Problems with external webcam and Mac OS X Mavericks & Yosemite

My main computer is a Mac Mini, so it doesn’t have a built-in iSight camera like Apple’s laptops and iMacs.

Since my beloved Firewire iSight camera died, I’ve been using a Microsoft LifeCam HD – recommended by many for use with Macs.

With both OS X Mavericks and Yosemite I’ve noticed that the auto-exposure is completely off in all applications – Apple’s own apps like Facetime and Photo Booth, as well as Microsoft’s Skype. As USB webcams are plug-and-play in OS X, there is no interface for adjusting settings, which is mighty annoying.

Here is what video performance is like on the LifeCam, compared to my MacBook’s built-in cam.

massively over-exposed - and no way to adjust it

massively over-exposed – and no way to adjust it

well balanced video, no need to tweak

well-balanced video, no need to tweak

Googling around, I found a post by Dominic Szablewski that addressed this exact issue. His free little app fixed the auto-exposure problem, although I’m not sure the fix will stick. Huzzah!

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Henry Hate’s new site is live

Henry Martinez has re-launched his site, and it’s live at

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Sky Broadband blocking all non-Sky email via IMAP & SMTP

Sky Broadband LIMITED

not so unlimited, eh?

I do some IT support for a friend’s small business and they use my Dreamhost hosting for their email. All was working fine up until a few weeks ago, when all access via OS X Mail stopped working.

I thought it might be a transient thing and told them to use webmail, and went off on my hols.

Today I went over to see what was wrong, and having worked for a large ISP, I’m shocked to find that Sky Broadband are blocking desktop email for accounts that aren’t their own.

For residential ISPs, some blocking is to be expected. Port 25 is used to send email that requires no login, and in an effort to stop spammers abusing this system, most responsible ISPs block this particular port. But the ports used to send email that require a login are normally left open so that people can still use other email systems.

Sky – for reasons known only to itself – are blocking not only the means to send email using authenticated SMTP, but also seem to be blocking receiving email via IMAP. I have never known an ISP to do this, and I can think of no reason why a responsible ISP would seek to do this. The systems to send email can be abused by spammers, but I can’t think of any nefarious way to read email.

I verified that the block was happening by setting my iPhone up with the correct SSL secured settings. Using my 4G connection, reading and sending email both worked fine. Connecting to the Sky Broadband wifi stopped me reading and sending email.

Searching online, Sky have a FAQ about this. Their “fix” is to setup your Sky Yahoo mail account to spoof the address you are trying to use. Anyone who runs their own email system for business or pleasure should have a problem with this:

  • Yahoo Mail has a less than stellar reputation for security
  • Yahoo is often used by spammers, so it is very likely that Yahoo’s systems for sending email are going to be blacklisted than your own, if set up correctly
  • This breaks anti-spam systems like DKIM and SPF unless you make changes to your domain, which effectively says that people can trust emails as coming from you even if they come from one of the spammiest parts of the Internet
  • Using two systems for sending email (office and home) means that your IMAP folders can get out of sync

Anyway, in my opinion, this is draconian in the extreme. Rather than being motivated by security concerns, the fact that Sky are blocking secure and authenticated sending as well as reading email means that it must be an attempt to drive people to use the Sky Yahoo offering – perhaps to drive up advertising impressions?


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Sweet Dreams – a short film by Richard Francis Shepheard

Ric Shepheard was the great love of my life. When I first met him – back in 1995 – after a weekend of mind-blowing sex he chipped in, “Hey, do you want to come see my film being premièred at the Lesbian & Gay Film Festival next weekend?”. Shallow as I am, I was in love.

As it turned out, it was probably the 2nd best film on the roster. Most of them were awful, and the one that was better was made by the daughter of someone high up in Channel 4, so no shortage of help from Daddy or shoestring budget. Even having seen it, I was still in love.

Ric’s own relationship with the film was conflicted. Funding it with housing benefit fraud, it nearly sent him to prison. It was not the breakthrough he craved, and he considered his career as a film-maker over (unless you include the promotion short ‘AOL Dogs‘…) When he left AOL, I got the Design Dept to produce a full movie poster for it, and he was furious.

Anyway, from a crappy VHS transfer, here it is. If I ever get a chance to get my hands on an improved copy, I’ll post it here.

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