Entries Tagged as 'Communications'

Ubuntu – Desktop Search

Microsoft has really shown the power of desktop search in Vista and Windows 7; their newest Desktop Search Engine works, and works well… so in my quest to migrate over to Linux I wanted to have the ability to have both a server style as well as a desktop style search.

So the quest begun… and it was as short a quest as marching on the top of a butte.

I started by reviewing what I could find on the major contenders (just do an Internet search, and you’ll only find about half a dozen reasonable articles comparing the various desktop search solutions for Linux)… which were few enough it didn’t take very long (alphabetical):

My metrics to evaluate a desktop search solutions would focus on the following point:

  • ease of installation, configuration, maintenance
  • search speed
  • search accuracy
  • ease of access to search (applet, web, participation in Windows search)
  • resource utilization (cpu and memory on indexing and searching)

I immediately passed on Google Desktop Search; I have no desire for Google to have more access to information about me; and I’ve tried it before in virtual machines and didn’t think very much of it.

Begal

I first tried Beagle; it sounded like the most promising of all the search engines, and Novel was one of the developers behind it so I figured it would be a stable baseline.

It was easy to install and configure (the package manager did most of the work); and I could use the the search application or the web search, I had to enable it using beagle-config:

beagle-config Networking WebInterface true

And then I could just goto port 4000 (either locally or remotely).

I immediately did a test search; nothing came back.  Wow, how disappointing — several hundred documents in my home folder should have matched.  I waited and tried again — still nothing.

While I liked what I saw, a search engine that couldn’t return reasonable results to a simple query (at all) was just not going to work for me… and since Begal isn’t actively developed any longer, I’m not going to hold out for them to fix a “minor” issue like this.

Tracker

My next choice to experiment with was Tracker; you couldn’t ask for an easier desktop search to experiment with on Ubuntu — it seems to be the “default”.

One thing that’s important to mention — you’ll have to enable the indexer (per-user), it’s disabled by default.  Just use the configuration tool (you might need to install an additional package):

tracker-preferences

Same test, but instantly I got about a dozen documents returned, and additional documents started to appear every few seconds.  I could live with this; after all I figured it would take a little while to totally index my home directory (I had rsync’d a copy of all my documents, emails, pictures, etc from my Windows 2008 server to test with, so there was a great deal of information for the indexer to handle).

The big problem with Tracker was there was no web interface that I could find (yes, I’m sure I could write my own web interface; but then again, I could just write my own search engine).

Strigi

On to Strigi — straight forward to install, and easy to use… but it didn’t seem to give me the results I’d gotten quickly with Tracker (though better than Beagle), and it seemed to be limited to only ten results (WTF?).

I honestly didn’t even look for a web interface for Strigi — it was way too much a disappointment (in fact, I think I’d rather have put more time into Beagle to figure out why I wasn’t getting search results that work with Strigi).

Recoll

My last test was with Recoll; and while it looked promising from all that I read, but everyone seemed to indicate it was difficult to install and that you needed to build it from source.

Well, there’s an Ubuntu package for Recoll — so it’s just as easy to install; it just was a waste of effort to install.

I launched the recoll application, and typed a query in — no results came back, but numerous errors were printed in my terminal window.  I checked the preferences, and made a couple minor changes — ran the search query again — got a segmentation fault, and called it a done deal.

It looked to me from the size of the database files that Recoll had indexed quite a bit of my folder; why it wouldn’t give me any search results (and seg faulted) was beyond me — but it certainly was something I’d seen before with Linux based desktop search.

Conclusions

My biggest conclusion was that Desktop Search on Linux just isn’t really something that’s ready for prime time.  It’s a joke — a horrible joke.

Of the search engines I tried, only Tracker worked reasonably well, and it has no web interface, nor does it participate in a Windows search query (SMB2 feature which directs the server to perform the search when querying against a remote file share).

I’ve been vocal in my past that Linux fails as a Desktop because of the lack of a cohesive experience; but it appears that Desktop Search (or search in general) is a failing of Linux as both a Desktop and a Server — and clearly a reason why choosing Windows Server 2008 is the only reasonable choice for businesses.

The only upside to this evaluation was that it took less time to do than to read about or write up!

Originally posted 2010-07-06 02:00:58.

The new SPAM medium…

It looks like Facebook and Twitter and the like are the new medium of choice for unethical companies to send SPAM via…

This morning I received a message from SurfCanister via both Facebook and Twitter (I don’t have an account on either of those, and both were sent to the same [free] email address).

I don’t do business with companies that send SPAM or any sort — and it appears that neither Facebook or Twitter have created sufficient safeguards to protect the public from companies with low ethics.

Here’s a good policy for both of them:

1) A single complaint of SPAM, suspend the offender’s account for 30-days.

