2/27/08

Skype with Video for Mac

In my blog Time to try SightSpeed, I wrote, "When Skype comes out with video conferencing for Mac, I'll try that also." There is a version of Skype for Mac with video conferencing. My Skype id is fmavolio.

I'm still happy and willing to talk via SightSpeed, as I mention in the above cited blog entry. My SightSpeed id is fred@avolio.com. If you try either one and I do not respond, please leave a message or send me email.

Skype with Video for Mac is available at www.skype.com,

I had good success with my friend, Michael.

Skype continues to work well. Recently a friend with a MacBook Pro (Dick) tried to use iChat video with me. It worked great. For a while. After a few minutes we both got the same, common errors with an inability to connect, both sides saying that local user had refused the connection. We switched to Skype. (I will test iChat under Leopard with my friend Michael (above).) Skype just worked.

Recently, I recommended this to someone on one of the Apple discussion groups. The title was "The Grandparents weep for joy, then frustration." His final reply from the Apple discussion:
I wish that I could give the points for solving the problem to everyone that has helped but in the end I am going to say that Fredrick solved my problem. He was the first person to suggest that I use Skype and within five minutes of downloading the application I had my daughter playing with her grandparents 1000 miles away. Ralph, I think eventually I will try your suggestions but it will be more from satisfying my nerdy tendencies then actually needing iChat to work. My brother in law and my wife's parents both now have Skype installed and it is everything I hoped it would be. I knew that we had been successful when Sophie leaned in and kissed the screen trying to kiss her grandma.

2/22/08

PGP and Leopard

I've been a fairly happy PGP Desktop User. I used it on Windows and when I moved to a Mac. Even though few of my correspondents use it (as I mention in this earlier blog) I like to have the option. And, I do have some PGP-encrypted e-mail that I keep encrypted. Before Leopard, PGP Desktop came with a "Mail Bundle" for Mac. It's an extension that adds "decrypt/verify" and "encrypt/sign" buttons to the Mail windows (where appropriate). PGP Corporation prefers users to use the proxy, an application running in the backgroud and automatically decrypting (it is secure; it asks for your passphrase) and encrypting if it can. I wanted more control over what I send encrypted. (Just because my friend Davecan read PGP-encrypted e-mail, does not mean I always want to encrypt email to him. A topic for another blog, perhaps.)

The Mail Bundle in Leopard broke this.

I found a fix at the site of someone who is really made at PGP and thinks PGP Sucks. (I don't think it does. I think it needs a small sub-group that handles retail customers.) He also pointed me to the solution. Sen:te's GPGMail. It is not a final release, but is working fine for me. (I have the GPGMail_d51_Leopard distribution.) It requires Gnu Privacy Guard, which I got from Sourceforge's Mac GNU Privacy Guard site. (You will have to use Terminal to import your key files.)

It works fine, just as I want it. I moved the not-working PGP Mail Bundle out and moved in the GPGMail bundle.

Here are some screen shots.
  • An encrypted message:
  • Decrypting it:
  • Creating a new message:


The Mail/Preferences window is straightforward. For more and earlier discussions on secure email, check out my secure e-mail collection.


UPDATE: Updated to PGP 9.7. All is well.

2/18/08

Leopard Installed!

As I mentioned earlier, I put off installing Leopard until 10.5.2 came out. The reason was, while I knew friends who had a smooth installation, I worried about the] hassles I read about from others. The things I read seemed... well not very "Mac-ish" and more "Vista-ish." (Kind of like what Apple says in their ad Party is Over and PR Lady, which mentions people downgrading to XP from Vista). So, I bravely waited. (☺)

I did install it and have Leopard up and running just fine on my PowerBook G4. (The Intel MacBook Pro I use at APL will be upgraded when IT tests all Lab-required applications.) The short version is:
  • It was not without problems. I.e., it was not painless.
  • Some applications needed tweaking when I was finally done.
  • was/am very glad for my back-up procedure. It made some of the restarts I had painless.
In the next week, I will blog on the following:
  1. The installation. The steps I went through. What failed. The easy and simple fix.
  2. Problems I had, in particular with iCal, iChat, AddressBook, and Mail, and how I fixed them.
  3. The good stuff. Cool things, things I don't yet use, good surprises.
Look for these in the next week or so.

Freeing Up Space

I needed to free up space on my 12" PowerBook G4 today. I noticed a sluggishness. Then I got an error in iPhoto as I was modifying a photo. (I had previously downloaded some Christmas photos and before that downloaded new music I received for Christmas.) It told me I was low on space.

Using I checked the "info" about my Macintosh HD. Sure enough, it was nearly completely full.

First, I deleted the GarageBand application and associated files. I had never uninstalled it although I meant to. I don't use it, nor can I imagine ever using it.

I also deleted the Macintosh HD/Library/Application Support/Garageband directory as well as the Macintosh HD/Users/Shared/GarageBand Demo Songs folder.

Using "du" in a Terminal window, I found that my iTunes and Pictures folder were (as I figured) quite large. Using a program called WhatSize, I dug around and basically confirmed that my photos, though taking up a lot of space, were not the big user. iTunes was.


And given that there are convenient ways to move my music to another drive, that is what I decided to do. First, I tried to follow the instructions for How To: Back up your music using iTunes 7. I could not use iTunes back-up facility though because I did not want to burn my music to CDRs and my PowerBook does not have a DVD burner! No worries. I back up my system regularly (as I mentioned in my discussion of System Back-ups. I have 2 copies of my music library already. I followed most of the instructions in How To: keep your iTunes library on an external hard drive. Make sure you read "The Gotchas." Really, the only downsize is that if I forget to fire up the external drive, iTunes eventually complains.

