TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Collections and Contemplations

Volume Number: 21 (2005)
Issue Number: 11
Column Tag: Programming

Patch Panel - light

Collections and Contemplations

by John C. Welch

IT Types Finally Get A Room of Our Own

So after the last series we saw here, I thought that I'd devote this column to a collection of items that aren't enough to merit their own columns, but still of use to Mac IT Admins and Mac Geeks in general.

iTunes

While iTunes is indeed a wonderful thing, there are aspects of it that can be annoying on a network in large numbers, especially the iTMS, Internet Radio, and Music Sharing. Luckily, all of these can be managed, some of them centrally. With iTunes 5, you can now set preferences for accessing Podcasts, the iTMS, and Shared Music from within the "Parental" section of the iTunes preference. Yes, I know that doesn't cover Internet radio, but if you look in the "General" section, you see the control for showing or displaying Internet Radio. Finally, you have further controls in the "Sharing" section. These sections are shown in figures 1a - 1c below.


Figure 1a: iTunes 5.X Parental Controls

However, you still have to get those preferences out to the user's machines. For that, you really, really want to use Workgroup Manager and the MCX (Managed Client for OS X) capabilities that allow you to push out individual preference files. I would go into the details of how to use this with iTunes, but as it turns out, I don't have to. Instead, go to the .Mac site of John DeTroye, Apple SE and MCX wizard extraordinaire. Go to his downloads section, select "Latest_Tips", "Tiger-tips" and download the "mini-tandt-itunes5.pdf" document. It will show you how to use Workgroup Manager to manage iTunes for everything but Internet Radio.

Now, that's not a minor issue. Internet Radio is potentially a huge bandwidth hog, especially if you multiply each connection by a couple hundred or thousand users. However, there's two ways to deal with this, one elegant, but requiring a more advanced firewall, and one that's not so advanced, but works well nonetheless.

The elegant way is to block the initial request from iTunes. As it turns out, iTunes makes all its initial requests for things like Internet radio and the iTMS as http connections. In those connections, it has a user agent, that, on my machine shows up as: User-Agent: iTunes/5.0.1 (Macintosh; N; PPC). So, if your firewall/router setup is able to handle higher level filtering, you simply tell it to block all outbound HTTP traffic where the User-Agent contains "iTunes". That blocks all versions, all platforms. At that point, your iTunes traffic is now local - only. Note: While


Figure 1b: iTunes General Controls

there are a lot of very complex tools to discover things like this, my personal favorite here is tcpflow, available via DarwinPorts at http://www.darwinports.org/.

If your firewall/router setup isn't able to do this, then there's a simpler, albeit uglier way. Block TCP ports 8000-8999 and 42000-42999. That will prevent any iTunes Internet Radio streams to your network. Doing the iTMS is a little trickier, since that all happens over ports 80 and 443, and if you block those, you've effectively cut off the World Wide Web. However, if you kill access to "phobos.apple.com", you


Figure 1c: iTunes Sharing Controls

can block off the iTMS, at least until Apple changes the DNS name of the iTMS.

To block music sharing, (say if you don't yet have all your machines on iTunes 5.x yet), just set the firewalls on the individual Macs to block all connections on TCP port 3689. (This can be done any number of ways, from shell to Applescript; the specific implementation is really up to your individual preferences and skillset. You can also do it as part of the imaging process for new machines, and let attrition handle it for you.) If for no other reason, the fact that iTunes 5 lets you block everything but Internet Radio with relative ease, is a good reason to upgrade.

AppleScript Tricks

So, as many who know me can attest to, my .sig file in Entourage is huge and varied. However, I got rather tired at typing them in manually all the time, so...AppleScript to the rescue. I have two scripts that handle signature creation, one from within emails in Entourage, the other for things I see in Safari that are theft-worthy.

