No Future Support for Junk Mail Scripting

My Lion-ready scripts for routing junk mail to the FTC’s site still work, but I have a high crash rate when using Mail Act-On 3.x to initiate that script.  The crash logs say that MAO is to blame for the crash, and perhaps that is so.  But it also feels like I’m screaming into the void here with the spam reporting, and so I will no longer be updating these scripts.  They are provided as-is from the July 2011 release.

You are free to use them as you see fit, and if you want to update, upgrade, and publish them, that’s great!  All I ask is that you link to at least one of the posts here.  People do land here on Google, and so I’d like to keep that chain unbroken.  When I see incoming link traffic, I’ll make a link to your site so people know that there is indeed a future for them; you may also let me know via email.  It’s been a good run.  I originally released this script in 2007.

If you’re curious, all I’m doing is culling ham out of the spam folder using Fastmail’s Web interface, and I’m filing all known-bad messages in that ConfirmedJunk folder that I mentioned in the previous posts.  Those are simple commands for a batch of messages.  I really wish that I had a way to easily pull ham out of the Fastmail junk folder without using the Web interface, but they’re seemingly not set up for that.  It doesn’t take that long to fire up Fastmail in a browser, so I’m just dealing with it.

Heartbleed Hell

Like a lot of people, I’ve been affected by the Heartbleed bug.  Most frustrating to me is that I got to spend a couple of hours on Tuesday afternoon futzing about with SSL certificates to make sure that I wasn’t vulnerable to the attack.

I’m taking a little free time on Friday afternoon to do an audit of my password data using 1Password, which I am on the record as using and really liking.  After de-duplicating a bunch of items where I had a stored password and a stored login for an account, I still have 600+ login items.  I’ve been doing a very good job of using good, hard passwords that are unique to sites.  A good password manager is worth having, even if you’re like my dad and just keep it in an encrypted Excel spreadsheet.

But my main frustration right now are the sites that won’t let you change your password unless you use the lost-password function.  How dumb do you have to be as a developer to miss that step?  This is not fucking rocket surgery.

When to back up

What I really want is for my online backup systems to be smart. If I’m off of my home networks, I should be allowed to say, “Don’t back up again until I get home,” rather than having to look at the three services I now use and say, “Pause for N minutes.” I forgot this until just now, and I’ve been soaking the meager transfer capacity of the Cafe 153 network with my backups.

Why three services? I’m turning my knowledge of backups into a micro-business, and that means that I need to test all of the big players. Fun times.

OS X Mavericks and iOS 7 Discontinuities Drive Me Crazy

Go into Calendar on OS X and look at an appointment. Put an address in that appointment — best done from your Contacts — and you get this:

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 5.49.22 PMYou can get travel times!  You can set travel times based on addresses in your Contacts, and if you have two adjacent appointments at different places, you get the travel time between the two destinations!  Then you can get the alerts based off of the travel time, not off of the start of the appointment.  That’s wonderful.

You can’t do the same thing in iOS 7.  [Edit]: The travel time alerts work just fine, but they’re not really user visible.  See below:

2014-01-09 19.09.08

You get the address, and you see alerts that will be set, and they will go off, but no estimate of travel time is given.  Also, this travel time thing could be smarter: this assumes that I’m leaving from home, but what if I ran an errand before going and lost track of time?  If I was closer in to that appointment, I could “use” the extra room; if I’d gone further away, I’d need the alerts moved.  You could do that on iOS, but …

… you can’t even set these travel times yourself.  You can see the address listed above, but you can’t create it on your own in iOS.  Typing “Dana Summers’s work”, which is the exact Contacts data object, does nothing.  Hopefully this answers Brandon’s question.

Start an email in Mail on iOS 7: if you have multiple email addresses, it will start with your default email address:

2014-01-09 17.53.06

 

… unless you start an email to a person that you regular correspond with on another email account.

