Laughing at the stony face of gloom

(your instinct can’t be wrong)

Psystar vs Apple

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On ZDnet today, Sam Diaz asks whether “Psystar has a legitimate argument in Apple Countersuit?” what follows is a comment I added to the article. Generally, I’m usually for Open systems, Open software; but I think that right now, if Psystar win’s this case then it’s bad news for everyone, not just Apple.

I’m just wondering if the judgment goes Psystar’s way who is it that benefits?

In the early 80s when “IBM Compatible” was the thing hardware makers were aiming for, there really wasn’t a dominant OS.

Before long the term “IBM Compatible” was only uttered by people with long beards who didn’t like the genetic re-branding to “PC” (IBM long loosing out as their hardware, nice thought it undoubtedly was with it’s shiny little IBM badge, couldn’t compete with the clones)

Now, should the judgment go Psystar’s way and they (and essentially any manufacturer) are allowed to build and sell Apple Clones – who would buy them? I would think that we would see another “IBM Compatible” scenario where people, other than those with more money than sense, would be buying the clones and not the genuine Apple hardware; which raises the question of whether or not the OS and Software business would be enough to sustain Apple ? (let’s ignore the iPod/iPhones for the moment)

Microsoft dominates the OS market; yes we have the various flavors of linux, and a few flavors of genuine Unix (or is that an oxymoron?) still floating around; but for the most part, an OS comes and Microsoft sees it off.

The Apple OS is a marvelous thing to experience; a thing of beauty … but how long before Windows does everything Apple does? (either out of the box, or with 3rd party bolt-ons); right at the moment we have competition between the two OS vendors. If apple loses it’s Hardware battle due to clones, and it would do, then it would only be a matter of time before it would fail in the OS and software markets too – causing it to go the way of OS2 and GEM and many others before it.

That is assuming that hardware vendors care enough to take Psystar’s lead and make Apple Compatible Clones;of course, as it’s all generic hardware, there’s no reason why they couldn’t(wouldn’t) make IBM and Apple Compatible systems.

So, for a few years, the consumer wins. Those who want their cheap Apples get their cheap Apples. Then Apple bites the big one. Those who went to Apple are left with the choice everyone of us who’ve backed the wrong horse has had to face. Either ditch the beast and get on board with the competition, or ride it until it’s pushing up daisies.

25 years (or so) ago, when the first shades of what would become Apple’s OSX came into being would have been the time for Apple to go down the route Microsoft went down, and subsequently dominated.

Had Apple’s OS been available then, maybe we would be in an Apple, not Microsoft, PC World. Maybe not.

What Apple have is, at the moment, a unique combination of hardware and software. They have complete control over both. The have freedom to innovate and provide reasons, attractive reasons, for people to be a part of Apple’s world.

They also provide competition to Microsoft; do you think Microsoft would keep innovating and trying to do things differently if it didn’t have competition? (and vice-versa); maybe one day Apple will be the dominant force, maybe one day everyone will be using google apps and no-one will care what OS or hardware everything is sitting on. I don’t know, but I think if Apple loses this case, then in the end we all lose.

Written by Mas

August 27, 2008 at 4:58 pm

Posted in legalese

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Originally uploaded by rrwm

Well, I was looking on facebook (the way you do) when I noticed a link :

You’re the winner for today June 10! You’ve just WON one of 12 iPhones given out today!

Now, usually I ignore these things; but this one caught my curiosity. Most other “iPhone” things claim you’ve “won a chance to enter a prize draw” or something of the sort. This one was very clear cut, by pure chance I had happened upon a part of facebook and was lucky enough to win one of only 12 iPhones given away free today.

So I clicked the link thinking “this is too good to be true”; and like all “too good to be true” things, it was.

The link went to a place called and explained to pick up your “free phone” you had to

1) complete reward offers (4 in total; most requiring a subscription to a service or money to be spent to “activate”)

2) refer a unique household to the site who will then complete the requirements (for themselves to get a free iPhone – which means they too must complete 4 offers and refer someone else… who must in turn etc. etc.)

This is very obviously a scam of the worst kind; while the offers look genuine that you have to sign up for, I very much doubt anyone ever receives their “free iPhone” as it looks like you set a chain in motion whereby everyone has to refer someone else (within 60 days) who also completes everything and so on.