The Entourage script is fairly simple:

set theSigTitleRecord to display dialog "Enter a name for the signature" 
      default answer "RandomSig 1"

set theSigTitle to text returned of theSigTitleRecord

tell application "Microsoft Entourage"
      try
            set theSelection to the selection as text
            set theSelection to "-- " & return & theSelection
            make new signature with properties 
               {name:theSigTitle, content:theSelection, include in random:true}
      end try
end tell

The first part is easy. We display a dialog that asks for a name to be used for the signature, with some default text. Dialogs all return a record, so we grab the "text returned" field of that record, and put it in theSigTitle.

The rest all happens within Entourage. We get the selected text, drop it into theSelection, and make sure it's plain text. We then set up the sig format in theSelection, which by RFC is "--". With Entourage, you need to use the return keyword, not the \r escape for returns. We then create a new signature with the required properties; name, content, and is it in the random list, (yes). By wrapping it in a try block, I deal with any errors. There should be some error checking to look for me trying to run this script without selected text, but since I'm the only one (until now), who's using it, it hasn't been a big deal.

The Safari version is similar:

set noSelectedTextFlag to 0

tell application "Safari"
      set theText to (do JavaScript "getSelection()" in document 1)
      if theText = "" then --some sites with frames don't allow for 
         the JavaScript above, so copying is the fix
      tell application "Safari" to activate
      tell application "System Events"
         tell process "Safari"
            keystroke "c" using {command down}
               delay 0.5
               set theText to the clipboard
            end tell
         end tell
      end if
      if theText = "" then
         display dialog "You need to have something selected!"
         set noSelectedTextFlag to 1
      end if
end tell

if noSelectedTextFlag = 0 then
      set theSigTitleRecord to display dialog "Enter a name for the signature" 
         default answer "RandomSig 1"
      set theSigTitle to text returned of theSigTitleRecord

      tell application "Microsoft Entourage"
         try
            set theText to "-- " & return & theText
               make new signature with properties {name:theSigTitle, content:theText, 
               include in random:true}
            end try
      end tell
end if

As we can see, the script only has a few changes. The first line is a flag for some error checking that I added to the script, and defaults to 0. In the Safari section, we first try to use JavaScript within Safari to get the selected text and put it in theText. If that doesn't work, and it often doesn't, we then resort to the quick 'n' dirty UI scripting method, and have Safari act as though we hit cmd-C to get the selected text onto the clipboard. That is then dumped into theText.

The next line is a quick error check. If, after all that, theText is still empty, then we display a dialog informing the user that hey, this won't work so well without actual selected text, and it sets noSelectedText to 1. From there, we check to see if noSelectedText is 0. If it is, then we create the signature. If not, then we don't and the script ends.

True, neither of these scripts are all that complex or "work - oriented" but they do give you some ideas of how to accomplish the same thing from two different angles, and some very basic introduction to using JavaScript and UI scripting in the same AppleScript. Besides, its fun to have a large collection of pithy signatures.

Microsoft Office 2004 Service Pack 2

While there are always arguments for and against applying a service pack or update, if you use Entourage in a Microsoft Exchange environment, run, don't walk to apply this. It has a host of fixes and changes for Exchange users that people have been asking about for some time. It doesn't do everything everyone wanted, but it hits a lot of issues like delegation, folder sharing, password change messages, sync speed, GAL usage, quota management, and Public Folders right out of the park.

As well, the Entourage Weblog, at http://blogs.msdn.com/ entourage/default.aspx is no longer dormant, and has a bunch of really great articles about Entourage's SP2 changes. There are some fixes to the rest of Office, but after all, Entourage is why we really buy Office, right? (I'm so getting in trouble for that ;-)

Conclusion

Again, nothing major here, just some small "storylets" that I've had bouncing about for a bit, and decided to turn into a column. Sometimes, you just have to go light.

Bibliography and References

Much thanks to John DeTroye for his tips and tricks documents, they're a boon to Mac administrators everywhere. http://homepage.mac.com/johnd

The folks at MacSurfer originally created the Safari code to make their lives easier, it works really well, so I stole it like a thief in the night. MacSurfer is also the best news aggregation page on the Mac web, and I hit it at least 5 times a day. http://www.macsurfer.com/.