2014-01-09 17.53.33

 

… and then it switches to sending from the account you’re using to the one you regularly use to contact that person.  It even works with combinations of people: I might email Mike and Allen from one account when I do that separately, but when I do it together, it might be another one entirely (generally, if I’m sending a larger email, it’s to bitch about our hockey team).

But if you send email on OS X Mavericks, it does the time-honored practice: sending from the default account1 unless you start a new email while selecting an email in your INBOX2, and then you’ll be sending from that account instead.

They just don’t have the same behaviors, and it’s maddening.  If I could only get one, it would be the smart email account selection from iOS Mail mapped onto OS X Mail, but that just goes in a long list of necessary improvements to be made to OS X Mail3.  But presumably you can get this in the other direction, because right now, my iPhone knows that it will take me five minutes to drive home from the coffeeshop:

2014-01-09 18.01.48

 

Now, maybe the Contacts —> Calendar thing is coming to iOS.  I just tested it to make sure that I couldn’t add a Contact address into a Calendar item, and you just can’t.  This drives me crazy.

This function is something that I’ve wanted to have since I first got my iPhone six-and-a-half years ago.  I want my phone to be smart enough to know where I am, where I have to be, and how long that it will take for me to get from A to B.  It needs to be smart enough to figure out whether I’m walking or driving: distance matters, as does weather.  If I’m at work, going to another work building, I’m walking, right?  Let me set GPS points for places that I routinely visit.

I want my devices to clear out a lot of the cruft for me.  I’m going to get lost in whatever I’m doing — phone calls, meetings, work — and I want my phone to nudge me out of that when I need that.  I also want my devices to make it easier to provide context for my communication.  This is happening imperfectly.

I’ve been thinking about these two things lately, and finally it just got to be too much today.  What drove me over the cliff was the send-from-selected-email’s-account thing.  Now I’ve gotten the frustration out and can go back to important things like getting my head on straight for my fourth semester of graduate school.

 


  1. Which is subject to change if OS X Mail decides to re-order everything, which it does every so often. 

  2. Presumably this behavior happens if you start an email from a different folder, but I’ve never run across this. 

  3. See also: tagging, archiving with a simple keystroke, etc. 

How I Backup My Macs: December 2013

Oh no, not this shit again.

DAMN RIGHT I’M GOING HERE AGAIN.  Why?

  1. Backups have saved my bacon yet again.
  2. I have something new in the system.
  3. You got new stuff for Christmas, and now is the time to start backing it up so you can quit worrying about it.
  4. A pretty young woman and I had a conversation about this at the Apple Store earlier today, and she wanted to know more about it. This is published because of that conversation; I’ve been hacking away at it for a while now.

So hi, nice young lady whose name I didn’t get!  I feel like an idiot right now.

Let me get a little bit of this out of the way: I have written about backups in 2009 and 2011.  In the first one, I talk about a belt-and-suspenders approach; in the second, I talk about belt-and-suspenders supported by close air support.  Now I have belt, suspenders, close air support, and Navy SEALs.  Or something — I don’t know, I’m an Air Force brat, and we don’t know crap about the real military.  [Sorry, Dad.]

I have also written about backups saving by bacon many times.  There’s the time in 2011 when my 24″ iMac needed a new logic board and I needed to be getting ready to start a new job.  There’s the time this past October when my 27″ iMac started doing Bad Things(TM) and had volumes failing; the resolution for that one comes today that 1) my Time Machine volume was just fine after all and 2) Repair Disk worked on the boot volume when booted into Recovery Mode (Cmd-R during start, if you don’t know.  And then there’s the time this December I had to format my MacBook Air’s boot volume from my booted clone.  All three of these problems would’ve wiped me out for quite some time, and there was a significant risk of data loss to my original data.  Did I lose data?  Nope.

Oh, and then there was the time that I was sitting in the floor of my downstairs bathroom on April 27th, 2011.  With tornadoes all around me, I said aloud, “Hey, at least my data is in a data center far from Huntsville.”  All of my data would be safe: photos, music, you have it.  I could rebuild my computers from the last known safe state.  It would’ve worked: the cavalry would’ve come over the hill.

