Computers


Upgraded my iMac to Mac OS Leopard yesterday.  Yes, really behind the curve, I know. I had no pressing need so far. Now, I got a good deal on the Mac Box Set with iLife 09 (mainly for GarageBand) and iWork 09.

The upgrade itself was smooth – popped in DVD, and let it do its thing and in about 1 hour it was done.  But … it cannot talk to my wireless router (Belkin Pre-N – a somewhat old router).  I tried fiddling around for an hour late into the night but no cigar.

I am now really ticked off!! This is because Tiger was able to connect to it, and have been using it with Tiger for like 3 years now.  I upgrade, and it doesn’t !$%$$@ work!  Have googled.  No answer – except the same old idiotic answers from mac-heads (to others having similar problems) which fall in the following pattern:

1. It obviously is a problem with the router.  (Yeah sure. And how come I had no problems with the Mac for 2-3 years. In case you dont realize, it never can be a problem with Apple for these folks)

2. You should have bought Airport extreme and you never would have had this problem (Yeah sure. Just avoid the main issue. It worked fine with Tiger. Besides, no one likes being forced to shell out money when they don’t expect to do so).

I point my fingers directly at Leopard – at Apple.  I cannot understand how it became incompatible between Tiger and Leopard. All I can think now is  Grrr…. ! No freaking excuses Apple! Fix your mess! XP to Vista may be like having a heart transplant, but I dont’ want going from Tiger to Leopard be like going to a dentist! Not when your ads (PC vs. Mac) indicate otherwise. Fix your $#@%! mess!

Anyway, unless I can figure this out, I may have to buy a router.  Not that bad really, but since this wasn’t part of the current plan, it really, really, ticks me off.  Like I said, I don’t like being forced to shell out money. It was working fine with Tiger!!

A quick one to express my frustration. For my upcoming post, I want to include a couple of videos. Now these are sort of unique videos, with a custom size – smaller than what you see on Google Video, YouTube, and are sort of hi-res (for that size). I mean, unless shown at that native size, they become grainy and it would be pointless to the purpose of including them.

Now WordPress.com, one of the most popular blog sites, allows you to link to YouTube, Google Video easily but offer not much control over the size of video. This irritates me to no end. It also opens the floodgates for other pet-peeves I have about WordPress.com. Apparently, their paranoid view of anything even remotely fancy (although some of which are well founded), is good reason to give highly restricted features. For example, you can upload images etc. but mp3s and audio? No. (unless you buy a space upgrade?) You can embed video, but cannot easily control size (unless you buy a space upgrade?). I think other blogs offer more by default. In short, with regards to these things, WordPress.com gets a D grade – euphemistically speaking!

Now after breaking my head over this, a lot of googling, and a lot of trial-and-error, I finally did figure out how to control the size:

  1. Upload to google video (after establishing an account) – in my case a flash video file (flv).
  2. Use the vodpod plugin to point to it as an external video i.e. do not use the “easy way” for Google Video (since that will not allow size control) .
  3. (Now this step is vodpod WordPress plugin’s part in this sorry game) Have vodpod create a draft blog entry, just so that you can edit that draft blog entry to the correct post,
  4. Adjust the width, height to what you want (actually cannot use the original video size, have to do some trial and error)
  5. Delete the draft. Seems silly doesn’t it? But all this because vodpod does not seem allow you to get Vodpod videos no longer available. link directly – it wants to create a post! Now, I hope I am wrong about this and I just did not know how it is done. Otherwise, now how boneheaded can you get to have this as the only work flow? How hard is to really to expose the vodpod link when you preview in vodpod?

The above works, but now my video would have to stored in Google video, and also there is also some sort of an entry in the vodpod system (the Vodpod videos no longer available. link has a unique id that vodpod knows points to my Google Video), so that I can get it on my blog. In essence, critical information is stored in 3 places – Google Video, vodpod, and of course my WordPress.com blog. Not exactly a good arrangement.

Now ideally, I want the information be in one place. My blog. I upload the video file like I do images, and I point to them from my blog. How hard is that? Sure space can be a premium, but that is my problem. Otherwise, the next best bet is to put it on a site of my choice, e.g. some place where I have complete control. Or at the least, allow control over the size of the !$#@$ Google Video and YouTube embedded control!

But all of this strangely beyond WordPress.com! Come on! This is not rocket science! I have done it myself, and apparently vodpod has figured it out. This should have done in the first version of WordPress that included embedded video support – i.e. many many months ago! I am puzzled as to how/why WordPress.com missed the boat then, and continues to do so! Extremely frustrating for me as a user!

PS: I know I can host my own WordPress.com site where I can have control. But that is not the point here.

PPS: In case I am wrong and there is an easy, I take back everything said above 😉 !

