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Entries : Category [ mac ]
Macintosh computers are some of the betabugs preferred tools. Sometimes something comes out of it, this category is a container for such knowledge.
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14 January 2005

Buying a Mac in Greece is tough, but Rainbow is not Apple

More and more I hear weird stories about Apple's importer in Greece

Buying a Mac in Greece can be a weird experience. And when you get to the price tag, you are up for big surprises. Prices should be equivalent to european prices, except I don't get how they come up with those high Euro prices considering the currently low Dollar. And then Rainbow (the importer) puts a hefty surprice on the machine for translating the system software to Greek. They make a mess of the market, having invented one of the weirdest systems of doing business online, and showing a lack of sense for business in general. Diomidis Spinellis (a professor at the Athens University of Economy and Business, and simultaneously a FreeBSD committer) gives his experiences under the title "Apple's Presence in Greece Appears to be a Joke."

Nice take, but one big point is that Rainbow is not Apple. You can't blame Apple as if Rainbow was part of their flesh and blood. But Apple can and should be blamed for not forcing Rainbow to behave. After all they let Rainbow represent Apple in Greece. The low market share of Macs in Greece is in my oppinion at least partly Rainbow's fault. And I've seen Apple react much more stringent in cases where much smaller harm was done to their name.

Posted by betabug at 13:02 | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)
19 January 2005

Call for a "Greek & Mac FAQ"

Working in Greek on a Mac needs many fixes yet

Setting up a professional work environment (for example for graphics professionals) on a Mac with Mac OS X in Greek is not there yet. At least not out of the box. There still is a lot of information needed. Even working with a system in English using Greek contents (fonts, text) has its problems still. I propose an FAQ on this topic.


And some applications give their users a hard time too. Examples:

My friend Spyros keeps bugging me with questions, while I keep bugging him to make the switch from 9 to X. And my friend Yorix tells me that many of the problems and questions are brought up again and again. A case for a FAQ. HelMUG - the greek Mac User Group is one of the information providers in the field of Mac OS X and Greek. But is it inpolite to make a call for a big FAQ on that topic?

Posted by betabug at 12:32 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
20 January 2005

Closing a Info Window Using the Keyboard Only

No mouse please!

When I'm in Mac OS X Terminal I operate by keyboard only. Works very well for me, because switching to and from the mouse interrupts my thoughts. lets me switch windows with Command-RightArrow and bring up the Info window with Command-I. I use the Info window a lot, because I am a dancer between using Unicode UTF-8 (for Greek) and "Western (ASCII)" for English and German (with an occasional "Western ISO Latin 1" for German with umlauts). All nice and dandy, except choosing the "Display" pane in the popup menu and closing that damn Info window. Command-W closes the underlying Terminal. "Escape" closes the Info window, but only if you haven't switched Terminal windows in the meantime. Solution: Hit Command-I again, then press "Escape".

Posted by betabug at 15:18 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
04 February 2005

Is Proxy on Mac OS X Server really an open proxy by default?

Looking at log files may be indecent

Just had a look at an installed Mac OS X Server log file somewhere. Went to switch off the web proxy immediately. There were tons of requests from clients all around the world to GET all kind of stuff ("GET HTTP/1.1" in the log). A quick search through Apples Documentation, Discussion Board, Knowledge Base, & the Web in general did not reveal any information about how the proxy might be restricted to local subnet users only. So off it went.

Posted by betabug at 11:04 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

More open proxy fun

Some people make money with that

Looks like the open proxy was used by some people professionally, one of them ( has a funky website, at least if you're into the SPAM humour mindset. " a HUGE help for fooling the sponsors", wow! The "cheating on sponsors" program is only $100. And they have a software to search for open proxies for only $35. Plus the cost of ending for an infinity or two in hell after you die, because you are cheating others.

Posted by betabug at 13:27 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
13 February 2005

State of Greek and UTF-8 in the Mac OS X Terminal

Some of the setups I made to enjoy a foreign language

The Mac OS X application should be ready for utf-8 and thus for working in Greek. But that's not the complete truth. Applications to work in the terminal have to be ready too. The ones that come with Mac OS X are not. I mainly use vi / vim, mutt, lynx. The vim that comes with Mac OS X.3 (Panther) does not sport the multilingual abilities needed. I experimented with compiling my own, but in the end I used an old version I had downloaded from Marc Liyanage at I custom compiled my own mutt, same with lynx. The point is that you will have to look into your application compile time and runtime settings.

