User experience, web, technology

I’m geeked

My department at MSU had a day celebrating 50 years of computing at MSU. So, in the MSU Computer Store, there was a Mac II plugged in and running, tiny monochromatic monitor and all.

I couldn’t help but look, and lo and behold, the hard drive had TeachText and NCSA Mosaic, the first publically available web browser, on it. When I started Mosaic, it had the date on the startup screen: 10-29-1993.

So, I wrote a web page in TeachText, welcoming people to the Computer Store and our 50 years celebration, and then viewed it in Mosaic. And then I annotated it using using the Mac’s audio-recording (which worked great, by the way).

I’m not the nostalgiac type, but it was weird. The very first web page I wrote, ever, I wrote with TeachText, and the first web browser I ever used was Mosaic on a Mac. It really took me back.

Writing markup with TeachText and seeing it render in Mosaic are the seeds of my life as a professional web developer. It seems so very long ago.

User experience, web, technology

Overview of PGP, S/MIME and the evolving versions of secure e-mail

I just read an article by Jim Galvin, published March of 2000 in Information Security Magazine, (IN)SECURITY FROM END TO END.

The article provides an overview of the origination of secure e-mail and how the technologies have changed over the years. It also provides context for digital signatures, e-mail certificates, and PGP versus S/MIME.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

PGP vs. S/MIME, S/MIME vs. PGP. On the one hand, it really doesn’t matter which of the two technologies you choose. From a user’s perspective, both provide the same set of security services, and neither really has any significant advantage over the other. On the other hand, the fact that there are two choices naturally raises the question of interoperability.

User experience, web, technology

Securing e-mail

Every once in a while, I get e-mails from server admins with host connection information. This tends to get under my skin, though I admit to sending similar information from time to time. The thing is, e-mail is so darned good at delivering this kind of information. The problem, of course, is that e-mail is typically not secure. So, sending information like user names, passwords or other information like social security numbers or banking information via e-mail can be a pretty serious risk.

So, today when I received yet more user names and passwords via e-mail, and then needed to pass that information on to a person I work with, I figured it was as good a time as any to look into securing e-mail.

I’ve known about PGP, but have had issues getting it working in former versions of Apple’s Mail application. So, upon Googling for apple mail encryption or some-such phrase, I found a few helpful resources.

The first link above is a walk-through on getting S/MIME set up with Apple Mail. S/MIME seems to be an alternative to PGP. The short story is that I went ahead and got a certificate from Thawte, installed it into a special keychain on the Mac, sent a signed message to my co-worker while he was doing the same. Now we have each other’s public keys stored in our respective programs and we each have our own private keys, so we can send signed and encrypted e-mail to each other.

So, from here on out, I have a safer way of sending sensitive information to some select people.

And, I need to give credit to Apple’s Mail application. While getting the certificates and keychain access all worked out wasn’t the most straightforward task (it wasn’t hard though), now that it is set up, signing and encrypting messages is very easy.

User experience, web, technology

Removing words from the Microsoft Office Custom Dictionary

In Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, Entourage, or PowerPoint, when you do a spell check, you have the option to add a word to the custom dictionary.

This is helpful, for instance, if your name is odd, like “Davin.” To stop my name from always appearing when I run a spellcheck, I just clicked the “Add” button in the spelling checker dialogue box to add it to the custom spelling dictionary.

So, adding words is easy. A question from a PowerPoint class today was, “How do I remove words from the spelling dictionary?” In this particular case, someone added a misspelled word and wanted to get it out.

Well, here’s how.

On Windows, go to Start » Search and type in CUSTOM.DIC. Make sure that you are looking for hidden files as well.

When it comes up, open the file in a text editor like Notepad. You’ll see a list of words that are considered okay. To remove one, simply delete that line of the text file and save the file.

That’s it.

On Mac OS 10.x, use Spotlight (the built-in search tool) to look for “Custom Dictionary”. The file will most like be in /Users/yourname/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/

Open that file in a text editing program (BBEdit or TextWrangler are nice. You can probably also use TextEdit.) Again, delete the offending lines and save the file.

User experience, web, technology

MS Manual of Style has no “open source” entry

I was just drafting an email and wanted to know if there is a standard way of writing out “open source,” like, is it capitalized.

I happen to have the “Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications, Third Edition” on my desk, and I found no entry for anything resembling “open source” in it.

Somehow, I wasn’t surprised.


$100 laptop from MIT Media Labs

A $100 windup-powered laptop targeted at children in developing nations?

Children in developing nations? More like, everyone in the U.S. For $100, I’ll bet there would be masses of people around the globe lined up to get them.

Granted, it won’t have all the features of what we normally think of as a laptop, but it does look very interesting.

This reminds me of a story about how Ford envisioned manufacturing a car that the average worker could afford–before he even realized how he was going to do it. I like it. Set a price and some basic features and figure out how to do it, even though it may seem ridiculous.

User experience, web, technology

OS 10.4.2 does not connect to Win 2000 server

As noted in the prior post, I had no problem connecting to a Windows 2000 Server shared volume with Active Directory authentication using Mac OS 10.2.8.

When I tried doing the exact same process on Mac OS 10.4.2, I got a -36 error. Basically, it doesn’t work.

So, there is some sort of conflict with how the OS connects, but it was able to connect when inside the firewall for the server.

I’m not sure what to make of it at this point.


Was able to connect with OS 10.2.8 to Win 2000 server using Active Directory authentication (Troubleshooting, continued)

I tried on my old standby Mac at home (an old G3 Blue and White running OS 10.2.8). I had to first connect to the MSU Virtual Private Network, but once I logged on to the VPN, I was able to Connect to Server and mount the volume I’ve been after.

Now, to see if I can do the same with OS 10.4.2.

User experience, web, technology

Troubleshooting OS 10.4 connection to Windows share using Active Directory authentication

I’m trying to mount a shared volume on the Mac OS 10.4 laptop I use at MSU. The shared volume is on a Windows server and it uses Active Directory to authenticate user names and passwords in the domain.

I have all the right information (server address, share name, user name, password), and I have successfully mounted the network drive on a Windows XP system.

On the Mac, I go to Go->Connect to Server, and I type in the smb://server.address/sharename and click the Connect button. I am then prompted for a domain, user name, and a password. I enter all the information in the appropriate boxes, and proceed to get an error: Error Code -36.

I’d write in the text of the error message, but I think I’ve tried logging in too many times so my account seems frozen.

I tried connecting through a VPN. No luck. I tried using CFIS protocol instead of SMB. No luck.

I just tried the command line smbclient and made some progress, but I’m really out of my element here.


Coming soon? Dual-boot, Mac & Win

So all this talk about Apple moving its OS to x86 processors makes me think that at some point down the road, we’ll be able to buy a system from Apple (because they won’t officially permit the OS to run on just any computer – not that hacks aren’t already running) that has OS 10.5 or whatever on it, and then buy a version of MS Windows (Vista?) and install it as well.

Then when we fire up the machine, we can choose to load either Win or Mac OS. And, maybe the Mac OS will be able to just boot up Win natively. Hm.

Virtual PC will become extinct?