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18 August 2005

SMTP on the Go with CosmOTE?

So what is the proper SMTP server for CosmOTE GPRS?


For the last week or so I have been hindered to send mail in a far reaching result of the change all the SPAM brings to the Internet. For years now I have been running an SMTP server on my laptop, so when I am on the road I can send out mail without having to set up another outgoing mail server with each provider. This is a solution that requires some technical know how, but up to very recently it worked fine. But now I get more and more occasions where the dynamic IP I am connecting with to the Internet is being blacklisted -- either because it had been used to send SPAM (by someone else), or just because it is a dynamic IP.

I had the same problem with my server (which is on a dynamic IP). There I solved it using a smarthost setup to my providers mail server. Now on the PowerBook I would be ready to do the same thing... only there are some obstacles that I currently can't overcome. My first thought would be to declare my own server as smarthost. That way I would have more control over the route of my mails. But to do this, I would need to teach the Postfix mail server on the PowerBook to use SMTP AUTH. Getting SMTP AUTH out of Postfix requires a recompile, which requires Sourcecode and documentation. I won't pay for that through an expensive GPRS connection, so that choice is out till I get back to Athens.

The other option (and what I had done in previous, similar cases) is to set up the connection providers SMTP server as smarthost. Since I am connecting through one of their IPs, I should be implicitly authorized to send mail through their server. So no SMTP AUTH needed, nice. Just that I don't know where their server is. I did a quick net search for it, but turned up only other people searching the same information and naughts.

(BTW it sucks immensely when I'm searching for a solution to a problem I have, and up comes my own page -- not even on a really relevant page. Somehow this shows me soemthing like a big fat "nothing usefull found" banner.)

Some people suggest to use mailsrv.mycosmos.gr, but this rejects my outgoing mails. They do not seem to authenticate by IP. Either this is not the intended mailserver for GPRS customers (likely, from the name), or as some people suggest, you have to use this server always with SMTP AUTH. Which leaves me at the same spot. Asking the customer hotline is out of the question, I don't want to spend 2 hours listening to clueless drones. Besides, judging from the web search, someone already did that, without success. It is likely that there is noone within Cosmote who knows what a SMTP server is.

So if you happen to know the proper SMTP server for CosmOTE GPRS, I'd appreciate a comment or a mail. Not that I have any hopes. Until that time I'd say: Thank you CosmOTE for making it so hard. With the few Cents you get for your GPRS connection you certainly can't be bothered to give out a little bit of information or to set up a proper SMTP server.


Posted by betabug at 12:15 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)
31 August 2005

Picking Up at an "Old" Project

First day at work after a vacation

Today is my first day back at work after a months vacation. After saying hello and asking everyone how they spent their vacation time, I got back to work where I left on my "old" project. In fact it's not that easy, since I completely "got away" from work on my vacation. So I made a little plan on how to get back into things...


First thing I made this little list. Then I started doing the things on the list. Then my boss called me over and we spun ideas and outlooks about how what we are building will grow and what it will come out to be in the end. That could be considered a distraction, but it turns out it wasn't. Instead it helped me get back into the gedankenexperiment that programmers turn into reality by typing into vi. But, here is my list:

This may not be the ultimate list for the task of getting back into code after vacation, but so far I'm getting along. Feel free to recommend additions and corrections!

On the personal side, I like my work, so it's not that hard to get back to it. But still, after a month of hanging out it is a change to sit in the same chair all day. But hacking on Zope stuff will bring enough distraction soon.

Posted by betabug at 16:03 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
07 October 2005

Installing a "Brother" Printer

Can you believe this?

This may sound like a joke. Today I had to install a new printer in the office, a Brother HL-5170DN, a small laser printer with an ethernet port. It turned into an adventure. Of course, actually putting the printer in place was easy enough. Setting it up from two Mac OS X clients was easy too (even though I had to install the PPD from the CD, it seems this one does not come with the system?). Then I had to set it up on a laptop with Windows XP too. What a nightmare...


First try: System control panel

Click on "Start", click on "Printers and Fax", add a new printer. A wizard opens. I can see the printer in the workgroup, but it is seen as a PC, not as a printer.

Second try: Printer CD

Maybe Windows does not know about this printer too, so pop in the CD and see what we got. Choose "Driver install". Click through a few screens until it is clear that this utility does not see the printer either. Open the manual, read, read, read. Apparently due to the use of NetBIOS, the printer should be seen here. But it isn't. Of course all troubleshooting information is for stuff like missing paper and not plugged in power cords.