As for the setup itself, in the "Terminal Inspector", the "Character Set Encoding" has to be set to "Unicode (UTF-8)" and "Wide glyphs for Japanese/Chinese/etc." should be set off (contrary to what Apple Help suggests).

What's really ugly is using vim to write in Greek: It's OK while you are in input mode. You just keep writing and input works fine. Then you hit Escape to switch to command mode and every key command either just beeps at you or does something unexpected. The problem is that vi does not know what to do with "ξ" (xi), which is what you get when you hit "j" while in Greek keyboard mode. So the thing is to type "i" (input), switch to Greek keyboard, type your text, switch to non-Greek keyboard again, hit "Escape" (command mode), and continue editing. Also vim wants to be told about using unicode utf-8 explicitly (:set encoding=utf-8).

One day I will set up my vimrc so that command mode will work in the Greek keyboard too, hopefully I just have to remap the Greek letters to vi commands. What I currently do is to type most Greek texts in TextEdit. Not only don't have to struggle with switching keyboards for command mode, but I also enjoy the ASpell spellchecker. See, my spelling in Greek is pretty catastrophic, so I use a lot of suggestions.

Posted by betabug at 19:13 | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)
17 February 2005

Low RAM Stories

Back when I swapped RAM around a lot

This piece about battery cycle count and RAM from w0lfshade reminded me about an old story. Back when I was at network, I had to shuffle a lot of RAM around from G3 and G4 machines, then install OS X on most of them. On one of them the OS X Installer CD surprised me.

In that one G3 (blue&white) I forgot to put one RAM stick in before installing the OS. Interesting enough the Mac OS X installer (10.2 Jaguar) did start even though there were only 96 or 64MB RAM in the box (I don't remember the exact configuration). But the installer worked in ultra slow motion and the hard disk would probably have melted had I not stopped the install. I think it took me 5 minutes to notice and the installer was still loading some intro screen.

Posted by betabug at 10:54 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
29 April 2005

Re: iPod hard reset

Lots of people have iPod connection trouble, for some of them it's over

From Tor's weblog: His sons iPod had the problem that it would not be recognized by the Mac. Tor mentions the hard reset procedure that brought the connection back again. So here are my own experiences.

They were lucky that this worked. As one can see on the Apple Discussion boards, some people had iPod problems since the upgrade to 10.3.7, and a lot of them could not resolve those problems with any remedy. Apple had no feedback or acknowledgement whatsoever. My own iPod would not connect to the G4 at work any more (except for charging) after I had foolishly left the iPod connected while running the update to 10.3.7. At home everything was fine, so I was not too worried. But none of the procedures mentioned brought the connection to the G4 back, and the G4 would also not see any other devices connected to the Firewire. Quite simple conclusion: The Firewire was hosed on the G4.

A few days ago I started to update to 10.3.9, but after noticing that the download took ages and with me having more important things to do than to wait for OTEnet to get their shit together I cancelled out the update. I can't say that this was the cure, but I was lucky because to my great surprise the next morning when I hooked up my iPod it connected just fine. Maybe the updater had already made some setups? Whatever I just "had a fat ass" as the Greeks say for someone who is extremely lucky.

Posted by betabug at 10:48 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (1)
06 May 2005

Slacky Tiger on a Rainbow

The Greek Apple Reseller shows its incapability... again

Yesterday I went to a Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger introduction event at the Store of Rainbow in Akadimias Street. For those who are tuning in late, Rainbow is the distributor of Apple computers in Greece. They are doing one hell of a job keeping the market share of Apple down. At yesterdays event they were again proving their incapability to do anything in Apple style.

Getting to the presentation

My boss had gotten an invitation mail and forwarded to me. I promptly forgot about the event. But then my friend Spyros called and suggested to go together. In my swiss temperament I made arrangements to arrive in time. We were early, while our slot of the show started 20 minutes late. The number of people waiting were roughly equivalent to what a medium Mac shop in a city in Switzerland (e.g. Basel) would be able to get together without much effort. I would guess that the seminar room held 20 people.

