Apparently all the Android kids are getting real excited about the impending launch of the next release, Ice Cream Sandwich.

From the previews, it's not really doing much for me. Functionality-wise it doesn't appear to be any great improvement on the previous version, it's basically just a shiny new skin. And yes, Android does rather need an overhaul in this department, but even so…

The original iPhone moved the target considerably. In many respects it was "just" an evolutionary step on from PalmOS, in that it presents a grid of icons on a touch-screen, each one representing an application. The hardware has a lot more grunt now, and the user interface has a lot more shine and polish than PalmOS could manage back in the day, but it's essentially the same paradigm.

Android pushed this a little further, instead of having a grid of icons you've got a grid in which you can freely place icons and widgets. This is useful in that it allows you to bring the information you most want at a glance right to the front, and it recognises that what I want up front may not be what you want up front: I want to see my next couple of calendar entries and some weather info, you may want Twitter or Facebook updates. Different needs, both can be fulfilled on the one platform.

Each version of Android has pretty much just tweaked and polished this approach. Same for most of the replacement launchers.

I think it's time to reconsider just what the phone/PDA user experience should be about, and surprisingly (perhaps) Microsoft seems to be on to something. Instead of having a set of silos and switching between applications to get at data from different sources, Windows Phone uses activity-based "hubs", pulling in data from relevant sources and displaying it all together.

"People" are associated with accounts on various services, so viewing a person's record in the "People" hub gives you all of that. Sending short IM/text-message type messages shouldn't really care about the underlying transport, so it's all in one "Messaging" hub. Apple are kind of going this way with iMessage, but just for a change Microsoft are being more open about it: they're not trying to build a new IM platform, they're using several pre-existing platforms.

webOS was doing some of this, but seems to have been poorly managed, both by Palm and then by HP.

Ice Cream Sandwich appears to be just more of the same. I think this activity-based UX is an excellent idea and would like to see it implemented on platforms other than Windows Phone. Fortunately the mobile OS space has become one where each vendor "steals" from the others, so with any luck this will happen. But ICS? Really not very exciting.
There's been rather a lot of talk about vulnerability in recent HTC Android phones, and rather less about the lock screen flaw on the Samsung Galaxy S II for AT&T.

The summary version of the former, for those who don't want to read that whole article or who don't understand it: recent HTC phones include an always-on logger which has access to pretty much everything on the phone. This logger can be accessed by any application on the phone which has the basic "internet" privilege, which is pretty much everything.

So it's a giant gaping hole just waiting for someone to exploit. As best I can tell from the discussion online it's not remotely-exploitable, if you have one of these phones it isn't immediate-panic-stations time, but it does mean that any application you install could be siphoning data off and sending it elsewhere, without needing to ask you first.

The latter requires physical access to the device and may only be relevant to the AT&T variant. It's a simple trick which lets anyone who can get their hands on the phone get in to it even if you've set a security lock.

Both of these demonstrate a risk that comes with Android: there are many fingers in the pie, and you can't be sure where all of them have been. Code on an Android phone will have come from a mix of Google, the device manufacturer, and your mobile operator. You have to trust that all of them get it right, and it is demonstrably true that this is not always the case.

It's an argument in favour of the Apple/Microsoft model wherein only the OS supplier mucks about with the internals, neither the OEM or telco can modify the system beyond installing simple apps with no elevated rights. It may be that Google wind up trying harder to dissuade OEMs from altering the system, we'll have to wait and see how that pans out.

In the meantime it's a pity that Windows Phone 7 isn't getting more carrier love. Obviously they don't like the "can't make mandatory customisations" thing Microsoft is insisting on, just how Microsoft are going to bootstrap to the point Apple is at where the carriers need them more than they need the carriers is another interesting question.

Such a shame the Nokia N9 -- which is even getting television advertising, rather odd for an end-of-line device like this -- is dead on arrival.
My employer will be providing me with a HTC 7 Mozart as a work phone, so once that arrives I'll finally be able to do a proper hands-on evaluation of WP7.

