Remote desktop for parents

My parents sadly run Windows and they’ve recently obtained “broadband”. Scary.

They are complete novices and I wanted to control their system remotely to ensure the machine is setup correctly (and securely).

I sent them instructions for setting up VNC and they managed to follow them.

So you can use as a template for your parents.

  • You need to change “ASECUREPASSWORD”
  • You need to have a Linux server with a ssh account for them to connect to. Mine is perry.khanworks.com
  • So with vncviewer connected to localhost on my server, I can control their system. Though they need to also accept the VNC connection
  • I suggest downloading the required applications in Internet Explorer as Firefox download dialogue is really confusing for them

Once logged in I suggest setting up a .bat file so they don’t have to type that scary stuff in cmd. I have not figured out to copy keys from plink to my server, so they still need to enter the password.

So this is a lot cheaper than copilot. The remote assistance services or terminal services probably won’t work due to firewall issues. The SSH tunnel plink sets up, solves these problems.

Posted
Get a homepage

Business card holder

I’ve collected quite a few business cards in my few months in Asia. My main issue is that I misplace them and I can’t find the name card of that French Siemens-Benq developer I met in China…

  1. So ideally the scenario would involve finding someone’s contact details on the computer.
  2. I usually visit the URL printed on the business cards I receive.
  3. From there it would be wonderful to see a homepage of that person with the same details that are on the card.
  4. Then I would log or save that Webpage. Then I am free to lose that card.
  5. If I want to search for a particular contact, I would just search via those “homepages” of business representatives I’ve previously logged.
  6. So if I searched “Siemens” I should find that person who I can’t recall the name of.

Sadly it doesn’t work that way. 99 times out of 100 that “homepage” doesn’t exist. Many business fail to have just basic contact details on their Web pages. So reaching that developer you met in XYZ conference from Siemens is well, unlikely if you’ve lost that business card.

With that hcard microformat, I should be able to find that person’s homepage a.k.a. contact details (a 1% probability recall) and then save it to an addressbook application. That’s assuming that they have carefully formatted their contact details in hcard’s microformat. And another problem with that is that I don’t use an addressbook application. Currently I have a bunch of aliases in mutt, saved Web pages in del.icio.us and my phonebook locked away on my Samsung phone. So everything is a little disparate.

So hopefully you can see, the first scenario would be better and it doesn’t necessarily require the hcard microformat. Just for company employees to have a homepage printed on their business card.

Still I have updated my homepage with hcard formatted contact details. I must be bored.

World cup with no TV

I’m quite excited about watching the Football World cup on the eve of its schedule kicking off.

Though I am a little worried how I am going to watch it, as I don’t have a TV. *I hate TV*s and I don’t want one and I’ve successfully lived without one for almost 5 years.

Admittedly when I see a TV at a friend’s place I am glued to it like a young child in awe. Well, that’s the problem. I don’t want to waste time with it.

Admittedly I was looking around my building’s recycling depot in case someone recently upgraded their TV and threw out their old one. No such luck.

I also had a look at DVB since it is used widely in Seoul. Though the USB device for my X40 costs 70USD and I wasn’t sure I could get it working under Linux.

So my idea is to watch the world cup with the help of a bit torrent site like mininova.org. I prefer watching video this way as I can watch it at 3x speed and quickly watch the highlights. Though I will dearly miss BBC‘s coverage. Esp. the commentary. Pity their Real/Windows media service sucks so much. And its only available in the UK. Daft.

I also will be endeavouring to go out to watch the games. Probably somewhere in Itaewon with the rest of the expats. Though this will be difficult in the early hours of the morning. And I am not a fan of “live” games either. I don’t like hearing yobs spouting obscenities and smoke in my presence during a game.

Oh well, wish me luck and er… England!

Update: I’ve rebroadcasting Radio5 for people wanting to catch the World cup on the Radio who aren’t in the UK.

Pet peeve: Volume controls

This annoying problem occurs on Win32 and Linux based platforms.

Problem: WTF is my sound?

Cause: Some stupid program or device has a volume control which gets inadvertently adjusted affecting playback.

Solution: Don’t fuck with the master volume control.

Do not put volume control functionality in your program. I beg of you. Current suspects are:

  • Google video
  • Rhythmbox
  • Skype
  • BBC‘S embedded realplayer applet
High Definition

High definition

Since I see High Definition (HD) printed on the top right of World cup coverage, I wonder if it means anything.

(Previously I always thought it meant Hard Drive)

A closer inspection of the TV image doesn’t impress me. When I asked around about HD I eventually was told by someone that you need a “special aerial”. Which most people don’t have. I am not sure if the TVs have to be “special” too either. In either case the HD symbol is printed, which is misleading. So how does one know they’re actually get High Definition playback? I guess I need to go to a TV store. ;)

Is DVB High Definition?