So, back up your shit.  Here’s how.

I use what’s called a 4-2-2 system: 4 copies of my data, 2 of which are local, 2 of which are offsite.

  1. SuperDuper!The first local copy is a cloned backup of my boot volume via Shirt Pocket’s SuperDuper!  This gets me something that I can boot from at any time.  This was prominently featured in 2011 and December 2013.
  2. Look at all those classes that I've taken in the last six semesters!
    Look at all those classes that I’ve taken in the last six semesters!
    The second local copy is Time Machine.  I’ve written before that Time Machine Just Works, but that’s really not true.  Time Machine has lots of problems, and I wouldn’t trust it by itself.  But for A) a second local copy that I don’t have to be primarily reliant upon and B) the value that it provides in being incremental backup for file retrieval, etc., it has value.
  3. CrashPlanOne of the offsite copies is with CrashPlan+.  CrashPlan has an article on 3-2-1 systems and how CrashPlan can be a part of that.  I have been using this since 2011, and it very nearly saved my bacon when lightning struck my house.  I’m very thankful that my uninterruptible power supplies were able to handle the surge.  This would’ve also been handy during the April 27th outbreak.
  4. ArqI’ve added Amazon Glacier-powered backups that are managed by Arq.  The Haystack Software team has a fun blog post about coming up with a good backup strategy, and I suggest that you read it in addition to what I have presented here.  Why Amazon Glacier?  CrashPlan is definitely aimed at the consumer market and is priced and provisioned accordingly.  Amazon Glacier is professional grade.  Also, I trust two providers over one provider.

Seeding an online backup with either one of those services is going to take a long time.  Backing up 28GB off of my Macbook Air took the better part of a week.  It took a couple of weeks for the main boot volume on my iMac to seed, and I was uploading the first (of three) Drobo volumes when my iMac started thrashing around on the floor like an angry toddler.

Since I mentioned the Air, I want to make a point: I use Time Machine (to a Time Capsule on my network, a replacement for one that got zapped a while back) for incremental backups as well as CrashPlan and now Arq.  For some time, I said that I didn’t need cloned backup of the Air.  For one, it’s a problem on my end, because I would have to dock a hard drive1 to make it work.  SuperDuper! will backup-on-mount, meaning that it will work … when I remember to connect the drive.  I am the weak link there, because I forget to back up even though I know that I should.  However, I have a reminder in my GTD setup2 that gets me a record of when I’ve last backed up as well as a nudge to do so. I’ve generally stayed current, but not always.

So what do I recommend?

  1. First off, I recommend all four backup solutions. The two local backup solutions have different features and restoration times; the two offline backup solutions are both good, and I’ll leave it to you to pick. But I really do recommend having one local and one offsite at a minimum, and if you’re going to pick three, have both local copies. Restoring from an online backup is very time-intensive, especially if you live in a bandwidth backwater like North Alabama.3
  2. I recognize that not everyone had the resources that I had to bring to bear when I got started with this.  I recommend a cloned drive that is automated or well-maintained (but preferably the former).  You do not want to be thinking the following when you have a computer emergency: “So when was the last time that I backed up to this drive?”
  3. For desktops, you have no excuse to not have a clone attached at all times.  For laptops, you do, but consider this as well: don’t carry your clone with you everywhere.  Leave it at home.  A solid scenario for using that clone is, “Someone stole my laptop and I need to get back up and running with this replacement laptop paid for with insurance money!”  Do you feel smarter?  You should.
  4. If you have just two backups, I recommend a clone over Time Machine.  TM is convenient but can be flaky.  If I’m concerned with backup first, I’m going offsite.  Also, if you’re going to have just two copies of your data, one of them should be off-site.
  5. I recommend CrashPlan over Glacier, because most of you aren’t going to need/want something in Glacier’s sphere.  Those who do were probably criticizing me for this choice, but they probably weren’t reading this in the first place other than purely to criticize me.  Quit trying to be John Siracusa.  You are probably not John Siracusa; if you are, John, this is crazy: here’s my number4, call me maybe?

