Friday, March 31, 2006

Upgrading blog

I have started the process of upgrading the version of LifeType I am using to the 1.1 version.  I am working out the problems now, so please be patient with these changes.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

ModooFree BT

Modoofree-BtI saw this rear-view mirror, and I though that it would be a great way to get  an integrated hands-free cell adapter into a car, especially since there are any head-units that have integrated Bluetooth, and integrated iPod and satellite radio controls.

The ModooFree BT does give you a integrated hands-free cell phone adapter, that could look pretty good installed.  One thing that I don't like about this is that it uses the cigarette lighter.  I would be more interested in this if I could hard wire it behind my dash.

I may get this, and modify the wire myself, since this can be found for about $149.  Here is the Froogle search for it.

[via Gizmodo]

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SSH tunnels

This page on Engadget has a great description on setting up and using ssh tunnels for securing network traffic.  This can also be used for getting by networks that block certain protocols.

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XYZ Computing has a great walk-through on setting up a Mini-ITX Linux PVR running MythTV.  If I had the time, I would love to do a project like this.  Hopefully, it would be possible to build a MythTV PVR that can control an external receiver, and to be able to input an HD signal with either HDMI or component video.  Also this PVR would need to be able to control the external receiver with IR blasting or serial control.

[via Slashdot]

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Harmony remote, technology extender

This weekend, I set up my grandmother with a new Series2 TiVo and a Harmony 880 remote, that we use at home.  Her system has some older components, where there aren't really enough inputs for all of her devices.  This causes her to use the AV switches in both her receiver and her TV to use a device.  For example, in order to watch a DVD the TV has to be switched to the DVD input, but the receiver needs to be switched to the CD.  It is pretty confusing to use the individual remotes to configure this.

The Harmony 880 is perfect for this situation.  The devices are still configured the way that they were, but now the remote hides that away from my grandmother.  Now to play a DVD, all that she needs to press is the "Watch a DVD" button, and the remote sets all of the devices correctly.  This is essentially extending the life of each of the devices.  Without this remote, I would be tempted to buy a new receiver that has enough inputs to handle all of the devices.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

VW Gypsy

VW's research group is working on a new in-car computer, that will integrate a lot of technology.  Some of the stuff that they are working on, like the integration with the wireless mesh network for home devices, will take a long time to come to market, but I think that some of the other ones could come to market sooner.

For example they are showing a iPod slot for integration, instead of a cable.  Also, this video didn't mention it, but one of the menu items was named "iTunes Library", so it looks like it reads exports data from iTunes, or it reads it directly.

[via TUAW]

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Blogroll with Google Reader

I saw this post that describes how articles and feeds can be shared from Google Reader.  I was thinking that this would be a good replacement for BlogRolling.  To use a lot of the features on BlogRolling, a paid account is require, and I haven't wanted to do that.

Here is the blogroll when using Google Reader.  (javascript is required.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Big change

Today was my last day working at TiVo.  I had been there over 5 years, and it had been a wonderful experience.  I will miss the people I worked with, as they some of the smartest engineers that I have had the opportunity to work with.

In a few weeks, I will be starting at a new company. I am really excited about his change, and am looking forward to the challenges up ahead.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Now that we have moved into our new house, I have decided to simplify a lot of things.

  1. We are not running a web or mail server out of our house.  This means that I don't have to worry about making sure that our connection is up, or have a UPS for the server.  We ordered a Mac Mini that we will keep our music on.

  2. Got regular consumer broadband connection.  Since we are not running a server at home, we are not paying for the business class dsl with a fast upload speed and the static ip addresses.  Now we just have the standard cable modem service

  3. Using POTS telephone line, instead of VoIP.  When we were using VoIP, we needed to make sure that QoS was availble for the network.  When we were using Vonage, I used a router and software to make sure that the packets going to the Vonage ATA were prioritized higher than other packets.

  4. Using a Airport Extreme as the network router/firewall.  Instead of using the Linksys WRT54GS, with the Sveasoft open source firmware, I will be using the Apple gateway.

