Some Mechanical Keyboardery

I blame Dan Rutter, damn him.

Specifically, I blame his post back in 1999 on – this one:, followed about six years later by his difficult second album,, and then his seminal
I don’t think I was cool enough to actually read the 1999 post in 1999, but I was well into buckling spring driven clickery by about 2000, with this baby:

Clicky awesomeness

Standard NATO IBM Model M keyboard














This one was in the discard heap at work. A quick clean and… I was hooked, forever to be known as the unapologetic bloke with the incredibly noisy keyboard. One keyboard seemed like a fine idea for a while.
But then…

Clicky buckling spring sweetness

IBM Model M with integrated trackpoint














Bought from the helpful chaps at (it’s possibly this one) on a work trip to the USA and thus avoiding ridiculous shipping costs, this was the next step down a noisy, slippery slope. Hey, one clicky keyboard for work, and one for home, it just makes sense.
Flatmates? They’ll just have to harden up. Workmates? Ditto. It’s the sound of work being done – do you hate productivity?!
This one even came with a track point, which I quite like as a pointing device, and in a fetching shade of olive-grey. Back then these were cheap, so who could resist?

For whatever reason I’ve not picked up the hatred for the Windows key, perhaps because I was never a hardcore twitch gamer and so being booted out of your game in the heady days of Windows XP didn’t really happen so much as to annoy me. Or perhaps I just don’t remember.
At about the same time as my brother had finally worn me down and convinced me to try the Apple side of life, I grabbed a Unicomp 104 key Spacesaver (misnomer) on another work trip to the States. Keyboard shortcuts on the new OS made easier with a full set of bottom row keys. Sweet.

Alternative use: killing zombies.

Just like the original, but USB and has a full set of bottom row keys… kinda handy for OS X.














Surely, surely I was done by now. Three clicky keyboards, more springs to buckle then any bloke should ever need, and it’s not like they wear out unless used for office cricket / bludgeoning the undead (I believe I may have just channeled one of Dan’s reviews then).

A passing fling with something faintly resembling ergonomics, the desire to keep my mouse nearer the middle of my workspace rather than waaaay over there, and a fateful click at my friends and I found myself with more IBM sourced luggage, this time in the form of an Model M 84-key.
Ah, ones first TKL…

Twenty five plus years of TKL clucky goodness.

The original (and supposedly now hardish to get) TenKeyLess Model M.














All was well for years, and Yoda like levels of control kept the household keyboard count down below the threshold of pathological diagnosis. Switching daily between OS X at home and various flavours of Windows at work with different jobs kept each of the keyboards in rotation at different times, however the Model M TKL was my daily driver at work up to Windows 7.

Cue volunteering to be a beta tester of Microsoft Surface 2’s prior to a wide rollout, and the lack of a Windows key drove a search for a Unicomp TKL. However, no such animal existed, and Reddit came to the rescue.

Specifically r/MechanicalKeyboards, and the friendly people in that subreddit. Friendly obsessives, all speaking a language that an old bugger like me hadn’t much sense of – TKL this and Reds and Browns and clouds of… anyway, the Dark Side beckoned, and I coveted a Code TKL keyboard with Cherry MX Greens.

New clickiness, first Cherry.

WASD / Code TKL with Cherry MX Green switches and O rings.














And lo, it arrived, and all was… odd. Kinda good, I like it, but they’re not buckling springs, and, well, a review and impressions of a Model M to Code Green transition is to follow.

Now, this post was typed on this:

Not so clicky, but mechanical and quite nice.

A Topre 45 gram uniform keyboard, in 60% format.














Further down the mechanical rabbit hole we go, with a Leopold FC660C in 60% format, with uniform 45g Topre switches.
Review and four-way comparison to follow.

Cheers for sticking with me this far!







Posted on May 23, 2014 at 22:29 by ecods · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Cool Kit, General Nerdery, Hardware, Review

2013 Queensland School Handwriting Fonts – Free QBeginner, QBeginner Bold, and QCursive

In case anyone is looking for the Queensland fonts for their computer, the electronic versions of the fonts of QBeginner, QBeginner Bold, and QCursive are available for free download from Education Queensland. Unfortunately the dotted version of QBeginner doesn’t seem to be available at this time (7th of May 2013).
It’s a great resource for free that if you search around, you’d get the impression you need to pay for it. Hats off to EQ.
Disclaimer: Use at your own risk, if your computer explodes I take no responsibility, and my rates for ad-hoc technical support are an extremely reasonable $73,496 per hour, cash up front.
Links to downloads
The page for the fonts, and a whole lot of other writing resources, is: 
The specific links from that page to each of the font downloads are below – I suggest taking note of where they download to for the later installation steps:
Installing the fonts on your computer
For Mac users:
  • Whilst the instructions on the EQ pages are maybe OK, they don’t inspire confidence in me.
  • I strongly suggest you ignore the EQ installation advice for Mac OS X.
  • Ignore warnings on that EQ page that the fonts don’t work in Microsoft Word on a Mac, I’ve tested it and they work fine in all applications if you install .
  • Have a look at these links (a YouTube video, and an official Apple help page) for better instructions on how to install on your Mac using the inbuilt application “Font Book”:
      • Pretty easy – double click on any xxxx.ttf font file, and it’ll automatically install.
      • Ignore any “Font Validation” warnings that pop up upon adding the QBeginners fonts (they popped up for me), they’re minor issues with kerning, and if you know what kerning is, then you probably don’t need these instructions, as you’re a font nerd!
      • Read all of the “Preview and install fonts” portion first, as you’ll want to change the preferences in Font Book to install fonts to all users of the computer by default.
      • Ignore any “Font Validation” warnings that pop up upon adding the QBeginners fonts.
For Windows users:
Other stuff
There’s also a bunch of other useful writing stuff on that EQ page, not least of which are the Handwriting and spelling activities that are linked as downloadable PDFs. These have full arrowed instructions on writing each letter, flash cards, etc. and look pretty good.
Thanks again to the Queensland Department of Education for the free Queensland handwriting fonts.
Posted on May 7, 2013 at 16:30 by ecods · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Dad Stuff, How To... · Tagged with: , , , ,

How To: Mac OS X 10.6 Error “Software Update can’t check for updates because of a network problem.”