In advance of that, and because Microsoft had the good sense to finally do a web interface for the WP7 Marketplace, I've been going through looking for suitable alternatives to the apps I use on Android.

So far it's looking pretty good. The only missing one is Audible. There are first-party apps for Kindle and Foxtel. There's a direct WP7 port of TuneIn Radio. There are third-party apps for TramTracker, Telstra mobile usage, Dropbox, and XBMC Remote. The last three have a small price attached. There are several Australian weather apps, some free, some with a small price.

Direct subscription to podcasts is now part of the OS, so there's no real need for a third-party podcast app like Pocket Cast.

One neat thing I'm seeing on the web version of Marketplace is that there's none of this separate trial and paid versions of apps. It looks like many (most? all?) apps have a "Try for free" button, though I'm unsure just what that does. Presumably a time-limited full-feature trial, but until I get a phone I won't be sure.

The website for Marketplace is rather pleasantly designed and really easy to navigate.

Rather looking forward to getting the Mozart. If it works out as well as it looks like it will, I may well pick up a Focus S or Nokia Searay when those become available for personal use.

More WP7

Sep. 13th, 2011 03:48 pm
I've been using Launcher 7 on my Android phone for the past week, and it bears out my initial impression of Windows Phone 7: that the launcher/home-screen is a really nice combination of the live content Android typically provides and a clean reasonably attractive set-of-icons.

So I'm thinking much more about my next phone being a WP7 device. I have very easy access to the HTC HD7 and Mozart, but unfortunately they seem to be about the worst of the first-gen WP7 phones: really bad cameras, lousy screens that were previous-generation a year ago when they were released, small batteries.

I may have cheaper-than-standard access to the new HTC WP7 phones, but that's a way off and in the meantime I'm going to have to choose something for a work phone in probably a month from now.

There is some temptation to pick up a Samsung Focus as an import from the US. They're basically the Samsung Galaxy S but running WP7, so a great display and decent battery life by smartphone standards. They're available second-hand for ~AU$200 on eBay, or new from Mobicity for AU$479. The advantage of buying from Mobicity is pretty obvious: known-good vendor, 12-month warranty, another $30 and they'll throw you a loaner while repairs are underway.

The device from the new batch which is most interesting to me so far is the Focus S, but there's fairly limited information available. My hope is that we're basically looking at a Galaxy S II but with a single-core processor. The specs as released suggest this, but until there are review units floating around it's quite uncertain.

And chances are I won't have particularly cheap access to those anyway.

Launcher 7

Sep. 7th, 2011 09:46 pm
The tumblr experiment has been kind of a failure, pretty much the only response it gets is spammers. So, something here for a change.

I've been poking at quite a few Android launchers. Most of them are a variation on the same basic theme as the stock launcher: you have some number of home screens on which you place widgets, shortcuts to apps, folders, that sort of thing. You have a button on-screen which, when tapped, presents all your installed applications in some form, typically as a grid of icons.

One which moves away from this is Launcher 7. This is a pretty clear imitation of the basic Windows Phone 7 launcher interface. Last time I looked at it it was pretty unimpressive, but it's got a lot better.

The gist of it is that you have a home screen made up of tiles. When tapped these will typically open an appropriate application. Some of them are "live" tiles, in that they convey meaningful information, like the number of missed calls or unread text messages.

Here's a screenshot of my home screen:

Read more... )

This is taking advantage of two extra things I didn't mention above. The top two tiles are "widget" tiles. They contain Android widgets. The left one is Beautiful Widgets Weather 1x1 with the background disabled and a simple outline skin. The right one is DigiClock tweaked to look the way I want.

Immediately below this is a 2x1 calendar live tile. This cycles through my next couple of appointments. Tap it and it opens the Calendar application.

Below that is the dialler -- which is a live tile, but I don't have any missed calls -- and the contacts tile. The contacts tile is similar to the WP7 contacts tile, it cycles through contact images.

