OSX Server Security Update Warning Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A quick warning for those of you running Tiger Server: the latest security update edits the LaunchDaemon plist for named (BIND/DNS), relocating it from /usr/bin to /usr/sbin. However, at the same time, it disables it.

That means that, after install and restart, your DNS server will not work: you'll need to turn it back on using launchctl or the Server Admin tool.

Update

No sooner said than patched!

I Hate The Nokia E61i Wednesday, May 23, 2007

All those within the sound of my voice, let it be known: I hate the Nokia E61i.

Well, hate might be too strong a word. After all, Nokia has done some things right.

To start: I decided to give it a try after it got some raves from the Nokia crowd. Since I hadn't used a Nokia in years, it seemed like a good one to try: the E61i's got a nice keyboard and a really nice screen -- although it's only QVGA it's very visible inside and out. The build quality seems pretty nice. It's a good size as these things go, a bit heavy but nicely finished.

The software bundle is good for a business device: various email connectivity tools, push email for Exchange, Blackberry, IMAP. The "today" screen does a good job of showing what's pertinent right now.

But, that's about it.

Even though the E61i was released very recently, it's not a "Feature Pack 1" device (and, from what I've been told, will never be updated to Feature Pack 1). So, perhaps my experience was suboptimal. But it's no less optimal than that of other E61/E61i users.

And, overall, it's pretty suboptimal. This is a "messaging" focused phone. Its whole reason for being is to send and receive email and react to that. That's exactly what I wanted it for. And in that, at least in my situation, it fails pretty miserably.

My server is a Kerio Mailserver (which I'm quite happy with, and will write about in a future post), which provides both IMAP IDLE support and ActiveSync/Exchange capabilities. The E61i ships with an Exchange plug-in, so I used that. It configured reasonably easily (although the layout of the various screens doesn't take advantage of the landscape display, which truncated many fields in a pretty stupid way), and began to sync. And that all worked pretty much OK.

The problems started dealing with the mail itself. First, you can't move items to folders. You can only copy them, so handling Junk mail "properly" is well-nigh impossible.

Second, there's no way to mark a message as "unread". So, if you have mail you haven't yet dealt with, but read, you'd best remember what mail it was.

Third, deleted messages stay visible in the mail list until the sync occurs.

Fourth, links in the mail highlight nicely, but open in the "Service" browser, which isn't the "good" one: it's the old, WAP-style, crummy browser. "Web", the WebCore-based browser can't be associated with links. Instead, you need to copy the link, open Web, and paste them in to a "Go To Address" dialog. Not good, but I guess it could be worse.

Fifth, while this browser mostly works, it eats memory like crazy (even though the memory status in the main menu always indicates there's lots of memory left -- go figure). This causes it to randomly start failing, crashing, exiting... pretty much at any time. So, if you're using a web-based application (as I need to, based on mail notification), you're going to lose data. Typically after typing a long reply.

And stopping the numbering, because of the low memory, the mail program probably closed, which means you need to re-open it, which means you lose context.

Whatever you do, don't click a link in mail, because it'll instance that other browser, and it's hard to get out of.

But that's not all. I haven't even started talking about the slow and blinky screen refreshes, the fact that contact notes don't sync, that calendar notes sync incorrectly (CRs get eaten), that contact details are very inefficiently presented on the screen requiring a ton of scrolling, that network connections are constantly being announced for no reason, that selecting the messaging plugin on the today screen sometimes goes to the list and sometimes to a message (depending on the number of messages there, but it feels less predictable), the awful indeterminate progress indicator, ugly fonts, poor calendar implementation... I could go on and on.

To try to take care of some of this, I installed the trial copy of RoadSync, an alternate ActiveSync application that's worked well on the M600i (a UIQ3 device, rather than S60 Series 3). But it doesn't directly support browser links either. But it does seem to sync slightly better, supports moving to folders and allows mark-as-unread.

But with a browser that crashes constantly and a battery that -- under typical "me" use -- dropped precipitously after just an hour or two... it's just not a phone I could possibly live with.

It makes me appreciate the UIQ3 and Windows Mobile devices I've tried, though! Compared to this, the M600i and Dash are absolute paragons of reliable usability!

Maybe hate isn't too strong a word. But whatever word is used, there's one thing for sure: for my usage, the E61i sucks.

Big Days Monday, May 21, 2007

Big couple of days here, in a good way.

New Graduate

First off, Zabeth graduated from Tufts Veterinary School on Sunday -- she's now Dr. Zabeth. Pretty cool stuff. It's really an incredible accomplishment, and Z worked outrageously hard to get to this point.

We've been in "social jail" for four years, so it was really nice to have a little dinner for her at a restaurant in Boston with people we haven't been able to spend much time with in the last four years. Thanks to all who were able to make it -- for your patience with us, your vanishing friends, and for your support.

But it's not done yet: on June 18th, she starts a 14-month internship in West Bridgewater -- and, from what I can determine, it's like one of those TV shows where people run on no sleep for days on end while frantically performing heroic interventions on pets that have jumped from planes or something.

Of course, the experience will be intense and invaluable. We'll have to come up with a theme song -- maybe Massive Attack can write a House-like ditty we can play every morning before she leaves after two hours of fitful rest.

