Posts categorized “Technology”.

If I had an iPhone 3G…

If I had an iPhone 3G, what apps would I have installed by now?


AIM: Got to get me some realtime chat.

BA Flights: It’s always a pain trying to find a place to sit down and wait where you can keep tabs on the status board for your delayed flight, hopefully this app will solve that.

Evernote: I’ve recently started using Evernote for all my archiving of web purchase receipts and various other scraps of information and pictures that I need to keep at hand. This app should be a great addition to the already excellent Mac desktop and web based Evernote clients.

Exposure: I’m not much of a flickr user, but I keep meaning to start using it properly, maybe having this app at hand would help me get started.

NetNewsWire: I love NetNewsWire, I use it every day to keep tabs on the World at large. With all the NewsGator feed status and clippings sync goodness it promises, this app could easily be my most used on my iPhone.

PayPal: Quick and easy access to PayPal seems like a good idea to me, especially as this version is made by PayPal, so I don’t feel like I might be getting spoofed or something.

Pownce: I follow a few peeps on Pownce, so this could be a neat app to have, once the notifications functionality is released by Apple.

Remote: This should be great, looking forward to testing it out.

Truphone: In the absence of a Skype client, this looks like it could save a few quid on long distance calls, certainly while abroad.

Twitterrific: While I’m a twhirl user on the desktop for all my twitter needs, I’m sure Twitterrific on the iPhone would be just the job.

Apps missing from above screenshot:

Aria Touch: This could be an interesting app for a FogBugz user like myself, it’s just a shame that it hasn’t shown up on the iTunes App Store yet. But as I expect it isn’t free, I couldn’t download it just yet anyway, seeing as I don’t have an iPhone it would be a waste of money!

Things: I’ve started using Things for managing my general to-do lists, it’s a great Mac desktop app and I’d love to give the iPhone version a spin, if I had an iPhone 3G!

Why do I not have an iPhone 3G just yet? Because:

a) O2 isn’t releasing it’s Pay & Go tariff until “later this year”. I simply don’t use the “phone” part of my phone anywhere near enough to warrant paying £30 per month, but if the rumoured Pay & Go deal includes 6 months free 3G data and wi-fi hotspot usage, followed by £10 per month after that, I’d be all over it.

b) O2 has run out of iPhones!

Oh well, hopefully O2 will get a few boat loads of new stock and release the Pay & Go contract option soon, then I can spend my money!

Will the iPhone be on Vodaphone in the UK?

I just called Vodaphone to check up on something on my latest bill only to be told that they couldn’t get any info on my account as their systems were being upgraded. The rep said someone would call me back when their systems were available, it would be about an hour and a half. That was just before 9am.

There’s a London Apple event happening at 10am. This might be a complete red herring, a total coincidence, but could all the rumours about O2 getting the iPhone be wrong? Could it be Vodaphone?

Fingers crossed!

Update: Oh crap, it’s O2, the one carrier I vowed never to use again after some seriously bad experiences with their customer reps!

All hail the new Ars Technica!

Everybody’s favourite technical news, views and reviews site Ars Technica has had a huge face lift.

I really like it, the colours are more subdued and sophisticated than before, and the text is larger and easier to read, with all the different sections and top stories much easier to find. I’d say that casual visitors to the site are going to find it much more accessible.

And what’s more, they’ve reduced the amount of advertising on the site, pulling it out of the body of stories. This is fantastic, I’ve always hated how adverts inserted into the body of an article squishes or breaks up the text, making it much harder to read. This is a very welcome change, and shows that Ars really does have their reader’s interests as top priority.

Well done to whoever created this new design, it works for me!

WordPress 2.1.1 Dangerous, Upgrade to 2.1.2

Matthew Mullenweg:

Long story short: If you downloaded WordPress 2.1.1 within the past 3-4 days, your files may include a security exploit that was added by a cracker, and you should upgrade all of your files to 2.1.2 immediately.

Thanks to John Gruber for pointing this out.

CaseDetective 1.3 Post Development Lessons Learned: Part 1

CaseDetective 1.3 took a little longer than I hoped to develop, partly because I took some time off to recharge my batteries after CaseDetective 1.2, but also because of some painful obstacles I had to overcome during it’s development.

This is the first post in a short series of “Lessons Learned” from development of CaseDetective 1.3 for FogBugz.

