Entries Tagged as 'Technology'

Email Addresses

Ever go to a web site to enter your email address and find that it wouldn’t fit in the field they provided?

It’s amazing in a world of standards that companies (and individuals) continually ignore them and decide for themselves what’s acceptable.

HELLO!

User names (or local part of the address) can be 64 characters long, and domain names can be 255 characters long.

Here is an example of a reasonable well written validation for email addresses — if you want to see poorly done ones in action it doesn’t take too much effort to find ones that limit the entire email address to less than 30 characters!

<?php function isValidAddress( $email, $check = false )
{
##############################
# PHP Email Address Validator
# (C) Derrick Pallas
#
# Authors: Derrick Pallas
# Website: http://derrick.pallas.us/email-validator/
# License: Academic Free License 2.1
# Version: 2006-12-01a
if (!ereg(”
. ‘^’
. ‘[-!#$%&\’*+/0-9=?A-Z^_a-z{|}~]‘
. ‘(\\.?[-!#$%&\’*+/0-9=?A-Z^_a-z{|}~])*’
. ‘@’
. ‘[a-zA-Z](-?[a-zA-Z0-9])*’
. ‘(\\.[a-zA-Z](-?[a-zA-Z0-9])*)+’
. ‘$’
, $email
) ) return false;
list( $local, $domain ) = split( “@”, $email, 2 );
if ( strlen($local) > 64 || strlen($domain) > 255 ) return false;
if ( $check && !gethostbynamel( $domain ) ) return false;
return true;
# END
######
}

RFC822 superseded by RFC2822.

User names (for email) may contain:

  • A to Z letters, upper and lower case.
  • 0 through 9 digits
  • . (fullstop, period) but not as the first or last character
  • ! # $ % & ‘ * + – / = ? ^ _ ` { | } ~ – all are permitted.

The maximum length of the user is 64 characters; the domain is 255 characters; so with the @ a valid address could be up to 320 characters.

Further, did you know that user names are case sensitive (but domain names are not).  Of course many email systems treat user names as case insensitive.

For information on domain name limitation you should see IANA.

Now you know more than most developers who write code that accepts or uses email addresses!

Originally posted 2008-08-25 22:12:27.

OpenOffice

You need to find a suite of office applications?

The place to start is OpenOffice.

OpenOffice has a long heritage, and the software was designed and built to be a cohesive set of applications (not a collection of various applications that did different parts of a job).

OpenOffice is written in Java, and if you’re running Windows you can download and install a version of OpenOffice that includes the Java Run-time Environment (JRE); on most other operating system it will already be installed.

OpenOffice is able to import and export most document formats you’re used to, plus it can use it’s own format (which is an ISO standard), and creating PDFs of the output is a snap.

Writer — if you’re a Windows person you’d probably think of this as “Word”.  It’s an excellent word processor, and it well suited for virtually any task you might have.  There are quirks (but hey, they are quirks in “Word” as well, and they randomly change from version to version), but overall it’s intuitive and easy to use.  Plus there’s good documentation available to answer most any question you might have.

Calc — if you’re a Windows person you’d probably think of this as “Excel”.  I’m not a big spread sheet user, but I can tell you that all the fairly simple tasks that I used “Excel” for Calc did without a problem; and it imported the spread sheets, converted them it it’s format, and other than a very slight print alignment issue on one they were perfect (and much smaller and faster).  From my experience and what I’ve read you shouldn’t have any issue with Calc for all your spread sheet needs.

Impress — if you’re a Windows person you’d probably think of this as “PowerPoint”.  It seems to work, has all the annoying slide ware capabilities a marketing person might want.

Draw — if you’re a Windows person you might think of this as “Visio” or perhaps “Illustrator”.  There’s not an exact equivalent for this tool.  But it’s useful to do diagrams, drawings, etc.  But don’t confuse it with “PhotoShop” — that’s not really an office tool now is it?

Base — if you’re a Windows person you’d probably think of this as “Access”.  Works well and works with most any database you might have.

There is no email / calendar / contact replacement in OpenOffice, nor is there a “OneNote” replacement.  I don’t know that I feel email / calendar / contacts really belong in an office suite, but I certainly have gotten accustom to being able to collect a bunch of data together in one place with automatic references from where it came — so I’d love to see something like “OneNote” added to OpenOffice.

If you’re a casual user, a home user, a student, or a small business user (without restrictive corporate policies) you’ll find that OpenOffice will solve most all your needs.  Try it… save a little cash.

OpenOffice.org

Originally posted 2010-01-19 01:00:42.

