Archive for category Computers

Yahoo Autosync needs an update

Yahoo Autosync must be a low priority item for Yahoo. I am running Vista, and it isn’t usable. Looking at the help page for Autosync related to supported platforms, it is pretty obvious that it isn’t something Yahoo values (or they don’t update help very often):

What are the system requirements?
Currently, you need Windows 2000, Windows XP Pro, or Windows XP Home.

You also need at least a Pentium Processor, 128MB RAM, and 40MB disk space.

Note: Vista/Outlook 2007 are not currently supported. We hope to have this by the end of 2007.

Last time I looked 2007, and 2008 have come and gone.

I guess I shouldn’t complain. I didn’t pay for it. 🙂

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Internet VD

There are a group of internet sites that exist for the sole purpose of generating advertisement hits. I see a lot of examples in the spam that gets filtered out of my blog.

While speaking with friends the other day, we came up with a term to describe these sites. They often contain no real content, and just referrals to other sites. Thus the term “Vacuous Destination” (along with its abbreviation “VD”, which has a whole different connotation, but I think appropriate as well) was hatched.

I hesitate to give examples of this stuff, as I don’t want to generate ANY revenue for them. If you have misspelled web addresses before and ended up at some odd search site, you might have seen one flavor of them. Another more obnoxious variety is the type that “hires” writers to provide “articles” so they have “content”. The articles are usually just a bunch of fluff, surrounded by advertisements. The best way to eliminate this sort of content from the internet is to not visit it AT ALL. Don’t certainly don’t click on any of the advertisement links on the sites.

Only you can prevent the spread of internet VD.

,

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Weather Station more stable…

The weather station software stopped working a couple of times in the past 24 hours, so I tried another Serial to USB converter I had available. I’m pretty sure the converter that shipped with the La Crosse WS-2316 was the culprit because I could get things working by stopping the software, removing the USB device, reinsert it, and reenabling the software. The symptoms seem likely to be a driver issue with the original adapter. I guess I’ll know if that is true after this new adapter runs for a while.

I wonder if the protocol for the WS-2316 is published anywhere… It would be interesting to see what it provides and perhaps create some different software to process the data. After a bit of searching, it appears there is a little information on the protocol here and here. Maybe if I can find some free time, I’ll try to put together an application to get the data from the unit. I’m using the WUHU software right now, and it works ok, but I’d like to optimize the data I collect for what I am interested in.

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Weather Station activated…

Yesterday was another adventure with the aluminum extension ladder. Normally, it comes out when I need to clean the gutters, put up the Christmas lights, and remove the lights again. Occasionally, I use it to retrieve a stuck rocket, ball or airplane that somehow “accidentally” gets launched up on the roof. Yesterday was an all together different beast. This year, I got a weather station as a gift. Installing the rain gauge and sending unit was a piece of cake. The anemometer, and wind vane was a little more work. The manual suggested that it should be located three to four feet above the peak of the roof. It came with a 30 foot cord to connect to the sending unit, which made the whole configuration a little tricky. I decided the best thing to do was mount it on a mast on the chimney. This is where the adventure begins. I found the parts I needed on the Radio Shack website: the mast, and a mounting kit. The mounting kit comes with two stainless steel straps. Or should I say eighteen foot razor blades. Those things are sharp. I ended up working with gloves on to get them in place. The straps also have a lot of memory, which makes some things easier and some things more difficult. The difficult part is that our chimney is on one side of the house, so wrapping the straps around it involves spanning the area that you can’t stand next to. My wife is uncomfortable with heights, so I ended up having to do most of it by myself. The ratchets were not the best. The metal they are made of it quite soft, which makes them a little hard to get tight. Creative use of duct tape to hold the strapping in place temporarily, and a few choice swear words later, and the mast is mounted on our roof.

