30 June 2006

Follow The Sun 2

A better 3D origami of a ring. Coincidentally, the reflection from the digital camera's flash gives the impression of a sun glare, perfect for the Follow The Sun idea.

According to the 3D origami, one would use a craft stick, like those used for popsicles, to add glue to the inside of the units to hold them together. I've made my fourth ring by now and for me it's easier just to squeeze the glue right onto the middle of the fork prior to inserting it into the double pocket. Fork? Double-pocket? I may have to do a series of snapshot to show you how the basic triangle is made. You can always look up the 3D origami book, too. My ex-colleague Gassed wanted to know how to make it but she was so busy during her last few weeks and never had the time to learn it. I may even do a video tutorial - it's time to put my video camera to better use.

26 June 2006

3D Origami

In the office, there's this program called "Follow The Sun". The idea is that wherever the sun rises and sets, us tech servants will be ready for our clients. Of course, it would be prohibitively expensive to hire more American workers, so the way to achieve that is to hire more, lots more, Indian people in Mumbai and Bangalore. I made this 3D origami "sun" model to go with the program. It's supposed to be a perfectly round circle, but things got somewhat out of control at some point.

I first saw the book 3D Origami: Step-By-Step Illustrations (ISBN 4-88996-057-0) at a Japanese bookstore near some Japanese supermarket in New Jersey. It was written in Japanese, so much as I wanted to get it, I knew I wouldn't get far since I don't read Japanese. Years later, I found an English version of it, probably at a Barnes & Noble, and I bought it right away.

Traditional origami forbids the use of scissors and glue once the folding begins, but 3D origami doesn't follow that rule. All 3D origami starts with the basic unit, a triangular piece with two pockets for other pieces to connect with. To hold the pieces together better, since there's no locking mechanism anywhere, glue must be used.

My "sun" is really called a ring. You are supposed to put an origami crane or frog in its center. It's one of the simpler models in the book and isn't even really 3D. There are other models like vase, crane, and balls. If you like modular origami, you should check out this book. Enlist the help of a young girl or two, as you'll need many hands to fold all the units to piece together to make your end result. I have my 9-year-old niece, who shall be called iMac, helped me. The pieces she made are not as pointy or sharp as I prefer them to be, but I take any help I can get.

The "sun" is actually not my first 3D origami piece. I made the first sun with a smaller size. I gave it to my ex-colleague Gassed this past Thursday when she started packing her cube to leave for the last time.

23 June 2006

LDAP References

After writing the last blog, I did some more Googling and found a few site dedicated to LDAP attributes:

(For some reason, the last time I visited support.microsoft.com and searched for LDAP info, all links were dead. It was the same day Bill Gates announced he would, in two years, step down from running Microsoft to dedicating himself to giving away his ill-gotten wealth, maybe it was all related...)

Nice Excel table listing all attributes, but many attributes have no associated descriptions.

Both locations list the creator attribute as an indicator of who created the object. Strangely, plugging the attribute into my script yielded nothing. I wonder if it's because we created AD accounts via NetIQ DRA and not directly through Computer Management or similar built-in tool.

22 June 2006


Officially, our work responsibility doesn't include generating reports. There is supposed to be an entire department dedicated to the task, but they are so horrible at it, I end up making all the reports myself. A prime example of the Reporting Department's incompetence goes like: I was involved in a project that requires moving some folder from server A to server B. The project manager wanted to know what groups were currently granted access to the folder. By getting the members of the groups, he would know who will be affected and subsequently look up their cost centers and find the proper resources to support them on deployment day. He asked Reporting Dept. for the report and they didn't answer him until two weeks later. By then I already generated the report myself. Three days later may be acceptable, a week is a stretch, but two whole weeks later!

