Logic Bound

Technology Stuff

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Flash Cookies Gaining Steam

In my original post about LSO, I tried to give a brief update on what they were and how to block them. Since that time, their use has become more invasive, and Adobe's tool reached the point where it just doesn't work for day to day use.

I got very frustrated with the Settings Manager that Adobe provides. The key reasons are:
  • It doesn't integrate with my browser (Firefox)
  • It doesn't always save my preferences
  • I have to go back to it and manage each site's data regularly
A couple of days ago, I just got fed up and went looking. At the time of my last post, there wasn't much out there to help manage this problem. Today, there is, so I wanted to share what I found.

First of all, if you want some general education on LSO and what they are for, please see this website.

Next, if you want to be proactive about keeping this data off of you computer, you need to be using Firefox along with the BetterPrivacy extension. If you aren't using Firefox yet, you should be. Not because it's faster, not because it's open source, or any of that jazz. Use it because it is flexible and extensible by the open source community. Without that capability, the ability to remove LSO data would probably not be possible at this time.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Home Media, Part 2 (Storage. No, firewall.)

For starters, I need more storage. My main office computer is a Mac Mini hooked up to a 20" flat screen. It's got an 80g drive which filled up last year sometime. At that point, I went with an external USB enclosure with a 500g drive. It was fairly cheap (thanks Newegg!) and allowed me to move my iTunes library off to another drive, which freed up my primary volume considerably.

At 500g, I had way more space then I needed. I decided to partition the drive in half and give Time Machine a try. It was incredibly simple and easy to setup. Just the way I like it! On top of that, I felt moderately better that I was backing up important documents, photos, and home video.

Anyway, back to the point. I need more storage. I would like to start moving my DVD collection online so that I can stream it downstairs to the PS3. I'm pretty lazy and this would save me some trips up the stairs. Furthermore, I get kind of tired of swapping disks in the PS3 from playing games to watching DVDs.

So, because I'm not only lazy, but also cheap, I started looking around at the spare equipment that I had stored up in the office. I just figured I'd repurpose some existing equipment and fire up Linux and Samba and be done with it. There are probably enough parts lying around to build about 3 pc's, but it's all pretty old stuff. I have 2 working pc's, one of which is a Windows gaming machine that powers down randomly. The other is my firewall which runs Debian at the moment.

The firewall it is. But, before I repurpose that box, I need a different firewall. (I know this is a long ways from storage, but bear with me) I decided to upgrade my wireless access point to be wireless access point/firewall. The excellent DD-WRT package made this very easy in addition to adding some nice QoS functionality that I wasn't using before. I won't go into all the details of how to do it, because I believe that it is documented well elsewhere. Definitely drop a comment if you have some questions about it. I can go into details of my setup in a future post.

Before I closed out the firewall project, I ran over to Shields Up to verify the firewall settings were sufficiently hiding me from portscans. Yep, all good! Everything comes back "stealth". Now... where was I?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Home Media, Part 1

I've been watching the home media craze from a distance. My friends are buying media servers and media extenders and networked TiVos and on and on. But, I just haven't jumped into it. I have been quite satisfied with my DirecTivo with a modded hard-drive for extra capacity. It's not HD. It's not networked. It is years old and it just keeps working. I have all the movie channels and I do the occasional RedBox. Life is simple.

Unfortunately, that doesn't last forever. Now, I'm itching to do something different. I have some growing storage needs on my home network. I've got a PS3 that I use to play me some Call of Duty with my 10 year old friend and some guy named A_Trillion_Ninjas. I've got a growing sensitivity to risk and how my data backup strategy is working out.

I've just got this growing laundry list of fun little projects that take about 5 times as long as they should. The more I thought about it, the more they all became related.

I thought I would share my adventures here. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you think I'm an idiot. It's all good...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

More Email Redirection

I've written before about some of my email behaviors. I thought I would share some more with how I manage personal email and how I got bitten by it this month.

I have used a personal domain name for quite a few years now. These are sometimes called "private label" or "vanity" domains. There are a number of reasons why I do this. It used to be because I ran my own mail server, but any more it's probably just a matter of branding and the ability to choose any email address I want.

When Gmail became available (my oldest message is dated October 2004), I signed up for an account to see what it was all about. I liked it so much that I wanted it to become my primary email application. I quickly moved my personal email over to my new Gmail account and configured my personal address to forward to my Gmail address. This allowed me to respond to mail regardless of which address it was delivered to. The ability to set a custom From: address meant that I could still have messages that I sent from my Gmail account be marked with my personal domain address which provided some consistency for those who pay attention to where messages come from.

I operated in this fashion for a few years. I ultimately got bored with configuring my own SMTP server and started using a webhost to do this for me. I went through a couple of services before I found one that I liked for the amount I was willing to pay. Recently, Google started up another service called Google Apps. This is a free service that will host your personal mail and web space among a few other things. They don't have as many features as some other places, but the price is right.

I switched my personal domain over to be hosted by Google Apps about a year ago now. The experience has been pretty good, although not perfect. Now that my personal domain email actually lived on Google's servers, the dilemma that I faced was whether or not to maintain my @gmail.com address and continue to use the Gmail application.

