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(11/15) Corrigenda, Dropping Notebooks, LDAP Angst permanent reference link
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Corrigendum: Fedora, a year later
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pixel In Fedora, a year later, I lamented the difficulty of changing from the "legacy" (University of Washington) IMAP to the Fedora Core 2 mail server implementation, based on the CMU Cyrus IMAP Server.
pixel A kind reader pointed out that FC2 includes two IMAP implementations and that the second, Dovecot, allows a much more graceful transition from the UW-IMAP found in FC1 and older Red Hat distributions. I've been using Dovecot in production on FC2 for several weeks and have no complaints.
pixel On the other hand, FC3 is now "final", so I've begun to explore what is different in FC3 vs. FC2. On a separate but possibly related note, Sun's announcement today of (nearly) free Solaris 10 for X86 reinspires me to look more at Solaris.
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Corrigendum: Windows XP Service Pack 2
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pixel In Windows XP Service Pack 2, I said "The problems I've noticed were there before SP2".
pixel That is no longer true. I have concluded that XP SP2 is very troublesome in domains where the servers are still running Windows NT4 Server. There seem to be two cases:
  1. SP2 is applied as an upgrade to an XP machine already integrated into the NT4 domain. That seems to work OK.
  2. A previously independent SP2 machine joins an NT4 domain. That seems to be fraught with problems. Some relate to the new Windows Security Center. Some relate to application install procedures leaving the applications only useable by members of the Administrators group. After weeks of frustration trying to resolve all the problems I found in trying to introduce a new SP2 machine into a production NT4 domain, I created a test environment to attempt more controlled experiments and resolution. I quickly concluded that this was a waste of time.
Don't drop your iBook!
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pixel In Mac OS X, I talked about traveling with my iBook as my primary notebook, bringing my ancient Dell Latitude along for software not available on the iBook.
pixel A couple of months ago, I was leaving on a two week trip with both notebooks. I removed both from my luggage to go through the security checkpoint, and managed to drop both of them! After clearing security, I determined:
  1. The iBook would not get past the initial boot screen. It was obviously not finding a boot device, so I presumed that the disk had not survived. At my destination, I determined that only a fool or an Apple trained technician would attempt to replace an iBook disk drive. When I got home, the local Apple Store charged a pretty penny (about one-third of the six months earlier iBook purchase price) to replace the drive. Fortunately, that was sufficient to make the iBook useable again.
  2. More fortunately, the Latitude seemed unharmed, so I had a useable notebook for the two week trip and the two weeks afterward waiting for the iBook to be repaired.
I'll also note that I've upgraded the Latitude's disk more than once -- if the respective machine roles had been reversed, I could have replaced the disk and revived the Latitude in days instead of weeks.
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LDAP Angst
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pixel In "and all those things" (Directories, volunteering, ...), I wrote that an ex-Dell colleague considered LDAP and Active Directory "fundamentally flawed" but that I felt compelled to work with them because they are the seeming dominant directory approaches today.
pixel All of the time and frustration I've spent with LDAP recently makes me remember both his words and mine. After much reading, trial, and error, I have OpenLDAP working on a production FC2 machine mostly the way I wanted.
  1. The biggest problem is that I have not been able to get TLS to work with self-signed certificates, coming to a conclusion, shared by others, that OpenLDAP will not work with self-signed certificates. My current workaround is to use SSH for encryption.
  2. More aggravating, but less important for now, is that I do not have things working with OS X -- I only have things working satisfactorily in Windows and Linux (FC2) environments. Things that work with ldapsearch in Linux fail when run identically in OS X.3. Things that work with Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express fail with Mac's mail client. I'm hoping these things will be better in "Tiger" (OS X.4).
pixel Since the NT4 end-of-life "witching hour" is just six weeks away, I'm assuming that for now I have an adequate understanding of LDAP to pursue Samba and other solutions to NT4 end-of-life. I intend to get back to the NT4 experiments I planned earlier in the year.
