I wrote previously about an automated system for downloading files from an RSS feed. RSSDler started giving me issues with some characters inside the linked .torrent file's name. Since it has been over a year since RSSDler was last updated, I decided to look around for a replacement.

Enter FlexGet. FlexGet is another command-line program that downloads files automatically from a variety of sources, be they RSS feeds, HTML file, and others. Better yet, FelxGet offers a lot of control over what is downloaded, including RegExp filtering. FlexGet is also capable of parsing some data from linked files (such as HD resolutions, seasons and episodes).

I am fine-tuning my install, but right now it looks like FlexGet will be able to do everything I want it to do. One concern with RSSDler was that I have an RSS feed for automotive videos, but I primarily just want F1 races. Being able to RegExp for Formula1 - FullRace .* BBC x264 means I can now let FlexGet go at the feed without fear of it downloading dozens of .torrents a day.

FlexGet is available from Fink in addition to building manually. FlexGet does not natively support running as a daemon, but using Launchd to run it on an interval is not a problem.
The people complaining about the iPad not having Flash sound a lot like the people complaining when the original iMac was released without a floppy drive. The product is going to fail, how can people get along without such a requisite technology, etc.

Well, people did, and finding a computer with a floppy drive has become rather difficult these days. Flash is a resource-hogging, bloated security risk on computers these days, and while technologies like HTML5 might not be a complete solution just yet, Apple leaving Flash off of such devices as the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad are a nudge in the correct direction.
So Facebook announced a change in their Privacy Controls. I am a big privacy advocate, and I was excited to see a change in what I have considered a confusing and difficult to use system for controlling who sees what on your profile.

One of my biggest issues has been with the "transition tool" that Facebook is requiring all users to go through this week.

An image under the cut... )

The problem? I had my facebook profile locked down pretty tightly.

In the middle we have a list of objects on a facebook profile, with options regarding who can see what. Facebook seems to be suggesting that opening up my profile so more people can see things would somehow be more secure. In addition, I have no way of seeing on this page what my "old settings" are. How am I supposed to make an informed decision with this complete lack of information?

On the right side I am told that facebook now shares, with everyone, *more* information than previously, and I have no way of controlling or limiting that access.

So how, again, is this helping me controlling my privacy?
Just spent the entire day trying to track down a bug that was haunting a work script only to find that the file I was working on in Perl had Mac linebreaks.

Fixing that solved the problems immediately.

Do not ask me why an OS X program is spitting out data files with Mac linebreaks, but...
So last year I wrote about using Nike+, TrailRunner, and RunnerPlus. Last summer, though, my Nike+ Sportband fell victim to what turned out to be a recall-worthy problem with its screen. As a result, this past Christmas I bought a Garmin Forerunner 405 with heartrate monitor. So far I have really liked it a lot.

It is definitely more bulky than the Nike+ kit, but gives me a lot more information. Distance, pace, heart race, course, and a bunch of other things. One problem I have with the 405, however, is its inability to give reliable realtime pace data. This is due to the GPS method it uses to determine distance. One "fix" for this is an accelerometer-based footpod. The Nike+ system uses just such a system, and Garmin does offer one as an add-on to the 405.

The older Garmin footpod, though, is fairly bulky. They are coming out with a new one with the same form factor as the Nike+, but is going to cost $119 when it comes out next month. For point of comparison, Nike sells their footpod on its own for $19.

I have not read anything about the new Garmin footpod, but one big concern I have is battery life. Friends with the Nike+ unit find that the non-replaceable battery in the footpod lasts about a year or so. Then they just plop down another $19 and go on their way. I am not ready to drop $120 a year on the Garmin unit, though. I will have to wait and see when they come out, I suppose.

In all I really like the 405. I am constantly amazed that I have a GPS on my wrist.
Just a quick question: Why does MobileMe (nee .Mac) not offer developers a quick and easy API for backing up data to the user's iDisk? The corresponding restore API would be nice, as well.

I am generally thinking of configuration and preferences files, not necessarily user data.

