Saturday, January 31, 2009

Prediction: We won’t see a fixed MobileMe until 10.6 is out

I usually keep my editorial opinions off my tech blog, and post them in Gordon’s Notes (tech) instead. This one’s a bit of an exception.

I’ve been spinning cycles thinking about why Apple’s MobileMe and synchronization solutions are so miserable – and why they’re not improving.

Incompetence alone is not an explanation. Yes, Apple uses early adopters as beta testers, and yes, the MobileMe launch demonstrated Apple has serious internal issues, but they’ve still got good people.

Marketing is not an explanation. I can’t imagine any reason why Apple would not want MobileMe calendaring and synchronization to be a wonderful experience that would tie their desktop and phone customers ever more closely to Apple.

That leaves one explanation. Synchronization Hell.

The fundamental problem with “synchronization”* is that computers are not yet super-sentient. If a transaction hub had full knowledge of the world, and an IQ of 150, and lots of time to think things over, it could figure out how to translate an “all day event” represented as an attribute on a day to one represented as a “24 hour event” with a buggy representation of time zones and daylight savings time.

We’re not there yet.

It’s impossible, in the sense of mathematically not possible, to perfectly migrate data between systems that represent the semantics (meanings) of the data differently. Small discrepancies are amplified with each synchronization. Things get left out. Not only are the results inexplicable to users, they’re inexplicable to engineers.

In Apple’s case they’re deeply stuck. They have desktop systems running 10.4 and 10.5 that they’re trying to support, each with somewhat different models for calendar items, contacts, and tasks. (Let’s not even mention the horrors of the vs. task fiasco). The iPhone has yet another data model for Calendar and Contacts, not to mention Notes (but no Tasks). The iPhone has to “sync” with Outlook (when Exchange is not present) and iCal/Address Book (OS X) and MobileMe and Exchange Server.

The solution is to surrender to Microsoft and accept the Exchange Server model of the world. Yes, Microsoft’s monopoly is not dead.

So in OS X 10.6 everything adopts the Microsoft Exchange Server data and semantic model of Contacts, Tasks, Notes, Calendar events, etc. At that point MobileMe, the iPhone, and the OS X desktop will align. That’s probably good news, though users of PPC machines may be out of luck**.

“Snow Leopard” is probably coming out later this year. I don’t think MobileMe and the iPhone will give us the basic PDA functions we need until after 10.6 is widely available.


* In the world of HealthCare IT, where I live during daylight hours, the equivalent words are “mapping”, “messaging” and “interoperability”.

** It’s generally assumed that 10.6 will be Intel only. I would not be surprised if Apple has not yet made a final decision.

MobileMe alternatives – including for iPhone Sync (MacWorld)

Great article by “Joe Kissell ..senior editor of TidBits and author of numerous e-books about OS X” for MacWorld. He’s reviewing alternatives to MobileMe, but I particularly appreciated the iPhone sync options. He doesn’t mention using AOL IM as an alternative to the MobileMe chat directory and doesn’t mention any “Back To My Mac” alternatives to MobileMe. (I don’t think there are any.)

Some excerpts with a focus on sync, emphases mine …

Alternatives to MobileMe | Mobile Mac | Macworld

… Apple’s Address Book application can natively sync your contacts with Exchange, Yahoo, or Gmail Contacts, without requiring MobileMe. To set this up, open Address Book, choose Address Book: Preferences, and click on General. Select the Synchronize With Exchange, Synchronize With Yahoo, or Synchronize With Google option, depending on those you’d like to sync with

Then, to sync, choose Sync Now from the Sync menu in your menu bar. (If the menu isn’t already there, open iSync in your Applications folder, choose iSync: Preferences, select Show Status in Menu Bar, and close the window.) Unfortunately, unless you also have MobileMe sync enabled (and set to occur on a schedule), Address Book doesn’t sync with these other services automatically; you must initiate each sync manually.

