Sunday, October 19, 2008

Changing the Solaris root shell to bash

Bourne shell may be okay, but I'm a big bash fan myself. So I prefer using doing an "exec bash" after logging in as root. This can be a bit of a pain after a while though, so it would be great to have it automatically use bash. The problem is that some Solaris patching mechanisms may expect Bourne shell to be the default root shell, so if you simple go and change the root shell to bash you could get some unexpected results.

To work around this, edit the /etc/profile (which is the root user's shell profile), and add the snippet of code at the bottom, after all the initialization stuff is finished.

INITIALUSER=`who am i | awk '{print $1}'`
if [ "x$INITIALUSER" = "xjsmith" ]; then
if [ "x$BASH" = "x" ] ; then
exec bash

The code just checks who you are, and if you're a particular user, and your shell isn't already bash, then do an "exec bash". If you have a few users that are root you can simply expand the first if statement using some "or" logic.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Review of Password Safe Programs for iPhone

(As always, this article assumes a non-jail-broke iPhone 3G)

There are a number of password safe programs in the Apps store nowadays. Picking the right one involves a lot of different criteria. Personally, I use KeePass whenever possible, since it's a widely used open-source program. However, KeePass does not currently have an iPhone version of itself and because of Apple's short-sightedness the Java version of KeePass is not an option.

The password safe programs currently available in the App Store are:
  • 1 Password v1.3.2 by Agile Web Software for FREE
  • LockBox by Gee! Technologies for FREE
  • Mecrets Password Manager v1.0.1 by NormSoft Inc. for $9.99
  • SplashID v4.04 by SplashData for $9.99
  • eWallet v6.1.2 by Ilium Software for $9.99
  • Saphir v1.2 by Prometoys Liimited for $7.99
  • Firebox v1.1 by ClownWare for $4.99
  • Passwords v1 by for $0.99
  • Keeper 1.2 by Craig Lurey for $0.99
  • My Eyes Only by Software Ops for $8.99
  • Safe by phnsft for $5.99
  • Passwd by Thomas Kilmer for $0.99
  • SecretBook by Bookshelf Apps for $9.99
  • SecureNotes by Triple Creeks Studio for $6.99
  • Secret Safe by Samurai Code Monkey for $9.99

To be considered a password safe, a program must be able to store entries that contain a username, a password, and a reference to where the username and password are used. It must also encrypt these entries with one master password.

Additional features for a password safe include:
  1. Categorize passwords. (half point) Add/modify/delete categories (half point)
  2. Abililty to generate random passwords (1 point)
  3. The ability to identify the type of sensitive information (i.e. instead of a username and password, change the title to bank card and PIN). 1 point
  4. Storing of other sensitive information with an entry. 1 point
  5. Store URLs and link to Safari (half point) Insert username and password into web fields (half point)
  6. Store phone numbers and link to Phone. 1 point
  7. Ability to import/export passwords. 1 point
  8. Ability to synchronize with a PC/Mac application. 1 point
  9. Keep backups of old passwords. 1 point
  10. Search function. 1 point

Since I'm doing this on my own, I'm only trying out the free ones. For the paid programs, I evaluate them based on the information they provide in the App store, screen shots, and any supporting documentation they provide on the developer site. Since my list above contains 10 items, I'll simply use a score of 0-10 for the applications.

1 Password
This program has no category function, and no ability to generate passwords. Has the ability to change the field headers, and you can store additional information with each entry. It links to Safari, and will attempt to automatically fill in the web page fields (bonus point). It can sync to an application running on the Mac only (half point), but otherwise has no import/export features. It does not keep a history of passwords. No search function.
Score: 4

LockBox has categories, but only 6 fixed ones. It doesn't generate passwords. It has areas to store username/password, or anything else you want since it isn't labeled (only half a point then). It can store other information with each entry. It has no links to Safari or the Phone, and is generally pretty lacking in features. It has some sound effects, which I personally find annoying. Thankfully you can turn them off.
Score 2

