Sat - July 7, 2007

Migrating This Weblog 

I think I will be migrating this weblog over to — it should be a little easier to maintain, and may get indexed better by Google (since they own Blog Spot). 

Posted at 10:29 AM    

Sun - July 1, 2007

iPhone inside the Firewall 

Apparently iPhone lacks Bonjour (Zeroconf) — I tried using a bookmark to my printer (which is a .local address), and the server couldn’t be found. So if you have internal servers which are only accessible as “intranet.local”, you’re out of luck. (But you can use a local IP address, like “”.) 

Posted at 10:06 AM    

Sat - June 30, 2007

iPhone backup 

iTunes 7.3 saves iPhone backup data in your Library/Application Support/MobileSync folder. It looks like it’s saving various preferences, so that if you have to restore your iPhone, it’ll be as you left it. 

Posted at 05:56 PM    

Sat - June 2, 2007

The Visa Dance 

There’s a VISA card commercial on TV these days (which Elise hates), showing (symbolically) the well-choreographed, smoothly flowing gears of commerce. Consumers are happily using VISA cards, until someone has the audacity to use a check, and everything grinds to a halt.

Which is exactly what happened today when I had the audacity to use my VISA card. The merchant had to call in, and eventually I had to talk to the bank. It turned out that actually using the card means you can’t use it. I had bought some software the day before, for $39. The charge was recorded in London. Since I was buying something in Seattle the next day, this raised a huge red flag.

The problem with that is that I had purchased online! I don’t understand how VISA can be ignorant of the concept of online transactions, especially because when I set up a merchant account, we had to tell them that we were selling online (and had to pay a somewhat higher rate per transaction as a result). They should have been able to distinguish between a brick & mortar transaction in Seattle and an online transaction.

Anyway, thanks for the commercials VISA — but next time you might want to portray happy people using checks (which give you an automatic receipt and are much harder to use fraudulently) and a VISA card user being treated like a potential fraudster. Why again should I be using a VISA card? 

Posted at 05:01 PM    

Wed - May 30, 2007

Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West 

by Tom Holland, 2006

This book tells the story of the Persian invasion of Greece, and the Greek resistance (most famously at Thermopylae). It draws heavily from Herodotus, but does a good job setting the stage for what the Persians were up to, and why Greece had a hard time presenting a unified front. It read much like a story. One of my favorite aspects was that the author wasn’t afraid to make stuff up. More properly, he would extrapolate details for the sake of the narrative, using a footnote to explain where something was well-grounded speculation. An eminently readable work on a very important historical event. 

Posted at 08:55 PM    

Wed - May 23, 2007

Upgrading my DSL 

For a long time I’d resisted upgrading my DSL service from CAP to DMT. Yes, it would be better (and cheaper), but I’d have to get a new modem, and go through the pain of reconfiguring things. But then my service started dropping out erratically, showing much the same symptoms that occurred the last time my Cisco router died. So I bit the bullet.

To try to minimize down time, I had Qwest ship the modem (a 2Wire 2700 HG) a day before they switched service. Of course, they then switched it that night, so my server was off the Net all night.

I had tried to get information from Qwest as to how to hook their modem up to my router, but they claimed ignorance. I was pretty sure it needed to be bridged, so that the router (an AirPort Extreme base station) sent the password, not the modem. Although none of the representatives knew about it, the Qwest site had information on enabling transparent bridging, which was my guess. (And luckily I had looked this up ahead of time, before they knocked me off the Net.)

After a fair amount of time on the phone as Qwest tried to finish enabling the new scheme (they hadn’t actually made it work, just made it so my old modem wouldn’t work), I spent more time on the phone with my ISP, Seanet. They had to do some tweaking too, but eventually I was up and running, at something like 7168M down/968K up. I was disappointed not to get faster uploading (since I run a server), but it was probably over 5 times as fast downloading.

Another gripe I had with Qwest: I was never told that the modem was shipped with wireless enabled -- it was set to the weakest possible WEP, broadcasting SSID. I turned these off, since the AirPort has much better security. (The 2Wire can do better, but it’s so much easier configuring an AirPort...)

Anyway, you can indeed hook up an AirPort router to a 2Wire modem. Use transparent bridging. My ISP wasn’t sure about this, but now they know too. 

Posted at 08:17 PM    

Sun - February 25, 2007

Interstate Map 

The US interstate highway system, rendered like a subway. 