When you slide right-to-left the application menu comes up. This is a simple list of applications, sorted alphabetically. Press the "search" key here and you'll get this nice jump list:

Read more... )

Tap a letter, you go straight to that section of the app list. Nice and simple.

Launcher 7 also supports having a web page as a live tile, and you can create a tile which contains a folder of applications.

The author has some sort of Facebook integration and a proper clock live tile on the to-do list. These would be nice little extras. But basically, if you want something in a live tile you can work around this by finding or writing a widget to do the job.

Overall, it's a pretty nice launcher.
I have my stupider ideas late at night/early in the morning, so will admit right up front that this may well be one of them.

There's this video going around of the Nokia N8 running the leaked Symblan Belle release. And it looks pretty good. At a superficial level I'd have to say that the UI/UX looks better than stock Android 2.3, even though it's running on hardware that'd be considered very low-end on a 'droid.

And the battery life of the N8, while not as awesome as Symbian phones used to be, is still far better than typical Android phones. In the GSMArena review they're claiming about two days of moderate/heavy use on a single charge -- a typical droid will get a day. And this is on the original Symbian^3 release, one may perhaps hope for some improvement in Anna and Belle.

It's not lost on me that this is the second Nokia OS release this year that's really knocked my socks off. If WP7 doesn't work out for them, or there's another coup at the top, they've clearly got more than one direction they can go.

So, yeah, I'm looking at this and can't help wondering if an N8 running Belle might not be just the ticket for the next year or so while the dust settles on just where Android and WP7 are going.
A couple of quick tests:

scp a 3.5GB file from my MBP to ant (the new Atom box, 1000Mb NIC) and red (older Core 2 Duo laptop, 100Mb NIC):

ant: 16.8MB/s, chewing 100% of a CPU core and no iowait
red: 11.2MB/s, chewing ~65% of a CPU core and no iowait

Implication here being that on ant the limiting factor is the single-threaded ssh through which all the data is going, while on red the limiting factor is the NIC.

Investigating ant a little further, rsyncing the same file but over NFS (using unfs3 on ant, OS X Lion on the MBP) it topped out at ~27MB/s for a short while at the start, with CPU peaking at ~50% utilisation, but it didn't take more than about 20 seconds for that to slow way the hell back down to just on 17MB/s, ~30% CPU, and iowaits around the 15% mark.

Which implies that even though one can get rather faster burst out of this box, the internal spindle is just too slow to keep up for very long at all. Which is fair enough, it's a 5400rpm laptop disk.
The box arrived today. It's an ASRock ION3D 152D, which is a small-form-factor barebones with an Atam D525 CPU and ION graphics. Comes with a DVD-RW drive as a built-in (there's a version with a BD-ROM drive for ~$100 more) and an IR receiver for use with the bundled MCE remote. Plus it has a gigabit NIC.

Added 4GB of RAM and a 750GB 5400rpm 2.5" SATA disk.

Hooked it up -- HDMI to the telly, analogue stereo audio to the switchbox, ethernet to the switch, stuck an XBMC-Live disc in the DVD drive and booted it up.

Everything but the remote worked out of the box, no futzing around required.

Rebooted, installed XBMC-Live on the disk. Turns out it's just a slightly-modified Ubuntu 10.04LTS install rigged to automatically log in to the "xbmc" user and run XBMC on the display. Completely suitable as-is to use as a house server, XBMC when chewing through all the media files only eats ~30% of a core, and this thing reports four.

(I think it's actually dual-core with hyper threading, but whatever.)

So I've updated everything to 10.04's current state and added some extra cruft on. Getting the remote working was a bit of a trial -- there was a change in how LIRC deals with remotes in a kernel update which made its way into 10.04's update repo, so the vendor packages no longer work and there are lots of people talking about how they fixed it but most of those didn't actually work.

This worked for me.