So an application run for the first time could check to see if the user has a MobileMe account and, if so, see if there is a backup already saved to the iDisk. A quick prompt to see if the user wants to restore the data and POOF! - the data is back.

I realize Apple is pushing Time Machine, but this does not help with offsite backups, and nothing short of making sure you backup /Library and ~/Library with it can you guarantee you are backing up configuration files. Even then, there is no easy way of knowing which preferences file you need to restore with Time Machine.
So some electricians were working on the apartment today. Threw a fuse and moments later my computer refuses to boot up. Sounds and looks like a bad hard drive.

Ugh...

Anyway, I suppose I am now in the market for a new computer. I had been eyeing a new 24" iMac. Not sure that is in my immediate budget, though.

Damnit.

Looks like my backups made it through, though, so no real serious loss of data.

Anyone with leads on a new computer, now is the time to speak up.
On 5 October 1993, I sent an email message from a Macintosh computer using Eudora, a mail client licensed by Cornell University for its students to use. This was not the first time I had done this. I had been at Cornell for over a month by the time this event occurred, and had been emailing regularly. What made this message different is that I saved it, moved it to my main computer at the time, and therefore still have it in my main mail client's mailboxes today.

I had been sending and receiving emails for at least two years by this date in the fall of 1993, but most of them have been lost to the sands of time.

This message has made its way through at least five different computers, countless versions of Eudora, and now OS X's Mail.app.

It is joined by about 5000 other outgoing messages saved on my main computer now, and probably well over 15,000 incoming messages.

How far the Internet has come in those same fifteen years, but email stays as it always has.
I wrote previously about using Azureus to help download television shows. I gave into the advice after I relocated and gave Transmission a try.

The result? Completely horrible. Transmission could not provide me with more than about 50 kB/s for all of the torrents combined. I figured it was our wonky Internet connection (we are pretty far from the central office), but on the exact same type of torrent files Azureus is maxing out at my configured 160 kB/s cap.

So it looks like I will be going back to Azureus until Thursday, when I will try to get rTorrent up and running.

As an aside, I am fairly frustrated by the frequent "REPACKs" on tvRSS.net.

That is all. More details about actual life in a future entry.
I have been without a television for several months now, so I have resorted to downloading episodes of shows I want to see. In the past I used Azureus and its RSS handling abilities. As the program has grown into the Vuze monstrosity, I have been moving over to other things if possible.

The first step was moving to an RSS downloader to automatically download .torrent files. With minimal work I got RSSDler working. Great, so now I have a folder full of .torrent files.

I tried several command-line BitTorrent clients, but I either could not get them installed or could not get them working effectively. rTorrent looks the most promising, but I never could get it to work. I will have to give it another try soon. The other option would be cTorrent, although I am not sure cTorrent supports a watch-folder, so a little more work would have to go into getting that to work.

In the meantime I have continued to use Azureus, set to watch the folder RSSDler is downloading to. It works, but moving to a non-GUI client would be nice.
What does Apple have against PHP?

First the default PHP install on Leopard does not include GD Library, then I learn that Leopard also does not include PEAR by default anymore, either.
So more work on the UPnP server today. One big annoyance has been that Twonky would not correctly import my iTunes playlists. I finally sat down and hacked my own solution to this.

Some parts that went into this: A little bit of XSLT and Saxon to process the XML using the XSLT.

At first I thought I would have to generate Twonky style .playlist files, but Twonky will correctly show the original .m3u files if you just point it at a folder full of them. Easy enough!

Next was on to video sorting. I DVR a lot of television shows, and while I previously worked on a solution to get Twonky to work well with the scheme eyeTV uses for its recordings, I still ended up with a huge list of videos. I would have to skip through twenty or so episodes of "Boston Legal" to get to the first episode of "Chuck", for example.

In a very quick five minutes I got the script to not only create the well-named symlinks to the original eyeTV recordings, but also auto-generate folders to contain any series it finds. This means that all of the episodes of "Boston Legal" end up in a "Boston Legal" folder, and that means I only have to skip past *one* folder to get to episodes of "Chuck".

