Monday, March 28, 2005

Automatically launch X11

I just saw this tip in a comment for this hint on macosxhints.  By adding these lines to your .profile, your shell will automatically launch X11 when you start a shell, and you are not connected via ssh.

# if we're NOT ssh'd in

if [ ! ${SSH_TTY} ]; then

# make sure X is running

if [ "`ps -x | awk '{print $5}' | grep X11`" = "" ]; then

open /Applications/Utilities/ &

# then refocus

osascript -e 'tell application "Terminal" to activate'


# if DISPLAY isn't set

if [ x${DISPLAY} = x ]; then

export DISPLAY=:0



Sunday, March 27, 2005

Backup strategy

After my hard drive failure, I think that I have come up with a backup strategy that I can keep up with.  On a regular bases, maybe once a week, I will back up my whole hard drive to an external firewire drive.  The external drive, is large enough so I can have a partition for every drive that I want to have backed up.  I will use Carbon Copy Cloner to just make a copy of each drive.

Then daily, I will use Apple's Backup to backup my home directory to my iDisk.  (This is all of my home directory, except for my Downloads and Movie folder).  I don't keep my iPhoto or my iTunes library in my home directory.

i3 Mac car interface

1760989444476311Engadget has a post about i3's application that is supposed to make it easier to use a Mac in your car.  It is pretty much a launcher that can launch any other applications.  I think that this is a start, but is not the ideal.  Just launching iTunes is not ideal, especially since the iTunes interface is not great for a car application. whois proxy has setup a whois proxy that makes it easy to get good results from whois queries.  So if you want to find out who is responsible for a domain or ip address you can use this proxy.

To use the geektools proxy, use the following command:

whois -h

Or you can create an alias like

alias gwhois="whois -h"

[Via macosxhints]

Verbose boot

Last week, I was trying to track down why my computer was so slow to boot (It turned out to be a failing hard drive).  Normally Mac OS X doesn't show you any feedback about what is going on during boot.  You can put Mac OS X into verbose boot mode by holding down the command and 'v' keys.  After doing this you will see all of the output that you should ever need.

[via Justin Blanton]

smtp proxy for sending mail

I have set up a server to scan all incoming mail, for viruses and spam, for my and some other people's domains.  This is running on an externally hosted VPS, and runs Maia Mailguard.  This works perfectly for all of my incoming mail

I wanted to also use this server to scan all of my outgoing mail as well, for two reasons:

  1. Help train the bayesian spam filter with the good messages that I send

  2. Potentially help reduce the risk of any of my machines being used to relay spam.

Saturday, March 26, 2005


I have been using unison to synchronize files between my computers where the the files may change on any of the computers.  It is very similar to rsync, but it allows two way synchronization.

I use this to synchronize our iPhoto library between our two laptops.  From each laptop, I run unison to synchronize the iPhoto library to our linux sever (via ssh).  Since this is a two way synchronization, all of the laptops have access to the same iPhoto library.  (I generally do all additions to the iPhoto library on one of the laptops, so I don't have to deal with potential conflicts.)

View ip address in GeekTool

In the course of reconstructing my computer from the bad hard drive, I needed to find all of the GeekTool scripts that I had been using.  The macosxhints hint describes a script that will display the local ip address as well as the public ip on the desktop.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

XM installed in Honda Odyssey

XM Commander installed in sunglass holderToday, we had XM installed into out Honda Odyssey.  We deicded to go with the XM Commander, since we didn't want to change our head unit, and we wanted a small interface. One of my main goals of this will to have the van still look stock, and not make it look like there is a lot of aftermarket equipment installed.

The XM commander interface was installed into the sunglass holder, above the rear view mirror.  With this installation, when it is closed, noone would be able to tell if XM had been installed at all.

While the XM was being installed, I asked the stereo installers to move the sound output of the DVD player from FM modulation to line-in though the CD changer port.  (The FM modulatio that was installed with the DVD player appears to not be shielded well.  While driving near high voltage lines, a lot of static can be heard.

The XM commander is using its FM modulator, but I am not that concerned about this one.  I had an XM Commander installed in our Jetta, and there were no problems with interference.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Hard drive failed

Yesterday the hard drive in my laptop failed.  I knew that it was coming, as my computer was making a lot of noise and would slow to a halt.  With hindsight being what it is, I know I should have taken care of the problem when the noise started happening.

Since I needed to get a new drive, I decided to get the largest one that I could.  I got a 100 GB drive for $179 at Fry's Electronics.  I spent a lot of time last night attempting to recover the data from the bad drive.  Since the drive was still readable, I was hoping that I would be able to copy all of the data off the drive onto the new one.

Monday, March 21, 2005

$11 LCD Photo Frame

The MAKE blog has a post that has some pictures where someone made a $11 LCD photo frame. I hope this person posts some instructions on how to do this, as it sounds like a fun project.

