Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I just installed Quicksilver on my Mac and, so far, I am really enjoying it. I have to admit that I don't think I fully grasp what the program can do yet, but here is a description of my limited usage. Basically, Quicksilver is an app for managing how you open programs. For example, once I invoke QS through a preset key combination (in my case, control+space), I can start to type the name of an application I want to run (i.e. calc... to get to calculator) and QS will auto-complete what I am typing. Pressing enter will execute the selected app. If that app is already running, it will switch to it. It's very quick (I guess it's aptly named) and convenient.

This is a great app for keyboard-centric users. It's a nice complement to Nostalgy (see previous post), as well. I see that it supports plug-ins. I haven't had the chance to try any out yet, but I would like one that works with Firefox and Thunderbird to add more keyboard commands. Maybe these already exist.

If you're a former *NIX user or just someone who likes to user the keyboard as your primary input device, I would check this out. Of you're a point-and-click person, probably not worth it.

I'm back!

Hi, and Happy Halloween! Sorry for the dearth of posts over the past couple of days. I just got back from a relaxing trip to Vermont. My wife and I stayed at the Equinox Resort, which was pretty awesome. Here are a couple of recommendations if you find yourself in the Manchester, VT area:

- Laney's Restaurant - some of the best ribs I have ever had; they came with homemade BBQ sauce. I wasn't reckless enough to try the deep-fried cornbread with maple butter, but I am sure that it is very good.

- Up For Breakfast - I am rarely impressed by breakfast, as it is usually just different permutations of the same half-dozen foods. But, Up For Breakfast really impressed me. I had the "Morning Glory Pancakes" - think a hybrid between pancakes and carrot cake.

- Vermont Pub & Brewery - went here with Richard when we visited Burlington. Try the Beetlejuice Hefeweizen (Wheat Beer).

- Mulligan's - we went to "Tijuana Tuesday" at Mulligan's. This included $10 all-you-can-eat fajitas - turns out, you can't really eat than many fajitas.

Anyway, I will get back to tech posts after this one, but just wanted to let you know of these places in case you find yourself in southern VT.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Picasa vs. Flickr

So, I have been playing around with Flickr of late, and I have to say that I am not crazy about it. It's interface is very nice and it seems to work well, but there are a couple of minor details that I don't like:

1) the URLs are not easy - I don't want to have to log in and copy and paste the URL of my pictures to send it to people. I want to be able to remember it and just type it into any email. Insofar as I can tell, the Flickr pages use these weird, randomly-generated URLs. Maybe there is a way to get a simple URL, but a cursory search did not yield any results.

2) the Web 2.0 thing is not for me - I don't want to be prompted to "tag" my photos or anything like that. I guess it is fine for people who want to make their archive very searchable, but that isn't of too much interest for me. Flickr seems to cater to that sort of web use - tagging and searching on tags to get images. I just want the traditional web-based photo album.

So, that said, I decided to try Picasa on Ira's advice. I really like it. There is a very easy-to-use photo uploader for my Mac (I think Flickr has this too) and I was able to push all of my images up and give them captions very quickly. The URLs are exactly what I want, algorithmically-generated, predict able URLs. I hate to promote everything Google, as I am a big proponent of diverse applications that meet the need of a specific task, but everything they put out seems to best meet my needs!

Check out the pictures from my Vermont trip up on Picasa:

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A non-tech post?

Given the amount of time that I spend in the city everyday, I have started to look for nice, long weekend trips that my wife and I can go on. One day, I stumbled upon a link for the Travel section of New York Magazine - I think Richard might have sent it to me. I have come to love this site for getting travel ideas. I think the market focus of the Travel section is New Yorkers who are looking to get out of the city for a little bit. Being a Philadelphian, I feel these also apply to me, since I am so close to NY.

Basically, each section in the Weekend Escape Plan is broken into 5 sections: "where to stay," "where to eat," "what to do," "insider tips," and "an oddball day." Each category is pretty self-explanatory . I should note, also, that this section even covers international destinations and other places that might be longer than just a weekend getaway.

Pretty soon, I am going on vacation to Vermont for a few days, as suggested by the article Raid the Cheese Pantry in Vermont. We're going to check out the Cabot Creamery (makers of the world's best cheddar), visit Ben and Jerry's (headquartered in Vermont), and visit Richard. I'll post some pics when I get back. I'm thinking about checking out the Kennebunks for our next trip.

Anyway, check it out and let me know if you end up trying any of these trips!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Airport Express

I want an Airport Express so bad. Why don't I have one? I have been too lazy and/or have not had to the time to go out and buy one. I will soon, though.

