyes, but the content looks good ...
So I'm doing the old FTP down and up procedure. Tedious, but I have the time. Once the files are on Dreamhost with a temporary server name I've verify things are working. Then I'll be ready to switch domains.

Update 8/28/08: I figured out a better way. DreamHost has a web based FTP tool, so you can ftp from the old domain to DreamHost. Of course one could always do this from Telnet/SSH -- but I'd forgotten about command line ftp. It's been a long time since I've done that.

Update 8/29/08: Well, the net2ftp web tool was a bust. I couldn't see how to get it to move files from LunarPages to DreamHost -- and there's no documentation. On the other hand, Lunarpages allowed me to download a tar.gz archive of my entire site with one click. Kudos to them, I'd no idea that was possible. So now I'm FTPng it to Dreamhost and I'll see if I can expand it there either from the Net2ftp web interface or by activating my SSH access.

Update 8/30/08: I'm impressed with how worthless most of the online advice and documentation was about this. Here's what worked (thank you
  1. Go to Lunarpages Backup control panel and click link to download a backup file (tar.gz) of my Lunarpages site.
  2. FTP the 640MB archive to my DreamHost directory.
  3. Enable Bash SSH access on DreamHost.
  4. Download and install Tunnelier for Windows (I did this from my XP machine).
  5. SSH to DreamHost and run "tar -xzf"
At this point everything had been restored, but they were in the wrong folder. So I had to move them. This is where I really missed tools like Norton Commander, never mind Finder or Explorer!

I then used the following Bash commands to rearrange and cleanup (as usual unix documentation is awful):
  • rm -r mydirectoryname: removes mydirectoryname and all files it contains
  • ls: list directories.
  • cd mydirectoryname: change to mydirectoryname. Also use cd .. to move up.
  • mv mydirectoryname .. : moves mydirectoryname and all files up one directory level
  • mv * .. : move everything in local directory up one level. (There's supposed to be a switch for mv that forces an overwrite of existing files, but it didn't work for directories.)
If you want to switch to DreamHost my coupon code of KATEVA will get you the maximal coupon discount of $50 off a 1 year subscription.

Sync Outlook, iCal, iPhone, and Google Calendars - Sync Outlook, iCal, iPhone, and Google Calendars doesn’t add anything new to my recent posts on this topic, but it’s a good summary and a very good discussion. The (comcast) Plaxo angle is an interesting option for work calendars if one could obtain corporate approval – or tolerance. Alas, post Comcast acquisition I suspect Plaxo’s interests will be focused on easier problems.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Canon PowerShot SD1100IS carries the “lens error” curse

Canon’s new cameras are out, so the prior leaders are on sale. The SD1100IS is “only” $180 or so. Beware, however, it carries the lens error curse … Customer Reviews: Canon PowerShot SD1100IS 8MP Digital Camera with 3x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom (Blue)

… This was a great camera--until it stopped working completely within 3 weeks. There was no 'incident' or warning... but half an hour after making some movies, I went to turn the camera on and I got the message "Lens Error, Restart Camera." I've tried everything, and I can't even retrieve the photos onto my computer…

This is a known design or manufacturing problem with recent generation Digital ELPH cameras. A handful of negative reviews on Amazon tells us the SD1100IS is infected. I wouldn’t buy one at any price.

I would only look at purchasing an ELPH released within this month’s batch.

I love Amazon’s negative reviews …

Synchronization is hard - more evidence

I've ranted about how hard synchronization is.

Here's confirmation from a former Sync Services engineer: MildMannered Industries - MobileMe. (via Gruber)

Synchronization is hard to get right, and small errors grow with each sync until they become big disasters. It's impressive Exchange/Outlook sync works as well as it does, and the original Palm/Desktop sync success never got the respect it deserved (though Palm wisely kept things as simple as possible).

Apple has never done Sync well. The old .Mac service, and the built-in OS X sync services, have been plagued with problems.

Bottom line -- MobileMe isn't going to be healthy for a long time -- if ever. In particular, email sync makes no sense in the IMAP era.

If you insist on using Apple's sync solutions, be sure you have good backups and a way to restore from backup.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Are any compact digital cameras more reliable than Canon's models?

I was very impressed when I was able to buy a Canon SD1000 for $170. I'd been pretty fond of my prior Canon compacts, and the new model was still "made in Japan".

I've learned to be less impressed by "made in Japan". The focus motor abruptly stopped working at age 10 months. The camera didn't even last long enough to qualify for my excellent AMEX extended coverage -- I have to work with Canon (yeck).

It seems this camera is known for early death of the focus mechanism: Disruptive Conversations: My Canon SD1000 camera dies... "Lens error, restart camera". I also see from blog post comments that Canon isn't very good about honoring their 1 year warranty.

In retrospect, Canon quality took a dive with the release of the SD600. Of course even the relatively robust S410 died of mode switch failure, but any company can have that sort of design problem. The recurrence of the same problem with the SD600, however, was clearly a bad sign.

So Canon quality is pretty feeble now.

Is that necessarily a bad thing? When these compact Canons work they take great pictures, and until recently camera technology was moving so fast it was reasonable to upgrade a compact camera every 1-2 years. So there was an argument for building for a short life and low purchase costs.

An argument, but not a good argument. It's not like the cameras give us a one month warning of impending doom -- they fail in use.

I hate that.

Anyway, cameras aren't improving nearly as fast as they were in 2006. Now it's reasonable to replace a camera every 3 years instead of yearly.

So Canon's quality/price ratio is wrong for us.

But does the competition offer more reliable compact digital cameras? I doubt anyone offers a 2 year warranty, for example.

That's what I'm trying to figure out. I haven't had any luck so far, but I'll update this post with what I learn. If I find that Nikon, SONY or Olympus are offering a higher quality alternative, or even better warranty service, I'm ready to switch.

Update: The Olympus Stylus SW (770SW) series uses durability as a selling point, and they're more expensive than feature-comparable Canon cameras. That's encouraging, but the word "warranty" doesn't appear anywhere on the Olympus web site. That's not encouraging.

Update 9/11/08: I eventually called Canon service. It was a very short conversation, mostly them telling me to omit the strap, battery, memory card, etc. After we finally mailed the camera it turned around very quickly. They replaced the optical assembly and main "pcb" (circuit board). It works. Canon service did well, though I'd have preferred to avoid them. We're out the cost of the package but the camera is effectively new again.

