PGP Desktop Manual Proxy Configuration for Mac OS X

I upgraded to PGP Desktop 9 because the new version would finally work with Eudora on Mac OS X. All I had to do was install the new version, reboot, and the new automatic mode began immediately discovering and auto-enabling my email accounts as I used them.

Unfortunately, the automatic mode doesn’t work so well if you are also using some kind of network tunnel, such as a VPN or ssh port forwarding, which is increasingly common for me as I take the laptop to clients or on the road. I thought I would document the configuration of manual proxy mode for Mac OS X users, since I found the documentation light in this area.

Two months ago I upgraded to PGP Desktop 9, because the new version would finally work with Eudora on Mac OS X. Indeed, all I had to do was install the new version, reboot, and the new automatic mode began immediately discovering and auto-enabling my email accounts as I used them. It does this with some clever connection redirection using the built-in Mac OS X firewall, courtesy of the Unix subsystem.

Unfortunately, the automatic mode doesn’t work so well if you are also using some kind of network tunnel, such as a VPN or ssh port forwarding, which is increasingly common for me as I take the laptop to clients or on the road.

I finally got around to figuring out how to set up PGP Messaging’s manual proxy mode, courtesy of decent instructions for Windows users written by Robert Johansen of PGP. I thought I would document the configuration for Mac OS X users, since there are substantial differences in the application between the two platforms.

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The Inevitable Apple on Intel Post

Since I write about Mac OS X so often, it seems mandatory to post something about Apple’s announcement this week that they would be “moving the Macintosh platform to use Intel microprocessors”:http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2005/jun/06intel.html. Most of the insights and big ideas about this have already been written, so my thoughts are mostly about, well, me.

Since I write about Mac OS X so often, it seems mandatory to post something about Apple’s announcement this week that they would be moving the Macintosh platform to use Intel microprocessors. Most of the insights and big ideas about this have already been written, so my thoughts are mostly about, well, me.

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Cocoa Eudora?

“Michael Tsai”:http://mjtsai.com/blog/2005/05/02/eudora-cocoa/ brought to my attention that “QUALCOMM is rewriting Eudora”:http://www.eudora.com/techsupport/kb/2654hq.html to update it to the latest Mac OS X technologies, etc. While it is exciting to know that Eudora for Mac OS is still supported by QUALCOMM, and even being modernized, I hope that QUALCOMM is appropriately cautious about making gratuitous UI changes. It may not be pretty, but the interface is highly usable.

Michael Tsai brought to my attention that QUALCOMM is rewriting Eudora to update it to the latest Mac OS X technologies, etc. While it is exciting to know that Eudora for Mac OS is still supported by QUALCOMM, and even being modernized, I hope that QUALCOMM is appropriately cautious about making gratuitous UI changes. It may not be pretty, but the interface is highly usable.

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The Definitive Tiger Review

John Siracusa has written his usual “tour de force review of a major Mac OS X release”:http://arstechnica.com/reviews/os/macosx-10.4.ars, this time for Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger”. For the technical Mac OS X user, and OS geeks in general, it does not get any better than Siracusa’s reviews.

John Siracusa has written his usual tour de force review of a major Mac OS X release, this time for Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger”. For the technical Mac OS X user, and OS geeks in general, it does not get any better than Siracusa’s reviews.

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Saft Makes Safari Rock

I purchased “Saft”:http://haoli.dnsalias.com/Saft/, a plug-in for the Safari web browser on Mac OS X, a while back, after using the demo version for a couple days. I’ve found a number of features well worth the $12 purchase price. The latest release adds yet another terrific feature.

I purchased Saft, a plug-in for the Safari web browser on Mac OS X, a while back, after using the demo version for a couple days. The two features I used immediately and loved were:

  • Saving open windows and tabs across quits of Safari (normally Safari forgets all your open windows and tabs, and restarts at your home page)
  • Saving a full page as a PDF (as opposed to doing a Save as PDF in the print dialog, which breaks a long page into multiple pages, with no control over where the breaks are)

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OS X Backup Sucks

I was recently trying to configure automatic backups for a friend’s computer, the idea being that once a week his important files would be backed up to his .Mac account. The problem is, the backups just keep taking up more and more space on his .Mac account. Eventually it fills up. And Backup stops working.

I was recently trying to configure automatic backups for a friend’s computer, the idea being that once a week his important files would be backed up to his .Mac account. Having remote backup is one of the reasons he is paying for a .Mac membership. It’s not an ideal or comprehensive backup solution, but definitely a good thing.

But, the whole point is it’s supposed to be automatic, transparent, set and forget, don’t think about it until the time comes when you have to restore. The problem is, the backups just keep taking up more and more space on his .Mac account. Eventually it fills up. And Backup stops working.