2) Two or more complaints of SPAM, permanently close the offender’s account.

That should put a quick end to using social media for SPAM… though it seem to me that the social media companies are not very ethical themselves, and they seem to want to encourage this type messaging.

Someone might want to point out that California has an anti-SPAM law, and both Facebook and Twitter are headquarted in California.

Originally posted 2012-06-08 09:00:56.

Blogging Software

I looked at quite a few blogging solutions before I settled on Word Press, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts.

There are a number of free blogging services; indeed Word Press operates one.  Generally when you use a free service you get advertising on your pages (I really didn’t care for that, just like I don’t care for advertising on my web page).  But the one thing that always is the problem with free services is, you get what you get… and you’re stuck with it.

I tend to like to have full control over my information, so I decided to install the software to run my blog so that I could change ANYTHING I wanted to about it.  And Word Press is open source, written in PHP, so it’s realatively straight forward to make any changes you want.  And, of course, the price is right — FREE.

There are tons of addons (widgets, themes, and pluggins); though not all of them are free.  There are commerical addons available for Word Press as well.

I looked at several other solutions, originally ASP based solutions (when I was running Microsoft IIS), but then when I switched to a hosting company something that ran on PHP, PERL, Python became a more practical solution (my hosting company provides more flexible services with a Linux hosting plan than with a Microsoft hosting plan).

Here’s a list blogging software written in PHP (in no particular order) you might want to take a look at:

And here’s a list blogging software written for ASP (in no particular order) you might want to take a look at:

 

You’ll want to evaluate blogging software with your requirements in mind; but one thing to keep in mind is most blogging software supports importing from another system via RSS.  That might not be a requirement for the first blogging system you choose (but I think it shows a level of maturity in the software), it certainly will be for any blogging software after that.

One thing to keep in mind, the information in a blog site is written into a database; and while it wouldn’t be my first choice, you can dump the database to get the text of the ariticles, but it’s unlikely your going to be able to directly import it into another system’s database (without a lot of work).

Originally posted 2008-05-15 11:24:35.

Swarms

No, not a swarm of bees, wasps, hornets, or yellow jackets — I’m talking about file sharing technology.

First, there’s absolutely nothing illegal or immoral about using file sharing technology for file sharing and distribution, just as there’s nothing illegal or immoral about using hyper-text (http) or file transfer (ftp) technology.  It all has to do with the content you’re trying to exchange, not the system you’re using to exchange it.

There are many legitamate uses for BitTorrent and other P2P technologies.  Here’s a perfect example.

A small company has a number of offices spread throughout the world, and no one location has an internet connection with significant bandwidth (let’s say for argument, they all had a high end class of DSL service, but none of them have fibre).  This company would like to distribute it’s trial software, but because of the economics can’t afford to pay for additional bandwidth or for a content delivery system — they could opt to “aggragate” the bandwidth of all of their offices by providing a torrent and running torrent servers at each location — that would allow the nodes with the most bandwidth available to satisfy requests, and any individuals who had downloaded the software and elected to continue seeding would be able to source it as well.  While no one individual might get the software as quickly (though that’s not necessarily true), many more people would be able to get the software sooner, and at no additional cost; thus the company could meet it’s budgetary constraints and might not have to consider increasing the amount they need to charge for the software to cover operating expenses.

Swarming technology is real, it’s practical, and it’s a solution for a number of problems.

Swarms are highly fault tolerant, they’re highly distributed, and they dynamically adjust to changing conditions…

While any technology can be abused and misused, there’s nothing inherently bad in any of the P2P technologies.  Just because bank robbers use pens to write hold up notes we didn’t outlaw the pen or pencil…

Originally posted 2009-01-12 12:00:19.

AT&T U-Verse

I signed up for AT&T U-Verse service about two months ago — I’ve already made a post on that, but I decide to go ahead and do a series of posts on it.

This post will be an over view of what it is; then I’ll do a post on each of the services that are part of it.

The first thing to say about AT&T U-Verse is that it is offered by a company that I think very little of; a company that does not engender trust (in fact I’m suspicious of them at every turn — they seem to make mistake after mistake after mistake — and all their mistakes benefit them).  The sad thing is you might not have any substantially better company in your area to receive similar services from — so it’s not necessarily choosing the best, but often choosing the one that gives you that most without costing you the most.

U-Verse in short is AT&T’s name for an “advance” set of services — voice, television, and internet.

AT&T’s system generally provides these services to the home over copper (fibre is required in fairly close proximity as well).  The technology is called FTTN (fibre-to-the-node) and while they do have some FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) it’s only found in extremely dense areas.

