pptp + linux = much fun.

Actually it’s not that bad. Its just another of those things-that-work-stop-working-and-it-takes-ages-to-find-out-why-things.

For about four weeks I had a problem that LAN-Connections did not work after resuming from hibernation and I was unable to access my pptp-server in the office from home. On the linux side a got a timeout while waiting for LCP-Resonse (or something like that) and on the windows-side, the whole process stopped while validating my (long and thus quite secure despite the flaws in the pptp-protocol) password.

Who would have thought that those problems share one thing: The common cause ;-)

For accessing another server of a client behind a cisco-router, they provided me with the “CISCO VPN Dialer” which, when connected provides an option called “Stateful firewall (Always On)”. I confess. The “always on” suggest that this not-so-well working firewall (have I said that I hate desktop-firewalls, especially those by ZoneLabs which this VPN Dialer obviously uses) also is running when the applicatoin is not, but then again: Who could think, that something stays running even though there is not GUI indication (and no way to turn it off, besides re-dialing) whatsoever?

I found this out when I tried to ping my workstation form a Linux-Server within our network, which I tried after seeing that VMWare stopped working too (incredibly useful for making screenshots of strange OSes).

So my expirience with this cool CISCO VPN-Dialer is as follows:

  • Breaks well-working applications (VMWare)
  • Makes me unable to use my own network while connected (despite the checkbox telling me otherwise)
  • Breaks PPTP (and I already suspected Linux)
  • Is incompatible with the Hibernation Mode that comes with Win 2000 and later
  • Is an usability nightmare as it does not provide any visual feedback of being running despite the fact that an always running firewall and a VPN-Dialer do have nearly nothing in common.
  • Is an even worse usability nightmare as there is no way to turn that firewally thing off besides building up the VPN-Connection which has even less to do with a firewall than the tool alone.
  • Is insecure: Everyting besides the PPTP-Connection was well working when using WLAN to connect to the network – even the ping from the server to my machine.

    Great product indeed.

Another Mail client

It’s just not over yet. As a fellow reader of my blog, you may have notticed that I am looking for the best email client (read there for my requirements). Becky! which I reviewed back in march really is great, but the threading function does not work very well and neither does GPG or PGP which I made a requirement in our company.

Since very long, I know of the program The Bat! which was no alternative so far, as it fulfilled all my requirements but being IMAP compliant (apart from that, it’s a really great program)…

Now they released a beta version of The Bat 2.0 which has full IMAP-Support. I am currently looking into that and I’m going to post a full review soon.

What I dislike about Java

I really tried to get into programming something in Java. Alone the psossibilities with JSP/Servelets seem very interesting compared to what you get when using PHP. Another thing would be the many excellent IDE’s (even free ones like Eclipse) out there that only support java (I know that PHP-Plugins for Eclipse exist, but they are not really usable – a thing I’ll write about in the future).

But I never really took off and until today I never really could describe what is holding me back.

Today I found this article which explains it by using examples to compare python to java. Although it’s about python (a language I don’t really like), most of the point in there apply to other scripting languages (PHP, Perl, Ruby,…) too.

Really good read and finally the explanation I was looking for.

ScummVM 0.3

ScummVM 0.3.0b has been released a couple of days ago even without the agreement between the project group and LucasArts. ScummVM is a free (as in speech) engine capable of running most of the old Lucas Arts Adventures everyone likes so much.

Why is this important? All the older games (read: all the good ones) came out when computers where powered by DOS (mostly MS-DOS) and had an original Soundbalster ISA Card (or something compatible to it). Even with tricks it’s impossible to get those old games to run with sound on most of the modern systems.

And this is where ScummVM kicks in: The program runs on many modern OSes and understands the format the old games where written in (the actual executable was also just an interpreter back then) and thus allows to play the original games in the new environement. Of course you still need the original game, but who doesn’t?

The sad thing: LucasArts did not seem to understand what the project is acutally doing and tried to shut it down using the dammed DMCA. Forunately the voices of many fans stopped LucasArts from proceeding and they began negotiating an agreement with the ScummVM Group. But just read here (last paragraph of the announcement).

Anyway: I did not have the time to test the new version, but the Release Notes look promising.

Syncing, Syncing and Syncing….

OK…. the odyssey goes on: When I posted the last entry here, I just had synced my Nokia 7650 (links in previous entry) over bluetooth with my outlook and besides my dissappointment about not being able to send SMS to richard and call him from within Outlook (what is perfectly possible from Mac’s Addressbook-Application) I was happy to finally have Bluetooth working with my cellphone.

Then some time later when Richard left the office, I deceided to try out my phone with his Mac (I have my own account there). First thing I noted: BT-Pairings are per computer and not per user on the Macs which is not really what I would have exspected as it can lead to problems.

