Monday, December 17, 2007


Ranked #1 tech disappointment of 2007 by PC World:,140583-page,5-c,techindustrytrends/article.html

Apple, don't blow it this time. The 10 years in between the Apple II
and my OSX mac were pure PC torture.

Dumb articles

In this one "10 Reasons IT Should Not Support the Apple iPhone" (

) you get a pile of garbage. I do agree with #1, they should allow you
to encrypt some data on the iPhone. Thankfully, products like
1Password have that figured out WITHOUT hacking the iPhone (see

Anyway, dont waste your time reading the article, its junk.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Back to the file system

Well I tried Yojimbo for a couple days. I kept asking myself, what
does it do better than folders in finder? I could really only find one
thing, the individual file level encryption. Thats not enough to have
a whole proprietary filing system and pay extra with the remote access
concerns etc. So out it goes. It did get me thinking about printing my
receipts online to PDF and just saving them in the file system.

I haven't given up on 1Password -- with that I can have nice and nasty
passwords I dont have to remember or type.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Exchange email on the iPhone?

Can you get the iPhone to work like a Blackberry? No, but you can get
pretty darn close at least for the key stuff:

1) Sync your calendars. Prior to Leopard GroupCal was a nice option
for keeping your exchange cal sync'd to iCal and then to the iPhone.
Leopard came out and the GroupCal authors seem uninterested in their
customer base. They expect an update around Q1. I hope someone finds a
solution that doesn't need GroupCal before then. In the meantime, if
you use IMAP to get Exchange mail, double click on mail invites and
add them to your iCal calendar directly. Thats close enough for me.

2) Email. Even if your company like mine has opened up IMAP, it
probably requires VPN first. Most VPN's ive seen are CISCO based
don't support the VPN the iPhone has built in (or if they do it
requires your IT shop to change CISCO VPN settings. If your
organization is of any real size, forget that.

So you have no VPN and you may or may not have IMAP enabled. Almost
all organizations have Outlook Web Access (OWA) enabled. The iPhone
understands IMAP and POP, what we need is an OWA<->IMAP translation

Enter Synchronica ( Their Mobile Gateway
product does just this and for the most part works fairly well. Go to
their web site and sign up for a 60-day free trial. I asked for
pricing after the trial and got no response. Their "resellers" in the
US make no mention of this service/capability. So I have no idea how
to pay for this for real (and given the timeouts in #2 below, i'd be
hesitant until they fixed that)

What you get:

1) Full IMAP like access to your email for reading. You can see all
your folders and all your email and get alerts as new mail comes in.
2) You can generally file, send and reply to emails although sometimes
you get timeout messages where the operation failed. The timeout
happens more on the filing/moving of emails than it does on the
sending. Be careful on the sending since more than once it sent, I got
no error message, but the recipient never received.

For me keeping up on the reading to watch for developing emergencies
(or just to keep on top of things while traveling) its valuable.

Now since I tend to talk about security, lets address that here. Their
IMAP support supports SSL, so data between your iPhone and the
Synchronica gateway is encrypted. OWA is likewise encrypted between
your company's Exchange server and the Synchronica gateway. The email
passes through their gateway and its possible for them to snoop, save,
store etc the data there (naturally they claim they don't and it would
be bad for business if they did). Thats a security risk that most IT
groups would not allow if they knew about it. So you'll have to figure
out for yourself if you tell people how you're reading Exchange email
on your iPhone.

(p.s. When you send mail via this setup it ads a little tag line that
you cant remove while in the demo stage that indicates your mail
flowed by a path like this...)

But, despite my thoughts around security, I dont have a password on my
iPhone. That means if I drop it someone else can read my mail until I
get to a browser to change my password. The iPhone password options
are very limited and have no settings like "enable password if I
havent used it in 1 hour" type controls which would be more useful.
Also as far as I know the iPhone does not encrypt any data it stores
which means a password is just a delay for real hackers.

3) Contacts. AddressX, like GroupCal broke with Leopard and they're
not updating it any time soon. I dont send new emails to many people
from the phone, mostly replies so this really isnt an issue for me.
Those I do send new emails to are in my address book in the mac and
sync to the iPhone just fine.

