Sprung MacBook key

I was sitting down last night at my system when the O letter key on my new MacBook keyboard flipped off. I’d noticed it was on a slight angle compared to the other keys, but the keycap and little plastic attachment sprung back in my face. I wasn’t even typing on it at the time – rather, I was using a USB keyboard.

For the record, nothing looks broken, but I’m not much one for shoving this little plastic piece into a tiny slot – there’s a severe risk of snapping something. I figured I’d take it down to the CampusTechShop at UW and have the on-duty tech take a look at it.

Apparently, he’s on vacation until next week, so I headed over to the CHIP (twice in two days) where I was told that it’d be a five-day turnaround time before someone managed to repair the system.

I’ve opted to head over to Carbon Computing tomorrow and see if their on-site tech can deal with this. If all else fails, it won’t be me breaking it.

Vista, reinstalled: first impressions

Now that I have a copy of Vista Business available to play around with, as well as the requisite KVM for my VX2025wm to work properly, I figured I’d get things installed and post my first impressions.

Acquiring the Software

If you’re a UW student, like I mentioned before, you can check out the MSDNAA version of Windows Vista Business at the CHIP (basement of the MC, room 1052.) You’ll need a valid WatCard to check out the CD’s on 24-hour loan, as well as a QUEST/ADS login to access the various software packages available from UW’s IST department and get the serial number.

Vista comes on five CD-R’s (yes, they’re just CD-R’s with the UW and MSDNAA logos on them), with no option for a DVD at this point. You’re only able to get one serial number issued, which is allegedly good for installation on two of your workstations – after that, you’ve got to call in and reactivate. Instead of slogging through the five-CD install and swapping out discs, I obtained a DVD image (LRMCFRE_EN_DVD.iso) and burned it to a blank. You could also combine the contents of CD’s 1-5 and the bootsector from CD1 to homebrew your own DVD, but that would have been counterproductive for me.

Installation was relatively painless, although the “analyzing system performance” phase immediately after install is sort of useless, especially considering there’ll be updated video drivers on the first run to Windows Update.

Tasks to Perform

For my installation, I performed the following tasks immediately after the usual updates and drivers were installed:

  • Changed the Start Menu preferences: one, two, three, four.
  • Start/Run/secpol.msc, expand Local Policies/Security Options. In Security Options, set “User Account Control: Switch to the secure desktop when prompting for elevation” to Disabled to avoid the annoying flash when User Account Control activates a window.

    Yes, this means that I’m living with UAC turned on; it’s much less annoying without the Secure Desktop turning my screen black and making me lose my place in an application.

  • If you’re going to install a network printer, leave UAC on and do it. There’s a bug in the Add Network Printer wizard that prevents installation of the driver if UAC is off.
  • Changed the settings for SMB file sharing for Xbox Media Center: in secpol.msc, expand Local Policies/Security Options, then set “Network security: LAN Manager authentication level” to “Send LM & NTLM – use NTLMv2 session security if negotiated”. OS X 10.4.9 seems to have fixed the NTLMv2 problem, but Xbox Media Center sure hasn’t.

Month of MySpace bugs: apply cluebat

From Slashdot – (disclaimer: I hate MySpace)

An anonymous reader passed us a link to PC World’s coverage of the upcoming Month of MySpace bugs. Organized by a pair of wiseacre hackers tired of the ‘Month of X Bugs’, they are set up to ‘highlight the monoculture-style danger of extremely popular websites.’ Though it’s supposed to be funny, outside security analysts have apparently been consulted on the project.

“Though the project, which launches on April 1, has all the appearance of a practical joke one well-known hacker said he’d been contacted by the Month of MySpace team with legitimate security questions. ‘Those guys and I have been keeping in touch,’ said Robert Hansen, chief executive of Sectheory.com. ‘It’s funny but it’s not a joke.'”

The article follows with a pretty good anonymous comment summing up my reasons against the site:

Status: OLD

Severity: Major

Reproducible: Always

Description: MySpace is filled to the brim with whiny, middle-class, suburbanite, emo kids whining about how emo their life is and how they like to listen to emo music while cutting themselves.