Third try: Thinking about IP addresses

The Macs got this printer working through AppleTalk and Bonjour (née Rendezvous), but on other systems I would expect the printer to go up with some IP address. Looking through the manual I can see that this is true, but the setup has a Catch-22: When the printer comes up, it is configured to get an IP using DHCP. We don't have a DHCP server on our network, so it does not get one. Then it reverts to giving itself an IP in the 169.something range, which is reserved for this purpose and almost guaranteed to not be in use. Brother has a fancy name for this, APIPA (which is especially funny in Greece, as spoken aloud it contains the word for oral sex). So the printer is friendly to your network admin, because it does not use someone else's IP address. On the other hand, it is kind of rough on the admin trying to set it up, since you can't connect to that address. Oh, I forgot to mention one little detail: On a lot of printers you can set the IP address manually, because there is a small LCD display with some minimalist user interface. Not on this printer.

Switch off APIPA (do not say this out loud when in Greece)

What are you supposed to do? Switch APIPA off. Then the printer will revert to a static IP. Easy enough. Consulting the manual I learn that I have to switch the printer off, hold the "Go" button, switch printer on. Watch the blinkenlights till first they are all off, then the "Toner" light is on alone. Release "Go", press "Go". Wait till the blinkenlights play some more, then till "Status" lights up in green. Release "Go", hoping that all worked out (no feedback, what did you expect?).

Fourth try: Get a static IP

The IP this gives you is 192.0.0.192. That is one funny IP address. It looks like it is in private address space, but it actually isn't, according to RFC1918. But it is probably not used on the Internet or your LAN, so it's unlikely to mess with someone's network settings. But then, it's also highly unlikely that you can connect to it. The proper thing is now to set up a machine on the same subnet (say on 192.0.0.42) and connect to the printer. Wow, that worked.

Last step: Setup the printer in the PC

Finally we're here, the driver installer finds the printer, I can install the driver (which auto-setups the printer) and print. There is nothing like a good hour or two of puzzle solving fun to get something so simple as a laser printer to work. Oh, I have not found out how to teach the PC to use the second tray on the printer. That will be probably in the next game.

Posted by betabug at 17:41 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
11 October 2005

Next Smart Phone?

The successor to the P910 announced

As noted on slashdot and on Tor's blog, Sony Ericsson showed off the successor to the P910, the P990. A bit more about it in this article on mobilegazette. But enough of the linkage, now for my opinion...


I think WiFi and 3G on the new phone is quite interesting. It may depend a lot of what useful features they have built into the WiFi part, and how much 3G Services will cost for your provider. Internet via 3G could be especially interesting, it looks like with my current provider it is not more expensive than Internet via GPRS. The 2 Megapixel camera sure may be nice, but frankly for what I use the camera in my P910, I don't necessarily would need more resolution, but rather better optical quality. I guess this will improve a bit with a better and bigger chip, let's see.

What is a disappointment is the form factor: I enjoy the big screen on the P910. Having the extended keyboard on the flap wasn't such a bad idea. Maybe Sony had problems with the flip breaking off for some people, so they moved the extended keyboard "on" the device? Now it is just like a waste of space, tough for such a little critter trying to save every millimeter.

I liked the idea of an FM radio built in. Frankly the MP3 player in the P910 is crappie, nothing compared to the iPod. In theory, with a big memory stick it could be used as an integrated Shuffle with the phone, without the pain of having to switch headsets. But the sound quality is just not there. (This reminds me of when my iPod headset started to get broken on the cables, I went to buy earphones and bought Sony ones. I was struck by terror when I noticed how bad the Sony ones sounded in comparison to the iPod earphones. Admitted, the Sony earphones were cheap, but so are the iPod ones.) Now with a P990 one can at least use the phone as a radio to listen to music and use the headphones for calls without switching.

Posted by betabug at 10:06 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
17 October 2005

IE Bug Bitten

Internet Explorer Cannot Save to Cache error

We had been bitten by another IE bug here with the application we're building. Our customers using IE6 got a message "Internet Explorer can not save to cache", whenever they tried to save an image. Our application is working over https and puts out "Cache-Control: No Cache" headers. These are some ingredients that trigger the "cannot save to cache" bug in lame Internet Explorer 6. After suspecting my own code for a while and changing stuff around to check, I STFW (searched the f* web) and came up with that M$ support page. In case it goes away, here is the info in short:


Workaround for Zope: I added a line to my python script...

REQUEST.response.setHeader('Cache-Control','keepitifyoulike')

this just overrides the header for this one method. It's not perfect, but it works for now.