Thanks to Google Calendar’s support for the widely used CalDAV standard, iCal can connect directly with a Google-hosted calendar and sync all events automatically… you can’t simply sync an existing iCal calendar with Google Calendar

… Another service, currently in beta testing, is Soocial. Its OS X software will sync your Address Book with a Web-based contact manager as well as (optionally) Gmail Contacts and several other services.

..Plaxo is a social networking Web site that, among many other features, offers a Web-based contact manager and calendar; they can be synched with Address Book and iCal using the company’s free Plaxo for Mac software (available only to members). Plaxo has another handy trick up its sleeve, too: it can update your Address Book automatically when contacts who are also Plaxo members change their contact details…

.. [File sync ] Evenflow’s DropBox (2GB free; 50GB for $99 per year or $10 per month); SpiderOak (2GB free; $10 per month for 100 GB; $10 per month each additional 100GB); and Sharpcast’s SugarSync (prices range from $2.49 per month for 10GB to $25 per month for 250GB).

All three services include software that you can install on your Mac or on a Windows PC (SpiderOak and DropBox also offer Linux versions, while SugarSync is also available for the iPhone and iPod touch). With this software installed, you can easily sync files between your computers and an online storage area.

DropBox sets up a single folder (the eponymous DropBox) whose contents are automatically mirrored between your Mac and the DropBox servers. SpiderOak and SugarSync let you designate one or more existing folders to behave in the same way. In all three cases, new or modified files are uploaded automatically as soon as a change is detected in the folder(s). All three services offer file sharing and synching; SugarSync and DropBox also let you upload or delete files from a Web browser.

Sync iPhone to Mac

… The iPhone fully supports Exchange accounts, which provide push e-mail, contact, and calendar updates. .. you can sign up for an individual account with several providers, including 4iPhone, interWays, mail2web, or SherWeb.

Note that you don’t need to use actual Exchange servers; third-party servers that use Microsoft’s ActiveSync technology—such Kerio MailServer, Zimbra Collaboration Suite, and Communigate Pro—also offer push synchronization of e-mail, contacts, and calendars with your iPhone…

Use NuevaSync NuevaSync is a free online service that offers over-the-air push syncing of contacts and calendars between your iPhone or iPod touch and Google (Gmail Contacts and Google Calendar), Plaxo (for contacts only), or both….

…. Athough NuevaSync can give you over-the-air push synchronization of contacts and calendars, it doesn’t sync directly with iCal or Address Book. To fill in that part of the puzzle, use BusySync, Spanning Sync, or Plaxo to sync data from your online account to your Mac…

Of course all sync services are for use “strictly at your own risk” – my experience is that all are risky and if you combine more than one sync solution you are doomed. Also the iPhone can only sync with a single Exchange server, so if your employer allows Exchange sync then you can’t use it to sync your personal data (the unreleased Palm Pre is more versatile).

I’ll be visiting some of those Exchange/ActiveSync options. I’ve been holding off on NuevaSync until they get out of beta and start to charge money.

Update: I visited some of the Exchange services. I wasn't impressed. I'll wait for NeuvaSync to get out of beta and take a look at what they're going to charge.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

GoogleUpdate.exe - broken on our corporate network

This is an odd one. I don't have the answer, so any hints would be much appreciated.

In our corporate environment when we try to install any Google Products we now get what I'm guessing is the GoogleUpdate.exe XML manifest instead. It starts like this (example, Chrome, emphases mine):

... <asmv1:assembly xsi:schemaLocation="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v1 assembly.adaptive.xsd" manifestVersion="1.0">
<assemblyIdentity name="Google" version="" publicKeyToken="9a8dfcd080ccb114" language="neutral" processorArchitecture="x86"/>
<description asmv2:publisher="Google, Inc." asmv2:product="Google Installer"/>
<deployment trustURLParameters="true" install="false"/>


<dependentAssembly dependencyType="install" codebase="clickonce_bootstrap.exe.manifest" size="13531">
<assemblyIdentity name="clickonce_bootstrap.exe" version="" publicKeyToken="9a8dfcd080ccb114" language="neutral" processorArchitecture="x86" type="win32"/> ...

Chrome itself can still install Google Apps, but nothing else can.

