Monday, July 05, 2004

The Floppy and the Floppy Drive Are Dead! Long Live the Floppy!

I spent a bit of time running back and forth between two machines, this last week, updating drivers on one with files downloaded from the Internet to another. I used floppy disks and it went very well, thank you.

There is still no handy medium for such transfers that can replace the humble floppy disk, in my opinion. CD's won't do it. There is too much time involved in making one for a small and simple transfer. Zip drives are out because almost no one ever had one and those that did have long since discarded them.

The relentless downward price pressure on builders of computers has driven them to remove floppy drives from machines. The advent of bootable CDs has long ago made this possible and the builders of systems are simply bowing to price pressure by taking them out. It's worth noting, though, that the most requested upgrade to new PCs I encounter is to add a floppy drive. Many new mainboards don't have a floppy controller built in, so this is sometimes a challenge and I have yet to find a truly satisfying solution for those machines. However, the users have spoken and the floppy lives!


Saturday, July 03, 2004

Microsoft half fixes serious IE vuln | The Register

Microsoft half fixes serious IE vuln | The Register

I've patched. Have you?

If you are using Windows, patch!!!!

Okay so you aren't using IE as your browser. Good for you. Patch anyway. IE is intertwined throughout the OS and many programs use IE even when you haven't individually invoked it.

The good news is that whan you select Windows Update from the Start Menu it will invoke IE -- that's right -- you have to use IE in order to use Windows Update.

Friday, July 02, 2004

UN-Cast News Wire

UN-Cast News Wire

And after all that, here's what CERT said in their own words. I don't really think it has been misreported since many of the articles I've read talk about the work-arounds. So you have to figure out which is more effective -- hobbling IE and sitll having serious vunerablilites or switching browsers. For me the scale finally tilted to switching.

Wired News: Mozilla Feeds on Rival's Woes

Wired News: Mozilla Feeds on Rival's Woes

Guess I'm not the only one...

Yahoo! News - U.S. Steers Consumers Away From IE

Yahoo! News - U.S. Steers Consumers Away From IE

I've been working with Mozilla Firefox all week. Now that I've added the "Blog This!" button to my "Bookmarks Toolbar" (available at there is nothing I had with IE that I haven't been able to duplicate using Firefox.

I'll be covering this as it develops on this week's tip's segment.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

A Switch to Firefox

After CERT issued a warning recommending that users stop using Internet Explorer for security reasons

CERT Recommends Mozilla, Firefox

AND a new version of Firefox was released, I did the smart thing and made the switch.

Firefox - The Browser, Reloaded

For the most part it is going well, but there are some things that just don't work -- like some parts of the Blogger editor. Of course I may just have something configured wrong. It will take a while to learn to work without a few IE oriented tools I usually use, but the sacrifice is worth the security. Firefox is very slick. Try it -- you might like it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Tablet PCs

A quick wobble around the web will find no shortage of (supposedly knowledgeable) pundits willing to pronounce, if not the failure of the Tablet PC form factor, then it's moribund state. Our friend Terri Stratton (pepsi in the chat) has produced an article to the contrary, pronouncing both the health and the growth of the form. Find it here.

It seems to me that the real "problem" with the Tablet PC form factor is that it's usefulness is not immediately apparent to those who would benefit from it. Refinements on technologies are very often perceived as less beneficial less quickly than more radical moves ahead. Ask a Tablet PC user and you'll almost certainly find a rabid fan of the form. Our own Aaron Kahn is a good example and he's about the least rabid person I know when it comes to new technologies, being something of a "wait and see" sort of guy. The early adopters have had their shot and pronounced the Tablet PC more than acceptable. It's not worth the extra outlay to many of us, but for others, it would be indispensable if they took the time to integrate it into their lives.


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Scary Moments for SpaceShipOne

New Scientist

As I said yesterday, this first privatly funded manned spaceflight was not a cakewalk even though they made it look easy. Now we know just how serious some of the problems could have been. That's why they call Mike Melvill a "test pilot" and that's why this important first was a step towards the X-Prize -- one of the continuum of test flights. In spite of some scary moments, I'm glad Mike still had time to enjoy the view.

