August 06, 2013

Google Hangouts Blows

I installed Android 4.3 on a Nexus 7 tablet recently and Google Talk was replaced by the horrible, awful Google Hangouts. Suddenly, my chat client sucks at IM!
- it doesn't show status... you can't see who's online!
- it breaks interoperability with non-Google IM standards, most notably Jabber/XMPP, so basically all those people who you could IM with before because their clients followed standards? Not available anymore.

Google product forum
Reverting to Talk (requires rooting your device)

WTF, Google? W.T.F.


Posted by JAY at 09:02 PM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2009

Cheapest HDTV Ever

I lucked out a bit with some impulse purchases from Dell. The most recent is their new 23" monitor, the ST2310, which has full 1080p resolution and an HDMI input for just $200 (80 bucks off). What makes it great for HDTV is that it also has an audio output. So the HDMI input can supply audio to the optional Soundbar ($36).

Since I also purchased a very discounted Logitech speaker set that has an auxiliary input, I can plug the monitor directly into that and get good sound from those speakers while still getting computer sound. The picture quality is great (I've only tried 720p and 1080i) for TV. For computer, though, it's not as good as my S-IPS panel 2209WA which has the most even backlighting and color that I've ever had ($220 on sale, vertical screen rotation, but no HDMI and not full HD resolution).

The bad:
The only bad thing about using this as a TV is that it doesn't have some of the features that a dedicated TV set might. The one thing that I'd like is the ability to 'zoom' standard definition letterbox broadcasting to fit the wide screen. Still, it's still a bigger picture than my old SD LCD 19" set.

I also use this monitor as a secondary computer monitor. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a dedicated button that can cycle through the inputs - it takes a couple button presses (and the buttons are inconveniently located on the side) to switch inputs. And when switching from HDMI to DVI, the colors get a bit scrambled, requiring a power cycle. This wouldn't bother anyone who wasn't switching inputs constantly.

The front bezel is glossy black, which I don't particularly care for. It's nicer looking than flat black plastic, but I prefer the flat black plastic as it's less distracting with no reflections.

Posted by JAY at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

September 07, 2009

Who's awesome?

I'm awesome!

Haha, not really, but to my neighbors' amazement I managed to fix their Maytag Neptune clothes dryer computer. Mostly, it was a matter of following error codes and technical manuals. But it was complicated at first because they told me the code was "E5". When I went to take a look, I saw that it was "t5" (the LED was displaying an E with the top bar missing). However, when I was searching through the manual, it was actually "tS".

Anyway, I'm not actually sure which of my fiddles fixed it, but one or more of them did. And my neighbors were suitably impressed.

Posted by JAY at 07:10 PM | Comments (0)

July 09, 2009

Dyson: Thoughtful design

A good vacuum has always been on my list of things that I wanted. In fact, it's been a bit like my iPod, where I've bought cheap versions that didn't work or broke before springing for the real thing. As they broke, I'd go back to the reliable metal Viking canister than Dom gave me - it was one of his wedding presents in the seventies! (or was it earlier, Dom?) It's been with me since the apartment and it's built like a tank!

But a Dyson costs over $600 and spending that on a vacuum cleaner just didn't seem like a fun way to spend money. However, their website sells refurbs for about half price - THAT is a lot more reasonable. I haven't tried any premium vacuums that cost over a thousand bucks.

Anyway, my preliminary vacuuming with the Dyson has been very encouraging. It's pulled up a fair amount of dust and left the carpet looking a lot newer. There are a lot of little thoughtful design quirks about the vacuum, besides the usual 'no-loss-of-suction' hype.

For instance, the crevice attachment has a hole in the side, so that you can actually get under small spaces more effectively. The upholstery attachment has 2 strips of... how to explain this... you know the red lint removers that pick up lint when rubbed one way and release it when rubbed the other? The upholstery has strips of that fabric on either side of the suction slot - facing opposite directions! So one strip picks stuff up and the other releases as you go back and forth with the attachment.

Anyway, we'll see how long it lasts (refurbs come with a 2 year warranty) but so far I'm very impressed.