Posted by betabug at 10:13 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (1)
19 October 2005

Switching to reject_rbl_client on Postfix / Mac OS X Server

Messing with the config file

On a Mac OS X Server 10.3 machine, the config file was having lots of warnings:

postfix/smtpd[5270]: warning: 
restriction reject_maps_rbl is going away. 
Please use reject_rbl_client  instead
I was searching up and down on the web to find out what exactly would be the right way to get rid of the warning. The problem is that I did not find where Mac OS X server stores the records from the GUI "Server Admin", so I could not "automatically" include them. (BTW: #postfix on freenode won the price for this weeks most unhelpfull irc channel this month, a well formulated question with a lot of background info and it gets ignored like it's a metaquestion from a known lamer? Go back to talking about beer, #postfix.) Read on for the solution...


Now I have the blacklist servers only in the /etc/postfix/main.cf file. The line in the main.cf file was:

smtpd_client_restrictions = 
    reject_maps_rbl,hash:/etc/postfix/smtpdreject
And now it is:
smtpd_client_restrictions =
    permit_sasl_authenticated,
    reject_rbl_client sbl-xbl.spamhaus.org,
    reject_rbl_client bl.spamcop.net,
    hash:/etc/postfix/smtpdreject
permit_sasl_authenticated was needed, because without that clients who wanted to relay using SMTP AUTH were denied too, based on some blacklist. On another note, to wrap lines in postfix config files you add whitespace on the start of the line, it's not using the common format of escaping the line break with \. Generally I think postfix configs are not better than sendmails, you still have to dig through a lot of weirdly named keywords to find the one that does what you want.

Posted by betabug at 15:33 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Listen to iPod While on Hold

Stuffing an iPod Shuffle in a company phone system
iPod shuffle in phone system

Our new company phone switchboard can play music while callers are waiting "on hold"... off an iPod Shuffle. Our boss was not satisfied with having callers listen to some lame synthiepop Mozart castration, instead callers should be able to listen to the likes of The Cure, The Stones, Pink Floyd, and other similar bigshots. The phone center hardware has an audio input to hook up something like a portable CD player, but one CD is certainly not enough. So an idea came up...

iPod shuffle mounted on phone system

The iPod shuffle holds much more music than a CD, it can do random playback. Why not hook up that one? No moving parts means less breakage, energy consumption is pretty low, sound quality certainly is good enough, loading up new music is a snap.

Connection was easy enough with an audio cable. Energy was a bit more of a problem, the battery lasts only 12 hours, not enough for 365/7/7, so charging the device was needed. First stop was USB, because that's the shuffles port and the ISDN connectors have USB connectors. But both systems want to be clients (peripherals), not computers. Plus it was not possible to find a matching converter cable, so we could not test out if the shuffle would charge off the ISDN equipment.

In the end we found out that a "wall-wart" 220V USB-charger adapter, bought from Apple, would do the job. The shuffle fits right on to it, making a mounting point for the device unnecessary. The pictures are a bit hazy, but one can make out the shuffle on top of the ac adaptor, plugged into the T-piece electricity outlet. The black cable on the first pic is the audio cable to the telephone switchboard. The Shuffle itself is the smallest part of all the installation.


Posted by betabug at 17:10 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
25 October 2005

Comment Spammers from easymanaged.com?

Stepping into an ugly mess

Some (new?) spambot is trawling my site lately, possibly looking for open comment forms. I see some of them coming in from hosts like nac6.easymanaged.com (209.123.8.173) and nac3.easymanaged.com (66.246.252.87). Searching the web for references to easymanaged.com shows lots of guestbook and bulletin board bot entries and a page on the "Spam Huntress" weblog (and following to this one about "new master spambot"). Tracerouting those IPs reveals that they seem to go through 0.so-7-3-0.gbr2.mmu.nac.net -- which belongs to nac.net (Net Access Corporation, a spam-friendly hosting provider, who knows?). Maybe I'll send the URL of this post here to abuse@nac.com. Read on for a bit more details...


The bot lists several typical IE user agent strings. Typical for the log entries is that they don't load images or css files and that the referrer is the same page that it accesses, but without the ending slash. Some samples:

65.75.166.200 - - [25/Oct/2005:15:10:17 +0200] "GET /blogs/ch-athens/112/ HTTP/1.1" 200 6917 "http://betabug.ch/blogs/ch-athens/112" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; .NET CLR 1)"
209.123.8.173 - - [25/Oct/2005:15:19:10 +0200] "GET /blogs/ch-athens/89/ HTTP/1.1" 200 5616 "http://betabug.ch/blogs/ch-athens/89" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)"
66.246.252.86 - - [25/Oct/2005:15:24:49 +0200] "GET /blogs/ch-athens/88/ HTTP/1.1" 200 6257 "http://betabug.ch/blogs/ch-athens/88" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.0)"
The rate of access is not very high, the bot is possibly trying to avoid throttle defenses. It sounds very much like this bot is just searching for blogs/guestbooks/bulletin boards to spam, while the spamming itself will be done by another bot (what "Spam Huntress" refers to as "master spambot"). Filtering them out could be done at the IP level, untill they move on to another provider.

