Monday, December 24, 2012

Hauppage WinTV-PVR 150 will not work under Windows 7 x64

As the title says...

A little background:

My old - actually, ancient - Shuttle-based PVR system decided to more or less give up on me.  It still worked, but the old Shuttle case had a poor habit of overheating.  An easily predictable consequence of the form factor, no doubt, but let's not forget the poor old thing was merrily cranking away recording live TV and playing back edited videos for many, many years.

Time to upgrade.  I figured, if a lousy old Shuttle SS54G could handle it, who knows what I could do with a modern Core series processor and an SSD?

So I go get a little system built, scavenging the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR 150 TV capture cards out of the old Shuttle.  Hell, they're perfectly good, and they're on the BeyondTV compatibility list.  They have hardware encoding and do a fine job.  Anyone who tells you that you need uber-great hardware to code NTSC TV is crazy.  (HD is another story, maybe.)

The old system used SageTV, which has been unavailable since Google purchased it.  I chose BeyondTV partly because it does near-real-time transcoding to DivX, which saves me BUCKETS of time when editing my shows.  AND it takes the guesswork out of what settings to use for transcoding, which is a big convenience as well.

So, plug er in.  And the video sucks.  LiveTV is super-choppy - not that I care, I do not use it as a TV front end.  Eventually I get it working well enough, and the first recording looks grrrrreat, but LiveTV still does not work right.  I'm rather pissed, as the WinTV-PVR 150 cards have hardware encoding, so WTF?  But OK.

Next day, it's all gone south.  BeyondTV is stuck transcoding a file - not a good sign.  Some resets get it going again, only to show that the subsequent recordings are uselessly scrambled.  LiveTV does not work.

I already installed the latest Hauppauge drivers, but I uninstall and reinstall the hardware.  No good.  Try taking out some splitters and cables, although the system worked A-OK on the old Shuttle.  Still no good.

Now, Hauppauge has a note saying these drivers only work on 64-bit systems with less than 4 Gb of RAM.  Mine has 4.  Windows reports mine as 3.9 Gb, which I thought was good enough.  Apparently not.  In this case, they really mean LESS, not "less than or equal to 4 Gb".

(Note that I did ask the shop for 32-bit Windows, but I waffled in front of the sales clerk.  He changed it to 64-bit, but neglected to change it back when I reverted to my original choice.  Not his fault, really, and he offered to re-image it, but I decided to take the chance.  BeyondTV only supports 32-bit users.)

The solution comes from this thread at, where artificially limiting your system RAM to 4095 kB via msconfig is used to tell Windows you have just less than 4 Gb of RAM.

In case the thread goes MIA, here is the method as described by the_man_one (with a few spelling changes):

limit the reported ram with msconfig by:
  • run msconfig from command prompt or command line
  • boot tab
  • advanced settings
  • check maximum memory
  • add the value 4095
  • reboot
 You can then go on and configure the card in your media center software.  In my case, I did not need to reconfigure nor re-install the drivers.  You do need to reboot to make Windows x64 "forget" that extra bit of RAM you want it to ignore, that's all.

After setting msconfig as recommended, everything works beautifully.  LiveTV works, both tuners work, everything seems to just work.  I have not tried the ShowSqueeze again, but reports are that hanging ShowSqueeze occurs when the MPG recordings are garbled, which was undoubtedly the case here.

So yet another x64 driver issue.  I guess the poor driver was getting all confused with itself.

Time to delete all the recordings and start over.  We'll see.

Note that you do not need your original Hauppauge CD to install the latest drivers.  You can get drivers only or drivers + software - look carefully at the available tabs on the page - without difficulty, and at no point was I asked for my original CD (which I have). 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

First impressions of Plex

My old PVR having given up - and, admittedly, rather behind the times when it came to video formats - it is time for a new one.

I heard about Plex on Lifehacker, and it sounded worth a try.  I prefer to keep my PVR (recording) and media center playback software separate right now, so the fact that Plex does not record TV was not an issue.

Plus, it's free.  Why not?

I have found a few things that I do not like.  Note that I am not criticizing - well, maybe I am, a little - but free software is free, and you can't complain, really, or it wouldn't exist.  This information is here to help other people decide if Plex is right for them.

Here's a few things that I have learned so far:

1.  You need a dedicated folder for your media library.

Why?  Plex has no "exclude" function.  The developers don't seem to think it worthwhile.  ("Can you explain why you want this?" is a pretty amazing comment to me.)

Given there are a near-infinite number of ways to organize your media, chances are your organization is not what Plex expects.  This is just because there are many more ways to do it "wrong" than to do it "right" - i.e. the way Plex wants.

I like flat file structures.  And, of course, the way I have organized my videos does not suit the Plex scanner.

The Plex devs even have a recommended file naming structure - great, if you're just starting out, but not so great if you already have hundreds of shows.

Many people will not find this a bother, admittedly.  Maybe you already have a dedicated folder or drive for your "library".

I already have lots of scripts and macros built around my existing structure, not to mention knowing where everything is and what means what.  Plex is not flexible in this area.

In my case I see no reason why I should want to move my "recordings", "in work", home videos and the like out of my "Video" directory, just to suit Plex.

[Update]:  OK, Plex even says you have to organize your videos according to what Plex wants, or it will not work.  Tail wags dog?

[Update]:  OK, Plex now supports an "ignore" feature, which requires using a Linux-type hidden file holding patterns to exclude.  Haven't tried it myself, hope it works!

2.  Mouse support sucks.

Reportedly, this is because of their "10-foot UI", which somehow precludes use of a mouse.

Why, oh why, do the Plex devs not understand that my wife, 3-year old and senior-citizen mother-in-law do not want to use a keyboard just to watch TV shows?  Seriously - everyone is trying to get AWAY from keyboards on HTPCs, but not Plex.

You can enable the mouse, but trust me, it does not do what you expect.  What mouse support does exist is totally counter-intuitive.  If I can't figure it out, how can my kid?

Somehow I can use Windows Media Player just fine with the mouse, but not Plex.  10-foot UI or no.

And no, we do not have a remote control for the PC (yet).  Maybe I'll get one, if I can figure out which one(s) will actually work.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Droid VNC Server on GSIII - again, not working

I have the same problem with text entry that is described in this thread on XDA.  It sort of works, but not really.  It's only half a solution, as I can't really control the phone properly.

It's such a pity these are all so difficult.  The idea is soooo awesome.

I re-rooted my phone, may try AndroidScreencast again, but I prefer wifi over tethered USB.

Note that I had to use RealVNC in order to (a) get a connection and (b) be able to re-size the Droid VNC Server window from HUGE/IMMENSE down to a reasonable size.  I couldn't figure out how to do either very well using TightVNC.

Both apps have problems with screen rotation.  I put my phone in landscape orientation on my little stand so I can plug it in.  VNC and Screencast both show it sideways.  :-(

AndroidScreencast on Samsung Galaxy S III (4.04 Jellybean)

[Update 2]:  As of 2015, just forget about AndroidScreencast and go with Teamviewer. It (mostly) just works.