Today I noticed something with my Yahoo! email account that somehow escaped my attention all this time. The URL did not start with https but was just plain old http.

I think even those who are not very net/tech savvy would know that https:// implies ” fairly safe” – i.e. safe as in the information you enter in a web-page with it (e.g. your password, credit-card information while purchasing) is less likely to be “eaves-dropped upon”. For a technical explanation as to why this is so you can read this wiki page.

Now, the question that burns in me today is why is https not being used for online email accounts – particularly, when a secure https connection is so prevalent nowadays. I have a Yahoo!, and a gmail account, and from what I can tell, both are not using https based addresses for the web-pages that display my personal emails. Both do use https based address for the login page, which is good, as there is protection for your userid and password.

But why not for the other pages? Perhaps this some sort of a resource limit issue as I can imagine a https based web page could take more resources on the server.

Or I am missing something and it is really https through out? I hope so.

If not, it is unnerving to realize that all the content of my personal emails is being exchanged between the server and my browser unencrypted i.e. “in the clear”. This can include sensitive information. For example, your bank sent your userid and password information when you told them you forgot (although here password is temporary).

Worse, you are one of those who sends yourself a “reminder email” that lists some of the userid, passwords for the various different sites you are registered with – so that you just need to remember you email account userid and password, read this email and voila! All the information is “readily accessible”! Well, the problem is, every time you refer to that particular email, this readily accessible, sensitive information would being exchanged “in the clear”. A “packet sniffer” out there on behalf of an identity thief could potentially sniff it out – I would guess these are the things they generally are sniffing for.

Now, admittedly this could be argued as “poor and careless” use of online email accounts. However, shouldn’t we also ask – why isn’t all our online email access always https based? When we are in the middle (and no longer dawn) of the internet age, when just about everyone has at least one online email account, when online email access is more often used as online purchase, why don’t these online email services make it as safe as online purchases?

I hope I am wrong and they are indeed secure.

Update: Looks like this article deals with the subject and confirms my fears w.r.t Yahoo! mail, but allays my fears for gmail. To quote from the article:

A secure connection to Gmail is available at httpS://gmail.google.com … Yahoo Mail! transmits your login information in the background to an https page, but you can click on the “Secure” link to reach an https page to log into Yahoo! Mail first. Once you’re logged in, sending and receiving your email happens over an insecure connection.”

What’s up with that Yahoo! ?

I love my iMac and I love my iPod. In general, I love Apple products but sometimes I wonder sarcastically That Steve Jobs guy thinks he is so smart, so cool that he has the audacity to decide what I don’t need?

No, I am not talking about lack of real keyboard on iPhone. I don’t really know if I would or not as I don’t have an iPhone, and will almost for sure not have one until it is offered for peanuts with my cellular plan. I am talking about my iMac.

I am a hard-core software engineer. I use Linux/Unix and PC regularly at work, and like certain aspects of both. But my iMac at home – I love! There is no question that the user interface experience on a Mac is truly unique and enjoyable. Every aspect of user interface speaks of style and elegance! Using Unix is like driving a simple, spartan looking car but one that is very powerful and very reliable like say German engineering but in a Yugo body. Using the PC is like driving a car which has some gaudy styling to attract masses, but has reliability problems. Many American cars in the last 20 years come to my mind. But using the Mac is like driving a luxury performance car. You got style, you got power and you look cool showing off to your friends. And its pricey with limited to zero discounts. You know – like a luxury car.

But I have a pet peeve about this luxury car.

There is no $%#@! manual eject button for the DVD drive on my pretty iMac!

(or at least I couldn’t find one. No pin hole either which is supposedly there in some models that I could find. If there is a manual thingamajig – it seems well hidden and not meant to be found.)

No $%#@! manual eject button and so the only way to eject a CD/DVD is from within software. Of course, the folks at Apple probably had full faith in their software. But I suspect that the bigger reason is that they thought the manual eject button would compromise the pretty, minimalistic looks of the iMac. May be the button would have made the side of the iMac look less pretty or may be it made it thicker by 2 lousy microns. As we all know, with Apple (slim) looks and (silky) feel is everything! And yes that magic of course mostly works! After all, I drooled over the iMac for a while and I bought one. But …

There is no $%#@! manual eject button for the DVD drive on my pretty iMac.

Big deal right? Well I would agree except …
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Following some nice discussions on the fine online carnatic music forum rasikas.org (link on the left), I came up with a transliteration scheme for carnatic music compositions, and an associated editor. Basically, you type in the words of a carnatic music composition be it a Tamil, Telugu, Kannada or Sanskrit composition in English and with a click of a button see it transcribed into all these languages.

The Carnatic Music Transliterator link on the left takes you to the editor. There is a link from there to a page that describes the transliteration scheme itself in detail.