With FTTN a VRAD (video-ready-access-device) is present between the Central Office and the end node consumer; in FTTP it isn’t.  VRADs are generally fairly large pieces of equipment similar to a cable company’s “head-end” (used for digital cable deployment) and much larger than a TELCO’s mini-DSLAMs (used for DSL deployment via copper from fibre from the Central Office DSLAM).

The services offered via U-Verse are: voice (“land line” telephone), television (“cable” tv as well as video on demand), and internet (“high speed” broadband).

When the service is installed it’s likely the installers will work in a team; the outside cable will be run by one person (generally the entry copper from the pole will be replaced) and new inside wiring is run.

It’s important to note that all services are digital.

Voice is provided by voice over IP (VoIP) technology; television is provided through ip video (including live and video on demand [VOD]); and of course the internet service is the core of everything (though an optional part).

The center of the system in the home is a residential gateway which handles all three of the services (along with a battery backup unit — mainly to insure that emergency services work in power outages).

Many people ask the question if they can use their own residential equipment rather than what AT&T provides.  The answer simply is NO.  Currently you must use the AT&T equipment — you may use your equipment in addition to the AT&T residential gateway, or remove your equipment and use exclusively the AT&T provided equipment.

I’ll cover the details of each service with respect to the gateway in the following posts — but your installer will work with you to provide a reasonable installation that should provide you with voice, television, and internet services much as you currently have.

The gateway itself has one WAN side connection, two telephone jacks  (it’s not clear to me whether it’s cable of three lines or four lines, but currently you can only subscribe for two lines of service), four 100-Base-T Ethernet (LAN) connections, one wireless (802.11-N) radio, one USB connection (for a PC), one “F” connector for video, and one Ethernet “broadband” connection (I’m not sure what this is for, it’s got a piece of transparent tape over it on my unit).

Initially the set-top boxes and DVR units must be cabled directly to the unit to insure proper discover; after they are configured you can use a switch if you want more ports; or you can connect your router to the gateway if you like (you will need to reconfigure the gateway if you do this to allow your gateway to work as before).

If everything goes well in the installation, once the wiring is in place the gateway, set-top boxes, and DVR units will register and come online within a few minutes — however, AT&T seems to have quite a few units that are defective, so don’t be surprised if there are some problems.

I had ordered one DVR and two set-top boxes (mainly because I wanted the maximum installation I could get for free).  One of the set-top boxes was DOA (dead-on-arrival), one of the set-top boxes worked (but I decided I didn’t really want to keep it so the install took it back), and the DVR unit wasn’t completely dead, but was defective.  Fortunately the installer had another unit he could replace it with — but since the unit had worked well enough to register itself it took quite sometime for the installer to find someone at AT&T support who was able to clear out the previous registration so my “new” DVR could register.

We also had some issues with the voice service; but by the time the DVR issues were resolved a reboot of the gateway seemed to download the proper service configuration and both inbound and outbound calling worked.

I will note that my install was originally scheduled for a Saturday (it was the first day I could select); and AT&T never informed me that they had moved my installation date to the following Monday.  I found out when I called them 15-minutes before the close of the installation window.  I was more than a little pissed since I had changed my plans Saturday to accommodate them, and now I had to change my plans for Monday as well!

Over all I give my installer fairly high marks for doing a good job (though he still owes me a jack — AT&T doesn’t give there installers a very good supply of equipment or parts); but like almost every AT&T system, it’s brittle and almost appears designed to fail.

The one short coming of my install is that he really didn’t know a great deal about configuring the gateway for a “complex” network; but since that isn’t something AT&T technically supports I can’t fault him on that, and I certainly knew enough to figure out what needed to be changed (the 2Wire device they use could be considered a “pro-sumer” grade device, so it capable of meeting most needs, but don’t expect it to have highly technical descriptions of the various settings).

I will say, that after the initial installation the system appeared to work… though before you place your order you’ll want to read my next three posts as well as do a price-feature comparison with what you have now.

Also, you may find that it turns out to be less expensive to order more services than you want.  For example, if you only want internet service — it’s cheaper to order enough service to get a free installation (well, it’s not free — I found no way to avoid the $29 activation fee — but it’s easy to see how to avoid the $149 installation fee).  If you order a bundle, the installation fee is waived; if you downgrade in the first thirty (30) days there’s a $5 fee — so as the installer is leaving, call and downgrade — save $144 of the installation fee… though taking advantage of some of the rewards and promotions may actually make it less expensive to have more services for longer.

Oh, and one last word — make sure you keep copies of everything you “read” online to do with any promotional credits, rewards, requirements.  As I’ve already said, AT&T does not engender trust.

Originally posted 2010-05-14 02:00:22.