Posted by JAY at 07:38 PM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2008

Financial Software: Wesabe

I've been using an ancient copy of Microsoft Money for YEARS. However, because of financial file format changes, it's no longer importing my bank transactions properly. I've investigated new versions of MS Money and Intuit's Quicken and was peeved to find out that a) they require you to enter your bank credentials into the software and b) they only work for 2 or 3 years before 'planned obsolescence' - ie. they stop importing your transactions just because your 'subscription' is up, and they don't allow you to enter your own transactions/files! What crap! Also, their interfaces are surprisingly convoluted.

I also investigated mint.com, but that's only available for American banks. Enter Wesabe.

Wesabe is a very bare-bones web based financial tracker. It can handle your credit card, chequing and savings accounts, tag your transactions into categories and set monthly spending goals. That's exactly what I need. However, I have some other criteria from financial software that it isn't often addressed by online reviews.

Pros:
ANONYMITY! I'm not about to trust any website or program with my bank credentials. While Wesabe can retrieve your banking transactions should you trust it with your bank credentials, it will also allow you to upload your own transaction files (downloaded from the bank's website). You don't have to give them your name, either. Theoretically, they could grab the account number from the transaction file if you don't clear it out, but without any identifying info, that's pretty low risk.

NO LOCK IN - Wesabe will cheerfully dump all data into a file format of your choice. So you can periodically back up your own data (in case Wesabe goes belly up) for your own records.

SIMPLICITY - While it's graphing and charting abilities are limited, the features that it does have are very simple to use and work well. Managing categories/tags is especially well done, with Gmail-like auto-complete and auto-tagging features.

Cons:
Online documentation: Maybe it's because everything is so simple, but there's no searchable 'help file' equivalent. Using some features like spending goals and customizing charts are simple, but not necessarily apparent if you don't know where to look. That being said, I haven't tried their support options, preferring to Google the site for answers.

Charts and Reports: Unfortunately, the ability to create custom reports and charts is pretty limited. They do provide APIs to access Wesabe data through XML, but frankly, I'm not willing to do that much work. Monthly status reports etc. on the front page would be nice.

Sustainability: Wesabe is currently venture capital funded. As with all things, it's pretty much buyer-beware. The ability to export everything on a regular basis kind of minimizes this though. Confidential to GOOG: buy this company! ;-)

Posted by JAY at 05:14 PM | Comments (0)

May 31, 2008

Wii Fit

Tried Sean's Wii Fit. It's pretty neat! After setting up your user with your age and height, it measures your weight and does a quick set of balance tests. Then, it calculates your BMI and your "Wii Fit Age".

Me: 26 (woo! real age 30)
Sean: 46 (ha! real age 35)

Anyway, the balance board seems really responsive, and the games that come with the Wii fit are pretty challenging and fun. The ski jump and soccer ball games are a lot of fun, while the yoga poses and the strength training is darned hard!

Hilariously, your Mii (the avatar that represents you) gets fat or skinny depending on your BMI. Then they run around with various speeds depending on how fat they are. My Mii was a bit pudgy - Sean's even more so!

Posted by JAY at 09:59 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2008

New Computer

I couldn't resist this deal.

Intel® Core™2 Q6600 Quad-Core (8MB L2 cache,2.4GHz,1066FSB)
Genuine Windows® XP Home Edition, English
2GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz- 2DIMMs
250GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) w/DataBurst Cache
Dell link

$500 after coupon code C85K5P3K569JVS, with free shipping.

My current computer is more than 5 years old, so this will be quite an improvement. This computer can also take HDD expansion, has two free DIMM slots for more memory and a graphics card slot. It comes with Windows XP - I'm a bit concerned that I won't be able to get this kind of computer without MS Vista pre-installed soon.

Edit: from Sean... here's what the processor costs locally at Canada Computers
$250! That's like $250 for the rest of the computer!

Let's see:
$250 CPU
$30 DVD-R drive
$60 Motherboard (?)
$60 Memory
$60 HDD
$40 Case + PSU
$100 WinXP Home OEM
------------------------
$600

Posted by JAY at 12:56 AM | Comments (0)

November 06, 2007

Blog Spam

Hee, I moderate comments to avoid spam. This one, though, was pretty funny!