I’ve got the comment box below for comments. I’ll also be posting this to Facebook and Twitter per uzhe, so if you comment there, I’ll see it, too. You can also email me at gfmorris@gfmorris.net, and John, my number is in that footnote.5


  1. I have a spare on the floor in my office waiting for this to happen.  It’s been there for a few months. 

  2. I will write about that at some point, I promise. 

  3. Seriously, we put men on the moon and then get treated like this? “Come on!” —GOB 

  4. 256-527-8152 

  5. Seriously, my number is so easy to find. 

No Really, Be Serious About Backups

So, remember when my stuff started falling apart in October, and when I exhorted you to be serious about backups?  I had some SSL problems, so I’m late in telling you this one, but backups saved my bacon on my MacBook Air.

He got them fixed, but right now I’m freaking out.  I have Repair Disk running on my Time Capsule right now, and after that finishes overnight, I’ll run it on the external HDD to which I’ve been cloning my Air.  I pretty much have to have the Air running right now, because it’s my only computer and finals start the 2nd.

So, about that worry on filesystems: it turns out that the filesystem on my Air’s internal storage was crap.  You’ll see in that quote above that I had problems with Time Capsule; I didn’t worry about those as much as I worried about my external clone.  That didn’t have damage, but my internal storage did.  I booted to the clone and ran Repair Disk, which you can’t run on your boot drive while it’s running.

It was unable to repair the disk.

I had to FORMAT MY INTERNAL STORAGE and then clone from my clone.

I still get anxious just thinking about it.  It worked, though.  I didn’t lose any files, and once I’d restarted the machine with the freshly-cloned internal storage, things were just fine.  I haven’t had a single problem with it since.  For those who may wonder, was I seeing problems with the un-repaired filesystem?  It’s hard to say, although it would do stupid things every once in a while.  But staying with the filesystem in a known-bad state was a risk that I was not willing to take.  Once I knew that there was a problem, I had to fix it.

Your filesystem’s job is to know where the data is on your disk.  Just as it is important to back up your data, it’s also important to know that your computer knows where it is, for two reasons: 1) you need to be able to access the data and 2) you need to be able to back up that data.  If your filesystem stops doing its job flawlessly, you are on the road to being screwed.

Here are my next steps with this Air:

  1. I’m still backing it up by cloning, Time Machine, CrashPlan, and Arq/Amazon Glacier.
  2. I have a reminder in Sciral Consistency — I need to talk about my life-management solutions at some point — to make the clone every so often (3-5 days).
  3. I have a reminder in Sciral Consistency to boot from the clone every so often (4-6 weeks).
  4. I have a reminder in Sciral Consistency to run Repair Disk on all volumes associated with this computer (6-8 weeks).

Remember: because my iMac was down, I was left with this as my only machine.  When it started having problems, I was in a panic.  But when you have backups, it’s not a panic that overwhelms you.

Be Serious About Backups

Remember when I wrote in 2011 about how I back up my Macs?  Remember how that was an update on my backup setup from 2009, which added off-site backup?  Remember how that was influenced by John Siracusa on Hypercritical?

Well, I started backing up to Amazon’s AWS Glacier a few months ago using Arq, which leaves me with a 4-2-2 setup: four copies, two local, two off-site.  I’ve been happy with it.  Now I may really need it, because:

  1. My nightly clone HDD failed.  I think this is because the drive died, but based on newer information, I think it’s the filesystem that’s shot.
  2. I was slow in getting my replacement clone in place.  [Note to self: you need a ready spare.]
  3. The HDD in my iMac started showing problems, given that it just cut off one day.
  4. Booting into Recovery mode got me to where I could run the computer, at which point I tried to copy files on over to one of my Drobo volumes.
  5. The boot died before that finished.
  6. Oh, by the way: the Time Machine drive won’t mount.  Yep, my primary and secondary backups (as much as Time Machine is a backup, which it only sorta is) appear to be dead.