Dynamic IP Filtering (Black Lists)

There are a number of reasons why you might want to use a dynamic black list of IP addresses to prevent your computer from connecting to or being connect to by users on the Internet who might not have your best interests at heart…

Below are three different dynamic IP filtering solutions for various operating systems; each of them are open source, have easy to use GUIs, and use the same filter list formats (and will download those lists from a URL or load them from a file).

You can read a great deal more about each program and the concepts of IP blocking on the web pages associated with each.

Originally posted 2010-08-17 02:00:55.

SyncMate v3

Eltima has released version 3 of SyncMate; this version includes an app for direct Android synchronization.

I’ll be doing a full review of it in the near future; but for those of you that are extremely happy you might want to consider upgrading.

If you purchased the expert edition you’ll have to pay to upgrade; if you use the free edition you won’t have to pay.  Also not you’ll have to re-establish your synchronization settings, the upgrade doesn’t migrate them.

http://mac.eltima.com/

Originally posted 2011-01-19 02:00:29.

Citi Mobile SM for Cards

Citibank has rolled out a mobile banking application for many phones on most major cellular carriers.

Personally I’m not sure why we’ve gone to a model where vendors seem to believe we need all kinds of applications to do simple things that could be done through a web browser… perhaps that’s an unfortunate side-effect of the iPhone craze (or perhaps better said as crazies).

I think it’s great that banking institutions are thinking about ways to provide services to individuals who have cellular data plans, but I think it’s unfortunate that we can’t just use simple standards — after all, the point is to enable the flow of information, not to make an application that people play with like a game.

To use the Citi Mobile application, you need a supported handset on a supported carrier, and you have to sign up, download, and activate it through the Citi “My Account” web portal.

Originally posted 2009-01-28 01:00:03.

Google Voice and POTS

So you’re one of the dwindling number of Americans that has a wire line telephone in their home (generally referred to as POTS – Plain Old Telephone Service)… and you’d like to cut down on your bill as much as possible.

Well, just like with cell phones, perhaps you need to consider Google Voice.

Why pay the Telco for voice mail; Google Voice will give you that for free.

Why pay the Telco for long distance; Google Voice will give you that for free.

Why pay the Telco for unlimited dialing; provided you have an internet connection (broadband or cellular), Goolge Voice will give you that for free (you’d only need the limited dial plan).

Here’s the skinny (so to speak)…

Since you’re reading a BLOG post I’m going to assume that you’re “connected” — which means you have the ability to use the Internet (through something other than dial-up)…

Setup a Google Voice account NOW.  That means you’ll probably have to request a Google Voice invitation to go with your Gmail account.

Once you’ve done that, just hookup your Google Voice number to your land line and start using your Google Voice number for everything (you probably don’t want to pay for call forwarding — so you’re going to end up re-training people to call another number).

Then call up your Telco and get rid of Caller ID, Call Waiting, Voice Mail, long distance packages, and unlimited dialing (go with the limited rate plan — and if you’re low income, make sure you take advantage of the Universal Access rates).

Just keep your browser open to Google Voice and you can quickly see who’s calling (or setup Google Voice to announce it to you when you answer the phone); and you can have Google Voice place all your local and long distance calls (it’ll call you, so that won’t count towards your out-bound calling units).  If you miss a call, it goes to Google Voice, and you’ll get a transcription of the message via email or you can read it on the web site… or if the transcription isn’t good, you can play the recording or even have Google Voice call you so you can hear it over the phone.

Google Voice will keep a log of each and every number that calls you — plus give you a great deal of flexibility in blocking un-wanted calls.

Also, if you want to stop people from calling your home number, simply have the Telco change it (there will be a fee unless you’ve had issues with harassment) and have them list the new number under a name like “Solicitation Prohibited” — no need to pay them for an unlisted or unpublished number (you can have your listing any name that’s use doesn’t constitute fraud).

Remember, keep the money in your pocket — no reason to feel sorry for the dwindling profits from the Telcos that have been nickel and diming to death all these years and provide you with telecommunications services that haven’t improved substantially in decades.

Originally posted 2010-10-18 02:00:12.

Net-Neutrality Policy

Google and Verizon have announced an agreement on a policy proposal surrounding net neutrality.

You an read up more on that on:

While the agreement provides that traffic on the “public Internet” will be handled equally for all sources and destinations; it does not preclude vendors setting up private networks to carry traffic… a policy that could see resources that once might have been available to the “public Internet” only available to those who pay.

The proposal also limits the FCC jurisdiction to wireline; and exempts wireless broadband — and that could spell trouble in the ever growing dependency of American’s on carrying their Internet with them in the palm of their hand.

I have an innate distrust of big companies like Google and Verizon, and I’m pretty sure if they’re agreeing on anything , it’s not a good deal for me.

Originally posted 2010-08-19 02:00:08.