Category Archives: Technology

VoodooPad, DEVONthink, NoteBook

I came across VoodooPad and have been using it on/off for a couple weeks.  I began first using it to take notes while attending some longer meetings (vendor product assessments).

After getting the knack for VoodooPad, I began using it a bit more the other night. I am recording server setup steps so that I may refer to them the next time I have to set another server up.  I can easily flip to the applicable page “FTP HOWTO” in my notes and follow it to ensure I leave nothing out.

Months ago, I began toiling with the idea that I should use a wiki.  But the web still lacks one rich feature that pains me so.  Drag and drop an image into a form on my browser.  This often leaves me looking for a 1st class application on the OS I am using.

An online Wiki (like one from pbwiki.com) is a great aid.  In fact, it even ensures my data is always safe.  But still, I have to deal with that annoying File -> Browse -> Select -> Insert File workflow.

Tonight as I began adding more information, I found another digital notebook type of application called NoteBook by Circus Ponies.  I am impressed.  But I haven’t yet downloaded it to try it out yet.

Then I found DEVONthink.  Wow….not too bad.  Of course it should be when the Professional Office edition is $150.  Granted the “personal” edition is only $40.

So for now, its back to VoodooPad.  There are some things I wish it did better.  For example, I haven’t found a clean way to lay out items side by side (using tables).  I cannot associate an image with a link to another page or website.  I do however seem impressed by the Python script that can be ran within a document.  I could see writing steps to set something up, and including a test script that can be executed at the end of the HOWTO to verify the service is properly working. :)

Jury is still out on these…

Home Automation by Savant

Listened to GeekBrief.TV Radio cast and later read this page.  Didn’t realize this was the only company let alone any company existed in the home automation space that built their product up on top of Apple hardware.  Interesting! Touches on a conversation I just had Monday evening.  Interested in seeing/hearing more…

Savant Page here

Added:  Savant is calling for talented Apple developers to integrate other applications into Savant’s solution(s).

Ban SSHD attempts with fail2ban

I have servers hosted at Linode.com, have had them for several years now.  While I am working or sleeping I rarely ever have an issue.  But that doesn’t mean something isn’t happening with them.  In fact, beyond the normal traffic I would expect them to get, I often get attacks via port scans, sshd login attempts, etc.

I take what some would consider above average security precautions.  I’ve been called anal in the past by friends because I wouldn’t expose FTP or unnecessary protocols blindly.  Instead I tell them to get an SSH tunnel client and use any service they want to through the secure pipe.  Its easy enough to do even for customers from their desktops.

Besides the public SMTP/POP/IMAP and WEB, the only other major service I may expose to the WWW is SSH.  Which ends up resulting in someone who doesn’t belong on my server, trying to get on it.  Oh yes, I see every attempt as I use logcheck to drop me occasional emails throughout the day informing me of what is going on.  To be honest, I’ve had this email log checker being sent to me for years.  And I often think of the day that I will turn it off…but then the what if scenarios pop into my head, and I don’t do it.

Well I had enough with the failed sshd login attempts.

Security Events
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Aug 27 16:32:00 smallbox sshd[20823]: Failed password for root from 130.206.132.121 port 44533 ssh2
Aug 27 16:32:03 smallbox sshd[20825]: Failed password for root from 130.206.132.121 port 44789 ssh2
Aug 27 16:32:06 smallbox sshd[20827]: Failed password for root from 130.206.132.121 port 44974 ssh2
Aug 27 16:32:10 smallbox sshd[20829]: Failed password for root from 130.206.132.121 port 45191 ssh2
Aug 27 16:32:14 smallbox sshd[20831]: Failed password for root from 130.206.132.121 port 45456 ssh2
Aug 27 16:32:17 smallbox sshd[20833]: Failed password for root from 130.206.132.121 port 45698 ssh2
Aug 27 16:32:20 smallbox sshd[20835]: Failed password for root from 130.206.132.121 port 45919 ssh2
Aug 27 16:32:23 smallbox sshd[20837]: Failed password for root from 130.206.132.121 port 46153 ssh2
Aug 27 16:32:26 smallbox sshd[20839]: Failed password for root from 130.206.132.121 port 46379 ssh2
Aug 27 16:32:30 smallbox sshd[20843]: Failed password for root from 130.206.132.121 port 46619 ssh2

Before you say….but wait you listed their IP here! Do you really think I care? :)  BTW…it came from Amsterdam.

Adding fail2ban into the mix…

What is fail2ban?

fail2ban will monitor events (in my case log files from auth), mark IP’s as bad for a configurable time (minutes, days) and release the jailed IP after that configurable time. Continue reading

XBOX 360 E74 Error Message

Eleven months after buying the Xbox 360 for my son on his birthday, today the Xbox 360 stopped working displaying RED error lights on the front.  The screen has E 74 at the bottom of the page.