When we finally sat down, we noticed that the projector was broken because of "a burned out lamp". A lady changed the projector, and the new one's setup screen seemed to be alright. But the projector was unhooked from the presentation G5. Instead there was a 23" Cinema Display. We could make out the screen, but obviously it was impossible to read anything. When people complained about this, the speaker explained that they had tried to get the setup to work, but the projector was "broken" and they had given up trying in order not to waste any more time, "fixing the setup would take hours".

A lame speech

He started to talk. He had already given that talk twice that day. So he started to talk and talk in a quite slurry manner. Instead of showing why and how Macs are better, he would tell us. He said things that were hardly believable. Every piece of Software for Windows is available for Mac too. OK, he would correct, every major piece of software. Actually, he would correct again, actually MS Office is. He scored major points in credibility with the audience there. Did I mention that he said Unix is a programming language? Of course I was the only one to notice, but it hurt.

Now, I have been to Apple presentations before. There is a certain quality of the speech given. Not everyone might have the charisma of Steve Jobs, but a bit of punch can be expected. This guy was just pulling his thing through. After his opening why Macs are better, he came to the innovations of the new system.

The usual language problem with Mac OS

Right before he could start, someone from the audience asked if Tiger is localized in Greek. He explained that the situation has not changed. Tiger comes in all kind of languages, except Greek. If you want Greek, you have to buy your Mac through Rainbow or one of their resellers. Then you get another CD with the Greek localization. You have to call in to Rainbow to activate the software with the serial number of your Mac. Nothing new there and another score for turning down the audience.

The meat of the presentation:

Back to Tiger. So, he started with "Dashboard". He said something like: "The new system has this thing called 'Dashboard'. You probably have read about it on the Apple web site." And that was it. He went on to the next point: "Now, normally when we work on the Mac we open all these windows. The new system has this cool search feature, so we can find all our stuff without opening all the windows." (He starts opening some stuff I did not really see on the monitor) "Just don't judge the new feature from what you see on this G5, it isn't working properly." Voices from the audience: "It doesn't work on G5s?" Reply from speaker: "No, just this G5 does not work."

That was it. We stood up and left. I couldn't stand it any longer. They want to show off how cool Macs and the new OS are? Tip: Prepare a backup for your equipment, a G5 that you can't hook up to your beamer and that does not work properly with the new features is not convincing.

Conclusion: Rainbow is not Apple

Rainbow is not Apple. They don't have and never have the level of competence that Apple shows in all their doings with customers. They have shown me on this evening clearly that they are a bunch of amateurs. It wasn't until the iPod that Greece started to learn little by little that there is even something like Apple. Why Apple Inc. leaves this market in the hands of such a distributor is outside of my knowledge. Whenever I mention my experiences with Apple in Switzerland (which are quite good, even with some quirks we had), they say that Greece is such a small market with such a low market share for Apple. So Greece is not interesting to Apple in that logic. Sure. Maybe one should turn the logic around? What would the market be with someone doing a bit of proper marketing and sales? Times have changed. We have the Euro. Mercedes is selling in Greece, Ikea is selling in Greece, Sony is selling in Greece, heck, even Porsche is selling in Greece. Time is ripe for Apple to sell in Greece too.

Posted by betabug at 11:05 | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)
20 May 2005

Inline PDF Bug in Safari 1.3 (Mac OS X 10.3.9)

Loading but not displaying

When referencing a pdf inline in a html page with something like: <img src="/terminal.pdf" /> and provided that you have either a.) installed Acrobat Reader 7 with the PDF Internet Plugin or b.) enabled in System Preferences / QuickTime the display of PDFs (in "Mime Types"), you should see the PDF rendered on the page. Just like a JPEG. Try it here.

This worked in Safari up to and including OS 10.3.8 and (so I hear) works again in Safari in 10.4. There seems to be a genuine bug. The PDF is loaded (as one can see from the "Activity" window), but it is not displayed.

When you click and drag inside the window area, the PDF appears and moves around under the mouse. Control click on the blank area where the PDF would be, and choose "Open Image in new Window". In the newly opened window the PDF is properly displayed. So, the problem is only with PDFs displayed inline, in img tags.