  5. Not wiring the house.  Before we moved into our last house, I make ran ethernet cables to each room.  Now we are using wireless around the house.  I have an Airport Extreme connected to the cable modem, and a Airport Express in the TV area.  The Airport Express is connected to the Airport Extreme with WDS, and I have a switch connected to the ethernet port where I have the PS2 connected to.

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Backup bug

I just noticed a bug in Apple's Backup.  When I logging to my laptop, I get a message that states that my iDisk is full.  When I looked to see what was filling up my iDisk, I found that it was a bunch of incremental backup files from  Backup.

It looks like when you create a backup config, Backup will perform incremental backups of those files.  When those files change often, Backup will essentially create full backups daily.  This is not a problem, except there is no way to limit the size for one of these backup configuration.  In addition to that, there is no way to delete the backup files from within Backup.  You have to delete them from the mounted iDisk itself.

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Monday, March 20, 2006


Prod Smartdeckdock Main-1The XM SkyFi in our Sentra is starting to die.  When it is turned on, it just shuts down randomly.  I am not sure if it is a problem in the FM modulator or the SkyFi itself.  Since I don't know what type of head unit I want to get, I just wanted to get something that would allow me to use my iPod in my car.

Since the factory head unit that I have has a cassette player, I wanted to try the SmartDeck, that I mentioned before.  This iPod adapter allows you to use the cassette controls to control the iPod.  By pressing fast forward on the head unit, it will either fast forward or skip tracks on the iPod.

It took me a while to get this to work.  It might be because I haven't played a tape in years, but the tape kept ejecting.  Once it started playing, I noticed that it sounded pretty muffled.  Once I reversed the direction it sounded a lot better.  (I am surprised that it only has the signal going to one side of the head.)

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wireless PC Card died

This afternoon, the power went out at work.  I think that something during this outage caused my 802.11g PC card to get fried.  When I got home, the card wasn't recognized at all.  I rebooted without the card installed, and was able to use the built-in 802.11b card.

Unfortunately, this means that when I do large file transfers, things will be a lot slower.  I guess I will just plug into the wired network for these transfers. But I have noticed that it seems that the battery is lasting longer without the card installed.

Yet another reason to get that MacBook Pro.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

authimage for comments

I have decided to enable authimage for posting comments.  The previous filters have been successful in blocking 99% of the comment spam, but I was getting tired of few that got through.

I am a little unhappy about this, as I don't like spam filter technologies that require any additional steps for people initiating this communication.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Disabled Bad Behavior

I have disabled the Bad Behavior script on my blog.  This was blocking some of the scripts that I use to post and manage my blog, that happen to use curl.  I am hoping that the improvements in the next version of LifeType will reduce the database io.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Non-Functional online order systems

I am surprised about how many online order systems make it appear that you can create an order online, but then when you try to commit the order a web page is shown informing you to call their order service.

Since, we are not going to use Speakeasy VoIP, I wanted to add some services to our phone service.  When I attempted to add these services, the web page directed me to call their center (And of course, the special prices is only available when ordering online.)

Then when I attempted to schedule a cable modem installation, I was instructed to call their sales office.  And this was after the order was submitted, and I had to go through their "live chat" with one of their agents.

On dialup

Now that we moved, we are using dialup again.  I called Speakeasy to schedule a time to have dsl installed, and then they told me that my address is not in the database they they use to determine how far we are from the Central Office.  So it appears that even though our phone line has been activated by SBC (AT&T), they haven't updated the database.

This is essentially forcing me to use them for DSL, if I want DSL.  This is something similar to what happened to me before.

Ideally I would like to use Speakeasy for DSL, and use their Speakeasy VoIP since they manage all of the QoS on their network.  But now I am looking at switching to a cable modem.  I am not planning on running a server out of my house anymore, so I don't care about the static ip address.  In addition, with a cable modem, I don't have to worry about the interference with our alarm system.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Bad Behavior

This past weekend, I had a flood of over 100,000 of attempted comment spams.  The bayesian filter stopped all but 5 from getting through.  The main effect that I noticed was that the database queries to run these spam check was hitting the database hard.

