Tales and thoughts from the founder of NormSoft (maker of Pocket Tunes), working and living in St. Croix, USVI

Tuesday, March 30, 2004


So if you can't get your TH55 to connect to your WiFi access point, check the access point's channel.  Apparently the TH55 doesn't work with channels of 7 or higher.  Nice...

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Baaba Maal

I went to see Baaba Maal at the Sommerville theater last night.  It was absolutely incredible.  I first heard his music on Napster 2, but I had no idea what the live performance would be like.  It was extremely up-beat; I think I worked off 1,000 calories just watching it!  They did some amazing dances and dueling (between a drummer and vocalist), and they really got the audience involved in the music.  It was quite improvisational, and a few audience members joined them on stage for a short bit of dancing and music-making.  Overall, I enjoyed it immensely, and I highly recommend seeing his band if they're playing locally.


Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Stolen Credit Card Verification

So apparently someone decided that my web site would be a good place to verify their stolen credit card list.  He placed about a dozen orders with obviously false information.  Since my shopping cart is automated, it can't tell that "khkljhl" is any different from "john" for someone's name, so it just processes the orders.

I ended up blocking the entire C class of IP addresses where he was coming from (somewhere in .ae United Arab Emirates), and I'll have to keep an eye out for crap like this in the future.

I'd like to limit orders to 1 or 2 per day for each IP address, but that would mess up people behind big firewalls.  I could store their last order in a cookie, but that's easily circumvented by deleting the cookie between each order.

Can't think of a great solution except to keep blocking addresses when people do this kind of thing...


Monday, March 15, 2004

Breaking Away Bicycle Tours

Okay, I found a replacement for my bike tour: Breaking Away Bicycle Tours.  I talked to Greg Hogan, its directory, on the phone, and he was very accomodating and managed to squeeze me into their almost-full tour.  The dates are almost the same, so I can keep my flight.  Sweet, I'm going to France afterall. :)


Discover Card

Someone allegedly from Discover card just called me (the caller ID said "Unknown number") asking me to fax them a "proof of address" like a bill or something, plus my Discover merchant account number.  We've been a Discover merchant for about 8 months now.  Yeah, that sounds legitimate...


La Corsa Tours

Well, La Corsa Tours just cancelled my bike tour on me.  Great!  Time to go searching for another tour at the last minute.  I called them up, and spoke with Lori, and at first she was a bit rude and defensive, which really put me off.  But I insisted that she help me find another tour to go on that matched what they were offering, and she became much more friendly and gave me some good advice.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Trek 5200

Test rode a Trek 5200 at Wheelworks today.  Man, that thing rides smooth!  Also looking at the Specialized Roubaix Comp, but I'm not sure about those gimmicky inserts.  Rides nice, though.

Gotta have a nice bike for my trip to France this summer!!


Wednesday, March 10, 2004


What the hell!  Microsoft's new SP3 for Outlook XP now has even stricter blocking of access to the address book.  This breaks all kinds of things, like SpamNet.  This is getting ridiculous!


Tuesday, March 09, 2004

USB Hell

I'm in USB Hell right now.  I bought a USB hard disk (it also has a Firewire interface, but the stupid makers of Firewire decided to have two cable standards, so I have to wait for the right cable to arrive).  I can't unmount the hard disk for some unknown reason (Windows says to "try again later".  Thanks!).  So out of desperation, I unplugged it, and now I can't use that USB port for anything else.

Add to the fact that I just bought a D-Link 7-port USB hub, which ocassionally (5-10 times per day) flakes out and needs to be unplugged and plugged in again, and it's USB Hell.  How many USB devices do I have?  Let's see.  A mouse, hard disk, 2 card readers, USB->serial cable adapter, and numerous Palms.  Argh!


Monday, March 08, 2004

Windows 2003 Server

Dr. Dobb's came with a Windows Server 2003 CD this month.  The CD package is called "Essentials of Windows for UNIX Developers".  Interesting; seems Microsoft realizes that they want to convert UNIX developers over to Windows.

Personally, I'll program for whatever OS there's a market for.  (That doesn't quite explain why I'm writing low-priced consumer apps for the Palm, but hey; I like to have fun, too!)


Friday, March 05, 2004

Tree Removal

Going back to my first post in this blog, the construction workers are now removing several trees from the road in order to complete the bridge work.  I've never seen anything like it.  They have a small crane that they drove up in front of our driveway.  They extend the crane all the way, drop the hook, and send someone up on it.  He ties a rope around the tree and ties it to the hook.  Then he slides down his rope, and ties himself at a lower point on the tree.  He then releases his rope from the crane, pulls out his chainsaw, and cuts the trunk.  The tree then gets pulled up with the crane and deposited in the road.  Then it gets thrown into a chipper.  Repeat for all major branches and finally the main trunk, and they're done.  Next tree.

I'm curious to see how they do the bik oak tree in our front yard.  They have to go over the electric lines somehow.  Initially, the contacted us and wanted to put the crane in our front yard, but we told them "No way" because we have a septic tank there.  They also wanted to cut our electricity for a few days, which we also vetoed; how can NormSoft operate without electricity :)

Weather.com Gold

So weather.com just started offering a Gold service for $20/year.  You get no ads, faster maps, blah blah blah.  I've always said that I would sign up for such a service if it existed, so I felt obliged to do so.

It's a good idea, but so far it's plagued with problems.  The web interface is really confusing to use.  It took me 15 minutes to figure out how to customize my main page.  And it doesn't offer as much functionality as the free version!  For example, you can't click on a particular day in the 10-day forecast and see the detailed forecast for that day.

I wrote them a letter of complaint; I'll probably never hear back from them.


Thursday, March 04, 2004

Virus Block

Hmm, my blog is turning into a list of complaints about email.  I promise to post something Palm-related soon!

So I finally get fed up with all the viruses I've been getting via email lately (several hundred per day; it makes my Treo 600 nearly useless for receiving emails), so I wrote a Perl script and filtered all my email through it.  Any email with an attachment that ends with .com, .exe, .scr, .bat, or .pif will be blocked.  Unfortunately, that doesn't cover the new viruses like Netsky that send ZIP files.  After some thought (and copious searching of CPAN for useful modules), I added code to extract ZIP attachments from all emails received and parse the contents.  Here's the algorithm I used:

  • If the ZIP file contains a .com, .scr or .pif file, it's blocked.  No one sends those files these days.
  • If the ZIP file contains a .exe file, then check to see if it has a double-extension (e.g. ".htm.exe").  If so, block it.
Netsky sometimes sends out viruses that are in ZIP files without a double extension (e.g. document.exe inside document.zip).  So those will get through.  But I think I've hit about 99% of the viruses I get every day, so I'm pretty happy with this figure.
Just in case I'm blocking any legitimate emails, I log all the blocked emails to a directory and email a report to myself once a day.  A quick two-second scan of the subjects is enough to tell me that they're all trash.
If you're interested in the Perl code, I'd be happy to share it.  Just send me an email.  It works as a qmail command, but I'm sure you could modify it for your use.