Odd problem – when attempting to install a new printer (a HP B210 all in one), one that OS X can actually see fine via Bonjour, the final step (“Add Printer”) doesn’t work as the following error message appears:

“Software Update can’t check for updates because of a network problem.”

I had good network connectivity, Safari, iTunes, Chrome, Mail etc all working fine.

The following didn’t help me:
1. Restarting the Mac.
2. Changing to a different network interface (from ethernet to 802.11N to 802.11G and back to ethernet).
3. Deleting /Library/Preferences/ , /Home/Library/Preferences/ and /Home/Library/Preferences/ByHost/ as we ll as the entire folder at /Home/Library/Caches/ , emptying the trash and restarting.

A piece of advice I noted a few times was to create a new user on the Mac with Admin rights, and see if that worked. If it did, transfer all user info to the new profile and trash the old one.
I didn’t do this – I held it as a final nuke from orbit option.

Finally I found a post on the Apple Support Communities here ( – look at the end of page 2).

Hats off to user gpolk50.

Re: Software Update can’t check for updates because of a network problem.
15/10/2009 11:29 AM (in response to Gerchak)
Solved it! I had the same issue and just fixed my problem by resetting my proxy settings for my connections.

Navigate to Apple Menu > System Preferences > Network

In the left window pane you should see your current connections (AirPort, Ethernet, Firewire, etc.)

Select whatever connection you are experiencing the problem with and hit the minus symbol at the bottom of the pane (thus deleting the connection)

Hit apply.

Click the “Plus” button and re-add the connection(s) you just deleted.

Hit apply.


For good measure, I deleted “Airport” and “Ethernet”, restarted, and added them back in.


Posted on May 3, 2011 at 04:15 by ecods · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Uncategorized

How To: Temporary fix to OS X runaway memory hog (pdftopdf)

Short version:

– Merrily working away, writing a document, in email, printing an attachment, browsing web, etc. All very standard.

– All of  a sudden, no disk space left! But wait a sec, I had 13Gb free on my system disk (an SSD) just a few minutes ago! Now the system is extremely sluggish. No spare RAM! HDD disk is now nearly full. All has gone to custard.

– Cue a flurry of attempts to find out the cause of the problem… rapid disk filling seems to be related to a spotlight bug. Disable Spotlight on all disks. No joy, didn’t make anything better.

– All troubleshooting is to no avail. Go to bed.

The next morning, after a bunch of searching the web, I realise that I am not viewing ALL processes in Activity Monitor. When I view all, there’s an obvious culprit – pdftopdf is consuming all RAM, and the Virtual Memory then fills up the HDD.

Killed pdftopdf.

All well for now.

Looks like a rogue pdf file I was emailed (perfectly innocently).

System back to normal now.

Posted on October 23, 2010 at 07:59 by ecods · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Uncategorized

Opinion: Online Grocery Shopping – Seattle, USA

Young kids?

Two parents working?

We’ve used quite regularly (a couple of times a month, most months) over the past year or so in Seattle, and are pretty happy with the service, the quality of the food, the ordering system, the delivery options and the cost.

A quick summary:

– Ordering system: An interesting option is to simply type (or paste, or select a previously saved) free text list into Safeway’s “Express List”, separating items with carriage returns. Hit “Save & Search” and a the site makes a surprisingly useful attempt at filling your list on an item by item basis. It’s a version of the standard workflow of search-choose-search-choose-etcetera, but more along the lines of list-choose-choose-choose-etcetera.

– Quality of the food: In general, pretty good, and much the same as would have been chosen in-store

– Delivery: Reasonably priced, tiered costs based on the narrowness of the delivery window you require.


Posted on June 12, 2010 at 13:58 by ecods · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Opinion · Tagged with: , ,

How To: Keep Steam for Mac Data in an Alternate Location

Steam for Mac is great, and I’m really enjoying Portal at the moment.

I recently upgraded the storage setup of my new Core i7 MacBook Pro 15″ by:
– swapping the boot drive to an 80Gb SSD (Intel X-25M V2)
– swapping the optical drive to a 500Gb HDD (using an Optibay)
– installing the optical drive in an external USB2 caddy.

Because space on the boot drive is now quite precious, I wanted a way to store all of the Steam game content on the HDD, rather than the SSD. A quick Google search found me this page: A PDF of the page is preserved here for posterity.

I followed the instructions for sorting out a symbolic link (aka a ‘hard link’) and all is sweet!

This of course should work for pretty much any similar need, not just for Steam.

Easy peasy. Recommended.

Posted on June 12, 2010 at 13:38 by ecods · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: General Nerdery, How To..., Software · Tagged with: , ,

How To: Successfully switch between multiple iTunes accounts from different countries

I have, up until just now, been vexed. Vexed by the seemingly random nature of my iPhone 3G’s reactions when switching between my Australian and my US iTunes accounts.

It’s quite simple: once upon a time, I lived in Australia, and bought a number of applications for my iPhone using my Australian iTunes account; now, I live in the US, and have bought a number of applications using my US iTunes account. To the best of my knowledge, having multiple iTunes accounts is the only way to buy applications that are limited (for some reason that involves pure bastardry) by geography – yet another manifestation of the stupidity that brought us DVD region coding. But I digress…

On the iPhone, if I was to enter the App Store, I might see that updates are available for one or more apps on my phone. I have a desire to update them all, being a sad addict to the latest and greatest.

However, vexation ensues – some apps update, but a dialogue pops up stating that “Your account is only valid for the US version, so bugger off.” or something to that effect.

Hey, whisky tango foxtrot, I have a US iTunes account! Oh, I’m currently logged in with my Australian account. OK, simple fix, in the App Store, log out and log back in with the other account, then re-check for updates…. Right?

Nope. Not a sausage. I try to log in and out of different accounts, to no avail. Hilarity ensues. Swearing closely follows.