Mecrets Password Manager
Mecrets can generate passwords. It links to Safari and can supposed fill in the web page fields for you. It can store additional information with each entry, and you can change the field names. You can organize the passwords into categories, and it looks like you can add your own categories. It doesn't link to the Phone, and it doesn't have any importing/export capabilities, or syncing with separate applications. No search functions. A good application, but it is also one of the most expensive.
Score 5

SplashID is one of the few password safes that doesn't use AES. It instead uses Blowfish for encryption. It has categories, and you can add your own. It will perform wireless syncing to your MAC or PC version of SplashID. It will generate random passwords. It links to Safari, but it can't automatically fill in the web page fields. You can customize the field names, and you can use fields to store additional information. It has a search function. You can also create new templates for types of password entries, which is a really nice feature. It doesn't link with the Phone. While the iPhone app can't do importing/exporting, the desktop application can. (I'll give a half point for that) The user documentation is excellent too!
Score 7

eWallet is geared more towards bank cards than passwords. It only synchronizes with a PC application. It can sort the entries into categories, and it can launch Safari, the Phone or email. You can also store notes with the entries.
Score 3.5

Saphir sets itself apart by using image based passwords to protect its entries. (It can use text based passwords as well). It can also store photos. The encryption is blowfish, rather than AES. It supports customized categories. It can store extra information with the entries.
Score 2

Uses blowfish instead of AES for encryption. It fully supports categories. It lets you add and delete fields for storing additional information or different types of information. Otherwise pretty basic.
Score 2

Passwords doesn't use categories, but instead has some alphabetical indexes. I can open Safari, but doesn't seem to have auto insert.
Score 1

It can store notes. The master password only seems to be numeric, and for that reason a self-destruct of the passwords has been built in. Doesn't seem to be much else.
Score 1

My Eyes Only
My Eyes Only biggest claim to fame seems to be that it's colourful. It comes with some built in categories, but it doesn't look like it lets you add your own. Based on the category choosen, it givens you specific templates (i.e. computer logins, bank cards, etc) It can store some extra information about an entry. Expensive for what it offers.
Score 2.5

Safe allows you to manage categories. It has predefined templates for entries, and can store extra information in the entries.
Score 2

SecretBook has full category functions. It can store extra information with the entries. Seems expensive for such a limited app.
Score 2

SecureNotes has full category functions. It has search functions. It can store extra information with the entries.
Score 3

Secret Safe
Secret Safe comes with a preset list of categories, and has a keyword search. It will store extra information with each entry. Seems expensive for what it offers.
Score 2.5

Passwd indicates that it links to Safari, but no indication if it auto inserts. Otherwise, very basic.
Score 0.5

SplashID is the clear winner from a features point of view.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Disgusting Fact About Spam

The one thing I love about GMail is how wonderfully it handles spam. Every couple of days I'll pay attention to the spam it has collected in the Spam folder. This could be anywhere between 10-20 spam messages over the period of a couple of days, to a week. The domain name I use has some email addresses that were on public sites, so the influx of spam is a constant trickle.

I decided to change the setup of my domain name email recently. The result was that anything sent to my domain was forwarded to me, regardless of the username in front of the @ symbol...In eight hours my Spam folder stood at 163 messages. All crap, all sent to random usernames. Is this the state of Spam now...No more mailing lists, just a list of domain names and a username generator? Needless to say, it's back to a set list of usernames for my domain.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Great iPhone Puzzle Apps For Free

If there is one thing I love to put on any PDA I've owned it's puzzle games. They're great for when you have a few moments of spare time (i.e. your spouse is shopping and you've been dragged along, or you're on public transit). These puzzle games keep your mind sharp and they're fun. All these applications are free from the Apple store. (There are lots of others, but these are the ones I enjoy):

Cannon Challenge
A great remake of the old Artillery game, but with way better graphics and multiple targets.

The classic Towers of Hanoi game, with great effects and graphics. Goes all the way up to 6 plates.

Moonlight Mahjong Lite
A great little Mahjong game, allowing you to view the board anyway you like.

You might know this game as Reversi or Othello. A great game with several different levels.

Try to just level one peg on the board. This could keep you busy for hours.