The plan is to eventually get some of these scripts (and maybe some better documentation) online.
I am fairly close to deleting my myspace page. There are a couple of people I stay in touch with that are only on that site, but it seems weekly someone I know has had their password to the site stolen. I end up having to go into my account and clean up comments that are clearly Spam and so on...

Facebook has been pestering me for months to get my birthday. I assume this is to protect their ass, but... Recently they got even more annoying about it - a Javascript pop-up would appear on almost every page I went to on facebook, asking me for my birthday.

I finally caved. I choose the first date available - 1 January 1910. It rejected that, saying I had to give my real birthday. So I choose 31 December 1910. Again, it told me to choose my actual birthday.

It did not reject 29 October 1929.

As for facebook's Beacon fiasco? Well, for now the usefulness I get from facebook outweighs the amazing privacy gaffes facebook has done (also because I make sure to block any such issue before it effects me)
So at work we had been waiting the release of Leopard Server so we could roll out a solution to a large customer of ours. The customer needs the ability to coordinate calendars, addresses, and other information.

So this week we have been doing a roll-out of Leopard Server, including iCal Server, LDAP, Open Directory, mail, DNS, and everything else.

Last week we migrated our internal server over to Leopard Server as well. We have been slowly turning on services, as well as using it as a test bed for the rollout.

A couple of things learned:
1) Mail can be a complete pain. For some reason the server was rejecting all incoming mail traffic for no real reason.
2) DNS, all in all, was not too terribly difficult to set up.
3) An Airport Extreme Base station cannot do NAT without also doing DHCP.
4) Finding a PCI ethernet card that is Leopard compatible could be almost impossible these days.
5) iCal Server works. For the most part. One thing you quickly learn is that iCal the application and the group calendaring are two entirely different things. We eventually learned that you can subscribe to a group calendar from within iCal. In the "Accounts" pane of iCal's preferences, instead of relying on Auto for the Account URL, enter http://server.example.com:8008/principals/groups/groupname/. This will allow you to view and even edit the group calendar from within iCal. You end up with two calendars - your private calendar stored on the server, and your group calendar. Makes sense in the end, but confusing at first. We have not played around with the wiki server just yet.
6) LDAP works. The addition of the Directory Utility and the Directory.app application make this much nicer. One bug we have run into so far: phone number and email addresses, at least, will not show up in OS X's Address Book application (in the Directory group) if the contact was created on the server with the Directory application. Most other information, though, does get transferred over. A workaround is to create the contact in Address Book and drag it into Directory.app. I assume this is a bug in the contact creation portion of Directory.app. I did not have enough time to research what was going on.
7) SSL breaks mail. We have the web service working with SSL, but as soon as we turned it on on our test server, it immediately boots every IMAP connection off (expected) and then never lets them reconnect (unexpected). On the customer's machine, turning on SSL caused all incoming mail to cease.

More to come, but that is my experience with Leopard Server so far. So far a little easier to work with than Tiger Server, but definitely has its share of bugs.
So two nights ago I got Leopard Server up and running at work. Yesterday I got the mail server portion up and running. Or, at least, what I could test before the MX record moved over.

Today was my day off, and I got a call at 9am saying that the mail server was refusing incoming mail. No clue why, so I spent about two hours trying to come up with a solution. An outside contractor finally got it up and running, but it definitely required delving into the command line and slapping PostFix into shape. Definitely not the "Just turn on a switch" that OS X Server is known for.

So I spent two hours doing that, and then decided to upgrade to Leopard Client on my main machine. This was for two reasons:
1) 10.5.1 was released yesterday, meaning it has some of the early bugs worked out.
2) Server Admin tools for Leopard Server only run under Leopard Client. Does not make a ton of sense, but...

Got that up and running (only after trying to install a new 1GB SO-DIMM in the machine, only to learn it was a bad chip). Spent the remainder of the afternoon updating various applications to their Leopard-compatible versions, and the second big project of the day: Banking.

As I wrote previously, my bank was shut down by the government. Since then I have been researching accounts and, having decided on ING, opening a new checking account. My "account verification" finally went through, so the account is now up and running.