As to the rest of what the blackberry does, I could care less. I love
my iPhone, I just need it to be useful for both work and home rather
than carry two devices. Yes, I could have just gotten a blackberry,
but both blackberry and my company have conspired to lock me out of
many features on the device (which would be paid for out of my own
pocket) so that was not an option. If its a phone I pay for then I
decide what goes on it.

'nuf said.

Saving stuff

I recently ran into Yojimbo (

yojimbo/) for keeping notes, pictures etc. The whole topic of a
personal storage system for this sort of stuff is interesting. Why not
use the file system? One reason is indexing, another is around
security since you cant encrypt individual items and there's a lot of
overhead in making/using encrypted disk images. I'd be filevault all
the way if the whole concept wasnt totally flawed. So Yojimbo is cool,
and I can print receipts direct to it, save my notes into it and
choose which ones are encrypted or not. It also supports saving
usernames/passwords but offers no browser integration. I've been using
1Password for saving my login information and its a great application
for that with great browser integration. It has the concept of secure
notes but no real import/export capabilities so that piece is sort of
useless. I'd love to see an app with the combination of what both of
these offer. Time will tell.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Accessing stuff at home from work

Ok, so you've been good and disabled all open ports at home but port
22 (ssh) and you've set it up to only allow access with a certificate
(no username/password) and you've renumbered the port to something
else like 1234. How do you copy files back and forth between home and
work without resorting to the command line and SCP?

Here's how:

From the terminal do this:
sudo ssh -p 1234 -l myname -L

Now in finder Command-K (Connect to server) and enter this:

Substitute your own remapped ports, your local user name and your home
computer URL or IP address.

No you can drag and drop like its local and SSH will deal with the
security for you.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

iPhone in the Northeast?

Sitting here shivering in New England it seems obvious that despite
some awesome text correcting algorithms that the iPhone designers live
and work in a much warmer place. Touch typing characters without any
tactile feedback when you're freezing your butt off is not easy. No, I
dont have any ideas how to fix it, perhaps make them run hotter like
the MacBookPro's so they warm your hand to create less jitter :)

Sunday, November 11, 2007


With the help of Proximity ( and this the little applescript below I now have my screen saver locking within 10 seconds of me walking away from my mac. No need to trigger the screen saver or press a button, its taken care of. Very cool.

-- Silly little screen locker
-- to be used with Proximity:

display dialog "iPhone not nearby, locking screen. You have 5 seconds to cancel" buttons {"Continue", "Cancel"} default button "Continue" giving up after 5

do shell script ("open /System/Library/Frameworks/ScreenSaver.framework/Resources/")

Friday, November 2, 2007

SSH Access

Since i've been complaining about Leopard, here's a plug. You can now
skip SSH keychain managers and have OSX remember your SSH passwords.
See this URL:

If you were using SSHKeychain before for keychain management you may
need this helpful tip:

Then you can setup a cron job to sync some remote (work?) machine to
some other (home) machine like this:

30 00 * * 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 echo "Starting rsync..." && rsync -avz -e "ssh
-p 1234 -i /Users/aUser/.ssh/aUser_home" --delete --
exclude="*Trashes" /Users/aUser/Documents/
:/Users/aUser/Documents/Work_machine && echo "rsync complete"

Make sure you setup SSH on your home machine behind some decent
security. For me, its behind a NAT, only one port is open and its not
well known and it only allows my user name in and it requires a ssh
key (username/password not allowed).

I used to do all the above before Leopard, but now I got to drop
SSHKeychain and do it more natively. Thanks Apple!

Hey Apple

Deleting my crontab files on the upgrade to Leopard was not nice. I
consider that data loss. Who does your QA?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Time Machine

So Time Machine basically doesn't support File Vault. I was very
disappointed to see this. It will only back up your home directory if
you're logged out and then all the magic "go back in time" stuff is
disabled. In the days of ever increasing need for security Apple
really dropped the ball on this one.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Finally there. Didn't help that I have filevault and several macs to do.

This "solution" just stinks:

. Its basically a wipe. I had the problem but ended up moving a bunch
of stuff out of my filevault home volume and then allowing it to
reclaim the space. Once I did that I could turn off file vault (and
then back on again). Finally I got my Time Machine enabled with my
encrypted home directory.

