Simon’s Backup Weblog

I’ll be staying on Jersey for a while…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on March 30, 2005

…as things are not going to get better.

The consultant and the doctors have done all they can, so it’s just a matter of making my father as comfortable as possible, and waiting…

More whenever.


Back to Jersey

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on March 26, 2005

My father’s condition has got worse. The doctors don’t seem too hopeful.

So we’re on the first plane to Jersey we could get, arriving tomorrow lunch-time. Flexible tickets, so it’s back whenever.

Apologies to the Bay Area folk, but we’ve had to cancel the Xerox trip. Maybe later in the year…

Geek triumphs over computer and phone (or How To set up Exchange Active Sync)

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on March 26, 2005

After a momentous struggle I have beaten the house server into submission. Oh, and tamed my phone.

One of the promises of the Windows Smartphone platform is the ability to sync directly with a server, wherever you are, over a GPRS connection. Now, with IMAP connections, you might wonder why anyone might want to do that, but over GPRS uncompressed IMAP can be rather slow (especially if you’re using SSL and have as many folders on your mail server as I use). Microsoft’s synchronisation protocol, with its compressed data, promises to be a lot faster…

Unfortunately, setting up server-based synchronisation isn’t as easy as it might be. For one thing, it’s really intended for corporate Exchange servers, neatly arrayed in metal racks, rather than a Small Business Server in a Shuttle case sat in an Ikea bedside table.

It’s a system that needs you to have a Exchange 2003 with a working Outlook Mobile Access server, and you also really need a friendly mobile operator to hand, ready to hold your hand and help with some of the more awkward parts of the process. If you’re a smaller business, or someone on their own, things are a little harder. It helps if you’re a deft hand with configuring IIS server applications. Oh, and have the tools to hack your phone.

Getting OMA working on our home mail server was easy enough, just a couple of clicks in the Exchange Manager tool, and pointing the phone’s browser at the right URI. Then came the harder task, getting Server Sync working. I’d tried in a desultory manner before, but had always fallen short – mainly due to my internal naming scheme being different from the other side of my NATed DSL connection. I could get the phone to sync inside the firewall, but not outside.

The neat bit was realising that I had to set up an internal DNS that would map the external server name to the internal network, so the phone would be able to do a pass-through IP connection on my PC, while still using the same settings in the outside world. That would let me synchronise email while charging the phone over a USB connection. So first I had to learn how to set up a Windows 2000 DNS beyond the basic Active Directory work. Luckily it wasn’t much different from my UNIX days at UKOL…

Then I discovered that my SSL certificate was out of date, so I had to revoke it and create a new one. Except of course, I managed to break the Windows CA on my server and had to reinstall it, before I could create any server certificates. As my old root certificate was about to expire, it was easiest to set up my new certificate authority with a 10 year root certificate. With the certificates installed, I then had to tweak the authentication profile of my web server, to make sure that it would support the DAV hack that is Exchange Active Sync.

Oh yes, server-based synchronisation isn’t a direct connection to the mail server, it’s DAV over SSL to an IIS virtual directory that’s hooked up to the guts of the mail server. Still, I was pretty sure that what I’d done was going to work. OMA was still working, after all…

Then it was time to work on the phone. Orange aren’t particularly friendly to the SOHO user. Their phones are locked to only support root certificates from a few trusted certificate authorities, like Thawte and Verisign. Getting a site certificate from one of these can be expensive, however the documentation for Exchange Sync says you need to connect over a certified SSL connection. If you’re a small business or a home user, this can be prohibitive. Self-certification is the way to go, but you appear to need to install a root certificate onto the phone if you’re self-certifying your servers. If only you could get your Orange phone to support your own certificates. If you’re a big corporate with a business account, Orange will happily set up all your phones for you. On your own, well it’s a different story…

Searching through some of the smartphone community sites, I managed to track down some software that promised to install new root certificates on any Windows Smartphone. Unfortunately Orange’s phone locks managed to defeat it. I could completely unlock the phone, but £20 from a someone with a paypal account and no physical address seemed a bit steep for a service that might not work. A bit more googling, and I managed to find that Microsoft had developed a tool (ostensibly for testing secure sites) that allowed you to disable root certificate checking. This worked, and I could connect to my servers without any reports of untrusted certificates from the web browser. It was time to try a server synchronisation.

A few simple configurations in Active Sync, and I was ready to go. I turned on the phone, and began a synchronisation. The phone connected to the server, and the blue progress bar fair stormed across the screen. A few seconds later I was reading my Inbox on the tiny phone screen, without all the hassle of making a slow IMAP connection.

It worked.

And it hadn’t taken too long.

Now if only Orange had an email to SMS gateway. Then I could get the push sync working.

Blue Sky Teazle

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on March 25, 2005

Blue Sky Teasle
Originally uploaded by sbisson.

Shell Ness

March 2005

Baby Overboard!

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on March 25, 2005

Baby Overboard!
Originally uploaded by sbisson.

Found sign afloat in a marsh pond.

Shell Ness

March 2005

Need a dose of remixable culture?

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on March 24, 2005

Then why not try out the Yahoo! Creative Commons Search?

License types are taken into account in the search, so you can look for commercially usable content, as well as digital content that lets you remix…

Why is this search different?

This Yahoo! Search service finds content across the Web that has a Creative Commons license. While most stuff you find on the web has a full copyright, this search helps you find content published by authors that want you to share or reuse it, under certain conditions.

Useful. And most definitely Nifty.

Exercise your browser

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on March 23, 2005

Not sure how secure your browser really is?

Then pop along to the Browser Security Test, and see if you’re susceptible to some of the more critical exploits. It’ll test Firefox, Netscape, IE and Opera

Both my installs of Firefox and IE6 checked out OK, but the statistics show that 35.1% of browsers tested to date haven’t been patched to deal with known high risk vulnerabilities.

It’s worth making sure that you’re OK.

Art for art’s sake

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on March 23, 2005

Banksy has been in New York, undertaking guerilla installations at four of the city’s most famous museums, the Met, the Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum, and the MoMA. Disguised as a pensioner, he sneaked in and hung the art.

This modified beetle is in the Museum of Natural History.

Two pieces have been removed, but the others still remain. Sadly one of the removed pieces is a delightful homage to Warhol, in the shape of a picture of a can of Tesco’s Value Tomato Soup.

Under the skin

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on March 23, 2005

Under the skin
Originally uploaded by sbisson.

One of a batch of three Maserati MC12 racing cars currently under construction in the Maserati Racing plant.

Modena, Italy

March 2005

Cloudscape Islands

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on March 23, 2005

Originally uploaded by sbisson.

Clouds on the northern Italian plains surround an outcrop of mountains.

Flying Gatwick/Bologna

March 2005

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