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  • Newsletter Issue #363

    November 13th, 2006

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    Back in the late 1980s, I bought a couple of shareware products from Andrew Welch, then a high school student who worked as a programmer in his spare time. He later went to college and studied photo journalism, paid for, I gather, by those shareware fees, but he ended up returning to his first love, and he now runs Ambrosia Software, which publishes both utilities and games.

    I had asked Andrew to come on the The Tech Night Owl LIVE from time to time, but he never got around to coming onboard. Too bad, as he has an engaging personality that comes across well on radio. During last week’s episode, Andrew talked about some of his latest products, plus plans for a major upgrade to WireTap Pro, a utility used for recording voice chats and online radio shows, among other things. The new version, promised by the end of the year, will add editing capabilities and lots of other new features.

    In other segments, Rob Griffiths, of Macworld and macosxhints.com, provided a close and personal view of his new Mac Pro and he also delivered some of his favorite Mac OS X tips.

    Intego CEO Laurent Marteau was on hand to talk about the newly-discovered proof-of-concept virus, dubbed OSX.MachArena.A, and other security issues.

    On Sunday’s episode of The Paracast, David Biedny and I explored ancient mysteries with Paul Von Ward, author of “Gods, Genes, and Consciousness” and “Our Solarian Legacy.” The session provided to be a fascinating journey into our historic origins and how they led to present-day encounters with “Advanced Beings.” These two books are well-written and Paul presents his case carefully and deliberately. You’ll be intrigued.

    Also featured was an old friend, UFO Magazine publisher William J. Birnes, co-author of “Worker in the Light,” who discussed the book he wrote with George Noory, the host of Coast To Coast AM.

    Last weekend, Barbara and I attended the 4th Annual Crash/Retrieval Conference in Las Vegas, and I returned with a fascinating interview with prolific and outspoken UFO and paranormal author Nicholas Redfern. It’ll be presented during the November 19th episode.

    HOW I GOT LIBERATED WITH IMAP

    The normal way of handling email is pretty basic. Your Mac or PC logs onto your ISP or independent email service, retrieves the messages and logs off. Forgetting the technology behind it, the system seems to work most of the time; that is, until you want to access your account from more than one computer. Then things get a little complicated.

    Up till now, I’ve performed the fast-and-dirty method of synchronizing the mailboxes between my desktop and note-book Macs. That meant copying the files from one to the other and back again, as needed. Or I just accessed my email via the service provider’s online interface, but that creates a disconnect when I need to send messages. They won’t be copied during the normal backup process.

    My Webmaster, Brent Lee, suggested going IMAP, an email scheme that provides a much more sophisticated degree of server-side management. The mail server would know, for example, whether or not I read and deleted a message, and could store my sent messages as well. I could easily move from one computer to the other and the state of my various mailboxes would be the same.

    Unfortunately, the hosting provider that I use for this site and the others, Go Daddy, only supports POP rather than IMAP. This raised the possibility of switching to another service, which I rejected after doing a little research and discovering that Go Daddy is one of the highest-rated hosting firms out there.

    Brent suggested Webmail.us, which specializes in business email, after giving it a test and pronouncing it fit for duty. That way, I would only have to concern myself with moving email rather than the sites themselves. Among Webmail’s advantages is a 1GB mailbox for each account, and the ability to send and receive file attachments of up to 25MB in size, which includes another overhead 10MB for encoding, so the files themselves can actually attain that size. Most services limit you to 10MB or even less.

    Users have a choice of POP or IMAP, plus SSL encryption, which is designed to protect messages containing sensitive information.

    The setup process is pretty simple, but it did expose some of the limits in the way Apple’s Mail application handles such things. Although it manages to handle .Mac properly in IMAP format, the standard fashion of handling independent IMAP services proved flaky. It put the Sent messages in a subfolder within the Inbox. Strange.

    After doing a little study of the situation, Brent found a workaround, one rather odd, which was to specify a manual file path for the INBOX within Mail’s Advanced settings menu. This resulted in establishing separate entries for each of my accounts, although all the messages I received were still merged within a single Inbox.

    But the next step of the process proved time-consuming, as I had to drag all my Sent messages to the corresponding ones in the new mailboxes so they’d be placed on the server as well. With over 10,000 Sent messages, it took hours for Mail to actually complete the transfer process. During that time, the program seemed to hang from time to time. System performance would drag from time to time, because Mail was hogging memory big time.

    Hopefully Apple will address such matters when it updates Mail for Leopard.