Posted by betabug at 09:47 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
23 May 2005

Writing a FAQ

Introduction to my plan. Why I'm doing a FAQ now. And how.

The question of making a "Mac and Greek" FAQ is on my mind for quite some time now. I've been bugging HelMUG to do something, but bugging others can only go so far. Now I'll try to do something myself. If someone else picks up the trail later on, only the better. So here is how I plan to collect and write down this FAQ...

There are many ways to produce a FAQ document: One of the easiest is to just type the stuff up into a plain text file. Another one is to make a web page with html or with something like Zope. Being a lazy guy, I thought about using Zope. So, for a while I was looking around for a Zope FAQ product, even planning to write my own. Most important point: It should sport some kind of comment system, since I don't have all the information about the field in my own, single head. Others have toiled with this stuff much longer than me. people can send in suggestions for answers or corrections using the comments. Also I should be able to edit the stuff easily.

Questions and Answers should be formatted in a simple layout with headlines (the Questions), subtitles (for clarifications) and body text (the Answer). If there is a way to collapse Answers, much the better. But myself, I usually skim through FAQs real fast, so collapsed stuff just slows me down.

After all those thoughts, it occured to me that this FAQ thing isn't that far off from what a weblog looks like. Therefore I have made two new categories to my weblog and will be using them for the FAQ (in English and someday maybe even in Greek). Clicking on the category for the FAQ will reveal all entered FAQ entries with their answers. Fine. There are actually just 2 points messing up my plan: 1. if I go and post all FAQ entries in one big rush, then they will cloak my weblog for a while, drowning out the older posts. 2. the sorting of FAQ entries will be by date entered. I could cheat on the dates, but then those changed entries will be all messy in the regular weblog page. The good part is that growing the FAQ can be observed from the weblog. As I plan to work out the FAQ entries slowly, problem number 1 will not be so bad. And for problem number 2 I might invent some sorting feature on a special display page.


Posted by betabug at 09:21 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
23 June 2005

curl on Mac OS X 10.3 "failed assertion" problem and fix

Download with --limit-rate on 10.3 fails

Had to download 12 pdf files with sizes of about 30mb each. Wanted to use curl to limit the bandwidth. But it looks like the curl shipped with Mac OS X 10.3 has a problem, giving an error message of 'poll.c:282: failed assertion `pArray != (struct pollfd *) NULL'. Solution: Searched for the error message and found that I need a new version of curl from, which has curl 7.14.0 binaries for OSX available via link.

After that I was able to do:

curl --limit-rate 100k \
--location -c cookiejar -b cookiejar \
index.php?dir=&file={4-17PRINT,6-15PRINT,8-13,OTHERNAMES,...}" \
-o "#1.pdf"
and download the files without clogging all our bandwidth. The --location -c cookiejar and -b cookiejar parameters are there because at first I suspected there to be some kind of redirect and cookie thing happening.

Posted by betabug at 11:10 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
12 July 2005

Report from Karpenisi HelMUG Excursion

Leave the city behind... and the Macs

A weekend spent with some 20 people from the Greek Mac User Group HelMUG, in a mountain city in central Greece. I had expected a lot of computer talk and a beautifull mountain landscape. I got the beautyfull landscape alright, but we concentrated more on good food and company than on the computer stuff. Read on for my report and some pictures...

cafe in Karpenisi

The program was defined loosely, with lots of options, of which we would choose according to time and spirit. What really happened... me and Mary were contacted by libero (Panagiotis Liberopoulos) and offered a ride in his car. We arranged to meet Saturday morning at 7:30. Traffic was low, the ride was fine, and while we listened to music from the radio and my iPod we were the first to arrive in Karpenisi around 11. We phoned Giorgos "technovision" Tasios, our host and HelMUG's "man on the mountain". We met him at the central square, where one after the other the HelMUG people arrived. Everybody had their coffee.

view from hotel in Karpenisi

Then technovision drove us to our hotel, where we checked in and relaxed. The view from the hotel is nice. I left again with technovision and with the rest of the HelMUG Gang we went to a place outside of town ("sto pato tis polys") to eat unter big shady trees. As is the habit with those kind of events in Greece, the meal took a long time.