System basics:

matt@ant:~$ uname -a
Linux ant 2.6.32-33-generic #72-Ubuntu SMP Fri Jul 29 21:08:37 UTC 2011 i686 GNU/Linux

matt@ant:~$ cat /proc/cpuinfo
model name : Intel(R) Atom(TM) CPU D525 @ 1.80GHz

I am rather less impressed with Dropbox, though. I've been using it for an offsite backup of my music collection -- yes, I could get much of it back by re-ripping my CDs, but I've a fair bit of music I've purchased online now. One neat thing it does is sync over the LAN if you've got multiple registered machines on the same network.

So I fired up the client on ant. And would you believe, Dropbox ate the 90GB "Music" folder? Nuked the copy stored on their end, blew away the primary copy on my end too.

Fortunately I have this covered by Time Machine for an on-site backup, so I wasn't completely screwed. But I'm disinclined to pay for Dropbox again when renewal time comes around in six or so months!

Anyway. The only outstanding issue now is moving my leafnode installation across. Once that's done the old machine can be retired, and this nice low-power very very quiet machine can take the place of both the old "server" and the hacked first-gen AppleTV.
Ordered the Harmony PS3 adapter from Amazon last week, it arrived today.

Of course I'd assumed (without checking) that this was a USB device. Nope, it's Bluetooth and runs on mains power, so it's got a US power pack on it. Fortunately I just happen to have an appropriate converter lying around spare.

So that's hooked up and working now.

In the past I'd not bothered with the Activities stuff on the Harmony because my old telly was weirdly incompatible with it. The new telly is of course not incompatible. So I set some of that up today, too.

It works as advertised. My amp turns out not to be compatible for input-changing, but I already had audio going through a manual switchbox (short version: everything here used to be done with component+stereo, stereo leads are still hooked up as my amp is an older stereo-only model). So when changing activities I have to hit the relevant button on the box, but it otherwise works.

Really my only quibble is that if you go behind the back of the Activities menu to change the state of a device using the Device stuff, it doesn't keep track of that. So, for example, if I've been using my aTV to play music -- so it turned the TV on for that, and then I turned the TV off once I'd selected what I want to listen to -- switching to the "Watch TV" activity won't turn the TV back on. But hitting "Help" will correct the situation, so it's still quite reasonable.

The one slight hitch I have is that my Harmony One is fairly old and the battery is just about dead. The replacement I bought doesn't quite work -- it powers the unit, but can't be recharged. Rather than waste yet more money on batteries which may not work I've found a cheap-ish source for the Harmony 700 and I'll either use the battery that came with that, if it works, or switch to the 700.
I have time off and a shiny HD display to fiddle with, so I've ordered myself a (relatively) cheap box to double-up at media-centre and house-server duties.

Specifically, it's this, an ASRock Atom D525 with ION GPU. Added 4GB of RAM and a 750GB 5400rpm disk.

Will poke around at the Windows 7 media-centre stuff first, as I have spare licenses. And with the XBMC live install. The former appeals from a "can play random DRM cruft" perspective, the latter because simpler and would do a better job at the house-server role, given I could easily jam a copy of Samba on there.

Cost all-up is AU$550, including shipping.

Why is the aTV running XBMC insufficient? Well, because it doesn't do 1080 properly (it runs the screen at 1280x1080) and it can't decode HD content. It can do some 720p stuff, but not all. It's an old slow single-core CPU and XBMC can't make full use of the video hardware. And given the very tight memory constraints and limited expandability it's not really suitable for the house-server role.

But I am otherwise very happy with XBMC. There are plugins for everything I care about (Pandora, local catch-up TV services), some really great skins, and I've even now got my usual couple of radio stations available through it as my ISP started relaying ABC NewsRadio with an MP3 stream rather than the nasty Windows Media+Real combo the ABC provides.

If I wind up deciding that Win7 is the way to go, guess I might stick a VirtualBox instance on there with Linux for the server-y bits. Shall wait and see. Expect it'll probably go XBMC-on-Linux, though.
My little RB keeps me connected to a small VPN of random enthusiast types. We do this mostly just for the hell of it, but one feature is access to suitable file shares on our LANs.