We assume "Google" is broken for us. This does not appear to be a common problem, though it's now universal in one company.

It's hard to get information on "Google". I presume it's related to "GoogleUpdate.exe", but there are currently no pages that mention both (except this one). This is the best page I've found on GoogleUpdate.exe:

GoogleUpdate.exe - Google Chrome Help

GoogleUpdate.exe is a software component that acts as a meta-installer and auto-updater in many downloadable Google applications, including Google Chrome. It keeps your programs updated with the latest features. More importantly, GoogleUpdate allows your Google applications to be rapidly updated if security flaws are discovered...

I don't think this problem is a result of our corporate "webwasher" filters, because I think we can install will work when we connect to other networks.

Any ideas? (I tried Google's Help Groups, but they're continuing their record of being 100% useless for me.)

Update: From the Google Pack site we can install Chrome and GoogleUpdater.exe (also Earth, Picasa, etc). Chrome doesn't do one click installs of Google's products, so if you use Chrome to install a browser plug-in like Google Video Chat Google provides an executable (such as GoogleVoiceAndVideoSetup.exe) that's stored in the Downloads folder. This can then be run.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dreamhost - registrar and hosting - still like 'em

Last August, after years of moderate dissatisfaction with my domain registration and site hosting arrangements, I signed up with Dreamhost.

I've been quite satisfied with them as a hosting service and even happier with their registrar services; you can see this from posts over the past six months. I was disappointed with their weak implementation of webdav services, but that's been a minor problem. Of course you need some geek genes to work with them, but less so than most alternatives.

If you want to keep things simple, DreamHost is a better Google Apps partner than Google -- especially now that Google is trying to hide the free stuff.

Dreamhost offers members kickbacks to facilitate recruitment. So you need to take my recommendation with more saline than usual, but if you independently decide to sign up you can use my promo code of KATEVA (our dog) and get $50 off your 1st year fee (and I get a kickback if you pay up). Be sure to check out other promo code deals however, the one on their home page looks remarkably good.

Dreamhost now offers "unlimited bandwidth" and "disk space" to new customers with the caveat that you can't be running a site designed to suck bandwidth. Existing customers can also upgade, It turns out I was somehow using more storage than I thought and was paying some modest overage fee, so I just did the free upgrade to "unlimited".

Lastly, unrelated to hosting, Dreamhost is offering an "apps" service (install Wordpress, etc) that's supposed to be free "forever" to beta testers (more invitation codes).

Monday, January 26, 2009

How to use Firefox with Sharepoint - avoiding the credential problem

I found this one via a work colleague.

Firefox works pretty well with Sharepoint, but you need to enter your domain credentials every time you authenticate. It turns out there's a way get FF to store the credentials and enter them automatically.

I haven't tested this since I use IE 7 with SP, but I wonder if a similar approach would work with a standalone windows feed reader that would be more capable that the one built into IE 7; the key is "NTLM authentication support". (The Outlook 2007 and FF feed readers are miserable, IE 7 is decent by comparison).

Configure NTLM for Firefox, Using Firefox for Sharepoint Sites « My Home Automation project

...  Firefox does have NTLM just that you need to configure it ... NTLM stands for NT LAN Manager ... Microsoft’s authentication protocol...

... launch Firefox and enter in the URL field - about:config

From there it will provide a long list of settings, on the ’search’ bar type NTLM, you will see 3 entries ... Double click on network.automatic-ntlm-auth.trusted-uris

From there you will enter the DNS name of your Server...

If you use multiple SP servers, you can separate the name by commas. "DNS name" is just the familiar name, like "".

Friday, January 23, 2009

Restarting a remote machine: XP and Windows 2003

How do you restart a remote machine, like an XP controlled by remote desktop or a Windows 2003 server running terminal services? At least with Windows 2003 server you see a grayed out button when you try to shutdown or restart from a remote desktop session.

In Windows NT and 2000 you could install the “remote shutdown tool” on your remote machine but Microsoft pulled it, perhaps because they had a rather serious security problem related to remote shutdown in XP SP1.