lunch1 lunch2 lunch3

I was properly filled up by food and drink, so I enjoyed the rest we all got. Now everybody was being diverted to their respective hotels and we had a good rest. In the evening we drove to a cafeteria out of town which has a western style of setup: Pony riding, a mini train, a climbing tower, ... As it was evening, the attractions were closed though. Mary and me went to investigate them nonetheless in the dark. The others had coffee again and enjoyed the view of the fireflies. Stefbystef gave a presentation to show the new design for the HelMUG site. One of the few occasions where we talked business. In the evening we went to eat again all together.

technovision in the

The next morning we slept a bit longer. In Athens it is currently a bit warm, at night the temperature rarely goes below 28 degrees Celsius. So sleeping in the cool and fresh mountain night was something for a change. Libero and "yorix" Giorgos Manganaris even camped out, a bit farther up in the mountains. For us, breakfast was provided at the hotel. I had a short talk with "melis" Stelios Melissakis about the HelMUG server which will be moved to Athens soonish. After breakfast the gang moved to visit a monastery with a good mountain view. We saw some handwritings from as far back as the 9th and 11th century. Also they have the weapons of Greek revolution hero Karaiskakis on display.

After the visit to the monastery, we went to a place in the mountains were a gorge was turned into a fortified hiding place during the time the turks were ruling Greece. We had to climb up a beautyfull mountain path. I am a bit afraid of heights, but after just a few minutes I adapted and enjoyed every minute of it. The place is very beautyfull. Reminded me a lot of Switzerland, so sometimes I asked myself why I came here at all. For me, this was the best part of the weekend.

path to the hiding place

While we were up the mountain path, libero had to go back to Athens, since he was invited to a marriage (not his own). We arranged for further transport with "liquidus" Manos Halikis. The crowd of the HelMUG people then moved on to a place called "palaio mikro horio" - old small village. This village was almost completely destroyed in a stone avalange in 1968. Also, like many places up there, it had a lot of historical events in World War II and the Greek civil war after that.

cataract near the hiding place yorix taking pix near the hiding place

We had our last, merry lunch for the HelMUG weekend here. Everybody ate and drank again, technovision told lots of stories about the place and the area. I had a short chat with stefbystef about some things he needs for the HelMUG site team. That was about all I had talked about user group business all weekend. Even the computer chatter was pretty low all weekend. We all enjoyed the company though the weekend. After the lunch everybody said goodbye and went on the road.

farewell lunch in mikro horio

We arrived with liquidus in Kifisia in northern Athens quite late. Sunday evening all of Athens citizens are returning to the city at once. All roads are filled up much over the maximum. Liquidus knew many small roads that speeded us up andkept us out of the big traffic blocks. But still, while the road up to the mountains had taken us 3.5 hours, we went back in about 5 hours. From Kifisia we took the subway to the city. Back in the heat of Athens, tired but happy and filled up with new experiences.

Special thanks go to libero and liquidus for driving us along, to technovision for hosting us all, and to MacYannis Yannis Angelidis, for organizing the event. Sadly Yannis had a family emergency and could not come along... we missed you!

Posted by betabug at 11:12 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
27 July 2005

OS X Server 10.3 Cyrus Mailserver Trouble?

Rebuilding the mail database might help

The Cyrus mail server on some Mac OS X server machine acted up yesterday. It turned out the Cyrus DB file was damaged, something that happens sometimes it seems. I searched the web for the error message and after a while came up with something. This morning I rebuilt the database and service is back up. Read on for the description...

The error messages looked something like this:

Jul 27 10:02:34 localhost imap[2658]: DBERROR db4: fatal region error detected; run 
Jul 27 10:02:34 localhost imap[2658]: DBERROR: dbenv->open '/var/imap/db' failed: 
DB_RUNRECOVERY: Fatal error, run database recovery
Jul 27 10:02:34 localhost imap[2658]: DBERROR: init() on berkeley
Jul 27 10:02:34 localhost imap[2658]: DBERROR db4: environment not yet opened
Jul 27 10:02:34 localhost imap[2658]: DBERROR: opening /var/imap/mailboxes.db: Invalid 
Jul 27 10:02:34 localhost imap[2658]: DBERROR: opening /var/imap/mailboxes.db: cyrusdb 
Jul 27 10:02:34 localhost imap[2658]: Fatal error: can't read mailboxes file
Jul 27 10:02:34 localhost master[499]: service imap pid 2658 in READY state: terminated 
Jul 27 10:02:34 localhost imap[2666]: DBERROR db4: fatal region error detected; run 
Jul 27 10:02:34 localhost imap[2666]: DBERROR: dbenv->open '/var/imap/db' failed: 
DB_RUNRECOVERY: Fatal error, run database recovery
Jul 27 10:02:34 localhost imap[2666]: DBERROR: init() on berkeley
Jul 27 10:02:34 localhost imap[2666]: DBERROR db4: environment not yet opened
Jul 27 10:02:34 localhost imap[2666]: DBERROR: opening /var/imap/mailboxes.db: Invalid 
Jul 27 10:02:34 localhost imap[2666]: DBERROR: opening /var/imap/mailboxes.db: cyrusdb 
Jul 27 10:02:34 localhost imap[2666]: Fatal error: can't read mailboxes file
Jul 27 10:02:34 localhost master[499]: service imap pid 2666 in READY state: terminated 
The ugly thing was that since SMTP was still running, the server was accepting incoming mails, but returning them later. Not nice. Stopping the mail services all together is a better option in this situation.

Googling around found me some hints, and in the end the Apple Technote: Mac OS X Server 10.3: Reconstructing cyrus mailboxes. Apparently 10.4 Server has a nice and shiny button for this, but for 10.3 Server the procedure can be done in the shell (after stopping mail services):

$ su root
# mv /var/imap /var/imap.old
# mkdir /var/imap
# /usr/bin/cyrus/tools/mkimap
# chown -R cyrus:mail /var/imap
# sudo -u cyrus /usr/bin/cyrus/bin/reconstruct -i
Read all the technote! Don't blame me if you mess it up, etc. etc.

Posted by betabug at 10:19 | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)
04 August 2005

GPRS Setup On PowerBook and Mobile Phone

Getting the Minimum out of the Internet

Now that I have arrived on Limnos island, my Internet access is restricted to GPRS. That's pretty bad, because GPRS is expensive, slow and expensive. It's not that bad though, because it's all I've got and at least I can get and send mails (and do some IRC/SILC chatting once in a while). I had a similar setup last year, when I spent six months on the island. So I tuned my setup to get the minimum out of the Internet...

I say "the minimum", because the target is to spend as little as possible bandwidth for the content I want. One example: If you use Apple's, you will spend a lot of bandwidth, because it downloads all mails, then decides which ones are junk, then you decide which ones you want to read. You can set it up with IMAP to only partially download large messages. But it is still incredible more chatty than my current setup.

Connection via Bluetooth

But let's start with the basic setup. My PowerBook runs Mac OS X 10.3, a more or less similar setup would work with any random Unix clone though (something like OpenBSD, Free/NetBSD, Linux, whatever). My PowerBook is connected to a Sony Ericsson P910i mobile phone, using a cheap USB bluetooth adapter. Setup was a breeze, no drivers to install at least for the bluetooth part.

GRPS to the Internet

What I had to install was a modem script for the GPRS connection, which I found from Ross' GPRS info site, the place to go for GPRS scripts for all kind of phones. From the side of the provider, I have GRPS access as an extra to my phone contract. I don't have any special plan for "free" access, since I don't need GPRS that regularly. GPRS is paid by amount of data transfered, and may I note it's pretty expensive. But on the upside, it's not paid based on connection time. So I can leave the connection up while waiting for an answer to a mail.

IMAPS and IRC problems

Some specials about GPRS connections I've encountered: Often some ports are blocked, more or less in random fashion. For example here on CosmOTE, port 993 (for secure IMAPS) does not work, which makes absolutely no sense at all, unless they want everybody to use insecure mail protocols. My answer to this was to set up my server to provide STARTTLS over the standard IMAP port 143. This way the connection starts insecure, then both sides agree to move it to encrypted mode. Another speciality that I found at CosmOTE and Vodaphone GPRS is that the auth protocol (also known as ident protocol) is blocked. Ident/auth is not really a modern, much used protocol, except for IRC, where servers use it to weed out some abusive clients. On the other hand, the IP addresses given to me for my GPRS connection do not resolve back to a hostname.