I started out using the freeware DumpSec or DumpACL for all my reporting needs. The trouble with DumpSec is it only works for the entire domain, i.e. you run it and you end up with a list of everyone in the domain. So to find out if a given list of usernames contain anyone who has been disabled, I would have to use a query table in MS Access to look them up. Or import the data into Excel and use filtering to find the set of users meeting the current condition. As I made use of KiX, I went further with the GetObject() function, using WinNT as the source. It served me well for a while, but as we now move into ActiveDirectory, GetObject("WinNT:xxx") just doesn't cut it. AD makes use of LDAP and there's so much more info to extract from. Recently, a colleague was tapped to provide for an auditor
basic info for a set of users. The usual fullnames, disabled status, etc. were not an issue, but the auditor also wanted the date the accounts were created. My colleague had to copy one by one for all 200+ users the creation dates. I was pretty sure it was one of the LDAP attribute, but Googling for it yielded nothing. I asked one of our AD expert and sure enough he told me that it's called whenCreated. Sheesh, I used CreationDate, CreatedDate, and a couple variation... how would I know it's called whenCreated? I'll have to look for one of those books that lists all the LDAP attributes. Also, the next great goal I want to reach is to be able to extract LDAP info from Novell 6. Novell calls it eDirectory but deep down it's just plain LDAP, I think. The way everything in NDS has to be tied to the OU is a major annoyance. For instance, I can change password for a number of AD users without having to know their OUs, but with NDS, it's a requirement. If I can somehow, with just a given set of usernames, look up their OUs then feed it to the program that carries out the change, I would be a happy camper.

21 June 2006


My colleague Gassed finally announced to the department that she had accepted a job elsewhere. Her group's job is being transitioned to Mumbai, so she might as well jump ship before they get to her.

I used Email Effects to create the ASCII art showing her face. In NeoOffice with Overwrite turned on, I replaced the background with names of Gassed's soon-to-be ex-colleagues and other reminders of her days with this company. To protect the innocent, I only used first names and initial of last names, in most cases anyway.

It's actually quite a process to get Email Effects' output into a picture format. Email Effects is supposed to be used to generate text pictures, i.e. pictures made up of characters. You would then paste the resulting text into an email and your recipient is supposed to see the picture using a fixed font like Courier or Monaco. I did the text editing in NeoOffice then exported the text to PDF. Next, I loaded the PDF into Photoshop and finally saved it out to GIF. The Mac's built-in ability to export to PDF is a major help.

18 June 2006

Faith Lost and Restored

Today I parted with my trusty domed iMac. The new owner is a 9-year-old niece on my wife's side. She said she wanted a computer but her parents didn't want her to have a brand new one, something secondhand would do. I could have given her a generic PeeCee but I was pretty sure she would have so much problems with it - virus, spyware, crashes, you name it. So, with much sadness but also much determination, I gave her my domed iMac. I mostly use the Al PowerBook these days, so much as I would like to keep the iMac just as a collector's item, I have no space for it.

Nowadays, who would want a computer NOT to go on the Net. Niece's parents probably have no plan to spend money on monthly broadband access. Besides, she has an uncle on the first floor with Verizon DSL, with a wireless router. So the trick was to outfit the iMac with an Airport card. Silly me, I went all the way to the new Apple Store on Fifth Avenue expecting them to carry the product - the domed iMac has been out of production for a few years now, there was no way the posh Apple Store would carry it. Luckily, trusty Tekserve was open and had a used one. Supposedly, Tekserve regularly buys back old Macs and sell their parts to people like me. With tax, it came out to $160+ - not exactly cheap. Considering there was only a 10-day return policy, I should have installed the Airport soon, but I didn't get to it until the weekend. When wireless technology first came into the mainstream, I read some review of the various wireless products at the time covering both Mac and PeeCee. While the reviewer praised Apple's Airport ease-of-use, he made an interesting comparison - Airport is to PeeCee wireless technology as Sharon Stone is to her sister, or Sylvester Stallon is to his brother. Well, back then Sharon Stone was hot, it was way before Basic Instinct 2 anyway. So going into the task of enabling wireless for the iMac, I fully expected it to just work - no tweaking anything at all. Popped open the dome's base, connected the antenna to the Airport card, slid the card into its slot, I didn't even bother to read Apple's online instruction for the physical installation of the Airport card. Closed the cover, powered up... and NOTHING! No automatic joining the wireless network in the area. Whatever happened to Mac OS's legendary ease of use? I frantically searched the web for an answer. Could it be that the expert at Tekserve was wrong? That the Airport card isn't compatible with my Westell VersaLink router? I opened up the iMac again, made sure the antenna was connected properly, that it didn't overlap the installed memory module. According to some web posting, the wireless channel on the DSL router had to be changed from the default of 6 to 2. Another posting said it should be 11. I tried them all, from 1 through 11. On some channels, my wireless connection stopped working altogether. Luckily, I was able to physically reset the router - all it took was to re-enable it to connect automatically, I'd worry about MAC filtering later. Nothing worked and I went to bed feeling that I had lost faith in the Mac.