4% of the Market; 50% of the Profit

Apple’s iPhone accounts for only 4% of the cellular handset market for “feature” phones, yet account for 50% of the profits…



asymco.com

Originally posted 2010-11-29 02:00:46.

So you want to be in pictures…

Or rather should I say that you want to be able to play “moving pictures” on your computer…

You computer may have come with software for playing back video, DVDs, etc — or the operating system version you installed might support some formats; but eventually you’re going to reach a point where you want to play something that you don’t have support for and you might not feel like spending a lot of money.

There are two major issues with playing back media:

  1. Your computer needs software that is able to decode the audio and the video portions of the media; and
  2. Your computer needs software that is able to “break apart” the audio from the video.

The first piece of software is call a “decoder” — or often times a codec.  And you’ll hear things like MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, H.264, etc for video and things like AC3, AAC, PCM, DTS, MP3, etc for audio.

The second piece of software is called a mux (specifically for play back a de-mux) — and those take particular containers and split them into the separate audio and video streams.  The file extension generally tell you about the “envelope” the data is contained in, or how it was muxed.  Some standards mux specifications, but even when the audio/video standard includes a way to mux the data, it might be in a richer envelope that supports alternate audio streams, alternate video streams, hyperlinks, closed captions, multiple languages, etc.

A growing open standard for containing audio and video is the Matroska format.  It’s generally designated as .mkv for audio/video files and .mka for audio files.

It’s a rich standard well supported on Windows, OS-X, and *nix platforms.

For more information visit the Matroska Offical Homepage:

You’ll not only find information on the Matroska format, but links to many free tools to help you play back that audio and video format you’re having trouble with.

Originally posted 2008-12-14 01:00:52.

NoFlix

Perhaps NetFlix should consider changing their name to NoFlix.

I can’t get over companies that charge for services, fail to deliver the services they promise, and then tell you that they’re not going to refund you a penny.

Yep — that appears to be NetFlix’s policy. I’m waiting on confirmation from Reed Hastings NetFlix CEO (I’ll follow up with anything I receive, if I receive anything) — but that’s what I was told by Sean Callaghan today after I called because NetFlix was down (unable to stream to any of my multitude of NetFlix enabled devices — or any of my friends either) for quite some time.

I was told it was due to a “service outage” beyond NetFlix’s control.

But let me provide a few more highlights of my call. When the agent I spoke with proved to be unable (or unwilling) to resolve any issue I was having — I requested a supervisor. Originally I was told that he was a supervisor and he did not have any manager there. That was then modified to be that he would not escalate the call (suggesting there were actually at least one manager there), and when that change was questioned he again modified the statement along the lines of there was no reason to escalate the call because he had answered my questions. Of course, he was apparently to say anything he wanted since he also told me that NetFlix does not record customer service calls when I ask him. That one statement really does say it all… I don’t think there’s much I can add.

Also, I pointed out — this evening was the only time this month I had cared to watch a movie (I think I had demonstrated NetFlix streaming on my Droid for maybe 3 minutes total — but I don’t really consider that using the service)… and I had no NetFlix DVD in the house, so I expected to be able to sit back and enjoy a movie via the “unlimited” streaming service I paid for each and every month from NetFlix (even though I rarely use it).

Well… not only do I have to say I find NetFlix’s service questionable, but when you consider how difficult they make it to contact them on an issue (NetFlix enabled devices aren’t even an option to report an issue to them) — how long they expect you to stay on hold, and how completely inept their customer service staff impressed me as being — I see no reason why I’d want to send them any of my money, much less putting up with them almost doubling the cost of what I have in a month (which I might add will be four times what I paid when I first signed up for NetFlix, not all that long ago).

I would say that the only thing the agent on the phone was able to do competently was cancel my account; but even that he proved to be inept at — and failed to tell me before doing so that NetFlix wasn’t going to refund anything for unused service.

It’s a joke — and the customer service agent couldn’t reference me to anything that provided information support his claim that NetFlix wasn’t going to refund any of my service fees (even though over one third of my bill cycle remains).

Then I tried to access both there “Terms of Use” and their “Privacy Policy” through both links in the emails they send and the footer on their web site as was presented with “The page isn’t redirecting properly” — I guess yet another “service outage” that was beyond their control.

I’ve closed the virtual card number I used to pay for NetFlix services; and I’ve filed a charge back dispute with Citibank… if they decide not to reverse the charges to my account; well, then I guess I can eliminate a credit card from my wallet as well.

Personally I’m tired of companies promising to provide services, then continually increasing the charges, decreasing the services, and feeling like they have no responsibility to actually fulfill their commitments to customers.