I couldn’t find much Microsoft documentation on how this works for XP, but it’s still supported. Just fire up the command line and type “shutdown –i”. In theory you need admin privileges on the remote machine for this to work (the SP1 bug allowed non-admin users to do remote restarts with another tool).

I can confirm this works on Windows 2003 server, though there is a known bug that can affect some machines.

Restart or shut down remotely and document the reason explains how to do it. You have to know the machine name of the remote machine and you have to have admin privileges on the remote machine associated with your network name. Oddly enough the documentation there uses / for an option delimiter, but if you type “shutdown” the directions use hyphens.

From a command prompt “shutdown –i” gives you a handy GUI (you can tediously browse the network for the machine), or just type this command line (where N4591Fred is not my real machine name) …

shutdown -r -m \\N4591Fred –t 0 -c "bug fixes"

The command line example above will shutdown with no warning, but it still takes a few minutes to shutdown, restart, etc.

Update: I’ve been told that if you’re connected to a remote server you can run the “shutdown.exe” command from the remote machine command line. I haven’t tried that yet.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Legal BitTorrent sites. Who knew?

Sarcasm aside, it's useful to know that bitTorrent sites exist that are limited to legal content ...
Top Sites That Every BitTorrent User Should Know About |

... If you want to stay out of trouble check out Legit Torrents and Legal Torrents which only list legal torrents. ...Public Domain Torrents - Lists torrents for downloading classic long forgotten movies in the Public Domain...
If you'd like to play with BitTorrent without impairing your ability to serve in the Obama administration, those links could be a worthwhile start.

Google Video Chat – at last, news from Google

We’ve been making extensive use of GVC for corporate collaboration.

It’s damned impressive, but there’s NO information from Google’s official channels on what’s going on with it.

There is, however, an authoritative source.

One of the lead developers has a personal blog …

juberjabber: Gmail voice and video v1.0.5

… Today we released the 1.0.5 update for the Gmail voice and video chat software. All current installations will begin an automatic update within the next 24 hours. If you do not want to wait, you can visit and re-run the installer…

They’ve done a lot of work on the Mac version. It was grossly unstable a month ago, but I’m going to be retesting.

Wanted a fix for iTunes Podcast 2 week shutoff

This is my biggest problem with iTunes: “iTunes has stopped updating this podcast because you haven’t listened to any episodes for two weeks”.

If I'm not extremely careful it can lead to my missing episodes of In Our Time!

I've been looking for a hack that would force iTunes to wait at least 8 weeks. This Apple discussion thread points to a blog post discussing a Doug's AppleScript that forces a regular bulk update.

Be nice if Apple fixed this, but meanwhile OS X iTunes users have a crude workaround ...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How many browsers really work with Google? Fewer than you might think.

How many web browsers are fully supported clients with Google's web applications?

Fewer than most people imagine.

Consider this acid test suite of Google web applications that I routinely use:
  1. Gmail with Google Video Chat
  2. Google Apps: Documents, Spreadsheet
  3. Blogger and BlotThis!
  4. Google Sites
  5. Google Calendar
  6. Google Page Creator*
Now consider this set of browsers I run against those apps** and the OSs I use with them:
  1. Firefox (XP and OS X)
  2. Safari (OS X)
  3. Camino (OS X)
  4. Chrome (XP)
Which browser(s) really work with all of Google Apps 1-5, or even 1-4?

Just Firefox. Even today's Chrome has obvious bugs, such as omitting the final character from a link created against an existing text string.

I assume IE 7 works pretty well too, but I can't speak to that. I'm surprised Chrome still doesn't work as well as FF against Google's own properties.

It's still incredibly hard to deliver full function "web 2.0" apps against more than one browser.

* On death row and supposedly due for replacement by Google Sites, but that seems to be on hold.
** I use IE 7 regularly against Sharepoint at work, but nowhere else

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tasks and calendar items - what I'd like

I really do spend too much time thinking about tasks, calendars, projects and the like. It recently occurred to me that I would like to see support for something that's a hybrid between a task and an appointment.