So, what can this thing do? The Airport Express with AirTunes plugs into your home theater system and allows you to stream music wirelessly from your computer to your home stereo. Wait! It gets better. You can have multiple devices in different locations, each plugged into a different stereo. So, what, you say? Well, you can name each device and your iTunes will see each one and load them into a dropbox. You can then pick which one you want to send your music to.

Let's say you put one of these in your family room and name it (you guessed it) "Family Room." And, you could have another one named "Living Room" and one named "Kitchen" and so forth. Then, you could choose from a listing in your iTunes where you want your music to play!

This technology isn't new by any mean, but Apple gives it their special touch: making it simple to set up and use.

PrintBoy - Printing from your Treo

Have you ever wished you had TCP/IP printing available from your Treo (or Windows Mobie or PocketPC device)? Probably not, but if you did, you could use PrintBoy. PrintBoy is a nice little program that allows you to print to network-enabled printers from anywhere you have an Internet connection. And, it integrates pretty nicely with Documents To Go.

It's a little pricey at $50, but I guess this is kind of a niche solution. It's actually very handy if you need to send a hard-copy of something from your Treo to someone in your office while you are on the road.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Some thoughts on Thunderbird...

Here are some miscellaneous thoughts on Thunderbird:

1) I like this Nostalgy add-on that Ira told me about. Basically, it makes TB more friendly for those who would prefer to control it through the keyboard, rather than having to click and drag. Here's an example. If you have a ton of folders like I do, and you want to file mail into those folders as you are done with it, Nostalgy allows you to hit the 's' key and start to type the name of the folder where you want your message to go. It will do an auto-complete for you and you can just hit enter to move the message there. This also works with copying and tagging messages.

If you're into using the mouse, this add-on is not for you. But, I would say it's perfect for someone who is a....former elm user. (I'm looking at you, Al!)

2) So, the other day one of my cats (JL, I know you're wondering which cat; it was Tiger Woods-Mustazza) walked across my keyboard and f-ed up inbox. All of my messages got grouped into categories based on when they were received. Moreover, they were put into these collapsible containers that would close from time to time and hide my mail - ugh! Somehow, I got everything to go back to normal.

A couple of days ago I clicked this icon of a swirly thing and all of my mail got grouped into conversations, like in GMail - and, again with the collapsible, nested categories! Again, I could not figure out how to turn this off.

Thanks to MacDerm, I now know how to get out of these situations when they arise: just click one of the headers that sorts your mail in your inbox - i.e. click on "Date" to sort your mail by the date. This causes said collapsible categories and threading to vanish. Thank God.

More on GMail IMAP

I have been very curious about how GMail will handle the inherent conflict of labels and folders when they roll out their new IMAP service. The idea of labeling or tagging mail (and then moving it all to a common archive) is pretty much the opposite of the traditional file-an-email-into-a-folder model. The difference is that the former model allows for a single message to be categorized by multiple categories and the latter latter only supports one category, the folder that the message is filed into.

Thanks to MacDerm and Warren for sending me these links explaining how GMail will handle the process:

Executive summary: when you file a message into a folder in your IMAP mail client, the message will be tagged with the name of the folder. To tag a folder with multiple lables, you have to make copies of that message into multiple folders.

I guess this only matters if you would manage your mail through both the web interface and an IMAP client.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I read about TasteBook on LifeHacker today and it seems pretty awesome. The general idea is that you upload your own recipes (or maybe old, family recipes that you have written on index cards in a card box somewhere) into your profile. You can also connect to popular recipe sites and download recipes from them into your TasteBook. You can either keep all of your stuff online and share it with your friends or, once you have 100 recipes, you can have a full-color cookbook created and mailed to you for like $35.

I haven't had the chance to play with this yet, but I am excited to check it out, as this site lies in the intersection of two of my interests, technology and cooking.


Thanks to Jessica H. for showing me this the other day. I couldn't stop laughing the first time I saw this.

DISCLAIMER: Stazz's Stuff is not a political blog. Stazz will not broadcast his political views from this venue or any other and he does not care about yours. Stazz appreciates this clip for its nerdy humor; he also enjoys typing in the third person.

Breaking News - IMAP on GMail!

I got an email from Warren early this morning with the subject line "google testing imap?". I went right for this message, as there are not many subject lines that could trump this one -- maybe just "URGENT: Server on Fire" or "Free Food Today."

It appears that Google has added IMAP help docs, but the feature is not yet available in my GMail account. Download Squad has a story on this saying that some users can see the IMAP controls already. I will be checking compulsively until I can see the settings in my account and test them out! If anyone already has them and decides to test them out, please let me know how it goes!