I can say this categorically — I will never use NetFlix again. Amazon provides similar services at better prices, and I have great faith that Amazon will work very hard to meet the expectations they set for their customers… and if they fail, I’m betting you won’t even have to ask for a refund, they’ll be one step ahead of you.

Most every one I know is canceling their NetFlix service before the rate increase in September, and that was my intent anyway — but as of today, I live in a NetFlix free zone, and encourage everyone to ban those red envelops from their mailbox and streaming services from their devices and computers — support a company that deserves your business and watch yet another failure shrivel away and die.

Originally posted 2011-07-22 02:00:36.

Upgrading Drive Firmware

First, if you’re not having problems with your drive (unless it’s brand new, has no data on it, and you don’t have an issue returning it to the place of purchase or manufacturer) DO NOT DO IT.

Second, make sure you give yourself plenty of time, don’t try and do it quickly, or in between other commitments.  Do it when it’s quiet.  Make sure you have a UPS on your computer and that the weather is clear (so that there’s no likelihood of power outages).

Third, run the drive diagnostics from the manufacturer first.  If the drive shows it’s having problems — return it to the manufacturer for replacement (most manufacturers will do advance replacement at no charge with a credit card; that gives you a drive to migrate your data onto, and a shipping container to return the failing drive in).

Fourth, many manufacturers support upgrading firmware directly from Windows (a few from other operating systems).  I high recommend you choose the bootable CD approach — that way there’s no question whether or not you have something installed on your computer that might interfere.  And if you’re using SATA I recommend you set your computer to SATA IDE/Legacy mode to insure that the upgrade (and diagnostics) don’t have any issues with your SATA controller (IDE/Legacy as opposed to SATA/Native, SATA/RAID, SATA/AHCI — different BIOS manufacturers will call it by a different term, but it’s the lowest setting for the controller, likely it’s what the default was).

Fifth, make sure you obtain the firmware update only from the manufacturer’s web site; and make sure that it is for your drive; and that it’s recommended as a general installation or specifically addresses an issue you’re having.

Sixth, make sure you read and follow the manufacturer’s procedure for updating firmware.

Seventh, power off your drive before you attempt to use it after updating the firmware.  Most drives will not use the newer firmware until they are power-cycled; some drives just flat out won’t work until they’ve been “hard reset”.

Hopefully all goes well, but many drives become a brick if your firmware upgrade fails; a few can revert to the previous firmware and keep on running.  If you have problems, contact the manufacturer, most drives under warranty can be replaced — but data recovery is not included.

NOTE:

Upgrading drive firmware may also change the first several sectors of the drive; I highly recommend that you backup the drive before upgrading the firmware.

Originally posted 2010-02-09 01:00:56.

SyncMate – Expert Edition

Several weeks ago I took a look at the free edition of SyncMate, and I had some fairly good things to say about it.  In fact, I was so impressed with it that I started using the free edition to synchronize my Windows Mobile device.

Eltima Software contacted me and offered me a license for the expert edition to enable to me more fully explore the capabilities of it (and to write a more in depth post about it).

I agreed, and here’s what I found…

I decided that this would be a fairly comprehensive test; it would involve a number of different operating systems, and synchronization environments.

The operating systems I tested were:

OS-X 10.6.1 (32 & 64 bit)

Windows 7 (32 & 64 bit)

Windows Vista (32 & 64 bit)

Windows 2003

Windows XP

Windows Mobile 6.5 (HTC Touch Pro 2 – XV6875)

Windows Mobile 5.1 (MotoQ)

Outlook Look 2003, 2007, 2010 on the PC

Entourage 2008 on the Mac

Windows Contact / Windows Calendar (on Vista and Windows 7)

Live Contacts / Live Calendar (on Windows XP, Windows 2003, Windows Vista, and Windows 7)

FireFox (Windows)

Safari (Windows and OS-X)

Additionally I took a quick look at iTunes and iPhoto (even though I don’t use either of those normally); and I took a quick look at Google synchronization (including synchronizing to an Android handset).

It’s a long list, and I assure you that the coverage of the tests were not exhaustive — but rather concentrated on suites of versions that would be most commonly found together (though I have a reasonably good feeling that unless there were some real flukes, the sample of tests I performed are probably indicative of all combinations).

My first test was to synchronize my Mac Book Pro with my Mac Pro… I’ve never really put any effort into making sure that the contacts and such agreed between the two, so I install unlocked the free version of SyncMate I’d installed on both and proceeded to enable all the plug-ins.  After fighting with both iPhoto and iTune (you wouldn’t need to worry about that if you actually used them they would have already been setup and ready to sync). the little spinners started and in just a few minutes I had everything on both machines (which also included all the calendar and contact information I’d gotten from my smart phone to start with) in sync.