You could think of it as a task that has a date, time and span. Or you could think of it as an appointment that shows up on a task list and has a priority/urgency attribute.

The idea is that I'd schedule it as an appointment and it would show up in my task list. If I deleted the appointment I'd have the option of deleting the task, or just editing the task. If I deleted the task then I'd delete the appointment. Completing the task would leave the appointment untouched.

If I see anything like that I'll attach a note here.

Google Video Chat – suddenly unstable

Ahh, the perils of life on the cutting edge. I gave Google Video Chat a grade of B- a week or so ago, but now it’s as unstable on XP as it’s always been on OS X. Sessions dropping at 10-20 minutes, problems starting up, etc.

I am very fond of my Logitech Vision Pro webcam though. It’s marketed for OS X, but it’s the best thing going on XP. There are no thrice-damned drivers to load, so it’s easier on the CPU and I don’t have to live with the horrible quality of modern device drivers (which are routinely outsourced to the lowest bidder).

Nothing to do to wait for a fix from Google. There are SO many things that can go wrong with these solutions …

Corporate iPhone: WLAN connection and Outlook web

The iPhone is a lousy business phone. Of course the BlackBerry ain’t so great either – the key difference is that the BB usually comes with a pass to the corporate exchange server. That’s a big deal though.

On the other hand, I’ve made some progress.


  1. The iPhone’s support for WPA Enterprise let me connect quickly to our corporate LAN. It was a lot easier than connecting my XP laptop, but I’m not sure I have all privileges the laptop has – even though I’m authenticating the same way.
  2. With the iPhone I can use the web interface to Exchange server. It’s hardlyl mobile friendly, but it runs on Safari/iPhone.

Connecting directly to Exchange server is another matter.

Even if it were officially supported, an Exchange connection would wipe my personal iPhone calendaring and contact information. The only way I know of to have both corporate and personal data on an iPhone is to sync corporate data with Exchange and Personal data with MobileMe. The latter, of course, is remarkably inadequate.

For now the Exchange connection isn’t available, but if it were it would be exquisitely painful to give up the power of Google Calendar in favor of MobileMe Calendar. I really do need a miraculous improvement in MobileMe …

Monday, January 12, 2009

iTunes iPhone Applications menu grayed out?

One of our iPhones had a grayed out iTunes Applications menu.

It would update existing apps during a sync when something else was going to the phone (like music or videos), but if no other sync was occurring apps wouldn't update.

I couldn't tweak any of the settings that limit which apps went to that iPhone.

Our other iPhone was fine.

The answer was here: Apple - Support - Discussions - "Sync Applications" grayed out in iTunes ...

I'd enabled 'Restrictions' on this particular phone, which is now used as an iTouch. I was trying to keep the kids out of trouble. I bet I'd restricted application installation.

Removing restrictions fixed the problem.

This may not be so much a bug as a usability problem. I think iTunes should display a message in addition to graying out the Applications tab.

Update 5/16/09: This really is a usability issue. It happened again, and it puzzled me again. OK, so it's a dementia issue too. Fortunately I have my external memory to search (my blogs).

Update 8/3/09: I just installed iPhone 3.01 and noticed the Disable Restrictions menu has an "installing apps" control. I think that's new in 3.0, maybe even new in 3.01. Glad to see this problem taken care of!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Reading netbook news - translated from German

I'm interested in ultra-cheap no-name netbooks (just wait 'till Linux/Chromestellation comes out!). So when Scoble mentioned the German Netbook news blog, I decided to try Google Reader's machine translation.

The Feed wasn't hard to find, in part because German is relatively close to English. I added it to Google Reader, then chose the Feed Setting option to "translate into my own language".

Here's an example of the result:
Netbooks with VIA Nano CPU finally come and not too tight! Tim Brown explains you in this short video, what we should see how the strategy of VIA looks and there ever been a rudimentary preview on ARM / VIA systems, and easily so sauklein ne animal and battery life are:
It's not exactly lyrical, but it's not bad either.

Ahh, but but most of the posts don't include the full content.