Until this evening, when I decided to:

  1. Open the App Store on my iPhone 3G.
  2. Check for updates with my US account.
  3. Update all apps bought or procured using the US iTunes account, which bounces me back to the home screens.
  4. Open the App Store again.
  5. Log out of my US account.
  6. Hit the Home button.
  7. Open the App Store again.
  8. Log in with my Australian account.
  9. Hit the Home button.
  10. Open the App Store again.
  11. Update all apps bought or procured using the Australian iTunes account.
  12. Write this article.

So, now I have a workaround, and if you were having the same issue, so too do you.

Alternatively, log in to iTunes on one account, check for updates with it, and after you have all the updates downloaded, log in with your other account and do the same – synchronising your iPhone will now update all of your apps.

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 21:36 by ecods · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: General Nerdery, How To..., iPhone, Software, Uncategorized · Tagged with: , , , , ,

How To: Use a pair of older Airport Extremes to build a Dual-Band network (802.11 N and G)

A handy guide to setting up a dual band wireless network without buying a brand spanking new Airport Extreme. Why would one want to do such a thing? Well, if you have a bunch of devices that can take advantage of 802.11N (MacBook Pro, Mac Mini) and a bunch that can only do 802.11G (iPhone 3G, MacBook, etc), then this will allow the -N devices to work to their full potential. Speed. I. Am. Speed.

It works so long as you happen to have a couple of the older Airport Extremes just hanging about the place, which in my case, I do – one-with-802.11N-and-Gigabit-LAN-that’s-one-model-older-than-the-current-Dual-Band-Airport-Extreme (heretofore referred to as The Newer One), and an-older-one-with-802.11N-but-only-10/100-LAN-Airport-Extreme (The Older One).

This How To ain’t mine. In fact, I owe it to Gruber at Daring Fireball for pointing me in the direction of this very useful guide by some unnamed chap at

Hats off, Unnamed Chap!

As things have a habit of falling off the internet, I have archived a copy of Unnamed Chap’s post on this subject as a PDF. ‘Tis here.

Posted on August 10, 2009 at 11:38 by ecods · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: General Nerdery, Hardware, How To..., iPhone · Tagged with: , , , , , ,

How To: Synchronise Contacts & Appointments between a Work Windows/Exchange/Blackberry world and a Home Mac/Mobile Me/iPhone world

Here’s my setup. If yours is similar, then this post may help you.



The Goal

At work I have a decade+ of contacts, and years of calendar appointments, in Outlook, and I want to:

The Ideal Solution

One sync service to bind them all…

However, one small sticking point: no such thing exists, as far as I can see.*
*(feel free to point me at the One True Sync in the comments, I’m happy to be wrong on this and happy to pay money for The Ideal Solution).

The Alternative Solution

The previous statement about the Ideal Solution isn’t necessarily completely correct – it should probably read “without full control over all the key parts of your electronic world, no such thing exists, as far as I can see”.

If you have control of the entire system, then you probably have the ability to specify system components that work with each other and a single sync solution out of the box (or with minimal configuration).

In either case, you have a working synchronisation system – any reasonably objective observer should probably agree that, whether they prefer Windows PCs or they prefer the Mac, it’s entirely possible to have a working system that syncs Contact and Calendar data pretty well if you keep everything relatively homogenous.

Stepping back slightly from the black or white approach, you may decide that your Windows world can accommodate the odd iPhone or two, by upgrading and configuring your Exchange Server (2007 as a minimum, I think) appropriately to allow a mixed environment. I hear that this works pretty well. Hooking up your iPhone to the Exchange Server gives an iPhone user pretty much the same experience that Blackberry users get – instantish propagation of any updates you make to your Contacts or Calendar. Nice. You may have worked out that when it comes to getting the job done, seven times out of ten I am tool-agnostic… hence the benchmark for sync being the Blackberry experience. It works.

Out here in the world that I inhabit, my organisation controls their infrastructure with an iron fist, and has categorically stated that the iPhone will not be supported. Sound like you?
Oh, and if you’re in roughly the same boat as I am, then you’ll have noticed that using the available Apple tools, you can sync with Exchange, or you can can sync with Mobile Me, but you can’t sync with BOTH.

Damn and blast!

Never fear, for a solution is at hand…

The Half-Arsed Solution

Finally, you’ve waded through all this introductory prose, and here’s the meat. I make no claim to this being a unique solution to the problem outlined above, however I did quite a bit of searching and couldn’t find much that looks like a decent explanation or a How To. Perhaps it’s so obvious that any self respecting nerd finds it below him/her to actually spell it out. Perhaps my solution is a crime against nature, like boy bands or emo haircuts. Nevertheless…

To put it simply:

Ooh, but I hear Plaxo was bought by Comcast, and aren’t they meant to be a tad evil? Well, possibly, but trafficking with Comcast might well be worth it to not have to manually synchronise your information. Your decision.

In a little more detail:


  1. Signup for the Plaxo service.
    1. You’re looking for, in case that wasn’t obvious.
    2. There’s a bunch of extra features to Plaxo that may or may not be of any value to you; I don’t use any of them, I have enough social networking tools at my disposal, the last thing I need is yet another. Use ’em or ignore them, it’s irrelevant to the synchronisation functionality.
    3. Feel free to give Plaxo as little or as much profile information about you as you like – I gave ’em very little, although…
    4. Remember, you’re entrusting a copy of all of your contacts and all of your appointments to these guys, so read the T’s & C’s carefully… If you’re uncomfortable, proceed no further.
  2. Set up Plaxo in general.
    1. Plaxo works on the basis of a single central source of data on the Plaxo servers, with a number of ‘Sync Points’ (eg. the Plaxo Outlook plugin on my work PC, or the Plaxo preference pane on my Mac Mini) that are able to push information each way.