Original post below.

I can't get it to work.

[Update]:  Just figured out the latest Android update broke my root access, so I can't chmod the device properly.  Will have to wait until a new upgrade rom is available, I guess.

You can try the instructions here, but they are (at best) incomplete.  Useful links below, you have to put all the pieces together yourself.


  1. The Android SDK landing page has changed.  What you want to get is the SDK installer executable file.  Click "Download for Other Platforms" to see the Windows .exe file, which is what you want.  Don't use the "Download Package" button you see first - clock "Download for Other Platforms", look for "SDK Tools Only", Windows EXE file.
  2. When you install, do yourself a favor and put the installation in an easy-to-find directory.  You will be needing to find it very soon.  Having a long path name is a pain.
  3. RUN the SDK Manager.  You will get a list of packages available to install.  Install "Android SDK Platform-tools".
  4. Make sure your devices has the USB debugging enabled.  Only works over USB, so plug phone in.
  5. Check that you can "see" your phone using "adb devices".  "adb" is in the installation directory - told you that you were going there soon.
  6. To get OUT of ADB (i.e. quit) try Control-D and/or "exit'" command.

My try failed at the chmod 777 for dalvik-cache, which I cannot execute although my phone is rooted.  Information suggests that AndroidScreencast doesn't work on Jellybean at all, because some APIs have been rewritten and the application has not kept pace.

So you can see the phone but not control it.  Not terribly useful for me.

Useful link 1
Useful link 2
Useful link 3

Good luck, hope you have more success than I did.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Photoshop Elements Organizer and Zoner Photo Studio tagging is brutally slow

I tried Zoner Free to try to get around Adobe, which was acting very slow.  Unfortunately, Zoner was worse - faster for viewing, but unusable for tagging.

The answer is:  It's the network, stupid.  I host all my photos on a central file server, which was just too slow for either Adobe or Zoner, Gigabit connections and RAID6 notwithstanding.  The only solution is to move everything to a local drive.

You can kind of forget about any kind of graceful migration from one photos location to another using Adobe Elements Organizer.  I have never seen a program that has such brain-dead defaults and crappy file handling in my life.  It's almost like they make it intentionally difficult for you to re-organize anything at all.

Example:  everyone says to "backup" and "restore" your Adobe catalog in order to move drives.  Awkward, as the backup / restore functions take HOURS.

Then, when you restore, you will probably check "Restore original file locations" (or whatever it is) to restore your previous directory structure.  But when you do this, Adobe will NOT restore the original structure.

Moving from \\myserver to USB drive P:\, if your photos were at:


they will end up at:


INSTEAD of at:


which, of course, is where you want them.  Why Adobe saw fit to prefix the path with the server file name and drive letter is beyond me.

Do anything wrong and you are forced into the dreaded "Reconnect missing files" which has the worst UI I have ever seen in my life.

Now, maybe most people out there do not care so much.  But I find it really irritating when an application takes control of my files from me.  The fact that Adobe tends to pollute my directories with thousands of .XMP files is bad enough - now it is telling me where I can store them??  Not cool.

Unfortunately, there seems to be NO WAY to get tag information out of Adobe and into Zoner.  So I may end up with Elements after all, or end up having to re-tag all 54,000 of my photos with Zoner.  Not fun either way.  Zoner is neat, but I don't know if it is THAT neat.

To make matters worse, Zoner does not support drag-and-drop tagging for multiple files at once.  This is how I have always tagged groups of photos in Adobe.  Instead, Zoner uses a right-click menu option that I find awkward.  This will make any re-tagging operation extra laborious.  Plus Zoner does not really support non-destructive editing, which is a surprising and concerning omission.

Picasa, on the other hand, barely supported tagging at all last time I checked.  The new 3.9 seems to have tagging, so I may need to revisit that.  Same problem as Zoner, but perhaps facial recognition will eliminate some of the tagging issues for me.  (Yeah, right.)  Picasa is all web-oriented, though, which I suspect is the wrong focus for me.

Make no mistake, the vendors want to lock you in to their photo organization system.  Be smart and pick the right one before you start.

Hiren's Boot CD HBCD menu missing when booting on Vaio Z3

I wanted to back up my Z3 using Hiren's Boot CD.  I have done this before, and it worked well.

(I recommend Image For Windows, available on Hiren's, but you should buy a licence.  IFW seems to be one of the only programs out there that can actually do a bare metal restore.)

Oddly enough, when I booted the Z from the USB stick, I did not see Image for Windows.  In fact, I did not see any programs at all.  Mini Windows XP ran fine, but all the programs were missing!

Scrounging around the File Manager turned up nada.  It looked like the USB stick was not there, even though the machine had booted from it just fine.

The conflict in my case was an SD card that I had added to the system.  It seems Mini XP got confused after boot and replaced the USB stick drive with the SD card.  XP was not capable of reading the SD card owing to the large capacity, and essentially got stuck, unable to locate or load any of the Hiren's apps.

Removing the SD card (as well as the uber-small Sandisk Cruzer Fit I had added for extra storage) fixed the issue.  On that boot, Mini XP correctly loaded the Hirens HBCD menu application as well as a bunch of other stuff related to Hiren's.

So - if you have problems with Hiren's Mini Windows XP not loading Hiren's apps, try removing all of your other USB storage devices first.

Note that I was able to plug in an external USB hard drive for the actual backup - an essential for my Z, as Hiren's 15.1 doesn't support the network adapters in this machine.  So you may be able to plug in other USB drives after booting.

[Update]:  Ran into the same issue on another machine - this time a desktop that does not have USB thumb drives or SD cards inserted.  I was not able to find a fix for that issue.

[Update 2]:  Has the same problem re-occur on my Z3 (SVZ13), even with other USB drives / SD cards removed.  Oddly, when I switched the Hiren's stick to the other USB port, it started to work.  I don't know if this is consistent behavior or not.  On my machine, the USB port closest to the front appeared to be the 'working' one.

Also, with Hiren's on the 'wrong' port, MiniXP could not recognize my Sandisk 64 Gb USB stick.  It saw it, but claimed it was only 8 Gb big, and unformatted.  With Hiren's booting 'right', it found it without issues.

Peerless Auto-Trac tire chain fitment and review

So two years ago, my car got stuck in a snowdrift.  In my defense (and that of my car), more than half the city got stuck that day.

Ironically, by 1:00 pm it had gotten so warm out that ALL the snow had melted.  If I'd known, I would have walked home and come back 3 hours later to drive the car away.

(It also made those people who took a "snow day" and stayed home from work look a bit silly.)

My car is equipped with the best snow tires money can buy, and had 100 lbs of sand in the rear, but they were no match for this snow.  It was heavy, wet, and deep.  The RWD just could not do it.

Now, I hate being stuck.  Possibly more than some people, it is a recurring nightmare for me.  I used to own an AWD sports sedan that would not get stuck, period.  In bad weather, I could literally wait for a couple of 4x4s to lay ruts in the medians and follow right along.  I loved that about that car, and the RWD of my current vehicle is the only thing I dislike about it.