Anyway: I was quite pleased to see that Ricahrd’s Mac does not recognize my Nokia Phone and thus does not offer any of those cool options, making my Windows-BT-Configuration actually superior to the one that is possible with the Mac. At least with my phone :-) [not that I’m really happy about this – it’s just better than before, but not good at all. As a PDA, the 7650 rocks. As a phone too. But not as a companion for other devices. And the PC-Suite provided with the phone is quite crappy too, besides its capability to sync with outlook]

I don’t really use outlook for anything but as a common denominator between all my PIM-devices and applications as every one of them can synchronize with outlook: My Zaurus, my IPAQ which the company provided me to write applications for it and finally, Mozilla for sending Email.

Anyway: After the sychronisation of Outlook with the Nokia, the outlook-addressbook was cluttered with two empty contacts and many of the imported ones had fields just containing a single space. You can call me a perfectionist, but I did not want them in my other devices/applications. So I’ve removed them.

Then I synced again. Effect: Contacts where doubled on my cellphone and in outlook. The corrupt ones where back.

I removed all the contacts from the Nokia adressbook (over the Phone itself. The PC-Suite does not provide a GUI to access the contacts directly. It was a lengthy procedure) and I synced again with the effect, that the contact database of Outlook was now complete empty. I’ve had somewhat forseen this and thus made a backup before the synchronisation which I reimported into Outlook.

Again: Synchronisation.

This time it seemd to work. But my own contact entry was again doubled. Once the correct entry and once with spaces in the secondary email-adress.

I removed the wrong entry and synced again. -> Yippie! It worked.

Then I made the next mistake.

I syncronized the IPAQ (which does not work over bluetooth regardles of the software telling me the opposite).

Effect: double contacts in Outlook again. I’ve no idea why because all the entries on the IPAQ had a much older modification date.

Again: Removed the old contacts and synchronized again. IPAQ and Outlook were in sync.

Then: Sync with the Nokia.

Double contacts again….

I hope, you are getting the point. It’s strictly impossible for me to have a single working contact-database on all the devices. I don’t know where the error slips into (but I tend to blame Nokia for it) and I certainly don’t know how to fix it. It’s just terribly annoying. And as the Nokia way of synchronizing is completly proprietary, there is no way to replace the faulty part.

I’m just beginning to regret having bought the Nokia 7650 and given my old T68i to my girlfriend. But then again: I really like the user interface, the speed, the stability [I’m trying not to remeber the having-to-reflash-the-software-incident last week] and the featureset of the 7650. After all, I must conclude that the perfect solution for a techie like me does not exist yet. Hopefully it will sometime.

MacOS 10.2.2

MacOS X 10.2.2 has just been released. As always there is a document describing what’s changed. It’s unexplicable to me why they have not fixed the bug with Mac Mail not recognizing the IMAP-Folder-Prefix, leading to IMAP-Folders not being displayed. Apple itself suggests quite a stupid workaround: Create another dummy-accout and the folders will be displayed.

After all just setting the IMAP-Folder-Prefix in the Account-Properties to “INBOX” does help in most of the cases without having the user to create a dummy account. Anyway: This is clearly a bug and should be fixed by Apple. I don’t know why the did not.

Why I like jEdit

jEdit is a texteditor written in Java. Actually it’s not just a texteditor – it’s the texteditor. It combines the usage-guidelines known of other programs running under Windows or windows-like environements with the functionality (as an editor, not as a newsreader webbrowser filemanager «insert whatever else emacs can do) of Emacs.

When you download the current release (you can easily take the current 4.1pre-Release – even the CVS-Snapshot is stable enough for production use [at least for me]) and install it via the provided installer, you will get quite a simple looking UI. So the first thing to to is to load the PlugIn-Manager and to download and install whatever you need. Then restart the program and begin with the configuration-session…

On the screenshot, you can see many of the features I like about jEdit:

  • The cool look&feel (install the L&F-Plugin and chose the Metouia-Look to get mine).
  • The File-Browser always open on the left side. You have to select it under Global Options/Docking to get it sticking at the left side.
  • The search-bar which even supports regular expressions
  • The split-view. I am currently looking at the same file, but chaning this is a matter of selecting another tab (install the BufferTabs-Plugin to get those) in one of the views.
  • The color-scheme of the editfield. I really like having bright text on a dark background. It’s so much easier to read.
  • The yellow triangle marks in the gutter of the editfield are for folding the sourcecode. Click them and the associated block will be folded.

Please give jEdit a chance even though it’s written in Java: The thing is extremly feature-loaden and really fast. Trust me!