On the Work / PC side of things

  1. You don’t need to touch any of the following:
    1. MS Exchange.
    2. RIM BES.
    3. The Blackberry.
  2. You do need to install software and configure it on:
    1. Your Windows PC.
  3. Back up your PC.
  4. Back up all of your Outlook contacts, appointments and anything else you value. I suggest archiving each type of data to a separate .pst file, in case the sync process corrupts everything, or you want to ditch this idea as too hard roll back to a happier, simpler time.
  5. No, really, at least back up the Outlook bits. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  6. Ensure you have the ability to install the Plaxo plugin on the Windows / Outlook side of the house.
    • You may need to be a local administrator for your machine to allow this sort of thing.
    • If you’re not able to do it yourself, perhaps it’s time to be nice to your local sysadmin, IT helpdesk or anyone else with this level of control, and get them to do it for you. Good luck with that.
  7. Download & Install the Plaxo software on your Windows PC.
    • If you need instructions on downloading, this How To is too advanced for you. Stop now.
    • Install the software on your PC. Follow Plaxo’s bouncing ball. It’s been a while since I’ve done this, but it’s not difficult.

More to come…

MacHeist 3

Without wanting to make too big a deal out of it, it’s worth noting that the MacHeist bundle is about to expire, and it’s an opportunity to get hold of some sterling Mac applications on the cheap.


MacHeist 3 - Screenshot

Applications that you get for your US$39 / AU$55 / 27 quid  / 29 Euro are PhoneView, iSale, Picturesque, SousChef, World of Goo, LittleSnapper, Acorn, Kinemac, WireTap Studio, BoinxTV, The Hit List, Espresso, Cro-Mag Rally and Times.

Plus, if you pimp the deal on Twitter (“tweetblast”?), you also get the following thrown in: Delicious Library 2 and Multiwinia.

I must admit that I pretty much bought the bundle for Delicious Library 2 (which I had been thinking of buying at full retail), PhoneView (as I’d like to be able to get data off my iPhone 3G without too much hackery), and Picturesque; the other applications look useful to varying degrees, however I’m treating them as nice to have freebies that came along with a US$75 discount on the three applications that I really wanted. I suspect that I’m far from being Robinson Crusoe in this regard.


More details here – and here – .

Discussion of the pros and cons related to this sort of thing can be found at Daring Fireball (with many links to other discussion of the topic).

Posted on April 7, 2009 at 12:38 by ecods · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: General Nerdery, Software · Tagged with: 

Apple OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server

A tidied up version of a collection of posts on This thread, for reference. 

I’ve been trying to find info on Snow Leopard Server for a while, as it seems pretty interesting from a few perspectives, even for individuals.

My main interest is as to whether Snow Leopard Server is a possible replacement for the pair of Mobile Me memberships in our house (maybe more), used mainly to keep a few Macs and some iPhones in sync. 

I’m happy to be proven wrong here, but to my mind an investment of ~US$500 for Snow Leopard Server (10 client licence, to be run on an existing Mini, so no HW cost) compares favourably with a 2x ~US$99 / year recurring cost. The simple maths is that for the two of us, it’ll pay for itself in 2.5 years. Add my brother, plus my sister in law and my Dad with their iPhones and multiple Macs, and that cost is run down in a year. Oh, and this works if I value my time at no more than AU$0/hr…

Fine, fine, sure …as long as SLS can do the important bits of what Mobile Me can do. It doesn’t have to do everything Mobile Me does, just the important bits.

From what I’ve found through Googling, trawling through various Mac-focussed sites (including Apple), Apple is pitching Snow Leopard Server with features such as (the following are cribbed from from the aforementioned Apple site link, which is caveated “All features on this page are subject to change.”, of course.).
Bolded emphasis is mine.

Mail Server
Mac OS X Server’s open standards-based mail service is the ideal server for small businesses or companies looking to bring email in-house. Snow Leopard Server dramatically increases its performance and scalability with an overhauled engine designed to handle thousands of simultaneous connections. Mail services have been enhanced to include server-side email rules and vacation messages.

iCal Server 2
iCal Server, a calendaring and scheduling service based on open standards, was the first commercial CalDAV calendar server. Snow Leopard Server follows up with the next major release of iCal Server, which includes group and shared calendars, push notifications, the ability to send email invitations to non-iCal Server users, and a browser-based application that lets users access their calendars on the web when they’re away from their Mac.

Remote Access
Secure remote access to your business network has never been more critical than in today’s increasingly mobile world. Snow Leopard Server delivers push notifications to mobile users outside your firewall, and a proxy service gives them secure remote access to email, address book contacts, calendars, and select internal websites.

Address Book Server
Introducing the first open standards-based Address Book Server, Snow Leopard Server makes it easier than ever to share contacts across multiple computers. Based on the emerging CardDAV specification, which uses WebDAV to exchange vCards, Address Book Server lets users share personal and group contacts across multiple computers and remotely access contact information without the schema limitations and security issues associated with LDAP.

Addressing just the bits I’ve bolded, this suggests to my fevered imagination that SLS might be ‘Mobile Me For Enterprise’? I’m not the one who coined that phrase, but it kinda fits. 


Mail Server – ‘bring email in-house’

So, perhaps I can host my own mailserver, using my own domain(s), and not have to have an email address to get push email to my iPhone? I know, I know, there’s no mention of Push mail in the Apple blurb, but…


iCal Server – ‘push notifications’

…there you are!


Remote Access – ‘delivers push notifications to mobile users outside your firewall’

…and there we have the ‘p’ word again. In conjunction with ‘mobile users’, forsooth!


Now, a little more generally:


Push Notification seems to be tied to Snow Leopard Server

See Apple Insider’s commentary and analysis here, with page 2 here. The article also makes some interesting (YMMV!) incidental points regarding Push Notification Server and “Snow Leopard’s Mail, iCal, and Address Book … gaining high profile support for Exchange Server messaging, they’re also being updated to support open push messaging with Apple’s own Snow Leopard Server. Rather than being based on EAS, Apple’s own server push products are based on interoperable, open standards, the same as PNS.”.


It looks like ZFS support will initially be integrated into Snow Leopard Server

…and not the desktop OS X. Whilst Apple Insider seems to make sense at first with their point that Apple has a tendency to introduce some things in the Server version of the OS first, and then trickle them down later to the more consumer-oriented desktop version, I must admit to wondering how many server admins would be happy being guinea pigs…


For a different take on things, take a look at AppleInsider | Snow Leopard Server to ramp up scalability and performance.