After this episode, I ran across the Peerless Auto-Trac tire chains in a brochure.  They looked cool - practical and gadgety at the same time!  Unlike my old AWD, clearance was not an issue on the car, and for around $100 they seemed like an OK value.  Who could resist?

They are not sold locally, but I convinced some friends to drive them across the border for me.  Ordered on-line with (with free Super Saver shipping) to a shipping depot.  (Sport Chalet had them too, but I think they were out of stock or something.)

Of course, there would be no possibility of returns, so I triple-checked the fitment and model numbers.  Several weeks later, I finally had them.

And they did not fit.

My tire size is 245/45R18, and I bought model  0155305 chains.  According to Peerless, these chains fit my car, but they did not.

I added the zip tie for clarity, and to allow me to take the photos hands-free.  Obviously I could not drive like this.  Trust me when I say that I tried my damndest to get the chains on for almost an hour, and this was in a dry and relatively warm garage.

This story is not a bad review, however.  I sent the photos above to Peerless via their e-mail customer service address.  I got a reply the same day saying someone would follow up.

I had my doubts, but on the weekend (!) I got a call from a fellow who said he had just gotten back into the office and saw the email.  He said there was obviously an fitment issue and offered to send me a bigger set of chains at no charge.

I still expected I was screwed.  I explained that I was in Canada, and that UPS Ground would charge me rapacious brokerage fees on the shipment.  I was very surprised when he quite cheerfully and without hesitation changed the shipping to UPS 2-day Air so I would not get burned.

A few days later, I had another set of chains - model 0155505 - that did fit the car quite nicely.  (They also fit my wife's SUV, which is a nice bonus.)  The carrying case had some kind of plastic partition or liner it in that disintegrated in shipment, but the chains were brand new.

So I have to say that the service from Peerless has been quite exemplary.  There are not too many companies who would help so much.

As for the chains themselves, they are what they say they are.  They are obviously not heavy-duty, but will probably do you more than nicely in a pinch - say, when the CAA/AMA queue for a tow is 4+ hours long.

You will want to test-fit them ahead of time.  Not only to make sure they fit (!) but to get the hang of it.  It is really very simple once you see how to go about it.

The crafty - but plastic - tensioners really do very little work.  Their only function is to snug the chains to the sidewall of the tire, and they bear virtually no load.  In fact, the side chains are relatively lightweight - not that the tread chains are massive by any stretch, but the red chains shown above do not take much stress at all.

One might be forgiven for unconsciously expecting the chains to come in a left-side and right-side version.  They do not (a little thought will tell you why).  As such, when you mount the chains, the RED lead always starts off positioned for your RIGHT hand.  Once you try it you will understand what that means.

I imagine taking these off after use could be a pill, because you will have to unhook them at the back without being able to see the connection points.  It's easy if you mount and dismount them without driving, because the rear-side cable latch point is at the top where you put it.  After driving it will be in a random orientation, and it may take a bit of fiddling to get it unlatched.  No big deal, so long as they get you out of the snowbank in the first place.

They do come with a plastic installation guide that is supposedly intended to double as a mat to keep your knees dry.  You might want to put some disposable gloves in the carrying case, though - things are likely to be mucky and wet when you have to put these guys on.

The clearance requirements appear to be very small.  The rear side of the tire only mounts a smooth cable, and the chains on the treads are very low profile.  Unless you've slammed your ride, they will probably fit most any car, and almost certainly any SUV or truck.

Mounting them with lower rides can be a little bit harder just because it's harder to get your hands between the fender and tire.  They're unlikely to damage rims, but if that is your worry maybe you should not be driving your ride in the snow in the first place.

I have not had to use these in anger yet but they are compact and do not take up much space in any trunk.  For me, I will be happy in this investment if I use them or not.

Just double-check with Peerless for fitment before buying.  I imagine there could be other fitment errors in their catalog.

Update!:  I had occasion to use the chains today. 

The bad news is that the snow has been pretty bad and the plows can't keep up, so most residential roads have not been cleared.  So I got stuck on an unplowed road going up a hill.  I was not the only one.

The good news is that the Auto-Trac chains went on fairly quickly and got me unstuck, and up the hill, in fairly short order.  They also got me through the return journey, past the other folk who had gotten stuck going the other way.

Getting them off was about as difficult as putting them on - not easier, but not harder either.  The problem is finding the connection in the rear cable.  Of course, being at the rear of the tire, finding that spot can be a little awkward.  Be prepared to roll the car a foot or two, if necessary, to bring the connection to the top of the tire.

I did notice some bumping in the wheelwells with the chains on.  I looked once and one chain had gotten misaligned, and I was driving on the tensioner.  The 2nd and 3rd times I looked I didn't see anything wrong, but the thumping persisted.  I took the chains off as soon as I could because of this.

So they work pretty much as advertised.  On time was about 15 minutes, off time was about ten (maybe), and they did get me up a previously impassable road.  They're inconvenient, to be sure, but between a six-hour wait for a tow truck and a half-hour work, I'm pretty happy with the option.


-  When test fitting, take into account any ballast you intend to carry.  Fitting with an empty trunk will not be the same as when you have your five sandbags in there for winter.

-  If you can, reverse out of wherever you are stuck.  Find a relatively clear/flat spot to put the chains on so you're not swimming in snow.

-  Drive downhill if you have to - twenty feet away from your destination is not going to kill you at this point.

-  Unfold the instructions sheet and put it in your open trunk for reference.  It won't blow away there.

-  Be prepared to get cold and dirty.  (Rig drivers: cue laughter here.)

-   Read the instructions.  You put them on once a year, so every time is the first time.

-  After mounting, back up or go downhill first to get your tires on the chains.  Then start moving forward/upward.

-  Check shortly after mounting to ensure the chains are on correctly and you're driving on the links, not the cable or tensioners.

-  Be prepared to move the car a bit to bring the rear cable connection to a place where you can reach it, to unhook the cable.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

$100 reward for two Vantek DPS3305 USB power supplies

So I tried posting this on EEVblog, and promptly got kicked in the nards.  I had little hope that the thread would progress but some good folks did take up my cause (for the promised $100, of course).

Results of my search to date are here.

[Update]: eBay seller 99cent Hobbies has been able to source two units for me through TaoBao (Chinese only).  The supplied units have been verified to have the USB port and software CD, and reportedly have no overshoot issues (unlike the Quakko and Protek).

[Update 2]:  I have gotten the two units are they are as advertised!  One supply has an issue where it only will output up to 9.0V, but it is almost certainly just shipping/manufacturing issues and not the fault of 99cent Hobbies.

So far the supplies have exceeded my expectations for functionality.  Even the 9V issue on the one has not really gotten me down on them.  The software is better than I expected.

If you are interested in any, you may want to talk to 99cent Hobbies to see if he will agree to procure one for you.  He was good to me and tested the units before forwarding them on, which he did not really have to do.  His communication and helpfulness has been most excellent.