"Please, do not delete the given message. Money obtained from spam will go to the help hungry to children Uganda!
"

Posted by JAY at 07:07 AM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2007

Dell Microwave


Dell had this Magnasonic 1000W stainless steel microwave on sale for $70 with shipping included! My old microwave was kinda small, old and white - so it didn't match with my other appliances and it was leaving cold spots in my food. This one is nice and fast - pretty awesome, for the price.

Posted by JAY at 07:09 PM | Comments (2)

October 10, 2007

FoxFire Essential Plugin: NoScript

I took my time evaluating NoScript on my work machine, but now, along with Flashblock (review) and Adblock, it has become essential on my home machine.

NoScript requires you to whitelist any scripts that you want to run (at least the first time), either just for the session or permanently. It's useful because it blocks crappy ads that, for example,
(A) highlight keyword content in the article you're reading with stupid pop-up text/links
(B) load stupid interstitial ad pages after a certain period of time or mouse over
(C) float ads over content
(D) prevents cross-site scripting vulnerabilities in popular webmail clients like gmail and HotMail (slashdot)

There are some articles out there that don't recommend NoScript. But they're all funded by script based advertising, so I don't consider them objective (other than testing it for longer than normal on my non-primary computer). Personal reviews that I've read are much more positive.

Posted by JAY at 08:00 PM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2007

ADO.NET sucks!

God, I hate ADO.NET. It has to be Microsoft's least intuitive database interface ever.

Everything's in a collection, so you have to index everything. You need a TON of objects to accomplish the most basic of tasks. Prior to ADO.NET, you just needed a connection, command and recordset. Now, you need a connection, data adapter, dataset, command builders, and more.

Datasets contains a collection of recordsets, helpfully called "Tables", which contain collections of rows and coumns. All of that means that to navigate a recordset, you have to navigate the indexes like Dataset.Table(0).Columns(2).Name. Instead of Recordset.MoveNext you have to increment the indexes or use the "For Each x In Collection" syntax (or I guess you could use incrementers like array indexes).

After writing changes to a 'recordset' (dataset.table(x)), instead of just Recordset.Commit, you have to use the CommandBuilder object to generate the command to update the database. The intuitive syntax for this?

Dim myCB as New SqlCommandBuilder(myDataAdapter)

Now, you wouldn't think that just creating a new command builder would alter the data adapter significantly, but it does. Then you can run:

myDataAdapter.Update(myDataSet)

Argh. (Yes, I realize that this entry will sound like crazy talk to non-programmers and probably baby talk to experienced .NET programmers)

Posted by JAY at 07:40 PM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2007

Superclock

I bought this Honeywell PCR325W Weather Projection Clock as a promotion from Dell ($45/free shipping). It's actually pretty awesome!

It can set date and time automatically from radio signals.
It can measure temperature indoors and remotely outdoors with the included sensor.
It has a barometer indicating air pressure trends and predicts the weather.

The projector projects the time and outside temperature on the ceiling. The projection is not offensively bright, but very crisp. The characters on the ceiling are about a hand high. Sadly, this isn't quite large enough for me to see without my glasses on. Argh. Stupid eyes.

Also, it has a gradually increasing alarm, which is nice - my current alarm is so loud that it really jolts me awake unless I remember to cover it with a book. It also has an option to alarm early if the temperature is below a set value.

All in all, pretty neat!

Posted by JAY at 09:12 PM | Comments (0)

December 01, 2006

Wii!

Sean got a Nintendo Wii last week and we played for a couple of hours. He has a large home theatre setup and it was SO much fun. We were just playing the Sports game that was included with the console. The graphics weren't amazing but the gameplay, assisted by the motion sensing controllers, was so fun that it didn't matter.

We played boxing (I won!), bowling (I won!), baseball (I sucked!) and tennis (heh, I won the last game! :P). Hee, excuse my bragging, but Sean loves to shit talk while playing, so it's hard to resist! The motion controllers were so intuitive to use, even navigating the interfaces was much easier and mouse-like. The controller would vibrate slightly when you pointed it at a button - a very nice tactile addition to the point-and-click interface (which was already miles ahead of the X/O/Triangle/Square).