I spent the afternoon moving things around and generally updating the financial side of my life.

I have retirement plans set up in two places, so I researched rolling those over into a rollover IRA.
I connected my new ING account with my brokerage account.
I updated my automatic bill pay for my student loan.

That last step was a pleasant surprise. About forever years ago I set up auto account deduction for my student loan. $50/month on the 7th. of each month. Each month I would have to make sure I remembered that was going to get taken out, but never really put too much other thought or effort into it.

Today I checked and saw that I have only about $400 remaining to pay off! I have a little extra money right now, so I immediately cut that in half. Come spring of next year, that will no longer be hitting my checking account each and every month. It has been deducting for what seems like FOREVER (it has been almost ten years now).

Anyway, a highly productive day, but one that did not require me to change out of my pajama pants (or even really get up from in front of the computer.
So a while back I purchased a Buffalo LinkTheater PC-P3LWG/DVD, which is a UPnP media device. For any Mac-heads out there, think about it as a really cheap version of the Apple TV.

The device requires a UPnP server running on a computer to stream the media to the device. There are a few contenders under OS X - EyeConnect, from el gato (the makers of my DVR); MediaTomb, a GPL UPnP server; and TwonkyMedia, a commercial application from a company in Germany.

I originally tried EyeConnect since it should be the most integrated with EyeTV, the DVR software I use. Indeed, EyeConnect was the easiest to set up and worked fairly well. However, I was using my iMac - my primary machine, as my server, and noticed a speed hit when the server was running. A little research turned up the fact that the EteConnect software was regularly using between 450 and 600 MB of real memory on my machine. This was completely unacceptable.

I emailed el gato and got a prompt response:
Thank you for contacting Elgato Systems.

I think the behavior you've seen is typical for EyeConnect - similar readings were on my Mac here.

I can't say if it's incorrect, but I've passed on your comments to our engineers.

They can let me know if it's just how OS X is managing memory, or if it's something that we'll need to fix.

Hopefully I can get a report back in a few days.


Now, their EyeTV software, which is a pretty feature-filled DVR software? Uses between about 50 and 60 MB of real memory while running. A server daemon, running in the background, though, was using ten times that amount? Unacceptable.

Next on my list to try was MediaTomb. MediaTomb had the right price (free), but after three days I could never get it to see my MP4's as the correct mime type, so it was nixed. Configuration was completely unacceptable, as well.

Last night I finally broke down and purchased TwonkyMedia. A little bit of configuring and I had it serving up my recorded MPEG2 content, along with my ripped MPEG4 content. So far I have not gotten the hierarchy on the device where I want it, but at least I can enjoy the media.

Oh, and a point of comparison: MediaTomb was regularly using between 6 and 7 MB of real memory, and TwonkyMedia leads the way with between 3 and 4 MB of real memory used. That is right, 100 times less.

I sent off another email to el gato. I am curious to see if I get a response back. I will write more when I finally get TwonkyMedia set up correctly with my media hierarchy.
So last month the FDIC shut down the bank that I was using.

ING Direct purchased the US assets of Netbank, so temporarily my banking is going through them. This is an obvious opportunity to shop around for a new bank. Since I move around so much I see little reason to tie myself to a brick-and-morter bank. My banking has been entirely online for the last five years, so I am quite comfortable with that.

Right now I have narrowed it down to two choices, ING Direct and E*Trade.

Both offer interest on their checking, no ATM fees, free bill pay, and so on.

Pros and Cons:
E*Trade will reimburse me for ATM fees.
E*Trade will charge me $15/month if I do not have at least one $200+ direct deposit.
E*Trade only gives me .50% annual interest rates unless I have at least $5,000 in my checking account


ING will give me $25 for opening up an account with them.
ING gives me 3.50% annual interest rate.
ING does not give me paper checks - I have to use their electronic check system.

While I almost always have direct deposit, there are definitely times when I have not. ATM fees are annoying, but I have gotten better about just getting cash back at grocery stores and so on. $25 also covers a year or two of ATM fees, and the much better interest goes a long way, as well. The question mainly comes down to if I can handle ING's mainly paperless system with checks.