Keep in mind shipping is somewhat costly owing to the distance and the weight of the supplies.  Even with S&H, though, the supplies are still a massive bargain compared to the next best supplies available via conventional North American channel suppliers.

Also keep in mind the reliability of the Caltek units is not the best.  Don't blame the seller/distributor if you get a dud or defective unit.  It happens.  One of my units is imperfect, and the CD-ROM on one of them was also defective in a very odd way:

The units also come with UK power cords.  "Normal" power supply cords from PCs, available at any PC store, will fit.  (For the technically minded, it is an IEC 60320-C14 plug on the power supply, an IEC 60320-C13 cord will fit it.)

So all in all, it is good that I bought 2.  I got one working CD-ROM and 1-1/2 working supplies.  Not too bad, considering what they cost.

Original post below for reference/SEO:

I am looking for the Vantek DSP3305P USB programmable power supply, and I can't find any.  So far, two vendors have given me refunds because they cannot source them.

As I am tired of looking, I am offering $100 via Paypal to anyone who can supply me with a source for two DSP3305P power supply units.
  • NON-OVERSHOOT models only!  Overshoot models (Yori, Quakko, Protek) NOT allowed.
  • Must have the USB port and be supplied with cable and software.  No non-USB models!
  • Equivalent models that use the Vantek software are OK. 
  • My understanding is the 3A model never comes with USB, but if you can find one 3A is fine.
  • No gouging.  Total price should be around $200 or less.  I will look at higher prices but can't say I'll bite.  If I do, you'll get the bounty.
  • Source must be able to ship to Canada.
  • NO UPS GROUND shipping.  I do not care to pay UPS the $100 I will owe you!
  • Payment when I actually get the units in my grubby little hands.  As noted, two sales have already fallen through.
  • $50 bounty for one unit, $100 bounty for two units.

I have already tried:

None of them can get the right unit.  I know they say they can, but I tried purchasing from Precisegauge AND Kibuck, and have talked directly with Goodlucksell and MIB Instruments.  None of them are USB.

Please, no suggestions for alternative brands models.  As far as I can tell, the Vantek software is the only suite that meets my needs.

I will entertain offers from owners who want to sell theirs.  If you have one, make me an offer.

If you can buy them new and re-sell them to me for a fat profit, more power to you.  I will buy them anyway plus pay you the $50/$100 bounty.

Alternatively, $50 for a source for a conversion kit to convert non-USB models to USB.  And no, I do not mean a USB-to-232 converter - I mean a way to install a USB port into a Vantek that does not have the USB factory installed.

And no, I am not kidding.  $100 when I get the units here.  Email with info.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Finding a "Find My Phone" application for Android

Unfortunately, there are too many out there.  As usual.  (The market is so crowded, it's amazing anybody can find anything worthwhile.)

I only found about six:
  • Android Lost Free
  • Wheres My Droid
  • Plan B
  • SeekDroid
  • Lookout Mobile Security
  • Prey
  • Cerberus
I had to take quite a bit of time to compare them.  Some are free, but require monthly subscriptions in order to operate.  Some are PC-oriented.  Some - oddly - do not provide proper pricing information on their own web sites.  Some are just free period but don't support some of the nice-to-have features.

I could have possibly saved myself some considerable time by looking at this review from Android Police.  It has a handy - though not easy to read or modify - chart that shows a feature-by-feature showdown between many phone finder apps.  The "best" ones, arguably, are those on the left-hand side of the chart.

Anyway, I found the chart after I had already plowed work into doing the comparisons for myself.  But it did confirm what I found:  Android Lost Free is a clear winner for me.

Here's why:
  • App is free (you can donate)
  • More importantly, there are no subscriptions required
  • SMS and web UI support

Has nearly every feature you can imagine:
  • Force ring/alarm
  • Report GPS location, with a map
  • Send popup messages to phone
  • Send popup message to phone, then take a picture when user presses "OK" (sneaky)
  • Reports call logs
  • Remotely read latest SMS messages
  • Remote enable GPS and WiFi (when allowed by OS)
  • Remote lock
  • Remote erase
  • Notify on SIM change
  • SMS whitelist
  • SMS PIN code
  • Hides application from app drawer
  • Records from phone microphone
  • Take pictures using cameras
  • Browse and download files and content of phone remotely

You need a Gmail account to use it, but everyone with an Android should have (or, at least, can have) a Gmail account.  It looks like you can make it work without Gmail, though, if you must - IMHO it would be worth the trouble.

Things it does NOT have:

  • It does not have a passcode in the app because all the features are set up from  There is an SMS PIN code so random people cannot control your phone via SMS.
  • It does not support uninstall prevention.  INHO, this is a good thing, as people (users, devs) have gotten themselves into trouble trying this.  A few people have reported that they end up with a hidden, non-running application that they can't uninstall.  I prefer to use a lesser-known hidden application and trust that 99.9% of the people out there won't think about or know how to go about deleting a phone finder app.
  • Does not support multiple devices.  Try Prey.
  • Is supposed to allow you to forward calls remotely from your lost devices.  I could not find this option on the web site UI, so perhaps this feature doesn't exist.

The website is nice and clean, and easy to use.  Setup was also very easy, with the app taking care of registrations and all that crap for you.  (There are backup manual options on the site in case the process fails for any reason.)  The list of SIM commands is right there on the website, no need for a separate help site.

Note that the first time I tested the app, it took several minutes for everything to link up at Google's back-end and for things to start working.  Thus, the first commands I sent had a 5-7 minute delay, which was something of a concern.  After the initial sorting out, the commands took only ~1 second to get relayed to the phone, making the service quite responsive.

You can easily uninstall the app if you don't like it, and it's free.  Maybe give it a try.  I like it so far.  Hopefully I'll never need it!

It also occurs this would be great for my wife's phone.  Besides not calling her only to find out that she left her phone upstairs (again), this lets me find out where she is without bothering her when she's driving.  It was something I was going to do with Tasker, and maybe this will save me the trouble.

It would only work via SMS, though, unless I logged in to her Gmail account - it's not a "share my location" app by default.  So depending on how you want to use it, this may or may not do the trick for that particular function.

[Update]:  As of early 2015, Androidlost has worked well for me.  It is still limited as noted above, an initial inquiry can take several minutes, and it often reports back two or three times on one inquiry.  But it did locate lost devices as it was supposed to.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The unspoken pitfalls of DMM reviews

This is just some ramblings on equipment reviews.

Personally, I love EEVblog.  If you have not already done so, be sure to go over to and check out some of Dave's his ratings, rants and reviews.  Just listening to him is enough to make me say "hell, yeah!".  I wish I could do what he does.

One of Dave's many services to the electronics community are honest, no-BS reviews of digital multimeters and other equipment.  He's amazingly thorough and calls them like he seems them, including teardowns to reveal the inner nastiness of some of the units.  He's managed to blow several up by just using them.

It's an invaluable service, but not without pitfalls.  Not knocking Dave here at all - I can't think of anyone I'd rather have telling me which equipment is good and which is crap.  But the whole review methodology is limited by design.

Here's the deal.