And it WAS a bit of a workout - my arm was a bit sore by the end of it. Tennis (doubles) was my favorite - you control 2 players and swing the remote as you would a racquet. It would be even better with 4 people - you'd basically have 2 teams and each control one player. Bowling and boxing were a lot of fun. Baseball was sorta blah - all you did was pitch and hit.

Conclusion: I'm very tempted to get one for myself! I think I'm spoiled now, though. I'm used to playing and pointing at a huge projection wall. Also, Jackie likes to play the sports game with Sean (she beats him too... HA!) and she's not a typical gamer. This speaks well of the Wii's wider appeal to non-gamers.

Posted by JAY at 06:25 PM | Comments (2)

October 06, 2006

LCD TV


This no-name LCD was really really cheap at the Walmart anniversary sale - only $320! It's a 20" screen and has component, composite and coax inputs. I bought it thinking that I could return it if it wasn't any good. But now that I've hooked it up, I really like it! So there went the budget for September...

Posted by JAY at 01:48 AM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2006

Ipod Protector

Found this article about iPod skins (kind of like PDA protectors). Apparently, this one is stronger...

So I ordered it from here. Free shipping (though I'm sure it's included in the price). They've got some cool vids trying scratch an iPod protected (and not protected - blasphemy!) with the skin on it. I like.

Posted by JAY at 12:43 PM | Comments (0)

June 30, 2006

Nanoo Nanoo!


TD Bank is having a promo where you can get a free iPod Nano. I learned about it at Red Flag Deals, my favorite deals site. The trick is to sign up for a TD Visa Gold and get the fees waived by opening a Select Service account. Of course, to do that without fees, you have to put $5000 in the account. There have been reports of some branches waiving the fees on the account for 3 months - but not mine. Couldn't hurt to ask, though!

The new iPod is SO nice - it's tiny, has a very clear, bright color LCD which can display photos and a customizable interface. VERY cool. In the background, you can see my old school 2nd gen iPod - I think they're on 5th gen by now!

Posted by JAY at 09:11 PM | Comments (4)

March 21, 2006

Wireless Houseguests

So we've had houseguests for a few days. Uncle Chan-Q, Uncle Sing and David are here seeing about some stuff before they visit China. Houseguests can be a trial (I'll have to recount the story of Aunt C and her Demon Childe from Hell one day) but these guys are really considerate and nice.

So nice, in fact, that David waited for me to get back home to install Chinese fonts on the parents' computers instead of just doing it himself without asking (the parents have admin access to their computer). Now there's tact I can appreciate! He bought a whack of toys today to take to China, including a PSP and a good consumer-grade Canon digital camera. He brought over an Acer Turion laptop (the "ferrari red" model) which is overpriced but nice looking.

I was so impressed that I set up a wireless router for him to use his laptop with. I wasn't sure how much work it would be since it only cost $5... $65 with a $60 rebate. It's a Gigafast WF719-CAPR. I'm only using it as a wireless bridge to my network, so it's not routing Internet or doing DHCP. It seems to work well and now I'm writing this entry from the comfort of my bedroom as well. (Bleah, my desk downstairs is more comfortable.)

Posted by JAY at 10:58 PM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2005

Categorically Speaking

Worked a bit on the templates that create this website.

Noteably, I added a Category menu to the sidebar menu which can be used to view restaurant reviews, or get some context in my long search for housing. Some work is needed, perhaps, on the archive template, a table of contents at the beginning would be nice!

Also, the New Year's Resolutions have been taken down. They were sad and pathetic (and not met due to life interference...)

Posted by JAY at 11:04 PM | Comments (0)

Upgrading Moveable Type

Ok, the spammers have been relentless lately.

So I belately upgraded to MT 3.2 to get rid of them, following Sean's lead. Everything seems to be running smoothly.

Posted by JAY at 03:54 PM | Comments (0)

December 07, 2005

FIrefox 101: Block Flash Elegantly

I'm not terribly against Flash ads and banner ads. However, Flash ads on one of my frequently visited pages (tv listings, and they're not getting a link because they're being inept) was freezing Firefox. I don't know who's fault it is, the Macromedia plugin, Firefox or the content creators... but yeesh.

Enter Flashblock. Knowing that sometimes you DO want to view the Flash content, it simply replaces flash content with a button that you can push if you want to view the animation. It works beautifully.