Update 10/17/08: Just noticed when downloading images that Aperture sees this as the "Canon IXY Digital 10". This was the Japanese market name for the SD1000. Curious! I wondered if there weren't a few more menu options post-repair. No complaints, but worth noting.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

iPhone application update error not resolved: don't buy your iPhone until it's fixed

Update 9/14/08: Fixed.

I'm really tired of this bug.
Gordon's Tech: Unknown Error during iPhone app install or update

I'm getting this error with the iPhone I was given when my original white 3G phone cracked.Unkown Error On The iPhone |

... Ok so every time I try and update or upgrade an application on my iPhone I get this “Unknown Error: 0xE800002E. After some adjustments I was able to find a method to resolve, or at least update my apps. Here’s the key ...
I can use the uncheck/check app method to get the updates on, but I need to restore all data and configuration.

The 2.0.2 update didn't help. It's scant comfort to know thousands of other people have the same problem.

Don't buy an iPhone until I write that the bug is fixed. This is a deal breaker bug, you don't want to run into it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bose QuietComfort 2 Mobile Communications kit vs. Monster iSoniTalk for iPhone

About a year ago I expected that my future iPhone would be joined by the Bose QC 2 mobile communications kit. The kit adds a microphone to Bose QC 2 headphones, so it's possible to use the phones during calls.

Gordon's Tech: Bose QuietComfort 2 Mobile Communications kit connects to an iPhone

... the $40 Bose QuietComfort 2 Mobile Communications Kit. Sure, it's much more expensive than whittling, but it includes a microphone so you can handle incoming calls. On the other hand it only works with post-2005 QC2s ...

I later read that the pre-2005 QC 2 incompatibility was due to an easy-to-remove plastic protrusion. On the other hand, the Apple Store reviews tell us there's no answer/pause button on the Bose microphone.

The Bose kit is fairly elegant looking however. It replaces the standard cord, so there's no cord clutter.

Later I saw a Griffin kit that worked with any set of headphones, had an answer button, and cost half the price. That sounded right -- but it's gone now.

In its place is the Monster iSoniTalk. It was designed for iPhone 1.0 (fits the recess), but works fine with iPhone 2.0.

I agree with the 1/08 review -- it's really pretty good. Costs $20, seems to work well, decent microphone and clip and it has an inline answer button on the mike (like Apple's set). It does create cord clutter; I'd prefer a serial connection with no double cord rather than the iSoniTalk's parallel cord (see pictures in linked review). The splitter by the phone connection is pretty big and ugly looking too.

So get the QC 2 kit if you have the Bose headphones, want minimal cord clutter and a svelte connection, and don't mind answering calls using the iPhone (not a big deal for me). Otherwise, the iSoniTalk is fine. I'm looking forward to trying it with my next conference call.

Update 8/21/08: Turns out these are weird to use. When I wear the QC2 heaphones, my own voice is distant and muffled. The headphones don't play back my own voice.

Scoble joins the Google Reader annotation club

Scoble follows in my footsteps. He's begun using the Google Reader Share function to create a feed made up of items he likes, along with his annotations.
... I’ve been trying to write a note on each blog I share. Today I looked at that and realized it’s a blog about other blogs...
Google Reader shares are an automated form of metablogging, but concerns about copyright are addressed -- the post is made up of the original article with an annotation.

These shares are a feed, so one can subscribe the shares. I subscribe to Scoble's share -- its good stuff.

How to charge an iPhone at multiple computers

iPhone 2.0 can't charge via Firewire. It's one of the most annoying "features" of the new phone.

That means I've lost some chargers. Since iPhone 2.0 is a power hog, I need to be able to charge at the office.

The best way to do this would be to use my corporate laptop's USB port, but I don't want to sync the iPhone at work. That would be a disaster. The iPhone can really only sync at one machine.

One trick is to change the "sync automatically" setting to OFF at your normal sync workstation. That setting travels with the iPhone, so it applies everywhere. You can now plug your iPhone in without fear of sync.

Another trick is to hold the home button when you connect the iPhone. That's supposed to disable Sync but I haven't tried it.

Best of all is to to into iTunes preferences and click on the "Syncing" preference. There you can turn off automatic syncing for all iPhones and iPods. That's what I do at work, so I can recharge my devices from my work machine's USB port.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The ultimate AirTunes, iPhone Remote, iTunes setup

This was hoisted from comments on an post I wrote a few weeks ago. My commenter is describing the ideal multi-user iTunes/AirTunes/iTouch Remote configuration.

First from my original post ...
Gordon's Tech: Remote control of iTunes and AppleTV: will AirTunes return?

... Son of a gun, it works. It really, really works. I've been controlling my upstairs Library from my iPhone, streaming music to my AirPort express, and listening to speakers in two rooms. Years after the AirTunes hype died off, Apple finally delivered.

There's even intriguing/worrisome support for multiple libraries, which brings me to a comment from someone who's gone another step beyond me (note this only works if you wisely avoid the plague of DRM)...

The key bit of good news is that I could control my Library even when iTunes was running in a 10.4 background session.

It gets beter though. From Jan ...

It looks like Remote with iPhones/iPod Touch and AirTunes is the solution for for the multi-room audio setup I was waiting for years to come.

I installed several AirPort Express boxes with AirTunes in the rooms and installed 3 users on a mac mini with fast user switching on. All users have their own iTunes setup and have access to a central NAS Server with all the MP3 files. This won´t work with Windows because Windows won´t allow fast user switching running iTunes !

With this setup every family member is able to hear their music independently on different AirTunes outlets. It really works !
Note Jan has one set of files, but 3 libraries. So each user can sync their iPod or iPhone with their own account and save their own Address Book and preferences, but share one set of music.

Excellent. I'm going to do this one day. Note it requires that the music file be on a NAS. I knew I'd want one of those soon.

Escape from Lunarpages - what next?

I've hosted a set of web pages and domains through Lunarpages. The support and quality hasn't been great, but not so bad that it was worth switching.

Recently, however, they went over a cliff. I've been through two significant domain related screw-ups with them in about six weeks.