Sol Free Solitaire
Various Solitaire card games.

Brain Tuner
A great math game where you determine if the equations are true or false. Your score is based on time to solve all the questions, with penalties for incorrect answers.

Fire Drop
A bit hard to describe, but something similar to Tetris. You eliminate groupings of pieces of a certain colour, with bigger bonuses for larger groups.

A remake of the Minesweeper. It only has one size at the moment, but it's very well done.

Lumen Lite
A puzzle game of lasers, mirrors and crystals. Very fun and addictive! So addictive you might just want to buy the full version, which thankfully is only a few bucks.

A card matching game to test your memory. It is timed to just to make it more challenging.

15 Puzzle
Arrange the numbered tiles 1-15 in sequential order.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Some more things the iPhone is missing

To continue my topic from yesterday about things that need improving for the iPhone, here are a few more missing features:

No Video
If it has a digital camera, why doesn't it have a video recorder? The most recent cell phones I've seen all have a video recorder application. It would seem ideal suited with 16GB of memory. I know it's only a 2 megapixel camera, but it's something. I can't even find anything in the App store that does this yet. If anyone knows of one, please let me know.

Lackluster Built-in Song Management
On the original iPod you couldn't manage playlists on the iPod itself. You had to do it on your computer and sync up. Of course, you only had the wheel interface on the iPod so it would have been difficult to begin with. The iPhone has a full keyboard so it was definitely time we were allowed to create and manage playlists directly on the iPhone rather than having to sync it up. However, it seems you can only create and manage one "On-The-Go" Playlist before you need to sync up. You can't modify any existing playlists. A few more basic features from the king of portable music would be nice.

No File Management and No Non-Email Viewers
One of the features that Palm had was file management. This isn't a big deal unless you like to be able to store documents on your iPhone and read them without having to send them to yourself in an email. Palm let you download Adobe Reader. Why not have the same on the iPhone?

No Expansion Slots
Being able to copy a picture via an SD card was a handy feature on the Palm. Plus a card slot would allow expansion of the iPhone without having to buy a brand new one....oops, sorry, I forgot that's how Apple makes money. Well no wonder Apple didn't want an expansion slot.

No Bluetooth Syncing
Of course, nobody wants to do a full iPhone backup over Bluetooth, but having a lite version of the sync would be nice so that you don't always have to play around with the cable.

No User Replaceable Battery
You'd think Apple would have taken the hint by now. If the entire iPhone/iPod is still good, except for the battery, let us change out the battery! You can do this with any cell phone and some PDAs. Of course this would mean Apple couldn't snoop through the data of all the hapless users that just hand over their dead iPhones to have the battery replaced. I'm sure Apple wouldn't do this, but I would want to be sure by wiping the memory in some way and restore it when I got it back.

Poor Syncing Support
Great, I can sync my bookmarks with Internet Explorer...Only problem is I gave up Internet Explorer years ago for Firefox. Nice, I can sync my contacts and calendar with Microsoft Outlook...Except I only use Thunderbird. Is this an example of Apple's poor support for Open Source? I'd say so.

For all of Apple's bluster that says they are protecting us from bad applications by only having applications from App store, things still crash. Every once in a while, applications that ran just fine will start crashing. The solution? Reboot. is this different from Microsoft Windows?

I'm going to close off this topic... for now. Even though there are issues with the iPhone, I still bought one because it has a lot of the features I was looking to have. As ever, I'm still hopeful that Apple will fix these things and make themselves worthy of the fame they have.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

10 Things I Don't Like About My iPhone

I finally went and bought an iPhone. I had a 4GB iPod nano for a while, but was running out of space (German audio lessons take up a lot of room). I decided to wait until a 16GB iPod/iPhone was available before spending another chunk of money. The new 3G iPhone fit the bill. I also wanted to get an all-in-one device because I was tired of having a separate phone, PDA, iPod and GPS. The iPhone encompasses all those functions, as well as mobile Internet access which wasn't a priority for me but it's definitely growing on me.

Even with all this wonderfulness packed into one nice package, there are still some things that I don't like about the iPhone. Some of these are pretty big issues too. While Apple may be rolling in the money from the 3G sales, I still think they've dropped the ball.

