Airtunes and 802.11b

I’ve got three Apple Airport Express units to stream music around the house. They work really well – and when used with Rogue Amoeba Airfoil I can play pretty much any music now via Airtunes.

However… I’ve had a sticky problem for the last year – 50% of the time iTunes or Airfoil just can’t see all of the Airport Express boxes. I’ve spent a lot of time researching Bonjour (aka Rendezvous, zero touch, multicast DNS) and doing packet traces. No joy. Everything looks fine; the multicast DNS is working fine over 5353; the radius is within limits; firewalls are non-blocking; the data is not crossing a router. I was stumped.

Tonight I think I fixed the issue. As part of de-cluttering for the impeding house move I took my last 802.11b device off the wireless subnet and bumped the configuration to be exclusively 802.11g. Instantly everything started working.

So in summary: Airport Express, Airtunes, iTunes and Airfoil really work well on an exclusive 802.11g network.

Hope this helps someone else.

SMTP, hotels, SMTP proxies and secure SMTP

Most hotel internet connections use an outbound SMTP proxy to store and forward email.

I’m never happy with that – it means that my mail could be delayed/lost/corrupted/tampered with/read on the way.

[Note: I know – SMTP is SMTP – it’s not secure; it’s like writing a postcard – but if I can avoid that proxy – it’s one less set of eyes..]

I’ve now configured Thunderbird to connect to a high port that’s NATted back down to port 25; I’ve also forced TLS to the mail server.

In theory that should keep my outbound mail (or really internal mail that only sits on my web server) a bit safer.


(Not a rant; I’ve not had the Kool Aid or the Lobotomy yet..)

Really only of interest to US readers – those in Europe probably have no idea of the context here.

My 16 month old boy needed tympanostomy tubes (ear tubes or ear grommets) to drain off fluid from a recurring ear infection. A five minute procedure – but it does involve day surgery and a general anesthetic.

My previous health care benefits were excellent – friends in Utah kept telling us we had incredible insurance – with good coverage, choice and a reasonable deductible and co-pay. Even so we estimated that we would end up being around $750 out of pocket for the ear tubes.

Microsoft Health care is fully funded. No deduction from my pay; no co-pay; no deductible. Incredible.

Before I joined Microsoft everyone I knew who had joined raved about the benefits. Now I know it’s true.

Take a look at this: – especially the first video on Microsoft Perks.


My changing desktop – from Novell to Microsoft

So what changed between running a laptop at Novell and Microsoft?

Desktop OS

Firstly my Novell laptop was primarily a Vista machine. I’ve been using Vista as my primary desktop since November 2006. It’s helped build a better ZENworks Configuration Management.

Microsoft is obviously standardised on Vista.


Email is the killer. I do miss a lot of the advanced features of GroupWise – particularly the email status tracking. Outlook/Exchange won’t show me the delivery/read/deleted status. GroupWise was a killer in knowing that your ‘red’ emails had been delivered and deleted without being opened.

I don’t miss GWIM at all; I still use Pidgin (formerly GAIM) as my IM client – running plugins to all of the major networks. I do really like the Unified Communications via Office Communicator and Outlook. One thing that Microsoft IT has done well is brought together IM, email, fax, voice and voice messaging into a single place.


Obviously most of the Microsoft internal sites are IE only. (Great UI, great user experience – but lots of ActiveX). I’m also running Firefox 3 Beta 4 – that’s my personal preference.

No OpenOffice – that’s a given; one thing that did surprise me was that everyone is using the newer Office 2007 doc formats; even to outside people.

Network and access

Wow. I was really impressed by the IT organisation. IPv6 on the wire; IPsec everywhere; smartcard and certificate security for wireless and remote access; Network Access Controls running with quarantine.

Certainly it’s given me some new ideas for my home network 🙂

WordPress 2.5 beta 1

Back to the nightly builds. WordPress 2.5 beta 1 is sneaking out soon – and it’s running here.

Nice work on the admin UI – looks clean and fresh:


Choosing the Blue Pill

Blue Pill Hand

Rumours were flying around last week – I even got a factually incorrect mention from Matt Asay on CNET which paid for this months hosting bill.

Well just to extinguish the rumours – I started with Microsoft – the Beast of Redmond, The Borg, the Monopolist – this week.

I’ll blog some time in the next day or so about my first week.

Inbetween jobs – it must be honey-dos time

In true geek style I’ve been using Backpack from 37signals for a while. I use it for work, planning and just keeping on top of projects. I also share it with Grania for packing lists when travelling and most importantly – the Honey-Do list.

Here’s an example:

Honey Dos

Sheer joy. Coupled to an RSS feed so your feed reader can tell you when there’s more jobs put on the list.. 😉

As well as the household tasks  I’m also spending the downtime updating the infrastructure. WordPress, Gallery2, plugins, anti-virus, patching, checking logs, cleaning logs – there’s a lot to be done.

Zero Day Stop

Wow. My experience of being “Zero Day Stopped”.

Suddenly at 7pm Utah time everything stopped working. GroupWise, IM, Bugzilla, Innerweb – everything.

I’m now set adrift in the world of no BlackBerry, no email, no IM, no Bugzilla, no testing..

It’s refreshing – but very, very strange.

Apologies to everyone who has been Zero Day Stopped in a less planned way.

My last day at Novell was quite civilised.

I went into the office; dropped off a ton of confidential materials for shredding, dropped off my hardware (laptop, hefty ESX server), wandered around saying goodbye, did my exit interview with HR, went for lunch with my good friend Father Fowles, went back into the office to say goodbye to a few more engineers, handed in my badge, went home.

[Update: My Novell ID is now lost down the memory hole.]

GWIM GroupWise