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Retro Xerox Commercials

My father recorded the animated version of “The Hobbit” back in 1979 onto a large, heavy and amazing machine called a Sony Betamax. My brother and I, as kids, were huge fans of the movie, and watched the videocasette over and over. Many years later, I rediscovered it. Of course, I still love the movie, but, after looking at the tape, it was the commercials that stood out. They were all by Xerox.

You see, Xerox sponsored the entire program and aired a bunch of commercials promoting there services and some of them are absolutely jewels. The crown jewel however, is one which I call “We’re Only Human.” It shows the latest and greatest that in computer technology that Xerox was developing. Small spoiler: Look for the mouse… four years before the Macintosh!

Long story short, I held onto the tape, but either had no good means to digitize video or no means to play back the tape! Well, it took a long time, but I finally came across a great Beta machine, had the means to digitize the commercials, and put them on YouTube. I’ve included a link to the first video of the eleven.

Control PDF Export Quality using Preview

QuartzPdfFilters

I had a PDF of a pictures which was too large to submit to a server, so I tried to export it from Preview on the Mac to shrink it down. I knew that if you go to

File -> Export…


instead of 

File -> Export as PDF…
 

you can add the Quartz filter “Reduce File Size” which will compress the PDF. The good news was it did an excellent job reducing the file size. From 12MB to 44 kB, wow! Cant say it doesnt deliver what if offers. The bad news was, the pictures in the document were so compressed as to be unusuable. And there's no way to control the quality of the export.

After some looking around, I came across this. (It should bring you to the comment I’m interested in, but it might not. Skip the article, it’s a comment by a user named “dow.” He pointed out a Github repository with additional Quartz Filters, created by Josh Carr, that gives you much more control over the quality of PDF exports. Just download a .zip of the repository, and copy the .qfilter files from the .zip file to /Library/PDF Services. I suggest reading the contents of the README.md file though first. And that’s it.

Slow Bitcoin Core Syncing on a Mac

opengraph

It’s been a while since I’ve run Bitcoin Core. Recently, I started it up again and ran into the dreadfully long wait of getting it synced up to the blockchain. The problem is, it was sycing far slower than even it’s usual slow self. It would have taken weeks to sync up. This was disconcerting since the developers have been promoting that changes made to it in version 0.10 make if faster to let it sync than getting a copy of the blockchain using Bit Torrent. I’m using version 0.11.2.  What’s going on? For me it boiled down to two things, but the first was enough.

1. Database Cache Setting

In the app’s Preferences, there is a setting for database cache which is by default set to 100 MB. If you’re using slow and old hardware like me, this becomes a more critical setting. It was suggested here that 500 MB or even 1000 MB is a better setting during the initial sync. Once synced, you can roll it back down to 100 MB and give your other apps some room back.

bitcoinCoreOptions

I tried 500 MB, restarted the app and saw a huge improvement. Intead of weeks, I was down to many days or maybe a week. I then tried 1000 MB, restarted, and think I saw further improvement, but I suspect I was reaching the point of diminishing returns. The sync was down to days, which was good enough for me.

Raspberry Pi 2 PiPlay Wifi Setup

IMG 9280

I have a Raspberry Pi 2 which I’ve setup for some retro arcade action using the PiPlay Linux Distribution. Until now, I’d been dependent on a wired ethernet connection. What surprised me is how difficult it was to setup the wifi dongle that came with the Maker Shed Starter Kit.

It really came down to modifying the two files below. It turns out there are quite a few different opinions on how to do it. It took a lot of trial and error for me to come up with settings that worked. I’m not an expert at this, so there are probably better ways to do this, but this works for me.

I think this would apply to other Pi Linux distributions, but I haven’t tried it.The wifi dongle is a Realtek Semiconductor Corp. RTL8188CUS 802.11n WLAN Adapter. I haven’t tried this with any other wifi dongles. 

/etc/network/interfaces

This is the script that describes how each interface will acquire it’s network IP address. In many cases DHCP will do. With this setting, the computer will get IP addresses for it’s wired ethernet port (eth0) and wireless port (wlan0) from the gateway. The localhost (lo) is a special case and doesn’t require changing. To be honest, I’m not sure how default plays into things. I do know that it required being set as described below for things to work correctly.

Catch! for TRS-80 now available for download

The files for the TRS-80 game Catch! I wrote decades ago are now available! 

Read the rest here

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Mac Server part of DNS Amplification Attack?

I host this website on my own Mac Mini, running Yosemite Server. Recently I’ve noticed an odd amount of network traffic, as can be seen in the pic below.

dnsAmpAttack 7day

I turned to the app called Private Eye which will let you see where the data is going. It’s not as fancy as Little Snitch, but I like simple, and, bless the developer’s heart, free. Here’s what it showed...

dnsAmpAttackPrivateEye

Oh oh. Anything .ru is probably not a good thing. 

Being “named” I know its the DNS server that’s responsible for all the traffic. I turn off the service which stops the problem. I use DNS so that clients on my network can find my web site and other pages I host on my server.