The first, and most asked for feature that I needed to develop for CaseDetective 1.3 wasn’t even a real feature; Universal Binary for the Mac OS X version.

A Universal Binary version was long overdue, I would have loved to have got one out for v1.2, but REALbasic hadn’t got that functionality stable by the time I started development, and more to the point, the eSellerate Universal Binary REALbasic plugin wasn’t anywhere near ready. As I rely on this plugin for validating serial numbers and for in-app purchases, this “feature” had to slip to v1.3.

Unfortunately the Universal Binary eSellerate plugin for REALbasic caused me a lot of headaches, which considering the Mac OS X users of CaseDetective are vastly outnumbered by Windows users, is very frustrating.

The first, and most annoying problem with the eSellerate UB plugin was that it wasn’t cross-platform, meaning I couldn’t compile CaseDetective for both Windows and Mac using the same eSellerate related code; I had to continue to use the old Integrated eSeller plugin for compiling the Windows version. And to add insult to injury, the old plugin would not work with the latest REALbasic IDE without being converted to the latest plugin format (a tool for this is provided with REALbasic), and even so, seemed to clash with the new plugin so that you had to compile for Windows and Mac as two separate steps (even when using #if to target the OS specific code). I resorted to making everything I could an external item and creating a copy of the project so that I had one project for Windows and one for Mac OS X. Each project referenced pretty much the same external items except for one module that included Windows or Mac specific eSellerate code, and ran each against a different version of the IDE so that the plugins didn’t clash. It worked, but wasn’t ideal for productivity.

The new eSellerate UB plugin for REALbasic was also different in operation to the old plugin, it used their “Embedded Web Store” framework, which used an embedded web browser in a window, and required setting up of a web store in the eSellerate admin panel. Now, I wouldn’t have had any problems with this change except that it required different handling of Stock Control Units (SKUs, don’t ask me why they use a “K”, I have no idea), which totally broke the way you setup the check for update functionality. Now I needed to update two areas of my eSellerate setup to cope with the Integrated eSeller used by the Windows version, and the Embedded Web Store (EWS) used in the Mac version. This is a recipe for disaster (although I think I’ve avoided disaster so far).

Also, unlike the old Integrated eSeller, the Mac EWS plugin needed a file to be copied into the app bundle after it was created, the old version didn’t require any extra files, it was compiled in and self installing.

Oh, and in the end I had to disable the in-app purchasing from the Mac version anyway because I found that if you tried to print the invoice shown after completing a purchase it totally hung the app and required a force-quit. Now, this may have been something that I did, but I’m stumped as to what that might be, seeing as printing the invoice had nothing to do with closing the window and returning to my app, so I’m pretty sure it’s a bug in the eSellerate plugin or EWS framework. When I found this bug I was about ready to explode, there was no way I was going to waste any more time in trying to find a workaround, so I just disabled in-app purchasing in the Mac version. Mac users will have to buy through the web store and copy their license details into the “Enter License” window, not a huge problem as most people seem to buy that way anyway, but still, it’s a shame I couldn’t use this convenient in-app purchasing mechanism which sets the user’s license details automatically on purchase completion.

I think version 2.0 of CaseDetective may just be using a custom serial number scheme rather than eSellerate’s own scheme, and then I won’t need to use any eSellerate plugins at all.

Don’t get me wrong, in general I like eSellerate, in all my dealings with them I have had superb support and have had zero problems reported to me by customers about their buying experience through them. It’s just that their REALbasic support has taken a serious nose-dive, which is unacceptable to me.

Lesson Learned: Develop your own license code scheme, regardless of purchasing mechanism.

Managing Media

Merlin Mann pointed out a great article on TechDigs that addresses a lot of the problems people have with managing their ever increasing volume of media data, and how to back it up. I’ve been thinking about getting a ReadyNAS+ for a while, now I have some better information on how to use it more efficiently.

In the article Amazon’s S3 service is used for the off-site backup, but I wonder if something like CrashPlan wouldn’t be much better. With services like CrashPlan you backup over the internet to your own external disk that you’ve given to a friend to connect to their computer/network. It doesn’t incur any service charges, just a software purchase for the party wanting to backup, the friend doesn’t even need a license to be able to act as your backup target (just a pint every now and then to say thanks for the electricity).