Key points (much snipperage, read the full article for the details):

Migration to Dovecot for email services
In Snow Leopard Server, Apple will now be using Dovecot for POP and IMAP email services.    

According to the Dovecot project’s web site, the software is also “among the highest performing IMAP servers,” using self optimizing, transparent indexing of mail folders that support modification by multiple concurrent users. The software also supports IMAP extensions including IDLE push notifications, and provides plugins for handling ACL support and quota limitations. Apple is also expect to tout improvements of its own, including support for server side email rules and vacation messages.

OK, sounds like that’s covered an inbuilt Push Email server. Next…

Address Book Server strips contacts from LDAP   While Apple uses LDAP (lightweight directory access protocol) in Open Directory for managing network users, a new Address Book Server in Snow Leopard Server is reported to employ a different system to allow users on the network to share their personal and group contacts across multiple computers on the network. 

Similar to iCal Server, which debuted in Leopard Server, the new Address Book Server will make use of extensions to WebDAV, a protocol developed to make web servers accommodate both read and write operations. Both iCal Server and Address Book Server act as specialized web servers handling specific types of files, with iCal Server using CalDAV to manage event data, and Address Book Server using the CardDAV specification to manage contacts.

This enables Snow Leopard Server to support the rich contact records supported in Address Book without running into the schema limitations and security issues related to LDAP. Along with iCal Server and the mail services Apple provides using Dovecot, this will give Snow Leopard Server the integrated email, contacts, and calendar of Exchange without the cost of Exchange, or its steep resource demands related to its massive, specialized email database architecture.

OK, an all-encompassing third party statement, that I read as “Woohoo, Exchange for the rest of us”. Next!

iPhone-savvy Wiki services and remote access   

Along with sending push notifications to mobile users outside the company’s local network, Snow Leopard Server also enables mobile access for setting up secure incoming connections to remote users, providing them with proxy service access to their corporate email and intranet websites.

Keepin’ the dream alive for a Mac Mini-based Snow Leopard Server to replace a few Mobile Me accounts and act as a file server. Now all I need some some skills so I can run it…


eCods now has a Twitter account.
No, I don’t know why either…

Posted on February 12, 2009 at 13:59 by ecods · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: General Nerdery, Uncategorized · Tagged with: ,

Review: Panasonic DMC-LX3 Digital Camera


Panasonic DMC-LX3-K

Panasonic DMC-LX3-K

One of these just arrived at eCods’ Australian HQ, to replace both an older Canon G3 and a rather old Canon Ixus 400 compact, and to be the pocketable/handbaggable junior partner to a Canon 40D DSLR.

In lieu of actually doing some work and investing some thought and energy in our own review, here’s some links to reviews done by DPReview and then some initial impressions.

Specifications & Someone Else’s Review

I’ll spoil the ending of that comparison:

Ratings and recommendations

With such a varied group of cameras it’s impossible to pick a single camera we’d recommend to everyone – if you want lots of telephoto reach you probably won’t want the Panasonic LX3, for example, and if you want something pocketable the Canon G10 and Kodak Z8612 IS will be off your list. There are a couple of cameras we’d struggle to recommend to anyone – the Ricoh R10 is a lovely, well specified camera, but it just doesn’t take very good pictures, and one or two we’d suggest exercising caution over (such as the Nikon P6000, which isn’t as good as it thinks it is). The Kodak Z8612 IS offers an awful lot of camera for a remarkably low price, and would make a good ‘starter camera’ for a teenager wanting to learn a bit more about photography, but the image quality isn’t good enough for more serious applications.

The two real high end cameras here (the Canon G10 and Panasonic LX3) offer very different approaches to the concept of a compact SLR replacement, with the LX3 easily our preferred choice; given the choice we’d choose a smaller body and wider lens over more bulk and more telephoto every time.

If you do want telephoto capabilities and don’t want the bulk of an SLR (which will give you far faster focus at long focal lengths) or one of the many ‘SLR like’ ultra zoom cameras on the market, the compact super zooms offer a good compromise between performance and portability. There’s little to choose between the Canon SX110 IS and the Panasonic TZ5 (not to forget the Sony H10, reviewed here) – it’s more a matter of preference (the TZ5 gives you better wideangle and the SX110 gives you better telephoto and more manual control).

And the ‘winner’ (YMMV)…

Overall winner: Panasonic LX3

The Panasonic LX3 gets so many things right that we knew before we started it would be the camera to beat in this group. It’s not that it has the highest measurable resolution (the Canon G10 wins that one) or the biggest zoom range (in fact its one of the smallest here), or even that it offers the most intuitive controls (never going to be the case with a camera so small). No, what’s so impressive about the LX3 is that Panasonic has actually produced a camera aimed at photographers, not one designed by a marketing department. So instead of going for the easy option of adding even more megapixels and beefing up the other headline specs, the designers concentrated on the things that actually matter to a photographer.

Thus we get a fast zoom with a real wideangle, a superb screen and excellent image quality, including high ISO performance puts most competitors to shame. The LX3 is positively understated compared to some of its competitors, which loudly proclaim the ‘bigger is better’ rather than ‘less is more’, and it’s a far, far better camera for it. It’s small enough to carry anywhere, fast and subtle enough for street photography and good enough to produce a decent 8×10 without the need to use raw.

Of course it’s not perfect; the controls are pretty fiddly (as it’s so small) and there’s no telephoto to speak of, but if you want telephoto you’re not going to be considering this camera. If you want more SLR like controls and a longer zoom – and don’t mind the bulk – go for the Canon G10. Me personally? By that point I’m using an SLR. For a carry anywhere ‘walk around’ camera I’d go for the LX3 every time.

Initial Impressions

First impression 
Wow, it’s small, in a good way.

Second impression
I don’t think I’ll be too worried by the small zoom, and I really like the 24mm wide angle.

