Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Check Your Mail

I keep forgetting to publish this post, so I had better do it now before I forget again 🙂

Many of you know that I dig using (al)pine for reading my email. This is especially true on my Acer Aspire One netbook. I like to have fast access to my email and save space on that tiny flash drive and alpine rolls in around 80someodd k. Anyhow, I also mentioned, I think, that I have several email accounts to keep track of that way, in fact 5 for todays purposes, and I use screen sessions to jump between alpine email sessions on the different accounts.

The trouble with all that is, how do you know when or how many emails you have unread on any of the accounts without jumping through them all, all day long? Well, I decided to go to an old standby for a solution…. Fetchmail.

Fetchmail has the ability to poll your email accounts with a “-c” option which means to just get a count and not download anything. This is just what I need and want!

To start off, you need to configure fetchmail. This is done in your .fetchmailrc file or, in my case, from the command line. I set up all my polling connections in a little script we’ll call “chkmail” like so:

fetchmail -c -u lxxxxx -p imap
fetchmail -c -u lxxxxxxxx -p imap
fetchmail -c -u linc -p imap
fetchmail -c -u lxx -p imap
fetchmail -c -u linc.fessenden -p imap --ssl

Simply put, I call fetchmail, tell it to only count “-c” use the protocol imap “-p” and point it at my imap server’s address. You’ll notice on the gmail entry there is an added “–ssl”. That’s because that imap server uses, you guessed it, ssl authentication. No brainer.

Now the only real stumbling point here is you’ll notice I didn’t pass any passwords. Well, fetchmail doesn’t accept passwords when running from the comand line, it always prompts you for them for security reasons. So, in order to get around that, you’ll need to use a .netrc file, where you can specify your login/password information for the different systems. Your fetchmail program will check your .netrc file before prompting you for a password, so that will make our script runnable without human intervention. My .netrc file looks like so:

login linc
password ubersupersecret
login linc.fessenden
password ohnoyoudidnt

Now with all that done, you can just run that little chkmail script and get an output of your current mail situation any time you want. Or, if you’re like me, I like to have that info on hand throughout the day, so I call that script in a watch command “watch -n 180 ./chkmail”. This will rerun that chkmail command every 3 minutes and put the output in the current terminal. Works like a champ.

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Putting your money where your mouth is, or How to piss off everyone

Yesterday, a buddy and fellow podcaster, Dave Yates emailed a bunch of people, myself included, about an idea he had. His idea was to have a “planet” for the podcasters. A “planet” for those uninitiated is an aggregated weblog/feed where many people’s separate content is merged together in one place for convenience sake (mostly).

Everyone joined in with a resounding “that sounds cool” and the topic progressed about how and where we could get something like that going. I figured I would put my money where my mouth was, and after checking with my hosting company, purchased a domain and offered to host the thing as well. I purchased It was getting late in the evening, but I took a few minutes to research and slap up a mockup/test site, which was met with kudos from the crowd.

Today, after my dns was working, I quickly set up the site for real and added a few feeds. I posted a note for people to check it out and that’s where the real fun began. Apparently there was some misunderstanding between parties about the intent of the site. I was under the impression that we were going to aggregate the peoples blogs, and others were under the impression that we were going to aggregate podcast feeds. Suffice it to say that after many emails telling me that I was completely wrong, I decided to make 2 websites. One of the sites aggregates Linux blogs. You can find it at The other site aggregates Linux video/podcasts. You can find it at The funny part about the whole thing is Dann IMing me during the process. You see we have been doing projects like this together for some time and we have both been privy to the nastygrams that invariably come. Anyway, Dann would make some snide comment in jest about not having this site set up the way he wanted and how he felt slighted or some such thing and no sooner would he send that to me than I would get an email from someone saying almost the exact same thing 🙂

I never learn my lesson I guess 🙂 Anyway, please take time to check the new sites out. I believe they are going to be big hits. They do, of course, need your help too. They need your content, your suggestions, your graphical talents, and, of course, your patronage too! Don’t be afraid to send me emails at lincdotfessendenatgmaildotcom!

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

RIP Mark Hoekstra

Just saw this article about Mark Hoekstra of Geek Technique. Aparently, Mark, who just turned 34 recently, suffered a heart attack and passed away this morning. I have long enjoyed being a reader of Mark’s blog. His hacks, projects and love of old cool hardware have been a source of interest for not only me, but countless others as well. This truly is a bummer.

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

The One

Acer One
A good while ago I remember voicing my opinion on the show about those new Netbooks, the sub-compact notebooks/laptops that everyone was buying. It was my opinion that they were underpowered and pricey for what they actually offered. After all, why buy a mini notebook when you can get a fairly good regular notebook for the same price?

Well, things have changed a bit over time and so has my opinion. Dan was the first one on the band wagon with his EeePC, which he and his family loved so much, they bought a second. He kept touting that it was so convenient and easy to tote around and use. Next was Allan, with his Acer Aspire One, which he gave stellar reviews on (yes, Allan does speak occasionally). And in between those two was Pat, who didn’t get a Netbook, but DID get a wicked nice Linux laptop.

You see, after all this, I started to get laptop envy. Being a “man of some stature”, I find it extremely difficult to use a normal size laptop in a train seat. There just isn’t enough “lap room” available to me and I end up with the screen tilted toward me from the seat in front. Needless to say, it’s extremely difficult to work that way. I also thought it would be so nice to have an ultra portable to haul with me at work if there were notes I needed to take somewhere or information to reference (I hate hauling and generating paperwork). The Netbooks really started to appeal to me.