I went ahead and disabled iPhoto and iTune for the rest of my tests — I’d seen it work, and certainly synchronizing those would easily be covered with the folder synchronization (which was a more generic test — but of course it was nice that the iTunes/iPhoto sync could be enabled with a simple click).

I decided next to see what the various versions of Windows and Office Suites would do… so I brought up virtual machines using various OS images and installed versions of Office in them.  I setup the Windows component of SyncMate and then decide to just do everything at once — so I added all the machines to SyncMate on the Mac Pro and hit the sync button.

It took a few minutes, but then on every machine in either (or both) the Windows Contacts and the Outlook Contacts there was a full copy of my contacts; as well as files I’d put in a test folder.

Things were going very well, so now I turned to a couple Windows Mobile devices.

Both were easy to setup via USB, and both synchronized perfectly (frankly I was a little surprised when the MotoQ running Mobile 5.1 worked as well as it did).  So then I tried WiFi sync on the XV6875 — worked just fine (there’s a nice feature of the SyncMate driver on the WinMo device that will tell you the IP and name of the device if you need).  Next was Bluetooth synchronization… and unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that on either device — during setting up the connection I kept getting “Uncompatible Device” (a newer version of SyncMate has corrected the awkward english construction; but unfortunately I still cannot use Bluetooth synchronization with either my XV6875 or Q), so I’m not exactly sure what the problem is, but I would consider Bluetooth synchronization more convenient than WIFi — though I generally use USB since I can charge the device as well.

Then I decided to try a few more scenarios from the SyncMate feature list.

Folder synchronization with a USB flash drive worked perfectly.  And from that I’d be fairly confident that iTunes/iPhoto/folders could be synchronized to any USB (disk) device.

Google synchronization worked just as documented; and synchronizing an Android handset with Google just happens (all you have to do is enter you account information into the handset and enable synchronization).

Here a few comments on individual features…

Call history and the SMS manager are both very nice features of the expert edition… I’m not sure it’s sufficient motivation to pay for an upgrade, but it certainly is a sweet feature.

Mounting a Window mobile phone as a USB disk is a feature that didn’t make much sense to me; my XV6875 has the ability to select whether or not it makes an ActiveSync style or USB drive connection when you connect it; though on an older device like my MotoQ it does let you see the file system on the Mac much as you would on a Windows desktop.

Time synchronization is another feature that just doesn’t make sense; all devices get synchronized to the network (and thus to atomic clocks) so I see little value (and a number of reasons not to) synchronize them to each other and defeat the mechanisms already in place (if this were a camera, not a cellular phone I’d consider this a plus — but I’m going to say this feature should be removed; and certainly not used).

As noted before, synchronization to Windows Live isn’t support (and since this is a Mac centric product I don’t think that should come as a surprise — but, of course, some people who have Windows Mobile phones may use some of the Live services).

One thing I haven’t really covered to this point is how you setup a sync partner in SyncMate; and I guess I haven’t focused on it because it’s fairly easy, and definitely straight forward.  It isn’t “automatic” (and I actually consider that a plus — I absolutely hate ActiveSync trying take ownership of a device I just want to attach once).  A nice touch to the way you add a partner is that you can both name it, and include an image for it (though it might be a little nicer if Eltima included more stock images with SyncMate, or created a web interface to find images of handsets — but I just downloaded one of each of my phones and then used that).

The number one quality of SyncMate is that it works — and by far and large it works as advertised.  In this round of tests I didn’t have any instability in the version of the Windows sync driver I installed (unlike in the previous tests where I did have some issues with the Windows sync driver crashing).

One feature I felt might be interesting for Eltima to add would be a “mesh” type synchronization — really all they’d need to do is have an ability to synchronize the partnerships between Mac hosts (ie — all the synchronization partnerships I entered on my Mac Pro could instantly appear on my Mac Book Pro the next time the two machines sync’d — and then conflicts would just be handled throughout the mesh on a peer-by-peer basis just as they are now).

As I’ve stated previously I find the price a little steep — but you and your wallet will have to decide for yourself…  If you like the free version, and have needs for some of the additional plug-ins; I suspect you’ll be favorably impressed by what you get once you purchase a license.

Eltima Software
SyncMate

Originally posted 2010-07-26 18:04:01.

HTC Touch Pro

I’ve admired HTC cellular (PDA) phones for a very long time… their cost, though, has always made me choose an alternate.

With the release of the very popular Touch Diamond and Touch Pro (Windows Mobile 6.1) phones has come the opportunity to buy one at an aggressive price ($200 with no contract if you shop wisely on Craigslist).