Birthday Boy

It's amazing, but Taiko turned one today. The past year has gone by quickly, and he's grown into a handsome young dog: still quite a puppy, but strong as an ox. I, for one, can totally understand how these dogs were bred to pull carts.

A great dog, and alongside him, a great woman and new Doctor -- not necessarily in that order: I'm a pretty lucky guy.

Ocean of words Thursday, May 03, 2007

For those who haven't heard me blather at length about all things SuperDuper! and Shirt Pocket, there's a 45 minute interview of me up at MacVoices.

Remember: the game rules require you to drink every time you hear me say "Um", "Uh" or audibly gesticulate. Do not play while driving.

Clicking away Friday, April 27, 2007

My friend Jonas Salling has started blogging again, and that's always a good thing.

He's got some recent posts up there as he tests the WiFi support for Clicker, and the results may surprise you!

Jonas is one of the hardest working developers out there, and he never settles for less than absolute excellence when releasing new stuff.

The long-in-development Clicker 3.5 is no exception, and it looks like it's getting really close to release. That's good news for all the fans of Clicker, since a great product is getting a lot better. And I'm sure he has many cool things in store moving forward as well.

Welcome back, Jonas -- looking forward to more posts!

Tip for Seagate SATA drive owners Thursday, April 26, 2007

A little tip for those of you who might have installed Seagate SATA drives into your 3GB/s capable G5, MacPro, NAS device, or whatever.

Looks like recent Seagate drives ship with a jumper installed that limits the drive to 1.5GB/s speeds. While the jumper is documented in the User's Guide that ships with retail packs, it's specifically mentioned as something you might need to install if you have trouble with the drive. And OEM drives don't have any documentation at all.

To get 3GB/s, the jumper should not be present on the outer pins of the jumper block. So -- if you've got one of these drives, check it out: you might get that drive humming along twice as fast!

One long dog Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Taiko and Zabeth were out walking the other day and ran into a neighbor out for a stroll with his own dog. He asked a bit about Ketzl, and Zabeth asked about his previous pups, and during that discussion he said "you know, it's like we've owned one long poodle over the last 30 years".

I know exactly what he means.

It's not that Taiko and Ketzl are the same dog: Taiko's personality is much different than Ketzl's -- he's goofier, jumpier, much more athletic, more dominant, more trainable.

But, at the same time, he loves the same places in the house, the yard, where we walk. The spot under the bush, the cool slate floor, climbing rocks, play style -- these things are "dog" the way laughter is "human", common while different, linking our friends together over the years.

One long dog, with us through thick and thin.

A different Eddy entirely Monday, April 16, 2007

While I'm posting about music, I just love the album A Girl Called Eddy. Erin Moran (aka Eddy) has a beautiful voice and great songwriting chops. A melancholy pop album that's pretty amazing from beginning to end, with some great production and guitar work by Richard Hawley of Pulp fame.

It took four years for her to go from her first EP to the album; I'd been hoping her next wouldn't take quite that long, but it's already been three...

Never hear the end of it Sunday, April 15, 2007

How, exactly, did I miss Sloan over the last 10 years?

WM/UIQ/WTF Friday, April 13, 2007

I freely admit, right at the start of this post, that I switch cell phones too often. A lot of this is because I try to do a lot with my mobile phone, mostly mail and web based. And I want the thing to work well with my Mac, and to be a phone: I don't really want a two-inch-thick "communication controller" on a belthook.

At the same time, I don't want a tiny screen or a crappy browser, and I need a decent way to input text.

I've had generally good luck with the recent generation Windows Mobile "smartphone" devices (like the T-Mobile Dash, aka the HTC Excalibur), but the version of Internet Explorer in them is pretty limited, and replying to support questions can be frustrating because of those limitations.

Some time ago, I'd purchased a Sony Ericsson M600i, which looked like it was going to be a good'un: good size, design, keyboard and capabilities. Unfortunately, at least 3/4 of a year ago, it seriously sucked. The design is good, but the version of UIQ3 it originally shipped with was buggy beyond words: the email program crashed constantly, disconnected from email, etc. The browser was capable, but it crashed all the time, too. And, to top it off, the thing wouldn't sync with the Mac.

It didn't last long... until I took it back out of the box last week.

After applying Sony Ericsson's recent software update (R9F011 for the curious), UIQ3 has taken a huge step into reliabilityland. All of a sudden, the applications are no longer crashing. Mail, while limited by some boneheaded design choices, works. The web browser has been updated, and it's fast and capable: it even renders some relatively complex stuff on the Shirt Pocket site.

On top of that, Kerio Mailserver has finally implemented support for the M600i's OTA ActiveSync (Exchange) support, so events, mail, contacts, etc are pushed to the device automatically. Combined with a new iSync plugin, the thing works with my Mac pretty well: transparent two-way sync is awfully compelling.

Not phone nirvana, but a nice set of updates combining to deliver a greatly improved experience. It'll be interesting to see how the iPhone measures up. If the "Push" support is only for Yahoo mail (I'm hoping that it properly supports IMAP IDLE), it doesn't do OTA sync, and it doesn't support a vibrant 3rd party community (that gives us Apple Design Award-winning products like Salling Clicker), its cool touchscreen and attractive UI won't really make up for its lack of capability.

Demo vs. reality -- always fun. We'll have to see in June.

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