We may not always like their parent company, but the Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit always does great work, and I can't imagine trying to work without Entourage, Word, and PowerPoint. http://www.microsoft.com/mac/.


John Welch (jwelch@bynkii.com) is the Unix/Open Systems Admin for Kansas City Life Insurance, a Technical Strategist for Provar, (http://www.provar.com/) and the Chief Know-It-All for TackyShirt, (http://www.tackyshirt.com/). He has over fifteen years of experience at making Macs work with other computer systems. John specializes in figuring out ways in which to make the Mac do what nobody thinks it can, showing that the Mac is a superior administrative platform, and teaching others how to use it in interesting, if sometimes frightening ways. He also does things that don't involve computertry on occasion, or at least that's the rumor.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

EtreCheck 3.1.5 - For troubleshooting yo...
EtreCheck is an app that displays the important details of your system configuration and allow you to copy that information to the Clipboard. It is meant to be used with Apple Support Communities to... Read more
WALTR 2 2.0.8 - $39.95
WALTR 2 helps you wirelessly drag-and-drop any music, ringtones, videos, PDF, and ePub files onto your iPhone, iPad, or iPod without iTunes. It is the second major version of Softorino's critically-... Read more
Carbon Copy Cloner 4.1.12 - Easy-to-use...
Carbon Copy Cloner backups are better than ordinary backups. Suppose the unthinkable happens while you're under deadline to finish a project: your Mac is unresponsive and all you hear is an ominous,... Read more
Dropbox 16.3.27 - Cloud backup and synch...
Dropbox is an application that creates a special Finder folder that automatically syncs online and between your computers. It allows you to both backup files and keep them up-to-date between systems... Read more
Microsoft OneNote 15.29 - Free digital n...
OneNote is your very own digital notebook. With OneNote, you can capture that flash of genius, that moment of inspiration, or that list of errands that's too important to forget. Whether you're at... Read more
Spotify 1.0.44.100. - Stream music, crea...
Spotify is a streaming music service that gives you on-demand access to millions of songs. Whether you like driving rock, silky R&B, or grandiose classical music, Spotify's massive catalogue puts... Read more
SpamSieve 2.9.27 - Robust spam filter fo...
SpamSieve is a robust spam filter for major email clients that uses powerful Bayesian spam filtering. SpamSieve understands what your spam looks like in order to block it all, but also learns what... Read more
VueScan 9.5.62 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
Fantastical 2.3.2 - Create calendar even...
Fantastical 2 is the Mac calendar you'll actually enjoy using. Creating an event with Fantastical is quick, easy, and fun: Open Fantastical with a single click or keystroke Type in your event... Read more
PCalc 4.4.4 - Full-featured scientific c...
PCalc is a full-featured, scriptable scientific calculator with support for hexadecimal, octal, and binary calculations, as well as an RPN mode, programmable functions, and an extensive set of unit... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Track Santa with these three festive app...
Christmas is fast approaching and that means it's time to prepare for Santa's yearly pilgrimage around the globe. Christmas Eve is an exciting time as parents help their kids get ready to welcome Santa. You've got the cookies and milk all planned... | Read more »
Galaxy on Fire 3 and four other fantasti...
Galaxy on Fire 3 - Manticore brings the series back for another round of daring space battles. It's familiar territory for folks who are familiar with the franchise. If you've beaten the game and are looking to broaden your horizons, might we... | Read more »
The best apps for your holiday gift exch...
What's that, you say? You still haven't started your holiday shopping? Don't beat yourself up over it -- a lot of people have been putting it off, too. It's become easier and easier to procrastinate gift shopping thanks to a number of apps that... | Read more »
Toca Hair Salon 3 (Education)
Toca Hair Salon 3 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Winter comes to Darkwood as Seekers Note...
MyTona, based in the chilly Siberian city of Yakutsk, has brought a little festive fun to its hidden object game Seekers Notes: Hidden Mystery. The Christmas update introduces some new inhabitants to players, and with them a chance to win plenty of... | Read more »