I've held off on opening any of that up for the moment as I didn't want to risk having my upstream slagged. But here's how to do a really simple rate limit on data coming from a specific host on my network to destinations on the VPN:

/ip firewall mangle
add action=mark-packet chain=prerouting disabled=no dst-address= \
    new-packet-mark=files passthrough=no protocol=tcp src-address=

/queue simple
add burst-limit=0/0 burst-threshold=0/0 burst-time=0s/0s direction=both \
    disabled=no interface=all limit-at=0/0 max-limit=1M/1M name=vpn-files \
    packet-marks=files parent=none priority=8 queue=default/default \

The host on my end is The VPN more broadly is 10/8. Those two rules are all it takes. 1Mbps is about a third of my upstream, which is enough to let people slowly snarf things without any real noticeable impact on my own use of my net connection.
I keep reading it as "Kindle Kloud Reader". Gah.

Anyway. Read a couple of chapters this afternoon. It works pretty well, overall.

As noted elsewhere by many others, there's no page-turn animation. I know it's possible to do such a thing in a HTML5 application on the iPad, the reader does a nice fast sliding animation -- it slides the new page in over the old.

This takes a little getting-used-to, it's surprising how much one's brain is wired to expect something more than an instant screen redraw with the new text appearing immediately.

The one criticism I will make of it as it stands is that the offline mode does not appear to work, or at least it doesn't for me. It tries to cache the application, there's a little message at the bottom of the Library screen indicating that it is trying to do so, which is eventually replaced with an error.

If that can be made to work reliably, then they'll be well on their way to having a quite usable alternative to the native application, should Apple try to play silly-buggers later.
Back in April I suggested that Amazon might want to go the web-app route for Kindle.

Well, guess what Amazon just did?

Apple backed down a bit from their previous position -- if your app provides access to purchased content then you must make that content available via Apple, with a 30% cut going to Apple, and no discounts for customers who bypass Apple and go direct -- and the rule now is that you simply can't have any sort of in-app store or links within your app to a web store.

But presumably Amazon not unreasonably figured they needed a backup plan, and there it is. It's not bad. It's missing some features, but for a first cut it's a pretty decent effort. And it means they can support niche platforms like the HP TouchPad or RIM PlayBook without having to produce a native app.

I'll try reading the next few chapters of my current book with it on my iPad and see how it goes.
I've had my HTC Desire for about eighteen months now. Probably a little longer. It's not strictly necessary to upgrade or replace it, but there are some rather shinier toys out there now, and I'm the kind of guy who winds up thinking about it a lot.

My new gig -- which I start in a couple of weeks -- includes a phone as part of the package. Not sure exactly what models are available, just that they have "some pretty nice" smartphones on the list, including some Android models. It's a telco, and I can make a reasonable guess that the options will match up with what they sell to consumers, so either the HTC Sensation or the Samsung Galaxy S II is probably on that list.

And there's a fair chance the iPhone 4 is, too.

Anyway. I've been increasingly disenchanted with Google. It started out with their rather boneheaded "real names" policy with Google+, but the way they've handled the fallout from that, the complete lack of transparency, the apparent gagging of dissident employees, and their general failure to be able to deal with "product service" -- remember, we're not the customers, we're the product -- makes me leery of relying on them too much for anything I couldn't do without.

There are other options in search. There are other options in mail. Calendar and contact management is a little hairier, but there are alternatives and there will eventually be more.

There are also other options in mobiles.

An Android handset needs (or at the least very much wants) a Google account. If something goes wrong with that Google account, your phone is basically screwed in a bunch of ways. I'm not sure I'm happy with my phone being tied to an online service such that if I were to have my access withdrawn I'd be facing considerable inconvenience, particularly in a situation where I'm a product rather than a paying customer and the company running that service has a bit of a track record for not knowing how to do the people stuff.

(Hell, if what I hear around the place is true, they have an active disdain for "people stuff" as part of the corporate culture.)