I also had an old 12" MacBook with no DVD that I wanted to install
tiger on. Fortunately I had an external USB DVD RW drive. Double
clicking the installer didnt work (didnt install the DVD after the
reboot), but holding down option during the boot got me to select the
disk and install it.

There are a lot of look and feel changes that will take time to get
used to, but now at least im using it and not watching installs or
LONG filevault operations.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Well, I made some progress:

1) Stacks - doh - click (left) on them and they pop, hold and you get
a different menu. I was holding. Dumb operator error...

2) Cisco VPN, get the latest here and you'll be fine:

3) File vault issues, Apple has an article that worked for me. The odd
thing is that disk utility found nothing wrong and nothing to fix, but
running through this process made it work to turn off disk utility. Go
figure. Here's the link:

4) Speed of mac pro - clicking on the spotlight icon in the menu tells
me I have 5 hours to go. Sigh. I hope when its done it can actually
find things. The old one never did it well and it sure wasnt zippy.
Perhaps apple needs to meet Lucene (

5) 2 of my 5 macs are now running Leopard so i'm getting there

Leopard first takes

Well, it looks cool but I have to admit i've had my issues with
Leopard already before it even hits the shelves in the store:

1) I cant turn on Time Machine on the shiny new 1TB drive I bought.
Seems nobody knew/mentioned that you have to turn off filevault and
then turn it back on again under Leopard before you can enable Time
Machine with a File Vault enabled machine. Do you know how long it
takes to turn it off then back on again??? Im going to find out but
thats miserable. Not to mention my one machine failed in the "turn off
file vault" operation and just came back up with it still enabled.

2) Those spring loaded folders you've heard all about (stacks) dont
always do the spring thing. So far I havent been able to figure why
they do sometimes and at other times dont.

3) On one machine double clicking "install leopard" after inserting
the DVD worked fine. On another it didnt and I had to reboot and hold
down "c" to get it to CD (DVD) boot so I could install.

4) Post install on my 8 core MacPro, the machine is heavily crunching
the hard drives (a mirrored pair of 500GB 7,200 rpm disks) to the
point that the machine is sluggish. Its like the old spotlight initial
pain from Tiger all over again.

Leopard here!

Yes, the long awaited OSX Leopard arrived at 11am today (I laugh at
those waiting until 6pm for the stores to sell it). Upgrade install
is in progress on my main server. Yes, I have blind faith in Apple...

Friday, September 28, 2007

iPhone 1.1.1

So, yeah, like many I hacked the iPhone to get on all the 3rd party
apps. For the most part they were "nice to have". There was no one
killer app I had to have. The ones I enjoyed the most were SendSong
(custom ringtones) and then the games. Note that I didn't do the
Carrier hacking, AT&T (to my surprise) does just fine for me and
meets my needs. All cell phone companies stink, so they're disposable
as far as i'm concerned.

Some initial observations with the 1.1.1 update:

1) I didnt uninstall my apps first, the upgrade was kind enough to do
that for me but it worked flawlessly. No failures during the update
and no complaints.
2) After the update it said I had to re-activate the phone but that
was basically just a sync with iTunes. I didnt even have to click a
3) My SendSong custom ringtones survived (!), otherwise all evidence
of prior hacking/mods are gone
4) Some nice new additons:
a) iTunes Wifi store - awesome. Bought a song, interface was great,
previews and all. Love it!
b) Speaker is noticeably louder
c) You can now shutoff the data roaming if you go overseas (since
you're probably not a billionaire if you're reading this)
d) All the misc stuff like double tap home button, 2 spaces = "." etc.

I'll miss the games and just the look and feel of the home page on
the phone, but overall its a nice improvement for me and i'll look
forward to reading the threads as they figure out how to re-hack it.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

And now the rest of the story

And after 90 mins of wait on hold for apple support we found that the (iTunes settings stuff) was corrupted. We
quite iTunes, moved that file aside and restarted and now I could sync.

