Simon Palmer’s blog

August 24, 2009

McAfee Anti-spam toolbar in Outlook 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — simonpalmer @ 11:30 am

The burning question is… how do you switch it off? You can hide the toolbar with a right-click and an un-check, but next time you start Outlook, it’s back again. Grr.

This is suddenly important because I just bought a netbook for email and Office activity and the screen size means that I am very protective of the amount of space taken up by things I never asked for. The McAfee toolbar seems to think it needs a whole horizontal line and I disagree, so I just want to get rid of it.

After much searching on the internet, without a great deal of success, I finally figured it out and thought I would post it here so I don’t forget for the next time I need to do it, and so it may help some other poor soul. And of course it is easy once you know how.

The McAfee anti-spam toolbar is a sort of add-in, so, from the Outlook menu select Tools -> Trust Centre. Then click on the link that says Add-ins and you will notice that it is not there. That’s because it is not a COM add-in but an Exchange Client Extension, of course, so at the bottom select “Exchange Client Extension” and press GO.

You should then get a dialog box with a list of your special add-ins and you just un-check McAfee and press OK… and then OK again from the Trust Centre screen and voila, it has gone for good – or until you want to turn it back on.

That worked for me and the greedy McAfee toolbar has finally disappeared!

December 16, 2008

Firefox, here’s your chance

Filed under: Uncategorized — simonpalmer @ 12:40 pm

Looks like someone has publicly been bold enough to recommend what many of the technorati did a long time ago, namely ditch IE. This news ought to be the final straw for the ubiquitous browser. It has been the Typhoid Mary for the majority of serious viruses and annoying malware attacks that I have had the misfortune to have witnessed over the last few years.

When friends notice that I use Firefox I am aften asked why. I could once dribble on about the Mozilla browser code base being superior, sticking to standards, not trying to impose proprietary things on unsuspecting users, openness and competition, and even once tabbed browsing and a host of little usability features. But at the end I wound up with a very unconvincing it’s just better.

Now I have a better answer.

So Firefox, this is your big chance. It is possible to imagine a scenario where a few corporations say, “look, we are fed up with constantly having to patch users computers with IE security fixes. The automatic updates are a nightmare and are responsible for the gradual slide in to inoperability of Windows itself. Let’s just do one last upgrade over to Firefox and switch IE off for good”.

A couple of those in the press – maybe a public sector institution or two – and suddenly a tide of interest in Firefox will follow.

I’m sure the clever folks at Firefox are way ahead of me, so here’s hoping that they have some canny marketing around this once in a lifetime opportunity. They couldn’t have written a better script for the demise of the incumbent Gorilla.

December 15, 2008

Shirlock Holmes and the case of the broken API

Filed under: Uncategorized — simonpalmer @ 9:43 pm

I’ve been adding integration points between my apps and for the last couple of years and I think that it is cool that you can create mashups with a real piece of a company’s operational infrastructure. There’s no doubt that having their API available publicly across the web affords me some very intriguing opportunities in terms of value added application creation.

And, I have also managed to almost completely remove the need for any Administration interface in my application because I can devolve the data acquisition tasks to my users – even though they aren’t the most patient or technically able crowd. This makes a great story, and a much simpler solution.

I have grand visions of supplanting the entire user experience piece by piece by building it into process driven appealing interfaces that people will enjoy interacting with and are designed to fit in with people’s day to day activity – rather than the reverse. But that’s naked ambition. I’ll get there, but it’ll take me a while.

And meanwhile I have the sticky issue of suddenly being unable to access their API at all through the front door due to a bug which they must have introduced with a recent change to the cross domain security policy they enforce.

My particular situation may be reasonably unique in that I am writing Flex interfaces and hosting them on my own servers, i.e. I am not using the platform, nor visualforce or anything like that, I am standing on my own little planet and relying on then keeping the radio on at their end so I can continue talking to them.

