Choosing a new laptop

Last updated on July 6th, 2015 at 02:41 pm

My main workhorse is an eMachines eM250 10.1? netbook. All my email, calendar and important software works via the cloud so I can use any machine with a web-browser. I learned that lesson in the Great London Laptop Crash of 2008.

However there are some items I use local storage for:

  • genealogy research
  • music, video, podcasts and other media
  • ebooks, PDF?s, and reference material
  • film and TV project producer files (budgets, head shots, contracts)
  • software development and scripting (especially for iPad apps)
  • GPG signing and encryption keys

Maybe the NBN will give me the speed to store all that stuff on the cloud, but for now it is a lot of data that represents a significant part of my work and home life.

I?ve advocated using cheap, easily?replaceable?devices for most common business and personal needs. Avoiding Windows has reduced at least 80% of my malware risk and 95% of my support requirements.

I abandoned podcasts two-and-a-half years ago after I moved to Ubuntu. Podcast catching and portability is one of the areas where seamless integration across multiple OS?s does not yet exist. I can re-subscribe and re-download (where available) the podcasts I enjoyed. But I never got around to it. Plus I no longer had a daily 90-120 minute round-trip commute to listen to them.

Now my eMachine eM-250 is showing it?s age. It?s been dropped and abused, the left arrow key now longer works, the Alt+Tab combination is not reliable, the battery lasts about 50 minutes and the power cord connector is so loose it only charges about half the time.

I also need to move my iPad app development environment to newer hardware than the 2007 Mac Mini I?m currently using. So I see three choices

  1. replace my netbook with a new $300 netbook and buy a new or refurbed mac mini
  2. buy a refurbished 13? Macbook for about $600-$700
  3. buy a new Macbook Air for $1099

Apple is announcing the iPhone next week, hopefully they?ll refresh the Air range at the same time in which case I may just buy the Air. If they don?t refresh the range, I?m reluctant to start lugging around another 13? laptop so option 2 is not ideal. Let?s see what happens next week.

Domain name dispute scam

Last updated on July 6th, 2015 at 03:29 am

I received this email ? up front warning it?s a scam:

(If you are not in charge of this please transfer this email to your President or appropriate person, thanks)
Dear President,
We are the department of Asian Domain registration service in china, have something to confirm with you. We formally received an application on?April 18,?2012. One company which self-styled ?Daess Investment, Inc? were applying to register ?zagz? as Network Brand and following domain names:

zagz.asia
zagz.cn
zagz.com.cn
zagz.com.tw
zagz.hk
zagz.in
zagz.net.cn
zagz.org.cn
zagz.tw
After our initial checking, we found the name were similar to your company?s, so we need to check with you whether your company has authorized that company to register these names. If you authorized this, we will finish the registration at once. If you did not authorize, please let us know within 7 workdays, so that we will handle this issue better. Out of the time limit we will unconditionally finish the registration for ?Daess Investment, Inc?.

Best Regards,

Sam Yang

Registration Dept.
Tel:?+862885915586??||? Fax:?+862885912116
Address:8/F XiYu building No,52 JinDun Road,QingYang District,Chengdu City,China.

I didn?t think people would fall for this, but then a client sent me a similar email asking that I action it on their behalf.

The fake registration warning it trying to scare you into paying inflated registration fees to register your brand domain in a bunch of foreign top level domains. Now if you have the budget, reach and vision for that kind of world domination, by all means register them all ? just don?t do it with this spamming scammer.

My netbook has crashed

Broken Screen by John Julian Hansen Denmark / sxc.hu

Last updated on July 5th, 2015 at 05:14 pm

Broken Screen by John Julian Hansen Denmark / sxc.hu
Broken Screen by John Julian Hansen Denmark / sxc.hu

My main workhorse is a eMachines m250 netbook. Last night it decided to crash. Now it only boots under XP safe mode or Linux from a USB.

Most of my apps are on the cloud in some way or other, so I am not actually missing anything. But it is inconvenient, there are some local files I?ve moved to a USB stick to keep working.

In the past, a system crash like this would have shut me down for at least a few days. I?ve wasted this morning trying to recover the machine. But now I give up, time for some sort of netbook distro of Linux and move on. Working that out will waste a few more hours later tonight.

I think I?ve lost some of my Tweetdeck setup, plus some downloaded media and white papers, but nothing important I can think of.

Why are businesses still using PC?s and local storage?

WordPress Bad Behavior Plugin Conflicts

Last updated on July 5th, 2015 at 04:06 pm

The Bad Behavior plugin for WordPress is great, it denies spambots even seeing your blog before they try to spam you. But there are four specific issues to be aware of with Bad Behavior 2.0.43.

4 conflicts when using the Bad Behavior plugin

1) On WordPress with WP-Super Cache plugin

Bad Behavior must be enabled in WP-Super Cache?s configuration in order to protect PHP Cached or Legacy Cached pages. Bad Behavior cannot protect mod_rewrite cached (Super Cached) pages.

mod-rewrite is the fastest and most efficient way to cache the pages. So if you Super Cache your pages make sure you?ve configured everything correctly or don?t bother using BB. Alternatively if you want both WPSC and BB you must select Advanced options to use PHP or Legacy caching. Then you must configure the WP Super Cache plugins options too.

