Mac OS X Security Update

It’s Apple’s turn for a security update this time. It hasn’t been pulled through automatic update yet (I have it set for weekly checks) but I decide now is as good as time as any since there’s been no changes since my last disk clone. I click on software update to start things off. The screen below sums it up.
Screenshot of Software Update showing the update information

Information about the update is available here (apple.com).

There’s not much to say. The download and update went fine and there’s no obvious problem after the reboot.

Firefox: One Too Many Closed Tabs

When Firefox 2 came out and had a close button on every tab I thought it would be great. Convenient and easy to find. Then I started closing tabs accidentally. Sure, they can be re-opened using “History” -> “Recently Close Tabs” but that doesn’t always get back the data when I’m using a web based app.

So it’s back to the old style with the close button and the end of the tab strip. This has the added bonus of giving more space for the tab titles.

To do this simply go to the url about:config and filter for browser.tabs.closeButtons and change it’s value to 3. Other options are 0 – display on active tab only, 1 – default behavior, 2 – no close buttons.

Here’s the MozillaZine article on the setting.

Project Pages Launched

This post is completely obsolete. 

Up along the top you’ll see a new tab called “Projects”. This is where I’ll be tracking some longer term endeavors. We’re kicking things off with two projects.

The first is “Spam” where I’ll be trying to reduce the amount of spam that gets to my inbox along with how various programs and service handle spam and how e-mail addresses can get in the hands of spammers.

The second is “Backup”. It’s time to review my current backup strategy and look at backup strategies for some friends and family.

And there’s some ulterior motives here. I’ve created a Spam Chronicles blog on the blogger beta to give it a workout and I’m trying various options in WordPress to try and give it a workout to. (no longer there) I’m not much for evaluating software unless I can put it to real use.

XDrive – Free Disk Space From AOL

After signing up for the AOL e-mail I was looking around the AOL website. Now that they’ve been losing customers they seem to have adopted the business model of dropping their price to free but making up for it in volume. They’ve gone Google and will try to make it up in advertising revenue.

Anyway, one thing that caught my eye was their XDrive offering. It’s 5GB of disk space for free. They didn’t want any additional info beyond what they collected for the e-mail account so I signed up for it. I can always use 5GB of disk space and may actually be suitable backup solution in some cases. The agreement does have a vague clause about terminating accounts if they exceed normal bandwidth usage. They say they’ll base this on typical usage but there’s no clear definition. Nothing else in the agreement jumps out as a potential problem (They do say they aren’t responsible for any liability, but this is free.)

Read moreXDrive – Free Disk Space From AOL

Windows XP Security Update

Microsoft sent a security patch to my Windows XP SP2 machine. It’s “MSXML 4.0 SP2 Security Update (KB927978). The details provided are:
—————————————————
Size: 5.4 MB

A vulnerability exists in the XMLHTTP ActiveX control within Microsoft XML Core Services that could allow for remote code execution

More information for this update can be found at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/927978
—————————————————

I installed the patch and a reboot was needed.

AOL My eAddress

[Update: In December 2008 AOL made some changes to this service which I talk about here. Also, I never fully embraced this service. I still have the address and use it occasionally but it’s not a important account. If it went away tomorrow I wouldn’t miss it or the emails. While I never had any problems with this service I also never really felt AOL really wanted to support it.]

Registration is straightforward. On the first screen you pick you .com or .net domain. If it’s available you can proceed to the registration screen.

In addition to the typical ID, password and security question you need to provide a cell phone #, alternate e-mail address, date of birth, country and zip code. The cell phone number is to limit registrations to one per person (well, one per cell phone number) and AOL says they will never give it out. (When I registered with Google Mail they used the same method to limit it to US subscribers) You also agree to to the terms of service on this page. No name and address are entered.

The full terms of service are here. Some highlights are:

  • AOL owns the domains [Update: This is no longer true as AOL no longer registers the domain.]
  • You don’t have an exclusive right to use the domain name with the service [Update: This is no longer true as AOL no longer registers the domain.]
  • AOL promises nothing except to try (hey, it is free, it’s probably a bad idea to use this for business critical e-mail)
  • AOL will delete the account if it becomes inactive (inactive is not defined)

After submitting the registration the page to verify the registration came up. The SMS message arrived at my cell phone in less than a minute and I entered the code. This completed the setup and the “Control Panel” came up. This allows me to “Invite” others to use the e-mail. “Invite” simply means set up e-mail accounts (address/password) and send an e-mail to a person to let them know it’s set up.

The alternate e-mail address was used to send two e-mails. The first told me to check my SMS messages for the pin and it included a link to the screen to enter the pin.

Once I entered the pin I got another e-mail telling me it was ready. It included a link to the control panel. It also said I needed to log into the mailbox and gave me a link and info for webmail. It mentioned I may not be able to send e-mail for 15 minutes and may take up to 24 hours to receive e-mail messages due to the normal domain registration process.