UPDATE: It seems my thoughts on Net Access Corporation were right, see this Senderbase report on Net Access Corporation showing lots of SPAM coming from their IPs.

Posted by betabug at 16:02 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
15 November 2005

Interactive Fiction Interpreter for the P910i

Finally playing it out in text

For a long time I had on my to do list the idea to find an IF interpreter to play text based adventure games on my mobile phone. Something like I mentioned (in German) on my ages old if german page. Finally I found what I was looking for, after being reminded by this story about Interactive Fiction appearing in the online Wall Street Journal on slashdot. What did I find? On this page from a company called Malinche Entertainment a link to Frotz UIQ (download).


Posted by betabug at 17:36 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
19 November 2005

Editor Wars: Keyboard Shortcuts for Regex

vi rules (once more)

In the book "Code Reading" by Diomidis Spinellis, there is a small table about what commands are needed to search in code editors. (Section 10.1 "Regular Expressions" serves to remind programmers that regular expression can be a powerfull tool when trying to find your way around foreign (and own) source code. As a vi user I think the table is incredible funny and revealing:

Table 10.2 Regular Expression Search Commands in Popular Editors
Editor Forward Search Command Backward Search Command
BRIEF [a] Search Forward Search Backward
Emacs C-M-s [b] isearch-forward-regexp C-M-r isearch-backward-regexp
Epsilon C-A-s [c] regex-search C-A-R reverse-regex-search
vi / ?
Visual Studio FindRegExpr FindRegExprPrev

[a] After performing a regular expression toggle.
[b] Control-Meta-s.
[c] Control-Alt-s.

Of course you might not get my fine point here. So let me explain what I learned: First, there are some editors around that I have never heard of, like "BRIEF" and "Epsilon". But the highlight is the complexity of these commands. In vi it's just one single character for each, while others have something that I can only assume to be menu commands, not to mention three letter salute keyboard shortcuts. Of course it's maybe harder to grab the concept of vi editing, but once you got it, you are rewarded with simplicity and no waste of time for such an often used tool.


Posted by betabug at 13:21 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
23 November 2005

Playing Around With a Blackberry

So what?
Blackberry on my table

My boss just dropped a Blackberry on my table for me to play around with. I did, and now I am wondering: What is all the fuss about? It's just another phone with PIM. The form factor (especially the keyboard) reminds me of my old Treo 270, sans the flip. The wide format display sure may be more useable for ssh than the one in my P910. The display does not seem to be touch sensitive.

Having a quick look through the web for an ssh client reveals an open source one and a couple of weird commercial solutions, some of them in client-server setups. Also there seems to be some question of special blackberry coverage that needs to be available on your network. Does not sound like another field I would have to read myself into, if I can lazily avoid it. TCP/IP (over something like GPRS) is good enough for me.

The integrated web browser seems to download background images, but not display them. It shows my blog good enough (see screen on picture). The browser id string was "BlackBerry7290/4.0.2 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1". Traceroute to the connecting address was kind of funny. The machine seems to connect through Vodaphone Greece, but the traceroute went to some server in England. That client-server game again, I guess.


Posted by betabug at 12:17 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
24 November 2005

VirtualHost mess

Site was off for a while

Since I set up another virtual host today, I managed to mess up the virtual host setup in my httpd.conf. It took me some time to find out. So if you came here and got some funny error about "page zope not found", I'm sorry :-) Things should be up and running again. If you are interested to know what happened: I forgot to activate the NameVirtualHost directive. And when I had it set up, the wrong VirtualHost was used as default.


Posted by betabug at 17:23 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
06 December 2005

Not matching settings name in M$ Knowledge Base

Typing is random

In the post "IE Bug Bitten" I wrote about a stupid IE bug that causes us and our customers trouble. Even though I used a workaround on our Server, today the bug bit me again, as likely customers have the setting that produces the bug again, even after the workaround is on the server. So I looked up that Knowledge Base article again.

Isn't it funny how badly confusing the M$ Knowledge base article is? The error description somehow matches what our customers experience, but not exactly. The error message is slightly different. Our customers get an error message that says something about not being able to save to cache. And I don't get the feeling that the difference is due to different Windows / IE versions. I think the Microserf in question was just too lazy to type it all in properly.

