Category Archives: Tech

Firefox password manager

As a heavy user of the Internet I have a lot of passwords. Initially I used a text file to keep track of them. Later I moved to a spread sheet, and finally to a password manager that ecrypts the password store.

Firefox also has a password manager, however it is fairly primative. I can’t store arbitrary information about a site or passwords for arbitrary systems. I can’t store the password data at a specific location or switch between password files for personal use and password files for work without switching Firefox profiles.

I can’t easily open up the password file in other applications.
The password manager doesn’t help me to generate passwords.

Someone, please make the password manager in Firefox more fully featured. Compatible with standalone apps and powerfull enough to use as my main password manager.

iFolder Ideas

I’ve been avidly watching the iFolder project for a while now. I’m currently using iFolder 2.0 at work and love it, I was thrilled to hear that iFolder went open source and have high hopes for the project. Progress on the peer to peer part has been dissapointingly slow, but understandable. The only real quibble I have is that the developers seem to be unecessarily complicating certain areas that should be simple.

Specifically , if I want to share a folder I should be able to designate an iFolder and create invitations that give the bearer the rights to access the share. Letting the user figure out how to get the invite to people, reduces complexity. Most people know how to send a attachment in email. Consider the invite a key, although an optional additional level of authentication, say a password, would be nice.

Other ideas:

Embed a user name inside the invitation.
If I send an invite to Fred and I suddenly see 300 simultaneous connections from computers using Fred’s invite, then I can disable that invite and possibly issue Fred a new one. If I want to issue seperate invites to 30 different friends, all to the same iFolder share, I can assign rights and even revoke the invites individually. If I want to issue a single invite to all my friends then I can. I can name the invites user as an individual “Bill”, or as a group “Website design team”. Individual machines IP addresses may change, and users may use same invite on more than one machine, but the name tells me who is connected. Allow the host to see who (based on name I assigned in invite) is accessing a share and on how many simultaneous connections.

File name only sync.
Create all the files and subdirectories but don’t sync any of the data (0 byte files). This allows for a quick sync, I can decide if I really want to subscribe to this iFolder, and lets me pick individual files to sync fully.

Secure / blind sync
Client computer gets only encryped copies of the files, allows users to let friends or family to host blind backups. Make sure to encrypt the file names too.

Move sync.
Moves files from host/server to client. Once the sync is complete, the file is deleted from the host but remains on the client. This allows me to easily move files from one machine to another.

Multiple levels of access on the same share.
Bill has read and write, but Ted only gets read access.

Revision control system built in.
Track versions of files and show who and when made what changes.

Scheduled / throttled sync
Allow the host to limit number of files to sync to others per day.
Don’t sync file until specific day and time.

P2P with Authoritative host
A central host has the Official versions of all files, all peers sync their changes with that host.
But when host is down, peers sync their files with each other until Authoritative host comes back online and straigtens things out.

Force Peer sharing.
Once server knows that there is a full copy of a file out on the peers, point all other peers to the peer copy of the file. Saves host bandwith.

P2P redunancy
Peers keep record of all other peers (and hosts) latest IP, peers only need to find one other peer still connected with the share to get reconnected to the host. Works even if host is not on stable ip. Have the host go out and try to find peers when the host restarts iFolder.

Universal Logins

I have more than a hundred different accounts. Some for websites, some for software, my phone company, webhosting accounts, database, email, ect.. For the most part I was dilligent and used a unique password for each one. I store them all in a wonderful little password storage program called PINs. PINs tells me I have more than 180 usernames and passwords. Even with PINs, all those passwords are a pain to keep track of. I want a Universial Login System. Let me create one username and password that works across hundreds of sites. Microsoft tried this with Passport and it failed. The problem with any such system is that the user usually has little to no control over who has access to their data. The key to making a universal login system work is giving the user complete control over what sites have access to what data. Bruce Schneier’s article mentions that many ecommerce sites have no way of cancelling accounts, you are forever liable for the accounts and the information about you that they contain.

So the Universal Login System (ULS) should allow you to give or remove a website’s right to see your email address, credit card number, home address, or any individual bit of information about you. It is important that the ULS gives you the ablity not only to allow a website to see your information, but also to revoke it.