Here's where Google struts its stuff.

When I click on the link from Google Reader, Google sends me to a feedburner hosted translated page version!
Translated version of
Reason*, but we live in interesting times.

So now I'm following my first foreign language blog.

Now I'm looking for a Korean blog on netbooks ...

*God just doesn't work for me.

Update 1/14/09: There are a few rough edges ...
  1. Because the link out from the foreign language post goes to a proxy translator corporate webwasher blocks access.
  2. The auto-translation feature only works when you view the blog in isolation, if you click on Google Groups folder and view it in the company of other posts you get the original language.
  3. A link from a translated post always uses the proxy translator -- even when it's a link to an English source.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Palm Pre is Exchange sync based

Microsoft now has monopoly control over the standard for corporate data synchronization:
Ars talks to Palm at CES, gets under the hood with the pre

... The device supports over-the-air Exchange ActiveSync for contacts, email, calendar, and tasks. 'We use EAS at Palm, so we live and breath and eat it.'...
This has more than a few implications. See my Gordon's Notes rant on the big problem.

It means, among other things, that a huge amount of the value of a smartphone is whether or not it will be granted access to the corporate Exchange server. It also means that it's rather hard to image anything but Exchange server at the heart of any modern corporation ...

But now I digress into Gordon's Notes opinion territory.

Incidentally, does anyone know of a vendor preparing a utility that would be installed on a PC and would
  1. Read/write Outlook data.
    Publish Post
  2. Provide a local Exchange ActiveSync service so one could connect to the machine via TCP/IP and sync that way?
Update 6/10/09: See comments for some useful definitions. For example, old ActiveSync is now called "Outlook Anywhere" and it's implemented as Outlook-style RPC over HTTPS. This page provides Outlook-centric implementation details and links to Microsoft references.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Google alerts will now deliver to a feed

I missed this one.

I haven't been that interested in Google Alerts because I'm trying to decrease email inflow, not increase it. By contrast Yahoo! and Live Search both have feed options associated with search creation. (So does the NLM's PubMed academic search engine, but that's a bit esoteric.)

I just realized today that there's a "Deliver to" option on the Google Alerts page called "Feed".

I had to select it twice to make it work (user error?) but my search on "godson netbook chrome google" [1] now has a feed which I've added to my Google Reader feeds.

PS. Google Reader now has a "translate to my language" option in feed settings. Anyone else notice that Google's on some kind of new exponential growth track?

[1] Why this search? Godson is the english version of a code name for China's internal chip development, designed to fuel a new generation of ultra-low cost laptops for the Chinese world. For the rest, see (Gordon's Notes where my deluded ravings live):

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Copilot vs. LogMeIn for supporting your parent's Mac

I hope this is what I asked for some time ago -- a version of Copilot that will let me control my mother's machine whenever I want, without her having to do anything or even know about it ...
Copilot OneClick for Macintosh - Joel on Software

... The new Copilot OneClick feature lets you preinstall the software on all the computers you connect to frequently, so every time your dad calls up needing help with the accounting software running his Ponzi scheme, you just click one link and you’re logged onto his computer.

As usual, it works through all kinds of firewalls, proxies, and NATs without any configuration, it’s protected by 128-bit SSL, and there’s never anything to configure.

Today, the Copilot team released the Macintosh version of the OneClick feature, so all the Copilot goodness is available on Windows or Mac, or both (you can control Windows computers from Macs and vice versa). And it’s cheap, by which I mean, inexpensive—I don’t mean that you can just buy it two drinks and take it back to your apartment and expect to be taking a bubble bath with it—most people get the $19.95 unlimited plan; it’s even free on weekends when we have lots of unused bandwidth.
Copilot uses VNC, so it's very slow. Nowhere near as useful as Citrix or Windows Remote Desktop. Alas, for OS X VNC is about as good as it gets. It's enough for troubleshooting if you're patient and if the screen sizes are reasonably similar.

Update 1/8/09: See also - Computer support for persons with special needs.