I log onto webmail and there’s a welcome message in my inbox.
The main e-mail screen that appears when opened seems to be a subset of what I saw on the AOL main page. Some news highlights and links along with an add or two. The inbox also displays a banner add along the bottom. The adds aren’t really intrusive except for the one in the welcome e-mail. Maybe it was only there because it was a message from AOL, but it was annoying to see a vertical banner add down the right side of the message. I also wonder about the bandwidth used to feed those ads if the browser is left open.

  • Firefox (on my Mac) crashed when I tried to sign-off AOL mail (twice). Also crashed when navigating away from the mail page. Safari also crashes when logging out. [Updated Jan 1, 2007: The web interface works fine on a second Mac which is an Intel based iMac]
  • Need to find out how to turn off that “You got mail” announcement – under display settings I unchecked “Play sound when new mail is received”.

I set up a demo account. The setup sends an e-mail with logon instructions (minus the password) which I follow. There’s a short registration screen where I enter a security question/answer, alternate e-mail address, date of birth, country and zip code. I also have to agree to the terms of service and privacy policy.

All banner ads appear to change regularly so there’s regular network traffic. I’ve gone through other screens and there are ads everywhere. Like in the above screen shots they tend to be off to the side and out of the way. So far I haven’t had to clear any ad screen just to do something.

I search the AOL help on how to set up Outlook Express to get mail. From there I get the server names and settings so I can set up Thunderbird. I set up the demo AOL account as a IMAP mailbox.

I set up both accounts (my main and the demo) and send/receive from both successfully. The only issue I found was that the SMTP server requires the ID to match the account doing the sending. So the first account I set up worked because I used that ID for the SMTP server setup. The second account failed when I tried to use the same SMTP server. Rather than setup multiple SMTP connections I just set the account to use one of my other servers.

The banner ads don’t show in the incoming mail messages when viewed in Thunderbird, even with image blocking turned off. So other than what’s embedded in the e-mail itself by the sender using Thunderbird avoids all the ads. This is probably true for any other e-mail client.

While it’s transparent, the registration for the e-mail account also gives an AOL ID (screen name). While I didn’t see exactly what this gives me access to, I could use it to sign in on other screens. At the very least it’s used for personalizations.

I’m pretty impressed by this free offering. Even the ads aren’t too bad on the web based e-mail, although I would complain about it if I was paying for AOL.

The browser crashes would certainly be a problem if I was tied to the browser. It appears to be a Mac (or my Mac) problem rather than a browser issue. Both Firefox and Safari crash on my Mac. But Firefox works fine on my Windows box. The problem appears to be navigating away from the mail pages rather than the actual sign off.

Sometime in the future I’ll have to take a look and see how much traffic it generates while sitting there doing nothing.

Picasa as Host For Blog Pictures

This article is obsolete along with being a terrible idea since I had not control of Picasa. The content has been deleted. It began… 

When I started working on the Thunderbird Mail posting I figured I’d have a lot of screen shots. So I decided to try using a Picasa web album to host them. I’d already installed the Picasa plug-in for iPhoto. I took the screen shots as I was doing the install and I put placeholders in the article. To try an make life easy I numbered them in order.

Thunderbird (E-Mail Client)

This post is very obsolete and all the screenshots were lost so the contents have been deleted. It began… 

With my recent mail fiasco and the continued increase in the number of e-mail addresses I have, I’ve decided it’s time to organize things. Apple Mail is my primary e-mail client but it runs only on my Mac.

Yahoo ISP + Yahoo Web Hosting = Mail Nightmare

I thought I had researched Yahoo Web Hosting thoroughly and hadn’t come across any potential pitfalls. But things went downhill as soon as my domain was set up. Part of the problem was probably self-inflicted as I was using the Yahoo Mail beta software.

What I didn’t know, and what wasn’t documented, was that the Yahoo Small Business Web Hosting service does not yet support then mail beta. In my defense, even now that I know what problems I had I can’t find any reference or warnings in the Yahoo information.

I’m convinced my problems are due to the fact that I was on the beta mail and the new domain would be on the original mail.

Spam, Spam, Spam and more Spam

Read moreYahoo ISP + Yahoo Web Hosting = Mail Nightmare

FileZilla FTP Client and FileZilla FTP Server

FileZilla is a open source (GPL License) FTP program. It supports FTP and SFTP. It’s a Windows only program (Windows 2000 and Windows XP). There’s a FileZilla client and a FileZilla server. I’ll be installing both on my Windows XP SP2 box. The client will mainly be used for accessing my website. The server will be used to back up files from my other PCs. The server won’t be facing the Internet.

The client is version 2.2.29 and the server is version 0.920.

Read moreFileZilla FTP Client and FileZilla FTP Server