I would be really interested to see how conversations and tagging are handled, not to mention that one of the pillars of IMAP is the ability to manage server-side folders; GMail does not support the use of folders.

Anyway, this is great news and I can't wait to see how it unfolds. If you have more information on this, please send!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


So, as a relatively new Mac convert, there are still some things that I miss from Windows. One of them was using SecureCRT. The thing I loved about SecureCRT (starting in version, 5.0, I think) was the tabbed sessions. I loved being able to have separate SSH sessions in different tabs and toggle between the tabs. During the course of a normal day, I need to connect to several different servers, and sometimes have two or three sessions open to the same server. This was managed nicely by SecureCRT.

But, thanks to a recommendation from Kyle and Dareus, I've started using iTerm on my Mac. iTerm supports tabbed sessions and has another feature that I love, not even offered by SecureCRT: window transparency. The greatest thing ever is to be able to see through your SSH window to other programs. Sometimes when I am working with information from an email that I have open, I can look right through my iTerm window at that email. Sweet.

I just started using iTerm today and so far I really like it. There were a couple of things that took some getting used to, but it is way better than the built-in Mac terminal that I had been using.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Better GMail

If you use GMail, this FireFox add-on is essential: Better GMail. This is an entire suite of GMail augmentations, including everything from skins through encryption. By default, GMail only encrypts its authentication. This means that only your username and password are safe from people eavesdropping on the network; your mail is not. Whenever you open a message or view your inbox, all of that data is sent across the network "in the clear," visible to anyone who is looking for it.

Using Better GMail will force GMail to encrypt all data sent to and from your computer, including your email. I would strongly recommend installing better GMail if you use GMail for your mail. You may need to install Grease Monkey first.

It can also do a ton of other stuff that I haven't had the time to play with yet. I'd be very interested to hear if you have any success doing cool stuff with this add-on!

Thanks to Ira for telling me about this add-on.

Some background on this, for those interested:
The web uses two main protocols to transfer information from a web server to your browser: HTTP and HTTPS. The former is unencrypted and the latter *is* encrypted. When data is not encrypted (i.e. sent "in the clear"), it is susceptible to be intercepted in transit by someone maliciously listening on the network (or "packet sniffing"). It will appear to said eavesdropper in clear, plain text. He or she can see all of the data you can see on your screen. When the HTTPS protocol is used, the data is encrypted by the web server and decrypted by your computer (and vice versa when you are sending data to the web server). This means that, should someone intercept it in transit, it will be garbled junk. Useless. HTTPS is essential for web sessions where you would not want someone to be able to see your data: banking, etc.

The way you can tell if something is using HTTP or HTTP is by looking at the URL bar in your browser. If the background is yellow and the URL starts with "https://," then your session is encrypted; otherwise, it is not.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Upgrading my wardrobe

I really want this shirt. If you think this shirt is funny, you are nerdy, indeed.

I want this one for a different reason. It seems that no matter where I am (e.g. the airport, the mall, standing around by the yellow tape of a crime scene trying to get into my parking garage so I can go home [yes, this has happened]), people somehow divine that I might be a good candidate to ask about their computer woes. It probably has something to do with the fact that 99% of the time I have my Treo in hand and volunteer unsolicited computing advice. :)

Google Analytics

I've been pretty interested by this Google Analytics traffic analysis suite. Traditionally, I've always used Analog as my web stats program, but I really like the reporting offered by Google. You can get map views of where your visitors come from, referring pages, etc. All you have to do is setup a profile with Google and add some JavaScript to each of your pages. Google takes care of the rest.

The only thing I'm not crazy about is handing over data about a site's usage patterns to Google -- or any other external entity, for that matter. Analytics is quick and easy to set up and may be a good choice for users who are not familiar with applications that parse your web server logs or for personal web pages. In fact, I am using GA to get usage stats on this blog. But, I don't think I would use it for anything work-related.

Anyway, check it out. It's a pretty nice suite and very easy to set up.

Friday, October 19, 2007


This is one of my favorite programs of all time. PDA Net allows you to use your Treo as a modem to connect to the Internet. You actually get a very good connection. The Treo 700 is significantly faster than the 650 in terms of internet connection speed. If you try this with a 650 and then upgrade to a 700, you will see a huge difference.

With this program, you basically get an internet connection anywhere you have cell service on your Treo. This is perfect if your phone has an unlimited data plan.

I hear there is a way to do this with a Mac too, using a Bluetooth connection, but I haven't seen it firsthand yet.