Even the name of the setting that has to be unchecked at the customers is not the same as on my test machine (IE 6.0.2600.000 - yes, you have to have 2600 in your IE version number to be truly 31337): The KB says to uncheck "Do Not Save Encrypted Files" while IE here has "Do not save encrypted pages to disk". A small difference, but if you can't even get this one right, how might the code look?


Posted by betabug at 13:32 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
02 January 2006

Re: A lot of people must have had iPods for Xmas

Is there a real "reset problem" with iPods?

As Tor shows in his post A lot of people must have had iPods for Xmas, he has gotten a lot of referrers from search engines for people looking for phrases like "ipod hard reset". To which I just can add: Me too. "ipod hard reset" and "hard reset ipod" are constantly on the top of my incoming search phrases.

I guess that altogether ipod hard reset related stuff accounts for about 20% of my search phrases. Indeed when searching the major search engine for one of these phrases I am on the first page with the post Re: iPod hard reset and as mentioned in the previous post, that page is way up in my access stats. My post does not even spell out the procedure (Tor has it in his post about the topic). For some time my post was about on place 2 or 3 there, now it went a bit more below.

For me there is no gain, as most (>99%?) of these visitors don't stay on my weblog to see what interesting stuff might be here. And I don't think it's a "christmas only" phenomenon, I think there is a general problem with iPods, more on Windows than on Mac. As Tor says, lots of people got iPods for Christmas, so the problem comes to the surface.


Posted by betabug at 11:09 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
08 January 2006

vim, Greek, and utf-8 Keyboard Commands

More progress, getting it to work with utf-8

Trying something I wanted to play around with for a long time, I made more progress in setting up vim to work with Greek. As seen in the previous posts about this topic there are some prerequisites to get this working (especially on Mac OS X). To get keyboard commands work with the greek keyboard too, you can use the map keyboard command, it's a bit more tedious than langmap, but you can put it into your .vimrc and have it always ready. Read on for details...


Let's go in for the details about using map:

The book "Learning the vi Editor" describes the map command as follows:

While you're editing, you may find that you are using a command sequence frequently, or you may occasionally use a very complex command sequence. To save yourself keystrokes, or the time that it takes to remember the sequence, you can assign the sequence to an unused key by using the map command.

The map command acts a lot like ab except that you define a macro for vi's command mode instead of for insert mode.

So we can use the map command to define ξ to act like j, moving the cursor down one line. We will therefore just define one map command for each character we need. This would be tedious to do each time we need to edit a greek file. That's why we put it into our .vimrc file and then we are ready to use it anytime. Here is the part of my .vimrc file as far as editing for Greek is concerned:

" greek stuff:
" always edit in utf-8:
set encoding=utf-8
" but be ready to change encoding with a couple of shortcuts:
map _u :set encoding=utf-8
map _1 :set encoding=iso-8859-1
map _7 :set encoding=iso-8859-7

" assign keyboard commands while using the greek keyboard:
map Α A
map Β B
map Ψ C
map Δ D
map Ε E
map Φ F
map Γ G
map Η H
map Ι I
map Ξ J
map Κ K
map Λ L
map Μ M
map Ν N
map Ο O
map Π P
map Q Q

map Ρ R
map Σ S
map Τ T
map Θ U
map Ω V
map W W
map Χ X
map Υ Y
map Ζ Z
map α a
map β b
map ψ c
map δ d
map ε e
map φ f
map γ g
map η h
map ι i
map ξ j

map κ k
map λ l
map μ m
map ν n
map ο o
map π p
map q q
map ρ r
map σ s
map τ t
map θ u
map ω v
map ς w
map χ x
map υ y
map ζ z

For this to work, we have to be sure to be using utf-8 encoding while editing the .vimrc file itself. I believe you can use this in parallel with langmap if you want to edit ISO-8859-7 and UTF-8 files.

Now my next target will be to get spellchecking too, since my spelling in Greek is pretty bad :-).

Posted by betabug at 12:41 | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (1)
31 January 2006

Awaiting Home Connection

Getting Internet at home finally

Yesterday I got a phone call from Vivodi. Looks like today a technician should show up at my home, installing ADSL (a meager 256/128k line) and phone service. It's been a looooong time that I had proper Internet access at home. Now of course there is still the chance that the technician will say something like "Oh, your [something] is not [like I expected | as it should be | as we always do it | the way I like it] here. And besided I did not have coffee yet. I will come back next month." So let's cross fingers and see what we get.

Next step will then be: How to get the connection to all the flatmates and to my room (which is on the other end of the flat from the likely location of the connection). Wireless? Ethernet over power line? Stringing a cable? We'll see.


Posted by betabug at 11:12 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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