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(9/7) Static in the Ether permanent reference link
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"Lightning is striking again and again and again" - Lou Christie
"It's a jungle out there" - Randy Newman
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Lightning strikes thrice
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pixel I used to be so naive about lightning. Of course, a direct strike could be catastrophic. Ignoring that, I assumed the main vulnerability of electrical devices is surges on power lines -- if power wiring had enough surge protection, then things would be OK. About a decade ago I started thinking that phone lines needed surge protection, which they do. The last year has made me realize that just about any kind of wiring and device is vulnerable to static electricity damage from a nearby strike. This seems to be particularly true of Ethernet (10/100/...BaseT):
  1. In April last year a strike near our house disabled two ports of an inexpensive Ethernet hub. It was puzzling at first, particularly since out of couple of dozen ports cabled at the time to more expensive devices (computers and routers), there were other ports that I thought more susceptible to static buildup. (Those thoughts were based on cable length, location, etc.)
  2. In August last year a friend's SUV took a direct strike while parked in front of his single story office building. This was on flat land with tall trees and multi-story buildings next door and across the street. Go figure! About half a dozen seemingly random Ethernet ports, out of about three dozen in his building, were taken out.
  3. Then last month a new level of realization and respect "struck". A major bolt devastated a house somewhere near here, but not near enough that I've seen the direct damage. The indirect damage, at our home alone, was extensive, and seemingly random. In approximate reverse order of discovery:
    • The (electro-mechanical) timer for the pool pump stopped at the time of the strike, presumably because of the surge on the power line.
    • The thermostat for the smaller floor HVAC got scrambled enough to run the compressor constantly, even when the thermostat was turned off entirely.
    • The alarm system siren announced that a burglary was in progress, even though the alarm system proper seemed undamaged afterward. (A prior alarm system was much more susceptible to static damage, with the main system board twice succumbing to nearby strikes in the 1990s.)
    • The phone line was dead (on SBC's side of the "demarc"). (This was probably part of what upset the alarm system.) A phone and the surge protector for the alarm system phone line were also fried.
    • By far the most expensive damage was a Dell 2450 that I consider a total loss. (Four years ago, that machine cost about $17K.) I assume the damage was due to whatever came in the Ethernet port, since the power line was very well protected by a UPS and other devices with the same protection were unharmed.
    • Many Ethernet ports were damaged. Fortunately, except for the 2450, these were inexpensive to replace.
    Unfortunately, I have only a few learnings to avoid a repeat experience:
    • Put power and phone protection everywhere.
    • Leave anything unconnected that doesn't really need to be connected.
    • Use (inexpensive) extra Ethernet switches next to expensive devices, simply as protection. Much better to lose a $20 switch than an expensive computer.
    • Think of WiFi as a way to avoid static electricity damage.
Infections of the Computer Kind
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pixel For this time of year, it seems I know/know of lots more people with bacterial/viral infections than I would expect. But whenever I start talking about "viruses" people assume I'm talking about computers. That's understandable, given the prevalence of hostile, vicious software succeeding in infecting so many computers, especially home computers. Neurotic hygiene, fastidious enough to make Monk seem normal, is the order of the day.
pixel I keep seeing more and more computers so seriously infected that I see no choice but to retrieve whatever data can be retrieved, erase the disk, and re-install all the software. Computer manufacturers are making such "Full System Recovery" easier, but that is little consolation in the face of many hours of effort and the almost certain loss of some data.
pixel This is inevitably most noticeable with Windows-based machines, for a number of reasons, but is true for other platforms, as well. I'm discouraged that I have so little constructive to say on the subject:
  • Use a firewall.
  • Use antivirus software and be sure it is up to date.
  • Use "spyware" detection software and be sure it is up to date.
  • When software vendors issue security patches, apply them right away.
In the words of Roky Erickson, "you got to be careful".
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Fedora, a year later
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pixel Speaking of alternate platforms, I'm pondering my approach to Linux. I'm too busy/lazy to deal with anything but a prepackaged distribution. When Red Hat was "free" (as in money) and the most popular distribution, the answer seemed easy. Fedora Core 1 has seemed a natural progression from Red Hat 9. However:
  • Fedora Core 1 is about to go to "legacy" status, "end of life" as far as Red Hat is concerned.
  • Fedora Core 2 is not quite the graceful upgrade I had expected. In particular, the mail server implementation, newly based on the CMU Cyrus IMAP Server, seems hasty and rough to me.