Just recently they changed channels. All of a sudden access to their app from outside stopped working from within my app. After posting on the developer boards (here and here) I spent a frustrating couple of weeks in complete darkness. I even posted on StackOverflow (here and here), but (predictably) didn’t really get what I needed.

So, I dug out my curly pipe, put my deerstalker and cape on and turned detective.  I followed a few of the responders links back to their blogs and posted questions there to see if they would divulge the names of their contacts to me. At the same time I trawled the open source code I use for the Flex / bridge looking for any unsuspecting email addresses embedded in code headers. Sure enough I found some.

After about a week of sending out my messages in bottles, all of a sudden I got lucky and was put in touch with a support engineer and one of the original developers on the flex interface.

From that point on it was just a matter of proving that the issue was not just me being stupid and to create a test case which was reproducible outside my software. Thanks to James Ward’s I could show that me and all my users hadn’t just forgotten our passwords and security tokens in some mass amnesia event, but there genuinely was a problem.

Turns out that they did introduce an issue which means that if you connect to the API through the www front door you will get bounced because it cannot resolve you to your designated server (you have a designated server because they balance traffic load by providing affinity between accounts and servers at their end).

The workround I have had to implement until they fix the issue is to get my users to provide the server that they are attached to. This is a *horrible* thing to ask them to do as it makes me and my software look techy and klunky and if they get it wrong it fails and I look buggy and… sigh. Fortunately all they need to do to get their server is log in to directly and they can see it in their browser address bar, but even so, it is a horrible experience and exactly the opposite of the carefully crafted non-technical image I am trying to present.

As for a fix; now that has acknowledged there is a problem – which they did very graciously, I add – I don’t have a way of tracking it. And I think this is the most frustrating part of all. Unless you are really in the family it is hard to get much traction with them developer to developer. I think that if they really want their platform to take off they are going to have to move a long way towards the immediacy that you get from an open source developers forum trying to do the same thing.

Actually, at the end of the day, I think that they are likely to fail in their aspirations to make the platform the operating system of the enterprise web future precisely because they are not culturally disposed to the mindset of openness and freedom that is relied upon by developers.  And that will turn developers off. Until that changes they’ll remain an expensive clique.

As for me tracking my issue, I am supposed to contact my partner representative (a person I have never had any contact with and from the spam I get has changed 9 times since I started working with their API) and get a tracking number. It would have been a lot easier for me if the support person I was talking to could have done that, but hey, that’s all part of what have to learn before they get it right.

Meanwhile I check daily in case they have done it yet.

Try it yourself if you have a account, I have posted details and instructions here.

November 14, 2008

Person under a train?

Filed under: Uncategorized — simonpalmer @ 9:27 pm

I went to Canada 5 years ago and lived there for 4 years.  Before that I had lived and worked in London since being a student in the mid-80’s.  During the entire time, and in the year since I have been back, I have commuted on the tube.  I don’t use it quite as regularly as I did, but I now travel on it 3 out of 5 days in a given week.

On a couple of my first journeys in London after being back from Canada I was delayed because of a “person under a train”.  I can’t remember having heard that for a very long time and other than the obvious contradictory thoughts of, “how awful, I hope they are OK” and “I’m annoyed they have made me late”, I didn’t think much more of it.

However since then I have noticed with increasing regularity that the reason for delays seems to be more people under trains.  About two months ago I started counting the number of trips that I was delayed for a “person under a train”.  Since a journey to London Bridge on September 16th I have been delayed no fewer than 7 times where that has been publicly announced as the reason.

I think that is a very high number.

What I can’t quite work out is whether these incidents are accidents, attempts at suicide or a creative form of excuse used cynically by the tube.  If they are accidents, then I am surprised that the zealous health and safety executive hasn’t jumped in because I can’t be the first person to notice.  If they are suicides, then there appears to be a remarkable increase in this grisly and inconvenient choice of means and if they are an excuse, then it is a clever and dastardly consiparcy – after all, who is going to complain about a delay caused by rescuing someone from under a train?