    The next step of the process proved a bit more complicated to solve. I had accumulated thousands of messages on local folders for organization. If I wanted to keep my computers in sync, this still meant manually transferring those folders when moving from one to the other, or maybe not.

    My solution was to create corresponding folders in Webmail’s online message client. Then I returned to Mail and dragged all the stored messages to their new locations. Again Mail spit and sputtered its way to the new organizational scheme, but the online folders were eventually occupied.

    In case you’re wondering, none of the new IMAP mailboxes got more than half filled, despite a plethora of messages with attachments that dated back to 1999. I suppose I could have made more of a concerted effort to delete the old stuff, and I might do that some day, but not now.

    Though it all, I had forgotten one important factor. By liberating myself from having to sync my email among computers, I still stuck with the same message application. Clearly I could use any one I wanted, so I fired up Microsoft’s Entourage 2004 and set up the same accounts.

    Entourage’s message organization structure is a little more business-like, with each IMAP account having its own Inbox. That way, you know which account goes with which message. Mail merges them, unless you expand the folder view to reveal the various sub-folders.

    Despite Entourage’s tendency to pause on occasion when performing such actions as deleting messages, it managed to download the data from all the mailboxes with a reasonable degree of alacrity. Entourage can even sync with Apple’s Address Book now, so I didn’t have to recreate my contact list.

    Yes, I did give Eudora and Mozilla Thunderbird a brief trial, but I found it easier to adapt to Microsoft’s interface and message-handling methods. That’s a matter of personal taste, though. Once you try IMAP, if it’s available from your ISP, you’ll never go back; that is, if you’re willing to endure a little pain in the setup process.

    THE TECH NIGHT OWL: BROADBAND ACCESS ALMOST EVERYWHERE

    So I got sick and tired of paying $9.95 for one-day access at Internet hotspots or hotels. It really adds up when you need to get online frequently while on the road. Sure, some of these services will be happy to sign you up for a monthly contract, but then you’re tethered to that service, and what if the hotspot has contracted with a different service? What if you’re in a locale where there are no hotspots?

    That’s when I decided to look into the BroadbandAccess service from Verizon Wireless. I’ve been a customer for several years, and found service to be mostly good as cell phone plans go, which may not be saying much, but I thought it was worth at least a review to see if BroadbandAccess is a viable alternative to hotspot issues.

    The answer is that it depends, but I’m getting ahead of myself as usual.

    I contacted Verizon’s PR agency and was sent one of their V640 cards, which supports the ExpressCard 34 technology used on the new MacBook Pro. The card costs $179.99 with a two-year contract, although you can save money if you shop around. The service itself is $59.99 per month.

    In case you’re wondering, you can use some of Verizon’s phones as a modem, although the process of working with an external cable might be a bit awkward. You’ll have to check with the company, though, to see which models will work. I gather they have to use a mini-USB cable for charging, which means my Motorola RAZR ought to be supported.

    Verizon claims its BroadbandAccess service is available in 208 metropolitan areas of the U.S., covering 170 million people. Advertised speeds are rated at 400-700 Kbps download, and 60-80 Kbps upload.

    Yes, upload speeds seem a little tepid, but it seemed to be sufficient for Skype chatting in my brief tests.

    The setup process on a Mac is pretty straightforward. Although Verizon provides a software CD, I discovered that Mac OS 10.4.8 already provides built-in drivers for the broadband card. Once the card is recognized, the connection status can be checked via the Modem menu bar icon. Just click, select Connect, and you’ll be online in just a few seconds. You’ll want to choose Disconnect first, however, before removing the card. If the card is left connected, you might run into problems putting your note-book back into Sleep mode.

    I tested BroadbandAccess in several signal areas. Although it doesn’t come near to matching my cable modem’s performance rate, download speeds are quite sufficient for most purposes. A few quick benchmarks verified Verizon’s claims to the letter, and I was able to access my favorite online watering holes with little delay. Upload speeds can be an inhibiting factor, true, but you should be able to send digital photos of family outings and tourist spots without waiting very long for the transfer to complete.

    If you travel a fair amount, the monthly fee won’t be a big deal. You’ll save that and a lot more by being able to avoid the daily hotel and hotspot fees. Right now, apparently, Verizon Wireless offers the fastest service among America’s wireless providers. But you’re still locked into its service areas. If you’re in a rural region that’s not in the primary coverage area, you’ll still have to fend for yourself.

    THE FINAL WORD

    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Worldwide Licensing and Marketing: Sharon Jarvis



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