This morning I posted my problem to three forums: MetroMac, MacAddict, and UseNet. A few hours later, a few replies came in. The ones from MacAddict were especially helpful. The culprit was my outdated Airport software. Ran Software Update, took into considering even those set to be ignored, and Airport 4.2 was installed. Some time in the past, I figured I would never have any needs for Airport so I told Software Update to ignore it, along with all the updates for iPod models I don't own. With Airport 4.2 installed, the iMac instantly saw the wireless network. I am also happy to report that when the iMac was setup at my niece's home, it also connected nicely, and wirelessly, to Uncle DSL's network downstair. Now that's how the Mac is supposed to work. As long as one has all the latest software updates, setting things up is no problem at all. Shame on me for not thinking of that first. What a basic goof that was.

17 June 2006

Zheng Photomosaic Poster

A few days ago, I gave my wife a sample of the photomosaic that I was composing for her music group. The real file itself is over 20 MB, too big for any mailboxes, so I provided her just a screenshot of the real thing. You can zoom in to see that the image is made up of other tiny images, but the details are not there to see who's who. The response was quite good. A few people want to get a printed poster while others were quicker in sending more photos to be included. I was able to produce only one poster, a draft version, too, since not enough photos were submitted in time. It takes a long time for the computer to pick and choose, reproduce and crop the photos, to come up with the final mosaic. Then it takes another long period of time for my inkjet printer to spit out the 15 pages that make up the mosaic. All that printing easily consumed one ink cartridge or two, so the cost of just printing it is $25 - $50. No way I'll provide the poster. At most I'll give anyone interested a copy of the 20+ MB file on a CD and let them do their own printing.

The mosaic at left was posted on the wall at the zheng party tonight. Many people liked it and pored over it looking for familiar faces. Ms. Wang's face didn't come out that well, but it's impossible to achieve that level of detail. The hand movements and even the hair was captured very well though. I was hoping Ms. Wang would leave it up for other students to see, but she shares the studio with another music group and thought those other people probably just rip the poster off the wall, so she took it home.

12 June 2006

Mac/Win Video Chat

I have been conducting regular text chat with a distant relative, who we shall call T.C., in China. Up to recently, I have been chatting away happily via iChat, with some AOL/AIM buddies. T.C. is an MSN user so I had to look around for an MSN-compatible Mac client. I came across Adium and have been quite happy with it, too - all my AIM buddies, and now this lone MSN user, and even any Yahoo! yakkers or ICQ friends I know, would be all listed in one window. Of course, I need to sign up with all the various services.
Alas, T.C. wants to try video chat so I go again for an MSN client. I settled for Mercury Messenger and thought I had to have a USB webcam. I borrowed one from my nephew and it did nothing for Mercury Messenger. Just out of curiosity, I plugged in my iSight camera and lo and behold there I was on the screen. I was able to send video over to T.C., half the world away, but unfortunately Mercury couldn't handle MSN Messenger 7.5's new video format. Not one to give up easily in the face of a technical hurdle, I searched briefly for any setting in Messenger 7.5 that may allow sending older video format - no dice. Next I tried another MSN client for the Mac, aMSN. This time I could see her, but she couldn't see me. On my side, I got some error message related to the fact that I was behind a router or a firewall. I went into my DSL router and mucked around with various settings and thought I found the relevant setting, but no confirmation from T.C. yet. The aMSN troubleshooting suggested making changes to something related to "port forwarding". Initially, I found no such settings, but then stumbled across the Services menu of the DSL config page. There were Services for pcAnywhere, VNC, and a bunch of other software that would require interaction between two computers. I added aMSN as a custom service with the port range as suggested by the Help doc. In the end, I wanted to put some setting back to the default but inadvertently locked myself out of the router. No Internet! Aaargh! Luckily, by pressing the Reset button on the back of the DSL router while it's powered on, I was able to get back in. Sure, everything was back to factory default, including admin name and password, all the MAC addresses I laboriously filtered in, but at least I'm back in the saddle again. Whew, talk about not leaving well enough alone...

09 June 2006

The Zen of Zheng

Gu zheng is a musical instrument, somewhat like a zither, in Chinese classical music. It is a string instrument with the strings going along its length. One plays it sitting down while the zheng is rested on two stands.