Bad Behavior is a collection of php scripts that is intended to stop these http accesses before the queries reach the database.  It analyzes the actual HTTP request and compares it to profiles from known spambots.

I was able to get this to work easily in LifeType.  Here is a version of the php file to be included, that allows logging of these accesses into the LifeType database.

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Map of email

Butter Fat is a site that will map out the path of an email on Google Maps.  It takes the headers of the email message and maps the servers that it travels through.

Here is an example map for one of the email messages that I have received:

Email Map

[via Hawk Wings]

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Sunday, March 12, 2006


I just heard of Talkdigger on the latest Geek News Central podcast.  This is a site that will aggregate the results from various sites that track referrals.  For example, this url will run a query to show all of the sites that link to this blog.

In addition to the standard html results page, the results can be formatted in a rss feed, so you can see the new referrals in your rss aggregator.

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Iconic Fast User switching

A while ago, I wrote about WinSwitch, which adds the ability to have the Fast User switching menu be an icon, instead of the full name.  The version of WinSwitch stopped working for me with Mac OS X 10.4.5, so I wanted to see what options are now built-in to the OS.

Login OptionsThe Login Options of the Accounts preference panel now has the option to change what is displayed in the menu bar for the Fast user switching menu item.  I am not sure when this was added to the OS.

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Saturday, March 11, 2006


Some times I have wanted to take a snap shot of a web page. You can do a Print Preview of the page, and create a pdf from this, but this splits the web page by page break.  In addition, often browsers will put a header or footer on the page when printing.

Paparazzi! is an application that renders a web page, and allows you to save the the image in various formats.  It looks like it uses Apple's WebKit to render the html, so the resulting graphic will look like the pages do in Safari.  This may look different than the page does when rendered in Firefox.

[via Hawk Wings]

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Friday, March 10, 2006

HDMI switcher

Hdmi-Switch-3Port-3DWe have decided to replace our Toshiba DVD Recorder with TiVo with a Intel Core Duo Mac mini.  We don't have a video source connected to it, so it is only used for playing DVDs and listening to our music collection.

I want to connect the Mac mini to our TV though DVI, but our TV only has one HDMI connection.  So a while ago, I saw this post  that mentioned a 2-port HDMI switcher, for less than $100.  Unfortunately, it looks like this has been discontinued.

I then did another search, and I found the Octavia 2-port HDMI switch.  It has discrete codes for switching the inputs, so it should be really easy to integrate this with my Harmony 880.

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Thursday, March 9, 2006

regular expressions in Cocoa

I don't get why program languages don't include regular expression support, either built in or as one of the included libraries.

I wanted to parse some html in Objective-C to find the url for an image.  Ideally, I want to use this expression to find an image url:

img src=\"([^\"]+)\"

Objective-C and Apple's libraries do not include any regular expression support.  I found the OgreKit framework that adds this support. 

Unfortunately, all of the documentation is in Japanese.  And, I wasn't able to correctly embed this framework in my project.  I just ended up searching for the url manually.

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EnoThe author of ecto has come out with a new RSS aggregator.  endo is a pretty cool application, and it does have some differences that the standard RSS reader.  Instead of having the feed groups listed on the left side, the groups appear across the top of the window.  When you select one of the groups, it slides to the middle of the window, and the others move out of the way.

In addition, it has a pretty good download manager.  It natively support torrent files, using the MIT licensed Transmission BitTorrent client code.  Also, the endo application has built-in updating code, so when an update is needed, it downloads and installs it itself, instead of using a browser.

Saturday, March 4, 2006

iPod USB Retractable cable

El-IuaApple has a created a huge racket with their iPod.  When you buy an iPod for $300-$400, it comes with a USB cable.  But if you want a dock, you will have to pay about $40 for the Universal Dock.  If you want to use this dock on a different computer than where you have connected the iPod included cable, you will have to get another $20 cable since the Universal Dock doesn't come with a cable.

I didn't want to pay $20 for this cable, so when I was at Fry's, I saw this $10 retractable iPod cable from Macsense.  It works perfectly.  (In fact, the dock connector itself seems to grip the iPod better.)  I can imagine that this cable could break before the Apple one would, as there are moving parts in the retracting mechanism.

