February 28, 2009

From Newton MessagePad to iPod Touch

I'm such a slow comer to the iPhone / iPod Touch crowd, but I have an original Apple Newton MessagePad that I bought in NYC on the day it was available. But earlier this month I got an iPod Touch "2G", and I'm completely in love with it.

My essential apps so far besides Safari and Calendar: myExpenses, Remember the Milk, Fring (only as a SIP client), BeejiveIM, Jaadu RDP, Jaadu VNC, iSSH, Stanza, and i41CXp. I'm not much of a game player, but my SO enjoys playing Fieldrunners and TowerBloxx. I also use FormatFactory to convert video clips into the correct format to view on it.

But it's an iPod! I should be listening to music with it. Unfortunately, I already have a Sansa Clip, which is far more convenient since it's so small I can just drop it in my pocket. I also have a first generation iPod Shuffle that I only use when running, because my running bag's earphone hole is the wrong orientation for the Sansa Clip!

Of course, my iPod is jailbroken so I could install a Thai language keyboard program for it.

My ISP is still blocking blogger.com so I had to login to a different site to post this. Power to the ISP! Yay!

February 27, 2009

Casi cielo

My SO bought some Starbucks Guatemala Casi Cielo for my birthday in advance. I'm so happy. I could now get good coffee at work now without having to visit the nearest Starbucks. Guatemala Casi Cielo is supposed to be available only once per year.

In other, unrelated, news: I haven't been able to make many posts this month because the Internet censorship in Thailand is now working overtime. I couldn't access blogger.com half the time, and other websites take forever to load or fail to load completely since the ISP's proxy is working overtime too. Maybe I should switch to wordpress.com, or move to another country.

February 17, 2009

Traffic light fraud

I read about the Italian police scandal a few weeks ago where they set the duration of the yellow light too short in order to catch more yellow light runners, and to spread the profit among those involved.

I could imagine the giant light bulb turning on above the Thai police chief's head when he read this news, since a few short weeks later, we now have traffic cams installed and actively catching offenders at all major intersections. The trick though, is that Thai yellow lights have always changed to red by counting down from three. But each count is far shorter than one second. So the three count of yellow light is more like 1.5-2 seconds. I could now see the bulging pockets of the traffic policemen. What a great way to boost the ecnonomy. Yay!

List of traffic cam installations (all in Thai):

February 14, 2009

Gargoyle (access restrictions)

I first wrote about Gargoyle router management utility (beta 2) back in October last year. Since then, I've wanted to write more about it, but kept putting it off, plus the author (Eric) keeps releasing updates faster than I can write about them! Anyway, I'm now using an experimental beta 4.something, and it has a number of significant updates and bug fixes over beta 2.

The most significant new feature of the current Gargoyle beta is the access restrictions module. It is leaps and bounds above anything else out there because restrictions can be classified by IP, IP range, MAC address, port, protocol, or URL. The URL restriction can be processed by simple match, exact match, or regular expression using either the domain name part of the URL, or the full URL. Plus Gargoyle also has whitelisting (it's called Exceptions in the Garoyle UI). I'm especially happy about this feature because I threat^H^H^H^H^Hbegged Eric to have it implemented. It is essentially the same as restrictions, but works in reverse.

With the access restrictions and exceptions working hand in hand, you can create very complex access scenarios for the users. For example, you can block all downloading of .exe or .zip files to prevent users from downloading programs, but you can put in an exception for antivirus update sites, so users can still update their antivirus definitions. Another scenario is you could always allow employees/kids to access the company/school website, while other sites are allowed or blocked according to time of day. For me, my users often need to download files from government websites, which for some stupid reasons are always compressed self-extractable files. So for me, I block users from downloading all .exe files, but put in an exception for *.go.th sites.

The current beta of Gargoyle is also based on the latest OpenWrt beta (8.09RC2) so it can use the same packages and has the same hardware support as OpenWrt. Unfortunately, this version seem to use much more memory than previous versions, and when being used with the Linksys WRT54GL, I could easily crash the router by opening many connections at once, such as when running a bittorrent client, so I ended up buying an ASUS WL-500gP V2 to run Gargoyle with. The WL-500gP V2 has twice the flash and twice the memory of the WRT54GL, and Gargoyle is completely stable on it.

As of this writing, Gargoyle still has a number of minor bugs, but it's highly usable as it is. I'll write more about some of the other features next time.

In the screenshots below, I made a sample of the "block downloads, but allow antivirus updates" scenario I mentioned above.

Clicking on the edit button brings up a pop-up that allows further editing, in this example, .exe, .zip, and .rar are blocked by regular expressions.
However, all transfers from the avgate.net (Avira Antivir) and f-secure.com (F-Secure Antivirus) domains are allowed. This allows downloading of program files as well as antivirus definitions from those two sites.

February 9, 2009

Fire at CCTV headquarters

The recently completed CCTV Headquarters "new site" at Beijing caught fire earlier tonight.

More pics and updated news are available here in Chinese.