My wife has been studying the zheng with the world-famous Ms. Chang Yuan Wang. Ms. Wang is the head of the Overseas Chinese Instrumentalists' Orchestra. She has a few CDs out and played at many concert halls, including Lincoln Center just a few months ago. According to my wife, there are even people in China who hijack her good name to open music school, all without her permission.

The event at Lincoln Center was great but also took a lot of the participants' time and energy. Some people have suggested having a party some time soon to celebrate its fruition. I plan to contribute to the party by making a photomosaic poster. The poster's main image is that of Ms. Wang as shown at left with the tiles being faces and photos of the students. As my wife is an active participant, and probably the most senior student of Ms. Wang, I have quite a collection of all the performances I went with my wife. Kensington Park in Westchester, Chatham Branch of the New York Public Library, Sun Yat Sen High School, South Street Seaport, so on and so on. Unfortunately, most of the photos were made from 35mm cameras. I have to meticulously find them and scan them in.

As before, I plan to use MacOSaiX, by Frank Midgley, to make the mosaic, then print it out with Luxor Development's Poster Print. It would be nice if there's some way to add markers to the sides of the finished product, so people can tell their friends where to find their pictures once they found their own. It is a fun project. Moving photos from the shoeboxes into digital format, it's something I always want to do, even if it means only zheng-related photos, not everything.

07 June 2006

The da Vinci Code

A few days ago, I finished reading the book The da Vinci Code. I'm an atheist and I can see why the Catholic church is angry about it. Sure, it's a fictional work, but the way it links events throughout history together, it sounds very real. As a thriller, it's top-notch. I stayed up an extra hour a few nights to try to read just one more chapter, steal a moment here and then on the subway, etc. to try to finish it. Lots of surprises and twists, not to mention some brain-challenging riddles.

As much as I like The da Vinci Code, I hate those techno-thrillers from Tom Clancy. Years ago a colleague told me how much he enjoyed Clancy so I decided to give it a try. I read Rainbox Six, The Bear and the Dragon, and maybe one more. They are pretty boring. You have a little suspense in the beginning but after some point in the middle everything works out as expected, thanks to all the gadgets. No accidents ever happen. Just as in kung-fu movies any chaps on the street may turn out to be a martial arts expert, in Clancy novels almost everyone has some military background. I give myself a chuckle or two by imagining the following scenario if Tom Clancy had collaborated with Dan Brown on The da Vinci Code: As soon as Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu start on their quest to solve the first riddle, they whipped out tiny uber-PDAs, tap into all the online libraries, cross-reference all the phrases, send robots all around the Louvre to shine black lights on some exact location, and download the exact location of the Holy Grail with the help of Google Maps 4000. Half of the book would be devoted to describing the PDA's OS, the T1 uplink, Internet 3, Web 4, the tiny but fast portable hard drives, maybe even the satellite dishes themselves. Yup, Clancy would have "The butler did it" right on page 10 and everything is solved by page 20.

05 June 2006

Classmates.com - don't join that club!

Early this year, I flew out to California to attend the wedding of a male friend from high school. We gradudated together more than fifteen years ago. I thought it would be good to find out about other classmates so naturally I went to Classmates.com. Now I wish I didn't. Sure it's a free site, but there is so little you can do with it. The whole site is covered with ads, ads, and more ads. I just found someone I knew and sent him an email, but alas he won't be able to read it unless I become a gold member. What a ripoff! It's pathetic. It's way too commercialized. I'll try to find a way to get out of that darned club. Hopefully I can be inactive for x months and they'll get rid of my accounts.

04 June 2006

160 - Phishing

Phishing - the practice of sending misleading email to try to get the recipient divulge personal information such as credit card number, date of birth, or even password to online bank account. It's amazing how these people get away with the crime. These scumbags can easily wipe out someone's life saving. They cast a wide net by sending the same bogus message to millions of email addresses. I've been receiving many such message at my recycling group's email address. My green group doesn't have a bank account with Bank XYZ but that's the nature of the crime. Out of the millions, someone will happen to have an account with the financial institution in question AND naive enough to fall for the trick.

With Father's Day a few weeks away, I thought I would capitalize on the occasion. This also goes nicely with my line of T-shirts, The Down Side Of Computing.