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rendering images in Cocoa

I was having a problem getting image files to render in Cocoa, using Objective-C.  Here is the code that works for me:

    NSString *shortPath = @"~/Desktop/DCP_4146.JPG";
    NSString *absolutePath = [shortPath stringByExpandingTildeInPath];
    NSImage *image = [[NSImage alloc] initWithContentsOfFile: absolutePath];
    NSSize imgSize;
    NSRect dstRect;
    NSRect imgRect;
    // how much room do we have to play in?
    NSRect bounds = [self bounds];
    imgSize = [image size];

    // Should really be a while loop to scale down truly huge pictures
    dstRect.size.width = imgSize.width;
    dstRect.size.height = imgSize.height;
    imgRect = NSMakeRect(0, 0, imgSize.width, imgSize.height);

    [image drawInRect:dstRect fromRect:imgRect operation:NSCompositeSourceOver fraction:1.0];

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Friday, March 3, 2006

iPod media centers

The latest iPods seem to have all of the capabilities of a media center.  In addition to Apple's Universal iPod dock, some third party companies have come out with some cool docks that have nice interfaces.

Homedoc Dx Hero Med  Prod Tunecenter Main-1

The HomeDock Deluxe and the TuneCenter allow you to play your audio, video and photo content on your TV.  Each of these presents a interface that is designed for the TV.  One feature that the TuneCenter has, is that it will play Internet Radio stations.

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EnookI was looking through the latest MacWorld magazine and I saw an advertisement for the eNook.  This is a wall mounted piece of furniture that is meant to keep and plug in all of your little electronic devices, like  your cellphone or iPod.  In addition, you can keep a laptop in there, and when you open the eNook, it can become a desk.

I could see using one of these, but if we did, I would want to install a power outlet right behind the eNook, so the power cord would not be dangling beneath.

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Prod Smartdeckdock MainUntil I get a new head unit, I was thinking about buying the SmartDeck, since my head unit doesn't have a line input, but it does have a cassette deck.  This is a cassette deck adapter for an iPod with a Dock connector.  It allows the cassette player controls to be used to control the iPod itself.  This is a pretty inexpensive way to get an iPod connected to a car stereo, and should sound better than the FM transmitters.

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Mac mini and HD resolutions

HdoutputHD Beat has a post that describes the resolutions that are supported in the new Intel Macs.  It looks like the new Macs determine the resolutions supported by TVs with EDID.  The thing that I find most interesting is that these Macs support interlaced resolutions.  This is the first time that I have seen PCs support non-progressive resolutions.

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Spam Cube

SpamcubeI saw this post about the Spam Cube, and I am not sure what to think.  In order to get this to work, you connect it in-between your computer (or router for multiple computers) and your DSL/Cable modem.

It seems like it looks at all of the packets that go over ports 110 (POP3) and 143 (IMAP).  Then it probably works in one of two ways.

  1. It looks at each message as it is downloaded, and modifies it if it is spam

  2. It implements a mail server, and then becomes the client to the specified server.  So when you think that you are connecting with an external server, you actually are just connnecting witht he Spam Cube.  Then the Spam Cube connects with the external mail server.

Thursday, March 2, 2006


This is pretty cool.  It is possible to have blog entries appear on the map in Google Earth.  It looks like Blojsom will generate the kml2 files.  Also this page has an AppleScript that will create the entries in the posts from ecto.

Now I want to write a plugin for LifeType that will generate this xml file that has the location information.

[via ecto blog]

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Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Mac mini

MacminiApple finally came out with the computer that I described before.  A Mac Mini that has FrontRow installed.  This is the perfect media PC, where it has DVI output, and can output to a HD resolution.  With FrontRow, the interface to play music and videos is very simple and intuitive.

I am thinking about buying the Mac mini with the 1.66Ghz Intel Core Duo, but with the 120GB drive replacing the stock 80GB drive.

[via HD Beat]

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Empowering Your Home's Power Protection: A Deep Dive into UPS Monitoring and Integration

Our household relies on several Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPSs) to safeguard our network equipment and computers. A crucial aspect of ...