I did a little research on that particular web site and it appears my server may have been unwitting participant in what’s called a DNS Amplification attack. It’s a variation on a Denial-of-Service attack. Essentially, the attacker has discovered my DNS server is available and does recursive searches. The attacker spoofs the victim of the attack, sending requests to all of unsuspecting DNS servers it’s found, making it appear that the victim has made the requests. The DNS servers all send their replies to the victim, with data far in excess of what the attacker alone could offer, slowing and possibly bringing down the victim’s server. There’s a really nice, detailed write up of it at Cloud Flair.

Coder at Large gets an Icon

The website finally has a icon… hopefully everyone sees an empty desktop and an open door. I do like minimalism. I’ll tweak and polish it. This was a quickie.

Craig

coderAtLarge

Running a Game Program I Wrote in the ‘80s


Frame-18-08-2015-10-17-41

When I was a teenager, I wrote a game program called "Catch!" for the TRS-80 Model 1. I got the idea from Kaboom! for the Atari 2600. It's a lot slower than Kaboom, but I made up for it with drifting bombs and more. Not bad for Level II BASIC. I got as far as submitting to the magazine Basic Computing, but it was right about when TRS-80's were going out of style...

Read the rest and see the video here...

Fix for First-Gen Apple TV Caught in Reset Loop

I'm a fan of AppleTV, but I wouldn't be half the fan I am if it weren't for the never-ending efforts of those that figure out how to jailbreak them and add the features Apple probably ought provide out-of-the-box. Even better, Apple would be far better served IMHO, to provide an official development environment for it and let all the jailbreakers turn legit. But I'm getting off-topic.

My first AppleTV was a first-generation model, the one that's a flat gray box. It's often overlooked since the later generations have come out, but you can still do far more with this model than the later ones with jailbreaking. Mostly that's due to the first generation model being based on Mac OS X 10.4 (Leopard) rather than iOS, and also providing an honest-to-goodness hard drive inside. For anyone somewhat comfortable with the Terminal in Mac OS X, jailbreaking and extending the AppleTV is a fun project and, in my experience, it's hard to ruin. That's because first-gen AppleTV's provide a hardware-based reset (Press the Menu & "-" keys on the remote simulateously for about six seconds)  that would give you an opportunity to do a factory-reset. For me, no matter how badly I goofed things up, I could always get back to a factory-fresh AppleTV. That is until a few weeks ago.

Fixing Grayed-Out iChat in Snow Leopard Server

I'm hosting this website on my Mac Mini running Snow Leopard Server, and I somehow ended up in a situation where I could no longer control iChat from the Sever Admin iChat panel. Everything was just grayed out, and the start/stop button was missing. It looks like a lot of admins have run into it, as Apple posted a method to fix it. The only problem was, it wouldn't work:

guardian:~ craigcole$ sudo /usr/libexec/PlistBuddy -c "Set :initialized true" /Library/Preferences/com.apple.ichatserver.plist

Password:

Set: Entry, ":initialized", Does Not Exist


The problem was that com.apple.ichatserver.plist was empty but for a few header lines. I have no idea how it got that way. The trick here was to delete the file first. (I used the Finder.) Within moments, the file was reconstructed, and more importantly, was much better populated. iChat was still grayed-out, however, even after refreshing the panel. So then, I ran the command Apple offered again:

guardian:~ craigcole$ sudo /usr/libexec/PlistBuddy -c "Set :initialized true" /Library/Preferences/com.apple.ichatserver.plist

guardian:~ craigcole$ 

No fanfare after running the command, but the iChat panel was restored. (I may have had to refresh the pane, but I'm not sure.) I could start it, stop it and change settings again.

I hope this helps some other admins out...

Craig

Slow iPhone Backups? Start swapping cables!

I have been struggling with slow iPhone backups and have been trying every remedy you can find at the Apple Discussion Forums... Only one thing worked for me and I'll sum it up for you: if you have slow back-ups, you're not using the "right" iPhone cable. Start swapping cables until you find the right one... even if two cables look the same, it doesn't mean they'll work the same. When you do, mark it so you'll know which device it works for.

In my case, I use one cable for syncing my iPhone 3G with my Mac, and I bring another cable to work with an AC adapter so I could plug it into the wall. I finally thought to swap the two cables, and what took hours to back-up now takes minutes... I'm not sure, but I think the cable that didn't work came from an old  iPod I still use. It looks the same, but it definitely isn't the same.

I hope this tidbit helps a few of you out...

Craig

MashNHash is now available!

MashNHash password generator is now available for your iPhone, iPad ad iPod Touch! This app makes it easy to create and recreate safe passwords for any website or app. You just need to remember one master password, and an easy to remember phrase to generate a safe password.

It's free to use all you want. If you like it, for $0.99, you can turn on options that will allow you to generate larger passwords, adjust the caps and save your master password. Just go to the purchase tab inside the app.