Research shows several tips on how to temporarily fix it.  I wanted to find out how much it was going to cost to have it fixed properly by the company who engineered and sold it to me.  It seems that the XBOX 360 is under warranty for about one more month and the fix will be for free including all shipping to/from the service center. Continue reading

Free iTune Apps reviewed

Well after spending countless hours the last couple days on iTunes being slow after backing up my iPhone.  Apple released an update to the iPhone 2.0.1.  Things were responding nicely..sync was on par, so why not check out some more free applications.  I mean … worst I can do is slow things back down again, right? :)

CrazyLighter - this is by far one of the most useless apps, but one I will never attend another music venue in the evening without.  And the great news? I won’t be nursing my burnt fingers the day after as the iPhone hasn’t yet burnt me or anyone else I know of!

PegJump - Cracker Barrel peg toy on table.  I will say no more…even kept the kids entertained.  For some reason they keep beating me…I don’t know why.  Maybe because my parents taught me collecting more pieces in the end shows the winner.  My kids just rolled their eyes at that one…

Compass - I can’t really test this one out, as its pitch black out at night.  Tomorrow I’ll check it out.  Maybe the developer will think of moon light on the next version. :)

Hangman - Good, fun game.  I’d like the keyboard to be bigger.  Drop the space between the letters and/or reuse the iPhone keyboard, no? The graphics are not bad, but upon loading the program, I thought of a stickman with attitude (Animator vs Animated).  No attitude on this one, he was already dead before I hung him. :)

iPhunny - catchy app name.  Very simple….amusing jokes.  Hint….to change to the next joke…swipe your finger sideways like scrolling through your pictures.  It only took a few seconds of shaking and finger swiping to move it along.

Magic8Ball - This one rocks.  Shake your iPhone (holding it firmly in your hand) and it vibrates and makes sounds…stop the shaking to get your fate…

Earth 3D - I like it…awesome looking, but was bored quickly.  It would be good for a lesson on….oh the earth is round…and we do revolve around the sun, etc.  Honestly, I’m not sure how to really use this…or come up with a reason to keep it around.

Whip - Nice!! Just like iSaber, but with the sound of a whip coming from your iPhone.  I have some useful ways to use this tomorrow…Get your room clean….hang on…oh damn dead battery…ok…just pick up your socks…please!?!

Stress Toy - uhh…not what I had in mind.  It made me more stressed out…honest!  I deleted this one immediately.

Carrie’s Dots - a connect the dots, make a box, color it in game.  I’m going to try this out with the kids tomorrow.  I remember playing this in school as a young boy….when we didn’t have computers to make games for us…. :-p  I did change the names from Carrie/Dad to You/Me.

SpeedTest - Check the download/upload speed of your connection.  Nice utility to keep around.

Save Benjis - Look up the price of just about anything to compare while standing in your favorite store.  What’s even cooler is you’ll look like you know what your doing in a place like Fry’s! Those in Walmart will probably not even have a clue.  The search gets pretty involved, letting you specify the barcode, mfg., etc.

Nearby – Show’s POI or points of interest near your position, without having to register or log into anything.  There are other application similar to this, but I like the fact I don’t have to register for yet another social site! The downside is it uses Microsoft Virtual Earth, which I find to be more clunky to use than Google Maps.  May just be this application, but zooming in/out is not as simple and downloading the new maps to redraw the screen take longer than Google’s over same connection.

TapTap – I haven’t owned any of the Guitar Hero or Band type games as of yet.  After playing this for a few minutes, I may consider it.  I mean everyone has a little bit of Rockstar in them, don’t they? :)

Labyrinth Lite Edition – Not bad…get the ball traveling past the holes to its goal.  Yah right…this is a fun game, but not easy…well I did better just sitting it on the flat table and watching the ball barely move around.  Some of the maps did seem glitchy…the ball would bounce off a wall hard while slowly moving along.

And….I almost forgot…

1Password – I like its concept.  I don’t know how much I trust it at the moment.  I’m not putting anything super secret in here…that goes in my safe.  But its good at keeping things semi-private, well…private!  Saves logins for you on common websites…like Taco Mac…so you can log into their WIFI.  Don and I (at work) were looking for similar app to log into our WIFI at work.  I may just have to test this out and see how it does.  I hate having to log in each time, but it would be slightly better if I didn’t have to type anything in.

iPhone Contacts Music and Applications

So since I’ve had the iPhone for a couple of days.  I had a few tasks to take care of:

Music
I restored my music making iTunes the default music browser now.  Went through a large subset of my music collection and made playlists by themes that I enjoy.  I played around with how best to import my mp3 music collection, and after experimenting, I found going to File -> Add Folder to Library… would be the best option.  Keeping all my mp3 music on my RAID 5 file server.

Contacts
Every time I change phones, moving contacts is never automatic.  It does not matter if the store copies your contacts.  Typically, contact information stored in different fields gets dropped.  Well I decided for the time being not to join Apple’s MobileMe just yet.  I may enroll and check it out for the free 60 days. So I set up my Gmail account to syncronize with my iPhone.  I really like having all my contacts in Gmail and keeping them backed up there.  I was using Mail2Web.com to sync my contacts with my old phone (Blackjack).  Mail2Web provided a free account that provided Enterprise level services (calendar, email push, contacts sync, etc).