Is High Definition all that much better than a good analogue signal and a good monitor?

With the industry pushing BlueRay or HD-DVD, touting “High Definition”, I am wondering if they really think people will care or notice. Almost everyone I know is familiar with DVD-rip, telesync and screener qualities. Most people are perfectly happy with VCD quality in Asia. I don’t hear anyone yearning for anything better than DVD.

I for one would like to see CD media disappear altogether. This is how the latest HD (Hard Drive in this case) cam corders from JVC are marketed!

Sidenote: That 5.1 Dolby sound often associated with DVD is also stupid. Most people hate having 5.1 speakers. Don’t get me started about the stupidity of widescreen.

I hope the industry wises up a little.

Office water dispenser

Tea Room

I hate offices with water dispensers. It is such a waste.

Why not install a tap? Probably too expensive they say. We’d rather pay some grunt to deliver huge plastic bottles every few days.

Oh it’s better water they’ll say. Install a filter on the tap if you’re so concerned about the “taste of water”.

Another good thing about getting a tap, is that you usually get a sink with it. So people can actually clean their mugs without going to the toilet sink.

Instead we have to use paper cups. Sometimes people are actually too lazy to drain their throw away cup, resulting in spills in the paper waste basket.

I also don’t like the tacky little dispensing nozzle which is usually really low, so I have to bend down to use it.

I wish someone made me nice cups of Tetley every hour or two. That would be good.

Posted
KT changed my IP address

Sometime this afternoon, KT one of the leading Korean ISPs change my IP address from
222.106.128.78 to 222.106.128.198.

CRAP

I’ve asked for a fixed address, but they said they couldn’t give me one.

So this has prompted me to move my repository and projects once again (previously hosted with Jamie in the UK) from Seoul to Dreamhost in California.

In the next day most of my other hosted projects won’t work and this site will look a little funny. In the next few days almost everything will be working except Trac.

I’ve not been able to get Trac working without unacceptable crufty URLs in Dreamhost.

Update: Everything up again, including http://trac.natalian.org/

UK BBC Radio 5 live World cup coverage

Broadcasting Status: Offline

ogg123 http://222.106.128.198:8000/5live.ogg

Windows users, you’re going to have to plug in that URL into VLC.

I’ve been working on breaking BBC‘s geographical censorship of World Cup coverage. I think I’ve managed it.

Please take some time to complain to the BBC (like I have) about UK only World cup broadcasting. I don’t necessarily blame the BBC, I blame FIFA‘s greed. “Region locking” World cup coverage is simply not on.

If you hear nothing from the stream, that horrible proprietary realplayer software has stalled and it is unlikely it will restart unless I’m around. Good luck.

Posted
Web video experiment

I am thinking of publishing 3 minute videos on this blog everyday for a week.

In Web 2.0 speak I think this means my blog becomes a vlog aka Video blogging or Video-casting. Ho ho ho ha.

One such example is this vlog which I’ve never got working in on my Debian system. But I think it is a vlog that does 3 minute videos everyday and I like that idea.

I have the technology to do this.

Though I’m perhaps lacking a little in the editing tools and video expertise. Of course, I’ll use no “proprietary” tools.

I think it will be a bit of show and tell format with a boring News desk type setup from my little apartment.

Though I also need some topics to talk about. So if people can suggest anything. Let me know.

debian-python traffic

There are interesting developments afoot, complete with Ubuntu conspiracy theories on debian-python.

Since I’m working on a couple of Python packages, a new policy has been announced.

The python policy has for a long time been inadequate. Come python upgrades practically all python packages needed updates. So I am glad we have something like python-support now.

The unfortunate issue is that Ubuntu uses python-central to do this. So having two ways of doing the same thing is a little confusing.

The bigger issue though is how the new policy isn’t stable. New X?Python control fields were added and now, they look like they’re being taken out. Much to the frustration of some.

Oh well, I’m going to keep watching until the dust settles. That means I’m in no rush with the Python policy transition; so don’t worry, be happy.

Desktop stress test

Desktop test

I’ve devised a fascinating new desktop stress test.

Try clean your keyboard with your computer on and see if your desktop crashes.

Kubuntu failed dismally.

Debian Unstable with Ion3 fared much better.

I remember my old Amiga being pretty good in this department.

SEK2006

Lenovo 3000 v100 ~800USD

Since I live in Seoul, I was tipped to go to SEK a large tech exhibition in Korea.

I meant to go to Linuxworld trade show earlier last week for my conference fix. Though the ticket prices were over 100USD! I expected it was one of those “Linux roadshows” aimed at the big boys. Though I am a bit disappointed my employer didn’t get involved.

Damn my conference experiences have been mixed. A paper of mine was accepted for a mobile business conference last year. Though since I was travelling around Asia and not in the employment of anybody, I could not afford to pay the conference fees. I recall something like 1000AUD. Beggar’s belief considering it was a personal contribution and I was invited to speak.