Solution: Delete Myspace.

The problem with MySpace is twofold, in my opinion:

  1. Its demographic consists of susceptible people. Susceptible, in this case, means “people likely to click the flashing banners.” It also means that anything with a vaguely social networking appeal will have a profound impact on these users, and as such, a modified login screen wouldn’t look too out of place.
  2. Its technical issues are vast, already. How many times has the site been exploited so far? Allowing raw HTML is a recipe for disaster, and combined with its userbase (who largely wouldn’t understand the concept behind closing tags) you have potential for thirty actual, bona fide bugs. Cross site scripting? Stealing cookies? Falsifying login fields? Installing spyware? Local denial of service exploits? They’re all there.

Unlike the Month of Apple Bugs, where the orchestrators had to reach for third-party applications to achieve a month’s work of exploits, this exposé has the potential to affect over a hundred million spambot accounts, and maybe 20 million “legitimate” ones.

Start up your firewalls and HOSTS file blocking, people…

MSDNAA Vista, Access, OneNote, Project, InfoPath, Visio 2007 available for UW students

I checked the e-Academy MSDNAA site for the University of Waterloo and it seems like they’ve updated their software selections available, so Vista and all the other UW-licensed apps are available. Anyone with a UWDir login should be able to access the site. However, there are a few caveats with the available files:

  • Vista apparently is only available in 5-CD format, and you have to check the CD’s out at the CHIP (MC 1052.) I’m probably going to head down there tomorrow and see if the DVD version’s available for checkout – since it’s the same DVD for any version of Vista, I’d just rip and burn an ISO. I also wouldn’t look forward to swapping in discs during the installation; last time I did that, it was a 35-floppy install of Office 4.0.
  • Access and the other Office-like applications can be downloaded. Do this using Internet Explorer, because Firefox doesn’t handle the download process correctly.

The complete list of software that’s available follows: Continue reading

Visit to the Fruit Stand and Sony Store

On Wednesday, I ended up going to Sherway Gardens for the afternoon, where the main attraction is an actual Apple Store. Said store is also known as the Fruit Stand or Fruit Stall, similar to how the “Apple/Command” key on Mac keyboards is commonly called “Fruit.” A few points of interest:

  • When you get in, you’re accosted by no less than five people. The initial object of my first trick was to look at iPod accessories, which are located about 2/3 of the way back in the store. Five salespeople asked if we required any assistance on the way there.
  • All iPod accessories in the Fruit Stand are overpriced, and anyone buying a case for their freaking Shuffle needs to seriously reconsider what they’re doing with their disposable income.
  • Those MacBook Pro systems are incredibly nice looking. Maybe next time a laptop purchase is needed…
  • That Mac Pro system is also incredibly nice looking, especially paired with the 30″ Apple Cinema Display.
  • You know, my 4th gen iPod/20GB is getting kind of scratched, not to mention it’s having syncing issues and freezes sometimes.
  • Why yes, sir, I *would* like to purchase a new 80GB black iPod video right this minute!

So, after damning myself repeatedly because of my incredible consumer-whoreism tendencies, I walked out of there with a new device that will help kill time on the bus. I’m so conflicted, because on one hand the 20GB black and white unit still technically works for what I need it to… but on the other hand, it’s so shiny and will play videos of Jack Bauer gettin’ some terrorists and it’ll hold all my music and… stop it.

I’m going to have to put in some extra hours for work for this one, at least.

The other interesting expedition today was to the Sony Store. I am of the opinion that Sony makes a certain number of things with really decent quality:

  1. Televisions
  2. Camcorders
  3. Headphones (as long as they’re more than $20)
  4. Decent-looking PC displays (well, at least the Trinitrons)

Unfortunately, the company is currently on this huge “Full HD” or “True HD 1080” kick, which basically means that their really expensive TV’s will support a native resolution of 1980×1020 running progressively (60fps.) This is due to their launch of the PS3, which doesn’t have an internal scaler, so your games run at either standard-def or 1080p; if your TV doesn’t support 1080p, guess what mode you’re running in?

