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    

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    

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    

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    

Thu - October 19, 2006

Opal released! 

As promised, I released Opal yesterday (18 October). It’s an organizing tool that Elise and I can’t imagine being without.

A Japanese translation is in progress, which I’m really excited about. 

Posted at 09:49 PM    

Sat - October 7, 2006

Opal 1.0rc1 

It was years in the making (I began working on this incarnation in July 2004, though certainly not full-time!), but I finally began selling Opal last night!

Opal is an outline processor, for taking notes and organizing snippets of information. It’s a rewrite from scratch of my Acta outliner (which was released in 1986). Acta was designed to be fluid and essential, but it no longer runs on Apple’s latest Intel-based Macintoshes. I looked at most of (and even bought some of) the other Mac OS X outliners, but never found anything I liked quite as much as Acta. So I made a big push to finish it once I got a MacBook Pro (which can’t run Acta).

Technically I’m only selling a “Release Candidate,” but I don’t expect to make changes to the code. There’s a $5 discount until the official release. And this lets me shake out any bugs that might exist (I’m using different e-commerce and updating than with my other software).

And gives me more time to work on the web site and marketing copy. I hope to finish this up and have an official release in about a week and a half. 

Posted at 09:03 PM    

Sat - September 30, 2006

Mac OS X 10.4.8 

The update seems to have fixed the bug where certain operations on a rotated external display would freeze all UI (in particular, using the cover browser in iTunes).

But it stole (or at least made more apparent the theft of) another keyboard equivalent, pretzel-option-\ (which I had been using in Opal). I really wish Apple didn’t keep stealing keyboard equivalents for rarely used system operations (in this case it’s smoothing of a zoomed image). 

Posted at 11:24 AM    

Fri - August 4, 2006

My new phone 

About a week ago, my RAZR V3 phone started to fail. It worked fine, but neither screen showed anything at all. I managed to reset it by following along with another RAZR, but no luck. The phone could make and receive calls just fine, but without a display it seemed destined for the scrap heap.

Eventually I plugged it in to recharge, and the screens worked again. However, a few days later the outside screen would display all blue.

I was never happy with the RAZR software. In particular, I wanted the Address Book feature to actually store addresses. (Then the phone would actually be a PDA.) So I tried getting a new phone via my provider, Cingular. I went to a bunch of stores, but all were unhelpful. I was willing to extend my contract, but since it still had a year to run, I would have to pay the list price. Didn’t seem like a good deal to me. I figured I’d be better off buying an unlocked phone on eBay, and could then switch to another carrier once my contract ran out.

I looked at a bunch of phones (luckily I work in a company that creates mobile phone software, so there were lots handy — most stores make it hard to try out phones). I finally resolved on a Nokia 6102i, since it was likely to synchronize with my Mac, and it had an actual address book.

I found new unlocked phones on eBay, and after a few days managed to get a winning bid.

iSync wouldn’t work out of the box, but I was able to find a plugin (Nokia6102i.phoneplugin, installed in ~/Library/PhonePlugins), and it synched just fine.

(Eventually I discovered that the Address Book has a limited size, and had to do a little pruning of ancient entries.) 

Posted at 11:40 AM    

Mon - July 10, 2006

Making springs work in Interface Builder 

Talk about bad timing... I had just cursed out Interface Builder for not resizing views when you resize a window, when I saw a link to the trick: hold the ctrl key while resizing. (IMO it should be the other way around...) 

Posted at 12:49 PM    

Sat - July 8, 2006

Bug Tracking 

I'm now using FogBugz. 

Before releasing a public beta of Opal, I wanted to have a bug tracking system in place, so users would be able to file bugs. I wanted something that would run on Mac OS X, ideally with a custom client.

In the late 1990s, I really liked Seapine's TestTrack. It had a great client, and even though you had to connect to a fileserver to access the bugbase, it was far better than any other solution I'd used (such as elementool).

Sadly, there don't seem to be Mac clients any more — everyone assumes web access is OK. So besides TestTrack Pro, I looked at FogBugz (designed by Joel Spolsky of Joel On Software fame).

One factor that swayed me: FogBugz costs $129 for me and one other user (since the first admin account is free). TestTrack would be $295 plus a maintenance contract, and any other user would have only web access (whatever that means, since all Mac OS X users have to use a browser).

I'd tried TestTrack Pro several years ago (but didn't have a pressing need, so I didn't buy it). This time I gave FogBugz a try, and discovered that their web interface was more usable than others I'd tried. The browser interface actually had resizable columns, and the lists were highly configurable. FogBugz provided discussions forums (which I didn't have, but thought would be useful). I also liked how it handled e-mail bug reporting. So I took the plunge.

While it does indeed run on Mac OS X 10.3, setting up the infrastructure was a pain. I had to download and install MySQL. Then I had to figure out how to configure it — not at all obvious from Fog Creek's instructions. Then I needed to install some more software to speed up PHP.

FogBugz is still a little slow, and some of its assumptions (such as wanting all tasks to have estimates) annoy me. But basically it seems to be working pretty well. If you already know how to configure Apache and MySQL, it should be a no-brainer. 

Posted at 12:54 PM