Some observations:

1) iPhone is useless until you get it activated which currently can
take MANY hours as AT&T wasnt up to the task
2) If you have sync issues try blowing away
3) Nested contact lists in AddressBook don't sync to iPhone. I had
created nested lists since the Razr only let me sync one list so I
used AddressBook nesting to do it. Now with iPhone you can choose
multiple lists so its not a big deal.
4) The mail stuff needs some real TLC from apple. No spam control, no
bulk operations. I set it up for my gmail account and it wants me to
re-read 400+ messages on there and there's no bulk operations. Come
on apple.
5) The touch screen works good, its going to take getting used to the
typing but its faster than I thought already.
6) My face oil makes a nasty mess of the phone. Im no pimply teenager
any more (40...) but i'm making a work of art look ugly just by using

And of course there are the things i'd like to see that they skipped:
1) Instant messaging/chat - AIM/iChat/Yahoo/Gtalk
2) Music for ringtones (although i'm partial to my Quacks now)

But beyond the above my initial impression is that its an amazing

iPhone continued

Well its been about 12 hours. My number dials into the phone and I
can dial out. I can sync music, movies, pictures and podcasts. What I
can't do is sync contacts, calendar, email accounts, or bookmarks. It
just hangs when I try to sync any of those even with a very small
selection within them chosen.

No word on the net and the hold times with Apple appear infinite (I
think their customer service, not their address, should be called 1
infinite loop).

Friday, June 29, 2007


Ok, so the phone is amazing. My Verizon number now rings into the
iPhone and it quacks when it rings (my choice). I found my house on
google satelite and got it paired with my motorola bluetooth headset
and my local secure wifi spot.


The apple iPhone user guide ( contradicts the email from AT&T:

Apple: "Before you can use any of iPhone's features, you must activate iPhone by signing up for an AT&T service plan and registering iPhone with the network."

AT&T: "After you activate your iPhone and before your phone number is transferred from your current provider you will continue to receive calls on your current phone. Your iPhone will be able to make outgoing calls but will not receive calls until the transfer is complete."

It seems it was the activation, not the phone # transfer, that took 2 hours. 

And of course someone already took it all apart: (just breaks my heart)


iTunes hung with 100% CPU on first sync. It seems that the incoming
activation at the same time as the sync killed it. Restarting itunes
fixed it and now its syncing stuff.

iPhone take 2

After sitting on hold for 2 hours, an email popped up and said my
number was moving over to the phone. Now iTunes can sync things with
the phone and my data is on its way.

You can choose what gets sync'd but before you sync its hard to tell
how much space it will all take up.


Its been a long time since I blogged. The company I worked for got bought by a bigger company and we had a product release to get out. Thats all fairly settled now.
So the new thing for me is the iPhone. Yes, I stood in line in Providence, RI for 2 hours and bought one. I was #77 in the line. They had plenty and I got the 8GB model. The Apple people were nice to the waiters and gave us water and coupons for discounts on coffee in the mall.
Buying the phone was uneventful, choose one of 2 models then check out. Despite the stuff online, there were no bluetooth headsets available. The best cases were sold out by the time I got my phone (6:30pm EDT). I drove right home to register it.
Thats where the wheels came off the bus. Im transferring my line from Verizon. I knew it would take up to 6 hours to transfer but all the press (and you'll see current information) says you can use the phone until the transfer is complete you just cant receive calls. Well thats not true. The phone can do nothing but make 911 calls until its activated and they claim activation will take up to 24 hours:
"Phone service is scheduled to be disconnected on your current phone at or after 7:25 PM EDT on June 30. Please check your email and be prepared to reconnect and activate your iPhone before that time. Please call 877-800-3701 if you'd like to make other arrangements.

You will receive an email to as soon as your iPhone is ready to be activated. After you activate your iPhone and before your phone number is transferred from your current provider you will continue to receive calls on your current phone. Your iPhone will be able to make outgoing calls but will not receive calls until the transfer is complete."
Both the FAQ and this confirmation email make it clear you can use the product before activation is complete. This is not the case. I called and spoke to 3 people at AT&T and they didnt have a clue except to tell me to wait. I called Apple. It said there was a 5 minute wait time. Its been 1 hour 10 mins and i'm still waiting with no idea how long i'll be on hold. Perhaps 24 hours?
I understand the phone activation may take time, but the iPod, Video, Pictures, Calendar and other things should be able to work without phone activation.
Apple, figure this out and quick if you dont want to fall on your face!