What I really like is that you can do the initial (huge) backup locally, and then give the disk to your friend for the daily incremental backup offsite. I’m thinking about setting this up with a friend of mine, it’d backup early every morning while my ADSL bandwidth is free. If things were to go terribly wrong at home, I can pop around to my friends place to pick up the backup drive ready to do a local restore, much better than spending days downloading data from a server somewhere off in the cloud. Oh, and just in case someone nicks the device you’ve given to your friend, the data is compressed and encrypted before being sent, and saved encrypted too, which is nice to know.

I’m seriously considering CrashPlan and wonder if anyone out there has any experience of it or similar software?

Mac OS X Server Admin app bug + SORBS = undelivered mail

Last week I had an “Undelivered Mail” message bounced back email for an email I sent to a good mate of mine. A bit strange, but I just figured it was one of those things that happens now and then, maybe an over zealous SPAM filter or something at his end.

So I re-sent the mail, letting him know that he possibly had a problem, and didn’t think any further of it.

A few days later I hadn’t had a reply, but we ended up actually conversing via phone anyway, imagine that, a real conversation with audio, whatever will they think of next! That evening I got a second bounce, Gordon definitely had a problem!

Then yesterday I had to call someone because they hadn’t responded to an important email I sent last week, they said they hadn’t received an email from me. Hmmm, that’s curious, but I’ve had problems with this particular person having “not got the email” before, so I just figured they were up to their old tricks.

Then this morning I got a couple of Undelivered Mail messages into my FogBugz server. This happens every now and then when a SPAM mail slips through the FogBugz SPAM filters and the auto-response gets bounced. But this time there were no SPAM messages in my inbox, so I took a closer look at the two error reports.

The first was indeed a bounced auto-response, but I recognised the email address, it was for someone who’d been using the CaseDetective trial and had a couple of questions. That’s not good, why did that email fail?

The second was an email that I’d sent to that same person in answer to their questions, which apparently they never got the answers to. Oh dear.

On closer inspection it looked like an outfit called SORBS had bounced the emails because the IP address of the sending server is on a dynamic IP address. A quick check of their database showed that my IP address was in their list of dynamic IP addresses that should not therefore be sending email (there’s a link in the error message that included my IP address).

Now, I have a static IP address, it’s one of the reasons I’m with the ISP I’m with, I need a static IP address for hosting my FogBugz server as it harvests automatic bug reports submitted by my customers through ScountSubmit directly from CaseDetective. I also like my static IP address because I can access my email on my little server through SquirrelMail when I’m away from the office etc.

So, SORBS has got it wrong, and for them to change their mind I have to get my ISP to get in contact with them and put them straight.

So I logged a support request with my ISP, and they quickly responded to clarify the situation, an are now going to get in touch with SORBS to get the IP address block I’m on removed from their dynamic IP address database. But it could take several days for it to happen. Bugger!

The support guy at my ISP didn’t have a very high opinion of SORBS, and I can see why, their policy of blocking dynamic IP addresses is all very well, I can see the logic in what they are doing, but if you’re going to do something so severe you’d better get it bloomin’ right, or else you’re going to piss off a lot of innocent bystanders, such as people like me!

The ISP support guy mentioned that I should use their relay host in the mean time, which made me think because I thought I was already using it, but obviously couldn’t be if I was getting this problem. Hmmmm…

After a few tests and much perusing of raw email headers I deduced that although my email server was set to use my ISP’s relay host, it wasn’t doing so, my email server was definitely sending email direct. Double bugger!

A quick search of the Apple support forums came up with another person with the same problem, and a response that there seems to be a bug with the Mac OS X Server Admin GUI when writing out the config file for postfix.

It seems that the Server Admin app is setting the relayhost variable to blank, which means the mail server can obviously only go direct when sending mail out.

I stopped my mail server, quickly edited postfix’s file to set the relayhost variable to my ISP’s host, started my mail service again and ran a quick test … job done, mail is now being routed via my ISP’s relay host.

So apologies to those who didn’t get expected emails in the last week, and a special apology to those who’ve now just got an email from me dated sometime last week!

Automating web page screen captures (Ian Landsman's dream app)

Ian Landsman’s comment of wanting the spawn of SnapZ Pro X and Selenium to automate capture of web page screen shots got me thinking. Sounded like a challenge to me.