When it comes to the redemption; for some reason you’re made to fill out an IRS form (why should we need to as this offer is for U.K. Customers only? And why, for that matter, do the majority of offers seem to require payment in US$ ?)

I would avoid “Top Notch Media” (the company that runs this scam) like the plague if I were you. I mean, there is a slim chance that this could be a genuine offer… but… the fact that they lie to get you to the site and then assume you’re going to be stupid enough to go “well, I might as well sign up for a few £100 worth of things I don’t need so I can get that ‘free’ iPhone I won….”

I hope no-one has fallen for this.

Written by Mas

June 10, 2008 at 10:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Server Side Includes on IIS 6.0

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As is often the case, a department comes to us with a piece of software they’ve bought; they smile sweetly and say “by the way, we need this installed and working by the end of the week”…

This time around though, it’s some sort of web-based package. And it needs server side includes… turned on… Not usually a problem with IIS as .asp/.aspx pages will (I’m told, and have a vague recollection of) by default do server side includes without anything special needing to be put in place. That’s nice. However this application uses “proper” server side includes (or “historical, outdated and outmoded” server side includes… depending on your point of view), which means .shtml pages … which, by default IIS has no idea what to do with.

So, what do we need to do to remedy this?

Well, first we need to allow the server side extension.

in the IIS manager
computer name
|- Web Service Extensions

Server Side Includes (highlight then click “Allow”)

If there isn’t a Server Side Extension already there, we can add one. Select “Add a new Web Service Extension” ; the extension name will be : Server Side Includes – the required file is ssinc.dll – this is usually located in c:\windows\system32\inetsrv\ssinc.dll

That should be it… except in this case, it’s not.

These files use a “include virtual” directive rather than an “include file” directive (the installation notes, helpfully say

“If you have problems getting the server side includes to work, simply manually change the virtual to file” … sounds simple … except there are 441 shtml files to manually edit… FUN? Not!

(A quick test shows that their solution will work… but I don’t want to make hundreds of edits; so there must be a way of making the virtual directive work…. it is supported by IIS after all… The virtual directive meaning something along the lines of “a directory that exists relative to the virtual directory” )

So … could I make a simple virtual directory for this site ?

computer says… “no”

– I think the problem is that I need to do a virtual directory for each of the folders… let’s try that with one of the pages…


It looks like, when the include virtual directive is issued, we need to actually have a virtual directory of that name – or something along those lines (I’m guessing here – I’ll do some proper thinking tomorrow on work’s time :) )

Written by Mas

May 20, 2008 at 10:06 pm

Posted in web servers

Tagged with , , ,

Odd apache 404 behaviour

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Oh the legacy systems; just lately we’ve been experiencing a little bit of “what can only be described as” odd behavior. Our Apache server is set up to offer virtual hosts; one of these is a remnant of our yee oldee static site :) For some reason though, the following behavior is being observed.

If you click a link to one of the pages on any site you are thrown to a 404 error page on our primary site.


If you type the url in (or do a “copy link”, “paste (into location bar) and go”) the page loads without issue; subsequent requests – as the page is now cached – resolve fine.

My main suspicion is that some thing’s going a bit askew on the redirect front (see – blame mod_rewrite – just because it is powerful and confusing with it’s regular expressions (but not the sort you hear in bars!))

Detailed setup
We have multiple virtual hosts all being accessed from a primary apache server (say 20 or so); many of these link into our primary http://www.domain (usually with a rewrite/proxy to some location – say http://www.domain/ex/servicename ).

The service that is experiencing the problem was previously known as http://www.some-other-domain (I’ll shorten this ’cause I’m lazy to http://www.sod ) but due to a departmental re-branding is now known as http://www.some-new-domain (and this I’ll shorten to http://www.snd ); however all the content remains the same. Additionally, the http://www.sod and the http://www.snd make use of apache’s ldap authentication to our Active directory service. Additionally, the http://www.sod and the http://www.snd have WebDav publishing enabled (as it saves giving users shell accounts (does anyone other than me call them “shell accounts” still?))

Oh, just as I suspected – we have a couple of lines in our virtualhost file for the http://www.snd site.

