Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Switching over to Disqus for comment system for the blog. Let me know
(those few that comment!) if it bugs you.

Monday, September 28, 2009

DNS over VPN and Snow Leopard

Since upgrading to Snow Leopard DNS hasn't worked on VPN. A friend suggested a:

sudo killall mDNSResponder

And sure enough that fixed it. Poking around I found others suggesting that it gets scripted up to get killed every 60 seconds.

The fact that this helps and the fact that companies like Parallels have knowledge base articles on it would lead one to believe Apple should be fixing it.

At least the workaround is known until Apple gets in gear.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Call blocking

I have to say that i'm having a blast with Google Voice. No more
spammers and once I identify them from the "missed calls" log (since
no phones ring if they're not in my address book) I can block them so
they get the tone of disconnect. Love it, sweet sweet revenge on the

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

iPhone 3.1 woes update

Since my last entry on the misery i've had with iPhone 3.0 i've made some progress. After much fiddling I found that turning off things like wifi, bluetooth, MobileMe, etc did not solve my problems.

The one symptom I could see is that with all accounts deleted and MobileMe sync turned off I still saw calendars listed in the iPhone calendar app:

Nothing I did (reboot, power off, reset) would get rid of them.

I resorted to the ultimate and completely nuked the phone and set it up like a brand new phone. This is a horrifically painful process since you have to re-lay out where your apps are, re-enter passwords/settings for each app etc. Perhaps a restore would have worked but I had read reports that it didnt and didn't want to do the 2 hour wipe part more than once.

The process worked. I've been good for 4 days and i'm declaring victory.

There are still some reports that even with Calendar sync off in iTunes people are seeing calendars "on my iphone" that they cant get rid of. I think the bug exists but there are some manifestations of it that are catastrophic like mine and others that are just annoying.

Regardless, for Apple to not have fixed it quickly is inexcusable. Their self-inflicted punishment appears to be giving people new iPhone 3G's unnecessarily.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

ScanSnap 510M and Snow Leopard

One of the many casualties of Snow Leopard, the ScanSnap S510M software got crippled with this update. ScanSnap is an oddity to me. Such a great scanner and such poor software and support by Fujitsu. Anyway, the ScanSnap software broke in an odd way. You cant "Scan to Folder" but you can "Scan to Print". Fujitsu posted the chart of what works and what doesnt. So my new workflow is to "Scan and Print" but then from the printer settings box, do a "Save as PDF". One extra step but essentially it recreates what I had before things broke and my Scanner is functional.

Shame on Fujitsu for not fixing this before the Snow Leopard release or shortly after. Double shame on Apple for breaking so many things with a featureless release.

Monday, September 14, 2009

iPhone 3.1 Woes

Since i've upgraded to the 3.1 OS on the iPhone my iPhone has been frustrating. Its slow to respond, takes forever on key presses, battery is draining quickly, etc. Looking around the net shows that others are experiencing the same thing. The general solution appears to be don't turn on wifi and bluetooth at the same time although others are suggesting more drastic measures. I'll give the wifi/bluetooth settings a shot and see how it does over the next day or so and report back. 

Seems like a basic test case. Perhaps they used the team from Snow Leopard? Or are they just giving us grief for not upgrading the the 3GS? Of course if they had offered early upgrades...

Mint and Intuit

I wrote a while back on my blog why I chose Mint.com over Quicken
Online and I guess Intuit is paying attention. I'm glad to see them
recognizing this and picking up the cool team at Mint.

For the record, Quicken for the Mac STILL has not been updated and
since they don't have an Intel version wont even run on Snow Leopard.
I say fire the group and get some startup to start over, it will be
cheaper and better. Look at Mint.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Snow Leopard - wait it out

I pre-ordered Apple's latest OS, Snow Leopard and got it the day it
came out. Thanks to some FedEx fiasco's I didnt install until the next
day but I think I still qualify as an early adopter. I have to say i'm
seriously disappointed. The quality and compatibility is poor. Worse
than any other release i've experienced from Apple. Here's some of
what i've seen:

1) Many applications are incompatible and not yet updated. Perhaps you
can blame developers for not being on top of things, but I think not.
I expected PPC apps to have an issue as this is an intel only release,
but I was shocked at the number of apps that broke even though they
had intel support. Here's a short list:

Medialink, EyeTV, Growl, ScanSnap, 1Password, Contribute, and many more

Why did so many apps break? Why didn't apple warn people in advance?
The upgrade from PPC to Intel machines was smoother.

