Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cisco VPN on Ubuntu 8.04

Deadlines approach fast! In times like these, it's oh so helpful to be able to dig a tunnel from your office to your home so that you have access to the tools that you need! Right now you have images of me under the ground with a shovel slowly scooping through layers of packed dirt. I'm not using shovels. I didn't break a sweat, and I didn't have to use a single gallon of gasoline!

I installed Cisco VPN on Ubuntu 8.04. Essentially, I did create a tunnel from my office to my home, expanding the bubble that is our corporate network to surround my makeshift home office. It was both easier than I thought and harder than I thought. It was easier thanks to the wonderful community of Ubuntu users, yet harder because it required kernel patches and Google searches and a little patience and persistence.

I found a link to fix the Cisco VPN Installation Issue with Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron. There are in fact several of them, which helps to confirm that the steps you follow won't cause your refrigerator to start leaking. A poster in the forum also described my exact problem that I was facing. He was using an older version of the VPN Client, as I was. And according to another poster, it wasn't compatible with the new kernel. He supplies the reader with a link to the patch, which can also be found all over the net.

After pulling our friendly IT Specialist from his episode of Babylon 5, I was able to obtain the latest version of the VPN Client. It was in fact the same version listed in the forum that the poster recommended. After applying the patch to the new version, all was good. Well, almost. I couldn't get the VPN to start. It was complaining that the profile couldn't be found. What it should have done was laughed at me, called me an idiot, and told me to put the profile configuration file in the correct directory! Then it should have shook it's head and told me to try reading the usage instructions more carefully and to omit using the .pcf file extension in the command I was using.

After reading further in the forum, I found that the Ubuntu community was nice enough to remind me of this fact, without laughing at me, and without the shake of a head.

Easy enough. I started the VPN Client and am now on the way to meeting my deadline, all without leaving the house! In addition, I can now login on nights and future weekends, workaholic that I am, and be able to get more work done!

I must say I'm pretty impressed with Ubuntu 8.04! I'm glad I tried it out. I haven't boot into Windows XP Pro in over a month now! And so far there hasn't been a need. Of course, I do have VMPlayer installed on here with a Windows XP Home VMImage, and am kind of cheating, but that's another adventure!

Friday, June 27, 2008

HTML Multiple Reply Signatures for Gmail

Don't get too excited. The Multiple HTML Reply Signatures Extension update doesn't include too many new features. I got rid of the red update link that appears in the toolbar. I don't think it was working correctly. In addition, it took up valuable browser real estate. Bad idea.

I did try to see what would happen in Firefox 3. Sadly, the Firefox Extension doesn't work in Mozilla's newest and fastest browser. The problem isn't the editor or even the signature injection. It's the module that reads data from the XML file. This was a hack anyway. I could probably get by with using the Firefox RDF API or perhaps store the signatures using the preferences system.

The good news is, converting to Firefox 3 wouldn't be hard. The bad news is that I don't have time to do it. We just need to fix the mechanism that reads signatures from the XML data file! That's it! Everything else appeared to work when I tested it!

Anyone know any JavaScript who is bored? HTML Multiple Reply Signatures for Gmail is licensed under the GPL! You can crack open the XPI and try to fix this yourself! I'll even tell you what files to modify if you email me!

I did start working on a version for Gmail 2. Interestingly enough, there aren't many solutions out there for Gmail 2, yet there was tons of competition for Gmail 1. I have a prototype that Susan Hemmersmeier has happily tested for me. It's very buggy though. Too buggy to put up on the blog, and too buggy for her to use.

Susan asked me when this will be finished. I hate to keep promising that "I'll eventually get to it.". You see, thanks to this blog, I landed some contract work! It's a lot of fun, but it takes up a lot of time. As a result, it would appear that HTML Multiple Reply Signatures for Gmail may be a (sniff...) dying project...

Do you have the skills to resurrect it from it's ashes? Let me know! I can definitely provide the moral support and answer technical questions, I just can't devote programming time to it at the moment.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I don't use many JavaScript libraries, I prefer to write my own implementations of code that I need so that I don't have to import the entire library (although the example I am referring to in this post was not written by me). With Java, the compiler weeds out things you don't use, but the browser doesn't. There is really no mainstream mechanism for the browser to say "Only import method X".

I've used Taconite and DWR for a current project, but as a general rule I've found that for what I do, most libraries are limited to just solving one part of the problem. Taconite is great for AJAX support and being able to add XHTML to the DOM while still maintaining a readable XHTML file so you don't have to wrap everything in DOM methods. However, it doesn't cut it with cross-domain issues. Similarly, DWR is great for making AJAX calls by invoking a JavaScript wrapper with the same name as your Java class method, but it suffers from the same limitation.

I'll write more on this topic later, but the main purpose of this post is to identify the source of some code I found on Mahesh Lambe's blog

Mahesh obviously paid attention in school! The getElementByAttribute function that he wrote uses two inner functions and recursion to search for an element that contains the attribute you specify and the value you specify. The search consist of making a recursive call by diving down through all of the child elements in one call while checking the sibling in another call. This results in a thorough check down the DOM tree. It reminds me vaguely of something I may have done in Lisp with Fibonacci numbers in college.

This is one of the reasons that I love JavaScript. I just don't come across code like this in Java. With JavaScript, the code seems more true to the spirit of Computer Science, while still representing the language of interactive web applications.