Bully: Anniversary Edition (Games)
Bully: Anniversary Edition 1.03.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $6.99, Version: 1.03.1 (iTunes) Description: *** PLEASE NOTE: This game is officially supported on the following devices: iPhone 5 and newer, iPod Touch... | Read more »
PINE GROVE (Games)
PINE GROVE 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A pine grove where there are no footsteps of people due to continuous missing cases. The case is still unsolved and nothing has... | Read more »
Niantic teases new Pokémon announcement...
After rumors started swirling yesterday, it turns out there is an official Pokémon GO update on its way. We’ll find out what’s in store for us and our growing Pokémon collections tomorrow during the Starbucks event, but Niantic will be revealing... | Read more »
3 reasons why Nicki Minaj: The Empire is...
Nicki Minaj is as business-savvy as she is musically talented and she’s proved that by launching her own game. Designed by Glu, purveyors of other fine celebrity games like cult favorite Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, Nicki Minaj: The Empire launched... | Read more »
Clash of Clans is getting its own animat...
Riding on its unending wave of fame and success, Clash of Clans is getting an animated web series based on its Clash-A-Rama animated shorts.As opposed to the current shorts' 60 second run time, the new and improved Clash-A-Rama will be comprised of... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Never Settle for Low Performing Wifi With iOS...
AppYogi Software has announced the release of WiFi Signal Strength Status App 1.0, the company’s new utility developed exclusively for macOS. WiFi Signal Strength Status App features a unique, single... Read more
New 2016 13-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pros in st...
B&H Photo has stock of new 2016 Apple 13″ Touch Bar MacBook Pro models, each including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.9GHz/512GB Touch Bar MacBook Pro Space Gray: $1999 - 13″ 2.... Read more
New 2016 15″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock...
B&H Photo has new 2016 Apple 15″ Touch Bar MacBook Pro models in stock today including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar MacBook Pro Space Gray: $2799 - 15″ 2.7GHz... Read more
DietSensor App Targeting Diabetes and Obesity...
DietSensor, Inc., a developer of smart food and nutrition applications designed to fight diabetes and obesity and help improve overall fitness, has announced the launch of its DietSensor app for... Read more
Holiday 2016 13-inch 2.0GHz MacBook Pro sales...
B&H has the non-Touch Bar 13″ MacBook Pros in stock today for $50-$100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray (MLL42LL/A): $1449 $... Read more
Holiday sale: Apple TVs for $51-$40 off MSRP,...
Best Buy has dropped their price on the 64GB Apple TV to $159.99 including free shipping. That’s $40 off MSRP. 32GB Apple TVs are on sale right now for $98 on Sams Club’s online store. That’s $51 off... Read more
12-inch Retina MacBooks, Apple refurbished, n...
Apple has restocked a full line of Certified Refurbished 2016 12″ Retina MacBooks, now available for $200-$260 off MSRP. Refurbished 2015 models are available starting at $929. Apple will include a... Read more
Holiday sale: 12-inch Retina MacBook for $100...
B&H has 12″ Retina MacBooks on sale for $100 off MSRP as part of their Holiday sale. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Space Gray Retina MacBook: $1199 $100... Read more
Apple refurbished 13-inch MacBook Airs availa...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at $849. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free: - 13″ 1.6GHz/8GB/128GB MacBook Air: $849 $... Read more
Apple refurbished iMacs available for up to $...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 21″ & 27″ iMacs available for up to $350 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are available: - 21″ 3.... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
US- *Apple* Store Leader Program - Apple (Un...
…Summary Learn and grow as you explore the art of leadership at the Apple Store. You'll master our retail business inside and out through training, hands-on Read more
Automotive Detailer - *Apple* Used Autos -...
We are currently conductinginterviews and will be accepting applications for a part-time detailer. Apple Used Autos is a great place to work andstart a career. We Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- Trumbul...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.