Then, this weekend it happened. I went to a computer show and saw a lovely IBM Thinkpad x31 (I think that was the model). It’s this tiny Thinkpad, gorgeous really. It was probably just the right size foe the job, and at $250, the price was pretty good as well. The only problem was that it had a slightly cracked bezel, would need more memory (only 512mb) and was, of course, used. Now there isn’t anything at all wrong with buying used computers, except in this case I knew for another $100 I could get a new one with a warranty, so I held off. I spoke at length about it over the weekend with my wife and noticed that the local Microcenter happened to have 4 of the Linux version of the Acer Aspire One left. My wife, after I teetered on the decision for a while, told me to just go and get one and stop procrastinating. I did just that.

So, at this count there are an even number of EeePCs and Acer Aspire Ones in the techshow family. 2 EeePCs for Dann, and both Allan and I have a One. I have to say that I really like this little thing. After a little tweaking, which I will detail later on, it does just the trick for me. It’s quick (again, more on that later on) and it is fantastic to use on the train. In fact, I am doing that right now!

The verdict, go get one! And stay tuned for more posts on the One as I get the time.

Monday, September 15th, 2008


Yes, I know, It’s about time. Last night I finally got around to upgrading my Ubuntu install on my mail workstation at home from 7.10 to 8.04. Well, I shouldn’t say upgraded, because it was a fresh install.

I used the default graphical install, which basically means that the new install took a long time. Well, to be fair, the initial install wasn’t too long, but the package upgrades took forever. Perhaps I should have installed closer to the release when there weren’t so many upgrades a? 🙂

One of my biggest concerns was getting my dual monitors running, and this was actually a breeze. All I had to do was enable the restricted nvidia drivers and then add the twinview stuff to my xorg.conf and I was up and running no problem.

Once that was running to my satisfaction, it was time to get all the packages on there that I need to be able to function. This is what I really wanted to mention here. Long ago I decided to start keeping track of what I installed (and actually used) so that I could replicate a usable install faster. What I did was just write it all up in a script. I thought I would share mine with you all, and perhaps you might find it useful yourself!

# Here is the general stuff I need:
sudo apt-get install mozilla-thunderbird sqlite rox-filer php5-common php5-cli php-pear subversion openssh-server clusterssh imagemagick alpine vim synergy smbfs curl
# This is what you would do if you were LEGALLY able to do so - thus giving you the codecs and utilities
# for you to actually watch/listen to the media you have legally purchased.
sudo wget -O /etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install medibuntu-keyring && sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install vlc libdvdcss2 ubuntu-restricted-extras w32codecs mplayer mencoder build-essential
# You want to install XMMS - it's just better than everything else, no matter what they say...
echo "install xmms_1.2.10%2B20070601-1build2_i386.deb package for xmms!"
#Installing stuff for work:
sudo apt-get install sqlite luma x3270 ldap-utils dia expect

And that’s it! I hope you enjoy! Make your own script, it’ll save you oodles of time getting things “just right” after your clean reinstall.

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

HTML Validator

I do a fair bit of LAMP programming at work and one of the tools I hold absolutely invaluable in this regard is HTML Validator. This handy-dandy little program is a Firefox Extension that is based on HTML Tidy and does w3c html validation. Just right click on the website and pick “view page source” and you are presented with not only your source, but also some great validation info and even a way to automatically generate w3c compatible html right there. This util is really great and I use it all the time. Try it yourself, you might just like it too!

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Being productive

There are a couple online applications I use often and I thought I would share how to make them just a little more productive. I use Google Calendars and I also use Ta-Da Lists. These just help me keep things organized and with a lot of things happening during the day, being organized sure can be a big help and time saver. Anyhow, I decided that it was too much of a pain to keep switching between browser windows to get a peek at what I needed, so it occurred to me why not put them together. Violla, with a little magic iframe goodness in a quickie html file, I get them both in the same spot and, in my opinion, infinitely more handy. Just look how useful that is now! 🙂

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Craptacular service

Isn’t it amazing the level of customer service you get these days?

Here’s a no brainer: Computer geeks get irritated when they do not receive the internet access they are paying for. They get even more frustrated when your service policy is “it’s not my problem”.

Thus has continually been my experience with comcast. Don’t get me wrong, the speed and connection is nice *when I have it*, but I have had 4 extended outages in less than a year, and it’s starting to try my patience. Further, when you are a customer service *technician* who has to flip through a manual to find out what your name is today, and the customer indicates you have “no clue”, you probably don’t and should forward the call on to someone who might.

My only salvation with my 16 hour outage yesterday was my next door neighbor, who just hapens to be a comcast service technician and knew the right people to call and bitch at.

I wonder what kinda deal I can get with verizon fios…….

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

Email Backup

Today I received an email asking for my support of a petition for Google to provide a way to backup your email. A way to download an archive of your emails so you can keep them on a cd or wherever. This petition is at:

I thought that sounded like a really good idea. Then I thought there *must* be a way to do this in Linux without a lot of fuss. After giving it a couple minutes more consideration, it hit me. You can use fetchmail to do this.

$fetchmail -a -u myname -k -p imap –bsmtp test.mail mailserveraddr

Will back up your IMAP email (while keeping a copy on the server) to a file called test.mail locally. Now this file, if broken up email by email, can easily be read by the likes of thunderbird (just name the files something.eml). I am sure other mail clients will have no trouble as well, or you can use your favorite text editor to read them (vim!)

The only piece I have not worked out yet is this. All the mails are saved in 1 text file, but to read the mails individually they need to be parsed out into separate files. I need to devise a way to do that. Any good ideas? It would be nice if I could find a way to get fetchmail to save them individually in a directory structure. Hmmmm……

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007


I want one. ‘Nuff said.

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007