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Menu Bar Items

Some of the most useful utilities I’ve found for my system are available as tiny “menu extras.” These little widgets, almost always compact icons, sit on the right side of the menu bar. Here’s my current Mac OS X right-side menu bar, and details on why I like each utility.

Some of the most useful utilities I’ve found for my system are available as tiny “menu extras.” These little widgets, almost always compact icons, sit on the right side of the menu bar. Sometimes the icon itself is useful, sometimes it’s just a symbol. Sometimes the item’s menu is where all the action is, sometimes you use it in other ways.

After buying it at Macworld Expo last year, I used You Control for about 6 months as my only right-side menu bar utility, using it to put everything I wanted in the menu bar. My theory was that with only one utility providing all the items, it would take less memory and processor time, and be a little more stable. But in the end I found that the You Control versions of various menu widgets simply were not as good as the independent options I’d found, and I switched to the stand-alone versions I’m using today.

Mac OS X menu bar items Here’s my current Mac OS X right-side menu bar. From left to right, I have QuickSilver, WeatherPop Advance, Timbuktu, Desktop Manager, Shh, MenuCalendarClock, the Mac OS X menu bar clock, Script Menu, iSync menu extra, Internet Connect VPN menu extra, AirPort menu extra, and the battery menu extra.

Some of these have been written about by others, among them QuickSilver and MenuCalendarClock, so I thought I’d just explain why I like a couple of my choices.

Although I didn’t intend for this post to bash You Software, whose products I like, they just released a public beta version of a virtual desktops utility which competes with one of my favorite items. I tried You Control: Desktops, and will be sticking with Desktop Manager, primarily because YC:D doesn’t allow you to assign keyboard shortcuts to individual desktops, so there’s no way from the keyboard to go directly to your desired desktop. You can choose a desktop from a list, but that’s potentially 4 keystrokes, not just one. Desktop Manager is also free, while YC:D will cost money.

Another unusual item in my menu bar is Shh. I like this tool a lot, because it’s incredibly flexible. Basically, it runs shell commands (the commands you can type at the command line) and puts the results in a menu bar. A great example is finding out what your IP address is (if yours changes); there are a bunch of utilities dedicated to doing just that, but why not use a more general tool that can do that, and a hundred other things — limited only by your expertise at the command line? (I’ll explain my own Shh commands in a future post.)

A last thing I love about these cool little tools is that they are not expensive. QuickSilver (possibly the most useful utility on my system) is free, as is Desktop Manager, and all of the items built into Mac OS X 10.3 (“Panther”). Shh is $5 and WeatherPop Advance is $8. MenuCalendarClock is free for the basic features, and $18.95 to unlock all features (which are totally worth it). Of all the widgets here, only Timbuktu cost more than $20, and I only have that for my consulting, for which it’s necessary — and so tax-deductible.

Spam Count So Far This Year

With Q1-2004 coming to a close, I thought I’d take a look at my spam situation, which has been escalating out of control. Since 12:01am January 1, 2004 I have received 22,255 spam messages via e-mail. That’s more than 250 a day, every day, for the last 89 days. Earlier in the year, the daily average was lower, which means that in the last couple weeks it’s gone well above 250 per day. In spite of these numbers, I have two things that give me hope.

With Q1-2004 coming to a close, I thought I’d take a look at my spam situation, which has been escalating out of control. Since 12:01am January 1, 2004 I have received 22,255 spam messages via e-mail. That’s more than 250 a day, every day, for the last 89 days. Earlier in the year, the daily average was lower, which means that in the last couple weeks it’s gone well above 250 per day.

In spite of these numbers, I have two things that give me hope.

First, SpamSieve is an amazing anti-spam filter that integrates well with Eudora. It’s far more reliable than the built-in SpamWatch feature that debuted in Eudora 6, primarily in the area of false positives (real messages mistakenly filtered out):

Filtered Mail

13565 Good Messages
22255 Spam Messages (62%)

SpamSieve Accuracy

21 False Positives
197 False Negatives (90%)
99.4% Correct

SpamSieve is award-winning software for Mac OS X, and it integrates beautifully with both Eudora and Mailsmith, the two best e-mail clients for the platform. I am getting to the point where I trust SpamSieve enough to just purge filtered e-mail without reviewing it.

Without SpamSieve, I would be going insane because of spam.

The second thing I have on my side is that more than half of my spam comes to one e-mail address, the oldest e-mail address I still use. If I were able to kill it, it would instantly cut off more than half of the spam. But, it’s the first permanent e-mail address I ever got, using the excellent pobox.com mail forwarding service. I’ve had it for almost 15 years. Because it’s so old, I’m extremely reluctant to part with it — what if that’s the only address a long lost friend has?