What was mildly amusing that the TV shown in the front of their store had an infomercial going on about Full HD 1080p, blah blah blah… until I realized it was a 42″ Grand Wega LCD projection model, which has a native resolution of 720p and doesn’t support the Full HD variety.

I also took a look at the PS3 on display in the store, which failed to impress. (Hint: show the XMB interface and perhaps flOw; both of those things look pretty. I don’t want to see NBA ’07.)

Achievement unlocked

One of the threads in the Awful Archives that really should have gone further – and made a “gold” rating – was the Achievement Unlocked photoshop thread. The principle of the thread was to insert the Xbox 360 “Achievement Unlocked” logo over a picture.

I had a grand scheme for creating a few more of these, but I figured I’d post the template for the images to get some ideas circulating.

First of all, you’ll need the Xbox 360 “Convection” font used in the user interface. The font can be found as a part of the Media Center Extender software download; it’s called ConvectionRegular.ttf. I used WinRAR to extract the XboxMCE05Lite-enu.exe, then used WinRAR again to extract the contents of XboxMCE05.exe. The font is located in the mcrdinstaller directory in the setup archive.

For the lazy among you, grab the font here: ConvectionRegular.zip

To install the Convection font, click Start > Run and type in fonts. Drag the ConvectionRegular.ttf to the Fonts window, and wait for the progress bar.

I’ve provided “raw” PNG files of the achievement text, both as a single line (how it’s actually displayed on the 360) and as two lines. I used Fireworks 8 to edit them, but any program capable of reading PNG files should be able to process them.

Here’s the results:

Achievement unlocked
(Download raw PNG)

Achievement unlocked (two lines)
(Download raw PNG)

Update 3/10/2007: Per Dave’s comment, here’s the two St. David’s-related achievement images, as well as some UW and Laurier related ones…
Continue reading

La Fonera wireless router

During my browsing of Something Awful’s coupons forum, I noticed an offer for a free “La Fonera” wireless router. The concept of this device is that it’s an 802.11b/g router with custom OpenWRT firmware, which creates two separate SSID’s:


    • FON_(accesspoint), which is an open WLAN that allows anyone to connect


    • MyPlace, a WPA or WPA2-encrypted WLAN that is “private use”


I figured it’d be a useful device to physically isolate my network from unknown PC’s, since the public WLAN doesn’t allow connection to other PC’s on the internal network by default.

Some pictures of the packaging and device follow, as well as my specific configuration changes:
Continue reading

Webalizer statistics on DreamHost

In my last post, I detailed the way in which you could activate the Analog statistics application on DreamHost accounts with root WordPress installations. I’m really not a fan of Analog, though – my preferred application for statistics tracking is Webalizer.

I’ll describe the best way to install Webalizer in this shared hosting environment, with information distilled from the DreamHost Customer Support Wiki.

First, you’ll need shell (SSH) access to your Dreamhost account. Once you’ve logged in, carry out the following tasks:

  1. Make a new directory in your home path called webalizer. Also make a new directory for your domain’s statistics.

    mkdir ~/webalizer
    mkdir ~/example.com/webalizer

  2. Change to the directory.

    cd ~/webalizer

  3. Open a new links browser instance to the Webalizer download page.

    links http://www.mrunix.net/webalizer/download.html

  4. When Links opens, press Enter to bypass the information box if it appears.
  5. Arrow down to the Linux ELF – Binary x86 link. (You don’t need the static binary.) Press d to download the file, and then press Enter to save the .tgz file.
  6. Once the file is downloaded, press q and then Enter to exit Links.
  7. Extract the .tgz file (change the version number if necessary).

    tar -zxf webalizer-2.01-10-linuxelf-x86-bin.tgz

  8. Move the contents of the versioned Webalizer directory to the ~/webalizer directory, and delete the version numbered extraction directory.