Third impression
Surely they can’t fit all those features in such a small piece of kit. 
It’s smaller than an iPhone 3G in width and height, with the body being about an inch thick, and the lens another inch on top of that. Eminently pocketable for a bloke, easily handbaggable for a lady.
Obviously not in the same ‘invisible’ class as a Canon SD, but significantly smaller than my old Canon G3. According to DPReview, the G3 = 121x74x70mm, the G10 = 109x78x46mm and the LX3 = 109x60x27. I think the “x27” is a furphy though, if thickness is defined as = camera back to lens front. I’d say it’s more like 109x60x46mm; so, a little smaller than the G10, but not much.

Capping and Strapping…
I’m not a huge fan of a removeable lens cap, as I reckon it’ll be more easily lost on a pocketable camera than on an SLR, due being used in different, more informal, settings. Also not a fan of neck straps in general (it comes supplied with a neck strap). Next steps then are to transfer the Op/Tech wrist strap off the G3 and onto the LX3, and also order an “Auto Lens Cap” designed for the Ricoh LC-1 camera. This lens cap, with the addition of a few bits of (invisible) padding, basically self-threads onto the LX3, and gives lens protection without the need to remove and replace a lens cap. More at this bloke’s site. Of course, a picture is worth a thousand words (pun intended), and a video probably adds at least three more words:

LX3 Lens cap modification

Lens Mod – LX3 – YouTube

Posted on February 11, 2009 at 17:11 by ecods · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Cool Kit, Dad Stuff, General Nerdery, Hardware, Review · Tagged with: , , , , ,

Un-Jailbreaking – “Re-virginising” the iPhone 3G

iPhone Hacks has a great guide to re-virginising the iPhone 3G –

Main points reposted here because the internet is a fickle beast.
Apologies to iPhoneHacks if they’re not impressed with the re-post of their guide; if so, please contact me.

Step-By-Step Guide to ReVirginize or Restore iPhone

One of the most commonly asked questions by iPhone users who want to jailbreak their iPhone is: “Is possible to recover if things go horribly wrong while trying to hack their iPhone?”

The answer to that question is “Yes” and the process to do it is called “ReVirginize” or Restoring your iPhone.

Another reason to revirginize the iPhone oriPhone 3G would be to revert the iPhone back to factory settings i.e. locked state if you wanted to take your jailbroken and/orunlocked iPhone to an Apple Store because of some hardware issue.

You can follow the simple step-by-step guide to re-virginize or restore your iPhone after the jump.

Before we start, please note that the step-by-step guide involves restoring your iPhone so you should know that this would mean that all your personal data from your iPhone, including songs, videos, contacts, photos, calendar information, and any other data will be wiped out and your iPhone’s settings will be restored to their factory settings. However, you always have the option to recover your personal data from the backup.

Here is the step-by-step guide to revirginize or restore your jailbroken iPhone:

  • Connect your iPhone to your Mac or PC and select your iPhone from the list of devices in iTunes. If things had gone horribly wrong while hacking your iPhone and iTunes does not detect your iPhone then you will need to put it in DFU (Device Firmware Upgrade) mode.
    • You can follow these steps to put your iPhone in DFU mode (this is required only if iTunes does not recognize your iPhone):
      • Connect your iPhone to your computer.
      • Turn iPhone off.
      • Hold power and home together for 10 seconds (exactly).
      • Release power but keep holding home until the computers beeps (observed on a PC) as a USB device is recognized.
      • A few seconds later iTunes should detect your iPhone.
  • In the Summary Tab, click on the Restore button.
  • Restore or Revirginize iPhone

  • iTunes should prompt you if you would wish to take a backup of your iPhone before restoring. Select Backup.
  • Restore or Revirginize iPhone

  • After the backup is taken select the Restore option when iTunes prompts you.
  • Restore or Revirginize iPhone

  • Once the restore process has completed your iPhone will restart and the Apple logo will appear while booting up.
  • After the restore is complete and your iPhone restarts you will see the “Connect to Activate” screen. You must continue to keep your iPhone connected to complete activation.
  • Restore or Revirginize iPhone

  • The last step is to set up your iPhone either from a backup or set up as a “new iPhone”. If you are planning to take the iPhone to the Apple Store, its advisable to setup your iPhone as a “new iPhone” else you can select the date of your backup that you want to restore to. You can always follow the above procedure to restore from a backup at a later date.
  • Restore or Revirginize iPhone

Again, thanks to iPhoneHacks.


Posted on February 9, 2009 at 08:53 by ecods · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Cool Kit, General Nerdery, iPhone, Software, Uncategorized · Tagged with: , , , ,

Sometimes you just need to…

…get in touch with your inner Fonzie.

Posted on February 7, 2009 at 19:31 by ecods · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: , , , ,

Review: Fun Pod Kitchen Helper


If you’re lazy like me and couldn’t be bothered slapping a few sheets of MDF together, or just using a stool, the Fun Pod is a great way of getting the kids involved in the kitchen. It is basically a little enclosed stand for your kids with an adjustable height platform to help them make a mess when Mum is making a choccy cake.

Being quite heavy and with wide feet on the bottom, the Fun Pod is very stable and will put up with a two year old doing his best gorilla on a flagpole impression. One thing to watch out for is to make sure the adjustable platform is inserted the right way up. If not, the locking ridge will not engage and your little bundle of joy may just push the platform out with their feet and bundle themselves down into a deep dark hole. Can be useful though, especially if the platform is re-inserted whilst said child is sitting at the bottom of the Pod. 

As said before, the more DIY Dad could knock one up pretty easy but this is well built and safe.

Retails for A$230, £120. . There are additional extras which can turn the pod into a butchers block and a high chair for some more multi-purpose action.

All in all, a nice bit of kit which, whilst taking up a bit of room in the kitchen, it can also be pretty satisfying to pretend it is a missile silo and is about to launch your kid into orbit after they spill the flour all over the place.

Posted on February 3, 2009 at 20:14 by jebjeb · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Dad Stuff · Tagged with: ,

Review: Ikea High Chair (‘Antilop’)

We’ve had a few high chairs, mainly rather fancy ones with all sorts of cushioning, padding, adjustable bits and the like. I’m a bit a a sucker for adjustable bits, so you’d think that I’d be all for ’em in a kids high chair.


