Gadgets

Hacking TiVO, PS2, Palm, GPRS, or your riding bikes

New computers – Kindle – net

If you want to use a Kindle, you have to get books onto it.  It does come with a USB cable, and you can load books from your computer.  I haven’t tried that yet, because the USB cable also charges the battery, and, in the interests of battery life, I’ve wanted to let the battery pretty much completely discharge before I charged it up again.  I’ll let you know how that works later.  (This also gets into the issue of ebook formats, and I’ll get into that later, too.)

Right off the top, probably the quickest and easiest way to get books onto your Kindle is if you can connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi.  As previously noted, if you have a private network and know the password, it can be a pain to enter, but you are in.  If you are in a Wi-Fi hotspot, things can get a bit trickier.

You can try and “Shop in Kindle Store.”  You can “Sync & Check for Items.”  (Both of those are on the “home” page menu.)  Maybe it will work.  Maybe it won’t.  Neither of them like hotspots that do redirection.  Many times they will simply tell you that the function requires a network connection.  (Sometimes the Kindle will tell you that the function requires a network connection, but you will also see indications that books are actually being downloaded.  It’s hard to tell for sure whether you are connected and can actually do anything.)
The Kindle 4 (my version) has a Web browser, which you can get to via the home page menu, under the “Experimental” entry.  It definitely is experimental.  It will not open links, if those links are set to open in new frames, tabs, or windows.  (It tells you that it can’t open the link because it doesn’t support multiple windows, rather than just opening it anyway.)  If the hotspot does redirection, the browser might go to the redirected page if you ask it to connect to a site, or reload a page.  On the other hand, sometimes you will try to fire up the browser in order to connect at a hotspot, and the Kindle will tell you that it can’t open the browser because you don’t have a net connection.  Helpful, that.

(The Kindle seems to ship with the wireless enabled and on.  I tend to turn it off, when I’m not actually downloading or “shopping,” in order to a) save battery, and b) keep from radiating all over the place.  I don’t know how many people will know that they can turn it off from the home page menu.

New computers – Kindle – First Encounters

What I have is a Kindle 4.  I assume the “4” stands for some level of the software.  Having done my initial exploration, I vaguely remembered having seen that it was a model D01100.  (Eventually I found that reference again: it was buried in the appendix to the “Kindle User’s Guide.”  I assume it’s less important than the Kindle 4 part.)

When you start out, the Kindle wants you to go through a registration process.  Being in a place with a Wi-Fi network, I did.  (This version of Kindle doesn’t have a keyboard.  It does have a virtual keyboard, which is usable, but difficult.  Entering a 26 character hex password was a bit of a pain.)  I have had an account with Amazon, so, when it asked if I wanted to use one or create one, I guessed at my old username and password.  It did seem to work; at least it let me start working on the Kindle, but somehow it didn’t pick up my “Registered User:” name.  At some point something must have figured out who I was, because the “Send-to-Kindle” email address (I’ll get back to that) did have my name in it.

On the first screen you see after the registration process (I later learned it was the “home” screen) there was an entry for a “Kindle User’s Guide,” and I believe it was the entry highlighted.  Being a “read the manual” type person, I read it.  It starts out by saying that it’s short and informative and can be read in 10 minutes.  Hah!

It starts out with charging the battery.  This would seem to make sense, except that a) like most battery-powered devices these days it comes charged, and b) if it wasn’t charged, you couldn’t read the manual, now could you?  It then shows you the physical layout and buttons.  Including the power button.  The power button is not intuitively obvious on first glance: one of the people who gave it to me had to show me where it was.

The Kindle has a “5-way controller.”  This should be familiar to most people who have a cell phone that still has buttons: a centre “select/enter” key, surrounded by left, right, up, and down arrow keys.  The user guide mentions that you can get around menus and text with it.  It doesn’t mention that the left and right keys have context sensitive functions that are not immediately obvious.  The Guide did mention that, when a book is highlighted, using the left key brings up an offer to delete the item.  However, it mentions a lot of other stuff, and I missed that.  (Fortunately, I did not encounter this until I had learned that the “Back” key acts as a combination of “last page visited” and “Esc.”