I had tried to upgrade my main mail server from Fedora Core 1 to Fedora Core 2, but decided I wasn't prepared to go to Cyrus IMAP now. I reverted the server to Fedora Core 1 and am contemplating my options. At the moment, I am thinking I will install Fedora Core 2 on that machine again, but remove Cyrus IMAP and install "legacy" mail services from the Fedora Core 1 packages. So far, trying this on a guinea pig machine, this seems viable.
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Windows XP Service Pack 2
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pixel I don't know of a publication that has even noticed the Fedora transitions. On the other hand, there has been lots of coverage of XP SP2. Even the daily newspapers have had their say. And much of what has been said has been "static". I went to SP2 on my main Windows machine four weeks ago and not looked back:
  • SP2 seems like a step in the right direction.
  • SP2 is a smaller step than many of the publications would have you believe: The positive differences seem fairly hard to notice. The problems I've noticed were there before SP2.
"and all those things"
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pixel I can't say much about the things I was writing about last, partly because I have little new to say and partly because of non-disclosure responsibilities. I've delved much more deeply into Mac OS X. New clients and personal responsibilities have taken me in new directions. I'm still trying to balance my time between paid and pro bono activities. I always seem too busy for "self-funded research" yet optimistic that I will find time to get back to old and new ideas.
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(4/5) Keepin' on Keepin' on: OS X, Fighting Spam, XP Media Center, "and all those things" permanent reference link
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"Genghis Khan and his brother, Don, just could not keep from keepin' on" - Bob Dylan
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Mac OS X
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pixel I've continued pursuit of Mac literacy, mostly trying to see if I can be confident that the iBook is a complete replacement for my old Dell Latitude running Windows NT4/2K/XP. Mostly it is. I think I could make a stronger statement -- I can do anything I normally do with the Latitude on the iBook, with the major exception of purchased software (mostly from Microsoft and Adobe, but also things like TurboTax) that I do not plan to purchase in Mac versions. (Traveling locally, I do just fine with only the iBook. For out of town trips, carrying the iBook in my briefcase and the Latitude in my suitcase seems to work.)
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pixel In a number of cases, I've had to find OS X equivalents of what I normally use in Windows or Linux. The Unix (Mach) and X11 underpinnings of OS X make all the difference in making this feasible. A couple of examples:
  1. I use VNC extensively for managing computers remotely. Since the original Olivetti/AT&T VNC development, there have been quite a few semi-independent, not 100% compatible, offshoots. On Windows machines I usually use TightVNC for both viewer and server. "Tight" is supported on both Windows and Linux, but not OS X. OSXvnc seems to be a good server for OS X, but I've had little success with any of the Mac VNC clients I could find. With a little fetching of missing include files, I had no trouble building the Linux version of TightVNC to work with X11 on OS X. (The Linux version is missing one of my favorite features of the Windows TightVNC. The author of TightVNC pointed me at a patch that he had not tested that sort of provides the feature, but not well enough, so adding that feature better is on my "to do" list.)
  2. There doesn't seem to be any good "Wake on LAN" utility for OS X, something analogous to AMD's Magic Packet. Further, the ether-wake.c that I use with Linux has more Linux dependency than I wanted to resolve. However, there is a cross-platform Perl script, wakeonlan, that works fine on OS X.
Fighting Spam
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pixel As much as I tuned and tweaked my Procmail anti-spam stuff (Getting Away From SPAM?), I was still spending too much time checking the "Suspect" folder and finding hardly anything interesting there. Since I'd seen such positive reports about SpamAssassin and SpamAssassin was laying dormant on my Fedora-based mail server, I started using it, with essentially the default settings, and sending anything it marked as "[SPAM]" to /dev/null (the traditional *nix trash can).
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pixel There have been minor difficulties:
  1. As with any heuristic based Spam filter, there are false positives. I accept these as the way of the current world. Every night, while backup scripts have sendmail turned off, those scripts generate a list of From/Subject lines for each discarded message, for each user of the mail server, and send the list to the user. So it is relatively easy each morning to scan through that list, note anything important that was thrown away and request a resend.
  2. There are also false negatives, so the scripts have additonal rules for sending other messages to /dev/null.
In brief, the scripts now apply the "white lists", then SpamAssassin, then the additional rules. The substance of what I do is still visible at http://technologists.com/~procmail/.procmailrc and the referenced files visible as links in http://technologists.com/~procmail/.