This was the reply to the latest problem.
Hello, The issue appears to be related to a glitch in the Cpanel software. Sometimes this is caused by a client attempting to add a subdomain as an addon domain. We are awaiting the next cpanel update which should resolve this issue and will update our servers once it is released. We apologize for the inconvenience. -- Should you have any further questions please feel free to contact us. Best Regards
Right. Not only is the reply pretty annoying (no date?), but also the problem occurred with no changes made to cpanel.

So I'm not happy with Lunarpages -- but are there really better choices? Could I, for example, find a reasonable file hosting service combined with a registrar with user configurable CNAME settings?

Well, yes, there's Google Apps/eNom -- but that won't work for the domains I already use.

Here's the list I have of domain registrars (wikipedia list, icann list)
  • Network Solutions: suspected domain name tasting, advertising on user subdomains
  • Go Daddy: soft core porn reputation, against net neutrality
  • eNom: Google partner, but not interested in small customers
  • Tucows / OpenSRS good values statement
Problem is, none of them are too appealing. Seems the entire business is troubled - it looks like 90% of the customer base are name squatters. That's not a group terribly interested in customer service.

So can I find the next best thing to Google -- a quality hosting service that uses eNom? Well, Lunarpages doesn't use eNom, but there 7th on this list. Hmm. Tough bunch!

Ok, what if I look for an OS X friendly service? That might be a measure of a classy outfit. From my own archives I find Dreamhost. Dig a little further, and I see that in 2004 I was deciding between Lunarpages and Dreamhost! (Yes, this blog is a part of my memory.)

Dreamhost is an ICANN approved registrar. They include webdav support, optional VPN services, unlimited subdomains, Jabber instant messaging, custom MX configuration, custom DNS configuration including CNAME revisions ... Not to mention a very elegant and clutter free web site.

So things have changed since 2004. What happens today when I search on the string Lunarpages Dreamhost? I find posts like this one and this one.

I suspect Dreamhost has their own issues. This is a tough business, but it looks like I'm not the first Lunarpages customer to look to Dreamhost.

I think I'll try moving one of the problem domains and see how that goes.

Update: Dreamhost was started by three Harvey Mudd undergrads. As a Caltech alum I actually know of Harvey Mudd -- it's an honorable sort of place.

Update: Even better. Dreamhost offers free hosting for non-profits and they mention use of Google Apps as a deployment option. Perfect. I'll move the Google App based non-profit site I help with first and see how well Dreamhost does. That will eliminate one of domains Lunarpages messed up and I can transfer domain ownership to the non-profit at the same time. Once we see how that goes I'll post with further comments.

Update 8/2/08: Today Lunarpages misconfigured their server and associated an xml mime type with all my pages installed a security update that interacted with changes they'd made to my .htaccess file and took all my pages offline with an obnoxious XML error message. None of them render. I'm now relocating to Dreamhost; I'll have some future blog posts about the migration experience. I'll move all the files first, then the domains last. I have to think about domain migration sequence.

Update 8/29/08: If you sign up with DreamHost and use my promo code, you get the maximal $50 1st year discount. The code is KATEVA.

Things touch 1.1 adds task sync with desktop app

I sync with Toodledo (RTM is an alternative). If Things had had desktop sync 10 days ago, and if it had import and export abilities from the desktop, I might have tried it ...
Things touch 1.1 Syncs, Syncs, Syncs : Things Blog : Cultured Code

This morning, Apple gave the green light for Things touch 1.1. The most prominent new feature is the ability to sync with the desktop version of Things...

... both your Mac and your iPhone/iPod touch have to be connected to the same wireless network. To turn on syncing, start Things on the desktop, go to Preferences > iPhone, and follow the on-screen instructions...

...there are quite a few to-do items on our list. First, the desktop app will see some long awaited improvements that will push it closer to 1.0. .. we will keep you updated on our progress via Twitter.
As is true of every iPhone developer except Missing Sync, the sync is network based.

iPhone developers do seem to love Twitter.

Fixes for iPhone App install problems

Update 9/14/08: Fixed.

I think the problems describe here are a variant of the “unknown error” issues I’ve run into following a difficult iPhone restore procedure. It smells to me like a mismatched DRM-motivated unique identifier. I’d recommend trying ..

  1. Expect to lose all app-related data from your phone.
  2. Mount phone, don’t allow sync. (If you hold home button on connection it won’t sync, I always disable auto sync).
  3. Go to tab for applications, switch to selective sync, uncheck problem app.
  4. Sync. (This will remove problem app from phone – and all data)
  5. Go to tag for applications, check the problem ap.
  6. Sync. This should fix things. Data will be gone

If that doesn’t next up is to restore the phone from a previous backup.

  1. Mount phone, don’t allow sync. (If you hold home button on connection it won’t sync, I always disable auto sync).
  2. Right click on phone.
  3. Restore from backup. Expect to lose new data. Restore takes a LONG time, you have to resync music, etc, you lose all passwords, some config settings.

Or try this …

iPhone OS 2.0.2: Fix for Apps Crashing, Not Launching and Missing Music - iPhone Atlas

… In other cases, you may need to delete the actual update files, then re-download and restore. Delete the update files, located in ~/Library/iTunes/iPhone Software Updates under Mac OS X or C:/documents and settings/[yourusername]/Application Data/Apple Computer/iTunes/iPhone Software in Windows…

Monday, August 18, 2008

Palm to iPhone - the summary

I'm wrapping up my series on migrating my personal data from the Palm/Outlook/XP to the iPhone/OS X/Cloud. I've yet to figure out how to manage my work data as well, that will be the subject of future posts.

On the left, a picture of my battered Tungsten E|2. It's my sixth or seventh Palm, and my second E|2. Like most Palm devices the on/off switch died within six months of purchase.

Palm can't make power switches. Or rather, they don't like them to last.

Note there are eight action buttons, four silkscreen and four physical (omitting the center button -- I hardly ever use it). Note the nice search button -- the iPhone doesn't have global search (maybe for a good reason).

Below is the current iPhone. Not coincidentally, the top row corresponds to the four physical buttons on my Palm. The special bottom row, however, is taken over the the phone, google, map, iPod.

The Calendar and Contacts are a close match to the Palm. They sync with iCal and Address Book by USB cable. One improvemnet is that iCal also subscribes to my wife's BlackBerry/Google Calendar, so get to see her appointments on my iPhone (read-only). (iCal further syncs my primary calendar with gCal using Spanning Sync; I've put MobileMe on hold until Apple does some major fixes).