Posted by JAY at 09:23 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2005

Teflon in Sticky Situation

I kind of want a non-stick frying pan. But in all the news lately, they're going on and on about how perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical used in manufacturing Teflon, is a likely carcinogen. I'm having trouble finding any reliable resources to confirm the safety/danger of using non-stick cookware.

I can't seem to find any really unbiased studies either way. Dupont, the manufacturer, claims that there is no PFOA left in the product after it's finished. They further claim that PFOA doesn't cause cancer. Surrre.

Mind you, the opposing information comes from individuals and groups like treehuggers.com. Okaaay, yeah. The hyper-environmentalists always have their conpiracies and agendas as well.

It seems pretty clear from the consensus that PFOA is a likely carcinogen. But there is NO clear consensus on whether items manufactured with PFOA contain or can release PFOA at a later date.

The American EPA is still studying the matter, with its results due sometime next month. So I guess I'll wait for those.

Posted by JAY at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)

May 31, 2005

Grease the Monkey

Greasemonkey is an awesome plug-in for Firefox (the Internet browser that I migrated to). It allows you to write website specific scripts that can alter the pages displayed on your browser!

How is this useful?

For example, I use GMail, Google's webmail service. Since Google provides a lot of storage space with an emphasis on searching, they encourage you to archive old messages instead of deleting them. So they give you an Archive button but the Delete Forever functionality is in a drop down box.

This is fine, except for stuff that you really don't want to archive at all - like list conversations or very large emails with attachments. Using Greasemonkey and the Smart Delete Button script, Firefox adds a Delete button right beside the Archive button.

The button works seamlessly with the interface - it's disabled if there are no messages selected and functions with multiple selections. It saves a ton of time.

Posted by JAY at 01:59 PM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2005

"New" Vid Card

Got a "new" video card from Trev. It's about a generation newer than my ATI Radeon All-in-Wonder... it's a GeForce 3. That's an important generation, though, because my old card didn't have hardware transform and lighting, which is pretty much required for games now.

It was giving some driver probs, but seems to be good after I rooted out all the Asus nVidia drivers and replaced them with the MS reference drivers.

Thanks Trev!

Posted by JAY at 12:10 AM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2004

Skype - free VOIP

Installed and tested Skype, a VOIP client for computer to computer calling. Tested it with my sister in Alliston and it worked really really well. Alliston is long-distance from here, and she doesn't have a phone anyway.

VOIP is free for computer to computer calls, and costs $3c/min for computer to telephone calls. I actually preferred it to talking on the phone - my headset is better than any handsfree/cheap phone headset. Pretty awesome. My sister was on a cheap headset and only has a 56k connection, but the sound quality was really good and there was no lag.

If anyone I know out there wants to try it out, leave a comment and I'll email you my username.

Posted by JAY at 09:48 PM | Comments (0)

August 01, 2004

DynDNS

Set up a dynamic dns client on my linux server (the Magnia) today.

It was a relatively painless process. The client is a simple perl script and it seems to be working fine.

Posted by JAY at 04:13 PM

July 08, 2004

WebBrowser: Firefox

Migrated to Firefox yesterday.

So far, I like it a lot. It's slightly slower to load than IE, but has some nice functionality like tabbed browsing (which I used to use Opera for) and blocking popups.

However, it's killer feature for me is its ability to resize all text, especially CSS'd text, which is used extensively on MoveableType pages. IE ignores that totally. I run at 1600x1200 and sit pretty far back from the monitor. When websites use tiny text, I need it displayed larger so that I don't have to lean forward.

For some reason (ActiveX scripting?) some of my MoveableType editing features don't show up in Firefox, so I'll continue to use IE for entries.

Posted by JAY at 10:09 PM | Comments (1)

July 06, 2004

GMail

Sean has managed to procure a GMail account for me!

I'm so happy to be in on this beta (thanks Sean!), and plan on using it exclusively when I change ISPs. Hopefully, it'll be as robust and reliable as Google and GoogleGroups, the other tools that I use.

Preliminary looks show 2 immediate differences - the use of labels rather than folders being the most interesting. You can assign multiple user-defined labels to an email and view all messages with that label by clicking it in the sidebar. This seems to be more functional than folders - it's like being able to put mail in multiple folders.