It may have been mentioned before that our kids are ‘enthusiastic’ eaters; the euphemism probably applies to lots of kids (or perhaps ours are strangely messy, but I’d wager on the former). All that padding, all those joints and adjustable bits, they just end up with random bits of food stuck in them, or squirrelled away into crannies that only a full disassembly will expose. Who does a full tear down of their high chairs every day?

Not being that OCD, but being generally a fan of cleanliness, I’d stay away from the complex and usually expensive high chairs.

These are better:


Ikea Antilop High Chair 

Ikea Antilop High Chair


Ikea Antilop High Chair Table

Ikea Antilop High Chair Tray Table












Together they make up a useful, convenient high chair, that (out of the high chairs we’ve used) is the easiest to clean. It even has a seat belt. 

AU$19.99 for the chair. Five bucks more gets you the tray table too. It seems the chair only comes in red or blue now; white used to be the only option.

Get one of these instead of the expensive one you were looking at.
Sure, it’s Ikea, and it won’t win you points when all the other parents come around to visit, but on the other hand, your sanity will be intact, as you’ve not spent the past three hours cleaning the bloody thing!


Posted on February 3, 2009 at 10:06 by ecods · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Cool Kit, Dad Stuff, Review · Tagged with: , , , ,

Arc-AAA Torch / Flashlight

I have one of these:

Arc-AAA LED Torch / Flashlight

Arc-AAA LED Torch / Flashlight

It’s an Arc-AAA torch (flashlight, for those of the American persuasion). Specifically, it’s the Arc-AAA ‘Premium Edition’.

In short, it’s awesome.
Go, buy one.
No, I don’t get a kickback. 

If I know you, and you’re on my (very short) list of people who get birthday or Christmas presents, then there’s a good chance that I’ve given you one of these.
You’ve probably wondered a little at the time about my choice in gifts, but smiled and been gracious anyway. And then after using the torch a few times, had an ‘ah hah!’ moment, and my gift didn’t seem so strange after all.

There are three models of Arc-AAA:

I could wax lyrical about this piece of kit, but I won’t, because Dan Rutter at has already done so.

At length.


His reviews are very, very  good, so go and read them, although ignore any and all references to Arc being out of business (they were, but they rose from the dead, and I can confirm that I bought Arc-AAA’s off their website in late 2008):

Posted on February 3, 2009 at 09:00 by ecods · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Cool Kit, General Nerdery, Review · Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Jailbreaking the iPhone 3G – Part 2 – iPhone Firmware 2.2.1 / OS X 10.5.6

Well, that was easy.












All of the issues from the previous post (Jailbreaking the iPhone 3G – Part 1) are easily resolved now that Apple has released the official 2.2.1 firmware update.

I now have a fully working jailbroken unlocked iPhone 3G.

For a full walkthrough, with all options outlined, see this post by – very useful (I’ve copied and pasted the subset of their steps that I used). The Dev Team Blog page is useful too – particularly for the steps required to workaround the problems with 10.5.6 breaking DFU mode.

For the exact steps that I took, read on.


Step Zero – The Starting Point (and some info on getting Optus to carrier unlock your phone)

A note on the status of my phone / contract, as it matters when looking at the process to take (in short, I get the easy route, with least complications):

So, my iPhone is, in the terms used by the Dev Team on their iPhone Firmware 2.2.1 page:

SIM Free/SP Unlocked/Factory Unlocked iPhone 3G

This applies if you bought your iPhone 3G for $$$$$$$. This model of iPhone 3G doesn’t have an Service Provider lock (aka factory unlocked) and you are able to put any SIM card into the phone and get service. Your phone is already unlocked so you do not need to worry about baseband updates, simply upgrade to 2.2.1 using iTunes and then use QuickPwn to Pwn and Jailbreak. This will add Cydia and Installer too.


Step 1 – Deciding Whether To Upgrade The iTunes Way To Apple’s Vanilla 2.2.1 Firmware

According to the Dev Team post, I’m unconcerned by the radio baseband upgrade that is performed as part of Apples 2.2.1 firmware upgrade in iTunes, and I should simply connect my iPhone to iTunes and upgrade to 2.2.1 normally.



Step 2 – Fix The OS X 10.5.6 USB / DFU Mode Issue

As I’m running Mac OS 10.5.6, the update that broke DFU mode, I now need to temporarily re-enable DFU mode. This is accomplished by rolling back to the 10.5.5 USB setup, but not in the same way that broke USB on my BlackBook in Part 1. In this case the Dev Team guys have nailed it pretty simply:

Fixing DFU mode on 10.5.6

As noted previously OS X 10.5.6 introduced a bug that affected the use of DFU mode. with some Macs. There have been previously published hacks and techniques to fix this, but here is another method that can be used to temporarily restore DFU functionality in order to use QuickPwn or PwnageTool.

  1. You will need an account with ADC (Apple Developer Connection) this is free and takes a few minutes to sign up, you should read the terms and conditions carefully and you should only sign up if you are thinking of developing applications in the future –
  2. Download the disk image “IOUSBFamily-315.4-log.dmg”  for Mac OS X 10.5.5 Build 9F33” (yes, that is a “5” in 10.5.5 – this is a developer debug package of the USB kernel extension).
  3. Unplug non-vital USB equipment, such as external DVD writers, USB scanners, USB mass storage devices, at the most leave a Keyboard and Mouse connected.
  4. Install IOUSBFamily-315.4.1.pkg from within the disk image
  5. Reboot your system!

Now your Mac can work with an iPhone in DFU mode.



Step 3 – Use Pwnage Tool 2.2.5 To Prepare A Custom .ipsw Firmware File

All of the links that follow are as per the Dev Team’s links on their blog. Feel free not to trust me, go to their page on The Pirate Bay and use those links if you must!

Reconnect the iPhone

Part 4 – Undo the DFU Fix

Part 5 – Lessons Learned

If you have trouble doing something that’s currently quite popular and hacky, wait. Someone smarter than you (or, more likely, smarter AND with more time on their hands) will work it out, make it easier, and post a How To on the internet.