1. No Java

This is a huge problem, and the blame lies squarely on Apple. Sun is diligently trying to resolve this with Apple, but Apple seems to have this mentality that they know best... They don't. The whole point to Java is that people don't have to remake applications every time a new platform comes out. Don't give me this crap about protecting me from bad applications. That's the point of backups.

2. No Flash Player

Come on Apple, get your head out of your orifices. With all the Flash content that's out there, not having a Flash player essentially blocks a good chunk of the Internet. True, sites that are all Flash are a pain for slower connections...and that's probably why Apple did it. I'm guessing the cellular providers don't really want that much going over their networks. But considering 90% of my iPhone network usage is over WiFi, would it really hurt that much to include a Flash player?

3. No cut and paste

Someone sends me their contact information in an email, and I want to add it to my contact list. There doesn't seem to be an easy way to do this. And there are a lot of other times when copy and paste would be useful. You can't even select a bunch of text to delete it, which would be helpful when dealing with email.

4. Contacts application is very slow

It's not like I have hundreds of thousands of people in my contact list. Why does it take 10 seconds after it first loads before I can do anything with this application?

5. No email filtering for alerts

If you're like me, you subscribe to some mailing lists. Some of the emails from these lists come very frequently, or at the wee hours of the morning. I don't want to get an audible email alert on these. I have turned off the email alerts, but I have people that email me that I would like to know about and receive an alert... Blackberry allows prioritizing of emails, why doesn't Apple?

6. Lack of customizations

Okay, this may be a little thing, but it still irks me: No custom text message sounds. If I want my iPhone to make a Star Trek: TNG communicator sound when I get a text message, then I'd like to be able to do it. It's bad enough that I have to go through great lengths to get custom ringtones onto the phone without having to pay $2. Get a life Apple and stop trying to make a buck of every single thing we want to click. Another customization that is lacking are with the calendar alerts. You're limited to a small, fixed set of times (5, 15 or 30 min, 1 or 2 hours, 1 or 2 days, or the date of the event.) So if you'd like to set a birthday reminder for someone, setting it for the date of the event, you get an alarm sounding at midnight. Very useful...not. At least have a field so we can fill in any time interval we want for an alert.

7. No Skype text chatting (I know this isn't Apple's fault, but it still makes the list)

I don't care about VoIP, I simply want to be able to have a text conversation with people. Sometimes, I'm not on a computer that has Skype, so having it on my iPhone would be a great thing.

8. No infrared

Now you're thinking, "Why would you need infrared for data 90''ve got BlueTooth". Yes, but that's not the point. If I want to turn my iPhone into a universal remote control for the TV, stereo, and cable, I can't do it...and how am I supposed to turn off the annoying television at the local bar without anyone knowing?

9. Backups, backups, backups

What exactly was Apple thinking? Have they never heard of an archive bit, incremental backups, or just simply daily backups....Every time I plug the damn thing in, it takes a full backup. If you sync with a Mac, has a good way to disable the backup feature, but so far I haven't found anything for the PC.

10. No development platform for PC

My last little annoyance: No development platform for the PC. What, Apple thinks the only people that ever made good programs are on Mac's? I view this as either laziness or a marketing ploy. I'm not buying a Mac, Apple! I won't pay your overpriced hardware prices. I like my PC. But that doesn't mean I don't want to make apps for the iPhone.

11. No GPS maps (I know I said 10 things, but I just remembered this)

As much as I like Google maps, there are times when I find it's more information than I need. This is especially true out on the road riding my motorcycle, out of reception area. At this point, Google maps is useless and I can't get anything except a longitude and latitute. My old Garmin GPS had 8MB for storing maps, and that was enough at the time. With 16GBs, I should be able to store basic road information for the entire frick'n world!

Okay, I can now let out a sigh...I've had my vent. Other than these shortcomings (some of which aren't so small), the iPhone is still a great platform and I'm happy I got it. I'll be eagerly awaiting these issues to be resolved, so my enjoyment of the iPhone is furthered even more.