Desktop Manager

I love using Desktop Manager for Mac OS X because it lets me
separate my tools into separate workspaces. I have a separate desktop
for communication (email and IM), local development (editors and
terminals), remote development (vnc), and miscelaneous (temporary
windows or apps like iTunes). With a simple keystroke I can rotate
between the different desktops, even using dual monitors.

Unfortunately, it looks like the recent update to OS X broke the
ability to move a window between desktops. I can still minimize, change
desktops, and then expand the window. But moving the window without
switching desktops doesn’t seem to work. Oh, well, I didn’t use that
feature much anyway.

The last release of Desktop Manager was in 2005. Maybe it is time to
take another look at Virtue Desktops.

mailbox2ics

We have an Exchange-like mail server at work, but it doesn’t support
iCal subscriptions. Since I use a Mac, and don’t have any interest in
Outlook, that makes calendar access a pain.

After some poking around, I discovered that the server stores the
calendar information in IMAP folders, with each event in a separate ICS
file attached to a fake message. So I put together a small script read
the IMAP messages and merge the ICS files into a single output file. By
writing the output file to a folder on the web server, it is easy to set
up a subscription in iCal.

The result only works one way, of course, though it should be possible
to push fake messages into the IMAP server. I have not tried that,
because I just use the server’s web interface for adding new events to
the calendar.

The script depends on the icalendar package from codespeak.net, and
the Python standard library packages for IMAP and email parsing.

I have posted the script to my server: mailbox2ics.

feed auto-discovery

I added feed auto-discovery to CastSampler.com today. It was pretty
easy using the feedfinder.py module, except for one small
problem. Something about the timelimit() decorator in that module
causes problems with django or mod_python (probably
mod_python). When timelimit() is enabled, the finder either produces
no URLs at all or an exception about “unmarshalling code objects” in a
“restricted execution environment.” It works great in my development
environment, which does not use mod_python. To get it to work in
production, I disabled the timelimit() decorator. I hope that does not
come back to bite me in the future.

del.icio.us down?

I’ve never worked anywhere that could take a reasonable change window
like del.icio.us apparently can.

We’re in the midst of a scheduled upgrade which will take no more
than a couple of hours. Come back after 2 pm (Pacific) today and you
will see the del.icio.us you’ve come to know and love. For live
updates, please see our `blog`_.

Bravo to their operations team for doing the work during the day instead
of the middle of the night. Of course, they are still working on the
weekend, but this is a start.

Left-Handedness

According to the BBC:

Left-handed people can think quicker when carrying out tasks such as
playing computer games or playing sport, say Australian researchers.

more specifically:

Extreme left-handed individuals were 43 milliseconds faster at
spotting matching letters across the right and left visual fields
than right-handed people.

It only works if you’re caffeinated, though. I should say, it only
works for me that way.

The Real Problem With Email

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the upsurge in
spam
, especially the increase in image spam. No one seems to have an
answer. I think that is because they have not recognized the real source
of the problem.

The email delivery protocol SMTP was designed to deliver electronic
mail in the same way that postal mail is delivered: The sender hands the
mail to a service which delivers the message to the inbox of the
recipient. That’s all well and good in the real world, where the sender
has to pay for postage to ensure delivery.

In the electronic world, postage is essentially free. There have been
plenty of suggestions that we tack a delivery charge onto email, with
the idea being that charging for delivery of messages would eliminate
the spam problem. That does not hold, though, since we all receive junk
mail at home, too.

Other suggestions depend on authenticating the source of the message,
with PGP or GPG focusing on the sender while SPF and
DomainKeys focus on the sending server (requiring less configuration
on the part of each individual user). None of these address the true
problem with email:

Your inbox is world-writable.

That simple fact places the burden of dealing with spam entirely on
the recipient. Anyone can send you email, and it is up to you (or your
email client) to filter out messages you do not want.

So, the real solution to the spam problem is to deal with the write
permissions on the inbox. More on that later.

Email Archives

Speaking of email, I’ve been working on an AppleScript to organize my
email boxes.

I use Mail.app under OS X, so searching is easy and quick. I can use
smart mailboxes as needed for subject-based organization, so I wanted to
move away from my existing subject-based organization scheme (a folder
for each person, job, client, etc.). But since I have about 7 years of
email on my machine, I still wanted to do better than one big mailbox.
Grouping the messages based on the date sent seemed to give me
manageable chunks, but I didn’t want to have to do that manually. So, I
came up with this script:

on archiveByDate(parentMailboxName)
tell application "Mail"
 set archiveMessages to the selection

 repeat with currentMessage in archiveMessages
  set receivedon to (date received of currentMessage)
  set archiveYear to (year of receivedon as string)
  if ((month of receivedon as number)

This automatically maintains a folder hierarchy like:

  • parentMailboxName
    • 2006
      • 01
      • 02

I use that script as a library, and have another script which I run
via a MailActOn action to file selected messages. The reason for
having a separate script is so I can separate personal messages from
work messages in the archive. For example,

set scriptDirectory to ((path to
 scripts folder as string) & "Mail Scripts")
set scriptPath to (scriptDirectory & ":MailArchiveByDate.scpt")
set theScript to (load script alias scriptPath)

tell theScript to archiveByDate("Personal")

saves my personal messages to a folder called “Personal”, while

set scriptDirectory to ((path to
 scripts folder as string) & "Mail Scripts")
set scriptPath to (scriptDirectory & ":MailArchiveByDate.scpt")
set theScript to (load script alias scriptPath)

tell theScript to archiveByDate("Work")

saves work messages to a separate set of folders.