Variation is the thing.  Reviewers - any reviewer - can only review one (or, in rare cases, two) example of any given piece of equipment.  This does not accurately show variations within the entire lineup of units.

It is certainly unreasonable to expect more - both reviewers and those that donate the equipment for review have limited resources.  Testing a statistically representative sample is pretty much out of the question.  What you get is a spot check - a bright light on one individual piece of apparatus.

Now, that is certainly better than nothing.  Dave himself finds an amazing number of things from looking at only a single unit, including cases where PCB boards have been hacked up and messy jumper wires soldered in to make things work.  Knowing this sort of information helps provide a view of the manufacturers QC and standards so you know if they're deserving of your hard-earned money or just a junk peddler.

But a primary goal of these reviews is to determine the accuracy of the unit being reviewed.  Let's face it - no one wants to spend $1,000 when $55 will do, but no one wants to spend so much as $1 on an inaccurate piece of crap you can't rely on.

This is one of the primary reasons people spend thousands of dollars on premium equipment - having confidence that what is says is true.  You can get a DMM with all the bells and whistles possible for around $200, but some people would rather pay $1,600 for a high-end meter.  It's not the features - it's the confidence.

But consider the possible scenarios.  (I'll use a fictional reviewer named Tom, but it could be anybody.)

If a high-end piece of equipment is reviewed, variation is low, accuracy is high.  It gets stellar reviews for accuracy, with deservedly more nit-picking given to usability and durability.  People buy it, and are happy.  So far, so good.

But what of lower-end equipment?  Variation is higher, but we can't readily check it.  So what do we get?

Scenario 1 is that Tom gets a really good example of the breed.  Worst-case, the manufacturer has cherry-picked a perfect example to skew the results.  This cheap little meter (say, $99) gets stellar reviews.

Based on this, people buy it.  It's a great value, and the odd one that is perhaps not perfect for accuracy is overlooked.  But if the unit-to-unit variation is high, it may not be the best selection for some people, or the units may not perform consistently.  So the review makes the units look better than they actually are.

Scenario 2 is that Dave manages to score a poor unit.  This unit is the one-in-a-million unit that has relatively crappy accuracy - representative of the worst-case situation.  Dave pounds it and declares it to be crap.  Result:  nobody buys it.

The problem here is that this one unit is not really representative of all the units.  It is worse.  But you can't tell that from a single-unit review.  From this, people end up overlooking what may be a great value because of the poor performance of a single unit.  The review makes the unit look worse than they actually are, even though the average unit in the series might be quite good.

Neither scenario is particularly desirable, but both are possible.  To correct this you would have to test a number of units from different batches or factories over time, which is not going to happen.

So what do we do?  Well, just remember that a single-unit review is not the be-all and end-all.  Take a critical look at your application to see how much accuracy you really need.  Then study the DMM specs, hard, to see what you are getting in the worst-case.

Consider how many you want and need.  Take a good look at your budget - is it better to buy five inexpensive meters and toss one that is not accurate enough, or buy one really good one?  Can they be calibrated, and for how much?  Do you have reference equipment and the time to test the meters out for accuracy?

I personally am a huge fan of inexpensive meters.  I would rather have ten cheap meters on my bench than one expensive one - I often use four or five at a time, and have different ones with specific features for different jobs.  You can get a "good" datalogging meter for around $60, or 10x-20x less than the high-end version.

But what I want is not necessarily what you want.  If you can only carry one meter, and it has to work, because the nearest repair shop is 9 hours away from site and is closed anyway, and it's -35*C out and you may drop it and it just HAS to work - well, that is different.

Note that the caveats listed here do not apply to every review, but will apply for many.  In software, for example, the features will not vary but the ability to install and run on different platforms might vary quite a bit.  (Android has a lot of issues with this.)  Durability may vary; build quality and parts can change anytime.  And there is always the possibility of getting a lemon.

Variation sucks.

Friday, September 21, 2012

My first root / Simple root for Galaxy S III

Looking for rooting help with my new GSIII, I found this very helpful thread from XDA Developers.  User "Mrrobinson" has created several modified-stock images that give the user root access without really changing anything else.  This was useful to me, since I really don't want to fool around with custom ROMs right now.

I did/do know something about embedded electronics, but nothing specific about the Android rooting process.  So there were some points I was not clear on when I did my first root.  They caused me much anxiety, but they did not have to.

[Update]:  Some of these items are fixed in the original thread, some are new/not.

0.  Flashing the wrong ROM to your phone is a great way to make it non-recoverable.  Unfortunately, the thread does not make clear which images are which.

In the thread listed above, the root66 GLW image is for Wind Mobile.  (GLW is Globalive, which is the parent company of Wind.)  TMO is for T-Mobile (obviously) while the MCT image is for Mobilicity.

[For even more info, including the version numbers/changes/release dates, see the SamMobile Firmware page.]

0a.  The MD5 hashes given in the thread are not the same as the ones calculated by some desktop utilities, such as Hashtab.  This does not mean that you have gotten a bad download, it just means the posted MD5s were calculated differently.  So if you can't verify the MD5 even after repeated downloads, you are almost certainly still safe.

1.  The process in the thread is not quite fully described.  Read this thread for a more detailed step-by-step of how to use ODIN to reprogram your GSIII.

2.  Be sure to install the Samsung drivers as well as ODIN.  They are separate.  As far as I know, the Samsung drivers required by ODIN are different from the ones automatically installed when you plug the phone in to the PC, so install them just to be safe.

3.  When you run ODIN and plug the phone in for the first time, expect to wait up to 30 seconds for the phone to appear in ODIN.  Windows may be installing some drivers in the background without you noticing,  Don't worry, just wait.  It will show up eventually.

4.  It is common for the update process to fail if you do not use the USB cable that came with the GSIII.  Why this would be, I do not know, but it seems to be true.

The same holds true if you use a USB extension cable or hub.  So don't plug the phone into your desktop USB hub without thinking.  (I did.)

4a.  Newer system images end in .md5, not .tar.

4b.  Click the "PDA" button in Odin.

5.  If you read the threads, people talk about 30 to 90 minute update times.  This is crap.  The update process should take about 5-7 minutes in total for a GSIII.

6.  The ODIN progress update bar should be visibly moving throughout the upgrade.  If it gets stuck for more than a few minutes, you have a problem.  People talk about waiting 5, 10, or even 30 minutes for progress, but this is crap.

7.  If the update hangs or fails, DON'T PANIC.  The phone/ODIN system appears to be pretty smart, and it can recover.

If the flashing process hangs in the middle, the phone OS will not work because it was not fully re-loaded.  But the phone bootloader still works fine.

The best thing to do is to simply close ODIN and re-start the process.  The phone will automatically recognize the second update, and you do not necessarily need to pull cables or power off the phone.

My upgrade got stuck, which had me quite worried for a bit.  In the end,  all I did was close ODIN, plug the cable directly into my PC (bypassing the extension cable I had accidentally used), restart ODIN and restart the upgrade process.  The phone display did not change one bit, but the phone automatically recognized the new flashing process and everything went without a hitch.

