Archive for February, 2018

I noticed some interest in my earlier posts about ntlmHTTP, and that surprised me a bit. I wrote about the subject in 2011, and that is a long time ago, in IT terms!

So to clarify things: the ntlmHTTP project is no longer required: Adobe added NTML (aka. “Windows Integrated Authentication”) support to the CFHTTP tag in ColdFusion version 11. I did rework my code from 2011, and indeed: CFHTTP did suffice to call the Microsoft Exchange web services successfully with the credentials of a special technical account.

Although I did not test it I’m pretty sure NTLM is still there in later CF versions ;-)

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I like our new car a lot, even though it is more than three years old. Buying a second-hand Audi has consequences, one of them being the difficulty of upgrading the maps and POI data for the navigation system. The 2014 Audi A3 uses an SD-Card to store its data. Unfortunately, there is no simple way to update that card, since it seems to be protected with special encryption and/or certificates, possibly even linked to the VIN. The Audi website offers no solution, not even as a paying option.

The MMI (the car configuration and navigation interface) has no way to add POI manually. That is a shame on a car that is only worth its higher cost if you can run on CNG as much as possible… but finding that fuel type is difficult when the list of gas stations in the car is outdated by four years! Neither has the 2014 MMI the possibility to use Apple Car Play or Android Auto (how hard would it be for Audi to add that option? It would relieve them of the need to continue and support navigation and other apps to “older” cars!).

So I had no choice but to install a smartphone holder to use my phone for all the latest apps with realtime road information. Luckily, I took my time to research the possibilities. I am not keen on suction cups and glue-based solutions, but what are the alternatives?

Well, in the case of a few Audi models (the A3, the TT and the Q2), there is the Clearmounts solution. It’s an aluminum bracket that you can easily mount between the circular vents in the dashboard. The bracket can take all kinds of cradles and holders, as long as whatever you want to use can be fitted to it. I haven’t tried it yet, but I pretty sure the cradle for my Garmin Zumo will fit onto the bracket as well – at least the reverse, mounting Clearmounts holders on the suction cup of the Zumo, works perfectly.

The mounted bracket

I went for the charging cradle, but you’ll get a simple cradle as well as a magnetic holder (with magnets to glue to your phone or slip into its case) in the same package. Mounting is simple and quick, and I like the result. Too bad there is no simple way to hide the charging cable, because that would make the complete setup perfect.

The charging cradle on the bracket

You might think that I have installed the cradle upside-down, but that’s how I prefer it: this way, the release button for the clamp is on the underside of the cradle, forcing me to have a hand below the phone, thus preventing it from falling to the floor. All in all, this is I a solution I can strongly recommend.

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Want to learn something about SSL and SSL certificates? I sure do, having just encountered an revoked certificate blocking an app at work. So I read “Revocation is broken” by Scott Helme. In summary:

We have a little problem on the web right now and I can only see this becoming a larger concern as time goes by. More and more sites are obtaining certificates, vitally important documents that we need to deploy HTTPS, but we have no way of protecting ourselves when things go wrong.

As you can guess, that didn’t really help to solve our problem – but it’s a clear explanation of the current state of affairs in certificate validation land, at least for browsers!

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The EPSRC writes: “An image of a single positively-charged strontium atom, held near motionless by electric fields, has won the overall prize in a national science photography competition, organised by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).”

‘Single Atom in an Ion Trap’ - a photo by David Nadlinger

‘Single Atom in an Ion Trap’, by David Nadlinger (University of Oxford)
The photo shows the atom held by the fields emanating
from the metal electrodes surrounding it.
The distance between the small needle tips is about two millimetres.

Just head over there, it’s a great image – even if you have to enlarge it quite a bit to see the strontium atom. Well done, David Nadlinger!

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From time to time, I spend some time (sometimes way too much) to check out the applications I’m using. Certainly on mobile devices the available options for a given function can change quickly, and it’s always useful to see if you’re missing out on something a newer application has to offer.