A ULS user should be able to login to the ULS site and:

  1. See what information is being made available to what websites.
  2. Grant and remove a websites rights to specific information.
  3. Approve and reject requests from websites for additional rights.
  4. Change password, edit personal information, ect.

A user should be able to login to a ULS enabled website using their ULS account transparently. Essentialy if you have a ULS account you already have an account on any ULS enabled website. The key is that unless you specifically authorize otherwise, that account is empty and contains no information about you.

ULS offers the website operator two main advantages.

  1. A lower barrier to entry for users. I don’t have to go through the effort of creating yet another username and password, I’ve already got one.
  2. The ULS handles fixing lost passwords, expired email addresses, old and outdated personal data.

Mount an ISO in Windows

Many is the time I’ve had an ISO CD image and wanted to use it without the waste of burning it to CD first. The fact that my CD burner fails about half the time makes it all the more important to me. Well after much searching I’ve finally found the application that allows me to do just that. FileDisk allows you to mount a file as a disk. ISO Recorder Power Toy lets you create your own ISOs. With these two you can create and use ISOs. Now if I could edit an ISO I’d be happy.

Eventually I’ll add these to OpenSourceList.org. Which I’ve decided I will start adding to soon, even though the code isn’t complete.

OpenSourceList.org

Quite a while back I started a site devoted to all the free stuff you could find on the internet. It was a monument to my cheapness. Well, the dotcom bubble burst, the free stuff started drying up, and I lost interest. Slowly I developed a new interest in open source software. It was free, thus appealing to my cheap side. It was open, giving it a chance to have a life beyond that of the interest of any one devloper or company, appealing to my lazy side. I was getting tired of finding replacements for good software that suddenly either cost money or vanished completely.
Continue reading OpenSourceList.org

Log file name formats

I’ve used several different webhosts over the years, and occasionally been frustrated by their useless, or even bizarre naming schemes for log files.

Currently I am using both 1and1.com and HostRocket. Both are fine hosts and I am quite happy with both. Except for how they handle log files.

HostRocket required me to write a script to put a copy of the log in my directory, because HostRocket clears and restarts them every day. Bizzare, but with the script it works out ok. Every so often I fire up FileZilla, download the accumulated log files, then delete them from the server. I’ve even been able to add my own log file naming scheme into the script, so it works out to be almost a positive experience in the end.

1and1 is a little more sensible. They put the log files in my directory, but the names look like this:

access.log.21.gz
access.log.22.gz
access.log.23.gz

Continue reading Log file name formats

The Ultimate Cell Phone 2

Revision of my thoughts on the perfect cell phone:

  • Use open standards wherever possible. I don’t want any device’s life limited by it’s drivers or software.
  • Connections: USB, Bluetooth, Wifi
  • Charge battery via USB or a traditional charger
  • Act like a thumb drive
    • USB Mass Storage. Show up just like a flash thumb drive when the phone is connected to a computer.
    • Ringtones (mp3, ogg, midi, wav), Address books (xml format?), Calendars(ical), all show up as files in standard formats. Sorted into their own directory (/Ringtones, /Addresses, /Calendars, etc.).
    • Extra space can store arbitrary files. If the phone doesn’t understand the file, the phone ignores it.
  • Continue reading The Ultimate Cell Phone 2

Organize and Sync files

Ok, I want a program to help me organize and sync my files.

Duplicates
It should search for duplicates, options for matching by, file name, size, CRC, and byte by byte comparison. Allow me to define in which folder(s) to keep and in which folder(s) to delete duplicates. Allow me to define folders to ignore.

Sync
Help me to keep folders, removeable media, and other computers in sync. Track deletions, on any copy, note conflicts, and when in doubt, never delete anything.

Organize
Suggest, but never move without permission locations for files.

The Perfect Cell Phone

I’ve been thinking about my vision of the perfect cellphone.
It should:
Use USB to connect to a computer.
Be able to charge it’s battery via USB.
Show up just like a flash thumb drive when the phone is connected to a computer.
Ringtones, Addressbooks, Calendars, all show up as files in standard formats. Probably sorted into their own directory (/Ringtones, /Addresses, /Calendars, etc.). I can use extra space to store files that I want to keep with me, if the phone doesn’t understand the file, it ignores the file.