I’m going to keep looking for statistics to see whether there has been a sudden spike in suicide deaths on the tube commensurate with the indidence of “person under train” announcements that I am now morbidly counting.  As far as I can tell London Underground does not publish publicly the safety statistics for the network.

I’m not quite at the point of crying conspiracy, especially as the human and long time tube traveller in me can quite understand the thought of killing oneself, and especially not in such a public, unreliable and disruptive way.  I can’t help thinking that if I was at the point of taking my own life I would not go and buy a ticket at a station and stand amongst the silent commuting throng waiting for the next Southbound Charing Cross train.  But then…

March 27, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — simonpalmer @ 10:13 pm

I wrote this some time ago but decided I would put it on my blog…

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Tuesday is crisp, pale, cold and beautiful. The fall has been a disaster and we haven’t seen sunshine in 3 months. Today almost makes up for it all. The sun is shining. It may be weak lemon sunlight and baby blue sky, but that signals my perfect weather. I am born for the cold. I hate being hot. I was once asked where I would rather be, at the top of a mountain in winter, or on the beach in summer. Mountain. Winter. No doubt.

So Ottawa winters never scared me, although they are to be respected. They are as cold and brutal as any capital on earth. Ottawa is on the same line of latitude as Madrid, but the weather is no respecter of lines of latitude. While the Madrid residents may be throwing a sweater over their shoulders before a casual walk along the Ramblas and a bite of tapas, we are festooned in high performance clothes and jogging clumsily from the car to the office door.

Winter is cold. Harsh, unforgiving, brutal, impenetrable, dark and cold. But I am not afraid of it, and in order to survive you have to realise that a good pair of gloves, a nice hat, a fleece and a love of blue crisp days is the antidote to Winter; more, it is the survival skills necessary to live in the middle of a continent. I have gone beyond excusing the weather, it is what it is and there is a silent, natural, majestic beauty to the cold which is unmatchable.

I am sitting in a small, darkened room with taupe walls, forgettable pictures and the smell of antiseptic in the air, the low hum of the forced air heating providing a suitably bland soundtrack. There is a single bulb under a fitted cupboard illuminating a work surface and providing the only light in the room. I’m concentrating on a small TV screen on an arm just above head height right opposite me at the end of the room.

The image is grainy and black and white and indecipherable, strange images flash back and forth. Bubbles. Clouds. Static.

Then, suddenly a recognisable picture flashes past. And past again in the opposite direction. Did I catch that right? I am slightly confused about what I just saw. There it is again.

And then the whole world changes. The image fixes. Quite clearly in the middle of the screen in an upturned arc of black and white static noise is the discernable outline of a baby. Surrounded by space, lying on his back, legs outstretched, heart pumping madly.

I gulp and my eyes spring wide. He quickly flips over and turns his back. The image disappears. I look over at the lady sonographer who is casually typing with one hand and waving her wand with the other. Round we swing and there he is again, this time facing us, hands held up just by his shoulders as though in surrender. Big round eyes and a tiny nose. Hunched over in the foetal position. How else?

I sit down sharply. I didn’t realise I had been standing. I do know I have an astounded grin on my face, and I suspect my heart is beating as fast as his.


Two clicks and the lady says 5.5 cms. My immediate reaction is to hold up my left hand and make a gap of 5.5 cms between my thumb and first finger. I look from my hand back up to the screen. He flips over again and disappears.

I look over at Hua Lin half lying, half sitting on the table with her smart black dress unbuttoned from mid-chest, her legs crossed at the ankle, wearing her knee-high shiny leather boots, her smooth belly slick with conducting gel and acting like nothing happened.

I still have 5.5 cms between finger and thumb. I show her. She smiles.