Well, it looks like I can have my cake and eat it too. pobox.com just introduced new spam filtering controls and services, which are far more effective than the old filters that were enabled on my account. Last night I turned them on, and already the amount of spam coming into my pobox.com e-mail address has dropped to almost zero.

I wouldn’t exactly call this the turn of the tide, but it’s certainly encouraging. Because it’s my only hope to avoid having to look at 100,000 spam messages in 2004, which is where the growth curve points, if there isn’t change.

I’ll let you know how it’s looking when Q2 is over.

iDVD Rocks

Last week we had a reunion of our group that went to Tequila. (Actually, it wasn’t so much a reunion as a reenactment; five people passed out at the host’s house, two of them were Rochelle and I.) A couple of days before the party, I put together a terrific DVD of the trip, using photos from all the participants, and iPhoto and iDVD for Mac OS X.

Last week we had a reunion of our group that went to Tequila, to tour the region and visit the fabricas that make the distilled spirit we love so much. Actually, as Martha described it the next day, it wasn’t so much a reunion as a reenactment. Five people passed out at the host’s house, and only one of them was the host. (Two of them were Rochelle and I.)

But the point of this posting is the DVD I brought to the party. I collected 1,400 photos from the folks who went on the trip, and organized them down to about 750 photos broken into 10 slide shows, using iPhoto for Mac OS X. Then, using iDVD, I was able to build a kick-ass DVD of the slides, which we spent an hour watching and laughing hysterically at during the party.

There are definitely some defects in iPhoto and iDVD, that made the task harder than it should have been. But given the amount of material I started with, and the quality of the finished product, it’s amazing that I was able to put it together in just a couple days. Especially since I had never used iDVD before this project. iDVD is an amazing piece of software.

There were a couple bugs in the disc I burned for the party, that I’ll fix some time next week for a 1.0.1 release. But then I get to add iMovie into the equation, and really put on a show, with better transitions, better control of timing to the music, and most importantly, captions for all the crazy photos. Should be a blast.

Selecting the LG VX4400 Mobile Phone

When choosing which of the dozen mobile phones offered by Verizon that we should get as our new phone, I spent (too?) much time researching the issue. I had a few criteria that were important, but making the final selection came down to just one thing: full connectivity with my Mac.

When choosing which of the dozen mobile phones offered by Verizon that we should get as our new phone, I spent (too?) much time researching the issue. I had a few criteria that were important:

  • Flip phone (or Rochelle’s purse dials randomly)
  • Can connect to my Mac OS X system (Windows-only not acceptable)
  • Tri-mode (digital and analog)
  • Customizable polyphonic ringtones

Several phones matched enough criteria to merit consideration. The LG VX4400, Motorola T730, and Samsung SCH-a530s all seemed fairly equivalent in most of their features. The LG VX6000 had a camera and a groovy OEL screen, but no analog capability, plus it was the most expensive. The LG VX3100 was the cheapest phone (by far), smaller, and had better battery life, but was B&W instead of color, and didn’t have analog or customizable ringtones.

In the end, it came down to the VX4400 and the Motorola. The LG had slightly better customer ratings, but the Motorola was on Apple’s list of iSync-compatible phones.

What swayed me to the LG was the vibrant communities of owners/users I came across, and an Open Source data synchronization utility called BitPim, which only worked with the VX4400, and had just recently been made to work on Mac OS X. While BitPim isn’t as polished or usable as iSync, it does one thing iSync does not: load custom ringtones and wallpapers onto the phone.

So far I’m pretty happy with the phone. Reception has been great, especially outside our house (which is a mobile phone dead zone). The form factor is excellent when in use, but a little big to carry around (I still love my Nokia 8860 best for the form factor; truly, an amazing phone that 4 years later has not been exceeded in that area).

And BitPim, while not pretty, was easy to install and connect to the phone, and has enabled me to download a great collection of ringtones (things that sound like a phone ringing, not rediculous classical themes and minuets), and a few custom graphics for visual ringers.

I still need to pick out a couple good games and use Get It Now to download them to the phone, so that when I’m 45 minutes early to a movie (I like to get a good seat), I have a distraction in my pocket that I can play with in public. Ahem.

What’s funny and gratifying is that Consumer Reports just this month released their latest reviews of mobile service providers, plans, and phones (subscription required to view). They liked Verizon best for the providers (unless you live-and-die by Push-to-Talk, then go Nextel), and the highly rated LG VX4400 was one of three “quick picks” that they selected as recommended phones for Verizon users (the LG VX6000 was another, and too expensive for us; the last, the Motorola 60p, wasn’t offered when we signed up). I would bet that the folks at Consumer Reports did even more research than I did!

