Monthly Archives: August 2006

Lost me phone

I have officially joined the ranks of careless jerks who manage to lose their phone. Yes, I’ve lost my Nokia 6021 and more importantly the data on it. While I should (might?) have a backup of the phonebook somewhere, around half-a-dozen sent mails and some other private notes are now gone. Forever. How I hate when that happens. It hasn’t been a particularly lucky phone when I think about it – I lost a bunch of messages that I would have liked to keep when I was transferring the phone book from the previous phone to the 6021. It might have been my fault, but Nokia software should be more explicit in stating if you restore the backup of one phone onto another, it will erase everything that’s already present in the target phone!! Aargh.

Anyways, I had long come to terms with that loss and had recently been thinking of switching to the Treo 700p ((yes, i am not as averse to the idea of having a camera in my phone as I was before)) (when the GSM version comes out) or the rumoured iPhone that is now almost certain to come out by the end of the year, unless his Steviness has a change of heart, even though the Nokia I had was less than an year old. Treo 650 was another option, especially as I thought I could get it at a much better price than the other two. Maybe the Nokia got wind of my idea, even though I was careful not to discuss this when it was around, and decided to run off with someone who it thought would be more appreciative. Oh come back my phone, I’ll take better care of you I promise and not cast lusty looks at the Palms and the Apples (or not!).

So in the rare case that you’ve been trying to get in touch with me for the past few days, this is the reason why. And yes, I’m in no rush to get a replacement, so if you want to get in touch with me, email or IM is the only way (just as I like!). It’ll be nice to go back to the time, albeit for a few days/ weeks, when you didn’t have to have one (phone) on you all the time.

And yes, I almost forgot, drop in your latest contact details please will ya – I think the backup of my phonebook (if one exists) is on the PC back home which I have no access to at the moment. Cheers.

Music lovers of the world unite

I have been playing around for the past couple of days with and it’s nothing like other online music/ radio services that I have used. It’s ad-free, features multi-platform clients and learns about your musical tastes as you go along.

It allows you to tune in to specific genres/ artists using tag based channels or listen to artists that sound similar to your favourite as categorized by other users. You can “love”, “hate”, recommend (to friends) tracks/ artists and/ or associate them with tags (think genres, mostly) for your own as well as the community’s benefit, all with a single click. It also offers the facility to “scrobble” tracks you’re listening locally (via, say, iTunes) onto your profile.

All this increases the probability of hearing the kind of music you’ll like, which makes it a great way of discovering new artists as well as getting your daily does of all time favourites. The catalogue contains both mainstream as well as other artists and isn’t restricted to English music – for hindi music, for example, try tags bollywood or ghazal.

If you like to shout from the rooftops about your musical tastes, point people to your homepage or use one of the many personalized RSS feeds. Check out the tools section for many other goodies.

There are many other features (like free music downloads) and since this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive review but an attempt to nudge you in the right direction, I’ll stop right here and allow you to explore. Get started by downloading the player for your OS and signing up at their website. The quality of the streams is second to none and, best of all, the service is free.

How can they afford it? Well so far they seem to be surviving thanks to a mix of VC funding, advertising revenue and affiliate income by pointing people interested in buying music to online retailers like Amazon.

You can see what I have been listening to lately at this page and perhaps add me as a friend once you’ve signed up so we can exchange recommendations – optional 😉

PS – I’ve recently learnt about Pandora, a similar site/ service. Maybe next week, I’ll review nudge you towards that once I’ve had a chance to play with it.

Mission impossible?

Twice in the past 10 days I have spent the best part of an hour looking for a file (different one in each case) that I know is somewhere on my computer, but i don’t know where or what it is called. I am told Spotlight would have been just the thing to take care of such a situation, considering I knew the “content” I was looking for, but as the half-a-dozen occasional readers of this blog know, I’m still with Panther and thus do not have that “luxury”. My bad I know, but with or without Spotlight things shouldn’t be in the state they are.

