Dopod 838 Pro heads back to the factory


4 months ago I got myself a Dopod 838 Pro as I liked the idea of having wifi, 3G, Bluetooth and best of all, a QWERTY keyboard in a small device. As much as I like the phone, I have an awful time with battery life. On the stock battery, I was getting around 9 hours from a full 1300mAh battery. This is not exactly useful as when I'm out and about, it's usually longer than 9 hours. So, after trying an extended 3000mAh battery and only getting 14 hours usage, I've talked to the folks at Dopod (now HTC) about the possibility that the phone is faulty.Thankfully, HTC agrees that I should get better battery life and have got me to send the phone to Phonetec. This is where I get annoyed. The phone has been there for 3 working days so far and hasn't even been booked in yet. The 3-4 day turnaround I was promised is looking very unlikely. Stay tuned for more.

Steve gets a foundation license!


After years of mucking around with radios and a stalled attempt to get an advanced amateur radio license, I got talked into taking the foundation license study/exam session run by Amateur Radio Victoria. The foundation license is a newish class of amateur radio license that allows the operator to use up to 10 watts transmitter power on:

  • 3.5 - 3.7 MHz (80 metres)
  • 7.0 - 7.3 MHz (40 metres)
  • 21 - 21.45 MHz (15 metres)
  • 28 - 29.7 MHz (10 metres)
  • 144 - 148 MHz (2 metres)
  • 430 - 450 MHz (70cm)
For those interested in starting out with radio communications, you should check out this course. It's great for people with no previous experience, and a great way to get on air.

ICANN updates a root DNS server.


From ICANN's blog entry, "This is advance notice that there is a scheduled change to the IP address for one of the authorities listed for the DNS root zone. The change is to L.ROOT-SERVERS.NET, which is administered by ICANN.The new IPv4 address for this authority is 199.7.83.42.

This change is anticipated to be implemented in the root zone on 1 November 2007, however the new address is operational now. It will replace the previous IP address of 198.32.64.12."

While this won't cause any failure of DNS, such migration is usually an interesting one - with some 'retired' IP addresses still receiving DNS queries some 10 years after retirement. There are a number of root DNS servers - and most DNS server software will ask any root server it can for a list of current root DNS servers and then use them. It's always nice to update your root.hints file however. You can do this using:  "dig @a.root-servers.net . ns >  db.root" (and move/substitute db.root for the correct file/location on your system).

Following my dreams.


As some of you probably already know, I'm starting the process to move away from IT and into aviation as a full time career. Flying has always been something that I loved - even as a kid, and given the way the aviation industry is screaming for pilots, now is a great time to have the whole mid-life crisis and change careers.Wow is there a lot of medical things to be done! At least I know why pilots never seem to die on the job (well, without making a mess on the ground :))... I've passed my first medical yesterday... Urine tests, basic vision, colour blindness, reflexes, etc etc. Today is the ECG, blood tests, etc etc, tomorrow is the hearing test, and on the 1st of November, I go to have the back of my eyeballs inspected. It's pretty full on! 

Excel 2007 calculation errors


A lot of places have carried stories lately about issues in Excel 2007 where it fails at simple maths. The original newsgroups report is here. Microsoft has published a bit of an explanation, but I don't think they have yet grasped the root cause of the problem. Some posts are showing clearly conflicting information with what Microsoft is stating with issues such as the following in Excel:

A1 =850*77.1 --> 100000 B1 =A1+1 --> 100001 (really a display bug???) C1 =A1-1 --> 65534 D1 =B1-C1 --> 2
This could have quite a number of effects in people who rely on Excel to do business. No fix is currently available. Excel 2003 and earlier are not affected, nor is OpenOffice.

Outlook 2007 MD5 SMTP auth broken


I've been playing a lot with Office 2007 lately in my bid to get familiar with it for offering technical support, and as everything communication wise for me revolves around email I have been giving Outlook 2007 a pounding - especially since Outlook has a very poor track record when it comes to large IMAP mailboxes. In doing so, there are a number of issues I have encountered, however the biggest would be that any SMTP auth that uses MD5 will fail. It seems that Outlook 2007 is only successful when using LOGIN or PLAIN auth attempts when trying to send mail.

If you disable LOGIN and PLAIN authentication steps in your SMTP server, you will no longer be able to send mail - even though MD5 auth is available. In fact, to make things even more annoying, Outlook 2007 will attempt to use MD5 auth - and fail. I have used MD5 SMTP auth for years with various mail clients (mainly Mail on OSX) without any issues, so it took me a number of hours using ethereal to find out what was going on.

So what happens? Read on for my diagnosis and workaround for the issue.

When you connect to an SMTP server, most mail clients say EHLO (vs the older HELO) to introduce themselves and also get the SMTP servers capabilities. This connection usually looks a bit like this:

$ telnet localhost 25 Trying 127.0.0.1... Connected to localhost (127.0.0.1). Escape character is '^]'. 220 my.mail.server.com ESMTP Sendmail 8.13.8/8.13.8; Thu, 27 Sep 2007 09:22:53 +1000 EHLO localhost 250-localhost Hello localhost [127.0.0.1] (may be forged), pleased to meet you 250-ENHANCEDSTATUSCODES 250-PIPELINING 250-8BITMIME 250-SIZE 250-DSN 250-ETRN 250-AUTH DIGEST-MD5 CRAM-MD5 LOGIN PLAIN 250-DELIVERBY 250 HELP quit 221 2.0.0 my.mail.server.com closing connection Connection closed by foreign host.
The AUTH line shows what SMTP authentication methods are available to the client. In sendmail, this is controlled by the following lines in sendmail.mc:
TRUST_AUTH_MECH(EXTERNAL DIGEST-MD5 CRAM-MD5 LOGIN PLAIN')dnl define(confAUTH_MECHANISMS', EXTERNAL DIGEST-MD5 CRAM-MD5 LOGIN PLAIN')dnl</blockquote> By default, LOGIN and PLAIN authentication methods are disabled using the AUTH_OPTIONS line in sendmail.mc. This is where the problem beings - as MD5 auth does not work in Outlook 2007. Outlook will try to use MD5 auth, but fail with an "Authentication Failed" error. This is interesting, as other email clients do not have this issue. To allow Outlook to send mail, we need to enable PLAIN and LOGIN authenticaion. We do this by changing the following line in sendmail.mc from this: <blockquote>define(confAUTH_OPTIONS', A p')dnl</blockquote> to this: <blockquote>define(confAUTH_OPTIONS', `A')dnl
After rebuilding sendmail.cf (by running "make sendmail.cf"), you can restart sendmail to enable PLAIN and LOGIN authentication methods.

NOTE: I think it is a really bad idea to have to do this, as LOGIN and PLAIN authentication methods have NO SECURITY at all. When you send email using this, your authentication details are transmitted in plain text over the internet. This is very bad. Sadly, if you are forced to use SMTP auth and Outlook 2007, it seems that you must put up with this. Even worse is that there is no indication that Microsoft is aware of this problem at all, meaning that my efforts in getting this recognised as an issue by Microsoft will be fairly fruitless.