I have a few memorable moments in my life. Stepping out of an aeroplane 5,000 ft above the Hoover dam. That revolver shot just outside my hut in Ivory Coast. The moment in The Mean Fiddler in Harlesden when the whole crowd was dancing. When the lights came on in half the town in Cuba. When I realised that I could solve a quadratic equation and maths was easy. Lying on my back on the deck of a boat in the Irish Sea in the middle of the night. Watching my bike slide out from under me and across the road towards the oncoming traffic. The hole in 1 with my 7 iron when I was 17. Being upside down in my VW Scirocco on the A40 facing the wrong way in the fast lane. Winning my first auction bid for a film poster at Sotheby’s.

Now I have one more.

March 1, 2008

Uncle Eric

Filed under: Uncategorized — simonpalmer @ 11:09 am

My Uncle Eric died suddenly on Friday night.  Otherwise healthy, he was in hospital for a pretty routine knee replacement.  He had the operation on Friday afternoon and at 6.30PM he was very well and laughing with the nurses.  He was hungry and asked for soup.  As he was eating he simply died.  The hospital staff called my Aunt and tried for 40 minutes to resuscitate him, but he was gone.

My Uncle is the husband of my Mum’s sister, Judy.  My Mum got a call from Judy saying that Eric had taken a turn.  By the time she arrived at hospital he was pronounced dead. My Aunt’s children were away, one in a theatre in London and uncontactable and one in the US on holiday.

Uncle Eric was a warm, funny man with a nack for practical jokes and a very dry sense of humour.  I have many fond memories of him.  His life was punctuated by the tragedy of losing a son, my cousin Paul, aged 21.  For my Aunt this was almost too much to bear.  Losing Eric is… well…

We can’t believe he is suddenly gone.

He left the hedge trimmer out so he could tidy the garden.

January 16, 2008

Wait, perhaps humans are bad after all…

Filed under: facebook, Uncategorized — simonpalmer @ 11:39 pm

Hasbro/Mattel who own the worldwide rights to Scrabble want to shut down Scrabulous which is a facebook app developed by a couple of smily Indian guys in Kolkata. They clearly are making a few bob out of advertising revenue and infringing Hasbro/Mattel’s IPR and Copyrights. But it is such a predictable and dismal response from Hasbro/Mattel that my human nature faith meter got knocked back a knotch.

How much do we think it would cost to buy the Indian guys out completely including them waiving all rights to any code, ideas, revenues of anything they have developed in connection with Scrabulous? Certainly less than the 171MUS$ hasbro spent on research in 2006 and a small portion of their 1.8BnUS$ gross profit. Go take a look on Yahoo. Surely Hasbro could have had a better response than a threat of litigation against a couple of developers in India?
Predictably there has been outcry from the facebook community, especially those sections who regularly play Scrabulous – and I count myself amongst their number. E-Mail addresses have been circulated of Hasbro execs who are probably regretting going to the office at the moment. And I hope that Hasbro sees sense and adopts Scrabulous, afterall, it is a golden opportunity for them to take a strong foothold i the Social Networking world where they otherwise have no presence and no hope of landing. Shutting down Scrabulous would probably slam that door shut for a good long time.

Wakey wakey Hasbro. Send someone to Kolkata to talk to the Scrabulous guys and release a picture of you all standing there in a line smiling, shaking hands and handing over a modest cheque to turn a certain PR disaster into the best idea you have bought in the last 10 years. It’ll get on every news site in the world.

There are some good comments on this blog too.

There’s an online petition as well in case you are part of the scrabble jihad

December 25, 2007

Ah, swf’s

Filed under: Uncategorized — simonpalmer @ 9:30 pm

One of the reasons for going the blog route rather than my own site was to upload swf sample files – being a Flex developer amongst other things.  However, it turns out that wordpress don’t support swf’s so I am stuck, and the blog exercise might just come to a grinding halt.

Anyhow I’m going to stick with it for a bit in case I find a reason to post.  Maybe it will suit me to have a place to vent.

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