iPhone 3G Plans for Hong Kong 3Supreme Customers

The iPhone plans for Hong Kong 3Supreme customers are slightly different from the plans for regular customers. Of note is the handset prices are different, at the higher tier levels no prepayment or any payment for handset at all is required. 3Supreme members can also get their hands on an iPhone before others by booking before 15 July. I got this in the mail today (note that HK$1 = US$0.13):

iPhone Plans for 3Supreme members

Google Munging Search Result URIs

I just noticed that Google is munging search result URIs. For example, if you run a search on “mozilla”, the first result is http://www.mozilla.org/. However, the URI that they link to on the search results page is:


I suspect that the usg parameter is probably one used to prevent bots from gaming whatever results they’re trying to garner, and possibly also to link clicked search results to a specific user or browser session. I understand why they do this, but the downside for the end user is that the copy link option in the context menu of any browser is no longer useful. One needs to actually follow the link to get the URL in a form that you can copy into another application.

From my perspective, this is a pretty major usability bug, and I hope they revert it.

Google Groups and FeedDemon Woes

I’ve been having a couple of issues recently with a Google Groups hosted list that I manage, for which no solutions seem to be available.

Issue #1 – Google Groups Atom Feed id and link attribute broken

I’ve detailed this issue more in my post to the Is Something Broken forum on the Google Groups website, but so far there’s no resolution. Basically the Atom feeds generated by Google Groups generate a id and link attribute that contains a relative link without an FQDN so that when viewed from an RSS reader, the links are broken because the RSS reader passes a URL without an FQDN to the web browser. I hope this gets fixed as it seems like a pretty major problem.

When viewed from Firefox’s Live Bookmarks it works fine, but not otherwise.

The RSS 2.0 feed generated by Google Groups does have an FQDN in the link attribute so it works properly. The “obvious” solution (other than fixing the issue, which is up to Google) is to use the RSS 2.0 feed instead of the Atom feed but that creates another problem.

UPDATE (18/06/2008): As of today, Google seems to have fixed the issue with the Atom feeds.

Issue #2 – FeedDemon 2.7 does not handle the pubDate in the RSS 2.0 feeds correctly

The pubDates in the RSS 2.0 feed seem to be generated correctly, like the following:

<pubDate>Fri, 06 Jun 2008 00:02:27 UT</pubDate>

When the RSS 2.0 feed is added to FeedDemon in synced mode (where it syncs with the Newsgator servers), it seems to ignore the pubDate and pick some arbitrary date for all the entries, and all the entries share this same date.

When the RSS 2.0 feed is added in non-synced mode (where FeedDemon pulls from the feed server directly), all the pubDates are respected and it works properly. In Firefox Live Bookmarks it works properly too.

With the Atom 1.0 feed from Google, the dates are correct in all cases but the links are broken. But at the moment users are in a quandry as there appear to be problems in both Google’s feed implementation and FeedDemon’s parsing of Google’s feeds.

UPDATE (08/06/2008): Nick Bradbury, the creator of FeedDemon has been able to reproduce the bug and has added it to the FeedDemon bug tracking database.

Guest Internet Access via FON Routers

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to Yusuf about setting up wireless internet access at my workplace for guests. In the past we had them plug into our wired network, but the downside of this is that unless you have very expensive DNAC equipment like InfoExpress, or have static NAC configured (very cumbersome), your guests are clients on your main office network and can wreak havoc if their computers have viruses or are otherwise exploited.

Network infection via guests is a real vector and one of which companies should be very afraid. Ideally guests would always be on a separate VLAN.

One way to acheive this is to use a FON router to sandbox guests into a separate VLAN. The FON routers have two SSIDs, a private one that is WPA2 protected that gives full access to the local network, and a public SSID that is (by default) completely separate from the main network and guests on this VLAN cannot talk to computers on the main network, only through to internet IP addresses.

Using the friends and family feature of FON, you can set up a custom username and password that your office guests can use to authenticate on the public SSID (multiple logins with a single credential is possible).

This kills two birds with one stone because you not only have secure access to your own network via WPA2 (which is generally considered to be unbreakable using today’s technology) and you offer guests wifi access to the internet without allowing them access to your internal network.