If it still fails, there are several things you can try, such as power-cycling the phone, removing the phone battery, using a different USB cable, using a different USB port, and even removing the SD card.  All of these appear to be phone-specific, so search xda-deverlopers for more info on these.

If you do have to power off the phone, DON'T PANIC.  The phone OS may be nuked, but the bootloader will probably work fine.  You can almost certainly restart the phone into download mode again, and re-flash the OS just as before.

(If you think about it, this is exactly how it should be.  Bootloaders, by definition, are never touched during upgrades.)

If you cannot get into download mode, search xda-developers again.  Try searching for "return to stock" howto, or something similar.  You can also look for phone-specific info on how you might recover the handset.

8.  People talk a lot about having the phone fully charged before starting the process.  This is obviously prudent, but I do not think it is essential.

The battery charging electronics should automatically start working as soon as you plug in the USB cable, even if the phone has no OS installed.  Embedded charging electronics work independently of the OS.

So it seems to me it is unlikely that your handset could die while performing the update process.  In fact, it should be more charged than when you started.  So don't stress out about it.

It is quite possible that one would find all of this out by watching one of the rooting videos on YouTube.  I did not, but in retrospect maybe I should have.  If you are nervous about the process, I would recommend doing this, so you know what a "good" upgrade looks like.

Good luck!

[Update]:  Push firmware upgrade from Samsung did not remove root!  So far, so good.

[Update:]  Oops, it did.  Note to self: don't update unless a new rooted image is available.  Just because SuperUser is installed doesn't mean you are rooted!!   Word has it that OTA Rootkeeper will protect your root from this problem.  You can also use Root Checker to see if you are still rooted or not.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fixing the ridiculously low volume output of the Vaio Z

My new 2012 Vaio Z was putting out a ridiculously low output on the headphone jack.  Not enough to notice until I took a plane trip, when I realized I couldn't actually hear most of my movies - even at 100% volume.

(This is with some Sony noise-cancelling headphones, which have always worked well for the past 50 hours of flying time.)

Anyway, the instructions most helpfully provided by

Monday, September 17, 2012

Clear-Coat skin for Vaio Z2 fits the Vaio Z3

OK, so the "Z3" is really the SVZ13, according to Sony.  Most everyone else is calling it the Z3, or maybe the Vaio Z 2012 Edition.  The model I'm referring to is the first Vaio Z with the Ivy Bridge chipset, came out in early 2012.

Anyway, the Clear-Coat skin for the VPC-Z2 model will fit the SVZ13 / Z3 model fine.  I've done it on mine.  It includes pieces for the sheet battery too.  Good fit and looks good too.

Caveats:  As with all skins, it is hard to get 100% of the air bubbles out.  It can also be hard to handle the large pieces, and figuring out which pieces go where can be a bit of a PITA.

The key seems to be to keep your hands only a little bit wet (to prevent sticking/fingerprints) but get the film and the laptop good and wet.  This provides more margin for air to get forced out and lets the film "float" better on the laptop to allow centering/alignment before drying.

You will want more of the application fluid than is provided.  Do yourself a favor and prep additional fluid ahead of time.  I used up all of the fluid, plus a half-bottle extra that I had left over from skinning my cell phone two years ago.

It does make the laptop look more glossy, and the film surface will attract smears.  And dust!  LOTS of dust!  I took a trip and the thing is now a dust magnet.  But it is easy to clean, and who knows - the machine might have been a dust magnet even without the skin on.

Wikipedia is/was listing a SV-Z1 model as well.  I don't know what that is, but the existing Clear-Coat skin will probably fit that model.  YMMV.

[Update]:  Few months and a couple of trips on, the CC is holding up fine.  It attracts smears and fingerprints, but is easy to clean with a towel or microfiber cloth.  You can scrub it a bit, it won't scratch.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Existing, non-WINDtab users can now buy a Galaxy S III

I found this one out when I called WIND to switch to their $29 Back-To-School plan, and (rather despairingly) asked if I could get a GSIII as well.  Apparently, they opened up the GSIII for purchase without actually telling anyone.

You still cannot buy the phone outright.  If you have a WIND phone number and a Tab, you need to upgrade on your Tab.  If you have a WIND phone but no Tab, you'll need to switch to a Tab, which means changing your plan.  So if you like your current plan, you may not be able to buy the GSIII yet.

Either way, you do get to keep your existing phone number.

Unfortunately, no store in Calgary has any white GSIIIs in stock.  They said "a couple of weeks" for more stock.  Since I don't want blue, I'm stuck again.  (Irony just continues to proliferate abundantly.)

They also said outright purchases in "a couple of weeks".  My impression is that the staff  at that store say "a couple of weeks - hopefully" to nearly every inquiry, and they do not really know for sure.  So don't hold your breath.

As I'm going to be away for about two weeks, I'll be re-looking at this mid-Sept.  If their predictions are correct I'll be able to get a white GSIII outright, although I may still elect to use a Tab.  If I keep it for 3 years, WIND will pay off about $150 of the phone cost, which ain't bad.  If not, it's no worse than buying outright.

The irony is I would have happily bought the phone outright weeks ago.

 However, if you've been anxiously waiting for the opportunity to grab a GSIII (and change your WIND plan too) now may be the time.  (Or, maybe, at least time to invest in some of the accessories on eBay so they arrive before you do buy the phone.)

AuthenTec TrueSuite fingerprint logon not working with Firefox 14.0.1

Like the title says.  This is on a Vaio Z series (3rd generation, 2012).

Before anyone things I'm an idiot and simply don't know how to do it: it works with Internet Explorer fine.  AND the fingerprint login to Windows 7 x64 works fine as well.  But not with Firefox.

What doesn't happen is that TrueSuite does not prompt to remember a password when you log in to a web page.  In IE, you get a message asking "do you want TrueSuite to remember this password" or something like that.  With Firefox, nada.

I tried disabling Firefox's buit-in password manager, which I had temporarily enabled.  Didn't help.

Nothing mentioned on either Sony's site or Authentec's site, so I must be the only one.  I'm betting I'll have to do a video to prove it to Sony.

[Edit]:  The fingerprint login sure is handy.  I had almost forgotten how much I missed it when I had to give up my old Lifebook.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Spotted this little tidbit on WIND's Twitter account, concerning the Galaxy S III and why ordinary mortals cannot buy it from WIND:

Friday, July 27, 2012

WIND Samsung Galaxy S III offer extended until July 31

WIND has extended their $200 service credit for new customers buying the Samsung Galaxy S III.

I guess I'll have to wait until August to get my SGSIII, since I STILL can't buy one.

Monday, July 23, 2012

One month on and still no GSIII for me

Over one month since the 'launch' of the Galaxy S III on WIND, and I still can't buy one.

Yes, I'm bitching.  And why not?  Unfortunately, I'm too budget-minded to vote with my wallet and switch away from WIND, as that would entail me paying several hundred dollars more over the life of the phone. 

But there is such as thing as goodwill, and mine is being seriously eroded by this whole debacle.