So, I don't know. I might well try for an iPhone 4S/5 or whatever when it comes out. But the Nokia N9 is looking increasingly appealing, even with that whole "DOA" thing going on. It may have a rather limited app ecosystem, but on the other hand Nokia isn't trying to sell me and my data to anyone at all. They're a phone company, not a data-mining advertising firm.
So, I've decided how to handle the mail thing.

Google let you set up "alias domains". Any mail that arrives at GMail for a user in that alias domain gets mapped to your main domain. So "" == "" as far as Google is concerned., if you pay for an "enhanced" account, let you set up virtual domains with up to 500 aliases, and those aliases can be internal (i.e., users) or external.

So my MXes now point to fastmail's incoming SMTP boxes. Anything for anyone at who isn't me goes to, anything for me goes to

It'll take some time to migrate all my filters/etc across, but I reckon it'll be worth it to be a paying customer and not have to be concerned about any of the stuff one ought to be concerned about when hosting with Google.

Calendar/contacts is still unsolved, will have to leave those with Google for now. There just isn't any really good alternative that isn't basically just moving from one faceless corporate who has no cause to give a shit to another.


Aug. 5th, 2011 01:40 pm
Now I have a TV which doesn't suck (I finally replaced my ten-year-old 32" widescreen CRT with a nice 46" LCD) I've felt inclined to poke around a lot more with XBMC on the AppleTV.

Skin-wise, really digging "Ellipsis". Nice clean design, everything's big and easy to see from a distance.

Much to my pleasure it turns out some people have made an unofficial add-on repository for Australian "catch-up" TV. You can find it here. Download the zip file, scp it to the aTV, use the "install from zip file" option in the add-on manager, install the ones you want from there.

They all seem to work just fine. The ABC iView one is the most useful as iView has a decent amount of content. ABC News24 is just a live stream, which I can get from my digital STB with better picture quality. Channel 10 has very little. Plus7 is kind of lacking in anything I care about, but may float your boat. SBS works properly too.

Now, if I could just get the Pandora add-on working properly I'd be over the moon. I've got Pandora working on desktops, and via the browser on the PS3, but the XBMC add-on can't log in. Looking over the forum thread on the subject it seems kind of dodgy. Oh well. Not the end of the world, I've got Radio Paradise…
I have an AppleTV. It's on My gateway is a RouterOS box. Among the routes out of my LAN that it knows is a VPN that terminates in the US.

I'd already been routing specific destination addresses down that VPN, so any attempt to hit Pandora would go that way and thus work. But this isn't really adequate for stuff like Hulu where it's a giant mess of Akamai-fu.


/ip firewall mangle
add action=mark-routing chain=prerouting disabled=no new-routing-mark=usa \
passthrough=yes src-address=

/ip route
add disabled=no distance=1 dst-address= gateway=nycvpn routing-mark=\
usa scope=30 target-scope=10

And now any packet originating on will appear to the outside world as though it came from a machine in New York City.

The RouterBox is dirt cheap. It's a quality bit of kit that can do most of the things you'd expect from a "real" Cisco router. This is just one of the things that makes it awesome.
Nuked my Desire Yet Again™. I had been running CyanogenMod 7.1RC1 with all the GO replacement parts (Launcher, Contacts, SMS, Keyboard), but I found that occasionally GO Launcher would go unresponsive -- which was deeply inconvenient at 1AM when I wanted to change the alarm clock! -- and CM7.1 simply ate too much of the built-in storage, particularly given the number of extra widgets and whatnot I was using.

So now it's Oxygen 2.1.6, which is a fairly stripped-back ROM based on AOSP 2.3.4. And I bit the bullet and paid for SBP Shell 3D. This is yet another replacement launcher for Android, and it comes with a bunch of rather well-designed widgets.

SBP made pretty much the best-regarded replacement shell for Windows Mobile, back in the day, so they've got a lot of experience doing this kind of thing. What they've done here is quite good, and I suppose once you consider the number of nicely-designed widgets they've included the $15 price tag isn't completely insane, even if it is pretty high by Android app standards.