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} /ex/servicename
RewriteRule ^/(.*)?$ http://www.domain/$1 [NC,P,R,L]

Let’s remove these lines and give it a whirl!
Yep – everything seems to work. But these lines were put in place for a reason, weren’t they? (You don’t just go adding things willy-nilly to the old apache configs).

A quick ask around reveals no knowledge.

My suspicions are;
1) the site has been effectively decommissioned – this happens – slowly; but direct access has been allowed to give people access to specific areas that are currently unable to be migrated (online training packages and their ilk)
2) someone fugged up, possibly me.

I do need to do some confirmation – and hunting for reasons (should it be doing this? Has the site been decommissioned ? Why haven’t the content providers been told ? yadda yadda)

Solution – long term
Confirm whether or not the site is decommissioned, or whether there was another reason for the rules being put in place. (Contact point: head of Web Team/head of Customer Services)

Solution – short term
Let’s add in some exclusions to try and say “yeah, keep doing that, but not if it’s _these_ pages”

One of the pages is our antivirus software which we allow to be distributed to staff machines (that avoid our standard network for one reason or another) ; it is accessed by a number of pages – but the important thing is, if a request is made for it on the http://www.snd site, that it passes the request straight to the page.

Currently it’s throwing all content back to the http://www.domain site; so we need to put a rewrite rule in before the existing rule.

Something along the lines of

RewriteRule ^/antivirus(.*)?$ – [L]

ta-da :)
Now we just need to find out why it was put there in the first place.

Written by Mas

May 7, 2008 at 10:00 am

Posted in web servers

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Server talking, talking server talk… reprise… (2)

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Okay – we’ve had a bit of a glitch today; but better late than never… onto meddling with the server. Currently we have tomcat 5 and nothing else running and we seem to have a healthy CPU situation. However, this is a physical box… so what is going to happen when we throw IIS or Apache into the situation? Well, let’s start with apache as I’ve just downloaded that and am raring to do an apache install on a windows production box… I know, I know – not so long ago this would have been frowned upon – but today… well… let’s give it a whirl and see what happens eh?


(installing apache 2.2.8 – using the msi windows installer with openssl)

so – first an install; Like tomcat I’m installing it into the C:\Apache\ folder ; I’m including all the headers and things (to allow other modules to link in – it might be handy – if not – I can always delete them later)

Making it available to all users on port 80 (or just the current user on 8080 – which seems to be already taken – meaning that the tomcat installation has to been shifted onto a different port; in this case 9090 (it doesn’t matter too much about this; ) – moments later – we have an install in place. Brilliant.

Now how to link the apache installation to tomcat ?

There are two methods we currently employ – one being through the mod_jk connectors (as per the IIS install) the other being through apache acting as a proxy. The former is always the preferred; but we’ll see what happens now.

A quick installation check; what do we have?
Okay – in the /modules subdirectory we have 67 modules… do we need all these modules? We might do? Who knows? Well – I would say – as this is going to be a “front facing server install” we’ll see what we need (so that’s the common ones – mod proxy, mod rewrite, mod openss yadda yadda yadda; and a few odds and sods – whatever apache considers “it’s essential core” :) – I’ll have to check… by default, apache’s httpd.conf has the following included

LoadModule actions_module modules/
LoadModule alias_module modules/
LoadModule asis_module modules/
LoadModule auth_basic_module modules/
LoadModule authn_default_module modules/
LoadModule authn_file_module modules/
LoadModule authz_default_module modules/
LoadModule authz_groupfile_module modules/
LoadModule authz_host_module modules/
LoadModule authz_user_module modules/
LoadModule autoindex_module modules/
LoadModule cgi_module modules/
LoadModule dir_module modules/
LoadModule env_module modules/
LoadModule include_module modules/
LoadModule isapi_module modules/
LoadModule log_config_module modules/
LoadModule mime_module modules/
LoadModule negotiation_module modules/
LoadModule setenvif_module modules/

(yeah, I know, I was saying all that in parenthesis; and I know I was being lazy – oh cut and paste – my typing fingers are in your debt!!))