The doesn't sync with iCal, it syncs with Toodledo. My family Google Calendar also gets a feed from Toodledo, it shows tasks as all day events.

On the far right is Evernote, the anxiety provoking home for my Palm Notes and more. They sync to the Evernote service.

The following posts may be of interest to anyone who's trying to migrate a Palm device from Outlook/XP to an iPhone using OS X/Cloud ...

iPhone 2.0.2: fast contacts from phone

This Ars commenter is right:
Apple says bug fixes ahoy in new iPhone 2.0.2 firmware

...This update definitely fixed the lag in loading contacts in the Phone app. I can start scrolling as soon as the app appears now

Strangely, there's still a lag when loading them in the Contacts app...
Weird. Contacts still has a 2-3 second lag (though it varies), but phone has no lag when viewing contacts. Grand Dialer, which also brings up contacts, also has lost its lag.

I haven't noted any other changes. In Minneapolis-Saint Paul I haven't had the reception problems some markets have, iPhone reception is no worse than the previous 3G Nokia phone I had.

I wonder if it will fix my app update problem.

Palm to iPhone: do I need an iTouch as well as an iPhone?!

I’ve made my personal Palm to iPhone transition (see report)…

Gordon's Tech: Palm to iPhone - only the notes remain

….The current collection of solutions makes an interesting contrast to the simplicity of my original Palm III - even if I ignore the migration challenges!

  • Calendar: iPhone <-> iCal <-> Google Calendar via Spanning Sync ($25)
  • Contacts: iPhone <-> Address Book
  • Tasks: iPhone ToDo <-> Toodledo ( -> iCal + Google Calendar as read-only) ($35)
  • Notes: iPhone Evernote <-> Evernote service (temporary)

It was bloody hard work, but now that I’ve done the job it’s not so hard for anyone who wants to replicate it. The key tip for Palm users going to iPhone on OS X is to pay $50 and buy Missing Sync for the iPhone with the bundled migration assistant. Oh – and read my posts.

That still leaves the workplace problem. On the Palm, after wasted years of trying to get to a single calendar (see also), I ended up using Chapura’s KeySuite (vs. DataViz Beyond) to sync to my office Exchange server/Outlook 2003.

So at home I used the Palm Outlook conduits to sync the standards apps to Outlook 2003, and KeySuite conduits at the office.

It worked, but it sure was stupid. Flipping between calendars was a pain.

Now, with a mounting sense of horror, it occurs to me that, at the moment, the only viable workplace option is to buy an iTouch for sync to my corporate environment. [1]

Imagine that.

Of course I’ll keep my Palm Tungsten E2 going as long as possible, but if I need to replace the half-broken Palm PDA the iTouch is about the same price. If an iPhone alternative does not emerge (and I’m thinking, I’m thinking) it makes sense to replace the Palm Tungsten E|2 with an iTouch.

So I’d have an iPhone and an iTouch to carry about.

This would be funny if I weren’t crying.

[1] Apple has designed the iPhone to sync to a single home machine. It’s more or less mandated by their DRM requirements. The Palm was more or less designed to sync to more than one machine.

Update 8/18/08: Results of an early experiment in trying to sync in two places.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bento opens up iCal and Address Book

Bento doesn't seem to get much respect.

It should.

I just played with it. Bento lets me edit task, calendar and address book data in a database framework. It brings a lot of power to underpowered apps; Bento + iCal/Address Book is much closer to Outlook.

I'm migrating my main machine to 10.5 in a few weeks. I suspect I'll buy Bento after that.

iPhone sync: WebDav, FTP and now ... AFP

After I read this review I, somewhat impulsively, installed Data Case:
DataCase Turns your iPhone into Wireless Storage Drive [iPhone Apps Review] - iPhone Hacks:

...One of the most anticipated iPhone apps, DataCase developed by Veiosoft has just hit the iPhone App Store.

The app turns your iPhone into a wireless storage drive that can be accessed by any other device on your wireless network, and includes a viewer for the most popular file formats such as Word, Excel, pdf, etc...
Sounded useful. I think it cost me $7-10.

Of course, on first try it didn't work. I was proud of myself for quickly figuring out the trouble. From my Apple Store post:
When I first tried this with 10.4, it seemed to mount, then I lost a connection. With 10.5 it didn't let me mount. When I looked at the settings, I saw it uses AFP -- apple file protocol.

I thought AFP was extinct!

It's a very curious choice, I think it says something about the limited options developers have to connect the iPhone to anything. I'm surprised there's any AFP support on the phone...

I had disabled AppleTalk eons ago on my machines. I restored AppleTalk and I was able to connect...
Wow. Now I've seen everything. Apple's astounding decision to bar everyone except the Missing Sync team from the USB cable is leading to the resurrection of all sorts of almost extinct file protocols. WebDav (yech), FTP, and now AppleTalk!?

So where the heck did this AppleTalk/AFP support come from? I'm sure Apple didn't just leave it on the iPhone. As always, Google is our friend (Nov 2007 - when iPhone apps were all hacked into unlocked phones ...):
Insanely awesome iPhone hacker and developer "Core" just finished implementing AFP for the iPhone and iPod touch. This software connects your iPhone (or touch) to your computer using AFP, the AppleTalk Filing Protocol. Your iPhone shows up on your desktop as a disk with full read/write access.
The great irony of the iPhone is that it combines features of the year 2015 with the year 1984 - requiring astounding gyrations to substitute for a Palm III.

A lesser irony is that Apple's bloody minded barracading of the sync cable is resurrecting near abandoned file protocols ...

PS. Omni Group? Maybe you should install the "Core" server into OmiFocus ...

Palm to iPhone migration: Different calendaring models

My first pass at Outlook/Palm to iCal/iPhone calendar migration was to stop using the old calendar, and start a new one.

Then I realized how long it would take to tediously enter birthdays and the like, so I decided to migrate calendars from my Palm using Missing Sync for Palm.
(Warning: if you do this, I suggest renaming your iCal calendar so it can't possibly clash with any Palm category you might have.)
(Note: I'm still on 10.4, though now I'm scheduling the 10.5 migration. So 10.5 behavior may vary.)

It worked, but when I was done all the Categories in the Palm had become calendars in iCal.