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pixel Before SpamAssassin, I sent anything not classified to the Suspect folder. Now, so little bad stuff gets through, I let anything not classified come to my Inbox.
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Windows XP Media Center 2004
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pixel Before getting the iBook, I was thinking that the next computer purchase for myself would be a Centrino notebook. Since the iBook has worked out so well, and since it had been 5 years since I'd bought myself a new machine (desktop or notebook) for Windows, I started thinking about getting a better desktop instead of a Windows notebook. Saturday's Fry's ad had a seemingly unbelievable bargain on a Sony VAIO "Windows Media Center". Since much of my thinking about a new desktop was motivated by audio and video processing plans, the VAIO proved irresistable.
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pixel The system unit has more connectors than any other electronic device I own, excepting a 16 channel audio recording mixer. In other words, I've been challenged to connect it up reasonably, and I wonder how anyone without serious A/V experience would cope with it. I've been further challenged because I wanted the keyboard/mouse/display on my desk, about 12 feet away from all of the audio recording gear. Cabling things so that the computer stuff works well and the audio signals are clean was not easy, but by putting the system unit along the wall in between the desk and audio gear, I seem to have succeeded. (I carefully avoided "ground loops", a notorious source of 60 Hz hum, but still ended up with one ground loop due to the cable TV connection. A homemade isolation transformer made from back to back 300 Ohm to 75 Ohm transformers solved that.)
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pixel So far I am very pleased with the VAIO. I've barely scratched the surface of all of the bundled software, and haven't tried any of the video facilities, except for the TV tuner. I expect I'll use the VAIO to facilitate ongoing conversion of LPs and cassettes to MP3's and figure out the video stuff ad hoc.
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"and all those things" (Directories, volunteering, ...)
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pixel After what I wrote last month, a colleague/friend from when I worked at Dell wrote back with at least a couple of memorable points: (1) he wanted to know why I spent any time with LDAP and Active Directory when he considers them fundamentally flawed, and (2) he wanted me to write more about personal stuff, so here's a little bit in response.
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pixel I really don't know enough about LDAP and Active Directory yet to know whether I think they are fundamentally flawed or not. What I do know is that they seem to be the dominant approaches to directories at present, and that the people I want to help are using LDAP and Active Directory more and more. And as organizations feel forced to migrate away from NT4 Server, the emphasis on LDAP and Active Directory will be that much stronger. So even though I think of LDAP as anything but "light weight" and Active Directory as inevitably more complex, I see no choice but to understand and work in that context.
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pixel When I worked at "traditional" jobs at IBM/Dell/VTEL and software startups, my wife said I worked "half-time" -- 12 hours a day. Now she says I'm a "full-time volunteer". By her previous standard, I think a more accurate characterization would be "quarter-time volunteer", but that is just playing with words. (I also spend time on paid consulting and "self-funded research".)
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pixel The important thing is that I am finding many opportunities for helping my church, with everything from removing spyware and virus infections, to re-purposing unused computers for backup servers and disaster recovery, to using telecom cost reduction experience from my last startup to cut the monthly phone bill in half and the monthly Internet bill by two-thirds. I'm also trying to help Texas Reach Out Ministries. Texas Reach Out is "providing Christian transitional services for former inmates". Amongst the services are housing and computer access, so I help them both with their office computing and with the computers for the former inmate residences.
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pixel I think that's enough for today.

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(3/1) Mac Literacy, Printing Challenges, Directories! permanent reference link
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Mac Literacy
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pixel The last few weeks I've given myself a crash course in Mac literacy -- I now feel pretty accomplished/confident, especially with OS X. I gave up, at least for now, on getting one of the "museum" Macs to work. Instead I got a 900MHz G3 iBook, then added memory and an Airport (WiFi) card. {Aside -- I thought I was going to order through the "Special deals" section of http://store.apple.com, but found I could get a "more special" deal by calling 1-800-MY-APPLE. Apple seems to almost have sales channel conflict between their own web and phone channels. I wonder whether things are different/similar in other countries. Different confusion seemed to reign with regard to customer/technical support -- the web site seems to encourage calling for help, but the on-hold chatter on the phone lines encourages going to the web.}
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pixel One of my worries with starting with OS X was that I would lean on the Unix underpinnings of OS X and not really become Mac literate. But I had the discipline to pretend Unix wasn't there until a couple of nights ago, when I felt sufficiently accomplished/literate to not taint myself.
