March 7th, 2008


Better network access...

My employer, both MySQL and Sun, will reimburse me for my internet connection.

I wonder if I could just buy FON routers for my favorite cafes, and then expense them? It would let me have better and more reliable internet access then I get thru the crappy little wireless routers from Quest and Comcast...

Wishlist for the perfect softphone.

Not an ugly monstrosity. (This eliminates most of the existing ones.)

It can connect to multiple SIP-PSTN gateways, all at the same time, and receive calls any of them at any time. (This also eliminates most, if not all, of the existing ones.)

When a call is not in session, occupies zero or nearly zero screen real-estate, and very little memory, just the basic SIP listener.

Uses the local system appropriate address books, such as the Mac address book, the Outlook address book, and the ones from Thunderbird, Evolution, a directory full of vCard files, etc. Without "importing", it just uses them where they are.

If the system address book apps allow plugins, it plugs into them without fuss. Maybe just put a tiny "call this number" next to each displayed telephone number or SIP address.

Plugs into Firefox, Safari,, IE, etc, so that anything that looks like a phone number or SIP address has a tiny "call this number" icon

It does SIP without fuss, from the most simple setup to complex SIP configurations.

It can do direct node-to-node SIP calls without special setup.

Tries to negotiate SIP and RTP encryption whenever possible.

Can keep a full call history, and lets me attach notes and comments to each call, just by clicking on the the call log record.

It can record calls, either at setup, or at a click while the call is ongoing.

Records the call setup data, caller ID data, and other SIP metainformation in the recorded call file, as well as in the call log.

All call logs and configuration files are in easy to read text form, such as just text or XML. Recorded calls are WAV files kept either in standard uLaw encoding, and/or the codec of the call.

Can handle all the well known codecs without fuss or special additional software installations.

Is intelligently aware of the "away" status. If the screensaver and the IM client can figure this out, the softphone can too.

Can act as an answering machine, when I am away, otherwise don't answer, or just push a "send this call to voicemail" button.

Missed calls because I am away generate an email.

Can automatically mute or pause the music player when a call is in session, for the various well known music players.

Can keep a PSTN/SIP bypass table, so, ferex, when I call a Earthlink Speakeasy phone number, instead of using a PSTN gateway, just directly connects to Speakeasy's SIP server. There exists such a table online, it just needs to check and download a new one every 30 days or so.

Can announce itself with Bonjour.

Can discover local network PBXs via DHCP and via Bonjour.

Has a "setup wizard" for FWD, Gizmo, etc, and all the well known SIP providers.

All this doesn't seem that hard, and yet, I can't find something anything like this.

Lexmark printer, disappointed. They fail.

And printer manufacturers wonder why people hate printers.

While offices are certainly not going paperless, more and more people are printing less and less paper from their computers at home. And I think most of the reason for that is that the printers available for the SOHO and home market are getting worse and worse to just "turn on and use", and are getting more expensive to use.

I picked up a Lexmark X4875 wireless network printer/scanner at the office supply store a few weeks ago, and finally set it up this evening.

My impression? Disappointed. They are full of fail.

There are times where I want to teach lessons to companies, project managers, and developers with a tire iron. This is one of those times.

Setting this thing up involved using a "Setup CD" that just installed a third of a gig of crap on my laptop. How much should it have needed to install?


The correct way to have done this should have involved merely turning on the printer, and then via its own buttons and screen, selected the local wireless network and entered the key. At which point it starts a completely standard IPP network print server, and advertises itself via zeroconf, bonjour for the mac users, and upnp for the windows users. Done. Zero footprint, anyone in the wireless network can immediately start printing to it.

What did it do instead? Installed a steaming pile of junk software on my laptop, as well as a host-side rendering driver (instead of having postscript in the printer). It asked for my laptop's root admin password. TWICE. And with all that, it still did not actually add the printer to the list of available printers. I have to manually do that, and in a manner that will, to use the standard phrase, confuse the heck out of Aunt Tilly.


Well, you ask, surely it needed to install software for the scanner portion? No, no it did not. The Right Way to do that would be to run a small web server on the device, and then just let me connect to it using the existing "Browse network scanner via Bonjour" software that is already part of MacOS.

Well, small favors, at least the installer and drivers are not Windows only.

Still, I'm angry. This could have been a literally "turn it on and go" device, that somebody's Aunt Tilley could turn on and use, and any guest in the house can use without special help. Instead they made it annoyingly complex, for no good reason, and didn't even do the few actually useful things they could have done when invading my laptop, such as actually configuring the local printer setup, or pulling the wireless key out of the mac's keychain.

It gets worse.

The printer driver it installed doesn't actually work with MacOS 10.5. And even tho the installation process could have looked up my laptop's OS version, and it knew my laptop was on the net, it never bothered to check that, or check if there was a new driver and possibly new firmware on Lexmark's website. And it never figured out while installing the non-working one that it, well, wasn't working.

And even tho the webserver that's running on the printer has a number of links into Lexmark's site, that have the printer's part number encoded into the URL, so that the site should know immediately what printer and what host OS is of interest to me, their site promptly forgot all that, and immedially demanded to know my language and country, which it can get from looking at HTTP headers and IP addresses, and then made my renavigate around telling it again what kind of printer and what kind of OS I am using.

Morons, but I repeat myself.

So now I'm downloading another 25MB dmg package. We will see what the next idiot indignity they heap on me is.


The indignity is, now when I try to print, the application I'm trying to print from crashes. Every time.

At least this thing has an uninstaller. I don't quite trust it, but it should clean some of this crap up. Not all of it, it left behind the “ABBYY Fine Reader”.

Let's see if I can set it up as a generic IPP network printer.

It’s not appearing on the browse list, so it must not be running zeroconf bonjour. Another serious disappointment. So I try it by IP number. It installs, I can read ink levels out, and so forth, which tells me that the network connection is good and it had a PPD and such. But when I try to print, no paper comes out of the printer, and the Mac printer queue dialog just says "Network host 'XXXX' is busy; will retry..."

Complete fail. I'm returning it to the store.

The ancient HPLJ with the old network print server stuck to it will be good enough for printing boarding passes,. And when I need to scan and fax a contract, I will just walk down to Kinkos.