Posted on February 2, 2009 at 13:58 by ecods · Permalink · One Comment
In: Cool Kit, Hardware, How To..., iPhone, Software · Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Jailbreaking the iPhone 3G – Part 1 – iPhone Firmware 2.2 / OS X 10.5.6

Dev Team Pineapple

At the risk of looking like a doofus, I will admit to having had some trouble with jailbreaking my iPhone 3G.

With an array of Macs and a Windows machine at my disposal, what I thought would be rather trivial turned out to be… a tad more involved.

[Edit: However there’s a happy ending, which you can read in Part 2]



A few points in summary:

– The basic idea of jailbreaking is explained fairly well here and here. Some more benefits become apparent here and some good applications available to jailbroken phones are discussed here. There’s also some good stuff at LifeHacker.  BTW, if you don’t know what it is, why the hell do you want to do it? Schnapperhead!

– The difference between Pwnage Tool 2.2.1 and QuickPwn is that Pwnage Tool gives you the option to resize your boot partition, amongst other things, whilst QuickPwn does not.

– If working from a Mac, the first step is to upgrade your iPhone to 2.2 firmware.

– Download Pwnage Tool 2.2.1 (bittorrent is your friend, links later in the post).

– Download the vanilla iPhone 2.2 .ipsw file (link later).

– Run Pwnage Tool, follow the bouncing ball to do an Expert install, up the size of the boot partition to about a gig (to allow room for applications from Cydia, the Jailbreak equivalent of the App Store).

– Have Pwnage Tool build you a modified version of the 2.2 iPhone firmware.

– Enter DFU mode as instructed, and allow Pwnage Tool to jailbreak your phone.

– Embrace the alternative lifestyle of the jailbroken…

Well, that’s the idea, and it’ll work, by all accounts, if you’ve not upgraded your Mac to 10.5.6. If you have, read on, for that’s me too. Hilarity ensues.*


Guides written by those smarter than me:

Jailbreaking guide at iClarified.

Re-enabling DFU in OS X 10.5.6, again at iClarified. My advice is to NOT do this, see later in the post for why. 

Unlocking guide from, you guessed it, iClarified.


The hardware and software:

– iPhone 3G 16Gb, firmware version 2.2, Optus, unlocked by Optus a few months ago.

– All Macs (MacBook Pro (3,1), BlackBook (3,1), Mac Mini (2,1)) updated to OS X 10.5.6. with no further updates available.

– Dell D620 laptop running Windows XP SP2, with iTunes



– Mac – Pwnage Tool 2.2.1 – Official Dev Team torrent.

– Mac – QuickPwn 2.2 – Official Dev Team torrent.

– Windows – QuickPwn 2.2 – Official Dev Team torrent.

– Apple iPhone firmware 2.2 – download. Do not download with Safari, it deconstructs the .ipsw file; instead, use any other browser.

– Apple 10.5.6 Combo Updater – download. Possibly necessary if you try to muck around with re-enabling DFU in 10.5.6 by screwing around and swapping in 10.5.5 kexts.

– Note that a Windows equivalent to the Mac-only Pwnage Tool is in development; it’s called Jailbird



– I have used Pwnage Tool on the BlackBook to create a customised, Pwnd / jailbroken 2.2 firmware .ipsw file, although it’s hard to tell if it’s ‘good’, ie ‘not broken’. It certainly didn’t work when I tried to restore it via the Mac or the PC. So perhaps this one’s a partial success…



10.5.6 and DFU Mode – Software Workaround

– There’s a bug/feature of the 10.5.6 update to OS X that stops the DFU (device firmware update) mode working.

– Pwnage Tool requires DFU to work. Bugger.

– Tried it anyway.

– Entering DFU mode is pretty easy.
With the iPhone plugged into the computer via the USB cable, simultaneously hold down the Home and Power buttons on the iPhone for 10 seconds.
After the ten seconds, release the Power button, whilst still holding in the Home button.
Continue holding the Home button for at least ~10 seconds more, or until the device enters DFU mode.
How do you know the iPhone’s in DFU Mode?
If the iPhone screen stays blank, and odd things happen in iTunes, you’ve managed DFU mode.
If the iPhone screen blanks, but then the Apple logo comes up, you held the two buttons too long, and have simply reset the iPhone. Try again, and make sure you let go of the Power button at the 10 second mark.

– So I entered DFU mode and… the Pwn didn’t work.

– Doh!

– Supposedly, replacing a couple of 10.5.6 files with the versions from 10.5.5 is all it takes to overcome the no-DFU problem. This can be achieved by some command line hackery, or trusting in an Applescript download.

– Didn’t work for me on the BlackBook, and it seems that this is not uncommon.

– I’m still yet to convert those files back to 10.5.6 versions (a task for which, of course, there is no simple tool). I’m assuming that reapplying the 10.5.6 Combo Update downloaded from Apple will sort that out.

– [Update] After a reboot of the BlackBook, screwing around with the kexts from 10.5.5 has borked all USB. And the built in keyboard. And the built in trackpad. Which leaves very few #@$%&!!! input options. Damn. Blast.

– Looks like I’ll have to try screen sharing from the Mini. Hopefully that works, otherwise a repair install may be in order, or as a last resort, I may have to use the Time Machine backup that I made just prior to fooling about with the system files.

– Yep, screen sharing in from the Mini worked fine. Re-ran the 10.5.6 Combo Updater and all is now well. That was easy fixed, so long as you happen to have another Mac around and know how to use Screen Sharing.[/Update] 

10.5.6 and DFU Mode – Hardware Workaround

– Supposedly, plugging the iPhone in via a powered USB hub avoids the no-DFU problem.

– Didn’t work for me on the BlackBook.

– Doh!


Lessons Learned

– As at 21 January 2009, if you want to jailbreak your iPhone 3G, don’t upgrade your Mac to 10.5.6. 

I shall faff around some more and see what I can see. 


* Not really. Maybe sympathetic chuckling.
Posted on January 21, 2009 at 16:49 by ecods · Permalink · One Comment
In: Cool Kit, General Nerdery, How To..., iPhone · Tagged with: , , , , , , ,