This is why synchronization is so horribly hard. Application models vary. The Palm allowed for one calendar, but each appointment could belong to a single one of about 9 categories. Google has an unlimited number of Calendars, but no categories. Outlook 2003 has one real calendar, but each appointment can be associated with an unlimited number of categories. Outlook 2007 is similar, but it supports calendar overlays. Google is like iCal, but appointments can have locations. Alerting models all vary.

I won't even mention how astoundingly limited iCal is compared to even Outlook 2003 -- with one huge exception. iCal can subscribe to calendar feeds. Still the absence of a list view in 10.4 is surprising -- even the iPhone calendar has a list view.

Anyway, since I sync a single iCal calendar with a single Google Calendar, I wanted to merge some of my iCal Calendars. Turns out the way to do this is to export the calendar you want to eliminate, then import it back into the target Calendar.

The good news is that somehow I've gotten closer to Calendar Nerdvana than I'd expected. Between synching iCal to gCal with Missing Sync, my wife's Blackberry synching to gCal with a built-in app, and my subscribing in iCal to my wife's Google Apps family calendar, I'm starting to be able to get useful calendar overlays. Now if I figure out a work calendar solution ...

iPhone calendar design flaw: all day events

The iPhone calendar has a design flaw. I ran into it because I subscribe to a calendar feed from Toodledo, and tasks due today are represented as all day events.

When you have lots of all day events, the display area for the calendar fills with all day events, and the hourly events aren't accessible.

The design flaw is the logic for partitioning scheduled and all day events, and the failure to support scrolling of all day events.

Palm to iPhone - only the notes remain

As summarized in my last note, I've got everything but my Memo Pad items (Notes) moved from Palm to iPhone. I've also realized that if were to do this all over again, I'd have paid my $25 sidegrade fee for Missing Sync for iPhone (includes migration utility).

Hey, I didn't have the benefit of reading my own blog postings.

The Memo Pad/Notes items are tough. I could get Missing Sync for iPhone [1], but then the data sits on my home machine. That wouldn't be so bad if the iPhone included any search functionality, but it doesn't.

I could wait for iPhone OS 2.1, but there's no guarantee Apple will actually include notes synchronization then. They've get a huge number of bugs to fix.

I don't like the usual hack of storing notes as fake contacts (messes up address book, weak search).

I could store them as tasks without dates or priorities on Toodledo/Todo. That's not a bad option.

I looked at Evernote again. It seems a natural fit. I installed the Windows version and used the "Add to Evernote" option to move all Notes to the net. The first time I did this the Windows app crashed, so I first created a local-only database, imported into that, then created a "sync" (net) repository and dragged them from the local to the net version.

This worked. The notes are on the net, and I can search them from the Evernote client on my iPhone (as long as I'm connected). I can even do some limited work with them using the Evernote client on OS X.

There's only one fly in the ointment, but it's a big, ugly sucker.

I tested the "export" features of the Windows client. Pathetic. The data is locked in. Worse, some web searches find Evernote users commenting about the need for export ... in 2005.

I really don't trust a company that locks in user data like that. They're well beyond the point where words are any use -- they need to show results.

So I have the data there for now, but I'm assuming I won't be able to get any of it out. So Evernote is a transitional strategy.

As I think harder about this I came across a review of evernote contrasting it to some other options:
Evernote for Mac Reviewed (beta version) Daniel mostly on Software:
  • 3.1: Evernote (2.7 plus 0.4 for what my benchmark doesn’t count)
  • 2.8: Journler, Together
  • 2.5: Scrivener, Soho Notes
  • 2.4: EagleFiler
  • 2.3: DevonThink Personal
  • 2.0: Yojimbo
  • 1.8: Circus Ponies NoteBook
There are a large suite of unstructured textbase apps for OS X, including Tinderbox. This Particular Outliner and Tidbits often review these apps.

These note taking apps go far beyond what I've done with the memos, which are really memory fragments, but I'll take a walk through this space and see what the Cloud or iPhone integration options are. (Yojimbo's web site still talks about .Mac sync, which is not a good sign.)

It has also occurred to me that there might be a way to structure my Notes as blog postings, and then store them as a private blog, choosing the blog based on available iPhone apps.

So it's Evernote for the moment, but I'm actively considering alternatives.

The current collection of solutions makes an interesting contrast to the simplicity of my original Palm III - even if I ignore the migration challenges!
  • Calendar: iPhone <-> iCal <-> Google Calendar via Spanning Sync ($25)
  • Contacts: iPhone <-> Address Book
  • Tasks: iPhone ToDo <-> Toodledo ( -> iCal + Google Calendar as read-only) ($35)
  • Notes: iPhone Evernote <-> Evernote service (temporary)
Obviously my data is fairly scattered now. I positively reek of cloudness.

[1] The mystery of why this is the only product able to access the iPhone data store over the USB conduit grows. What's Mark/Space got that no-one else has?

Update 9/29/08: Migrating Palm Notes (Memos) to Toodledo and Appigo

Update 3/14/09: See comments for an advanced approach using, in part, a Perl script.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Palm to iPhone migration - address book and notes

My painful Palm to iPhone/cloud migration continues. I've updated my summary table.

I migrated my Calendar by basically stopping use of my Palm/Outlook Calendar and entering data in the iPhone/iCal calendar [1]. I use Spanning Sync to publish to gCal and, less often, update from changes I make to gCal. I'll archive my Palm data in PDFs and data tables.

I migrated tasks by moving them from the Palm to Palm Desktop to archival To Do file to Toodledo. I corrected minor conversion bug on Toodledo and sync with on the iPhone.

I migrated my encrypted password database to 1Password.

Note the above costs money. I've spent about $80 on additional software and services and I'm not done yet. Some of the costs are recurring, but on the other hand so far I've seen no reason to buy MobileMess.

I don't yet know what I'll do with my Memos/Notes. Too bad Google Notebook isn't a more useful product, and too bad Evernote doesn't yet do data freedom. I will probably wait to see if Apple delivers sync of iPhone Notes in September. Other options:
On another front sync with my work calendar, contacts, tasks, memos, notes, appears hopeless for now. (I fear those will be intractable unless Chapura produces an iPhone version of KeySuite.)

So the Address Book/Contacts are up next, then I take a break.