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pixel I fear that people will see me carrying my iBook and think of me as a Mac chauvinist. In the past, things like that have given people the perception that I am a Unix chauvinist or a Windows chauvinist, whatever. I think of myself as pragmatic. Just as I jump freely between Unix (really now, Linux) and Windows environments, I'll start mixing in the iBook. To the extent I can be platform neutral, I can choose the right tool for the task at hand for things I'm doing myself and can help others regardless of their choices of platforms.
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Printing Challenges
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pixel If the task at hand is networked printing, OS X isn't even as good as recent Linux distributions. That's a pretty harsh assessment given my past dissing of Linux printing support. (Linux printing support seems noticably better to me recently, at least in what I find built-in to Fedora.) I'm not alone in this perspective -- a couple of friends who are long time Mac users/experts have recently been challenged by setting up new printers with their Macs. I should temper this assessment by pointing out that this is based on a very small sample (my/my friends' experiences) out of a huge population of printers, networks, and protocols.
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pixel With the iBook, I had no trouble with direct USB connection of my newest Canon ink-jet nor my Samsung laser. They work fine with direct USB connection, but I have no desire to have them USB connected to the iBook. The Canon is normally connected to a Windows machine, and the Samsung is normally networked via a Hawking print server that supports both LPR and IPP. My Windows and Linux machines seem to work fine with both of those. But not the iBook. I have yet to make it work with either of those. However, I do have it printing, using Windows protocols!, to an older Canon connected to a different Windows machine.
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pixel Fortunately, I don't do much printing. One of the nice features of OS X is that the print dialogs have a pervasive "Save As PDF..." button. So if I need to print something on the nicer Canon or the Samsung, at least there is the option of hitting that PDF button, saving to a Windows or Linux machine and printing the PDF from that machine. Did someone say "easy to use"?
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Directories!
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pixel Another issue the iBook raises is that now I have yet another e-mail client on yet another platform. I'm stalling on bringing my address books into the iBook, hoping that I will finally follow through on my LDAP plans. So I'll sign off here now so that I will sooner get back to pursuing LDAP/Active Directory/NT4 End of Life.
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(2/2) Viral Spam, Macs, Mirroring, mod_auth++ permanent reference link
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Viral Spam
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pixel In my December overview/details of my simplistic approach to spam filtering, I mentioned that virus management and spam filtering should be coordinated, and that I mainly depend on renattach to neutralize potentially viral e-mail attachments. This past week of MyDoom dominating e-mail systems, and the attention of many people, from end users to administrators to reporters, re-inforced this point in a way I never could have.
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pixel One of my clients kept calling me thinking that his computer was infected. I kept checking the computer and finding that his antivirus software was doing what it was supposed to and keeping him uninfected. I had to keep saying that he was "inundated but not infected". I tried to think of a good way to get my simplistic spam filtering to deal with MyDoom. At first I was stumped, but then realized there was an almost trivial solution:
  1. Make renattach treat ZIP files as "bad" even though they are often "good" attachments, since MyDoom was using ZIP files as a part of its bread and butter, and
  2. Shuffle any files renattach considered "bad" to a separate folder. So far, everything that has shown up in my instance of that folder has been a MyDoom carrier.
The only real trick, the common theme of almost all spam filtering, is to recognize the false positives. Some of the files renattach marks as "bad" are valuable. The recovery is for a human to recognize that the file is valuable and to use "Save As" appropriately, e.g., to save CLSERVER_ZIP.xxx as CLSERVER.ZIP.
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pixel I must admit that I am discussing this from a platform neutral or even Windows friendly perspective. (In the interests of full disclosure: I have direct or indirect financial interest in Dell, HPQ, Intel, and Microsoft.) There are Linux and Mac advocates that will simply say the solution to these problems is to not use Microsoft software. For example, Walt Mossberg's October 23, 2003 column in the Wall Street Journal was If You're Getting Tired Of Fighting Viruses, Consider a New Mac. Friday, a Mac advocate seemingly seriously tried to convince me that "Microsoft Office is a worse virus than MyDoom". I disagree.