And here's a screenshot of my "home" screen:

Read more... )
There's a basic problem combining Lion's Mail with GMail: if you need to keep the web interface working in a sensible manner and you use the server-side filtering and labels, then you're kind of screwed.

Either you go with the defaults Mail sets up and you lose access to everything that isn't in your inbox, or you remove the IMAP prefix setting and you get doubles of everything.

There is a way around it, but it's probably not a great idea for the non-tech people out there. You need to use offlineimap and an IMAP server on your local machine.

I use Homebrew for random open sauce applications. If you want to treat this post as a recipe, I suggest installing that. It's dead easy, just make sure you have Xcode installed, then run the one-liner they provide in their install instructions.

To install offlineimap, run (as yourself) "brew install offlineimap". I'm using Dovecot as my IMAP server, to install that run "brew install dovecot".

You next need to configure Dovecot. Go into /usr/local/etc, copy dovecot-example.conf to dovecot.conf. I changed "protocols" to "imap", "ssl" to "no", "login_user" to "_dovecot" (as this already exists), and "mail_location" to "milder:~/Maildir".

Then go into /etc/pam.d and copy "login" to "dovecot" so Dovecot can authenticate you.

Finally, do the last two steps (3 and 4) you get from "brew info dovecot" to set up and enable the IMAP service.

At this point I suggest configuring Mail to talk to your local server. Give it your GMail address and your local password, it should fail to connect to GMail (you do use different passwords, yes?), just keep on going through with it failing and it will eventually give you a dialog where you can set the username to your local username and the host to "localhost". It should then connect and find nothing.

You can confirm it connected by looking in ~/Maildir, you should now see the usual stuff you'd find in an empty maildir, e.g., "cur", "new", and "tmp" directories.

If you haven't got this much working, you need to debug it and figure out why not before going any further!

Now you want to get offlineimap to suck mail from GMail and stick it in your local IMAP folders. Drop something not entirely unlike this in ~/.offlineimaprc:

accounts = GMail
ui = Noninteractive.Quiet

[Account GMail]
localrepository = LocalImap
remoterepository = Remote
autorefresh = 10
quick = 5

[Repository LocalImap]
type = IMAP
remotehost = localhost
remoteuser = me
remotepass = password
maxconnections = 2
ssl = no

[Repository Remote]
type = IMAP
ssl = yes
remotehost =
remoteuser =
remotepass = gmailpassword
holdconnectionopen = yes
maxconections = 1

# pick one of the below:
# (for a single server)
nametrans = lambda foldername: re.sub('^INBOX', 'INBOX', foldername)
folderfilter = lambda foldername: not'(^\[Google Mail\])', foldername)

Then do a first run to sync it all and make sure everything's happy by running "offlineimap -u TTY.TTYUI". This may well take a very long time if you've got a fair bit of mail. That's okay, just let it run and you'll be fine.

Once it finishes syncing for the first time, follow the instructions Homebrew gave you when it finished installing offlineimap to create a launchd item. This will make sure offlineimap starts up every time you log in.

One small quirk I noticed is that offlineimap gets the timestamps on some of the maildir files wrong and Mail uses that rather than the header contents to get the received date. You can work around this after Mail does its first sync by quitting Mail, then deleting the files "Envelope Index*" in ~/Library/Mail/V2/MailData. Restart Mail, it'll think it has to import your mailbox, which just makes it reindex the cache, and then you're golden!


Jul. 25th, 2011 06:34 pm
I've been running Lion on my 2010 Macbook Pro since release day. Yeah, I'm a sucker for the new shiny. I know.

Anyway. There are plenty of good reviews online. I recommend the ArsTechnica review as it's every bit as thorough as their full OS reviews usually are.

The install was of course very easy. The App Store placed an installer in the Dock, I went in to the package and snarfed the disk image before starting, then ran it. It did its thing, and a while later I had a Lion system up and running.