Update 4/25/09: As advised in a comment on this post, I ended up using the free LogMeIn instead. I installed the LogMeIn client on my mother's dual core Mac Mini running 10.4. I then installed the (theoretically optional but actually essential) controller client on my MacBook running 10.5. It's quite slow, but I'm able to control her computer with no action required on her part other than turning on the machine. Copilot wasn't price competitive, and it required my mother to do too much. With LogMeIn she has only to turn on the computer.

Update 6/7/10: LogMeIn stopped working. When I upgraded the Safari plugin on my MacBook running 10.5 it crashed Safari. There's still no 64bit support for Safari on OS X 10.6. I think LogMeIn has given up; I uninstalled them. I reviewed CoPilot again, but there prices for what I want have gone up a lot. I don't have any working solution at this time.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Turn a 1st generation iPhone into an iTouch

A friend has an abandoned flaky first generation iPhone she donated to our kids (it visited water at one time).

We're using it as an iTouch. It works reasonably well despite some odd bugs. The trick is:
  1. Use Data Reset to wipe completely.
  2. Sync with iTunes Library.
  3. Put in Airplane mode.
  4. Re-enable WiFi. The 2.2 software has this capability since some airplanes have WiFi service.
I turned off location services and push though the first should be irrelevant in airplane mode.

Now it's a somewhat slow and memory poor iTouch -- but free. I sync it with our iTunes Library so it inherits the games and media from my iPhone. (You can sync DRMd music to an unlimited number of iPod/iPhone devices from one Library, but I think you can only sync apps to five iPhone/iTouch devices.)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Blogger in draft: much better with Safari

After a hiatus of a few months I've again begun using Safari with "Blogger in draft " (I don't recommend trying Safari with regular blogger). I figured since Chrome uses WebKit that Google might have fixed some Blogger problems.

It's much improved, though there are obvious quirks especially with "BlogThis!". The pseudo-HTML view is now clean, without the carriage return/span/paragraph tag mess of months past. I love the ability to resize the editing panel beyond Google's mail slot standard. This is a feature available only to Safari (and Chrome?).

It's probably worth a cautious look. I'll report back here if/when I run into problems.

Update 1/7/09: Nope, not quite. Too many odd problems. For example, when I quote a series of paragraphs extra line spaces are introduced that I have to manually remove.  Not to mention that the creaky old BlogThis! blogger bookmarklet works quite poorly with Safari.

It's back to Camino/Firefox again.

Enabling spotlight search of OS X with Gmail IMAP

I've been using various flavors of OS X Mail ( with Gmail for years. The setup, particularly mapping to local folders, has had its quirks, but it's worked well for Emily. For my part I usually use Gmail directly, and, for reasons of inertia, I use an old copy of eudora/xp to archive my email on a home machine.

Recently, I tried doing a search of my Gmail respository from OS X Mail. I got almost no results. Gmail, by contrast, returned hundreds of hits.

It wasn't hard to figure out the cause of this discrepancy. The default IMAP setup doesn't actually store messages locally. It only creates a local store for messages that have been read locally, and only those may be indexed by Spotlight.

To create a searchable IMAP repository, you need to change an advanced setting ... Proper Set up on MaxOSX for IMAP

... Next go to Advanced, and the defaults for Enable this Account [checked], Include when automatically checking for new mail [checked], Compact mailboxes automtically [checked and greyed out], the location of the account directory, and Keep Copies of Messages for Offline Viewing [drop down menu with All messages and their attachments selected] should be fine...
I had to restart to activate this setting. Then I let it run overnight, pulling in and indexing 45K messages. My Spotlight searches now work against this email archive.

There's still a problem with search of Gmail files -- the Gmail tag/IMAP folder mapping means messages may be replicated between folders. (Because a Gmail message may have many tags, but an IMAP message can belong to only one folder.)

Friday, January 02, 2009

A workaround for image uploading to Microsoft’s Sharepoint Wiki.

There are some good things to say about Microsoft’s Sharepoint based Wiki.

There’s also, sadly, one very bad thing. The approach to image embedding is lousy.