I'm expecting to migrate from either Outlook (via Access?) or Palm Desktop to OS X Address Book (10.4 if possible). Options so far:
I think I'll reinstall my old copy of Missing Sync for Palm to migrate my contacts from the Palm (backup first of course). Then, if Apple or a Cloud competitor doesn't give me a good Notes solution by the end of September, I'll invest $25 in Missing Sync for iPhone and take care of my Notes problem.

[1] As I wrote this note I realized that I could have used my old copy of Missing Sync for Palm and moved the calendar data from my Palm to iCal. Note this exposes one of the many peculiar limitations of iCal. Categories in the Palm become calendars in iCal. Of course Spanning Sync only syncs one calendar to Google. So much for categories ...

Update 8/17/08: Address book moved easily. This is what I did.
  1. Install my old version of Missing Sync for Palm OS.
  2. Backup OS X address book and iCal
  3. Delete all existing Address Book entries and sync iPhone (so all gone from both)
  4. Disconnect iPhone
  5. Set Missing Sync to overwrite Notes (might as well get those on the Mac somehow!)
  6. Disable sync on Everything else including calendar.
  7. Missing Sync default is to "sync contacts". This is a misnomer on first sync; it should say that handheld will overwrite desktop (same for calendar).
  8. Consider zipping up your iPhone backup file at this point.
  9. Sync Palm then disconnect
  10. Connect iPhone and Sync
Oddly enough, my favorites were preserved. I wonder if they match on strings.

Based on what I've learned so far, this is what I'd recommend for any Palm user migrating to iPhone/Mac:
  1. Consider Missing Sync for iPhone, it includes the "migration assistant" that will move your data. It's $50 new, but you get a $25 sidegrade on other MS products and future upgrades. (See update below however)
  2. Use Migration Facility to move data from Palm.
  3. Use iCal data to move tasks to Toodledo or RTM. Pay for these. After migration to Toodledo/RTM, you'll want to delete tasks from iCal and disable task synchronization.
  4. Buy for iPhone.
  5. Buy Spanning Sync to sync iCal with gCal (optional).
I'm now almost done with the personal migration. Only a solution for Notes remains -- a solution for my work data is still in the future.

Update 1/5/09: A commenter left a very negative review of Missing Sync for iPhone, so please read and review before ordering. My experience personal experience was with using other Missing Sync products.

Update 5/7/09: A reader points us to to a detailed migration path from Palm/OS X to iPhone/OS X.

GooSync - not yet for the iPhone (soon?)

GooSync specializes in SyncML based phone to gCal sync. Nothing yet for the iPhone though:
GooSync - Supported Devices

A synchronisation application is not yet available for the Apple iPhone.
A tech support forum posting mentions (incredibly) Nuevasync. I'm beginning to think that exchange server approach might work, which is kind of an amazing thought.

Here's a tech support post from July 2008, there's considerable frustration with Apple's struggles (or lack of honesty):
I can confirm that our SyncML client partner has a full working prototype for the iPhone, and as soon as Apple officially offer Calendar and Contacts support so will we.

Apple have announced release dates for official iPhone Calendar and Contacts support since the beginning of the year. Unfortunately these releases have never materialized. The Contacts API will be available soon (or so we're told) but still no calendar API set for release. We have offered release dates this year based on information received from Apple, and this information has thus far proven to be unreliable. Obviously with Apple not offering any solid commitments its impossible for us to either.

I can confirm that there have been working clients on offer for "jail-broken" iPhones. These are something that we do not endorse and will not work on v2.0 iPhones.

We can only apologise for this and can assure you we are as frustrated with the situation as you may be. As soon as there are any solid releases we will be sure to let you know.
Update 8/19/08: See comments. GooSync is waiting on app store approval now ...

Google Calendar's CalDAV drives the iMac to Leopard

I knew this was coming soon.

This was the final straw: Google Calendar CalDAV support - Calendar Help Center: "Only iCal 3.x supports CalDAV sync. (iCal 3.x is standard in all versions of Leopard.)".

I'll need some more sleep before I steel myself or the upgrade. The last machine I upgraded to 10.5 blew up.

NuevaSync; iPhone to Google Calendar

This is extreme beta -- only for the brave. Interesting, however. Also some notes on Apple's sync framework, which is obnoxious (emphasis mine):
NuevaSync - Over the Air Synchronization

NuevaSync now has support for several Apple products. You can use the new iPhone® 3G as well as the original iPhone® and iPod® touch with 2.0 firmware.
Visit our device setup instructions for information on configuring your Apple device.
You can sync your contacts with Google (GMail) or Plaxo. You can sync your calendar items with Google Calendar.

Apple has chosen always to sync from a clean slate. That means that when you enable sync, your existing contacts and calendar items will be removed and replaced with the external copies. This is an Apple feature, not a NuevaSync one...
I'm tracking their blog. Some (insane?) people are using NuevaSync already.

iPhone backups and accesing .mdbackup files

Apple - Support - Discussions - Where does iTunes saves iPhone Back-ups ... ... "The backups are in ~Library/Application Support/MobileSync".

On my system MobileSync/Backup has 3 folders. I think this reflects the tumultuous history of my iPhone and the flopped restore procedure. The name of the folder is the unique identifier of your iPod or iPhone:
To back up an attached device, you must specify its target ID. This is the name used for the folder in the MobileSync/Backup directory...
and the name of the files is ...
... the name of each backup file is actually the SHA1 hash of its path...
When I synched my iPhone 1 of the 3 folders was updated, so the others are either inactive backups or correspond to my iPod. (I think they're inactive backup files.)

My backup folder is 70MB but holds almost 1,400 items. It contains a small portion of my 8GB of iPhone data and apps.

The files end in .mdbackup. That leads to some interesting posts:
The last series is the winner. It includes a post referencing a relatively friendly command line app for extracting data from an .mdbackup file (I've downloaded a copy, you should too - but note that using a command line utility is a non-trivial task. I think you need at least admin privileges and you may need to do more to enable the app to run/):

... You can examine the contents of these files and extract the backed up data from them using my mdhelper utility. It's a command-line Mac-based application that scans through these folders and allows you to extract files. For example, to recover all the png images from your backups, you could issue mdhelper -C png. Run the utility without arguments to see the built-in options...

What mdhelper does is this. It locates all backup folders. It reads in the Info.plist and Manifest.plist files and it lets you extract manifests and files based on a variety of search options. It stores extracted data on your desktop in a recovered iPhone files folder.