For a self respecting geek that I claim to be, my Powerbook is in a big mess. I am not talking about hardware issues (I have none – don’t die on me lower RAM slot!) or OS issues (dude, it’s a Mac we are talking about and I never repair permissions). I am talking about my personal files. Unzipped archives left on the desktop, documents lying in ~/Documents (that’s a bad thing if you have a gazillion) – I’m sure you get the picture. Kinda like what I am in the “real” world (err… no prospective employers, this isn’t me I am talking about, some other guy I know) – looks messy to the eye, but it’s functional and works for me. Except now it doesn’t.

I have never faced problem finding “official” documents or any kind of emails (professional or otherwise). Descriptive names take care of the former and full content search and the fact everything is in place, the latter. The trouble starts when I come across some interesting snippet on a web page and decide to copy-paste into a imaginatively named text or rtf (thanks to Textedit) file called “untitled.rtf” or “junk.txt” and put it onto my desktop. So far so good, especially if I decide to reuse this file the next time. But to my annoyance, I almost never do that. Either I end up moving this file to another folder the next time my Desktop gets all cluttered or I create another file with an equally imaginative name. As I’m typing this I am wondering when, where and how I got into this bad habit, because I remember a time (back during the Windows days) when my junk.txt or “bakwaas.txt” as it was called in those days (bakwaas is hindi for junk, roughly) used to run into hundreds of KBs. Not the best of solutions I know, but atleast I knew where to go the next time I needed to lookup that great quote.

This stuff has been at the back of my mind for quite some time now – my lack of snippets management system, if you will. It has been brought to the forefront by the case of the two missing files – I had to give up in both cases, in case you are wondering, and that is why I’ve been “forced” into action I guess. And action it has been.

Here I am, going searching through folders for all tiny and not so tiny text files I have created in the recent and not so recent past and trying to consolidate into them a single file to start with and take it from there. Not quite a single file, because I have been able to identify different categories of content and created separate files for each:

  1. Liverpool – great quotes/ facts about LFC.
  2. Tech – snippets of code, IP addresses etc.
  3. Ideas – crazy business/ tech ideas that pop into my head (VCs note this requires a separate file of it’s own 😉 )
  4. Non tech musings (see below)
  5. Visit – URLs/ Websites I intend to visit in the future (Though experience tells me I never come back to this file) – this in addition to the “Visit” folder under bookmarks in Safari.
  6. Quotes – Mostly funny quotes and some gems from Seinfeld for “ready reference”.
  7. Service – Copies of emails to my bank using their contact form, because they don’t have a sent box, copy of transaction IDs of all transactions done online etc.
  8. Read – Books on my “to read” list.
  9. Naukri – Career stuff like cover letters etc.
  10. Misc – Anything that doesn’t fit in any of the categories above.

*Phew* I didn’t realize until now I had created this many categories. Anyways, the operation is well and truly underway and so as not to overwhelm myself I plan to do spend a few minutes to half an hour each day (okay, between you and me, I doubt it would be “each day”) and I’m hoping slow but steady will one day win the race. Here’s the best of interesting stuff I have rediscovered so far going through folders, kinda like the movie stub, that you’d saved and completely forgotten about, you discover while cleaning your closet:

  • Some Poems I wrote (what do you know!)
  • A script to download images from Google Map and “staple” them together to form one big, high res pic from the days when Google Maps had just been released. And no, I didn’t write it, just made some changes to a script I found.

When all this sorting is done, the next step would be to setup a system “that works”. Since this has been at the back of my mind for a while (see above), I have been looking for software that can handle this stuff more gracefully. Piping to a flat file with Quicksilver in an option due to it’s speed and geekiness but I’m looking for something that can preserve formatting (don’t ask me why, because I don’t know myself). Quicksilver integration would be nice but not essential. I have tried Sidenote and Journler and while the former just doesn’t feel right, the latter seems too “bulky” (although Journler does a lot more than just keep notes). Both Yojimbo and SOHO Notes (formerly StickyBrain) are Tiger only so they are ruled out (aargh… one of these weekends I should bite the bullet and jump to Tiger).

Another thing that has been at the back of my mind ever since I read this piece is the “openness” of the format. So preferably the software should save as XML or something similar. Let’s see where we go.

Here’s hoping everything is in place before I feel the need to find something I scribbled in January 2002.

Two pieces of news that I found disturbing for different reasons the past week.