Posted at 10:40 PM    

Sat - February 3, 2007

Typeprint Security Considered Harmful 

A recent article in Science News (13 Jan 2007) talked about the state of the art in typeprint security (requiring a consistent rhythm to the typing of your password). I see the entire concept as having at least two insurmountable problems with regard to password verification (and probably other uses as well):

1. I don't use my laptop in the same way at all times. Most notably, I log in every day on the bus. The computer’s on my lap, instead of a desk, which probably changes my typing pattern slightly. More drastically, the bus is moving, and the bounciness makes me change the timing between keystrokes.

2. Who types passwords anyway? Most web site passwords are remembered in some fashion (on Mac OS X, in a Keychain). They’re entered automatically by the web browser.

3. Remote login (e.g. via SSH) may have unpredictable latencies which will vary by key, and throw off the scheme.

They’re also thinking of using patterns of mouse movements. This fails too:

1. I use a trackpad on my laptop, a mouse on my desktop computer. The patterns can’t be the same.

2. Sometimes due to incipient carpal tunnel problems, I switch to mousing left-handed. (I had to do this for months a few years ago when I switched desks and came close to serious carpal tunnel syndrome.) In fact, when I use my server, I always mouse left-handed. I’m pretty sure this will result in different patterns as well.

A final technique to identify people people is a writeprint, which analyzes their language usage. This might be better, though I suspect my own writing differs somewhat in writeprint depending on whether I’m writing something formal or informal. 

Posted at 08:19 PM    

Tue - January 9, 2007

Don't view PDFs in Safari 

After I installed Adobe Reader 8, PDFs began displaying inside Safari, instead of downloading like they're supposed to (frequently I want to read them later, and I almost always prefer using Apple's Preview to a UI shoehorned into a browser window).

Turns out you need to remove the file AdobePDFViewer.plugin from the /Library/Internet Plug-Ins directory. 

Posted at 08:16 PM    

Wed - December 27, 2006

The Men Who Stare At Goats 

Despite the fact that it begins, “This is a true story,” it’s often easy to think that Jon Ronson made things up. The Men Who Stare At Goats is about the US government’s forays into parapsychology. From a general who tries to walk through walls, to experiments in killing goats by thoughts, to remote viewers trying to predict the next terrorist attack, it’s full of things that couldn’t really be true — and if they were, surely they wouldn’t be telling a journalist. But as near as I could tell by a little googling, none of it’s made up. And it may get us a little closer to the truth behind Abu Ghraib and the CIA’s experiments with LSD. Interesting stuff that never quite dips into paranoia, and is an easy read. I kept thinking Tim Powers would have a field day with it. 

Posted at 09:50 PM    

Tue - December 26, 2006

At last: DiskWarrior for Intel Macs 

There’s been a nagging worry in the back of my mind for the last 9 months or so: what if something happened to my MacBook Pro’s hard disk? I do back it up, but the essential disk utility DiskWarrior wouldn’t run on it.

Today I finally got the new update from Alsoft (as a bootable CD). Haven’t yet run it on my startup volume, but it did make minor repairs to the alternate volume. I can rest a little easier (but will continue backing up onto DVDs, at least until Time Machine is available). 

Posted at 06:40 PM    

Opal 1.0.4 

Just released a new version of Opal, with a number of small improvements requested by users. I’m working on a much more substantial update, but didn’t want to make people wait.

And due to the response to the MacSanta promotion, I decided to keep the 20% off coupon active through the end of the year. 

Posted at 06:36 PM    

Mon - December 18, 2006

A Sharp is part of MacSanta 

We weren’t asked to be part of the notorious MacHeist promotion (and without knowing the actual terms, I don’t know if we would have agreed).

But we are participating in MacSanta, where dozens of Macintosh software developers are offering software for 20% off through Christmas. Just use the coupon code MACSANTA when registering Opal, Addressix, or PhotoPress. 

Posted at 10:22 PM    

Thu - November 16, 2006

Opal in Japanese 

I feel so proud even though I didn’t do any of the work: my Opal outliner is now available in Japanese! I was contacted by the people who were responsible for making Acta a success in Japan, and agreed to let them do the same with the Mac OS X program. I don’t read Japanese, but it looks like they’ve done a really thorough job, even translating the extensive help book. Japan has already developed as Opal’s second-largest market (after the USA), and sales should now be even stronger. 

Posted at 08:12 PM    

Wed - October 25, 2006

“Opal’s Blues” 

The song “Opal’s Blues” by the Be Good Tanyas has no connection to my Opal outliner. I just like it.

I thought there was a song called “Opal” on their new CD, Hello Love, but it looks like eMusic has mislabeled Ootischenia (which is apparently named after a town in British Columbia). 

Posted at 08:11 PM