Pop back on Monday to learn more about backup files and how to force your iPhone to backup and restore from the Mac command line.

and, when things are really bad, you will appreciate these tips on how to restore from an archive you've made of a "good" backup (I'm sure there will be a GUI tool to do this very soon.):
.. In order to restore a device, you run the AppleMobileBackup program using the restore switch, like this:

./ambackup --restore --target targetid

This throws your iPhone into restore mode and returns any uncorrupted files from the backup folder to your device. This takes quite a bit longer than the backup, so prepare to wait a few minutes for it to complete.

If you want to restore your phone from a folder that is different from the target ID normally used, supply a source folder name as follows:

./ambackup --restore --target targetid --source sourcefoldername

If the source folder is not found in the backups folder, one is created. If it is found, that manifest and those files are used to restore your iPhone...

I've zipped a copy of my latest "good" backup, and retrospect backs up these files too. It's good to know I can, if things are desperate, scrape lost data from these files.

Update 8/20/08: The iTunes Preferences "Syncing" panel lists the backups by name and date. You can delete unwanted backups there. It only lists my iPhone backups.

Update 12/21/10: If you are looking for a particular device backup in a set of backup folders, you need to look for the manifest.plist file in each directory. Open it in a text editor and scroll down. You'll see the name of the device.

Google Page Creator to end

I noted last year that Google Page Creator was being sunset.

Now it's official. Google will transfer some Pages content to corresponding Sites and provide a download option for users who don't want to use Sites.

This is a nuisance of course, but I'm not complaining too much - yet. Sites is improving and I'm glad Google is putting some resources into this service. My Google irritation will all depend on how careful they are about the migration.

How files will be managed is still a mystery. You can attach a file to a Sites page, but it's awkward. Google Page Creator had more file upload options, but even those were weak. I'd be reasonably happy over the transition if Sites were to allow JavaScript and if Sites gets true file management.

My biggest effort will be translating my Minnesota Special Hockey web site from Page Creator to Sites. That could be ugly. My other Page Creator uses are more modest, but they include

Google Operating System has a good set of tips for people looking to get ahead of the rush ...

Export Files from Google Page Creator:

... Google Sites will add some of the missing features by the time Google closes Page Creator, but those who want to move to a different service or maybe to buy a domain can already export the files.

Requirement #1. There are three kinds of files that are trapped inside Page Creator: uploaded files and web pages created using the editor which can be public or unpublished. The following exporting tool can only work for uploaded files and the public web pages. ..

Requirement #2. Another prerequisite for the exporting tool is a software that downloads all the files linked from a page. For Internet Explorer, try the excellent download manager FlashGet (I use the classic version). For Firefox, there's an extension called DownThemAll that has some of the features from FlashGet...

iPhone ToDo app and why my reviews are better than the rest

I bought Appigo's ($10) for my iPhone (currently I think of my phone as iTease). (BTW, Appigo has a Google Group for this app.)

I've been using it with Toodledo. I'd considered a switch switch to Remember the Milk but Toodledo tech support helped me with my major concern -- the ability to apply operations to sets of items. The combined cost of ($10) and Toodledo ($17) together is $27 - a good fraction of MobileMe. Too bad Apple hates us.

Here's what conventional, good, reviewers will tell you about
Macworld | iPhone Central | Review: Todo 1.1.1 for iPhone and iPod touch

... it’s in creating and organizing tasks that Todo really shines, offering many more features than Zenbe Lists or any of the basic to-do apps I covered a few weeks ago.

As with other apps, you can create multiple lists of tasks; you add new lists and tasks using the plus (+) button at the top of the main lists screen or any individual list screen, respectively. When viewing a list, tapping on a task’s circle marks the task as complete; depending on your settings, completed tasks disappear completely or are moved to a Completed section at the bottom of the current list..

... Creating a new task demonstrates Todo’s best attribute: offering many options and features while keeping the interface simple and easy to use. In addition to naming a new task, you can specify a due date, a repeating schedule, and a priority (1, 2, 3, or none); you can also include a text note...
This is what you only get from me:
  1. If you try to switch services, say from ToodleDo to RTM, every item on your list is deleted. So you can't decide to use one service, then switch. [Update: Appigo consciously decided to do this for the initial release, they will probably make this configurable in a future release.]
  2. Tasks can belong to only one list/category/tag. (Very much like Palm -- in fact is pretty much a functional clone of the original Palm To Do app).
  3. There are no alerts or alarms on tasks.
  4. There's no search. I really need search. Of course this is a problem across the entire iPhone. [Update: Appigo expects to deliver search in a near term release]
  5. It's crashed once in light use.
Update 9/22/08: I'm a regular Appigo customer. It's a great product, but there's a scary specter looming.

ScribeFire: so many updates, so little progress

Ive been intermittently using the ScribeFire: a Firefox extension blog editor for about a year.

The "release fast and often" strategy is fashionable now, but ScribeFire is a good counter-example.

It still only shows recently used "labels"/"categories" from blogger. It still doesn't handle blogger's line wrapping correctly.

These aren't subtle things, and they aren't new. They've been present from day one.

Windows Live Writer is proof that, given sufficient genius, these problems are solvable [1]. Release often is not a panacea.

[1] WLW is also proof that there's life at Microsoft. Nobody has released anything comparable for OS X.

The hidden curse of spam blogs - collateral damage

I've noticed an unhappy correlation.

Periodically spam blogs (splogs) will start harvesting my posts.

When they do that, email from begins to be filtered into Gmail's spam folders, my Google PageRank falls, and the site is indexed less often.

When the splogs move on to another victim, things reverse.

I'm just collateral damage.


What hurts the most, really, is the decreased indexing. I like being able to search my memory collection.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Palm tasks moved to iPhone ToDo - sort of

The battle was every bit as nasty as I expected.

I knew the ailing Palm E2 would not go softly into the night. It did not disappoint.

I was trying to move about 300 tasks into Toodledo. I first tried using Toodledo Sync (I don't care for the "toodle" name), but after an hour or two of meaningless error messages I gave up [1]. Toodledo Sync is very raw.

The tasks are in Outlook and the Palm, so I figured I'd use the Outlook CSV option. I knew that would mess up the notes however - CSV can't handle embedded paragraph returns.