Well, I was all excited about SEK2006 considering all the “Korean innovations” that get covered by places like engadget and The Register. One John Oates is covering the event for the The Register, though I didn’t bump into him. This time my employer allowed me to wander around last Friday.

First off the venue is huge, although there isn’t much there. So it is like some Expo where one quickly feels tired just wandering around. I couldn’t find any good English maps, so I really did just have to wander around.

Haansoft with some screeching neo-classical music

One particular company I am interested in Haansoft was easy to find. Though they had an awful live event with some girl band was performing. So loud. I immediately felt drained! So I walked elsewhere. I later returned to see demo their interesting Office application. They have a mobile version of their Office product too. They have designed a service to send an office document to a mobile’s number. Though the document needs to be “converted” to a special “mobile format”. Hmmm… Looked good though. I am surprised their office product so much like MS Office, down to the widgets.

I checked out LG and Samsung. Damn the girls there are hot, but I can’t help think that “Booth Babes” are sexist and degrading. I mean really. These girls are obviously models who have been trained to demo various gadgets. There are two problems with this. They are rarely able to speak any English or “tech”. The little things to keep attendees entertained like hiring artists to do caricatures is just boring. I want to meet technical people. Damn, I’m in the wrong exhibition!

There was a very poor showing of platforms utilising the Linux platform. Of course people have the sense to write server applications on the Linux platform. But I am tired of people using Windows as their front end. I didn’t see Firefox. :/

They had a couple of robots there. But they’re just glorified puppets. Really. There isn’t much intelligence there.

There was a lot of DMB stuff there. I ask one DMB chip manufacturer if there were Linux drivers. In broken English she replied yes, but no “WinCE”. Like I care. :) Though the couple of USB DVB electronics consumers I met, say “No Linux”. Frustrating.

I came across one agonising Korean company called Netpia. They seem to a misguided “Realnames” outfit. Doing unicode mapping to domains. Why-oh-why. They the argued the international URI standards aren’t sufficient because they need www. and .com. PLEASE!

A lot of Korean research seem devoted to video streaming. I think this is misguided too, but of course I couldn’t find anyone to debate with. Youtube and Google video don’t stream, they progressively download.

Finally I had the joy of visiting the Microsoft stand and playing with Vista! The machines they had there were top of the line and still it crawled along. HAHA! What a prize piece of bloatware. I couldn’t see anything there particularly cool except the “network map” which failed to work.

Passwords

Since Freenode has been compromised my nickserv password might be too. Unless they had the good sense to hash the passwords, which isn’t common.

So after checking my 121 line long vim encrypted “accounts” file, I noticed that this particular weak password is used in 17 other systems. Woops.

You know what be good? Web standards in regards to user accounts. Now I have to fiddle with umpteen annoyingly different systems to change my password. Pain and suffering. It would be far better is I could do this task with a CLI tool or some handy trusted Web application that would implement such a standard.

Though would such a standard make it easier for “crackers” to script attacks to change your password and really screw you over?

Actually after thinking about it, the best option would just be to reset the password via email. Though that process can be sniffed… If the cracker tried to change your email address too, the user management system should send you an email to the old address to confirm the change. If the user management system had any doubt, it should just send you email a link to proceed.

Btw, I’ve made the move to the OFTC IRC network. I also found lilo‘s “money badgering” a bit too annoying.

FIFA: Access denied

Just visited the FIFA website to be presented with:

You don't have permission to access "http://www.fifa.com/" on this server.

Reference #18.c39ac4d3.1151325945.2723515

Alan tipped me that FIFA has blocked access from Korean IP addresses due to so many complaints from Koreans. For those who weren’t watching Korea’s last game in World Cup ‘06. There was a dubious penalty decision that didn’t go Korea’s way against Switzerland.

I am more concerned that FIFA think the best way of handling this situation is to block access to their Website. FIFA is firmly on my shitlist.

Opera9

Another ex-Bath student Simon Willison let me know about Opera9 via the magic of RSS. Later I noticed my ex-collegue and Opera employee Allan Clements announced Opera9.

I’ve used Opera9 quite a lot this week and it is still running alongside Firefox, though admittedly usually with less tabs. The new features that most interested me is WHATWG Web Form 2.0 support. In fact I’ve already implemented the form controls on this blog. Try enter your email incorrectly whilst commenting from Opera9.

Also my URL shortening service surink sports WF2.

Overall I like the product, but the usual proprietary software complaints kick in. For me the discussion about Opera is difficult. I had a look around at their Web forums. Hmm, not for me. Couldn’t find a mailing list. The google group opera.linux seems to be about installation issues. Lastly Alan doesn’t bother to engage in dialog with me via his blog comments! I can’t wait to spank Kamakaze in some FPS one day. ;)

I have noticed an interesting Web application blog but it seems to go on about widgets largely. Widgets don’t interest me as I am a hardened IonWM user who believes floating windows or widgets are just annoying.