All told, I cleared up 25G.
Macworld, regarding saving space on the MacBook Air, has an article applicable to saving space on any Mac, called Fitting your files on a MacBook Air.

Speaking of storage, what do you think of Jungle Disk?

My friend, fellow Mac-user, and long-time colleague David Strom, sent the following:
I recently did a lot of research for an article that is going to appear (hopefully) in the NYTimes this mo. on online backup.

Jungledisk is cheap, but it is also slow. If you do a full backup of your drive, it will take several days. It really isn't for disaster recovery, but more for let's say another place to store stuff that is offsite. The trick is keeping it up to date once you go thru the process of getting all the files up there. I think for 1 GB it was like a buck a month.

AOL Xdrive has a Mac access, but it is thru the Web (I think, I can't remember all the variations now, I tested a bunch of them). In any event, you can see more specifics here: onlinebackup.html

David
Thanks, David!

Another Expensive Loss, This Time Due to Email

The headline said Lilly's $1 Billion E-Mailstrom. Katherine Eban opened with, "A secret memo meant for a colleague lands in a Times reporter's in-box."

The short version is that typing in a recipient's last name first expanded in the sender's email client (it could have been any email client) to a Times reporter with the same last name instead of the sender's co-counsel. That should never happen. But, it happens all the time. It usually has benign results. Why, just the other day I sent a short email message to a friend, I'll call him Andy Jones. I typed in his email address from memory: ajones@example.com. Except that wasn't his address. I did not get a reply, I knew he usually replied quickly, and I saw by his IM screen name that he was on and active. So, I looked up his email address to be sure. I had left out a letter. He used his middle name: abjones@example.com. Bummer. But, no harm done. It was short, nothing-secret-about-it kind of note. But, this story and my example, reminded me of something from a past company.

Up in the UNIX support group at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), in the olden days, everyone there used the same VAX computer, decvax. It was a major UUCP gateway (look it up—it's part of your history!). On this central computer, there was a mail aliases file. Usually, such a file is used for mailing list support. For example, ultrix-engineers might expand to the email addresses of the entire group of software engineers. That's a good use for distribution lists. One day a product manager sent a note out to internal folks about what she was working on, DECWindows. She sent it to what she thought was internal folks... not even a distribution list. She sent email to—and I am making up these names now: joe, mary, ken, tom, and jane.

The next day, she got a note from Ken Thompson at Bell Labs saying, basically, I don't think this was meant for me. See the developer she wanted to send to, Ken Smith, used his initials for his mailbox, kts. The mailbox "ken" ... well you see where it went to. It could have been worse. In that same file there was a mailbox "bill" which went to Bill Shannon and "joy" that did not go to Joy Dormat, but rather to Bill Joy. Shannon, formerly an employee of DEC UEG and Joy, formerly at UC Berkeley—which expains the "why?" of their emails being in the DEC aliases file—both had moved to Sun Microsystems, a major DEC competitor. Now, that wasn't the same problem as what happened to Lilly. Back then, email clients did not auto-complete addresses. It is a worse problem today. One types and the email client fills in a name, we hit and go on to typing the next name, and so on. It is a problem with some technical solutions, but solutions that we mostly ignore because "it just won't happen to us, and even if it did, what could happen?" There are solutions out there. I bet that Ely Lilly's outside law firm gets an email firewall.

(In the past, I've written about, lectured about, and reviewed products, and recommended policies, that mitigate risks like this. It really is old stuff, that has already been managed. We just don't bother. See my Secure E-mail Collection.)

Potentially Expensive Laptop Loss

For the one who lost it, that is. The AP headline on the Fox News website said "Best Buy Sued for $54M Over Lost Laptop." The woman who is suing wants to make a point and doesn't expect all that much. Read about it at foxnews.com.

But, she doesn't seem to be remorseful about not encrypting her data. Most of us don't do it, do we? I'm not in the survey business, but I wish I knew how many businesses encrypt their computers. We've talked about it for years. In 2006, it was More on Stolen Notebook* PCs. And I wrote at least two columns for WatchGuard on the subject. PC Disk Encryption: A Lesson Learned and Recommendations and Deploying Crypto, What Are You Waiting For?.

2/15/08

Leopard

I've been trying to think up a reason to upgrade to Apple's new OS. I read David Taylor's blog entry, I'm now running Leopard on my MacBook Pro and Mac Mini! and was convinced by the reported faster performance (not that I have a problem with that) and the $109 price tag. (See David's blog.)

I found his list of "the applications [he] needed to install to be fully functional" interesting and gave me a few to check out. I made a similar list when I first was looking to switch from Windows. (See After Windows, What?.)

Yeah. I chickened-out. I've got the box but I am waiting. I still read of some problems with it and will wait until 10.5.2 (.1 is out already). I guess they spent a lot of cycles on that expensive phone.

I have a PowerBook G4. Anyone else have the same that had a smooth installation? (Anyone reading these besides Olivier in France?)

Okay, I did it! I successfully installed Leopard. Not without a few glitches, but it is done and working. I'll blog about it Monday (2/18/08).

2/6/08

Who's Your Daddy?

Yesterday, I spoke with Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor at Dark Reading. Check out what we talked about in Who Invented the Firewall? (No, it wasn't me.)

It is interesting to me to see who claims what. Someone claims to have developed the technology used in all firewalls today. (That would be... what? Boolean Algebra? Sorry, man. That was George Boole!) And someone else is the father of the "first commercially successful firewall." Quick! Who is the father (sorry, or mother) of the first firewall that "struck back?" How about the father of the firewall with the most vowels in its name? The father of the first firewall built on marketing hype?

Don't worry. There's room for everyone.

Dave Piscitello previously discussed this in Inventor of the firewall?