A couple of things are on my FON wishlist:

  • Seamless handover between FON access points on both public and private SSID
  • Proper resolution of NetBIOS names on the private SSID (even though its on a different subnet from the main network)
  • Better tolerance for old network drivers (this is a big one because in quite a few cases clients using older drivers could not connect to FON even though they could use other wifi networks – older Intel drivers in particular seem to be a problem)
  • More powerful customisation options for the FON portal
  • On the La Fonera+, allow the extra wired ethernet port to optionally connect to the public FON network instead of the private network

One other thing to bear in mind is that if you choose this solution, you allow anybody to use your bandwidth when authenticated through the FON network. Depending on your corporate policies, this may or may not be a problem for you. If bandwidth is the only issue, on the public SSID you can optionally limit this to as little as 512Kbps to make sure that guests don’t hog your pipeline.

ATI Mobility Radeon Drivers from Dell

A couple of days ago I wrote about some headaches upgrading to Windows XP SP3. This was related to my ability to rotate my screen being scuttled by the SP3 update. Microsoft said I needed a driver update to restore this functionality but Dell did not seem to provide one, so I tried to get some publicly available drivers from the ATI website which didn’t work for me, because they didn’t contain any definitions for the Mobility Radeon series, only the desktop versions. This meant that although my monitor rotation worked, I couldn’t get my LCD to display at the native 1400×1050 resolution that it usually displays at, which was a deal breaker and I had to revert to SP2 and install the Windows Service Pack Blocker Tool Kit to stop it from automatically upgrading again.

A couple of comments later, people pointed out that the problem is really Dell’s rather than Microsoft’s because Dell hadn’t bothered to release a driver update in years despite ATI continually updating their reference drivers. What’s worse, Dell has a deal with ATI where Dell users can’t download drivers directly from the ATI website. So users are supposedly stuck with the broken old Dell drivers that Dell couldn’t be bothered to update.

I did some researching on the Dell forums and found two entries that gave me the correct information so that I could find drivers that worked with SP3, even though they were unsupported by Dell. There is a “hidden” link on the ATI website that allows you to download the drivers for Mobility Radeon series bypassing the compatibility check that usually stops Dell users from accessing the drivers:


After I got the drivers from this site, everything worked like a charm and I was able to use my video card rotation function correctly with SP3. One small gotcha regarding the latest ATI drivers is that you must have the Microsoft .NET Framework Version 2.0 installed in order to use them.

All of this would have been a lot simpler if Dell just kept their drivers up to date! I have a Dell Latitude D610, which is widely deployed at enterprises worldwide. It’s surprising that their enterprise customers haven’t made a bigger fuss about this.

Windows XP SP3 Update Gotchas

I took the plunge and updated my machine to Windows XP SP3 today, a good month after general release. I don’t like to install Microsoft software when it’s first released, because more often than not, there are too many unknown bugs and I like my workhorse machine to work well.

After installing SP3, everything (so far) seemed to work fine except that the monitor rotation feature of my ATI Radeon X300 stopped working, so I could no longer orient my monitor in a vertical position rather than the standard horizontal. I like vertical because it’s better for the office as more email headers and text info can be viewed on a single screen.

After tinkering around and getting new drivers from the Dell website (I have a Latitude D610), it still doesn’t work. I then do a bit of Googling and find Microsoft KB 947309 (euphemistically titled Some third-party programs may experience a change in functionality after you install Windows XP Service Pack 3), which explains that this feature requires an updated driver to work with SP3.

Dell’s newest driver didn’t work (go figure), so I tried the one from ATI. When I tried to install it, it said that I didn’t have any cards that were supported by the driver (which cannot be true). In the end I had to use XP’s manual driver update interface and use the “Have disk” button to force it to install drivers that it warned me would not be compatible. I chose the ATI Radeon X300/X550/X1050 Series driver that came with version 8.5 of the ATI Catalyst software.

That seemed to do the trick after a reboot, but it did leave me wondering how any Joe Average computer user is supposed to figure this out and why this kind of stuff needs to break with a service pack upgrade in the first place.

This is also precisely why I never let any of my friends do OS upgrades with Windows, because it’s less headache to start fresh and reinstall apps then it is to try to troubleshoot the shortcomings of Microsoft’s upgrade paths.

UPDATE: I had to revert back to SP2 and the old Dell drivers. More details later (and a fix).