Both of these authentication failures lead to failure to connect to an IRC server. Since IRC does not work this way, I ssh tunnel port 6667 to my server and connect from there. That way both auth and reverse lookup work, and I'm a good IRC citizen. Tunneling through ssh gets my bytecount a bit up, but it's not that bad. Logging in to the server and using irssi on the ssh shell to do irc chatting eats much more bandwidth and is also much less responsive, especially for typing. For these reasons, last year, I used SILC a lot, which sports a similar interface to IRC, but works fully secure with encryption and authentification. Most of my friends aren't on SILC though, so it's more a solution for a personal chat here and there.

The Web I ain't

I don't use the Web. Or I only use it when I absolutely have to. Then I'm using lynx to get the minimum bandwidth out of my content. I'm still undecided if login to the server through ssh and using lynx from there is better or worse, bandwidth wise. Loading a large page and seeing only the first 25 lines is sure more economic, but ssh and especially curses seem to be chatty. If your phone providers GPRS plan gives you some "free" bandwidth, then using the Web via Bluetooth/GPRS may be an option, for me it isn't. From time to time I'm going into town, where I catch up in the Internet cafe. Other than that, I see myself on vacation, only interested in personal relations. And mail is really best for that.

Mail setup

My mail client is mutt. I've compiled my own setup on my PowerBook, since I want some settings that are not around in stock download binaries. For example mutt is compiled to do POP, IMAP, and SSL. I did this a while ago and back then had some trouble getting the configuration right. (Latest setting seems to be: "./configure --enable-imap --with-curses=/usr/local --with-ssl --with-included-gettext --enable-pop --enable-locales-fix --without-wc-funcs" for compiling mutt on 10.3.) I then open mutt twice, each in one Terminal window. The first one is used for mail reading/writing/replying. The second one is used to connect to my mail server, with a command like "c imap://servername".

There I mark the messages I want and save them to their respective mailboxes. Leaving one mutt connected to the IMAP inbox saves connection setup bandwidth. I have I set up as a shortcut to "imap-fetch-mail", which updates the content of the IMAP inbox. Whatever mails I don't want to read can be saved to "imap://servername/Mail/mailboxname", causing not much wasted bandwidth. In the end I download only minimal headers and the mails I really want to read. My "index format" is set up ""%4C %Z %{%b %d} %-15.15F (%4c) %s", so I can see the size of mails in bytes/kbytes. As long as I don't hit any wrong key, I won't download any mails with attached photos by mistake. Sometimes mutt hits me there: When I accidentally hit "enter" twice after typing "c imap://servername" it will open and thus download the first message, because the second "enter" is still in the type buffer. Ugly.

Dealing with SPAM

I don't want to download any SPAM, at this price I don't even want to download SPAM headers. So I weed out the SPAM on my server. I'm using bogofilter for this. And after more than a year and a half of training, it works quite good. I can spot the rare unidentified SPAM message from the subject and save it to a special mailbox on my server. There it is picked up by a cron job and bogofilter is retrained on that message. Once every something I log in from the Internet Cafe and go through all the identified SPAM messages. In 1.5 years only about 5 messages were mistakenly identified as SPAM.

The Weblog

Feeding and maintaining my Weblog is a new challenge. Posting can be done via moblog (specially formatted mails). But it has some restrictions, worst is the lag of formatting as HTML, and that I can't use the "Extend" field of the web interface (which makes the "Read more on..." links and gives a new page with the full post, allowing entries on the main page to be shorter). Moderating comments will be troublesome too, I don't know yet how I will do that. Maybe I should have set up a script to do moderation via mail (like it is done for moderated mailing lists). Also maybe I should have gotten some blog software to remote update, but I would have to examine them for chattiness.

Summing it up

With this setup my bandwidth consumption goes down a lot, to something like 12kBytes to maybe 120kBytes per session. Of course all depends on the amount of mail I get and send, so comparisons are difficult. But I am quite confident that I have removed bandwidth overhead a lot.

Posted by betabug at 14:15 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
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/ file. The line in the file was:

smtpd_client_restrictions = 
And now it is:
smtpd_client_restrictions =
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)
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