Hooking Up with Shaw's New "Remote SMTP" Service

Update (February 2012 - Webmail 2.0 is completely up with all it’s Exchange goodness - so check out Shaw’s new instructions )

Please join me in welcoming Shaw’s new feature of actually allowing Shaw email users to send email while travelling without resorting to webmail or trying to find the local ISP’s SMTP server address (or seeing that Telus’ mobile SMTP server is blacklisted AGAIN marking all your email as spam). This is of course ignoring that I don’t recommend anyone actually use their ISP provided email address but instead use something a bit more dedicated like your own domain or an actual email service. It’s still better than an AOL address.

Previously I’d been setting clients up to use a Gmail account as their proxy sending address when they have a Shaw or Telus email address - this makes it easier for Shaw clients. It’s also a lot simpler than the Gmail approach (which I have yet to post here).

Coles Notes

  1. Turn on Mobile Access using the new Webmail beta: https://wmbeta.shaw.ca
  2. Change your SMTP settings to point to mail.shaw.ca using port 587, STARTTLS, and use your username and password as the authentication

More elaborate instructions

Setting Up Shaw’s End:

  1. Sign into https://wmbeta.shaw.ca
  2. Click on Preferences (right side of screen - it’s a text link beside Feedback)
  3. Click on the ‘tab’ that says ‘Mobile Access’
  4. Set it to Enabled (click the radio button beside it)
  5. You may need to change your password to meet their new security requirements.
  6. Press Save. It will say “Preferences saved” in a small yellow box at the top of the page if it’s successful.

Thunderbird:

  1. Go to the Tools menu and choose Account Settings
  2. On the left side on that window click on “Outgoing Server (SMTP)”. You may need to scroll as it’s always the last item.
  3. There should be an item associated with the Shaw account you just turned on. Whichever account you turned on Mobile Access for and click on it and then click the button that says “Edit…”
  4. In the window that appears change the server name to mail.shaw.ca instead of shawmail or shawmail.cg.shawcable.net that it was set to. The port number should be changed from 25 to 587 and the Connection Security to STARTTLS. Authentication: Normal password and then enter your username
  5. Press OK
  6. If you did not change your password when setting up Shaw then press OK and you’re done. If you did change your password when setting up Mobile Access the next time you check email it will ask you for a new password and you can enter it.

Mail.app:

  1. Go to the Preferences and click on the Accounts section
  2. Click on your Shaw account on the left side
  3. Where it says Outgoing Mail Server (SMTP): click on the drop down menu and choose “Edit SMTP Server List”.
  4. Find the Shaw SMTP server in that list and click on it.
  5. Change Server Name to mail.shaw.ca
  6. Click on the Advanced tab
  7. Check off Use Secure Sockets Layer
  8. Change the Authentication drop down menu to Password
  9. Enter your username and password and then press OK.
  10. Close the accounts preferences window and say yes to saving it if necessary.

Shaw’s already provided instructions on setting up an account anew for iOS, Android and Blackberry devices: https://wmbeta.shaw.ca/doc/offnet-device-instructions.html

   mail, shaw, smtp

Using AWStats 7.0 with S3 Logs

The necessary code changes from Amazon’s Tutorial on using AWStats with S3 Logs take place at line 17,764 with version 7.0 and not 10,657.

The hint? Just do a search for # HTTP request. Keep only GET, POST, HEAD for any version of AWStats.

Of note, as of the published date AWStats 7.0 does not count the files viewed correctly. I’m not sure why.

Using Compressor to Make H.264 MP4s

In April I pushed to GitHub my RewraptoMP4 Script I put together to help assist in creating proper MPEG-4 container files while being able to use the x264 QuickTime component in Compressor. Compressor only allows you to specify the codec being used when exporting to a QuickTime file, however it is possible to use QuickTime Player after the fact to convert a QuickTime Movie to an MPEG-4 without transcoding so long as the codecs are supported in the MPEG-4 container spec.

My primary reason for the extra work is that Google Chrome will not recognize a .mov file as a valid wrapper for video in HTML 5’s <video> tags.

Using Compressor

You need to make your Compressor preset using x264 as a normal QuickTime movie preset (use the table below to help with settings if necessary). You’ll then want to grab the script from GitHub and add it as a script to your preset.

Scripting Compressor isn’t very straight forward, while you can use AppleScript or launch a script using Compressor they fail to mention that the script must be saved as an application and the file is accessed by using on open.

