Archive for August, 2005


Back on Outlook

Posted in General at 10:00 pm by jw

I moved back to Outlook 2003 after all the fuss of moving to Thunderbird.  I think I gave it a fair trial (about 6 months) but in the end it just wasn’t up to the job in the same way Outlook was.  What I really wanted from a mail package was the following:

  • Email via IMAP – Outlook and Thunderbird both do a great job with this natively.  I’ve yet to find a popular mailer that doesn’t to be honest.  With the IMAP server set up on my local linux server, I enjoy being able to access the same inbox from multiple machines wherever and whenever I want it.
  • Shared Address Book – I want to share the Address book between all the computers that access the email server.  Neither Thunderbird or Outlook do this natively over IMAP, but I’ll go into how I tried to fix it on both machines later.
  • Shared Calendar – I don’t want to manage different calendars all over the place.  I want the same set of appointments and reminders all the way from my Pocket PC to my gaming machine to my work desktop.  Again, there’s no native support for either of these scenarios in Thunderbird or Outlook over IMAP but I had some inroads into getting around them.
  • Pocket PC Integration – Outlook does this easily.  Thunderbird doesn’t.  It’s really that simple.

Getting around the address book and calendar limitations was interesting.  I first tried the SyncKolab plugin with the mozilla calendar add-on and it seemed to transfer my address book from one machine to another without too many problems.  When it came to merging in changes from various places though, it just failed to work at all.  It may have been something I did, but if I can’t work it out then it’s no good to me.  Again, I tried for a few weeks to work with this but in the end it just wasn’t happening.

So, I moved back to Outlook (with the transfer of contacts via Outlook Express because Outlook and Thunderbird don’t support import/export from each other) and fired up the Bynari Insight IMAP connector which makes my IMAP server appear like an Exchange Server.  Suddenly I now have the full Outlook/Exchange functionality and am independant of the machine I’m working on for my Calendar and Contact lists

Yeah – I like open source and all, but it still sucks in places and I’m not about to sacrifice my own ease of use just for someone’s political statement on how source code “should be free”.  Get a better program and I’ll use it.  Until then, I’m going with the commercial stuff.


Working on my parser

Posted in General at 3:15 am by jw

It’s been a while but I spent some time working on my parser for Everquest 2.  Fixed up a few bugs that were annoying me and added the ability to view log files, which Keldoth has been asking about for a while now.  Rather than keep the entire log in memory, I store the byte offsets within the file where each event takes place and can quickly move through a file taking the lines of interest and dumping them into a text box for the user to see.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the niche this parser seems to be sitting in.  Although I have no illusions that many people are actually using it, I am happy that my guildies find it useful for analyzing stuff after raids.  Naturally I think it blows the other parsers (combatstats and statalyzer) out of the water with the plots, detailed analysis and presentation of actual useful data for improving raids rather than flashy in-game stuff that disappears all too quickly.  I’m probably just biased though.

.NET 2.0 really is fun to work with.  It’s a mile ahead of .NET 1.1 and the ease with which I can mess around with an XML schema (in a .xsd file) and then actually use that within code directly is amazing.  Seeing classes created in realtime as I edit the schema and having every thing just link up without any effort is really, really nice.


Even more graphs!

Posted in General at 10:55 pm by jw

I feel all obsessive/compulsive writing this but I’ve put even more graphs onto my Linux box to monitor it behavior.  This time I’ve found some scripts (that were originally not written in English so bear with some of the labels being in strange languages) which measure all sorts of esoteric stuff like CPU temp, Motherboard temp, voltages, memory usage, CPU usage, paging to swap and plenty of other junk.  At least it tells me that my PC is still on!

In other news, I got my new PC at work today and had some fun playing with it.  Was disappointed to discover that it doesn’t have a DVI output on the video card for the flat panel display and that nVidia doesn’t have 64 bit drivers for Vista out yet.  Oh well, can’t have everything but coming from the pretty glass look on an ATI card to the non-glass nVidia is a fair let down.


Traffic shaping and monitoring

Posted in General at 1:07 am by jw

Sometimes when you’re downloading a big file you just don’t want it lagging out your gaming.  Well, this is where the traffic shaper (tc) in Linux comes in really handy.  Using some scripts I snarfed from the net, I came up with a nice 4 tier system of traffic priority:

  1. Everquest or Everquest 2 traffic (determined by server IP address)
  2. ssh or other interactive traffic, as well as ‘ack’ packets to avoid retransmits.
  3. Normal traffic
  4. Bulk downloads (ftp etc.)

To make sure things all worked smoothly, I throttled the line to a total of 150kbps (about the maximum it seems to support) for the top tier and took off 10kpbs for each tier below it to leave ample breathing room for when traffic was needed “right now”.  It really is amazing the difference it makes, especially to ssh traffic when I’m accessing the network remotely – all of a sudden I just don’t notice the other activity on the line!

My ‘tc’ script is pretty ugly, but here it is in all its glory

Now, of course, I want to monitor what things are looking like so grabbed the polltc script which uses rrdtool to generate pretty graphs for me!  It does tell me that I need to work on my filtering script as the detection of bittorrent downloads doesn’t seem to be working too well.  Next project I guess is to figure out getting iptables involve in the filtering which will make things work a *lot* better (and clean the script up a lot too).  I just can’t go bringing iptables up and down while my wife is playing EQ – she gets upset at going linkdead all the time!


2001 and Monster Cables

Posted in General at 7:48 pm by jw

I’ve been reading Arthur C. Clarke’s “2001: A Space Odysesy” series (2001, 2010, 2061, 3001) lately so I thought “what the hell” and decided to watch the movie of 2001 again.  Well, my opinion hasn’t changed.  Compared to the book, it’s totally and utterly boring.  It does absolutely nothing aside from self-indulgent effects.  When jogging around a spaceship is the most interesting part of a movie that runs over two hours then it really does say something about the quality.  While reading the book makes it slightly better (you can understand the huge gobs of stuff that comes from left field that the book explains but the movie doesn’t), it’s still a rather painful experience.  Definitely on my “don’t bother” list.

I will say that one scene gave me a chuckle for the wrong reasons:  HAL’s monitor screen displays “OMG” at one stage.

Changing subject totally – I went to Radio Shack to buy a DVI cable the other day for my flat panel monitor and saw the $100 offering from Monster for a single channel cable with the following recommendation:

Most ordinary DVI cables are prone to impedance variances and loss of signal strength, while poor shielding causes the cable to radiate radio frequency and electromagnetic interference out to the rest of your system. As a result, you’ll notice blurred images, and a loss of color fidelity and image detail.

I can’t help it.  I have to laugh at exactly what sort of morons they think their customers are.  It’s a DIGITAL video interface (you know, what DVI stands for?).  You don’t get signal loss short of static.  You don’t get blurred images.  You don’t lose high color fidelity.  A bit is either ONE or ZERO.  It’s not somewhere in between.  I guess if you’re not technical you could be fooled, but wow, someone sue them for false advertising already!

Best Buy got my business – they had a perfectly good dual channel DVI cable for $30.  I have perfect picture, zero blurring and zero color fading.

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