As for my main inbox, I prefer the Gmail application over the Google Apps mail application for my personal domain. The main reason is that the public Gmail application seems to get new features long before they release them to Google Apps. A secondary reason is because many of my friends already have my Google Talk login (@gmail.com) and I don't want to go through the hassle of getting them all to change. :)

Once that decision was made, I configured my personal address, once again, to simply forward all mail to my @gmail.com address. This works well except for the way that Google has chosen to implement a forwarding mail alias. I say alias, because on other webhosts (and, indeed, in Sendmail itself) it is quite easy to create an alias that merely forwards everything to a real mailbox. Google's Apps offering does not offer that functionality. You have to create a real mailbox for every address that you want. Then, if you want it to forward mail, you must login to the mailbox and configure it to forward mail to another address. This means maintaining another username/password as well. I don't really like this approach, but, let's face it, it isn't painful enough to make me switch to another webhost.

Now that you have a background (hopefully, you aren't just plain confused) of how my personal email ultimately flows to my inbox, I will share with you how this approach has let me down over the past few weeks. It all comes down to spam; where should it be filtered?

Google does a wonderful job fighting spam. I rarely see spam in my inbox anymore. It is just something that hasn't been an issue for quite a long time. One of the very common methods that mail providers use to ensure that they don't incorrectly mark a message as spam is to check to see if it is from a person in your address book or contacts list. They assume (correctly) that if a person you know is sending you a message, it probably isn't spam. Well, for me, that breaks down.

Recall a couple paragraphs ago, that I have an actual mailbox for my personal domain address. All this mailbox does is forward to my @gmail.com address. However, since it is a mailbox and not just a forwarding alias, Gmail checks all messages coming to that address for spam. This approach is fine, I suppose. Although, it would be perfectly acceptable if they just forwarded the spam messages and let my @gmail.com address handle it. Since I never login directly to that address, I obviously don't manage my contacts there. Therein lies the problem. I realized yesterday that a few of my messages from dear friends of mine have been getting flagged as spam because I don't have any contacts listed in that mailbox. These messages hit the spam folder and never get forwarded to the @gmail.com address that I monitor.

This has been happening only for the last few weeks, which leads me to believe they have done something to get more aggressive lately, or (sinking feeling) I just don't have anything in the spam folder older then the last few weeks and this problem has been happening all along.

My short term fix for this is to export my contacts from my @gmail.com account and import them into my personal domain account. I don't like this approach because it is a high maintenance solution, but it will have to do until I get some time to research this further.

Feel free to comment if you are using an interesting approach to email and let me know what you do and don't like about it.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

iPod Touch vs. Zune

In one of my earlier posts, a friend of mine commented that I would probably regret my purchase of the iPod Touch and should pick up a Zune. He knows how to get to me. Normally, I just write off his Microsoft-loving comments as gibberish. But before I did that, I figured I should actually go out and see what the differences are. Honestly, I had no idea what the Zune could or could not do. I've just never really cared about the Zune.

A Google search later, I am looking at a comparison of features between the iPod Touch and the Zune. Most of the features are really pretty much the same. Screen size, weight, battery life... (yawn). There is a couple of areas that stood out though. Turns out they each have something the other does not: The Zune has a FM tuner. The iPod Touch has the Internet.

Which one would you choose?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Wake Up

I access my home computers from over the Internet all the time. Because of this, I typically leave them on 24x7 so that I can always log into them. Yeah, this uses some power, but the convenience of it has always been more important to me. I knew about wakeonlan capability, but just never took the time to figure it out.

After I read this write-up, I decided to bite the bullet and give it a try. Turns out to be way easier then I thought. You should give it a try!

I ended up using a different utility then the ones suggested in the article though. Since I tend to log in via ssh, I needed a utility that will work via command line. This one works nicely on my Mac (cuz OS X just comes with PERL out of the box). I also grabbed it on my Debian system with "apt-get install wakeonlan".

One thing to note, it will be easier to use this if you happen to recall the ethernet address of all your home machines. I could tell you that I have all mine memorized, but I would be lying. Instead, I just created a quick notebook on Google and stored them all there.

My machines now have power management settings enabled. They will enjoy a well deserved rest tonight. Give it a try and let me know how it goes...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Magic Touch

I got an iPod Touch the other day. Yes, they've been out for a while now, big deal. Some of my friends will tell you that I am afraid of new technology. They are liars.

At any rate, I got a used one from my cousin who recently upgraded to an iPhone. If not for that, I probably still wouldn't have one. I played around with it for about 4 hours last night and I'm just blown away by the possibilities in this little device.

However, I don't necessarily like it for the same reasons that Apple has intended. Sure, the screen is beautiful, and the form factor is nice. Problem is, I have a perfectly good iPod that plays music and video just fine. And no, I really don't need to watch it sideways. That isn't the reason that I like the Touch. The reason I like the Touch is twofold; the wi-fi capability, and the full web browser.

I carry a laptop for a living. It is a heavy beast and I have a bag full of accessories to go along with it. It certainly has its place, but I find that I won't take it into a coffee shop or some other place with wi-fi access because it is just to painful to lug it around, boot it up, and log in just to check my email or catch up on some RSS feeds. Sometimes, I feel like these guys.

Enter the Touch. It fits nicely in my laptop bag or in my pocket. It is flash based, boots immediately, and has a fully capable web browser. Take that, add in the excellent applications provided by Google, and I have a very powerful device that can replace my laptop in a lot of scenarios. Gmail and Greader are apps that I use daily. Both are quite usable on this handy little device. Next I will have to try creating one of these posts with it!

Do you have an iPod Touch or iPhone yet?