I’ve been having a problem with the USB->Serial adapter that came with the unit, as it seems stop responding occasionally, and I have to reboot the host computer. I’m guessing the Vista driver isn’t all that great. When it is working, you can see what the data looks like here. I added a Weather Underground widget on the right that displays information from it. If I can’t get the USB->Serial connection working consistently, I may have to make a host computer out of a machine with a dedicated serial port. It sounds like I could make the host machine Linux based too. That’s an adventure for another day.

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Yahoo Messenger 8.1 DOESN'T fix that annoying bug

The REALLY annoying bug that I posted about before has reappeared. Since Yahoo doesn’t seem to respond to any support requests on the subject, I thought I might try to help them debug the issue. Here are the Window’s messages that are processed by the main window every second or so:

<00002> 000B09E8 P message:0x0466 [User-defined:WM_USER+102] wParam:00000000 lParam:00000203
<00003> 000B09E8 P message:0x052E [User-defined:WM_USER+302] wParam:00000000 lParam:00000203
<00004> 000B09E8 S WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING lpwp:0012F23C
<00005> 000B09E8 R WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING
<00006> 000B09E8 S WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGED lpwp:0012F23C
<00007> 000B09E8 R WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGED
<00008> 000B09E8 S WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING lpwp:0012F23C
<00009> 000B09E8 R WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING
<00010> 000B09E8 P message:0x0466 [User-defined:WM_USER+102] wParam:00000000 lParam:00000203
<00011> 000B09E8 P message:0x052E [User-defined:WM_USER+302] wParam:00000000 lParam:00000203
<00012> 000B09E8 S WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING lpwp:0012F23C
<00013> 000B09E8 R WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING
<00014>000B09E8 S WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGED lpwp:0012F23C
<00015> 000B09E8 R WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGED
<00016> 000B09E8 S WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING lpwp:0012F23C
<00017> 000B09E8 R WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING
<00018> 000B09E8 P message:0x0466 [User-defined:WM_USER+102] wParam:00000000 lParam:00000203
<00019> 000B09E8 P message:0x052E [User-defined:WM_USER+302] wParam:00000000 lParam:00000203
<00020> 000B09E8 S WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING lpwp:0012F23C
<00021> 000B09E8 R WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING
<00022> 000B09E8 S WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGED lpwp:0012F23C
<00023> 000B09E8 R WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGED
<00024> 000B09E8 S WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING lpwp:0012F23C
<00025> 000B09E8 R WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING
<00026> 000B09E8 P message:0x0466 [User-defined:WM_USER+102] wParam:00000000 lParam:00000203
<00027> 000B09E8 P message:0x052E [User-defined:WM_USER+302] wParam:00000000 lParam:00000203
<00028> 000B09E8 S WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING lpwp:0012F23C
<00029> 000B09E8 R WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING
<00030>000B09E8 S WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGED lpwp:0012F23C
<00031> 000B09E8 R WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGED
<00032> 000B09E8 S WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING lpwp:0012F23C
<00033> 000B09E8 R WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING
<00034> 000B09E8 P message:0x0466 [User-defined:WM_USER+102] wParam:00000000 lParam:00000203
<00035> 000B09E8 P message:0x052E [User-defined:WM_USER+302] wParam:00000000 lParam:00000203

Another bit of information that I thought was interesting: When this bug is occurring, Yahoo Messenger won’t pop-up in front of Command Prompt windows. Start->Run->cmd. As long as they are in the foreground.

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Yahoo Messenger 8.1 fixes that annoying bug…

Yahoo has released version 8.1 on the Yahoo Messenger page that seems to fix that annoying bug I posted about earlier.

Given my experience with this issue I think Yahoo! could learn a few things about software distribution:

  1. Respond to user queries through your customer service.
  2. Tell users when there is a new version of software.
  3. Put a release notes document on the messenger page so you can actually figure out what to expect in the new version.

Of course, you get what you pay for, and Messenger is “free” software.

I like the features of the Yahoo! software (Messenger, and Jukebox), but they are both resource pigs. I stopped running the Jukebox regularly because the thing chews up so much RAM.