2) On WordPress with Spam Karma 2 plugin

From the readme When using Bad Behavior in conjunction with SK2, you may see PHP warnings when Spam Karma 2 displays its internally generated CAPTCHA. This is a design problem in Spam Karma 2.

SK2 is old but will updated ?real soon now? by people who?ve taken over its development. The new version is called Spam Karma but ignore this advice if the new SK is not in http://WordPress.org/extend/plugins by Sep 2011. SK2 is still the #1 spam killer I?ve found. If I have to chose between SK and BB, SK2 wins.

3)Whitelisting

Whitelisting is done in a bad-behavios/whitelist.inc.php file that gets overwritten on upgrades. Whitelists should be either in the database or in an upgrade-proof config file. So if you need to whitelist something, copy the file to a backup like whitelist.inc.backup.php immediately.

4) Commission Junction users

I?ve read Commission Junction still needs to be white listed. The bot is failing the header test that?s trying to verify advertising banners.

400 Header ?Referer? is corrupt (45b35e30)
CJNetworkQuality; http://www.cj.com/networkquality
216.34.207.6

Bad Behavior?s Developer Michael Hampton?s response is ?that?s a problem with CJ?s bot; you need to report it to them? which I agree with. But if you have choose between CJ and BB, CJ wins. Hopefully CJ has fixed their bot

Hosting Migration Checklist

Last updated on July 4th, 2015 at 07:06 pm

I?ve migrated the server this site runs on. Let me know if anything has broken in the move either in a comment or by email to paulz at this domain.

Here is a top level checklist for managing such a move. I?ll expand it as the post migration testing continues.

  1. Check dependencies for your application and site
    1. PHP version & modules
    2. Database versions
    3. Apache modules
    4. Application hard coded file system paths
  2. Copy file system files
    1. You can use SCP/FTP tools or rsync
  3. Copy databases
    1. If files are small (<50MB gzip?ed) you can use phpMyAdmin to export then import to your new host.
    2. Larger sites will need to use FTP and command line tools.
  4. Migrate email addresses, aliases/forwarders and any IMAP mail
    1. IMAP email boxes can be manually moved via email client. This can be slow for mailboxes >100MB
    2. Gmail is great for migrating mail and gives 7.5GB of storage assuming you don?t mind Google tracking everything.
  5. Migrate mailing lists and mailing list application if any.
  6. Note any domain name aliases on old host and replicate on new host
  7. Migrate hosted stats package like awstats
  8. Check cron jobs for any custom jobs/apps that need to be migrated
  9. Update domain SPF records
  10. SSH keys will change ? be aware of it
  11. Change DNS name server delegation
  12. Test
    1. email addresses,
    2. mailing lists,
    3. mail forwarding
    4. applications
  13. Check for broken links

Why are you still using an email client?

Last updated on July 6th, 2015 at 02:51 pm

Years ago I moved to an email server accessible from my iPhone, laptop, netbook, notepad or desktop computer. Initially this was achieved by using the IMAP protocol which was supported by MS Outlook, Thunderbird, Mail.app and many other email clients on my various machines. I had configured each client to bcc: myself in order to ensure my sent mail was always available (not every client handled sent-mail correctly).

For the last 3 years I’ve used an entirely hosted solution, currently gmail. My email is always available on whatever machine I’m using. I am aware of privacy and security risks (a topic for a future post).

Several family members recently had problems with their Outlook installation. Two of them are small business owners. One of them subsequently had a machine crash and she is stuck without her email history. This is a greater inconvenience to her than not having a computer at all. If she was on the cloud she’d buy a $400 replacement and be back working 2 hours later.

Their reason for storing all their email on their laptops? “That’s what I’ve always done and that’s what I know to do.” My aunt bought MS Office just so she could use Outlook because that’s all she knows.

Another reason I get is to access old email even when not connected to the internet. Not a good enough reason to store all your email locally and struggle with the backup risks.

Why are you still using an email client?

Update Play Count in iTunes for Windows

ITunes 12.2 Apple Music logo

Last updated on March 24th, 2017 at 02:24 am

I lost the playcount in iTunes for Windows for some of my tracks.

Tonight I wanted to fix that without editing the Library.xml file – that’s too extreme. I envy Mac owners as they have wonderful Applescript collections to manage iTunes.

I found the awesome Liquid Parallax scripts but didn’t like manually editing the javascript file to set the new play count. So I hacked it together with some Windows Script Hosting magic to invoke a input dialog box in javascript. So the script now asks you to input the new play count.