Helpful Table of Limitations

DeviceMax ResMax Bit RateH.264 Settings
iPhone640x4802.5 MbpsCan only use Baseline profile Level 3.0 with CAVLC
iPod touch640x4802.5 MbpsCan only use Baseline profile Level 3.0 with CAVLC
iPhone 3G640x4802.5 MbpsCan only use Baseline profile Level 3.0 with CAVLC
iPod touch 2G640x4802.5 MbpsCan only use Baseline profile Level 3.0 with CAVLC
iPhone 3G S640x4802.5 MbpsCan only use Baseline profile Level 3.0 with CAVLC
iPod touch 3G640x4802.5 MbpsCan only use Baseline profile Level 3.0 with CAVLC
iPad1280x720"Unlimited"Can only use up to Main Profile Level 3.1
iPhone 41280x720"Unlimited"Can only use up to Main Profile Level 3.1
iPod touch 4G1280x720"Unlimited"Can only use up to Main Profile Level 3.1
G1480x320600Lack of documentation for anything Android
Droid X1280x720?Lack of documentation for anything Android - can't play more than 24FPS

Android information is rather limited. Official Android information is near non-existent.

Thanks to: - http://www.proactiveinteractive.com/software/compressor/index.php

   apple, compressor, html5, mp4, quicktime, x264

Using HTML 5's Video To Serve Baseline and Main Profile Content

At work I was trying out to see if I could use the new video tag in HTML 5 to show two different versions of the same video; one optimized for devices that accept only the Baseline profile (eg. iPhone 3G S and older, many other phones) and one optimized for larger devices (eg. iPad, iPhone 4 that support the Main profile). Turns out it works absolutely fabulous by using the codecs section in the type (Thanks to Dive into HTML 5 for the documentation).

<video OTHER_ATTRIBUTES_HERE>
    <source src="PATH_TO_MAIN_PROFILE.mp4" type='video/mp4; codecs="avc1.4D401F, mp4a.40.2"' />
    <source src="PATH_TO_BASELINE_PROFILE.mp4" type='video/mp4; codecs="avc1.42E01E, mp4a.40.2"' />
</video>

The video codec for H.264 is: avc1.YYYYXX where YYYY represents the profile, while XX is the level (multiplied by 10 and turned into HEX):

Profile     Value   
Baseline    42E0
Main        4D40
High        6400
Extended    58A0

Level       Hex Value   
3.0         1E
3.1         1F
4.1         29
5.1         33

Now when I visit with an iPhone 3G it loads the baseline version, while my iPhone 4 and iPad both load the Main Profile version. For my current project I use video for whenever Flash isn’t available and it does leave a gap for Firefox and Opera users who don’t have Flash but according to our web stats they don’t actually exist.

It’s also important to note that Android users are also left in a lurch because any version lower than 2.0 doesn’t support <video>, and those that do can’t handle a <source> element having a type value like above. To top it all off it isn’t able to play or show controls on a video on it’s own. You have to add some JavaScript to your page in order to play to pass the click event and tell it to play.

   h264, html5, mp4

Mail.app, Outlook, Attachments and Disappearing Text

There’s a particularly nasty implementation detail that doesn’t seem to come up often but is just waiting to bite just about every Mac user in the ass. Mail.app allows users to attach files inline allowing them to be part of the flow of the text or in the case of one of my users be right alongside the paragraph talking about the changes in that paragraph. Or like me, right below the email you’re sending and above the replied emails because of Mail.app’s defaulting to top posting. The issue isn’t being able to put attachments inline, but the fact that by default Mail.app will encode the attachment in the same spot in the email file causing other email clients to see the rest of the email as a set of attachments.

The fix: Make sure “Always Insert Attachments at End of Message” is checked off (preference key is AttachAtEnd - boolean for you MCX minded folk) and you can now attach inline as you would normally want to without having Outlook eat your message.

Mail.app.jpg

Thunderbird will display the text correctly, but you’ll lose it and it will only appear as an attachment once that email is forwarded or replied to: (Part 1.1.3 is the text “There’s an attachment”). You’ll also notice the horizontal rule separating between the different HTML portions of the email.

Thunderbird.jpg

What program completely falls flat on it’s face is Outlook; it just puts all attachments off to the side and you have no idea what’s in the those ATT documents and your client sure as hell isn’t going to read them. So you’ve sent the email, the email was successfully sent, the text will be visible on their webmail systems, on their mobile device (Blackberry or iPhone), and even visible in other mail clients but because it’s technically an attachment Outlook won’t display it inline by default. (For the same reason they won’t show images by default in emails - the cookie tracking and that it’s a great attack vector)

Outlook.jpg

Of note, this only occurs when sending from Mail.app. Outlook can attach items inline and have no issue as it attaches the images at the end of the email.