Mac Tips

Here are a couple of cool Mac keyboard shortcuts that I've learned about recently:

- Partial Screenshots - Apple + Shift + 4 allows gives you a cursor that you can use to drag out a box over part of you screen. When you release the mouse button, a screenshot of you selection will be taken and saved to your Desktop as a PNG file. This is a lot better than having to take a full screenshot and then crop it down to only show what you want.

- Switching between windows in the same app - you probably know that Apple+tab allows you to toggle through a list of your open apps, but did you know that Apple+` (the key next to 1) allows you to swap between windows within the same app?

Example, let's say you have 5 open chat windows going in iChat. If you want to cycle through them, you could use Apple+` to go through them one by one.

Thanks to Gavin for finding this. Very useful for me with Thunderbird.

- Not a keyboard shortcut, but did you know that you can scroll in any window my dragging two fingers on trackpad? That's right! Instead of having to navigate your mouse to the scroll bar and drag up and down or left and right, you can scroll from anywhere within the window by dragging two fingers on the trackpad.

You do need to enable this in your system settings, though: Apple menu -> System Preferences -> Keyboard & Mouse -> Track Pad ->Use two fingers to scroll.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

USB George Foreman Grill

No one believes me when I tell them about the USB George Foreman Grill Well, people believe as to the this hilarious device's existence, but what no one believes is that this thing does not need a power adapter. That's right: it gets all of the power it uses to cook through the USB bus!

This is the best phrase from the grill's page: "provides a sophisticated web-based cooking interface." I love that this thing is TCP/IP-enabled. Do you think we need to worry about security vulnerabilities here? Maybe someone should break out Tamper Data (see post from a couple of days ago) on this thing. ;)

For the Treo 700p Users...

I have to credit Al F. as the reason that I found this program. About 2 years ago, Al asked me if I knew of any way he could connect to our UNIX server from his Treo via SSH. Wow, connected to a UNIX shell from anywhere? Too sweet. So, after a little research I found PSSH.

PSSH is a very lightweight program for Palm OS that allows you to SSH into your server. It has proven invaluable to me. One time, I even fixed a user's mail quota problem from the beach!

The downside to PSSH is how small the font in, even at its largest. But, in a pinch, this program can save you.

BTW, check out my ode to the Treo in last year's Philadelphia City Paper. You have to scroll down a little.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cookie Swap

Do you ever wish you could be logged into multiple webmail accounts simultaneously? Maybe you have a couple of GMail accounts that you use for communicating with different people and you want to have them both open at the same time. Unfortunately, this isn't possible with many popular webmail clients, including Yahoo! and Hotmail. The reason is that these services use a cookie to keep track of who you are. You can only have one cookie per site so it would seem impossible to be able to log into multiple GMail sessions, right? Wrong. Enter Cookie Swap.

Cookie Swap is a plug-in for Firefox (yeah, yeah, I know, another Firefox plug-in post) that allows you to have multiple "cookie profiles." So, you could have one profile for one GMail account and another for your other GMail account. Each profile contains its own independent cookies that do not know about cookies in other profiles. It's pretty nice for quickly switching between accounts.

Caveat emptor: if you open multiple tabs or windows and change your profiles from profile 1 to profile 2, it changes in all of them. So, you need to remember to switch back to profile 1 when you go back to window or tab 1. This is extremely annoying and I hope they will fix this in future versions.

Good night.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Welcome to my blog!

Hi, and welcome to my blog! I've wanted to have a blog for a while now, but I have finally mustered the courage to actually create one. I will attempt to be as least boring as possible, but no promises. BTW, if you're not a total nerd like I am, this site will serve as an excellent cure for insomnia. Anyway, on to my first post.

It seems that the topic of the day, every day, is information security. Rarely does a day go by when I don't hear about having to perform code reviews because an application may have been the cause of a server breach -- or something along those lines. Web developers today have a growing number of attack vectors to be wary about -- XSS attacks, SQL injections, etc. In addition to others, the first place a potential hacker usually starts is by exploiting form fields to pass unexpected values to an application. As a web developer, one should try to anticipate any and every form of malicious data being passed to the application via HTTP GET or POST requests. A handy tool that I use when writing code is the Tamper Data plug-in for FireFox.

When you are running Tamper Data, it will intercept all form submissions and server requests and ask you if you'd like to tamper with the data before it is sent to the server. This is an excellent way to test various types of inputs in POST requests, where the values aren't so freely available to play with as they are in GET requests. This is also a good lesson to burgeoning web developers: just because you set a form's method to POST, doesn't mean people can't mess with the values of data after the form is submitted!

I know this was kind of an uber-techy post and I will try to post more about technologies that are useful to everyone, but this is one of my favorite plug-ins!