I did however make one big mistake: I fired off the full-disk encryption on the boot volume, then started deleting lots of stuff in an effort to clean up cruft. This seems to have confused matters in some way, as I wound up with it insisting there was only 80GB free no matter how much stuff I deleted. Rebooting into the shiny new recovery partition and letting it do a filesystem repair (there were some errors) seemed to fix things, but then it was back to the same once I rebooted into the OS again.

So, as I have Time Machine backing everything up, and wanted to reclaim the space I'd allocated to Boot Camp anyway, I decided to do a clean install.

Trying to do this from the recovery partition was a non-starter as Disk Utility can't repartition the disk it's booted from. But it can burn an image to DVD, so I did that and booted from the DVD instead. That worked Just Fine and I got a nice clean Lion install.

The Migration Assistant noticed the Time Machine disk and kindly offered to restore from it. I opted to let it restore settings and my home directory but not applications, and that worked Just Fine as well.

However. Trying to restore applications piecemeal from Time Machine didn't go as smoothly. The disk names were different (I renamed the boot volume while I was at it) so the browser wouldn't show the old content. Easy enough to work around by poking through the backup volume with Finder and copying what I wanted out of there.

Compatibility with my apps has so far been great, but I don't have any really old legacy PPC applications I care about. I'd expected VMware Fusion to give trouble, but it didn't. Can't recall if I'd installed an update any time in the last six months…

Spaces is no longer a sort of second-class afterthought kind of deal, it's a key part of the workflow enabling the full screen apps and providing access to the widgets. So I've embraced that -- where I used to ignore it in favour of just using Expose and a single desktop -- by running VMware full-screen in one desktop, Chrome with just my GMail account full-screen in another. Control-left/right to flip between these is very convenient, though Spaces is still weirdly inconsistent when returning to a space with a pile of windows. It really needs to get a clue about this: if you switch back with control-whatsit then you should go back to exactly the state it was in last time, if you go back by alt-tabbing to an app in that space, then that app should have foreground.

Full-disk encryption is neat. My primary machine is a laptop which I use as a desktop most of the time -- external display, keyboard, mouse -- but hey, might as well. The GUI understands the need to unlock volumes when accessed for the first time pretty much everywhere it matters, so I've got my Time Machine and scratch volumes encrypted too.

Autocorrect in text edit widgets is nice but taking a little getting used-to.

I notice that Crossover Games isn't too happy with Lion. Not a huge loss, I don't use it much anyway.

The Emacs build I had from Snow Leopard was fine, but when I wiped-and-reinstalled of course I needed to redo that. I use homebrew for my OS X open sauce packaging. The recipe there needed a few tweaks (compiler and linker options, it wants -fno-pie for both) to make it build, but 23.3 doesn't like Lion -- you get no titllebar and an inconveniently-located window.

Building from HEAD fixes that. Some nice new tweaks in Gnus too, which is cool.

Hm. What else? Lots of tweaks, iTunes is 64-bit and a Cocoa re-write. Chrome was a bit crash-y at first but seems to have settled down (touch wood), it may have done a silent upgrade in the last day or so. I'm using Safari as my primary browser for a while, just to see how it goes -- and because I suspect that once iOS 5 drops I'll want to use the Reading List function a lot. So far so good on that score too.

Switched to iChat as primary IM client for now. My main problem with previous versions was the "one 'buddy list' per service" model and they've fixed that now. I have a shiny new webcam so I may as well use a client that'll work with it.

The new Mail looks awesome but GMail is a crappy IMAP service so I'm not using it right now. Once iCloud drops I'll be giving that a serious look and maybe trialling it for my mail/calendar needs -- Apple has plenty of flaws, but it does at least have a customer service department, unlike Google. And I'm seriously thinking about moving back to the iPhone when the next version hits, depending on a bunch of things. But more on that can of worms later in some other post, eh?

Anyway. Lion, pretty good.


Abort, Rephrase, Ignore?

October 2011

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