Archive for January, 2008

Novell Evolution Tip of the Day: Subscribing to Google Calendars

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As I continue to shave and optimize my hybrid working environment to gain more productivity out of the limited hours I have in every day, I’ve been working on consolidating my calendaring needs across the three platforms I currently use (soon to be 4):

  1. Linux Development environment (I do everything on Linux)
  2. Windows Financial environment (I use this for Microsoft Money, some Office 2007 work and several Palm conduits and plugins that don’t have Linux equivalents)
  3. Web
  4. Mac OS X (not yet introduced into my workflow)

I have a lot of calendar items that need to be in various places so I can get to them when I’m working on that platform. This means when I’m on Linux, I need to see my calendar in Evolution and J-Pilot.

When I’m in Windows, I need to see the same calendar in Microsoft Outlook.

When I’m in a browser or not on my native Linux or Windows machines, I need to be able to see my calendar in Google Calendar.

All three platforms must reflect the same EXACT data, without being out of step with any other. So far, this is working very well, using my Palm Treo680 as the middle-man delivery mechanism.

Recently it came to my attention that I need to have clients see where my free/busy time is, and start booking their own slots of my time into the free spots that I haven’t personally blocked out yet.

To do this, I’ve had to leverage and expose my Google Calendar to the public.

On Windows, I’m using a tool called “CompanionLink for Google Calendar” to get my calendar data from Treo → Outlook → Google Calendar. It’s non-free, but it had a decent trial period and its usefulness won me over, so I registered it.

But there was no obvious way to get Evolution to read back those calendars, so I could see when external people (i.e. friends, clients) were adding things to my calendar to book my time for them.

Enter “evolution-webcal”, a seldom-discussed binary that lives in /usr/lib/evolution-webcal/ on most GNU systems (/opt/gnome/lib/evolution-webcal/ on SuSE)!

Basically all you have to do to get Evolution to read in your Google Calendar calendar files is the following (all on one line):

$ /usr/lib/evolution-webcal/evolution-webcal \

The way you get the .ics calendar URL you see above, is by:

  1. Log into your Google Calendar account
  2. Click the little “V” chevron to the right of your target calendar in the “My Calendars” block on the left sidebar
  3. Select “Calendar Settings” from the popup menu
    Google Calendar Menu
  4. Towards the bottom of the “Calendar Details” tab on the right side, you’ll see two sections: Calendar Address and Private Address. Click the [ICAL] item on either of these (choose wisely)
    Google Calendar details
  5. Cut and paste the URL provided in the popup window into your evolution-webcal command above.

That’s it. Now Evolution will have your new Google Calendars listed under the “On the Web” category in the Calendar’s view.

GNOME Evolution and Google Calendar

Now I can see the same thing in Evolution as I see in Outlook as I see in Google Calendar, without any discrepancies. Whew!

If Mozilla Thunderbird is your thing, there’s an extension to Thunderbird called “Provider for Google Calendar” that allows you to read/write to your Google Calendars from within Thunderbird.

It’s a start. Now where did I put those extra 32 hours I need in every day again?

Piracy is NOT Stealing

Here we go again…

I’ve found myself using a lot of movies and DVDs with my 3½ year-old daughter while we’re driving around, using a portable DVD player.

NOTE: That same DVD player, I purchased about 7 years ago from Tweeter, and it still beats the current portable DVD players in features, longevity and most-importantly, thickness. Today’s portable DVD players are thick, bulky and have an external battery that increases the overall footprint of the unit significantly.

Panasonic LV70 DVD Player

The Panasonic DVD-LV70 that I purchased (along with extended warrantee and extra battery of course) is the thinnest DVD player I’ve seen, and it lasts forever.

Back on track.. when I start up a DVD for her, I have to sit through the obligatory 2+ minute Anti-Piracy spool on the beginning of the movie she wants to watch, then I have to sit through the 2-4 minutes of introductory commercials after that, rife with plenty of flashing, ADHD-inducing imagery.. such imagery that a 3½ year-old does not need to be subject to it.

I should note that these are movies designed for infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers. I find it very hard to believe that my daughter or her peers are going to go duplicating and uploading copies of “Little People” or “Strawberry Shortcake” to torrent sites. Really.

Attempts to go to the “Top Menu” via the DVD player’s navigation buttons produces a red circle-with-slash through it, likewise pressing the “Next” or “Previous” buttons on the unit. You literally have to sit there and watch it through, before the player’s navigation/menu buttons become available to use.

Today, I wanted to start up a movie for her while she calms down for a nap, and I actually paid attention to the anti-piracy rhetoric on the intro, and thought to myself how absolutely incorrect and misleading this commercial is.

“You wouldn’t steal a car!”

“You wouldn’t steal a television set!”

“You wouldn’t steal a DVD!”

“Downloading pirated movies IS STEALING!”

Actually, no it is not. Downloading pirated movies is a copyright infringement, but it is most-definitely NOT stealing.

Let me throw out an accurate analogy:

If I steal your bicycle, I now am in possession of it, and you no longer have it. I have deprived you of your bicycle. This is stealing.

If I go to your house, and take a series of high-res, digital photographs of your bicycle, then go home and recreate the exact same thing in my workshop, tube for tube, identical in every way to your bicycle… have I stolen your bicycle?

NO! This is NOT stealing.