Mail2Web lacks a very important feature; exporting your contacts! So I went through all the contacts in Mail2Web copying/updating the ones I had in Gmail.  This enabled me to clean them up.  Only after going through this exercise, I realized that I could have just connected my iPhone 3G to the Mail2Web exchange services.  I may go back and do this, but my Mail2Web account is not my primary account.  I like keeping my contacts in Gmail.  I wouldn’t mind however for Gmail to enhance the contacts interface via the web client.

Applications
I’ve downloaded over 25 free applications by now.  Games, gadgets (light saber, Pint of beer), social applications letting me take pictures with geo-tagging.  I must admit this is all beginning to be quite fun! Two areas that interest me greatly are the where am I with a note or picture and what is around me (including friends).  I had began to use BrightKite suggested by a friend (Ken), but have also discovered two others since having purchased the iPhone: Whrrl and Loopt.  I’m going to test each one out and decide what I like best.

midomi – is one application I am impressed with.  Sing, Say or grab a song you hear on the radio, and this application will search attempting to match it so you can identify the song’s name and artist.

Twitterrific – probably the best (or one of them) to post updates on Twitter.

Google Mobile App – this application is handy to search everything at once.  Search your contacts, google search engine, coffee shops near your position.  I can see myself using this regularly.

Weatherbug – I was skydiving yesterday, and used this application so I could look at the radar and guess how long it would be before the storm passed over head.

BoxOffice – look up movies playing in the local theaters.  I wish it had movie previews/trailers.  It was however able to locate my local movie theater and easily show the movies that were playing, including times, etc.  Also includes movie ratings from RottenTomatoes.com

iPint – this is more of a novelty, but is was put together quite well.  At least when I can’t take it any longer at work in a meeting, I can pour myself a virtual beer and drink it.

People – find people using white pages look up.  I had no problem finding people with first/last name  and city/state.

Dial Zero – calling customer service for some company? Hate all the buttons you have to press to get a real operator? This program will dial the company and get you pass all the prompts to a live operator.  Classic!

Pocket Express – contains weather, movies, entertainment all in one package.  First noted, the weather radar is not as good as Weatherbug.  You can’t move the map around like you can on Weatherbug.  The travel section has not yet been implemented (you get directed to the web version).  The movies section has not been implemented yet.

PhoneSaber – Another novelty, but do you honestly think I would dare take on another iPhone geek without my PhoneSaber? :-p

Cloudy Photo Blogger – Take photos, and check out nearby photos that have been taken.

Fox News UReport – see something happen that is news worthy? Take a picture and send it to Fox news.  It may actually get used! I doubt I will stumble across anything news worthy…but just incase.

iPhone 3D Earth

I’m can’t wait any longer…I can’t stop thinking about owning the new iPhone 3G that is suppose to be available this Friday.  Seeing applications like 3D Earth makes me drool even more…

I’m imagining 3D earth as shown in the video to let you pan around by simply tilting the iPhone, but also with the built in GPS, I should be able to return to “where I am located” with the click of a button or two.  This is not a confirmed feature of 3D Earth yet!

I always said my next phone would be one that included GPS.  I said that about my next digital camera too so my photos are automatically geotagged. :-)  (still holding out on the camera)

Yeah, plan to set a filter now to ignore any posts on my blog with “iphone” if you don’t want to hear me rant and rave over the new phone starting this Friday! :-p

Valentine 1 Radar Detector Consumer Point of View

After trying out the Passport 9500i.  I had to give the Valentine 1 I ordered a try.  I’m not a professional tester like you see on these other sites.  I’m more of a consumer who loves electronics, gadgets and well…a new gadget is hard to not scrutinize even if I now only 10% about radar detectors. :)

In short I decided to keep the Valentine 1 over the Passport 9500i.  I’ll explain my reasons below and point out the ones I had read/researched about below. Continue reading

FireFox 3.0! Help set Guinness World Record

That’s right…for today only…download Firefox 3.0 and help set a record — or — just download the latest version of Firefox and try it out.

Google App Engine over lunch

I decided to grab lunch and read more of what I could find on Google App Engine (GAE).  Found a few interesting sites.

Steve talks about how GAE fills a much different need in the cloud computing arena than Amazon has done with its own S3 and EC2.  Google doesn’t charge you for the server you rent (i.e. like EC2), but rather they charge you with how much you actually use.

Next up is Shannon, who explains how .NET can leverage GAE through abstraction via a webservice call.

Last up, is a solution I found very interesting.  Andreas explains how GAE can be used as a Content Delivery Network (CDN).  I won’t bother going into details of what a CDN is, it is explained well on his website.  What I found interesting is how this would compare to Amazon’s S3; where I’ve seen several people adopt a similar strategy using Amazon’s S3.

Over the last couple nights, I also watched the GAE video on YouTube introduced in Google Campfire One.  Parts One, Two and Three.

You can download the GAE SDK herePricing is discussed (not confirmed) here.