Correct view:

OutlookCorrect.jpg

   apple, email, microsoft, outlook

Comments, No Comments, and When It Doesn't Matter

Today I’ve been heckling D’arcy Norman on Twitter about his plan to try out turning off comments on his blog. The discussion of comments versus no comments is not new but has come to the forefront again because of Gruber’s defence of not allowing comments.1 D’Arcy has done a good job showcasing several opinions on the matter - so good read his post first.

Why would I want comments on my site? They provide a relatively frictionless (provided no registration is required) way for a reader to respond to something I have written to power Google’s index.2 This includes developers responding to my criticisms of their applications, or some method of feedback. The feedback is part of the reason I even write comments anywhere else. It’s still very possible to get a large volume of feedback relevant and helpful to the article/essay/what-have-you without detracting from it. (eg. Coding Horror as an example - not always, not perfect but on a whole a decent example) Comments at one time also help differentiate the “new media” from the “old media”, it promoted the idea that the reader could be involved instead of just a a passive listener.

Why do I think I should remove comments from my site? Spam and focusing on the content. I don’t like being required to run Akismet, or remembering the issues of using Moveable Type 2.x and the necessity of MT-Blacklist. Erasing the spam issue is definitely enticing, especially with some many other avenues of feedback.

Additionally once comments grow beyond a certain quantitative threshold they simply become drive by soapboxes or discussion boxes with little to no control of their direction (unless heavily moderated) and relevance to the whole point of the page’s existence. If you really want people to discuss with each other about something you’ve put forward as a conversation piece? Consider setting up a proper forum3 for the thread control so it doesn’t feel like a discussion has been shoehorned into something that doesn’t quite fit correctly. Personally the whole point of my corner of the web is not to make conversation pieces but to showcase something I actually want to broadcast more widely to the world.

But wait. Why should I even care if they’re on or off? Be practical - for many comments are your first way to get feedback without the roadblocks (registration, emailing, etc.) that are necessary to keep the volume manageable for higher volume sites. Comments don’t scale with the purpose of a blog, website, whatever you want to call your little corner of the world wide web. If you’re small enough they don’t exist, if you’re big enough they overshadow or fail completely miserably at being either a way to leave a note for the author or as a discussion board. So in the big picture - the choice doesn’t matter. What matters is whether they are a positive or a negative impact to you, the moment it’s negative kill it - there’s no saving the signal when the noise gets too loud. If it’s positive, keep it.

Don’t sweat it and focus on writing (or doing your thing).


  1. RIP daringfireballwithcomments.net - it was hilarious and a perfect example as to why Gruber should keep his site just the way it is. [return]
  2. My traffic consists of 3 people who follow using RSS and about 30 people a day from random search terms. [return]
  3. This doesn’t have to be proper forum software such as phpBB and such but they do offer the more advanced features one would want when dealing with diverging threads of discussion. [return]

   soapbox, web

Curious Notes about WebM on YouTube

When looking at one of the trailers (Tetro: Original Trailer) that has been transcoded into WebM. I wanted to compare YouTube’s x264 settings versus their WebM settings. I’ve also uploaded some 1080p footage for more recent footage (in case the H.264 settings had changed between Dec. 2009 and now - which AFAIK they haven’t) to compare. It’s also important to note that the HTML5 access to YouTube videos is only available on non-monetized content.

During my testing I noticed that in the HTML5 Beta on older versions of Chrome and Safari (aka H.264 using browsers) when you select 360p for your video size, YouTube does NOT give you a 360p file - it is actually smaller in terms of resolution (480x270) and has to be upscaled. This is most likely a reason why my initial thoughts on Twitter didn’t match with what I had on paper.

Disclaimer: Subjective paragraph to follow - I’m not an expert and I’m judging just by general visual quality to my eye.

A quick visual inspection shows the WebM version in 360p seem noticeably sharper in terms of details than the 480x270 H.264 which had to be upscaled. The 720p WebM version was close enough to it’s H.264 counterpart. However I did definitely notice with the 360p version, a “quality bump” every once in a while as described in the ratecontrol section of a blog post by one of the x264 developers when criticizing the VP8 specification.

Using MediaInfo Mac the following settings can be found:

Tetro Trailer (Originally encoded 12/26/09)

Resolution Container - Codec Total Rate (kbps) Video Bit Rate File Size (MiB) Notes
640x360 WebM - VP8/Vorbis 812 ? 14.2
480x270 MPEG4 - H.264/AAC 500 393 VBR 8.7 Baseline Profile - HTML 5’s “360p”
640x360 FLV - H.264/AAC 677 568 11.8 Main Profile
1280x720 WebM - VP8/Vorbis 2887 ? 50.4
1280x720 MPEG4 - H.264/AAC 2172 2045 37.8 High Profile

Part of the reason I chose Teatro is that it has some excellent DOF changes, the other reason is that I just liked the visual style of the trailer. It was also the first trailer I clicked on that worked in the HTML5 beta that didn’t resort to using Flash because it has been monetized.