So I ran the first really simple demo from and captured a full run with SnapZ (just the frame area containing the actual application).

Then I saved the resultant movie and opened it in QuickTime Pro 7. Lo and behold there’s an export format of “Movie to Image Sequence”, did that (setting appropriately low frame rate and other options) and I now have a run of pictures to pick from of the demo app at different stages. Cool.

I’m not sure how easy Selenium is to use, but it’s given me some ideas on how to quicken production of my screenshots for the next version of CaseDetective, hopefully Ian will see this and have a play with SnapZ and QuickTime to see how that fairs.

Here’s a sample of them (OK, not pretty, the demo app really is simple, but you get the gist)…


Oh yeah, it took less than 3 minutes for me to work it all out and get these results, but a lot longer to actually write this little blog post!

Nearly right about release schedule for Intel macs

Well, I was nearly right about the release schedule for Intel Macs, with a couple of things coming earlier to the PowerPC in the software department.

Shame Mac minis and full “Media Centre” experience hasn’t arrived yet, but Front Row did appear earlier than I predicted.

It’s great that the new Intel based iMac and “MacBook Pro” have arrived early, and with the Duo core chips I wanted to see. Just wish I had the funds to splash out, I’d have to sell all my current hardware to be able to afford just one of them!

Looking forward to seeing the KeyNote stream to see how the new iLife ‘06 apps stack up, seem to be some nice improvements there. Intrigued by iWeb, wonder if it’s got anything over RapidWeaver that makes it a must-have, doubt it for a 1.0 release.

Shame there’s no spreadsheet in iWork ‘06 though.

Nice snazzy quicktime movies heading up the iMac, iLife and iWork sections of the Apple site.

Anyway, can’t stop, off to drool

Why the UK iTunes Music Store rip-off?

A recent email reply to a friend by me on the subject of the new iMacs and iPods with video capability, with a couple of little corrections…

On Wed, October 12, 2005 22:48, Gordon Robertson wrote:
> 1. Can you load that Front Row thing on your ( living room ) iMac?

Couldn’t find the software for download last night, so I assume it’s a bundle-only thing at the moment. Maybe it comes with the remote, which you can buy individually?

> 2. When are you buying another new iPod?

Next year, when the 80Gb version comes out!

> Gotta hand it to them. They haven’t lost it. And how the hell do they manage
> to keep it under wraps so well?

It’s been a rumour for ages, and some noticed the new video icon used in the playlist panel in v5.0 and sudden lack of new music videos being posted to iTunes store, so rumours really started flying then.

The price is a little high for those videos though, in the UK anyway. In the US it’s $1.99, which ain’t bad, just twice the price of a song. But in the UK it’s £1.89, which is:

a) 2.4 times the normal UK price for a song (£0.79).

b) equivallent to $3.30 (yes, that’s 3.3 times the price of a US music purchase, not twice). Even factoring in VAT, $1.99 * 1.175 = $2.34 = £1.34 <> £1.89.

In the same vein, music should really only be £0.66 ($0.99 * 1.175 = $1.16 = £0.66).

All calcs based on today’s exchange rates of 1 USD = 0.571951 GBP or 1 GBP = 1.74840 USD.

This pisses me off, why do us UK peeps have to pay extra over and above our sales tax, it’s not like data bits have a hard time travelling over the Atlantic or anything.

It’s just not on! And that’s why I’ll not be buying any music videos or TV episodes from the UK iTunes music store, not until the price comes down to below £1.50 anyway (£1.39 would be great, but I’d live with £1.49).

I’ve bought a lot of music from iTunes, even at that rip-off £0.79 price, simply because it’s cheaper than buying a CD, which typically cost £11.99+ new. So I figure I can live without the case etc and save a couple of quid by buying the music from iTunes (albums are usually £7.99) and backing up to a cheap CD-R. I only listen to music via my iPod or computer these days anyway, so it makes sense.

But that price for videos is just too much, it’s way out of step with the USA, and I just don’t need them that much that I’ll pay that kind of money.

Maybe when we get a proper Apple “iMedia” in the shape of an Intel based Mac mini with TV tuner (although I’ve got an Elgato Eye TV which would do), Front Row software and remote for tucking under the living room TV, I might find the downloadable videos a little more interesting.

It’s early days I suppose.