Wednesday, February 01, 2006



Since I've set up shop in the space that some architect designated as a formal living room, I needed a television. Rather than buy a new TV while all the HDTV prices are dropping rapidly, I decided to buy a Hauppauge USB2 TV tuner and connect it to my laptop.

This device is awesome. I've never had a problem of any kind with it. The software that comes with it sucks, though.

I evaluated a bunch of software that records TV shows to my disk drive and decided to buy SnapStream's BeyondTV.

My setup was working very well, but Cox only gives me a few of my favorite channels in the normal analog cable range that the Hauppage can tune into, so I relocated my cable box from the bedroom. That worked well, too, but then BeyondTV couldn't change channels to record shows.

There are a couple of products out there that will blast infrared at the cable box to change the channels. The one I decided to buy was MyBlaster. It installed easily and worked well. Until I rebooted my laptop, that is.

I told that story on the SnapStream forum, so there's no need to type any more about that, except to say that I finally got it working very well.

New Email Server

I burned lots of time on moving my old email server from a very old distribution of RedHat Linux on a very old 386 to an iMac running MacOS 10.2. That worked great for a while, until the disk controller stopped working. At least I had a backup, but that thing stayed broken for at least a month.

I bought an external FireWire drive to get it back again, but for a bunch of reasons, I just couldn't get it working again and I didn't want to burn any more time compiling and configuring source code for an unsupported version of MacOS. Then it dawned on me that I had a faster machine with a built-in battery backup that could run the latest distribution of Debian Linux. I didn't think of it earlier because its backlight burned out a long time ago.

The thing that's cool about working with a modern version of Linux is that the packages install like a hot knife through butter. I had that thing up and running in just a few hours.

LDAP-Based Email Filters

Since I've had my new email server working, I've been experimenting with things like OpenLDAP and OpenVPN.

I put all my address book entries into my LDAP server, and now I can access it from anywhere, including other peoples' houses. That's all most people would use it for, but I took it further in a novel direction.

I wrote a little program that uses my schema extensions to the the LDAP directory to determine into which of many mail folders to deliver each incoming message. It does this with sender filters and recipient filters.

The coolest thing is that the sender filter can reference one or more of the existing address books! So, for example, I can tell it to look in my "Family" address book and deliver messages from any of those people into a folder called "Family". I use that pattern for "Extended Family" and "Friends", too. I can also use fragments of email addresses, such that I can match on someone's unique user ID from any domain name or match on anyone at some domain name. And that's not all!

I can also match on recipient email addresses, which allows me to contextually file away messages that might otherwise go into only one mail folder. For example, I can match on addresses that I only see when my son's den leader announces the next den meeting so that those messages go into my "Scouts" folder, yet still have email from him go into my "Friends" folder when he's not talking about Cub Scouts. And that's still not all!

Each user can have a list of notification mechanisms that are restricted by the hour of the day. That allows me to send a notification to my cell phone whenever an email is delivered into an important mailbox, but only during reasonable hours. That keeps my cell phone from incessantly beeping throughout the night when an important newsflash tells me about some wicked Osama deed while I'm in bed.

My intention is to package up this software and make it publicly available for other people to use and improve. Hopefully other people will find it interesting enough to use it, add features to it, and fix bugs they find. I have an idea for a commercial product that I might describe in my next blog entry.

What do you think? I welcome you to use the link below to post a comment. I'll get an email message telling me that someone's out there!

powerful jim, powerful
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