Sunday, August 03, 2008

Migrating from Eudora to Thunderbird

Eudora was a popular email client for quite awhile and considered by many as more secure than MS Outlook (we're talking back before webmail was popular here). Unfortunately it isn't being maintained anymore and the free version lacks some (now) pretty basic features which are nice to have (spell checker, PGP support, gmailish fancy labels). Thunderbird on the other hand is actively updated, feature rich and open source. The trouble comes in when you try to migrate your old mail to Thunderbird. The Thunderbird importer for Eudroa's data doesn't always get the read/unread status of messages correct (and can mangle some messages). The workaround for this is to use a free tool called Eudora Rescue to preprocess your mailbox files. The developers have some instructions for doing the conversion but the basic strategy is to first backup your Eudora install, then run Eudora Rescue on it (I enabled just about all the options, but the defaults probably work in most cases). You then rename your old Eudora directory and move the processed mailbox files into a new directory in place of the old Eudora directory (same name/location). Copy your attachments directory ("[EudroaDirectory]\Attached" by default) into the new. You can then install Thunderbird and let it automatically import Eudora's mail. If desired you can then put your old Eudora directory back and import your Eudora address book/settings from the Thunderbird tools menu.

If you have trouble with the address book importer (can happen depending on your Eudora version and settings) I've had good luck with allowing the Windows address book to import from Eudora and then exporting from that to a format that you can import from Thunderbird (csv works).

You can also install a Thunderbird extension called Penelope which will change Thunderbird's UI to look more like Eudora. It's a relativly new project but it does seem to work ok (read more).

Unfortunatly, I haven't found anyway to import filters from Eudora (I just copied them by hand)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

X Servers for Vista

I expect I'm in the minority here (How many Vista users use/want an X server?) but If you have been having trouble getting Cygwin's X servers working properly with Vista check out Xming ( (developer's website). Xming is a somewhat fancier port of Xorg to Windows systems that works quite well on Vista. You can use it with any of the Cygwin apps or probably more useful, a SSH client like PuTTY

If this hasn't become apparent already, I really don't have the time to be posting here very often so this is going to turn into a collection of quick tips like this one with only very occasional updates for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Merging PDFs with ghostscript

Just a quick tip tonight, mostly for Linux/Unix users (though there is no reason the clever Windows users couldn't use this too).
As you may already be aware, ghostscript is a (free) tool for working with Adobe's pdf and postscript formats. Among the uses I have found for it is concatenating pdf files (in this case chapters of an ebook to make it easier to search the whole thing). While you can do this with Acrobat reader in Windows, it is a quick single liner on the command line using ghostscript:
gs -DBATCH -dNOPAUSE -q -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sOutputFile=output.pdf file1.pdf file2.pdf... fileN.pdf

If you're like me and have your source pdfs scattered around a bunch of subdirectories you can try this command (for the BASH shell)

find | grep -i pdf |xargs gs -dBATCH -dNOPAUSE -q -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sOutputFile=output.pdf

You might want to try the command first without the call to xargs and gs (ghostscript) to make sure only the files you want are selected.

Note: I have talked about ghostscript before

Sunday, December 09, 2007

CD Burning in Vista (w/ free software)

So my fancy new computer running Vista comes with a DVD burner, but no software that uses it (besides the very limited built in stuff) and I want to free up some disk space by offloading extra data to dvds; What's a geek to do?

Rather than simply use my Linux machine and the network (which is a totally reasonable solution by the way) I did some searching and came up with a nice package called InfraRecorder. InfraRecorder is a GPL2 app which burns data to DVDs and CDs quickly and easily on Windows machines (Those of you lucky users of older versions need not feel left out). It isn't Nero or K3B grade software but it has all the features a normal person needs from their burning software (and then some). It can burn arbitrary files and iso or bin/cue images to cds and dvds. It can (if the user seeks out the option under project properties) burn the common iso9660 and UDF filesystems, and even create images. The UI is fairly simple and the defaults are reasonable (though if you use multisession discs you might want to give the FAQ a look).

Read what the author has to say and download it here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Continuing where my last post on how to make Windows Vista do something that was easy on XP we have Hyperterminal. In case you don't know, Hyperterminal is a terminal emulation program that has shipped with every version of Windows since 95 (maybe earlier, I don't remember). Its most useful function at this point is sending data over RS-232 (serial ports). Unfortunately Microsoft must have decided that people don't use serial devices and modems anymore so they didn't bother to include Hyperterminal (or a similar program) with Vista (which I found out the hard way when I went looking for it during a chemistry lab today). Luckily for us Hilgraeve, the company that wrote Hyperterminal, distributes it for free (personal use only it looks like) on their website. While Vista support isn't listed it seems to work fine (you might have to run it or any other program that requires direct port access as an administrator depending on the circumstances)

If you don't like Hyperterminal there are also some alternatives available for free, but I have yet to find one I like. For example, PuTTY is a great ssh/telnet/rlogin client that marginally supports serial port access, but is missing some features that you might need depending on the protocol your serial device uses.

At least as of today we Vista users can now have video clips as our desktop backgrounds (well, Vista Ultimate anyway). Useless, but nifty (I'd rather have Hyperterminal come with Windows).
Well, I'm off to go burn a Knoppix DVD ;-) If anyone has an alternative to Hyperterminal that they like please comment.