Happily I have found a convoluted workaround that uses one of my favorite apps – Windows Live Writer

  1. Create a SP blog that will hold the images that will be referenced in the wiki.
  2. Use Windows Live Writer to post to the wiki-image-blog. Drop your image into WLW, resize it as needed, etc. If you like, use WLW to write your image associated wiki text first draft as well.
  3. After you post to the Wiki, copy and paste image and text into the Wiki editor rich text field.

This takes surprisingly little time, far less than any other option I've read of. I admit, it is convoluted!

Update 1/11/09: I've been doing this for a while now. It's bloody brilliant, even if I have to say so myself. You can take advantage of the wiki-image-blog to attach a bit of metadata, including labels, to help with image reuse. If you read this and know anyone using Sharepoint 2007, I suggest send this on to them. They'll be forever grateful.

iPhone apps - visit the best ever contest

The rankings here are much less important than the selection:
2008 Best App Ever awards voting is underway - The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)
There are very important niche products, like ePocrates, that don't show up -- but the contest has most of the apps I like. They really don't, however, have a games category for the 6-12 yo group.

Visit it to find new apps you might like.

Unfortunately nobody is doing anything important with calendars -- because there's no iPhone API for calendars.

Update 1/2/09: Probably my most valuable app is GrandDialer -- an app that speeds use of Google's GrandCentral on the iPhone. Only of use to those with GrandCentral accounts -- but a superb value.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Ed Eubanks articles on OS X task, project and data management

Ed Eubanks is one of a handful of writers who tackles the very interesting but challenging intersection of personal information management, calendaring, task and project management and "getting things done".

His most recent column for About This Particular Macintosh outlines his plans for 2009: ATPM 15.01 - Next Actions: Article Line-up and updates his long, long lists of OS X "next action" apps. His complete archive is here.

Tidbits, and especially Matt Neuberg, cover the same domain -- such as Adam's latest column on Notebook 3.0. Matt's more or less moved on to work on FaceSpan, but you can read his past columns here or via a search on Tidbits.

I'm glad Eubanks is still working this domain. The killer problem for all these apps is proprietary file formats and data lock, I'm going to ask Ed to focus more on those topics.

Blu-ray and HDTV DRM - fighting back

DRM is not entirely evil. If not for DRM, there wouldn't be computer games.

Ok, so maybe that's a bad example.

If not for DRM, we probably wouldn't have much of a movie industry left.

Unfortunately, DRM, lends itself to nasty practices that, in the end, benefit no-one. So it's one of many technologies that has a chaotic sweet spot -- a dynamic balance point that requires that no participant have overwhelming power. In other words, a bit like international affairs.

So, in the defense of the balance, an update on the anti-DRM forces (Dan's Data, emphases mine)...
Atomic I/O letters column #89

Blu-Ray movies aren't meant to be viewable in high definition without an HDCP Copy Control Crap chain all the way from the player to the display device...

... "HDCP strippers" are hardware devices that take a DRM-ed DVI or HDMI signal and turn it into an unencrypted one. As with the old "signal enhancers" that were actually bought by people who wanted to copy VHS tapes, the stripper boxes are sold as "DVI amplifiers" ...

Strippers work by using decryption keys that the content companies can just "revoke", though. If they do that, all movies released ... [jg: after] ... key revocation will become un-decryptable by that particular model of stripper. [jf: so how do DRMd players get the new keys?]

So, as with DVDs in days of yore, software anti-DRM measures are a better solution. The Blu-Ray and HD-DVD encryption scheme was completely cracked in early 2007; that made it possible to extract the device keys from any high-def disc player, and use them in some other piece of software, which can then output the decrypted data in any way it likes, including to any old computer monitor...

... SlySoft's commercial package AnyDVD HD was the first to let you play or rip Blu-Ray movies without DRM (and, eight months after the people who made the more advanced "BD+" anti-copying system declared it'd be unbreakable for the next ten years, SlySoft cracked that too...), but now there are various others...

In this battle we don't want the pirates to win, but we don't want the DRM owners to win either. Let us raise a toast to stalemate.