There is a menu button.  It is context sensitive, and will bring up, or dismiss, menus appropriate to the screen you are in.  There are lots of different menus.  It is not obvious which menu will bring up a function you may want.  This is also a good place to mention that one thing that I believe I can state, without fear of contradiction, is a major error in the design of the Kindle user interface.  There is no rollover.  Menus are limited in length, as are entries in the “home” page or your “collections” of ebooks.  Actual pages in an ebook can be much longer.  Menus tend to have the “active” item fairly near the middle.  (After a while you begin the realize that the most important and useful functions are going to be near the middle, not the top, of a menu.)  Pages always start from top left.  In either case, there is no rollover: no return off the top of a page or menu to the bottom, or off the bottom to the top.  There is no wraparound going off the right side of the page to come back in on the left, or vice versa.  (There is one exception to this” the virtual keyboard.  It doesn’t wrap top to bottom, but it does wrap side to side.)

One other problem related to the menus: the time, battery power, and Wi-Fi indicator only show when you have a menu open.  You can’t even tell the time on the home page unless you bring up a menu.  (Interestingly, when I got mine, the time was set for a time zone either four or sixteen hours later than the one I’m in.)

The User’s Guide takes a lot longer than 10 minutes to read.  It does contain a lot of information, but a great deal of it will not make much sense until you have explored the device a bit.  So you are going to have to read it at least twice.  And probably keep it around for reference.

New computers – Kindle

The Girls, who have been having a grand time in recent years finding interesting high tech goodies that I never even knew existed, got me a Kindle for Christmas.  So, of course, I’m going to review the Kindle.

I had been putting off the idea of getting one for myself.  I do a lot of reading, but that’s primarily because I do a lot of reviewing, and for that you need the ability to make notes, and transfer said notes back to the computer for writing up.  So far, I haven’t seen an awful lot that convinces me the e-readers are there yet.

But, I do have to say that, right off the top, the idea of having 60 books (so far) in something that is lighter than a paperback definitely has its attractions.  So far I’ve been able to load the Bible, some tech articles, my own security dictionary, a dozen Sherlock Holmes stories, Don Quixote (both of which I have read), The Divine Comedy, War and Piece (both of which I intend to read–sometime), a fair amount of poetry, and an egalley for Bruce Schneier’s latest (sent along by his publicist).

Unfortunately, all this fun exploring has me somewhat behind in news and email, so I’ll have to start putting together my observations of the Kindle, itself, a bit later.

Application complexity

Complexity is the enemy of security.

I always emphasize that point in the app sec domain when we have those two adjacent slides showing the old system/application environment, and the new.  I also point out that the “new” is now rather old.  When trying to update that slide I came up with eleven different levels without half trying.  Then, of course, you have to add bi-directional arrows between all adjacent components, and between all components on a given level, and between most components on adjacent levels.  Gets convoluted real fast.

Went to a real-time/component trade show recently, and was talking to some people who did embedded systems.  One of their promotional handouts shows a model that has six layers.  (And, of course, you have to add bi-directional arrows between all adjacent components, etc.)  And that’s just for “simple” embedded devices.

We seem to have lost the KISS battle a long time ago.  I guess now we have to try for KIASAPS (Keep It As Simple As Possible, Stupid).

New computers – Windows 7 – compatibility (4) – oddities

A few interesting … “undocumented features” of Windows 7 observed in the last couple of days.

One is that Windows 7 seems to have a great deal of difficulty remembering the window settings (placement, size, full screen, etc.) for non-Microsoft software.  Not terribly important, perhaps, but greatly annoying, and new to Windows 7.  (XP had some faults in that regard, but nothing like Win7.)

I plugged in one of my cameras this morning.  Normally this would just be plug and play.  However, I couldn’t find any entry for it in Windows Explorer, even though the computer had said that the new device was found, and the driver successfully installed.  Unplugged and plugged again, and it still wouldn’t play.  Finally went looking for devices and printers, and, under removeable storage it simply did not appear.

However, I noticed that one of the other devices had an oddly familiar name.  When I clicked on that, I noticed that one of my mapped network drives was no longer that network drive, but the camera.  Very odd.

(I must say that, once I found out [via Google, not Microsoft Help] how to access it, I very much appreciated the fact that you no longer have to go through contortions to get yourself a command prompt function via Windows Explorer.  A “Shift-context menu” seems a bit arcane, though …)

New computers – Windows 7 – compatibility (3) – Epson (and hardware in general?)

Having gotten some of the software and XP Mode problems out of the way, I now need to install some of the old (and some new) hardware to the new desktop.

The HP LaserJet P1005 installed just fine as soon as it was plugged in.

