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.

 
AAPL
$100.57
Apple Inc.
+0.04
MSFT
$44.95
Microsoft Corpora
-0.38
GOOG
$584.49
Google Inc.
-2.37

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Picasa 3.9.138 - Organize, edit, and sha...
Picasa and Picasa Web Albums allows you to organize, edit, and upload your photos to the Web from your computer in quick, simple steps. Arrange your photos into folders and albums and erase their... Read more
Tidy Up 3.0.15.0 - Find duplicate files...
Tidy Up is a complete duplicate finder and disk-tidiness utility. With Tidy Up you can search for duplicate files and packages by the owner application, content, type, creator, extension, time... Read more
Parallels Desktop 10.0 - Run Windows app...
Parallels Desktop is simply the world's bestselling, top-rated, and most trusted solution for running Windows applications on your Mac. With Parallels Desktop for Mac, you can seamlessly run both... Read more
Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.1.3 - Professio...
Apple Final Cut Pro X is a professional video editing solution.Completely redesigned from the ground up, Final Cut Pro adds extraordinary speed, quality, and flexibility to every part of the post-... Read more
Apple Compressor 4.1.3 - Adds power and...
Compressor adds power and flexibility to Final Cut Pro X export. Customize output settings, work faster with distributed encoding, and tap into a comprehensive set of delivery features. Powerful... Read more
Chromium 36.0.1985.143 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. FreeSMUG-Free OpenSource Mac User Group build is... Read more
Macgo Blu-ray Player 2.10.6.1691 - Blu-r...
Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player can bring you the most unforgettable Blu-ray experience on your Mac. Overview Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player can satisfy just about every need you could possibly have in a Blu-ray... Read more
Apple Motion 5.1.2 - Create and customiz...
Apple Motion is designed for video editors, Motion 5 lets you customize Final Cut Pro titles, transitions, and effects. Or create your own dazzling animations in 2D or 3D space, with real-time... Read more
A Better Finder Rename 9.39 - File, phot...
A Better Finder Rename is the most complete renaming solution available on the market today. That's why, since 1996, tens of thousands of hobbyists, professionals and businesses depend on A Better... Read more
PopChar X 6.6 - Floating window shows av...
PopChar X helps you get the most out of your font collection. With its crystal-clear interface, PopChar X provides a frustration-free way to access any font's special characters. Expanded... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Cubic Castles Review
Cubic Castles Review By Rob Thomas on August 20th, 2014 Our Rating: :: CASTLE CRAFTINGiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Some ridiculously frustrating camera issues aside, Cubic Castles is a pretty neat, voxel-based crafting... | Read more »
Space Colors – Tips, Tricks, Strategies,...
Hello Cadets: Want to know what we thought about this hectic space combat/roguelike? Check out our Space Colors review! Space Colors is a cool shooter/roguelike from Team Chaos. You travel from planet to planet across a huge galaxy and complete a... | Read more »
Tap Sports Baseball – Tips, Tricks, and...
Tap Sports Baseball is a pretty simple game to learn, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy game to master, by any means. To start your batting career off well, we thought we’d give you the heads up on some handy tips and tricks. Hey Batter-Batter:... | Read more »
Tap Sports Baseball Review
Tap Sports Baseball Review By Jennifer Allen on August 20th, 2014 Our Rating: :: LET'S PLAY BALLUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Tap Sports Baseball is briefly fun but lacks some important features.   | Read more »
Earn to Die 2 Set to Drive in to the App...
Earn to Die 2 Set to Drive in to the App Store Later This Year Posted by Ellis Spice on August 20th, 2014 [ permalink ] Not Doppler has announced that Earn to Die 2, a sequel to their successful game | Read more »
Frontier Heroes Review
Frontier Heroes Review By Andrew Fisher on August 20th, 2014 Our Rating: :: BLAZES NO TRAILSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Despite awesome visuals and great music, Frontier Heroes just doesn’t quite deliver enough fun... | Read more »
Echo Prime is Now on Sale for $0.99
Echo Prime is Now on Sale for $0.99 Posted by Jessica Fisher on August 20th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Star Realms Review
Star Realms Review By Andrew Fisher on August 20th, 2014 Our Rating: :: A STAR IS BORNUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Star Realms is an excellent adaptation of an outstanding deck-builder. With great visuals and an... | Read more »
This. Is. SPRINGFIELD! War comes to The...
This. Is. SPRINGFIELD! | Read more »
One Tap RPG Review
One Tap RPG Review By Campbell Bird on August 20th, 2014 Our Rating: :: DUNGEON SLIDERUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad This casual arcade game introduces some very light rpg elements into its fantasy-themed pachinko... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple now offering certified refurbished 2014...
 The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs for up to $180 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is... Read more
Best Buy’s College Student Deals: $100 off Ma...
Take an additional $100 off all MacBooks and iMacs, $50 off iPad Airs and iPad minis, at Best Buy Online with their College Students Deals Savings, valid through September 6th. Anyone with a valid .... Read more
MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP, free...
B&H Photo has three 2014 MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. They also include free copies of Parallels Desktop and LoJack for Laptops... Read more
Razer Taipan Mouse For Gamers And Non-Gamers...
If you’re a serious gamer on either Mac or Windows PCs, a serious gaming mouse is a necessity for first-tier performance. However, even if like me you’re not much of a gamer, there’s still a strong... Read more
15-inch 2.2GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $1899,...
Adorama has the new 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1899 including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this... Read more
Mid-Size Tablet Shootout Posted: iPad mini wi...
I ‘m curious about how many iPads Apple is actually selling these days. It’s been widely rumored and anticipated that new models with A8 SoCs, 2 GB of RAM, 8 megapixel cameras, and fingerprint... Read more
The 15 Biggest iPad Air Problems And How To A...
What’s this? Fifteen “biggest” problems with the iPad Air? Does that mean there are a lot of smaller problems as well? Say it isn’t so! My old iPad 2 has manifested no hardware problems in three... Read more
TYLT Syncable-Duo, 2-in-1 USB Cable With Appl...
TYLT has introduced the Syncable-Duo, a universal cable solution for charging and syncing data to smartphones and tablets. The Syncable-Duo eliminates the need for multiple cables by incorporating... Read more
Save up to $140 off MSRP with Apple refurbish...
Apple is offering Certified Refurbished iPad Airs for up to $140 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free. Stock tends to come and go with some of these... Read more
2.5GHz Mac mini on sale for $549, save $50
B&H Photo has the 2.5GHz Mac mini on sale for $549.99 including free shipping. That’s $50 off MSRP, and B&H will also include a free copy of Parallels Desktop software. NY sales tax only. Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
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
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** Being a Business Manager at an Apple Store means you're the catalyst for businesses to discover and leverage the power, ease, and flexibility of Apple Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** At the Apple Store, you connect business professionals and entrepreneurs with the tools they need in order to put Apple solutions to work in their Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.