Anyway I have a ton of questions and I’ll just list them here for my reference.

# How much of WF2 is supported?
# Where can I find WF2 demos? Or test cases. Come on, there must be tests…
# Can I assume “small screen” view is like Opera mini 2.0? I don’t think I can.
# What is the status of SVG? Why does it look different to Firefox’s rendering?
# Does it support SVG-T?
# Do I really have to download an SDK?
# Is the SDK Win32 centric? Because I only develop under Debian. A Debian package would be nice.
# Why do they bother with an email client. Email should be encapsulated in a Web application
# Why doesn’t chat in Gmail work?
# Why does my homepage render the bottom border funny (FF doesn’t)
# Why no audio support in Linux
# How much of Web app 1.0 is implemented? Demos?
# Feeds also should be implemented in a Web application. Feed reader bloats the browser
# How come their Java Mini 2.0 demo doesn’t work, when “About Opera” under linux seems to think I have a Java runtime installed
# What image codecs does it support. Will it support JPEG2000?
# I hate having to hover my mouse over a link to see what the link points to
# Why on earth did they implement Ad blocking. Surely they are going to piss some corp off with that.
# Why-oh-why skins
# How the hell do I customize the search widget, for Wikipedia/Debian
# Be good to know how or if greasemonkey/extensions might be compatible with FF
# The URL history isn’t as good as FF for some reason
# On some Web pages the fonts don’t look very good.

I just want to test the latest Web technologies out in Opera, with a timeline to when Opera’s mobile or DS or other ports might support said features. Is that too much to ask?

I am so demanding considering who I work for. ;)

Office document compatibility

Document compatibility between Microsoft and opensource formats is probably going to get worse before it gets better.

Right now we have quite decent compatibility between Openoffice and MS Word with the 97–2003 .doc format. Not perfect by a long shot. Especially for CJK documents in my tests, but usable.

So here is why it’s going to get worse. Microsoft is pushing its new .docx XML standard which of course isn’t compatible or rather importable with OpenOffice (or anything else for that matter).

In my tests if you open .docx as “Word XML” in OpenOffice, expect a crash. Oh, but the new .docx XML standard is actually a standard proposed to ECMA one might exclaim. Now one can look up the spec, instead of reverse engineering the proprietary Word 97–2003 .doc format. Er, no.

The Microsoft proprietary specification, expertly called “Office Open XML” to confuse everyone is a 4081 page Word centric document from hell. Still I’ll be surprised if this red hot spec is complete and stable by the time Office 2007 actually ships. Still Microsoft have the money and contacts to push this standard as if it was actually a reasonable implementable specification reference. Ouch.

Microsoft’s “Office Open XML” spec was also of course designed to completely derail the true “opensource” format standard proposal called ODF. ODF or otherwise known as the OpenDocument Format is currently implemented in OpenOffice as “Opendocument Text” .odt. I don’t have much experience with ODT or ODF except that in seems to incorporate every XML technology under the sun. So expect your Office application to be like a Web browser, except more complex. How on earth it maps onto A4 postscript or PDF is anyone’s guess.

ODF is now implemented by a couple of programs. “Office Open XML” is only implemented in the repeatedly delayed Office 2007 installment. Here is a comparison article on Wikipedia.

Anyway, if you are wondering what a “Hello World” in each “Office” format looks like, then I have a treat for you:

# Hello World ODT file
# ODT converted from Hello World Word doc
# Extracted ODT
# MS Word 97–2003 Hello World
# Microsoft’s Office Open .docx
# Extracted DOCX
# Hello World PDF converted from docx from Office2007beta2
# Hello World PDF from Openoffice2
# Microsoft’s XML Paper Specification(XPS) Hello World
# Extracted XPS
# Print to file TIFF by Office2007

Scary things to think of:
# The sheer complexity of these new XML formats
# What about the millions of existing Word 97–2003 documents out there and their 3rd party tools?
# Might implementors create XML filters for existing Word doc tools?
# Will “commercial” implementers write their own Opendocument engine from scratch?
# How many people will convert (upgrade) their Word documents to .docx?
# Will there be a plugin for Office 2007 to publish to odt?
# Will OpenOffice implement import from .docx? Should they?
# Will Microsoft be forced to implement odt?
# What happens if the industry is bribed towards .docx ?
# Longterm: What will the fall out be? Two “new” standards vying here. Will either complex standard work out?
# What about Excel? Excel is actually supposingly mapped out a little on Microsoft’s “Office Open” spec, whilst there is nothing for spreadsheets on ODF.
# Will Office formats map or become part of the HTML Web?

Personally, I think the new Office format should be reStructuredText. ;)