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Macs
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pixel With lots of help from three different Mac experts, plus my own investigation, I've made little progress in bringing the Mac II to life. I've tried OS 6.x tools/install diskettes, OS 7.x tools/install diskettes, an OS 7.1 hard disk pulled from a once functional Performa that lost its video circuitry, and an OS 7.5.0 install CD. (Supposedly, Mac IIs were supported up through OS 7.5.5.) At this point, I'm believing that there was more wrong with the Mac II than the missing hard drive. It may be that resumption of my Mac self-education will have to wait on me acquiring more modern hardware, such as the PowerBook I keep thinking I want.
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Mirroring
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pixel My mirroring explorations have progressed far enough that I feel very confident of being able to rapidly recover loss of any component or my entire production Fedora machine. Not perfect, but good enough. Besides my ad hoc procedures, I've started exploring/testing the software RAID capabilities built-in to most Linux distributions. I'll probably start using those in place of some of my own procedures once I get more comfortable with them. But for now, I think other projects are more important.
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mod_auth++
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pixel There were two main problems in the mod_auth++ Beta 0 level release:
  • My use of the mod_auth_any project's approach to avoiding the problem of Logging out When Using .htaccess Authentication was incomplete -- I needed to add a <meta> tag to maasuccess.html and macsuccess.html to redirect to the pages I used before I was aware of their approach, approve.html and confirm.html, respectively.
  • There seemed to be a file pointer not being kept accurately in mod_auth.c, resulting in scrambled password files. I'm not certain about this. It may be that there is no problem or it may be that I don't have adequate test cases yet and there is still a problem.
These are now addressed, and I've added release notes and more explanatory text to the mod_auth++ page.
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(1/28) XP, Macs, Mirroring, Museum, mod_auth++ permanent reference link
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pixel I've been working on lots of small projects. Some I won't describe here since they were for paid or pro bono clients. The rest of the story:
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Windows XP
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pixel Not all that long ago, I wrote about Windows XP: "I've tried it numerous times on different machines and just don't like it". A couple of months later, I had to write Making Peace With Windows XP when I discovered I needed XP to reasonably use WPA. A week or so ago, I felt compelled to change the Windows 2000 partition of my favorite machine to XP so that I could take full advantage of the DVD burner I'd acquired. In particular, I wanted to try Windows Movie Maker.
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pixel So now I am further compelled to admit that I'm beginning to like XP better than 2000. As long as XP is configured for the "classic" start menu, and I customize the explorer defaults more or less the way I've been doing since Windows 95, I have no serious complaints. And I'm starting to take advantage of XP features such as "Switch User".
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Macs
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pixel Since I got serious about working with computers in 1971, I have worked with many different types and brands. In the 70s it was mostly CDC 6600s and related models, IBM 360s/370s and a little bit with Digital minis. In the 80s it was mostly what were then called "engineering workstations" running some flavor of Unix. Since then it has been PCs running Unix, Windows, and Linux.
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pixel I've always felt remiss in not having more experience/expertise regarding Macs. I bought my daughter a Performa in 1993 with the intention that I begin teaching myself about Macs when she was not using it. Several years later, the video circuitry stopped working, she was going to a school that used Windows machines, so the Performa went into the attic and I got her a Dell Optiplex. (I'm partial to Dell and especially the Optiplex line.)
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pixel My sister, an M.D., has always been a Mac user, partly because of medically oriented software and partly because I told her she would probably find the Mac easier to use. (Aside -- at her clinic she now has to use a Windows ME machine. My personal opinion is that Microsoft should have ended the Windows 9x family with Windows 98SE. Everything I know about ME makes me wish my sister wasn't stuck with it.) Anyway, she and her daughter have been wanting to make their OS 9.2 iMac a vehicle for recordings of my niece's singing and guitar playing. With lots of advice from Mac expert friends, I've got them going with recordings and sending me the AIFF files. (Hopefully, they will soon switch to sending me MP3s.) In the process, I figured out how to remotely manage her router, a brand previously unknown to me, with a confusing user interface, and set things up so that I could remotely control things with VNC when they need help. (Unfortunately, it appears that none of the modern enhanced performance VNC versions are available for pre-OS X Macs, so VNC access is painfully slow, even though access to her router is quite responsive.)