I do think WIND could have done a better job of managing expectations.  They cast themselves as all 'social' and connected to their customers, a company who listens.  But in the end it's just a facade; they keep things to themselves for the most part.

Part of this may be from a legitimate understanding that they simply cannot make everyone happy.  Certainly that applies to tower construction / coverage zones; that's a purely economic decision, and WIND has to spend the money for the best return on investment.

This obviously comes into play for the Galaxy launch as well.  They have limited phones - who gets them first?  New customers, who generate the most lasting return.

However, I'm not sure I see the rationale for all of the silence surrounding the issue. 

Here's a theory:  maybe they simply don't know when they are getting adequate supplies of the phone. 

OK, fine, but that begs the question as to why they did not say so in the first place.  After all, it would be the easiest thing in the world to say "Sorry, Samsung didn't supply us with enough for now.  In the meantime, we have to restrict to new activations only."

Why didn't they?  Because they can't afford to piss off Samsung.

Note that none of the big carriers in the USA or Canada are dissing Samsung over the delays.  In fact, I can't find hardly a single mention of delays anywhere, and certainly not even a whiff of discontent between the carriers and Samsung.  WIND can't do it either.  You don't bite the hand that feeds. 

Now, you can debate the merit of the new activations only policy.  From some accounts, WIND stores have GSIIIs in stock, and are hella anxious to sell these things.  Given this, they should be selling them to existing customers because they have spare inventory.

That is hindsight, though. In the months running up to launch, WIND made a bet they would gain more new customers than lose existing ones.  In other words, they planned their marketing strategy and launch campaign.  And they are probably right.

It is now also clear why WIND just didn't react more quickly and open up the GSIII to existing customers sooner: they had to execute the intermediate step of allowing Tab owners to upgrade. 

You can't necessarily move this date anywhere you please - computer systems and operators need to be prepped and ready to handle the new orders, for example.  A company like WIND, for all their small-town/close community image, can't just turn on a dime.

No, the whole thing was pre-planned.  The Samsung supply shortages were just icing on the cake that WIND had baked months before.

Not just WIND, either - the GSIII marketing campaign probably took as long to plan and prepare as the phone itself did.  All of the major carriers spent months preparing their campaigns and the logistics to supprt them.

It's just disappointing that, after all that time, WIND is at the tail end of the line for actually selling devices to their customer base.  Instead of being the first kid on the block to have a GSIII, I will now be the last.

And here is where WIND could have adjusted.  There is nothing stopping them from putting out a little note or two telling their existing customer base what to expect from this point.  This is not disruptive to their existing campaign, and it would give people like me (and most of the other tens of thousands on the pre-register list) something to look forward to.

They also could have been more up-front about the restrictions.  A little asterisk on their launch announcements to say that supplies are extremely limited and restricted to new customers only would have been a help.  Disappointing, yes, but better than people having to call their local store to bug them if the phone is actually available for me, please?

If they don't know when the supply situation will be resolved, then they could say they don't know.  No need to assign any blame to Samsung or anyone else.  Just put something, anything, out there to say that supply issues are still occurring and the launch date for existing customers will be announced as soon as possible.

The pre-register list is the ideal vehicle for this.  After all, isn't that why it exists?  Surely the WIND CEO or whoever can take an hour to write a note and fill in the information gap.

Really, dude.  We just want to know what the deal is.

As it stands, I don't know when Christmas is coming.  And that's disappointing.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Google accounts multiple sign-in - yummy secret sauce for Google Apps

If you have any combination of multiple Google Apps and Gmail accounts, you're probably sick of signing out and signing in to different accounts to do different things. 

Fortunately, Google allows "multiple account sign-in" that can alleviate the pain.  Makes it sooo much easier to manage all that email.

The feature is not supported across all Google services (like Blogger, for example).  Not working for you?  Try these other solutions from TechRepublic.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Syncing several Google Calendars across accounts and to a single Android

Like many people, I had to do this when setting up a Google Apps account - I needed my personal calendar and Apps calendar to both show up on my phone.

You often cannot just add another Google account to an Android.  You typically get a "Can't establish a reliable data connection to the server", which is complete crap.  Essentially, you are stuck, unable to add another Google account to your mobile - dumb, but true.

However, if you follow the instructions so helpfully provided by Marc Fonteijn, you can get it working.  No import/export required.  Basically, you share the Calendars between both accounts, and give both sides the ability to edit events on both calendars.

If you run into the bug where "Share all information, and outsiders can change calendars" is not shown as an option:  Set up the share email accounts anyway.  Shut down all your Firefox windows, restart Firefox, and clear everything in your history.  Then sign back in to your Apps Dashboard and try again.  "Share all info" should then appear as an option on the previously set up email accounts.

Don't export the info from your first calendar into your second.  You'll end up with duplicate events all over the place.

Now if they could only do this with Contacts...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dammit, Microsoft, stop rebooting my computer!

If you are anything like me, you usually have a lot of crap going on your desktop at once.

You know - you are working on something, and then you stop for lunch.  Reading the news or whatever, you find something that you want to explore, so you open up a new Firefox window for that.  After lunch, it's back to work, but you leave the extra FF window open so you can go back to it later.

Then you come back the next day and Microsoft has pushed out an update that restarted your computer in the night.  Bye, bye, all your stuff, you have to go find it all again.

Yes, OK, I know why they do it.  Doesn't stop it from being a PITA.

Yes, you can re-set Windows to try and update during daytime hours.  Doesn't really help that you will probably get endless pop-ups telling you to reboot RIGHT NOW, while you are trying to get crap done.

Fortunately, Jon Galloway has written up a little tutorial on how to stop Windows from rebooting after each update.  There are at least two ways, but his preferred method is to use the settings provided in the Windows Group Policy, rather than registry hacks.

This obviously implies that any updates will not be fully implemented until you reboot your machine manually.  Even people with the hottest possible hardware have to reboot sometime, so this will probably happen more often than Microsoft will push out updates.

Jon does note that there have been cases where Windows ignored the settings, and rebooted anyway.  Nothing's perfect.

If this is a bit too radical, then maybe it's enough to know that Microsoft has "Patch Tuesday" on the second Tuesday of every month.  Most Windows users will see the update appear Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.  Just remember to close / save / bookmark stuff on those days, and you will probably be OK.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Getting around the aforementioned AHBL / GoDaddy pissing match

OK, you're stuck in the middle of the pissing match.  What do you do?

Maybe try Google Apps.

I'm usually pretty wary about this sort of thing.  I don't want to waste time, I'm leery of cloud-based 'stuff', and 'free' services are often anything but.  So I did some homework, and here is what I found:

Apps is (supposedly) to custom domains what Gmail is to personal domains.  In fact, it seems that there is no difference between a Gmail account and an Apps account - except Apps email 'comes' from your own domain name.

For example, in Gmail, I am "".  In Apps, I am ''.  Cool.

Aside from that, Apps is just Gmail.  Sure, you do get Calendar, Drive, Docs, etc.etc. thrown in for good measure, but for the purposes of getting off GoDaddy email and on to something else, the Apps mail service is what we really need right now.

