Monthly Archives: November 2003

New Server

Murphy’s Law was in full bloom recently when our home PC’s hard drive started to fail and my server’s drive just locked up cold one day. Thus began the great computer fix-up of 2003 for the Cantoni household.

Step One: New hard drive storage for the server.

Continue reading New Server

Bluetooth Tungsten T3

I've been meaning to do more playing with Bluetooth capabilities of my Palm Tungsten T3 (other than just connecting to another Palm device), so I finally bought a Belkin F8T001 USB Bluetooth adapter (available on Buy.com for about $40 with free shipping).

Installing the Belkin software on my Win2000 system was straightforward, as was pairing my device with the desktop. What was not easy to figure out what sharing the internet connection so I can run e-mail and web browser on the Tungsten. The Belkin software wizard led me to turn on Internet Connection Sharing within Windows, but it gave a warning about setting the LAN adapter to 192.168.0.1 — sure enough, that's what it did. My mistake here was turning on sharing for the Bluetooth network rather than the LAN. Makes sense when you think about it, but not obvious I guess.

The best source I found for getting this whole thing working was Dean Johnson's Palm Bluetooth Internet Setup. This is a great guide with pictures (I love pictures!) and includes some of the more esoteric stuff for setting up PPP. Highly recommended.

So far it works fine, but the speed isn't great. Doing a rough test I get about 30 kbps to a local server. Using a Bluetooth access point I can get about 210 kbps which is much better.

Google Deskbar

Google recently launched a beta of the Google Deskbar which “enables you to search with Google from any application without lifting your fingers from the keyboard.” This type of utility is quite useful and allows you to quickly do a search without first bringing up a browser window. In fact, there is already an excellent tool that does this: Dave's Quick Search Deskbar.

Both apps install into the desktop taskbar, providing a field for search entry. When not in use, Dave's will show the full date/time while Google shows a small Google logo. Dave's can be customized with XML files and comes with dozens of popular pre-configured searches (e.g., Amazon, Yahoo, Dictionary.com). Google's can also be customized but doesn't come with many pre-configured searches (other than to Google.com of course). Google's tool has one advantage by bringing up a “mini-viewer” with search results rather than going directly to the browser.

Perhaps due to the privacy concerns about their existing Internet Explorer Toolbar, Google clearly explains during installation what they call “Google Labs Feedback Statistics” — basically, the application will send usage stats back to Google. (See their deskbar privacy policy.)

For now, I'm going to stick with Dave's but I'll install Google on at least one PC to play with it.

[Via Anders Jacobsen]

Mail on 404

I continue to get a fair number of web server “404 Not Found” errors on my site (caused by users requesting documents that aren't found). I strive to minimize such errors when making changes to the site, so normally I read through the server logs to find anything that needs to be fixed.

To make this process easier, I recently installed a custom 404 error handler in PHP based on Harold Bakker's Mail on 404 script. This script will send you an e-mail message anytime a 404 error is generated on the server. I modified it slightly to also send the missing URL in the e-mail subject to make it easier to scan.

As expected, I get a fair amount of 404 errors from scripts looking for known Windows security holes. Even though my provider runs Apache on Linux, this is kind of annoying. I've modified the script to search for any URL containing .asp, .dll, or .exe and save the requesting IP address in a special “ban” file. Now I just need to wire that into my site-wide .htaccess file and I can permanently ban such users. Maybe this is too drastic?

On the positive side I was able to see that users trying to reach my PDA-friendly web site list (http://cantoni.mobi) often type in variations of the URL. I simply added those to the local .htaccess file to help these folks out by redirecting them to the page they're looking for.