Most all of the HTC phones are hackable, and there’s a large community preparing custom ROM sets for them.

You’ve never seen a HTC phone?  Well, you may not have seen HTC’s phones, but you’ve probably seen a derivative of their Touch Flow 3D interface… whether they’d like to admit it on not a company in Cupertino popularized that type of interface on a phone they sell in the US through AT&T.

You can check out HTC’s site (URL below) for a list of all the various handsets they make (and not all of them are Windows Mobile — you might notice they also make the Android based G1).

I purchased the Touch Pro because it has both a touch screen and a keyboard… it’s a little thicker than the Diamond Touch, but I’m just not willing to give up on the keyboard yet — but I wanted a touch screen to make browsing the web a little less tedious.  And with Windows Mobile 6.1 you can internet connection sharing built in (so you can tether you notebook very easily without paying any additional fees).

One of the first things you’ll want to do (even if you’re not changing phone carries on the handset you get) is unlock your phone… primarily so that you can flash a custom ROM in that matches your own tastes (you can even customize many of the ROMs yourself).

Touch Flow 3D is wizzy and cool… and will amaze your friends, but let’s face it — isn’t battery life and functionality more important?  And simplicity goes a long way in making the phone more practical for everyday use (after all, you’re probably going to use it as a phone most of the time… or not).

At the moment I’ve got Mighty ROM loaded in my handset; it’s fairly clean, fairly light-weight; and works… I’ll consider upgrading to a Mobile 6.5 versions once those are more stable, and I might consider customizing my own ROM to remove a lot of the apps I don’t every intend to use.

By-the-way, one of the things you may find you no longer need if you go to this phone is a GPS… you can run Google Maps on it, but that requires you have an active internet connection (and that doesn’t always happen in many places), I also loaded Garmin XT on my handset, so I basically have a Garmin GPS with access to Garmin Live (weather and gas prices, I think you can pay a monthly fee for traffic, but there’s no traffic in my area).

All I can say is it’s a GREAT phone, and a wonderful PDA… and my feeling is HTC has gone a long way towards providing us with a convergent device.  Microsoft is rumored to be working on their own handset; let’s hope they’ve studies HTC and will leverage off their design.

The only negatives are battery life (always an issue with a PDA phone, but far less of an issue when you can Touchflow 3D), and radio quality (I suspect that has to do with the way they designed the radio — it’s certainly adequate when cell coverage is reasonable, but you might not get good reception in fringe areas).

http://www.htc.com/us/

Originally posted 2009-06-10 11:00:22.

SSH Login Without Password Prompt

Often you have a set of machines you trust implicitly and you’d like to make ssh logins and scp copies less tedious by not having the system prompt you for the password.  It used to be incredibly confusing to manually setup and install the keys on remote machines, now, though with OpenSSH it’s gotten a lot easier.

The first thing you need to do is create public and private keys; to do that you use ssh-key-gen on your machine (you’ll either need to be on the console or have previously made a ssh connection).

For this example, the “local” workstation will be superman, and the remote server will be aries.

roger@superman$ ssh-keygen
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/home/roger/.ssh/id_rsa):
[Press Enter Key]
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase):
[Press Enter Key]
Enter same passphrase again:
[Press Enter Key]
Your identification has been saved in /home/roger/.ssh/id_rsa.
Your public key has been saved in /home/roger/.ssh/id_rsa.pub.
The key fingerprint is:
de:ad:be:ef:01:02:03:04:05:06:07:07:09:0a:0b:0c roger@superman

Then we need to copy the public key to the remote host using ssh-copy-id

roger@superman$ ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub aries
roger@aries's password:

Finally, we can log onto the remote machine without a password

roger@superman$ ssh aries
Last login: Sun Jan 2 12:12:12 2011 from superman
roger@aries$

You can take a look at the key files that were generated; you can use ssh-copy-id to copy the keys to as many machines as you want; and you can use the same private key file on each of your machines to allow for more seamless access; but you should be aware that you should only place your public key on machines you trust.

NOTE:  If you use ssh-agent (and ssh-add) to manage keys, ssh-copy-id will attempt to access the key from ssh-agent.

Originally posted 2011-01-04 02:00:12.

Critial Microsoft Patch — DO IT NOW

Microsoft has released an out of cycle patch (they only release patches on Tuesdays), this was released today (Thursday), which means it’s an important patch for you to install now.  Get details below and use the Microsoft Update facility to download and install — don’t be part of the problem, take pre-emptive action.

Remember, in general it’s a good idea to check for updates often and install them unless you have a good reason not to.

http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/Bulletin/MS08-067.mspx

Originally posted 2008-10-23 08:00:56.