Ekkards Blog
Monday, May 12, 2008
iPhone and gMail as a mail pipe

Finally, an iPhone arrived at my door, quite predictably.

While trying to get the iPhone working to my liking, I got stuck on mail. While mail is very convenient, reading it on the iPhone is made unpleasant by spam. As the iPhone does not filter spam, I would have to delete every single spam mail manually on the iPhone. And maybe a second time on my desktop computer, if my Thunderbird would let it pass. This takes the fun out of mail and I had to do something against it.

I tried the built-in spam protection for my mailbox, which is hosted by one of the biggest German providers. No luck, many false positives. Next I tried gMail.
So in effect I am routing all my mails, which are destined to my regular address "A" to a gMail account "B" and further to the mailbox "C", which I regularly retrieve. My gMail account "B" works as spam filter, and also archives all my incoming mails.
For sending, I can still use account "A" with the correspondign smtp-Account.

The whole pipe now looks like this:

mail -------> A --------> gMail ---------> C --------> iPhone
+---------> Thunderbird on desktop
+---> archive
+----> spam false positives check

Mail pipes look like the future of mail to me. I let you know.


Thursday, November 30, 2006
Robotics first step?
For several months now my interest in robotics has grown quite a bit. Apart from the fact that robots are cool anyway, the media have increased their coverage. Besides the unavoidable Aibo the press is covering the robocup, TV is showing pictures of the robot race across the desert. For a year now, the computer magazine c't has flooded me with a sequel about a home-grown robot including a simulation engine and virtual tournaments.

Now add to mix the Lego Mindstorms NXT, which were also released this year. Putting up the heat, I find myself in the office surrounded by colleagues who have either bought one already or are contemplating buying one.

A while ago I did a search in the Internet about software frameworks for robotics. There is the MARIE framework on SourceForge, and RobotFlow, as well as an evaluation in German from the Robot-Lab at HAW.

What most people, or better academics, seem to be doing with the frameworks is simulation. If I would like a simulated environment, I would rather put together a software bot for "World of Warcraft", where a rich environment is provided at a monthly fee and I would not have to paste together another boring labyrinth. (As a side remark, someone is already earning real money with a virtual robot named "Glider", although the operators of WoW do not like his kind.) No, not for me, I want the real thing: A physical robot.

Then there is nice hardware, among them a robot which can break dance: Robonova-I. Albeit with no decent software. It seems that the companies are running out of steam after having mastered the mechanics, put the electrics in and merely finished the electonic interfaces. And when the real fun starts, everybody is too exhausted to program anything sensible with the robot.

I missed a universally accepted framework to everybody was coding, building hardware, running simulations and so on. I all reminded me of the days when there were the first micro computers and everybody was hacking around. That was before Windows.

And whoops, now I stumbled across Microsoft Robotics Studio
Apparently, this is the thing I have been looking for. And it supports, guess what, Lego Mindstorm, among others.

The robotics company KUKA, located just half an hour from my place, is also supporting the framework. It almost looks to me like a business opportunity.

How could I resist any longer?

Thursday, November 23, 2006
I want a Sony Rootkit

Since everybody seemed to be talking about it, I was getting more and more curious. Yes, I would like to check it out for myself. But, I do not like to admit it, I do not have a Sony rootkit for my private experiments. So I started a small enquiry among my friends: Nope, nobody has one. Nevertheless, I got the advice: "Buy a CD from Sony with the label xyz on it".

Since I am not the type of guy who just buys a CD without knowing anything about the music it contains, I decided to do some research on the internet. Starting out with Mark Russinovich's famous blog, I dug deeper. By the way, reading Mark's blog is really a treat not to be missed. Very fine analysis and still full of suspense, even now a year later. Sony, Rootkits and Digital Rights Management Gone Too Far

There is also an interesting observation from Kaminsky about using DNS to detect the rootkit in the network. http://www.doxpara.com/

At last I found a list at the EFF which CDs contain the rootkit.

First, it has only been published in the US, so I would not have too much luck in a record store in Munich. Second, there are just 20 CDs from all genres, but not from an artist I would like.

So, nothing in hand and nothing in sight. If you happen to have one...

Thursday, November 09, 2006
Anti-Virus for Mac?

Some time ago I had a short interlude with Norton AntiVirus 8.0 on an iMac G4. The reasons are nowadays unclear to me, but in the end I was not using the scanner, and and it had costed some money. And indeed, for a long time apparently there has been NO Virus for MacOS X. Now there are some, and there is always the possibility for macro viruses if you run Microsofts Office on the Mac, which I do.

My current favorite scanners, F-Secure und NOD32, are not available on the Mac.
So I investigated the alternatives:

Symantec's Self-Serving Ravings Spread Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt about OS X Security

clamXav, http://www.clamxav.com/ is freeware, but I did not want to spend time on updating the patterns and the setup and so on. Later, this turned out to be a prejudice for which I payed my dues. But lets continue in chronological order.