None of the three suspect drives is making thrashing sounds, so I’m pretty sure that the filesystem is corrupted.  I get this from Accidental Tech Podcast #40, where John Siracusa — him again — mentions that his wife’s Mac had filesystem errors that he noted because he was proactive about running Repair Disk.  He got them fixed, but right now I’m freaking out.  I have Repair Disk running on my Time Capsule right now, and after that finishes overnight, I’ll run it on the external HDD to which I’ve been cloning my Air.  I pretty much have to have the Air running right now, because it’s my only computer and finals start the 2nd.

I’m headed to the Genius Bar on Sunday to check out my iMac and hopefully get it running.  I’ll then probably have to reinstall everything and erase that Time Machine drive, which is probably corrupted beyond repair.  How will I get the data back onto the iMac?  Online backup, y’all.  Thankfully there’s nothing mission-critical in ~/Documents that can’t wait for an online restoration.  I will selectively restore because, again, I think the filesystem is hosed.

Le sigh.  Off-site backups are going to end up saving my bacon.

On Paid iOS Apps

The market for paid iOS apps isn’t dead:

For these “Big Six” apps, price is almost irrelevant. If your app is useful enough for many of its customers to use it almost every day, they’ll pay a decent price for it. (Not allof them will — but you don’t need all of them.) The challenge is either making your appthat much better than the alternatives, or finding new app roles that are that useful to a lot of people.

Marco certainly knows of what he speaks.  Here’s my iOS main/home/first screen:

iOS Home Screen 2013-04-21Seven of those apps are iOS-bundled applications: Phone, Messages, Maps, Calendar, Clock, Mail, and Safari.  You can see that those last two are used enough that they’re in the omnipresent Dock; the other five are there out of convenience because I actually use them.  (Most of the rest of the bundled apps are on that fourth and final screen since they cannot be deleted.)

But everything else is third-party, and of the other 17 apps, seven are paid: Instapaper (articles saved for reading later); Letterpress (addictive game); ESV Bible (duh); 1Password (invaluable password storage — I know very few of my passwords because I don’t need to know); Flashometer (inexpensive weather forecast app that has a flashlight function embedded in it); OmniFocus (task management — I might let you chop off a finger before I let this go); and Twitterrific (manage multiple Twitter accounts from a fun interface; I’ve used it for years).

Of those seven, three — OmniFocus, Twitterrific, 1Password — are indispensable and get used multiple times per day, while the other four are opened at least once a day.  Marco has a Big Six; I have a Big Seven — and those dominate my home screen use, with the other nine + Folder getting more use than everything else.  (Of the 12 in my folder, only two — Federalist Papers and Terminology — were paid, and I’m pretty sure those two were $0.99 or $1.99 when I bought them.)

Marco’s point is quite valid: for the people who need a niche app, they’re going to really pay for it.  OF is $19.99, but I got it on an introductory/upgrade special; Twitterrific 5 is $2.99 and worth every penny; 1Password is $17.99 and worth every penny even if I did get it on an introductory price.  There is price elasticity for me in all three applications — far more than the other for four sure.

Your use cases are going to be different than mine, of course.  I use OmniFocus and 1Password on my iPhone because I’ve used the desktop applications for 2-1/2 and four years respectively.  I’ve used Twitterrifc on the Mac since it first came out for free — it was one of the first third-party Twitter applications.  I have brand loyalty because I have buy-in for these three, and this isn’t likely to be the case with you.

No matter your mobile OS, you’ll have must-have apps to fit how you handle things, and the chances are that you’ll be paying good money for those apps because you want them to live on.  For people that use their phone past free gaming and Facebook, you’re probably going to end up paying something north of $1.99 for at least a handful of apps.  This fact is what keeps the ecosystem running.