Check it out here!

MashNHash Password Generator Coming Soon!

Too many passwords? Too difficult to remember safe ones? Well, here's an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch app that will let you use one master password to create and recreate all the safe passwords you could need.


Available at the Apple App store soon... take a peek at what's coming here.

DC Metro Now Push Server Bug Fixed

Apologies to all users... A serious bug was discovered in the DC Metro Push Alert Server that prevented some users from receiving push Metro alerts recently. The bug has been fixed. Thank you for your patience. If you have any questions, please e-mail.

DC Metro Now version 2.0 released!

A major update has been made to support pushing Metro alerts to your iPhone or iPod Touch. You no longer need to be using DC Metro Now to become aware of new Metro alerts as they happen. Merely enable push alerts, and you'll receive alerts within minutes of their posting at the WMATA website. You can elect to open the app at that time, or close the alert. A number above the DC Metro Now icon will indicate the number of alerts that await you.

Don't want to be bothered with alerts during the evening or weekends? You can customize the time of day and the days of week you wish to receive a full text alert on your phone. Only the number above the DC Metro icon will indicate that a new alert awaits you. 

IMPORTANT NOTE!

After you start the new version of the app, you'll be queried as to whether you wish to allow push alerts to your phone. Select "yes," which will allow your phone to receive alerts from this particular app. Your phone, however, will not receive alerts until you enable them from within the app. 

DC Metro Now v1.1 Released

DC Metro Now version 1.1 has now been released! You now have live Metro alerts available on your iPhone, with auto-updates every 60 seconds. Additional features include a higher resolution, more up-to-date system map. The user interface has received some touch-ups, the software has been updated to iPhone OS3.0 and lots of little bugs fixed I hope no one noticed.

Many thanks for the feedback I've received, particularly a DC Metro Now fan named DoorLeaner. This person offered a lot of very good suggestions, and pointed out the fact that the Metro System Map was out-of-date! Thank you! I'm pleased with the response it's received, and look forward to continuing its development.

Enjoy the update. As usual, if you have any questions or comments, please email me!

Craig

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Sliders 1.3 Released

Sliders has now been updated to iPhone OS 3.0... nothing new since 1.2, except a few vital bug fixes. Enjoy!

DC Metro Now is available!

DC Metro Now is now available at the iPhone app store for $1.99. Read more about it here!  I don't want to advertise features before they are available, but I will say development of DC Metro Now will continue... stay tuned...

DC Metro Now is coming!

I've also submitted another app to Apple for review: Called "DC Metro Now," it offers real-time train arrival information for all the stations in the Washington, DC Metro Rail System.  If can locate the nearest station and offers you maps to find it. All the stations are sorted by line, and all the lines which a station serves is easily found. I think it'll be very helpful to anyone in DC that needs to know quickly which station is closest and be sure the train you want to catch is on the way.

I've contacted the WMATA to review my app before submitting it to Apple, and my experience with them so far has been very positive! I've been granted permission to use their system maps, which are copyrighted and to use their live data which is not covered in their developer resources page at their website. They look forward to testing the app after approval from Apple, and I look forward to any feedback they can offer. Many kudos to them and my contact there. He was enthusiastic and very interested in helping me with my app.

Sliders update & lower price

Way over due for an update! Sliders has been out for quite a while now, and has now received two updates... 

The first update, version 1.1, adds a move counter, and also allows you to shuffle the pictures by shaking the phone. Home much the tiles move every shake or shuffle is set in the preferences for the app.

The second update, 1.2, which is currently being reviewed by Apple, now offers the ability to crop and edit the picture you select from the photo library before it is brought into Sliders. The changes don't affect the picture in your library, and only last until you select another picture. You'll notice now, that the application is now ad supported; one of the reasons the price is being reduced to $0.99. Many under-the-hood tweaks have been made which should make the app more robust overall.

Enjoy!

Sliders is Coming

A new application for the iPhone and iPod Touch... Sliders, is coming soon.

Screen Recycler & Teleport - Great together!

Screen Recycler Display Arrangement

Teleport Display Arrangement

My Mac Mini won't accept a second monitor, so I've been using Screen Recycler (SR) for a long time to add an additional display. It's a great program the will let you use a second computer (with it's display) as an additional monitor to your first. My old Cube has been filling the role quite nicely, using JollyFastVNC, supplied with SR to connect to my Mini.

I don't have a second keyboard and mouse handy, so I've been switching cables between my Mini and my Cube for the odd moments I needed to perform a task on the Cube. There's another piece of great software called Teleport, which will let you use a keyboard and mouse connected to one Mac as if it were connected to another though. It does this, much like SR, by offering the other computer's display as an additional display to the first.

I hadn't used Teleport in a while, and until recently I never thought to see what would happen if I tried to run both SR and Teleport together. It turns out they work perfectly well together!

First, I arranged SR's display using the "Displays" panel in System Preferences. It was placed just down and to the left of the main main monitor plugged into the Mini.