My most important app on any platform is, of course, a password manager. I have already spoken out in favour of the KeePass family of tools. Currently on the iPad Mini I’m using MiniKeePass, which is not very sexy to look at (or to use). But the app can read your database when stored in the cloud (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.), and the source code is available on Github – so we are reasonably certain that the app does what it is supposed to do, nothing less and certainly nothing more.

The MiniKeePass settings screen

My search for ‘Keepass‘ on the App Store turned up another candidate: KeePass Touch. Glancing over the specs made me want to try it out. Indeed, the “Touch” part of the name indicates that you can unlock access to the passwords by using Touch ID, and I must admit that I have grown fond of that functionality on multiple mobile devices.

However, a bit of study stopped me from switching from MiniKeePass. Here’s why:

  • KeePass Touch displays ads, that can only be avoided by paying.
  • KeePass Touch claims to be “Open Source”, but I’m guessing the quotes are there for a reason: I wasn’t able to find the source code of this app, nor did I even find any website for the company that publishes the app.
  • As I found out by comparing both apps, MiniKeePass can also be unlocked by Touch ID. That’s perfect for use on my new iPad Pro ;-)

I’m very suspicious of KeePass Touch, since there are no guarantees that your passwords are safe from the eyes of its developers.

I would be very happy if someone made MiniKeePass read and write its files directly from/to Dropbox, Google Drive or a similar cloud service. But even without that I will continue to use MiniKeePass – if only to prove that real Open Source is important to me.

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Cake is a Swedish company, and they’re preparing the launch of their first bike: the KALK. We’re talking about an electric motorcycle here, even if it does not look like one. In it’s current form, you can’t take it on the road. But at some 70 kg it must be great for off-road riding.

I guess it’s not entirely surprising that they want their “fun bike” to be as light as possible. Unfortunately for them, and regardless of whether it’s an electric bicycle or an electric motorcycle, I think this thing is quite ugly. Really ugly. Sorry!

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Space Inspires Millions Again

It was not as earth-shattering as the first moon landing or the first hours of the Mars Rover in action on the Red Planet. But I was nevertheless thrilled to see the landing of the two booster rockets today, after the successful launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket by SpaceX. Hats off to all those people who made this possible, Elon Musk included.

What an exciting view!
See all of the launch on Youtube (just click on the image)

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I like this post from Signal vs. Noise, especially today (yup, it’s my birthday, and I’m… older than 25, let’s say).

The Bedroom, by Vincent van Gogh, 1888.
Get more details by clicking on the picture.

I think the world puts too much focus on the Picassos and the young phenoms. We overlook the Cézannes. The folks who took a while to experiment on getting better and better and who never stopped.

The thing I take from this is that if you find yourself still experimenting in life. If you don’t have it all figured out. If you’re 30, 40, 50, 60 and still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up…

There’s still plenty of room and time to get better. Your peak is still ahead.

Thank you for the encouragement, Nathan Kontny!

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Yes, Samsung distributed another update for my Samsung Galaxy S7. No, it wasn’t an update to Android 7.1, and certainly not Android 8. Just security patches, I suppose – but no word on which holes were effectively taken care of. I hope that the famous KRACK attack vector of November 2017 is taken care of; I’m not betting on any resolution, partial or complete, for Spectre and Meltdown. I guess we’ll just have to be happy with the fact that security patches do come through, no?

Build G930FXXU1DRA3 for SGS7 looks like this ;-)

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Where’s The Sun?

Here in Belgium, we know a lot about “bad weather” (meaning wind and rain and sleet and hail and an occasional storm). But the last few months are worse than anything most of us have seen – and certainly worse, at least in terms of hours of sunshine, than anything our solar panels have seen!

During January 2018, the solar electricity production of our panels was only 75% of the average of all the previous years… We know the low numbers are not just the result of the ageing of our panels, nor dirt, nor failing panels in the batch, because our friends tell us the same story.

But there’s hope: last Monday was a wonderful, sunny day. Too bad most of us had to spend the day at a desk in the office.

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