The industry would have you believe that you have stolen money from the artist, from the production company. That the artist would have made money if you purchased the item legitimately instead of downloading a copy that was infringing on their copyright.

You can’t “lose” something you never had to begin with. If you didn’t pay the artist, then they lost nothing.

I wish the industry would start getting this right, because the incorrect, misleading messaging is obviously not having any impact on the problem at hand.

What this enforced messaging IS encouraging me to do, is to rip the DVD, strip out the garbage, mental and subliminal imagery, and re-burn my own copy that does not include this offensive, dangerous material.

At least then, my daughter can watch the movie she wants, uninterrupted, without having to go through the “Clockwork Orange” behavior at the beginning of every show.

Invisibility of the Ignorant

I’ve been following a trend over the last 5 or more years. It seems to affect people who are used to interacting with others “mostly online”. They seem to have developed a personality defect that I’m now going to start calling the “Invisibility of the Ignorant”.

When someone wants to stop talking to you, they just go completely invisible. No reason, no rhyme, no excuse, they just vanish.

What would that be like if someone did that in person?

You’re standing there talking to someone, having an ongoing conversation and you ask them a question, they’re looking right at you and then they turn around and walk away into the crowd. That is precisely what this is like.

It’s almost as if there is zero respect for anything or anyone, since you’re “not in person”, there can be no harm done, right? Wrong. The same rules of respect, dignity and behaving properly applies.

I’ve increasingly had a lot of interactions with people since I’ve lost my job with IBM back at the end of June including job recruiters, hiring managers, secretaries, women, men and people from all walks of life.

The one constant thread throughout all of these relationships with these people, is that without fail, 99.9% of them do not know how to maintain a simple conversation. Their people skills flat-out suck.

Instead of a polite “We’re sorry, you’re not a good fit for the position” or “We’ve decided to hire someone internally instead” or “I’ve found someone else better suited for me.”, you get… NOTHING. Not a phone call, not an email, you get nothing. You get invisibility.

I can’t count the thousands of times I’ve had to call people back, because they just fell off the face of the earth, right in the middle of an existing conversation or relationship. It is such a drain on the energy I already have, to have to chase people around to make sure they’re doing what is expected of them, and also to make sure they haven’t died… because that’s about the only reason I can think of for not completing a simple conversation or calling someone back who is expecting your phone call.

Is it laziness? Is it malice? Is it purely stupidity? Forgetfulness? I don’t know what it is, but it’s definitely a growing “defect” in people who spend a majority of their lives interacting with people who they will probably never meet in person.

And it’s sad.

When someone is expecting me to show up, or to call… I call. When I have an appointment, even if it is for something trivial like to bring my cats to the vet, I will call if I’m going to be late, just to let them know, so they can plan around that time.

It just happened to me moments ago. I was having an IM conversation with a friend, and it was an ongoing, interactive back and forth conversation and then after my last typed message… nothing. Nothing at all. Not even a “Hey, I have something to do, let’s catch up later.” or something. Just silence.

It’s been 29 minutes now and the other person has gone completely idle in their IM client.

I don’t ever leave people hanging, or wondering.

But then again, I’m not like most people.

A Eulogy for Our Fathers

I refuse to eulogize my father.
To eulogize him is to admit he is gone.
My father is not dead...

Kaito Nakamura taught me right from wrong.
What it means to be a hero.
So long as his lessons live on through me...
...he will never die.

My father taught me to understand that...
certain things are in God's hands.
But for everything else...
God has given us the gift of choice.

My father gave me the tools to fight the battles ahead.
Every hand I extend in kindness is his hand.
And every blow that I strike in justice is his fist.

So long as the lessons he taught stay with me.
And so long as he lives in my heart.
Then my father is never truly dead.

United States v. Boucher, “Man can’t be forced to divulge encryption passphrase”

In a recent thread on Slashdot about a proposed new U.S. policy that would allow the government access to any email, there was a post that linked to this entry.

In short, a Canadian citizen, legal resident of the US, was coming across the border when agents asked to look at his laptop. They visually saw what appeared to be child pornography on the machine. The laptop was taken and put into evidence. When they attempted to boot the machine again at a later date to re-examine the location where the child pornography was seen, the drive was encrypted and required a password to gain entry.

The courts tried to compel the man to divulge his encryption password, but he refused. A subpoena was issued asking that he turn over his password, and he declined, citing that it would violate his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.

From the article, the prosecutor tried one tactic, which failed:

“This debate has been one of analogy and metaphor. Prosecutors tend to view PGP passphrases as akin to someone possessing a key to a safe filled with incriminating documents. That person can, in general, be legally compelled to hand over the key.”

This leads to an interesting quagmire…

“The courts likely will find that compelling someone to reveal the steps necessary to decrypt a PGP-encrypted document violates the Fifth Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination.

Because most users protect their private keys by memorizing passwords to them and not writing them down, access to encrypted documents would almost definitely require an individual to disclose the contents of his mind. This bars the state from compelling its production.

This would force law enforcement officials to grant some form of immunity to the owners of these documents to gain access to them.”

It brings up quite a few interesting points of view. I personally am a STRONG advocate of encryption and I will never hand over my encryption keys anyway.

In a world where telecommunications companies have no problem breaking the law, handing private information over to the government and then asking for retroactive immunity… it isn’t only beneficial to encrypt your communications, it is NECESSARY!

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