12 Second Test Clip Uploaded Today

Resolution Container - Codec Total Rate (kbps) Video Bit Rate File Size (MiB) Notes
640x360 WebM - VP8/Vorbis 709 ? 709 KiB
480x270 MPEG4 - H.264/AAC 508 415 VBR 751 KiB Baseline Profile - HTML 5’s “360p”
640x360 FLV - H.264/AAC 542 466 835 KiB Main Profile
1280x720 WebM - VP8/Vorbis 1736 ? 2.61
1280x720 MPEG4 - H.264/AAC 2120 2005 3.06 High Profile

What’s the conclusion for what YouTube is offering? Visually, WebM can be made to look quite decent - especially for what I believe is it’s target market; the web and mobile devices. However on higher resolution and higher bit rates, H.264 definitely appears better. I don’t think most people will notice - they’re close enough with the current settings. However I do believe that the WebM settings are more fine tuned than the x264 settings to get a little bit more video quality. Encoding my sample 12 second video with a relatively recent version of x264 locally with some rather generic settings is more visually appealing than YouTube’s.

Even though H.264 is definitely better on paper, I think VP8 will do just fine as a replacement for Theora and a competitor to H.264 for use on the web. For the near future (next 3 months IMO) you won’t see a lot of WebM footage available as the playback availability is extremely limited.

   web, youtube

Google Chrome on the Mac - When beta doesn't mean beta

I’ve been using Chromium (the developer version of Chrome) since May side by side the WebKit nightlies. They’re very fast and I like Chrome quite a bit however I won’t be moving to Chrome/Chromium as my main browser. Yet. After all it’s still a beta and under very active development.

And like any craptastic method of making sure one has an easy time of making an article/blog post/etc. a set of pros and cons as to what I like and dislike about Chrome/Chromium)

Pros:

  • Super fast, uses a newer version of WebKit than Safari. (If you like Safari but want the new versions of WebKit - use nightly.webkit.org - will never use Vanilla Safari again)
  • Automatically updates itself silently (Chrome only, Chromium must be manually updated
  • Updates often so new features and bug fixes in WebKit show up quite quickly.
  • Bookmark Sync (this came online last week). Awesome.
  • If one tab crashes the entire program doesn’t crash. Huge. Not as huge since Safari started sandboxing Flash but huge none the less.

Cons:

  • Silently installs an auto updater that is hard to remove and impossible to control in a managed environment.
  • Extension support not easily accessible
  • Bookmark Management is near non-existent. It’s a completely broken feature at this time.
  • No Click To Flash yet. Flash Blocker is a poor substitute.
  • Tabs just become a set of mountains when too many are open.
  • Top Sites look alike feature isn’t as customizable. Oddly I use Chrome’s Top Site feature but not Safari’s.

I like it a lot but I believe calling it a beta is disingenuous. A beta usually refers to something feature complete and in bug testing. My usage however says that it’s very solid but that new features are being added all the time. The reality is that Google Chrome is being treated like a web application - iterated fast and often and there is no real distinction between alpha, beta or a final “1.0” version number. Just a stable and unstable branch and the version number to correspond to where development is at.

It’s a bit more chaotic but represents a change in how developers can approach development, after all there are no instances of a user using a version 3 or 4 versions old when you make sure everyone is using the latest version all the time.

   chrome

Xdebug, Leopard, and 64-bit shenanigans.

In order to profile some in house web application development and find out a couple bottlenecks that were appearing I went looking for a decent PHP profiler and found Xdebug. Because I am using the built in version of PHP on the Leopard Server, and a MacPorts version on Snow Leopard (we also have an application that fails miserably on PHP 5.3) it lead to some fun installing Xdebug on the Leopard machine since I didn’t want to reconfigure apache2 to use PHP 5.3 from MacPorts.

The crux of it is to grab the source of Xdebug, and then when configuring prefix your standard ./configure --enable-xdebug with the statement CFLAGS='-arch ppc64' or CFLAGS='-arch x86_64' as necessary. Compile xdebug as a 64-bit extension and it will actually work with a 64-bit version of Apache. With MacPorts it was as simple as enabling the xdebug variant and letting it recompile PHP.

I highly recommend using webgrind. It gave me more useful results than MacCallGrind, and didn’t require an hour hoping MacPorts could compile all the dependencies for kcachegrind (which would require graphviz as an additional install). Now I have some numbers to tell me where to look for proof old me is a moron.

   apple, development