One of the things I dislike about the “default” apache setup, is it’s use of conditionals – “if this, if that, if the other”… I do so prefer to explicitly state “load this module, use this rule” – but that’s me; each to their own :)

Reading through the “Using apache with windows” page there are a few oddities to be aware of, not least that meddling with the httpd.conf file when the service is running could lead to issues (as, due to way apache/windows works, it has a single parent process and a child process, which, on creation re-reads the httpd.conf (without needing a(n apache) server restart)!); Apache can, it seem, load isapi modules (yay! (or nay,yay)) but cannot load filters (“mod_isapi” notes)… hmm… I’d better check how it does the aj13 connector to tomcat… ah… no worries – from the notes on the “ftp/apache/tomcat/tomcat-connectors/jk/binaries/win32/jk-1.2.26/” folder on your selected mirror : is for Apache 2.2, and works with Apache 2.2.4 and later.
Rename to before putting it in your
Apache2.2/modules directory.

phew. I was worried there :)

I’ll continue this thought tomorrow I think – it’s almost 5 already! Where does the time go (and why am I never invited :) ?)

Written by Mas

May 6, 2008 at 3:49 pm

Posted in web servers

Tagged with , ,

Server talking, talking server talk… reprise… (1)

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After getting our Tomcat5 / IIS6 installation up and running, we’ve noticed that we’re having a high CPU utilization; for 90% of the time the tomcat process is hitting %99 CPU usage. This is a bit of an issue as we aren’t planning “single server, single process”… So, we’re now doing some testing – to see

1) if we can replicate the issue

2) if we can make a solution
(proposed solutions so far – use Apache in front – don’t use any web server in front of Tomcat … )

The process:

1) download tomcat, java et al.
2) Install it :)

This time around (it’s hardly been a month) and the java version is now jdk1.6.0_06.

Java is installed to c:\java\jdk1.6.0_6 and C:\Java\jre1.6.0_06\
(no netbeans this time around – I don’t think they’re actually needed for what we want to do)

The Tomcat version is still apache-tomcat-5.5.26 (much slower turn-around?)

Tomcat is installed to C:\Apache\Tomcat_5.5

runtime is set to point to c:\java\jre1.6.0_06

Reading through tomcat notes (that I might have previously missed); Tomcat no-longer needs the full java jdk/sdk ( a mental note to be made, to myself, for future installations)

It looks like there are issues with JNI (Genie?) applications – I wonder if that could be causing some of the problems we’ve been having… -ponders-

Odd; we seem unable to access the server … I wonder if someone’s blocking 8080 on the firewall… ponders… oh well, it’ll wait until next week now

Written by Mas

May 2, 2008 at 3:56 pm

Posted in web servers

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Jibber Jabber / facebook

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I don’t know if you’ve played Jibber Jabber on facebook (or anywhere else), but I’m a little bit addicted to it. I love the idea of making up stupid (hopefully funny) definitions to – well – often obscure words.
one of my examples:

construct from the obscure sLang computing language. Primarily used for
specialist real-time applications; such as environmental control
systems and alarms.

Fashy is pronounced Fash-why. It is a concatenation and truncation of
the statement “if ash why?” In the sLang language it will return one of
the following when called.

1) The house has burnt down.
2) Well, you do live on mt Vesuvius.
3) We’re in an Evil Dead movie.
4) Smokin’.

Other, related, conditional constructs include; Fwety, Fherey, Fquestionstupidy and FblinkingLEDy.

Okay, I’m a bit nerdy :) You mean you hadn’t noticed ? (btw: previously the word was defined as “Everyone’s favorite talking scarf wearing giraffe – the fashion industry mascot.” which didn’t do much of anything for me. )

Facebook is an odd place though; there is so much crap on there – but there are a few gems – particularly when it comes to the offline/online multiplayer. One of the problems I have though, and I’m sure many people will have; is that it is so easy to be sucked into wasting time which should be being used much more productively. A quick session over lunch (which, more and more often for me is being spent accepting/ignoring application requests; and wondering to myself whether I should accept those lingering friend requests from people I’ve never met. It is nice though, definitely; a good place to communicate with family and friends without having to really put much effort in (why write long messages when a “status update” and a “facebook gift” of good karma, a doll, hug or carebear tells the person you’re thinking of them.. well… so long as it is only the one… like everything, abundance makes it pretty meaningless.)

I really should take some time and weed out the applications I don’t use, probably will never use; but, what the hey – it’s only facebook. It’s not like future employers, friends, lovers will search for me and discover I’m some sort of crazy hoarder… will they?

Written by Mas

April 25, 2008 at 9:04 am

Posted in social networks

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