Installation instructions for Adjust Play Count in iTunes for Windows:

  1. Download AdjustPlayCount.zip and unzip the contents somewhere on your hard-drive. This will give you a 3KB file called AdjustPlayCount.wsf
    • Google Chrome doesn’t like wsf files and may block it with the message AdjustPlayCount.zip may be dangerous so Chrome has blocked it, you can use Firefox to download it or
    • go to your address bar and enter chrome://downloads/# 
    • then click KEEP DANGEROUS FILE
  2. Remember where you saved the script.

How to Adjust Play Count in iTunes for Windows:

  1. Select/highlight one or more songs in iTunes for Windows (use Shift+click or Ctrl+click to select more than one file). This can include the song now playing.
  2. Alt+Tab to your Windows Explorer window and double-click AdjustPlayCount.wsf
  3. Enter the desired new play count number in the dialog box.
  4. Click OK
  5. The script will reply with the new play count and number of files adjusted.

The script will update your iTunes for Windows play count for all the selected songs – even for the current playing song if you’ve highlighted it.

It worked for me on Windows XP and Vista Home using iTunes 10.0.1.22. In the comments you’ll see it works with Windows 7, 8 and 10 with iTunes 12+.

I provide no warranties for this script. Test it on one backed up song first. If it kills your tunes, drinks your liquor or runs off with your daughters, it’s not my fault. You’ll see in the comments it has worked with thousands of files for others.

You can open the wsf file in a text editor to read the script if you want to see what it does.

Limitations:

  1. iTunes for Windows only. It kinda needs Windows to work.
  2. AdjustPlayCount does not check or force you to type an integer in the dialog box. I don’t know what will happen, but it can’t be good.
  3. I’ve tested it with 20 songs selected. I don’t know how it would perform if you selected 1,000 songs at once. Let me know, okay? *You’ll see in the comments it’s worked with thousands of files for others.

Suggestions, bug reports, questions and/or thanks in the comments. Maybe I could make it increase the play count by set number? Tell me what you think.

Update 14 April 2013: I’m thinking of a checkbox that will also reset the last played date to todays date. Again, let me know what you think.

Update 24 March 2017: If you can’t download the file using Google Chrome browser because of its security settings, you can use Firefox to get the file or do the following

  • go to your address bar and enter chrome://downloads/# 
  • then click KEEP DANGEROUS FILE

How to unlock an iPod screen lock

Last updated on July 6th, 2015 at 02:56 pm

while keeping all your photos and music!

My daughter’s friend has an iPod with a forgotten the screen lock combination. It had a bunch of photos on it that she’d like to keep too.

So we searched for a fix and finally came up with this simple hack on Windows XP. It should work on other flavours of Windows, and should also work on Linux and Macs.

  1. Connect your iPod to a PC and enable disk mode in iTunes. You can also manually put the iPod to disk mode
  2. Open My Computer in Windows Explorer and open the iPod drive. In addition to a drive letter it will also be called the name you gave the iPod e.g. Paul’s iPod
  3. If you can’t see a folder called ipod_control, enable show hidden files and folders. This is accessed from the Windows Explorer menu Tools > Folder Options… > View tab
  4. open the ipod_control folder then the Device folder
  5. delete the file that starts with the name _lock
  6. Right-click on the iPod drive letter and eject. Alternatively use your normal Safely remove device technique.
  7. The iPod is now unlocked but to finish the process, reset it by holding down the Menu and center buttons on your iPod. Once it restarts your iPod is unlocked while all you music and media is still there.

Thanks to 0wxw0 on YouTube for his great tutorial.?Let me know in the comments if you need additional help or just say thanks.

Vista LPR printing

Last updated on July 6th, 2015 at 03:12 pm

Thanks to the Delphi Geek’s post When Vista Doesn’t Print I finally got Vista to print to my multiport print server a D-Link DP 300U.

Earlier versions of Windows worked by just adding a local port. Windows Vista allows you to do it just like always, but it doesn’t work.

You must first install LPR Port Monitor feature via Control Panel > Programs and Features > Turn Windows features on or off > Print Services. Then create a new LPR port and add the IP address and queue name.

Hope it helps someone else out there. Plus I keep a note here.

Vista Home Basic is not good

Last updated on July 6th, 2015 at 03:13 pm

I’m using a new budget laptop at the moment. It’s a Compaq c700 (actually a c763TU) that will eventually go to my kids, so I thought I’d checkout what Vista Home Basic is like.

On a laptop it makes no sense! Laptops move from location to location, but the networking features are brain dead. I’ve managed to get it working each time, but I don’t think my mum would manage at all well. Actually her laptop is Vista Home Basic, but she only connects to the internet when she’s at home or my place. So she doesn’t have to deal with network configuration issues.

In the two weeks I’ve had it the network configuration has given problems at least 5 times.

The Compaq C763TU has a web cam and a card reader built in, but no PC Express slot and it’s only running a celeron processor. But for sub $600 AUD I wasn’t expecting a lot of features, just a simple laptop. In that regard it’s quite nice.

Still can’t stand Vista. Yes I know Home Basic is the cut down simple version, but it should just work dammit! I miss my MacBook.