Monday, 29 March 2010

On subdomains, DNS and explodery bits

You might have noticed a minor change in this blog. Well, a fairly major change. I've renamed it to use one of the various random domains I own rather than the rather naff blogspot URL. This is a fairly simple configuration in Blogger blogs, but it's been something of a nightmare getting my 1and1 hosted domain to work.

The problem stems from the requirement to use Google's own DNS servers for it, coupled with the fact that Blogger won't let you host a blog on a "naked" domain. Subdomains only. I tried using the provided IPs, and that didn't work. 1and1 simply disallowed them. So I used resolveip to find out their hostnames and used those. That seemed to work!

Then, an hour or so later, I noticed that my domains were broken. DNS errors, apparently. Something about those servers just caused 1and1 to break horribly. I couldn't use the IPs, I couldn't use the hostnames, but I wanted to work around it somehow.

I figured that the only requirement is that the configured subdomain points at the IP the blog is being served from. Turns out this is actually really simple; they're all hosted on the IP that resolves to I created a CNAME record for my www subdomain and set it to, then used 1and1's admin utility to force a redirect from the naked domain ( to the subdomain (

This worked a treat, and didn't require any changes to the configured DNS hosts at all. One day, I hope to use a provider that doesn't explode my domains when trying to use Google's DNS. Until then, this little hack works well enough.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

DeCSS on Ubuntu 9.10 and later

It used to be the case that enabling DVD playback on Ubuntu was a case of installing ubuntu-restricted-extras and that was that. Unfortunately DMCA nonsense in the US has buggered that up for all of us and so now there's an additional step.

So, without further ado, here are the commands that need to be run at a command line:

sudo apt-get install libdvdread4
sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/

Voila! DVD playback a-la Ubuntu.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Juniper Network Connect on Mac OS X Snow Leopard

Juniper Network Connect is a very popular VPN client for corporate networks. It bootstraps from a Java applet and has native versions for Windows, Linux and Mac, and works very well. Unfortunately, it seems that Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and 10.6 Snow Leopard have some issues caused by a dodgy installation program.

One common way to make it work is to enable the root user and log in with full admin privileges under OS X and install it that way. This is a sledgehammer approach to a fairly simple problem, opens up security issues, and didn't even work for me. I won't even bother exploring that route in this blog post. There are a couple of other things that can be done to make it work, though.

If you upgraded from a previous version of OS X and already had the Network Connect client installed, you may just be suffering a simple permissions issue. These instructions are for Network Connect 6.2.0, but they might well work with other versions with a tweak. From Terminal, run the following commands:

    sudo mkdir -p /usr/local/juniper/nc/6.2.0
    sudo chmod 755 /usr/local/juniper/nc/6.2.0
    sudo mkdir /Applications/Network\

This restores some broken permissions and a missing directory that Snow Leopard seems to consider unnecessary. Once you've done this, fire up Network Connect and you're good to go.

On the other hand, if you're already running Snow Leopard and you haven't yet installed Network Connect, it might be dying halfway through installation after authentication. This is because an Apple provided Java update changed the default Sun password from 'changeit' to 'changeme' in the global keystore. This simple little change means that authenticating Java applets to install software locally is broken. More information about this problem can be found in the Juniper knowledge base, article KB16134.

The fix is very simple, and involves changing the Java password back to 'changeit'. Open up a terminal and run the following command:

sudo keytool -storepasswd -new changeit -keystore \
Contents/Home/lib/security/cacerts \ 
-storepass changeme

Note that you should copy that as one big command. The backslashes are continuation characters to tell it to continue the same command. Also note that you shouldn't put any spaces between "Deploy.bundle/" and "Contents". Once this is done, Network Connect should just burst into life.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Words with Addiction

For the last month or so I seem to have become entirely addicted to a iPhone Scrabble clone called Words With Friends. I seem to manage to have 3 games on the go at once and, thanks to the iPhone notifications system, I can have near real-time access to this time sink of an app.

The game allows several modes of play, all of which are based on two players maximum. No mass games here; everything is one on one. You can play both players on the same physical device by passing it back and forth, of course, but there is also an asynchronous networked mode. Play against people you know, or ask the game for a random pairing with a complete stranger. There's always someone to play against.

Visually the game is very slick. The board and tiles and rendered very nicely, and the zoom mode to switch between letter placement and a board overview is handy. I wouldn't fancy playing all the time with the tiny overview mode. Dragging the tiles around is also done nicely. Just drag each one with your finger and drop it on the board. It doesn't sound like much, but having played online Scrabble before with some very odd input methods it's a breath of fresh air.

The rules seem a bit ... lax. Plurals are allowed for a start. American or British English spellings. And some randomness, including "adios". All the two letter words are present, of course. Handy for aligning words side by side.

One problem with this sort of Scrabble game is the built in dictionary. It makes it possible to just enter a random jumble of words and hit 'send' to see if it sticks. There's no challenge option so you can't even make your opponent lose out if you think they're making it up. I'm not sure how that could effectively be implemented in an asynchronous game like this, though. Maybe it's better left as is.

So yeah, I've got three games on the go today. One of them is a hand-over game against myself for practice purposes and to hone my skills. I might start a few more ...

Thursday, 11 March 2010

iBlogger - expensive tat

And so we come to iBlogger. The most expensive blog client so far, and not particularly impressive. Sure, you can post links, but it lacks ... well, all the niceties of BlogPress. No landscape keyboard is the killer. The links are badly handled too, simply inserting tags into the text.

This could be considered a good thing because all HTML formatting is supported, but trying to type tags that require two shift keys for each punctuation mark for any amount of formatting is painful. Add to this the fact that you have to turn off conversion of linebreaks globally because it can't figure it out and it becomes icky. WYSIWYG is where it's at for mobile blogging.

Looks like I'll be sticking with BlogPress then. I can always dump my brain on the road and update it with links later, I suppose.

BlogWriter - oh dear

So this is BlogWriter. Only one blog at a time. No inline images. No formatting. No landscape mode. And the fuzziest fonts I've ever seen. See the attached image ...


I've decided that one way to improve my bloggery might be to make it easier to post things as and when a think of them. Twitter-like, maybe. To this end, I've invested in a small blogging app or two for my iPhone so I can see if it works. At about a quid each I figure it's worth a shot.

Right now I'm using BlogPress. It's quite nice and integrates well with Blogger and Picasa, but the editor seems to leave a bit to be desired. The blurb on the app page says that it supports full rich text editing, but if it does I can't see how. I can put images in and align and size them quite nicely, but I've yet to figure out how to make links or even bold text. If I figure it out I'll post a follow-up with instructions.

One thing that is nice is the use of landscape mode. Flip the phone on its side and the screen is split 50/50 between keyboard and writing area. No toolbars or icons or anything in the way. Very nice.

For now, though, let's try another one that might let me link to it ...