On the Portability of Numbers

Rochelle and I recently tested the early waters on mobile phone number portability, by switching our mobile phones from AT&T Wireless to Verizon Wireless while keeping our existing mobile numbers, in the third week that it was possible to port the numbers.

Rochelle and I recently tested the early waters on mobile phone number portability, by switching our mobile phones from AT&T Wireless to Verizon Wireless while keeping our existing mobile numbers, in the third week that it was possible to port the numbers.

We wanted to switch for a variety of reasons:

  • My phone (using AT&T’s GSM service) works well everywhere except in our house. According to the research I did, for a variety of reasons Verizon has the best coverage in the Bay Area and nationwide.
  • Rochelle’s old (and free) “stick-style” phone keeps dialing me from her purse. A new clamshell design should fix that.
  • Rochelle’s plan was killing us when she overflowed her minutes or roamed, which happened every other month.
  • Our old plans were old, and not getting us the features or minutes that were available today.
  • Rochelle’s company switched their preferred wireless provider to Verizon, and Verizon was offering killer discounts on plans and new phones.
  • OK, we admit it, we just wanted to get polyphonic ringtones.

I did almost a week of research, inputting our old bills into a spreadsheet to review our historical usage patterns, comparing different carriers’ available service plans, learning more about mobile phone technologies (e.g., TDMA vs. CDMA, 800MHz vs. 1900MHz, etc.), finding the right phone, finding software for the right phone that would connect it with my Mac, etc.

In the end, Verizon having an arrangement with Gap, plus the ringing endorsements and explanations of technical superiority, made it impossible not to go with Verizon. Picking phones was a little harder, but after narrowing the options to three phones and Googling around for reviews and other info, it became clear that the LG VX4400 was the way to go for us. I’ll write more about our phone selection in another post.

Once the decisions were made, Verizon’s corporate rep made it incredibly easy to place the order and get the ball rolling. During the order process he was very careful to caution us that, because of the very early nature of number portability, it could take between 2 hours and a week for our numbers to completely transfer from our old carrier.

It turned out that AT&T wasn’t happy with our decision to switch, and our phones were deactivated immediately after they were notified we were transferring to Verizon. Since this was a few days before we got our new phones, let alone activated them and the number transfer, it seemed a little harsh, but making do without mobile phones for a couple days wasn’t a big deal.

In the end, the number transfers were anti-climactic. When the phones arrived I charged them for a few hours, and then followed the two-step procedure to activate them. Instead of it taking 2 hours or a week, the phones immediately came up with our old numbers. Yay Verizon!

So far we’re pretty happy with the new service and phones. I still don’t get perfect reception in the house, especially not in the computer room, but the phone is definitely usable in what is apparently a very tough environment for mobile service. After hours of “dicking around” (Rochelle’s term for it) with BitPim, the phone sync software, I managed to get our contacts copied from my computer to my phone, along with a bunch of custom ringtones and wallpapers.

Those poly ringtones make it all worthwhile.

Showing My Dock in Public

A deceptively frivolous article on MacDevCenter has inspired a lot of people to show their Docks in public. (The Dock is an application launcher / current applications list / application switcher in Mac OS X, analogous to the Taskbar + Start Menu in Windows.) I noticed a particular commonality among many of the Docks posted, and wanted to ask about it. But before I asked people about their Docks, I thought I ought to show mine.

A deceptively frivolous article on MacDevCenter has inspired a lot of people to show their Docks in public. (The Dock is an application launcher / current applications list / application switcher in Mac OS X, analogous to the Taskbar + Start Menu in Windows.) I noticed a particular commonality among many of the Docks posted, and wanted to ask about it. But before I asked people about their Docks, I thought I ought to show mine.

My mac os x dock (click for full-size version)

From left to right: Finder, System Preferences, iPulse, Eudora 6 (with Eudora 5 icon), OmniWeb, NetNewsWire Pro, Interarchy, BBEdit, Terminal, iCal, iTunes, iPhoto, SuperGetInfo, StuffIt Expander, Spell Catcher X, Radio UserLand.

Now, here’s my question. Many of the Docks being posted include an FTP client on them. Without exception (that I have seen) that client is Transmit, from Panic Software. Why are people so universally choosing Transmit? Is it that much better than the competition?

I’ve been using Interarchy for a very long time, since way before Mac OS X. I’ve found the Mac OS X version to be pretty good, now that it’s hit version 6. I don’t really want to switch, but if I’m missing out on the best FTP client, I would actually like to know it.