Holes in GPS

This weekend we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. On the way home we noticed that for about half of the way we were not receiving any signal from the GPS satellites. The system was still able to plot a route, as well as keep track of the location of the car, since it has a gyroscopic system that works when the GPS signals are not received.

The strange thing about this, is that the signals appeared to stop when we were driving near Fort Ord. This is not strange in itself, but the same thing happened when driving though San Bernardino. Since both of these areas are near military bases, I wonder if there is something creating interference from these bases. (Maybe it is genetically enhanced monkeys)

This problem could be cause becuase it was raining both of these times. But rain is not supposed to affect GPS signals, at least according to this document.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Spam getting though

I have started seeing spam messages getting though my filter. It looks like it is being cause because the spammers a sending mail from computers that have not been listed as untrusted relays. So as spammer are taking over more and more zombie PCs, the ALL_TRUSTED rule is being triggered.

The ALL_TRUSTED rule decreases the spam score when it determines that the mail did not go through any "untrusted" computers.

I have found this page that suggests adjusting the score values for this rule. I adjusted the score for this rule by 2. So now the scores for ALL_TRUSTED look like:

score ALL_TRUSTED -0.400 -0.820 -0.867 -1.300

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

My First LeapPad vs Power Touch

B00005Bhk6.01. Sclzzzzzzz B000062Ts8.01.Pt01. Sclzzzzzzz

Our son just got a My First LeapPad as a gift. He also has a Power Touch reading system. Each of these are meant to teach kids while they play. For what they are meant to do, they have the same functionality, but each implementation has its own pros and cons.

Friday, March 11, 2005

New TomTom GO

3622853427551507TomTom has announced their TomTom GO 700 Satellite Navigation unit. It has a couple of new features over their previous products (previous post). This version has Bluetooth and a hard drive.

Bluetooth allows you to use the TomTom GO 700 as a hands free speaker phone for your Bluetooth capable cell phone. Also you will be able to access your phone book on the TomTom's screen. Also with a Bluetooth cell phone, the TomTom GO 700 can connect to the internet to get real-time traffic information. (This competes with XM Radio's navigation data). The 2.5GB drive, allows you to store many more maps on the device than were possible on the compact flash card of the TomTom GO 300.

The TomTom web site does not list when this will be available, or how much it will cost.

Mac Mini in VW GTi

This blog entry shows a very cool install of a Mac Mini into a VW GTi. Here is a list of some of the equipment that he used:

  • 7" touch screen monitor

  • iPod dock

  • Accessible Firewure, USB and Ethernet jacks

  • Griffin RadioShark USB FM/AM tuner

I don't know if I would want one of these installs in my car. I don't know what I would want to do with a Mac, that I couldn't do with a stereo that has an iPod interface.

[via HTmini]

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Problems upgrading to php 4.3.10

I have been having a lot of problems upgrading my version of php on one of my servers. I can not just use the upgrade provide my yum, since I need to recompile php to include the mcrypt feature (previous post).

So I downloaded the source rpm, modified the spec file and built the rpms. When I upgrade using the rpms, the installation goes fine, but when I attempt to use any php functions that are provided by pear modules, the functions are undefined.

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Acura's NavTraffic system

AcuranavigationI just watched this video of Acura's XM NavTraffic system. This looks like a great system. I couldn't tell from the video if the recommended navigation route automatically route around traffic problems.

I want to get a system like this when we get our next car.

[via AutoBlog]

Saturday, March 5, 2005

Using GPS during trip

Yesterday, we drove down to Palm Springs to visit some family, and we used our GPS Navigation unit in our Odyssey. It worked great, but there were two problems/issues.

  1. In the evening, we knew that we wanted to get food in about an hour. What we wanted to do was to find restaurants along our current route. The Honda Navigation system doesn't have this.

  2. In between San Bernardino and Palm Springs, the navigation unit was not able to receive signals from any of the GPS satellites. At that point, the system did not know what road we were on. I am not sure if we weren't able to receive the signals because there was interference in the area or there was something with the navigation unit itself.

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Network thermostat

3053BigThe network thermostat that I mentioned previously is now for sale at It for sale for $399, which is too expensive for me. Also it looks like this requires a CAT5 line run to the the thermostat, in addition to the HVAC control lines.

It is surprising that they would include the punch down block to include Power Over Ethernet. I would assume that all they would need to do is have a little box that had two ethernet jacks, and a jack for the power adapter. (This is what was done when I was using wireless broadband.)

I also wish this had 802.11 so it wouldn't be necessary to run and additional CAT5, but I don't know if it is possile to power a 802.11 device from the 12 volts DC running on the HVAC wires.

[Via Gizmodo]