The second difference is that there is a "thread"/conversation view as the default. Like newsgroups, where articles are grouped by thread, replies are stored in a tree-like view from the root email. Outlook has something like this (Click here to see related messages option), but it's not as convenient.

Posted by JAY at 10:25 PM

May 25, 2004

Prezzies!


There was a present waiting for me when I got to work today - a 17 inch LCD monitor! Awesome! The only problem is that I use DualHead, and I wasn't sent two LCDs. Heh, and not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but it had an always on blue pixel in the upper left quad. But with a resolution of 1280x1024, it's cool... Now I have to decide whether to keep the second old monitor that you see to the right.

Posted by JAY at 07:24 PM

January 19, 2004

Technical Update

Well, Rogers seems to have worked out the problems I was having accessing the site over Rogers@Home cable - though Akemi says that she's still having some... so I guess we'll see what happens.

It may be premature, but ... Thanks, Rogers tech people!

Posted by JAY at 10:29 PM | Comments (1)

January 16, 2004

Experiencing Technical Difficulties

You're probably fine, but I can't access my own site from my own ISP! And no one I know in my town on Rogers, like Akemi, can access it either. So it's probably a problem with the local WAN, because I can get to it via Sympatico and through the Canadian Government's service provider.

I just have to convince Rogers tech support of that, which is difficult, because everything else works, just not my webhosting company's network!

Just in case, I've also contacted my hosting company, Nearly Free Speech. They're a GREAT service provider, but they do only provide email support via a support page, which I can't get to through Rogers!

Posted by JAY at 11:09 PM

January 12, 2004

More Memory

Recieved the Corsair TwinX memory that I ordered from CompDirect last week. I've been noticing that my computer is swapping to HDD and really slowing things down, so I'm replacing the 512MB of RAM with 1GB.

CompDirect has some deal where shipping is free if the purchase is > $100, but it doesn't reflect on the bill, so I'm going to have to remember to check if they charged it. Amazingly, it was even cheaper than at the Pacific Mall (a Chinese mall in Markham)!

The computer is working much more quickly now. Yay!

Posted by JAY at 11:58 PM

December 08, 2003

Toshiba Magnia SG20 Review

In November, I bought a Toshiba Magnia SG20 for $250CAN. It was my hope to use it to replace my W2K Server, my Linksys router/firewall and my D-Link hub. In the advertising copy, it claimed to be able to do things like packet filtering, port forwarding and web/ftp services.

And it can.

But.

It's about to get a bit more technical.

The Magnia runs a full fledged, but modified, version of Redhat 7.3. It's primary interface is through a series of administrator web pages that you can access through your LAN connection. And therein lies the problem.

The Magnia's admin webpages allow you to control basic functionality of the device. You can create users, delete users, open up some predefined firewall ports and run backups. And that's pretty much it.

I needed a bit more than that... to replicate the functionality of my current set up, I needed to have

  • Guest FTP access
  • Remote Desktop port forwarding
  • Shell access

The good news is that since the Magnia is running Linux, all of this and more is possible, and with the very best implementation. The bad news is that you're stuck doing all of this through the command prompt/shell access. And first you need to figure out how to give yourself shell access! My l33t Linux skills are non-existant, so I was basically going from scratch. Luckily, Linux and it's various open source programs (apache, wu-ftpd, netfilter) are all thoroughly documented. The Linux Documentation Project also provides extensive documentation on Linux. And usenet via GoogleGroups hoards a vast amount of questions and answers on various problems.

Of course, the custom software of the Magnia makes it a bit more difficult. Many of the usual configuration files (passwd, groups, ftpaccess) are auto-generated by the Magnia software templates. Thankfully, all of the templates are gathered in a single directory structure that is pretty easy to navigate.

Giving myself shell access, for example, involved tracking back the autogenerated passwd file to the Magnia's configuration file and altering the shell line.

As far as FTP goes, the Magnia either allows anonymous FTP, or it doesn't, depending on what you set the firewall settings on the admin page. Removing anonymous access and configuring guest access was pretty tricky. First came the HOW-TO (if you're doing this, make sure to read the addendum before starting, it'll save you some time). Then came the need to give a real default shell script that wouldn't give actual shell access (see above). Then the /etc/ftpaccess file needed to be tracked down to it's template.

