Category Archives: Mac OS

Inquisitor puts affiliate links at top of search results

Inquisitor has been updated as of build 52 to identify affiliate links. See here.

Tonight, I found this post on TUAW that discusses the Inquisitor search plugin for Safari. The plugin gives you a Spotlight-esque result when you use the built-in Google search box, giving you easy access to the top links. It turns out that the program, written by Dave Watanabe, is designed to insert affiliate-linked URL as the “top result” when you search for certain terms. This was initially found by a bloke named Allan and posted on his blog.

As I commented here, there are a specific set of terms which are written into the application that put affiliate linked URLs as the first match. Without the source code, there’s no definate way to see what is going on here. However, using the UNIX command strings, we can look for the various bits of text intermixed into a binary application. The main program doing the work here for Inquisitor is InquisitorCore, buried deep in the bundle. Running strings against this, we find some of the following code… (after the jump)
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HOWTO: Stop runaway pcscd process when using PocketMac 4.0 to sync a BlackBerry device

I recently purchased a BlackBerry Pearl. I love it. It’s great. Maybe I’ll “review” it at some point in the future. But, I wanted to post an entry about working around a flaw in the way Mac OS X handles the BlackBerry.

By default, the BlackBerry and Mac won’t talk. They don’t know how to talk to each other. It would appear from some further research (and assumptions) that the BlackBerry presents itself as a “vendor specific” device in the USB handshake. Mac OS X spawns up the SmartCard daemon (pcscd) to attempt to load a SmartCard reader driver. ((If you’re interested in the details, I’d recommend reading the post on the Apple list. The poster describes it in plain English while not watering down the process. Well done, Perry.)) However, instead of failing and exiting, it starts sucking 100% of the CPU. Oh, and as an added bonus, it won’t die when sending it a ‘kill -9’ as root. Plus, a standard shutdown or reboot will fail. The only solution is to hold down that power button. Not really something we want to do constantly.

To keep the SmartCard subsystem from trying to talk to the BlackBerry, you’ll need to edit the preference file for securityd as root. Using a text editor, most likely from command line, ((I don’t know if the Property List Editor will prompt you for credentials and let you do it without jumping into the terminal. Unfortunately, I can’t test it right now. Using TextMate, I was able to open and edit the file. When I clicked “Save,” it prompted me for my password.)) open the file /private/etc/mach_init.d/securityd.plist. Make the following change:

<string>/usr/sbin/securityd -s conservative</string>

Occasionally, pcscd still launches and does it’s thing. Since I don’t use smart cards, I went ahead and just disabled it totally.

<string>/usr/sbin/securityd -s off</string>

Reboot your system, and the change should take effect. No more system dying when plugging in your BlackBerry!

Implementing a NAS at Home

Saturday morning (ok, technically it was early afternoon, but nevermind that), I woke up to The Wife saying “Come look what I bought.” I trudge out half asleep to the living room. I look in the office and see a black and steel futon by the window. I assess it for a second, then continue into the living room. She has me sit down.

She shows me a cavalcade of items that she had collected in a post-midnight “I need to get out of the house” fit. Towards the end, she brings out two Maxtor Basic 320GB USB hard drives. She says “They were on clearance for $50 each.” If I had been drinking a liquid, I might have done a spit take. “Fifty dollars? Seriously?” “Yep. They were in the clearance section. Are they okay?”

So, for $106 (tax, natch), we have the main components for a low cost home based NAS. “Oh yes, they’re just perfect,” I reply, as I carry them to the office and pull out her old HP desktop.

I spent the weekend deciding how I wanted to go as far as implementing and managing the NAS. I opted for Openfiler for my package rather than simply rolling my own. The other competitor was FreeNAS, but it didn’t have some of the features or robustness that Openfiler offered. After purchasing a USB 2.0 PCI card for the computer, we’re rocking away.

Openfiler is based on CentOS, a Linux distribution based on Red Hat’s Enterprise versions. They stripped a bunch of stuff down, did some tweaking, added some PHP, and you’re left with a web-enabled management interface. Openfiler is based on Linux standards, using Apache for its Webserver with a bunch of custom PHP scripts to actually do things. It uses LVM to support physical volume groups and logical groups with growing. It uses ext3 file system and also supports iSCSI (which I’m not using) for a full grown commercial class interface.

So, after some initial hiccups with not having an authentication system built in, and some wonkiness from one of the drives, we’re done with the building phase. I am mirroring the two drives with software-based RAID 1. I have SuperDuper chugging away, making a backup of my laptop. I’ve cut volumes out for music, pictures, software, and personal storage. So far I’ve allocated about 1/3 of the available space and have nightly snapshotting enabled for a few volumes. I’m ordering the necessary cables to tuck it all away and make it look pretty (right now, it’s sitting in the middle of the floor in a cable nest).

Thanks Sony! I needed a new battery anyway!

Yesterday, Apple announced they were recalling 1.8 million batteries for iBooks and PowerBooks. Turns out, there have been some problems with Apple laptops catching fire just like the Dell laptops.

This will be our third battery each due to safety recalls. But, I’m not complaining. I was in the market for a newer battery anyway as I’ve lost 25% of the capacity due to charge cycles. Sony gets to pick up the tab, and that makes me giddy like a school girl. 🙂