Does anyone use ING for their checking account, and if you do, what do you think of it?
A little bit ago the Thunderbird/Eudora group, Penelope, released Eudora 8.0.0b1.

I downloaded it and was somewhat disappointed. Wait, scratch the word "somewhat" from that last sentence. I was out and out disappointed. Now, I realize this is the first public beta, and the new Eudora still has a long way to go, but... it still has a long way to go, and based on what I saw in the beta, that route will probably not take it to the mail client I am waiting for.

I have been using Eudora for 14 years now. I am now faced with a decision - do I wait for the new Eudora, which may not be what I want it to be, or do I start making the migration over to OS X's Mail.app? Do I go over to another third-party email app instead?

In other news, I finally installed the Safari 3.0 beta. I use Safari as my primary browser (with Camino used as a compatibility backup for sites that break under Safari). So far everything has gone well. I have only used it for an hour or so, but I have not seen any issues yet, and a couple of minor bugs I ran into with the older version seem to be gone.

In addition, I also finally installed iLife '08. I had resisted due to some of the setbacks I had seen in some of the programs I use the most, iMovie and iPhoto. With the new .1 releases of these programs, though, I think at least some of these issues have been resolved.

Besides, I definitely need to start working with these programs more, if for no other reason than I need to learn them for my job. iPhoto is still somewhat bothering me. I cannot quite put my finger on it, but... As someone with almost 17,000 photos stored in iPhoto, distributed among almost 500 events, I am glad to say that viewing events is pretty nice. I thought it would bog a bit on my machine (Core Duo iMac), but it is acceptably quick.

The DVR solution needs some serious work. More on that at a later time, though. In the meantime, know that I recently purchased a Buffalo LinkTheater PC-P3LWG/DVD (as one reviewer stated, "ask for it by name!"). I picked it up cheap, and while I am currently having some issues with it, it might be a part of a better solution.
So I was looking for vacuum cleaners online. I checked Overstock.com, and then went to Amazon.com. I found the categories I wanted at Amazon (Upright Vacuums and Canister Vacuums). I knew about the price range I wanted, so I sorted based on price, from low to high. Two issues become quickly evident.

1) Amazon's categories are not always even close to correct. Canister vacuums have almost two pages of range pans and oven elements.

2) "Sorting" is a rough estimate. For a long time I thought that the sort was based not on Amazon's price, but on the silly "Used & new" price they also list. If I am going to Amazon's site it is because I have purchased through them, I trust them as a merchant, and I want to buy from them. No where in my preferences does it have a checkmark for "Never show me used and non-Amazon merchants". If I wanted that, I would be looking at eBay.

Look at this picture, though. Note in the top right it is sorted low to high, and then tell me how the items numbered 51, 52, and 53 are in some sort of order.

As a result of all of this I generally end up using Amazon to order exact items I know I want. When "browsing" for an item, though, I get frustrated and usually end up buying elsewhere.
Some of you know that for a while now I have been developing a web-based interface to eyeTV. The idea solution would allow me to not only schedule recordings from any machine but, more importantly, to also program in a "Season Pass"-like ability.

For those not in the TV-geek crowd, about the best way to get television listing data was in an XML format from zap2it.com. Zap2it.com offered these listings free of charge for hobbyist use such as the rinky-dink program I was developing.

I had gotten the coding done for retrieving the data and getting it into a format to allow me to start coding the "record this" and "Season Pass this" part of the project. A couple of weeks ago, though, zap2it.com announced that effective 1 Sept. 2007 they would no longer provide these listings free of charge.

Now I am faced with a decision - do I start paying whatever zap2it is going to charge for listings, do I try to recode the project using whatever free EPG data I can get online (including possibly figuring out how to get EPG XML data from titantv.com, a site I do have a free account with), or do I completely rethink the project, trying to use the data that the eyeTV software already has.

Anyway, there are no easy answers at this point. I just wanted to rant a bit.
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