The hardest thing to do (and I just got it done!) is configure the firewall to allow remote desktop access via VNC/pcAnywhere, which uses the standard NetFilter. Using iptables is HARD. It took me hours of reading to successfully port forward the necessary ports.

Then of course, the iptables are autogenerated by Magnia templates that are stored in the firewall directory with the rest of the templates. These templates are inserted into the scripts that generate the firewall when changes are made via the admin website. Arrgh!

But the cool thing is that once you successfully install the rule into the templates location, you can turn it on and off via the admin website. That's much easier than the standard alternative of custom programming the script to do that for you! And that also gives you the ability to play with the firewall via the iptables command line without worrying that you won't be able to restore your default configuration. The best thing about the setup, though, is that (unlike common Linksys/DLink routers), you can change the firewall/port forwarding settings without losing your connections - the device does not need to reboot.

Incidentally, I've also installed a second hard disk drive to take snapshots of the primary drive. This was easily done via the admin page and easy access to the case via thumbscrews. The Magnia supports up to 40GB hard disks, but it came with a 20GB primary. I've installed a 40GB secondary drive so that I can replace the 20GB primary at a later date when I have more money...

So would I recommend this device? Well, yes. But only to three groups of people:

1. People who don't know much but have only limited requirements, like a file server and intranet. These people won't need any features past those implemented via the website.

2. Experienced Linux administrators. The Magnia won't box you into substandard solutions - you can fully administer all features and even upgrade them yourself should you want to. Even the source code is available from Toshiba. The templates are self-explanatory and reasonably easy to work with.

3. People who don't mind learning both the Magnia software and the Linux OS at the same time. This is me. If this were some custom box with closed source software on it, I'd be pretty resentful over having to spend so much time learning the little things that make customization possible. Since it's all standard software, I feel that it's time well spent, because the Linux skills learned will be useful skills for future applications.

Posted by JAY at 02:16 AM | Comments (4)

December 01, 2003

Tracking...

It's kind of late, but I figured that maybe I did want to track hits after all. Seeing where people are coming from is kinda neat after all. I found some nifty Perl scripts that take care of it for me.

I was hoping that my host (NearlyFreeSpeech.net) would provide something for me. Still, it was pretty painless.

From the stats log, I found that someone had yahoo searched my site for a review of Second City's Arma-get-it-on ... so I feel a bit sorry that I didn't bother with a full review.

Posted by JAY at 05:58 PM

November 08, 2003

Toshiba Magnia SG20


Click image for a larger view.

The Toshiba Magnia is a cute little Linux server (Redhat) with an easy-to-use web administration tool. It's reasonably quiet and based on a Celeron processor. It also includes a parallel port print server, modem, 8 port switch and router capabilities along with the ability to be a wireless access point. Right now, it's in my office, but I hope to take it home to replace my current Windows 2000 server. It was also very cheap: I got it for about $250. (The only difference between the SG20/25 is the 40GB HDD... mine only has a 20GB.)

Update: a more complete review of the Magnia SG20.

Posted by JAY at 04:47 PM

September 29, 2003

New Computer


Well, it's been a while, but I finally bit the bullet and bought a new computer to replace my aging P3-700 on an overclocked BX board.

ASUS P4C800E-DLX
256MB DDR400 RAM (128MB x 2)
2 120GB SATA RAID Hard Disks
Pentium 4 2.4C
Antec Sonata "Quiet" Case/PSU
My old ATI Radeon 7500 AIW


The crappy amount of RAM is because I'd like to buy some good stuff, but I still haven't ordered it from Crucial.

I can't afford/don't really need a new vid card, so I kept my current one.

The Sonata case was awesome for putting things in - I've only bought generic cheap beige cases before. This was much easier to work with - though a motherboard tray would've been nice. Mislabelled firewire connections were a bit of a hassle, and the front mounted USB port only does USB 1 - Antec mailed me a new port mount, but I haven't installed it yet.

The case and power supply are much quieter, though. From my room, I can hear my old computer (in another room) drowning out the Sonata. The "piano black" enamel is quite pretty, too.

Posted by JAY at 06:36 PM