    mv webalizer-2.01-10-linuxelf-x86/* .
    rm -rf webalizer-2.01-10-linuxelf-x86/

  9. Copy the sample.conf file to a new file with your domain name.

    cp sample.conf example.com.conf

  10. Edit the example.com.conf file using your preferred editor. You will want to uncomment and change the following lines to reflect the DreamHost configuration:

    TheLogFile line should read:
    LogFile /home/username/logs/example.com/http/access.log.0

    The OutputDir command should be:
    OutputDir /home/username/example.com/webalizer/

    The Incremental option should be enabled:
    Incremental yes

    And the IncrementalName directive should be uncommented:
    IncrementalName webalizer.current

  11. Save the file, then run the webalizer application:

    ./webalizer -c example.com.conf

  12. Browse to your site’s webalizer directory and view the statistics. The URL is:


In order to retrieve each day’s statistics and have Webalizer parse them, you need to set up a cronjob to automatically run each day after midnight. 2 AM is about the best bet for the cycle to run.

  1. Set your EDITOR variable to vi, so that your commands all are on the same line.

    export EDITOR=vi

  2. Edit your crontab file:

    crontab -e

  3. Add the following line to the crontab file. (Press i for Insert mode to begin typing in vi. To exit, type :wq.)

    0 2 * * * /home/username/webalizer/webalizer -c /home/username/webalizer/example.com.conf >/dev/null 2>&1

Your cronjob will now run at 2AM every day, processing the previous day’s log entries.

If you want to secure your /webalizer/ directory from prying eyes, you can create a .htaccess file under ~/example.com/webalizer/ with the following information:

AuthName "Webalizer Statistics"
AuthType Basic
AuthUserFile /home/username/example.com.stats.htpasswd
Require valid-user

Then, use Apache’s htpasswd tool to create the .htpasswd file:

htpasswd -c /home/username/example.com.stats.htpasswd useraccount

You will be prompted for a password for the user account. To add more users to this file, run the htpasswd command without the -c flag:

htpasswd /home/username/example.com.stats.htpasswd anotheruser

While there’s a lot of information to digest, Webalizer is an excellent tool for tracking web statistics and the user interface is slightly more friendly than Analog. I plan to use the two applications concurrently – Analog seems to do a better job of tracking referral URLs and Webalizer provides colourful graphs.

Update 3/07/2007: I’ve updated the crontab section to reflect that the full /home/username/webalizer/example.com.conf path needs to be passed for the -c flag.

DreamHost statistics with a root WordPress installation

If you own one or more of the 350K domains hosted with Dreamhost, you may be interested in using their statistics tracking system. However, if you have WordPress installed at the root of your domain, the /stats/ URL is inaccessible and only results in a 404 error, as WordPress tries to parse /stats/ as a permalink to a post or page. This is due to the .htaccess directives that WordPress employs.

The solution is on the DreamHost wiki and can be added to the top of your .htaccess file fairly quickly:

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} ^/(stats|failed_auth\.html)/?(.*)$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^.*$ - [L]

This code comes before the WordPress commented line:
# BEGIN WordPress

Alternatively, if you’re concerned about people possibly bruteforcing your statistics username and password (since it uses simple HTTP authentication), you can deny public access to /stats/ and access the logfiles from an SSH session. Keep in mind that this will be a text-based view of your statistics.

ssh user@yourdomain.com
cd logs/yourdomain.com/http/html
links index.html

The logs directory is accessible under your home directory (~). You could also always run a tar/gzip command on the ~/logs/yourdomain.com/http/html directory and SFTP/FTP the file, then view the stats locally.

For more information, such as performing the same operation with Ruby on Rails apps or TextPattern, check the wiki.

VNC on a Mac? Use Vine.

Thanks to Dave for this pointer:

The default VNC application on OS X really bites, so if you want to access your Mac remotely, get a copy of Vine Server.

For viewing the result on a PC, install UltraVNC and use the following connection settings for best results. (This assumes you’re on a local area network – both wireless and wired worked fine for me.)

UltraVNC Settings Dialog