Norton Antivirus from Symantec has awfully bad user comments on Intel iMacs. No, I am not wasting time on this.
Virex from Mc Afee, apparently only an old binary (not Intel), buy online only upwards from 3 copies for approx. 100 €. I was only planning for 2 copies, and I did not want old software for my new iMac.
Sophos Antivirus is an Intel binary ("Universal"), 30 day demo, but no Online-Shop.
Intego Virus Barrier, Univeral Binary, online shop 72 €, and 30 day trial version. Lets go....

Intego Virus Barrier
installs quickly, and after the restart works unobtrusively. Just a small icon in the title bar. I like that. Net-Update does not work for demo-mode. I dont like that. In fact I do not know whether the software works at all. I am doing a demand scan, it is very busy. Still nothing. So I decide to put the scanner to a test and I download the EICAR test virus. The download works like a charm, it gets unzipped automatically and yes, I may choose an application to open the file. And there it is, the test sequence in ASCII can be plainly read. If this would have been a real virus for Office Documents, it would party on my hard drives. Not so good, either. The on-demand scan stumbles over it and gets really excited about it. However, it would be too late. You are dismissed! I remove the software.

Onto the next: Sophos
Registered myself, got a link, downlaoded the software. Installer with an .sea-would not start. No information whatsoever, what version I was trying to install. What was I doing? Nevermind, lets redo it. Start under Enterprise Software, left turn into Anti Virus, right turn into Mac OS X, yes X, and fill out the form. The website can't help but notice that the number of employees in my company is rather small for an
enterprise, and suggests Small Business Edition. Don't! Calmly continue with enterprise, and a new, different link arrives. Bingo, now it installs. Same as before, very unobtrusive behavior. However, the definitions are rather old. It takes the user guide to configure the scanner and the automatic updates. With "update now" it downloads a large number of files, which takes patience.

Now again the EICAR website and click on the zip-File. The download starts, Sophos kicks in by showing the message. Immediately Safari crashes with all its open windows gone, webmailer logins and such. My fingers are trembling, that was some thorough action. I think I might not check the other test files, it is good enough. Luckily I do not expect a lot of viruses. Passed that test.
Now the next challenge: Buying a license.

Addendum1: I discovered another link, which somehow supports my view: "Mac OS X anti-virus software: More trouble than it's worth?" or in German: "Anti-Viren-Software für Mac OS X: Mehr Schaden als Nutzen?".

Addendum2 (18. Jan 2007): License woes
Buying a license for Sophos Antivirus was a challenge I could not master. It started bad and got worse. As there is no online shop for a license, I found a distributor which carried them. Yes, plural is correct, because you have to buy three at a time. As in the meantime I have three Macs in operation that is about right, I sighed and ordered. After 3 weeks a CD arrives, with no clear label and no license key. I installed it anyway, It turned out to be an older version than the one I had downloaded and installed before. It still needs a license key. I complained at the distributor, because Sophos should be able to manufacture and deliver a license key within weeks. And my Sophos complained back to me, once every hour, because the key was missing. When 4 weeks had passed, I canceled the order and uninstalled SAV (nothing in the documentation, of course, but Google helped out).

I went for ClamXav and downloaded it from http://www.clamxav.com. It is GPL, so no hassle with orders, with distributors, with faxes and phone calls. The installation is not a one button affair, but it is described well. If you can follow a procedure, it works. You have to think about the settings, because the initial configuration does nothing at all. It can auto-update patterns and check for updates of engine and software.

I tried a scan and oops, it found the forgotten EICAR in the recycle bin. I tried the download of EICAR and ClamXav warned. Good enough for me. Resume: It takes about half an hour to get ClamXav installed and working. Full of gratitude I went to PayPal and made a donation. I feel really generous now and still I saved money. And learned a couple of lectures at the same time.

Thursday, October 07, 2004
Listing in Technorati

Always the same: As the months pass, my computer gets slower. A check with task manager showed that 200-250 MByte are consumed directly after the start. There are a number of processes of which I do not know what they are good for. Killing them is of no use, one has to get them at startup. And surely I did not want to install yet another program to get rid of unneccessary programs.

Fortunately there is a small, free tool from Bryce Cogswell and Mark Russinovich: AutoRuns. you can get it from SysInternals http://www.sysinternals.com/ntw2k/freeware/autoruns.shtml.
It starts right away and for example shows that on every startup a Tomcat is started, just for managing the HP printer. If you switch on all options the otherwise spartanic tool is getting really luxurious. Result: Consumed only 150 MByte and startup is much quicker. And more secure, too.

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