I suspected that the Epson Stylus CX6400 wasn’t going to be quite so simple, since I recalled having to run the install software before I connected it the last time.  And, yes, sure enough, the installation software (once I found the old CD and instructions) didn’t run under Windows 7.

So, off to Epson.  I checked under Drivers and Support, specified my “All-in-One” (it’s get a printer, a scanner, and some memory card readers), and asked for Windows 64-bit drivers.

Now out of Epson EasyPrint v3.10, ICM Color Profile Module Update v1.20, TWAIN Driver and EPSON Scan Utility v3.04A, TWAIN Driver and EPSON Scan Utility v2.68A, and Printer Driver v5.5aAs which would you pick?  Yeah, I didn’t know either, and the descriptions weren’t an awful lot of help.  But I knew (from the dim and distant past) that TWAIN (we used to say that it stood for “Technology Without An Interesting Name) had something to do with scanners, and the v2.68A was listed for 64-bit only, so I chose that.

It ran.  After a while I got the scanner part of the Windows Fax and Scan program.  It didn’t have many options.  Epson Scan had been installed, but it insisted that it couldn’t run, and Epson Scan Settings insisted the scanner wasn’t installed.  I used the troubleshooter (seemingly provided by Epson) but it was no help.  I rebooted the computer: that was no help.  I tried help and searching on the Epson site: you guessed it, no help.

I did some Google searching.  Found a mention of device drivers, and having to uninstall the Microsoft brand, and install the proper Epson driver.

Well, thought I, I installed this with installation and setup stuff from Epson: surely Microsoft wouldn’t have messed it up in that short time.  But I had a look at Device Manager anyway.

And, lo and behold, the driver that was installed was signed by Microsoft.  Uninstalled that, searched the disk for related drivers, found two.  One was for CX6300/CX6400, and one just for the CX6400, so I installed the latter, on the theory that the more specific was more likely to be from Epson.

And now Epson Scan is happy to run.

(I also installed the original XP software from the CD within XP Mode.  That didn’t work …)

New computers – Windows 7 – XP Mode fixes

I think I may finally be getting the hang of this XP Mode thing.  (I may also be fooling myself …)

As previously noted, XP Mode doesn’t access the “real” drive, but a virtual drive which is contained in one large file.  (Actually, seemingly a minimum of three, but only one appears to contain the drive “contents.”)  XP Mode does provide you with links to the real drives on the computer, but, while accessible from most Windows programs, since they are not mapped to drive letters, you cannot do anything with DOS programs, even though such programs run under XP Mode.

I figured I would have to create the directories, with files I wanted to work on, within the “virtual” drive, and, each time I made any modifications, remember to copy the new versions back to the “real” disk so they could be used under Win7.  Not only is this a nuisance, but it wastes disk space.  XP Mode takes up enough space as it is: starting at about 1.5 gig, by the time you get it up to speed with Windows updates, it has ballooned to 6 or 7 gig.  Any programs or file space you want come on top of that.  (And, since I no longer trust XP Mode to stay stable, I have been making backup copies as I have been doing the updating and adjusting of the virtual machine, wasting even more disk space.)  An annoyance, to say the least.

I can’t remember where I found it, but somehow I noted a reference to the actual description, within XP Mode, of the links to the real drives.  It looks just like a network reference to a shared resource.  So I tried mapping that format and creating a DOS “lettered” drive mapping (from within XP Mode).  So far it seems to work fine.

For those who’d like to try, the “network” name of the real computer seems to be TSCLIENT.  So, in order to create a link to the C: drive on the real computer, map to \\TSCLIENT\C .  (It does not seem to matter what your real machine’s name is, that name does not seem to be used in the reference.)

Conflicting AVs

Well behaved anitvirus programs can safely work together in peace and harmony.

Unfortunately, relatively few AVs are well behaved.

On my new desktop, I’ve got Avast (came with the machine, has a free version, and is a pretty good product) and MSE (it’s free, and it’s pretty safe for most users, although, as a professional, some parts of it irk me).  I’ve set both to ignore the virus zoo, although they aren’t too good at taking that restriction to heart.

MSE quarantined a few samples before I got things tuned.  Of course, it doesn’t have any function to get stuff out of “quarantine.”  (As I say, as a professional this is irksome, but, considering the average user, I’d say this is a darn good thing.)

Today Avast gave me a warning of some dangerous files.  They were the ones MSE quarantined.

(In case anyone is interested, the quarantine seems to be in \ProgramData\Microsoft\Microsoft Antimalware\LocalCopy.)