Monday, September 17, 2007

RAW Thumbnails in Vista

Its been a couple months, but in case anyone is still reading here you go:

I have recently found myself in possession of a Vista machine, which I hate to put something better on because it comes preloaded with a bunch of useful stuff (college package). One of the things that irritates me about it is that Microsoft hasn't updated the XP PowerToys that supplied functionality such as a viewer for RAW files produced by higher end digital cameras (well, unless you count the poker game that shipped over WindowsUpdate). Luckily if you have a Nikon camera then Nikon has you covered with a plugin for Vista to provide the same functionality as the XP PowerToy which you can download for free here. If you have a Canon then you can read this MSDN blog post and see if you can get this functionality or not. Most of the other major manufacturers have similar packages: Sony Olympus Pentax

For real editing I'm a fan of GIMP and UFRaw as always ;-)

Happy Picture Taking!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Free VPN Access to the Internet

It has been just over a month since I last posted here; sorry about that. One of the more useful things on my backlog of things to mention is a relatively new company offering free access to the Internet over a VPN (among other things)

I'm not sure how the economics of this work, but the idea is that you use their service as a way to use the Internet in a more private fashion (not just the WWW). Granted, there is a lot of talk in the news about ISPs keeping track of what people do with the Internet, but it seems like such a service has a lot more uses that just remaining semi-anonymous while stealing music or movies (which is the first use hinted at by the website). The most obvious use being tunneling through firewalls. If you are behind a router and would rather not have to concern yourself with port forwarding, this may be a way to have things work. The downside is that since you have to connect to whatever service you are using through another server the connection isn't going to be particularly fast.

Anyway, SecureIX offers such a service as well as a 1G email account with both POP3 and IMAP and Usenet access. They also have a paid version if you need more bandwidth. The VPN uses the PPTP protocol which is fairly widely supported (they have mediocre setup instructions for Windows).

Give it a try if you have a use for an extra public IP (gaming and server testing come to mind)

You can read a little about my previous experiments with VPNs here

Saturday, May 12, 2007


Ubuntu seems to be the current fad in computing, probably because of Vista's problems. For those who don't know, Ubuntu is a Linux distribution based off Debian which has been made more user friendly. Even Dell is going to start offering Ubuntu preinstalled on a few of their computers soon. Being a fairly long time Linux user myself, I'm all for the extra attention Ubuntu has been netting the Linux world since it turns up lots of useful tips on various blogs. Take for example, this ExtremeTech article. The first few pages are pretty boring to anyone who has used Gnome before but the subsequent pages are full of useful tips for Gnome and BASH users, both new and more experienced.

If you haven't already tried Ubuntu and want to get in on the action there are a bunch of ways to give it a try. You could just download the CD or DVD (or order a CD for free in the mail) which has a limited Ubuntu system which you can install to an extra hard drive. You could also try out "Wubi" which will install Ubuntu in Windows (I haven't personally tied it yet, since I have Linux installed anyway, but Lifehacker liked it). Or, as I have suggested before, try out the Knoppix LiveCD (or DVD). Knoppix is also based on Debian but is intended to be used exclusively as a boot disc and has a huge amount of software installed for you to try out.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Skype: Free Calling on Mother's Day

If you aren't a regular Skype user, you may not know that they are offering 200 minutes of free calling (per computer) on mother's day (5-13) this year. This could be a great opportunity to give Skype a try, though I would recommend setting up Skype on both ends and just talking over the Internet (maybe even get a webcam going).

You can download the Skype client here for most popular operating systems. If you prefer something a bit more open (and no free calling) try Gizmo or FWD.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


It's been a little over a month... I just wanted to have something new up.

I have been busy researching/deciding on a college (Any thoughts on RPI, UofRochester or SUNY Binghamton? please post in the comments!) and getting ready for APs in a couple weeks. Hopefully I will have more time in a few weeks.

While we are on the topic of colleges I thought I would share some links with you that I have found helpful. I should be back to my usual topics next time.
: Allows current students to rate their teachers on a variety of criteria. Unfortunately there aren't always that many reviews, but most professors have a few. Most of the above colleges have pretty mixed reviews (as can be expected) but I would think that if a college you are looking at has mostly bad reviews that might be pretty telling. and advertise similar things but have almost no reviews compared to RateMyProfessors
: Offers statistics, ratings and (most importantly) comments from current students and alumni. Like the above sites, there aren't too many reviews but I found there are enough to get some idea from the comments. The UI could use some improvement, however. Type your college in the search box on the top, and then choose it from the list of results. On the resulting page you should see a pie chart of students who would vs those who would not return. Under that chart click the link labeled "click here to find out why" to read the individual student comments.
: Probably everyone already knows about FastWeb, but I think they are worth a mention anyway. FastWeb offers a scholarship search. All you have to do is fill out their incredibly long, tedious survey and you will be matched with scholarships (and banner ads). They also offer some mildly interesting articles from time to time. There are a huge number of other scholarship search engines as well, but despite all the advertising I have found FastWeb to be the most usable.

USNews: America's Best Colleges
: Perhaps not as useful as the others, but It does give you an idea of how a given college stacks up to others in the US. They also have a scholarship search and other information. The CollegeBoard publishes the SAT and AP tests, among others. Their website has all you need to know about their tests as well as some (basic) college comparison tools, a scholarship search engine and financial calculators. They also run the CSS profile required by some financial aid offices.
: Home of the Common Application for US colleges. Fill out one form over the internet (or print and mail) to apply to a bunch of different colleges. Enough Said!

FAFSA: Online application for Federal Financial Aid.

Anyone have any other suggestions? Please comment!

Edit: Heading to RPI in the fall.