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Code Gem of the Day…

I ran across this particular “gem” today in some C code:


char * string = Foo();

if (string == NULL)
{
   string = (char *)malloc(1);
   sprintf(string, "%c", NULL);
}

The intent was to guarantee that “string” contains a C string. This implementation is amazingly stupid for two reasons.

  1. It is really inefficient. What they really wanted on the sprintf line is string[0] = 0; The sprintf line, requires a function call, requires the stack be set up with the string parameter "%c", and requires the function decode the string to determine how to interpret the optional arguments. The alternative I propose ends up being a couple of assembly instructions, no function call, and certainly no format string being generated.
  2. It overruns the 1 byte buffer they allocated. sprintf null terminates the string it creates, without regard for the size of the buffer you provide for storage, and without regard for the content of the formatting values. A safer way to do this would be to use snprintf, which allows you to specify how much storage you are providing. Or better yet, use the suggestion above.

The whole function that this code was contained in was poorly written, but this “gem” stood out.

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Dude, Dell Laptops are da bomb, literally…

It seems quiteliterally given this article illustrating a dell laptop that burst into flames. I wonder what caused it. I recommend HP over Dell, but I’m biased. 🙂

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The Great Reconstruction

The webserver that hosted this site was also recently hosting (albeit temporarily) the Lupper worm. That has been rectified, but it wasn’t simple. There was an installation of awstats on the old server setup that I had mostly forgotten about. While I believe the firewall I had setup on the box prevented any of the backdoors the worm opened from being useful, I couldn’t be certain. I decided to rebuild the box. I chose to use a new gentoo install. After some initial pains with booting the LiveCD (because my CD-ROM doesn’t support DMA), I was off to the races. Slowly. I started on Wednesday of last week, and just managed to turn on the blog again last night.

During the process, I managed to lose all the content to the blog. Luck was on my side, and I managed to recovery it. WordPress uses MySQL as its backend database. Before I wiped the main drive of the server, I had exported the contents of the database and stored them on a separate drive. After getting gentoo up and running, I “emerge”d apache, MySQL, WordPress and other stuff I needed. (The virtual hosting in gentoo is well done, btw.)

I was in the process of restoring my database and made a one character error. Instead of using “< " to redirect the text file to the mysql command I used ">“ and redirected the output of the mysql command over my text file. One slip of the finger and two years worth of postings were gone. Ouch. I wasn’t pleased.

I managed to figure out that I could dump the unused blocks on the drive using debugfs. I let that go for a while and ended up with an 800MB+ file. A few greps later, and I confirmed my hope: the data was still on the drive. A little more investigation and I found the data was relatively contiguous in the dump file, AND because I hadn’t compressed the mysql dump, I could actually piece it back together. I threw together a couple of C programs. The first chopped out the stuff before my data and the second chopped out the stuff after my data. I ended up with a few megabytes of mostly text data that needed to be cleaned up, and as you can see, it worked.

What have I learned?:

  1. Understand your system
  2. Keep up to date on releases if you are going to have a public website
  3. Make sure backup files are read-only
  4. Don’t make major changes to your setup while tired, or if you do, triple check before hitting “return”

I’m confident managing this system will be much easier now that I am using gentoo. The old server had been running RedHat 8 with lots of stuff hand upgraded by me. Now it is running a 2.6.x kernel, and a sane packaging management solution. Kudos to gentoo. Hooray for being able to go to bed at a sane time again.

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Microsoft and Yahoo in IM cooperation

It looks like Microsoft and Yahoo have come to an agreement to make the two IM clients work together. I can say, it certainly is annoying having to have so many clients installed on a given machine.

I find the Yahoo client to have the best ease of use and features of the clients I use. I especially like the integration of the launchcast radio into the client. It is much more convenient than having a separate browser window open. I personally use or have used recently ICQ, MSN Messenger, Google Talk, Yahoo, and Jabber (via Exodus) in different locations.

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