I've used Gmail for a while now to back up my GoDaddy email.  So I know how Gmail works.

I can't say I like the Gmail interface better than the GoDaddy interface, but I'll probably get used to it.  I don't like how the threading somehow seems to get reversed in Gmail.

(You do get occasional spam-like messages from Google, but some judicious tagging should take care of that.  I hope.)

There are other quite nifty features to Apps:

1.  It's FREE.  Can't beat free.  Ad-supported, naturally.  $5/user/month to kill the ads, but at least you get a bumped up inbox size with that.

2.  Inbox size is 10 Gb (free) or 25 Gb (paid).  Pretty big.

3.  Apps supports multiple domains.  Way cool for people with multiple domains and email addresses to manage.

4.  Each user can have up to 30 email addresses from any of the registered domains. Reports are that they generally use the correct "From:" email address when you reply, which is important to me.

Bonus: thanks to the GoDaddy SOPA spat, there are lots of guides on how to ditch GoDaddy and go Apps.  Fili Wiese and ChooseWhat for starters.

If you're not sure, try this review from Entrepreneur Magazine.  It's pretty pro-Apps, but does point out some things that may rub the wrong way.  I think Google has overview webinars on the home page, too.

I haven't done this yet.  If I do, I'll try to remember to update.  (If I run into problems, I won't have to remember, because I'll be compelled to rant about them.)  I'm just scratching the surface, and the more I scratch the more powerful Apps looks - maybe too powerful for my own good.

[Update]:  OK, I tried it.  Here's the glitches.

-  If you have 2 domains, everyone will have email addresses at both domains.  For and, always has the corresponding address  Not usually a big deal, but might be.

-  If you have 2 domains, email from the secondary will always appear to come from the primary.  When Jane sends email from, it'll show up as " on behalf of" in many email clients.  Cool if is a subsidiary or something of - NOT cool if you are attempting to keep two businesses separate and not associated with each other.

-  For users with multiple email addresses, Gmail only supports one signature.  If Jane sets her signature to be "Jane Fonda" and sends using, her sig is still "Jane Fonda".  Not cool if Jane has different contact or business info for the two different email addresses.

Moral:  If you don't mind mixing and matching, consolidating things under one Apps account is OK.  If you're trying to keep things separated, don't do it.


-  Don't yet know how to synchronize Contacts across different Google accounts.  Attempting the import/export process - even in "Google format", and between Gmail and Apps - mangles the contacts so badly they're totally unusable.  And this is Gmail to (effectively) Gmail!


-   You can synchronize them by sharing Calendars across various accounts.  Lots of fiddling, but it'll work.  See my post later on about this.

The amazing AHBL / Godaddy pissing match

Very recently, my emails to a very good client of mine began to bounce.  Not too much in the way of error messages, except for an obscure code that indicated my email was somehow marked as a spam account.

A little more digging on the client side shows that my Godaddy mail server is blacklisted by the Abusive Hosts Black List - AHBL.  As far as I can tell right now, AHBL is the only one blacklisting GoDaddy email.

Why?  Well, most of the evidence points to what basically amounts to a pissing match between AHBL and GoDaddy.

In the red corner:  ABHL!  AHBL claims that GoDaddy is hosting a website that "uses abuse, harassment, and intimidation to conduct [it's] ‘business’."  They have asked GoDaddy to remove the site; GD refuses, violating their own terms of service.  AHBL claims they are standing up for "a growing trend that seems to indicate GoDaddy is turning a blind eye to abuse and spam".  On the flip side, AHBL states "there is nothing that GoDaddy _customers_ can do about this situation".

In the blue corner:  GoDaddy!  GD states "We take every complaint of abuse seriously, and do not allow spam or other forms of abuse to take place on our network."  They also say "The abuse department will continue to work towards a resolution with the parties involved." 

The latest published conversations on this occurred nearly two years ago.  Either nothing has changed, or the AHBL has found new reason to block GoDaddy's email domains.

Unfortunately, GD's only advice to their customers is to advise the recipient of the e-mail to stop using AHBL services.  Most senders are not in a position to tell the receiver what to do, and 99% of all email recipients will have no control over the blacklists used by their companies or ISPs.

But, really, what can GD do?  Should it be their policy that every time some blacklist company has an axe to grind that they meekly submit to demands?  That's usually called blackmail - hah, nice pun there - and if GD caves once, then they're at the mercy of all blacklist providers everywhere.

There is no way for the average Joe/Jane to know if AHBL is in the right or not.  Maybe they are, maybe not.  Maybe everything they say about GoDaddy is true, maybe not.  I'm sure many readers will hate GoDaddy just on principle, by reputation, or whatever, but there is really no evidence either way.  It's just a he said/she said situation.

It's just too bad that GoDaddy and AHBL can't work this out.  Really - two years later, and people are still having problems?  That probably points to a failure on both sides of the table.  Cruise and Holmes can work out a multimillion dollar custody divorce in two weeks, yet these companies can't work out a simple website hosting spat in two years.  Go figure.

The sore fact is that it's a business decision for GoDaddy.  They know they will lose some clients over this.  They probably do not care - they're pretty wildly successful anyway, and AHBL's actions are not enough to seriously dent the bottom line.  Would Apple or Google do anything different?  Who knows.

Given the chance, I would recommend that people avoid BOTH companies.  AHBL seems mired in controversy, which seems to follow a founding member around.  They have implemented a "shoot-on-sight" policy that attempts to follow suspected "bad people" around even if they change ISPs.  There are even some peripheral indications that AHBL is essentially a one-man show.

They (or he?) also have (has?) a clear vendetta against certain people going - not coincidentally, the same people involved in the GoDaddy spat.  Finally, the Free Speech Store does not show up on any Google search, and no server exists at that address - so one wonders just what the AHBL is blacklisting.

As there are other vendors out there, seemingly ones without personal agendas, vested interests, or other nonsense, perhaps AHBL is just best avoided.

As for GoDaddy, one could argue they are caught in the middle between AHBL and the Free Speech Store (i.e. between the controlling persons at these two sites). 

Still, there is no denying that GoDaddy email services can be seriously compromised by the AHBL stance, and two years on there seems to be no resolution to the matter.  Customers have no option but to switch providers, so why not avoid the whole mess in the first place and not sign up with GoDaddy?

(One wonders why GoDaddy just hasn't kicked the relatively-inactive? Free Speech Store out, losing 1 customer to save many, but that's for them to decide.)

Now, there seems to be nothing wrong with registering a doman with GoDaddy.  Hosting a domain at GoDaddy is a problem, and using GoDaddy-provided email services a lesser problem.  But registration?  No problem.

For myself this probably means I'll have to figure out how to forward everything through Gmail, or set up my own email services.  I already have a Linux box in the basement for web hosting, so I can but hope that setting it up to use

Of course, doing this, I'm moving yet another service away from a bought-and-paid-for service to a roll-and-support-yourself solution - moving external to internal, as it were.  And I really hate doing that.  I do not want to have to support my own email on top of everything else.

What a world.