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pixel Last year, a good friend with long experience in Mac usage and advocacy offered me an original Mac II that was intact except for no hard drive. In principle, it would be possible to pull the Performa drive, put it in the Mac II and be up and running. A couple weeks ago I was in the attic looking for the video camera that came with my original Intel ProShare videoconferencing system. I also found a couple of half-height 5.25" SCSI drives that I thought were functional, just large in size and small in capacity: 330MB. I also saw the Performa and thought that I could remove its disk without tools, which I did. Unfortunately OS 7.1(?) on the Performa disk doesn't like the Mac II and asks to be reinstalled. I've purchased an OS 7.5.0 retail CD on ebay and hope I can use that to at least get the Mac II operational and maybe recover the sofware/data from the Performa drive. We'll see when the CD arrives. I have several other strategies for proceeding if that one doesn't work.
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pixel You might ask "Why not just start with OS X?". Two answers: First, if I start with OS X, I'd probably not resist treating it more like a Unix machine than a Mac. So I really wouldn't learn the Mac environment that is forced upon me by OS 7 and OS 9. Second, I don't want to buy a modern Mac at this time. (Sooner or later, I expect I'll get a PowerBook G4 of some kind.)
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Mirroring
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pixel If you read Disks STILL Fail (Sometimes Catastrophically), you would expect that I've been incrementally working on ad hoc mirroring strategies for that machine. Right now, that machine has three disks: a small one that I think of as the operating system disk, a larger one that I think of as the "content" disk and a mirror for the content disk. Though not perfect, this works fairly well with ad hoc mirroring procedures. The content disks have RCS controlled copies of all of the operating system configuration/customization files, so if any of the three disks fails, I should be able to recover very quickly. On the other hand, I'd like to have a mirror disk for the smaller operating system disk. I even have the drive in hand, but no more free disk bays in the cabinet. However, there is a bay that is occupied by a rarely-used IDE CD-ROM.
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pixel Because of the Mac activities, and even more because of wanting to replace the IDE CD-ROM with a mirror system disk, I wanted a reliable external SCSI CD drive. I had an external 2X (!) Toshiba, but the drive had failed. I had an internal 3X NEC in my Dell 450 DE/2 DGX museum machine, but that drive is not reliable and obviously not fast. I found a fresh-in-the-box HP CD-RW 9200i at a good price on ebay, put it in the Toshiba's cabinet, so now I have a good external SCSI CD-RW drive. (It may never get used to burn CDs, but I have four other drives that will burn CDs, so I don't care one way or the other about that.)
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pixel So now the missing pieces are (i) a SCSI controller for the Fedora machine, which should arrive soon and (ii) better software approaches. When I get the mirroring more to my liking, I expect I'll write more about it then. Just as a teaser, I'll say that part of what I've already done is targeted at mirroring the content drives across all three of my Fedora-cabable machines.
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Museum
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pixel With all of the above, especially with the Mac II sitting next to the 450 DGX, it was hard to avoid playing with the DGX, so I've been spending more time with Dell Unix 2.2, NT4 Workstation and Red Hat 5.2. I'm pleased with the things I've rediscovered. I just wish I could safely make these museum machines accessible over the Internet. I probably would have tried to install NEXTSTEP, but (a) I couldn't find the install CDs I thought I had and (b) I could not find anything reasonably priced on ebay. (Anyone who has unused NEXTSTEP X86 they do not want, please contact me.)
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pixel Also, while in the museum mode, I tried to fire up the TRS-80 Model 100 that my pastor wanted to place in a good home vs. trying to sell it for $25 on ebay. I've spent enough time with it to be convinced that the Ni-Cd battery soldered to the system board will no longer hold a charge for more than about 15 seconds. I've tracked down and ordered a replacement, so I hope to get this machine dialing up at 300 baud some day soon. (I have a 2400 baud modem for the Mac II. Whee! I remember being excited when I got my first 2400 baud modem!)
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mod_auth++
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pixel There have been a number of things I've wanted to work on in mod_auth++:
  1. I found enough bugs in my code that I regretted calling it "beta". I hope those bugs will be fixed by the time you read this, and I will claim a minor new milestone, call it "beta-1".
  2. I needed a better explanation for myself and others of the usefulness of "Confirm" mode. I think I have that now. I want to get more end-user experience with this before I try to say more.
  3. I need to figure out how to make the use of authorization and authentication less confusing/intimidating to the casual user. That is an open ended effort in itself, but I am slowly making progress.

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