I have been looking to install a net nanny type application for sometime on my home network, mainly to provide some protection for the kids against the less salubrious websites that are out there.

Received wisdom (mainly from the local ISP) is that I should install a dedicated nanny application onto each PC that I have, and keep each of these up to date as and when the software and the black/white lists change. And this of course is good and sensible advice.

However, I am generally too lazy to do all of the above, and besides, I didn’t want to slow down my connection even more with another application clogging up my MB and CPU. So I started looking for an alternate solution – a net nanny enabled router perhaps?

In the end, I came across this instead – OpenDNS | Providing A Safer And Faster Internet. So, how does this work?

Well, OpenDNS replaces your normal DNS resolution servers, as provided by your ISP. Instead, you go to a special set of DNS servers, which intercept any bad sites and instead send you to a nice warning page instead. Like this…..

In addition, because you access the site through a unique ID, you can also configure OpenDNS to provide additional functionality. Like:

  • Phishing protection
  • Domain blocking
  • Adult site blocking
  • Web proxy blocking
  • Domain whitelisting
  • DNS statistics

And, best of all, this comes at a dollar value of $0! Frankly I think it’s a brilliant solution, and it works on each and every PC on my home network, and on any guest machines as well.

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I have been using WordPress for the past couple of years, and I’m pretty happy. It certainly makes writing new articles for this site nice and easy. To make life even easier, as I’m scouring the web for useful bits of information, I often want to blog some interesting site there and then. To do this, I’ve been using a convenient little extension for Firefox, called ScribeFire.

However, over the past few weeks I’ve started to have trouble – first of all ScribeFire started to report errors in the API calls, and then when I tried to reregister with my site, it reported that my username and password were incorrect.

Smelling an upgrade rat, I started to track down 2 possible causes – a new version of the ScribeFire extension (1.4.2), or a recent upgrade to WordPress (2.2.2).

To help track things down, I obtained a copy of the PHP XMLRCP 2.2 library, and built a simple wordpress xmlrpc test script (which can be found here if you are interested).

What this told me was that WordPress was rejecting any xmlrpc calls containing newline characters (\n). To fix this, I just tracked back into the xmlrpc.php file, and then up to the wp-includes/class-IXR.php library. Inside this standard library the IXR_Message is instantiated as follows:

function IXR_Message ($message) {
$this->message = $message;

To strip out the newlines, this is replaced by….

function IXR_Message ($message) {
$this->message = preg_replace(‘/\\\\n+/’,”,$message);

This doesn’t seem like and ideal solution, but it does work (this post was written back in ScribeFire!)

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After many years of decent service out of the Horde webmail application, I’ve found an alternative.  The RoundCube webmail project attempts to bring all the convenience of AJAX to the web application – an email was always the application in need of this treatment.

The GUI is quite simple, clean and clear.  In fact you can quickly forget that this application doesn’t exist on your desktop at all, as this snapshot shows….

The overall feature set is pretty basic so far (it lacks certain key functions such as pre-filtering of the messages into folders) but that doesn’t detract from the overall positive impressions that I’ve had so far.

This certainly isn’t the perfect webmail application (yet) but if you want to see AJAX making email on the web much nicer to use, then give this a go.

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If you have a website, and need to upload file, you usually use FTP (secure or not) or some local web file manager. The web file managers are usually fairly lame, so I’ve been on the lookout for an AJAX based one for a while. The Relay Directory Manager is the first example of an AJAX based file manager that I have seen – you can find it here

Relay AJAX

It is still in beta, and the upload bar and buttons can go a bit wonky, but it’s not bad – in fact I find it very useful indeed. Best of it’s open-source 🙂

The buzz around this new product has been astonishing – and it’s only just been released. For $499 US you get a small black USB 2.0 unit that can hold up to 4 SATA disk drives.

Drobo storage robot So it’s a big off-host data store? Well, that and much more.

This isn’t just a simple off-host disk, or even an array of disk (like RAID).  It’s actually an intelligent component in its own right (and that’s why this is a robot).  No matter the number of disks installed (up to 4 SATA drives) the Drobo makes them appear as one big drive.  The capacity is subdivided into data, backup and expansion spaces, and the robot manages the location of the data seamlessly and transparently (it is claimed).

All of this means that you shoudn’t lose data even if a disk fails; you can add extra capacity on-the-fly by slotting a new disk into a spare slot; you can replaced a disk without having to reconfigure the system; and so on…

For the full skinny, go straight to the website….
Drobo | Products

The only question I have, is when is it going to arrive in the UK? And can I pre-order one now? If I can get my hands on one of these devices, I’ll let you know exactly how well this great new idea turns out to be….

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If you need to have an email address to join a website, but want to avoid all the spam that can accompany that action, then you might be interested in this website.  Guerrilla mail allows you to create a temporary email for 15 minutes, which should be just long enough to get hold of the supplied password.  I’m sure there are plenty of other users that you can imagine if you put your minds to it!

Guerrilla Mail – Disposable temporary e-mail address

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I’ve been using a NAT router from Linksys for years, but now the team from CheckPoint (formerly ZoneLabs) have brought a similar device. Key feature though is the inbuilt set of internet security applications, including SPI firewall, gateway antivirus, remote VPN, etc. Not a bad solution – pity it’s only available in the US for now.

ZoneAlarm Router

Check Point ZoneAlarm – Home/Office Products

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I’ve seen a few weird things, but this has to be the oddest in a while.  It’s a keyboard with no markings.  The manufacturer’s claim that this means you don’t get distracted by the symbols, so you really have to know where the keys are, and that means you type better!  Well, it’s sort of logical.

Don’t believe me?  That a look at this then….

I’m not sure if they have a UK distributor, but it does look like you can get one from Germany.

Das Keyboard – The Blank Keyboard for Demanding Users.

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If, like me, you like to be able to think whilst sat at your computer, then your No.1 biggest enemy is the fan.  At the same time, you want plenty of power to run those top-of-the-line games and graphics systems.  Anyone who is using the beta of Adobe Lightroom will surely know that you can never have enough MIPS under the bonnet.

So, how to resolve the power vs. noise conundrum.  Best bet is to start looking at quiet PC products, especially those that use heat pipes, or where possible no fan at all.  Trick is to eliminate or hush all of the fans (CPU, GPU, Northbridge, PSU).

This offering from Yesico (courtesy of Quietpc.com) doesn’t quite go all the way, but it’s pretty close.  It’s a PSU with only 1 small internal fan, so it should all but kill the fan noise out the back of the case, and at 550W it should be beefy enough to run just about any set of gear inside your case that you choose.

Take a closer look at QuietPC.com – FL-550ATX Fanless 550W PSU

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This has been written about a fair bit, but it’s still worth a mention. All of the favorite open source (well mostly) application have been shrunk to execute from a thumbdrive!

It comes it two favours (standard and lite) and the regular version includes ClamWin Portable (antivirus), Firefox Portable (web browser), Gaim Portable (instant messaging), OpenOffice.org Portable (office suite), Sudoku Portable (puzzle game), Sunbird Portable (calendar/task manager) and Thunderbird Portable (email client).

The suite will fit on a 512MB drive, whilst the lite version fits onto 256MB drive – it uses AbiWord Portable (word processor) instead of OpenOffice.org Portable.
Find out more at PortableApps.com

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