Reset system keychain password

I have spent considerable amount of time (over YM) the past two weekends trying to help me dad get his Windows desktop to connect to the WiFi network I have running back home. The process has been a lot of pain and he’s still unable to connect, but this post is not to whine about what’s wrong with this Windows world. As you would expect, amongst other things, I needed to tell him the SSID and WEP key for the network and of course Keychain spoilt as we are, I didn’t remember either. No big deal, I just went into the Network Preferences and told him the SSID of the Wireless Network I have setup Airport to join in the “Home” location.

Now there’s the password as well, but to see it I’ll need to use Keychain, our trusted password keeper. I run Keychain and can see all the passwords except the one I need – Murphy’s law? Not quite, because I can’t see any of the Airport passwords. Well, that’s strange. I look around at various websites but nothing tells me where our trusted Airport passwords might be. I spot the “Show Keychains” button (it’s right there, duh!) and click on it and viola, a drawer pulls out and tells me I am looking at the “login” keychain and there’s another keychain called “system”. As you would expect, the Airport passwords are in the other keychain. So far so good, although the existence of another keychain could have been more “visible”. Anyways, the “Show Keychains” button was “right there” so I would let this one go.

I selected my network and tried to “Show password” but it just wouldn’t accept my login password (and yes I have administrator privileges). This while the user keychain quite happily accepted my password. I looked this problem up and found that the reason was that I had changed my login password since installation. Aha, so what this means is that while the user keychain password (automatically) changes when you change your login password, the same doesn’t hold true for the system keychain. I presume the system keychain would unlock with my old login password – if only I could remember it!

I tried to “Repair” the keychain using the “Synchronize login keychain password” option but apparently that’s only for your “user” keychains. I tried the booting from Install DVD and resetting the user password routine but no cigar. I was getting really irritated at this point and had me dad (there’s me trying to write Scouse again) hanging by the chat window for the best part of 30 minutes waiting for the password. That was when the command line geek in me finally decided to show up.

The basic idea is to “fool” Keychain into thinking your system keychain is your user keychain. If you are comfortable with the command line you can probably take it from there (do not forget to backup before you attempt anything) but if you’re not I’ll hold your hand until you are done. So here we go, here’s how to reset your system keychain password (works in Panther, no reason it shouldn’t in Tiger):

1) Quit Keychain Access
Just in case, quit Keychain Access if it is running.

2) Fire up Terminal
Available typically in Application/ Utilities

3) Backup your keychains
$ cp ~/Library/Keychains/login.keychain ~
$ cp /Library/Keychains/system.keychain ~

4) Replace login.keychain with system.keychain
$ cp /Library/Keychains/system.keychain ~/Library/Keychains/login.keychain

5) Run Keychain Access and verify that the login keychain is actually your “system” keychain (i.e. both keychains are same). Now goto Keychain First Aid in the Window menu and verify that “Synchronize login keychain password” option is selected. Just to be sure do a “verify” and you’ll be informed that the password needs to be changed. Go ahead and do the actual repair.

6) Quit Keychain Access

7) Copy the system keychain to it’s original place and restore the user keychain
$ sudo cp ~/Library/Keychains/login.keychain /Library/Keychains/system.keychain
$ cp ~/login.keychain ~/Library/Keychains/login.keychain

8) Fire open Keychain Access and you should be able to unlock the System keychain with your login password.

There – you are good to go!

Just in case something goes wrong, you can go back to your old keychains:
$ sudo cp ~/system.keychain /Library/Keychains/system.keychain
$ cp ~/login.keychain ~/Library/Keychains/login.keychain

Well, atleast something good came out of the Windows pain (in the form of this post). Not really because we would have needed the password even if the process was easier, but let’s pretend otherwise.

So where does that leave our keychains as far as security is concerned. Does that mean if you somehow manage to lay your hands on someone else’s keychain, you just reset it’s password and gain access to all the information inside it? Or is there some “system specific” information that is stored as part of the keychain that this synchronize login keychain password option looks into as well to ensure that you are not resetting someone else’s keychain?

Unfortunately I do not have access to another OS X install, so I can’t test that. I’ll see if I can have someone send me a “junk” keychain from their system and try to repair that. Or you can test the same at home if you have multiple OS X installs or download this keychain I created with nothing but a note inside and see if you can get it to synch with your login password. Please share your results.