Bluetooth (or something similar).
When I get close to my work or home computer (only the computers I setup) the Phone automatically syncs up with the desktop.

Every alert / noise the phone makes is customizable.
Caller groups
Calendar
Addressbook
email recieve (with alert)
keypad lock
quickly to silent mode

I don’t have to pay extra to use all the features of my phone.

Sending pictures or text messages only count off of my regular minutes? No extra charge.

Duplicate file handling

Ok, when I am copying or moving files from one directory to another and one of the files has the same name, Explorer asks me if I want to overwrite Version A with Version B. What frustrates me is that Explorer isn’t smarter. What I’d like for Exporer to do when it finds a duplicate file name is:
1. Do a file size check, if the same go to 2
2. Do a CRC check, if the same go to 3
3. Do a byte for byte comparison, if the same, don’t bother asking. No copying necessary. If moving, you can just delete the Move From copy.

If the checks fail at any of these steps, then prompt asking what to do. Having a diff button right there would be nice too.

The only question would be what to do with different timestamps. I don’t really care, but I’m sure some people would.

Mozilla should put a Bayesian spam filter as a high priority.

Mozilla should put a Bayesian spam filter as a high priority.

After reading the article A Plan for Spam I got fairly excited about this new method of spam filtering. Assuming that Bayesian filtering works as well as the author of the article claims, this new method works about as well as the highly regarded Spam Assasin. This method however has several important advantages. Bayesian filtering does not rely on any other machines. It makes no extra connections, no extra requests. All the processing and rules are client side. The rules in a Bayesian filter are adaptive, they adjust automatically as new emails come in.

This could be the “Outlook killer” feature that would push many to switch to Mozilla as their email client. True the user still has to download the message before being able to filter it and for many not downloading the spam message is the whole point. Possibly in the future a standard could be developed wherby a client machine periodically communicates to the server a users personal keyword ratings and filter thresholds. Then the filtering can be done server side and the user never has to download spam. But this would be in the distant future. As is, this should not be an overly taxing addition to the current filtering methods, although not being a programmer I am most certainly over simplifying the case.

What does the term “Open Source Software” mean?

What does the term “Open Source Software” mean?

Usually before a program is distributed it is compiled. When a program is compiled it is translated from the understandable language used by the programmers (well, understandable to programmers anyway) to a language that is faster for the computer to understand but completely meaningless to humans. A compiled program is a black box. You can see the program, observe what it does, but you cannot see _how_ it works. If there is an error in the program you cannot open it up to see where the problem lies. It is near impossible to edit the compiled copy of a program. Most companies release only compiled programs to prevent competitors from using their code in competing products.
Continue reading What does the term “Open Source Software” mean?

Eudora to Mozilla

I switched my email from Eudora to Mozilla yesterday. Will take some getting used to but I think it will go well. The switch also forced me to look at which email addresses were getting what mail and I’ve started rearranging some accounts.

The hard part will be wating for some of the more advanced filtering features that I really want.

Microsoft Subscription

Looks to me that Microsoft is already starting down the path toward subscription software. They start by releasing patch after patch, so that server administrators have difficulty keeping up with them. Next they make the handy Windows Update service available to servers for free. And finally they are ‘forced’ to turn it to a pay service.

Viola! Subscription software.

I love TiVo!

Tivo has literally changed the way I watch TV. I love it!

I never watch live TV anymore, I let TIVO record everything and watch when I am good and ready. I get to see many shows that I would have misssed because of when they happen to be on. I don’t even look at the TV book to see what’s on. A quick look in Now Showing and presto! The Simpsons, Drew Carey, Doctor Who, even a couple of movies, are all sitting on my Tivo right now.

I just got in my Tivo doll and green remote yesterday. Too cool.

I sleep better now that I have a Tivo. No I’m not that much of a freak. I know it sounds weird but the hours I keep are more consistent since I don’t have to stay up just to catch a good show. I now get to bed at a decent time during the week.

I don’t channel surf, I get to pick what to watch from a list of my favorite show instead of settling for the best that’s on right now.

A Tivo is a smart VCR in the same way a computer is a smart calculator. There just isn’t an easy way to simply explain the real magic of a Tivo.