Then I read this option:
Toodledo :: Import To-Do List: "Synchronize Toodledo with your Palm OS based PDA. Be sure to read the step by step instructions before you begin."
You have to export as a "To Do" archive, not the more modern Task archive. So I figured I'd switch sync from Outlook to the Palm Desktop and then export from Palm.

That was a nasty mess. The Palm world is pretty decrepit. Turns out I read the wrong help file, Palm Desktop 4.1.4E allows switching between Outlook and Palm -- though it's poorly documented. Anyway, I downloaded, tried to do a repair, ran into problems, etc, etc. Two hours, eight reboots and removing several old bits of software trash I completely uninstalled Palm Desktop and reinstalled.

That worked. So now I synched the Palm to a completely fresh Palm Desktop data file.

I exported as a "To Do" (not Task) archive and loaded into Toodledo.

Miraculously it seemed to work. The notes seem to be intact. The Palm categories become ToodleDo folders. ToodleDo's priorities are reversed from Outlook/Palm, so 1 becomes low and 3 becomes high (weird).

Unfortunately To Dos without a date were assigned a 2031 date. I don't know if this is a Palm bug or a ToodleDo bug, but it's very annoying. The ToodleDo interface is very Web 1.0, I don't see a quick way to fix the date attributes. I'm also disappointed by what appears to be an inability to filter by folder, but I really haven't worked with it enough yet. (This looks like an intractable problem, so it might be a killer. It's hard to give up on Outlook's task management power.)

The priority settings on are yet different -- more like Outlook I think. I'm not sure I've got this quite right; I'm getting a headache!

Ok, this is really hard ...

[1] See this Apple discussion thread:

Error initializing connections...Could not initialize Outlook proxy
SynchLib:synchronizeTasks() method called
SyncApp.exe Error: 0 : Error during synchronization SyncTool not initialized at SynchLib.SyncTool.synchronizeTasks()
at SyncApp.frmOptions.backgroundWorker1_DoWork(Object sender, DoWorkEventArgs e)

Chapura KeyTasks: Sync Outlook Tasks with iPhone

I'm trying to move my Outlook tasks into Toodledo, and finding a meaningless "proxy error" (my XP firewall is off) when I try to use the Toodledo Sync Application to get my tasks to Toodledo, and thence to the iPhone

This is way too cutting edge for my sleep needs.

IN the midst of the fray I find a link to an old friend/nemesis - Chapura. They're threatening to release a web service iPhone app combo "any time now" ...

Synchronize Outlook Tasks with iPhone.

Using 11 years of Microsoft Outlook synchronization experience, KeyTasks provides the most reliable wireless Outlook Tasks synchronization available for the iPhone and iPod touch.

The KeyTasks synchronization is provided through your MyChapura Account. A MyChapura account is included with your yearly subscription of KeyTasks. MyChapura is an online service that provides "cloud" synchronization of Microsoft Outlook Tasks and KeyTasks on the iPhone or iPod touch.

MyChapura stores your information on our Web servers. This is commonly referred to as the "cloud." When you make a change in Outlook or on your device and synchronize, that change is sent up to the cloud. Your iPhone or iPod touch will receive this change when you synchronize and your PC can be configured to manually or automatically synchronize. This allows you to keep your information current in multiple places no matter where you are.

We keep your information protected with a secure transfer process and encryption in your MyChapura Account. Your information is encrypted using your MyChapura Account password. Because of this, only your password can decrypt your information...

I'm getting a dawning sense of horror.

I've spent about 10 years fighting with Palm/Outlook synchronization.. It's been a greater battle than hacking WordPerfect hex files to make my printer work, or futzing with obscure Hayes commands to get my 2400 bps error-correction enabled.

I've learned a lot about synchronization from Chapura, and it's all been painful.

I must admit though, that while their Palm KeySuite is dumb and ugly, the current version does work. I regularly sync my decrepit Palm to Outlook 2003 and it hardly ever blows up.

So I can believe that Chapura might get the Outlook to iPhone connection working better than Apple, Google or anyone else. Unfortunately I'm also confident that their corresponding iPhone task app will be very ugly.

Which brings me to the sense of horror. If Chapura follows past practices, they'll create a suite of apps for the iPhone that will mirror those on Outlook. They'll be ugly but reliable. I might end up replicating what I do now on my Palm. Sync from home to native iPhone apps, and from work to Chapura's future suite.


Scanning prints - inexpensively

I have negatives for the thousands of prints sitting in a waterproof box in a protected closet in an upstairs bedroom.

At the current rate of scanning we'll scan them all by 2140.

I think I'm going to use this service Pogue reviewed (he warns of a hideous web site) ...
State of the Art - Your Photos, Off the Shelf at Last -

... ... says it will professionally scan 1,000 photos for you, the same day it receives them, and put them on a DVD for $50.

So what’s the catch?

Actually, no catch, but lots of fine print.

ScanMyPhotos relies on a certain commercial Kodak scanning machine, which processes hundreds of photos a minute. There’s no reason other companies couldn’t buy the same machine and set up similar services. Indeed, some have, although most charge 12 to 16 cents a photo, compared with the 5-cent ScanMyPhotos rate.

Because it must feed your photos through this machine, ScanMyPhotos has set some rules. Photo sizes can range from 3 by 3 inches (Polaroids) to 11 by 14.

The photos must be put into similar-size bundles (4-by-6 prints together, for example) with rubber bands. The only way to label the batches is to write on [same sized - jf] index cards, which are scanned along with the photos like title cards. If you want the bundles scanned in a certain sequence, you can number the index cards...

There is also, however, the terror of sending away your valuable photographs. ScanMyPhotos asserts that it has scanned more than eight million customer photos, and has never lost or damaged a single one. But there’s always a first time; consider the fate of, a rival company. In May, a fire burned its headquarters to the ground, destroying almost everything inside — including some customers’ original photos.

Yet there’s a risk of doing nothing, too. Photos kept in a dry, cool and dark place don’t deteriorate nearly as quickly as audiotape, videotape and film reels. In fact, properly stored, they can last a century or more. But because photos are still susceptible to a wide variety of destructive or negligent forces, the ScanMyPhotos service could turn out to be the best $50, plus shipping and optional services, you’ll ever spend...
If my prints are lost, I can scan the negs.