2) I've seen several "black screen of death" events where I must power
cycle the machine. I was perfectly stable before that. For the record
the machine I saw that on I did a complete wipe (disk format) and
fresh install of Snow Leopard and then only installed the latest
versions of apps I needed. Can't blame some less tested upgrade path
for that one.

3) I've had many hangs in Mail and Safari where I have to force quit
the apps. Didn't have those issues before the upgrade. This is a fresh
install, Apples apps and basic ones. Quality Control?

4) We've seen some odd behavior -- VPN to work using Apple's native
VPN to a Cisco firewall worked great before Snow Leopard. After the
upgrade DNS doesnt work. You can connect but you cant resolve anything
on the other end so you end up having to edit /etc/hosts and add
systems by hand. How'd they brake that one? And why? (multiple people
have experienced this)

5) Some vendors, like the Agile folks, makers of 1Password, have
chosen to use this as an opportunity to charge for an upgrade and not
support you unless you upgrade. Considering i'd owned 1Password for
less than 10 months I was shocked to see them require me to pay for an
upgrade. On all other fronts the Agile team is amazing but this
decision is flat out wrong. Others have gone down that route and
you'll be paying for upgrades to apps that worked fine prior to Snow
Leopard. The OS may be cheap ($29) but the time sink and the apps you
have to pay to upgrade are not.

So i've had issues, what about the good stuff? Um, what good stuff?
Frankly I haven't noticed a performance improvement and the
frustrations of a semi-stable OS wipes that out anyway. There are a
few very minor visual improvements, but fundamentally almost nothing
is noticeably different.

Its too late for me now, but I wish I had waited 6 months+ to upgrade.
Not the normal experience with Apple.

Home Media Servers

The battle has been raging for a while on who owns a device near your TV. My bet is one of the consoles is going to win as they have the video quality, compute power etc. A while back I remodeled my family room and since I didnt have much time at the time I hired a company to do the sound piece. The speakers etc worked out fine and i'm happy. What i'm not happy with is that they installed a Control4 unit as the controller for the whole system. There's an attached drive to load media on. This system is dated by today's standards and you can't make any configuration changes without calling a dealer to support it -- yes you cant manage a device you own. Some day i'll rip it out of my system and get a better approach. What a waste.

Anyway, using it for video playback doesnt work, it supports music (poorly) and pictures (also poorly) (perhaps the $250+ software upgrade would make things better but im not going to find out). Basically anything you do with it costs serious money which means it has to go.

I got a disk of the first season of 24 for Christmas and I wanted to watch it but not be feeding disks to my playback device constantly. I had the idea to rip the disks and then do video-on-demand within my home. I already have Cat5e cabled networking and a GigE switch between the major computers and my family room so bandwidth wasnt an issue. I had the ripped files and needed a way to serve them to the TV. I use my PS3 as a DVD player since my old DVD player died and as it also does the BluRay disks too. Unfortunately the PS3 disk is tiny. 

I looked around and found MediaLink which turns a mac into a media server for the PS3 (They have a version for the XBox 360 too). That works great, I can now browse my pictures, music and video from iTunes, iPhoto or on folders on my drives and play them back on the PS3. The PS3 could use better menus/controls but it works and the software was $20.

So now my video library is on a TB hard drive in my basement and streams to my family room when I need it sure beats the DVD shuffle.

Only problem is Snow Leopard broke it. See next blog entry.

Banks and Scanners

If you've been following my blog you know that I love my scanner
(although with Snow Leopard its somewhat crippled). The banks are onto
this whole scanning thing.

Bank of America switched over to allowing you to feed the checks
directly into the ATM without a deposit slip or envelope. The scanning
works pretty good. One problem, I have to press about 4 buttons per
check. It takes me 10x as long to deposit a batch of checks as it used
to. Sure, you used new cool technology, but you just wasted more of my
time. Give me back the old machine or let me bulk feed my deposit
checks. Technology gone wrong.

USAA on the other hand has taken a different approach. I guess they're
forced to be creative having branches only in Texas. Anyway, you get
checks to deposit, scan them or snap pictures with your iphone. Upload
them to USAA and then shred them. Seems crazy but the system works
great. No need to leave my house, nothing to mail, cost efficient. The
first time or two it takes some fiddling to know what they need in
terms of an image but once you get it its a breeze. Its the future.