Edit: Rest in peace (no puns intended), your keychains are safe. Thanks to AHM who wrote in to confirm he couldn’t reset the junk.keychain from my system.

Captain Mono

So I came back an hour ago after watching 5 minutes of the second Pirates of Caribbean, whatever it is called – Dead Man’s Chest? Yeah, whatever. I had been wanting to see it for a long time and considering that tomorrow will most likely be the last day it’s going to be in theatres here, I finally decided to go and watch it at this theatre near my hotel. So I quickly finished dinner – which wasn’t too bad btw, which is a rarity these days – and reached the theatre. Only the second time in my life was I planning to watch a movie “alone” – what’s the big deal with doing that anyways? I mean if you really want to watch the movie you shouldn’t really care who you’re with, right? I’m in for watching movies alone after being sceptical for the best part of my life. Anyways, I digress.

I reached the theatre, bought the ticket and entered the hall, you know the usual drill. At this point I would like to state for the record, my complete distaste for multiplexes with halls that are only slightly bigger than your living room (unless you live in Mumbai or New York of course, in which case any place is bigger than your living room). I mean this hall had only 52 seats (yes, I had time to count as I was waiting for the movie to begin) – 52 seats? Give me the single screen theatres over multiplexes any day. Call me old fashioned, but I like my movie screens big and the halls bigger. Call me old fashioned, but I’m not sure what I’m gaining with multiplexes – I pay more to watch the movie on a smaller screen with worse audio. And yes, being close to the screen is suddenly a good thing?!! WTF!

Talking about crappy audio brings us back to today’s movie. The previews start and there’s this constant hiss in the audio – never mind, I thought, it must be just the previews. Not the first time the stuff leading up to the movie is in stereo and the movie that follows is in Dolby or DSS or whatever the latest buzzword is. But of course this audio wasn’t even in stereo because the sound was coming from only one direction – right in front of me (where the screen is) – and I could just about make out what they were saying. Wait a minute, is this MONO? No way, I thought to myself. That’s not possible. Ah, the previews are over, the movie begins, surely everything will be fine now. There’s the production house banner – OMG the hiss is still there! The movie starts and yes, it’s still there. I can just about make out what the actors are saying over that annoying hiss and I start to realize that the four speakers on the left and right walls are just for show – I wonder if they are just empty enclosures – not the best publicity for Bose I tell you.

I somehow sit through the first scene and just as Jack Sparrow, correction “Captain” Jack Sparrow, is about to make his first appearance on screen (or so I think, because I never made it that far) I decide enough is enough, I don’t need to put up with this. By the way talking about sadda Johnny Deep Singh an Edward “Scissorpaws” reference on Frasier as I type this – some coincidence, eh? I walk out of the hall and happen to catch the “projectionist” just as I am moving out. What the hell is the matter with the audio I ask him, what’s with that noise? He replies with the M word. “No problem, the audio is mono”. AARGH!!! How can you even utter those words with a straight face?!!!! He added we have a digital print (with great audio I presume) but this screen has only mono audio. That would explain all the noise because to make an audio signal distributed over 5 channels audible with only one, you would have to make it exceptionally loud, bringing in all the noise. Well, that is putting it in simple terms – which is the best I can do.

Anyways, atleast the guy was understanding when I said mono sound is unacceptable to me and he took me straight to the manager/ owner who gave me a refund, no further questions asked. I didn’t expect them to be this “co-operative” to be honest, which is why I even considered sitting through the movie – but 23 seconds after the thought entered my head, I realized I just couldn’t do it – refund or no refund. I don’t know how the other half-a-dozen people watching the movie could put up with that crap! This multiplex has 3 screens, so I naturally asked if the other two had mono sound as well. Thankfully, the answer was no. Ah, great. So I pay 25% more than the guys in the other theaters (because English movie tickets are more expensive than Hindi movies which were playing on the other two screens – go figure) and I’m the one who gets mono audio! Ain’t life grand?

Take my advice, if you are in Muscat and you see a movie playing at Al Nasr screen number 3, don’t bother.