Banks Stink

Banks just stink these days. While we're now saving them money by
using ATMs, they charge you fees up to $3 per transaction if you use
someone elses ATM. Meanwhile you're saving them money for a teller etc.

I was moving out of Citizens bank recently due to their crazy fee
structure. I asked them how to close my account. They said take all
the money out (get it to zero) and they'd auto-close after 7 days. I
proceeded to get the balance to zero. A few days later my silly
insurance company took out an automatic payment for $10.35, so I went
negative by that amount. I saw it quickly and immediately transferred
$10.35 back in. I figured I was set. Meanwhile Citizens charged me $39
for going negative and sent me snail mail over labor day weekend). I
was away and when I got back I was swamped so I didnt look at anything
for essentially 2 weeks. Since I remained negative (by the $39) for
more than a few days they charged me another $35. Then since more days
passed, another $35. They never called, and they were assessing fees
on their fees. They refused to credit me back any of the $109 when I
finally addressed it. I paid the money and filed a complaint with the
Better Business Bureau. That bank should not be in business.

I have a real issue with banks that want you to keep your money with
them but then they slowly drain your accounts with their fees. What a

Google Voice Rocks

I got a free Grand Dialer account early on when it came out. I never made much use of it though. Then it was bought by Google and still it sat unused for a long time. This week, though, I had a thought. 

A while back I wrote about home phones and cell phones. To summarize, even if I could cancel my landline and move the number to google (you currently cant do this) I need to keep a home phone connection for:

a) Our home business uses that number and its been known for 10+ years and its in publications etc
b) We have an ADT system and it needs to dial out
c) 911 is better with a landline

The problem, though, is that with 10+ years at the same number and as a landline we get spammers calling constantly. The result is that we never answer the phone and our voice mailbox fills up. Sometimes its important stuff but because of the fear of the spammers (yes, i've put the number on all the do not call lists I can find) we delay in getting back to people and we can't really be reached through that number.

So what was my Google voice thought? Forward my home number to my google voice number. From there use google voice to manage the traffic. You can upload your address book (new after the google acquisition) including the groups. Then on a per-group basis set the desired behavior. 

So here's my setup:

1) Home phone always forwards to google voice
2) We have 3 cell phones, one for me, one for the wife, and one for the barn
3) Depending on the address book group a person falls in it will ring 1, 2 or 3 of those phone numbers. 
4) Also depending on the group the person falls in it may prompt them for their name first so we can decide if we want the call (they hear ringing until we accept)
5) If they're in no groups, no phones ring. They get to leave a voicemail if they want (spammers dont, but if they did google has some answers for that)
6) If someone like my dad calls, all 3 phones ring, if someone picks it up and its for the other person you can transfer to the other cell phone with a google voice command. 
7) Voice mails come in email with (weak) transcriptions. You can listen to them from your email (even on the iPhone!) and you can forward them to each other. You can also manage them in the order you want to -- no more wading through 17 useless voice mails to get to the one you want. (the transcriptions are amusing though)

I turned all this on a couple days ago and its magic. We've received NO unwanted calls and we're now easier for people to reach. Call one number (our home #) and you'll reach who we want you to reach.

I'm not sure this is the use case Google Voice envisioned, a family google voice line, but as I did with my email, i'm using Google as an advanced spam filter and they're great at it.

I think about people with multiple houses that they travel between and think how this can solve their problems too. Forward those land lines to google and then use it to route to where you want when you want. With remote management through google you have total control.

Next steps? Perhaps change my cell # and route everyone to my google voice number or my home number. I'm getting a lot of spammers on the cell phone now. Problem with handing out the google voice number is that you start being really tied to google voice versus the solution it provides. Handing out the home number though could get messy if google voice ever went away. I'll ponder that a while before I change my cell #. 

My guess is that i'll just change it and hand out a google voice #, I like living on the edge :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

iTunes 9

I was checking out some of the cool stuff in iTunes 9. There are still
some silly things they're doing which I think are basic that need to
be addressed:

1) Finally they let you have the concept of home shared libraries with
a common iTunes account. The problem though is that if my wife and I
want to sync the same songs to our iPods we have to have them in the
local library. In other words we're being forced to copy music around.

2) The iTunes Store got a major overhaul which is cool. But they still
have a very broken behavior in that they give you NO indication that
you already own a song. Go to "iTunes Essentials" and you'll see
recommended songs and pricing but you may already have/own the songs.
Why cant they search and indicate this?

Anyway its a good app and getting better.