When their flying days are over, I hope to see SpaceShipOne and White Knight take their rightful places at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I'm guessing that would be at Udvar-Hazy.

Monday, June 21, 2004

They Did It! > News > Science -- Rocket plane reaches Earth's atmosphere in private space flight

Congratulations to the entire SpaceShipOne team, and especially "Rocket Man" Mike Melvill on reaching and returning safely from sub-orbital space.

Yesterday, I didn't let on how truly daring and dangerous I knew this mission was. It was the skill and planning of the team and Mike that made it look easy. While the folks at Scaled Composites are cautious and test carefully, things can go wrong. Don't underestimate the significance of this achievement -- this is truly a great spaceflight milestone.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Flexbeta Tests Anti-Spyware Applications

Just because I've been ill and not available doesn't mean I've stopped reading. I found this after reading a story on a news site.

The folks over at Flexbeta, a site to which I've recently become addicted, have tested spyware detection/removal tools. It's a very good read, not too long, and as informative as it gets. It's in plain english for the non-geek, too.

Their testing pretty much confirms what Joe and Gail have been telling us all along about spyware removal; that it takes more than one application run to ensure a clean machine. That's okay, not least because they found the leading free applications for the task among the very best. Those are Ad Aware and Spybot.

Read it Here

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Can't stop the pop-ups | CNET

I had read this article when it was first published but hadn't really experienced the full force of the new Pop-ups until this evening.

The offending advertiser was Best Buy. The offending ad server was The offending method was a "floating" Flash "pop-up". The offending Web Page was

I blocked serving-sys. Needless to say I'm not too happy with Best Buy over this. Conventional ads are fair -- everybody has to make a living. In your face floaters are not! I may just turn Flash off entirely again.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Ronald Reagan - Condolence Book

I'm sorry I didn't get this posted sooner, but for all of you who would like to send your condolences to Mrs. Reagan. Here's the link. I sent mine several days ago.

Monday, June 07, 2004

LangaList Std Edition 2004-06-07

Well after struggling for several weeks, I too have given up on trying to use Zone Alarm Pro v. 5. For me it caused numerous lock ups that were only resolved by turning off the computer and restarting it. I'm not sure what the folks who had no problem were doing, but that sure was not my experience. I have now gone back to version 4.5 and have no problems.

It is too bad that a great company like Zone Labs shot itself in the foot by releasing something that needs to be in beta a while longer. If you are using ZA 5 and are experiencing any problems at all go back to 4.5. Don't beat your head against a proverbial brick wall like I did.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

PDA Blues


Joe and Gail love theirs. Deepak can't seem to get running on one and I used to express my disdain for them at nearly every turn. My attitude has changed.

I've been dealing with one address book in hard copy and Microsoft Outlook for the rest of things for quite a while now and, frankly, it's not working any more. Too many little slips of paper and hastily scribbled notes of appointments that I can't read when I come back to them. Time for a PDA, me thinks.

Now, I can't spend a fortune on one and I probably don't need to, either. My major requirement is storage and the ability to synch with Outlook AND with Evolution (on my Linux boxen). While I'm sure I would use wireless access for email, on occasion, I don't really need it at all. What I do need is space. I have a LOT of "stuff" I tote around and the PDA will need to hold it all. A top-of-the-line model is overkill, as is a Pocket PC of whatever stripe. The basic Palm, for instance, will nearly do it, but I'll come close to filling it up on day 1, so I'd best go for a higher capacity.

I be shopping now. If you have recommendations, I'd love to hear them. Write me at;


Tuesday, May 11, 2004


After a lot of speculation here is the official info.

As a long time TechTV fan I can definitely see the 18 to 34 age morph coming to completion.

Sadly, while this change is not unexpected, "Call for Help" is gone.

A lot of the rest of the remaining TechTV lineup is stuff that the more sophisticated geek sees as so much junk.

At least for now, "The Screen Savers" lives on.

I have not yet seen any of the G4 previews and I don't have access to G4 at this time. I'll try to make an effort to take a look at some of the previews this coming weel

Monday, May 10, 2004

Spyware Weekly Newsletter : April 30, 2004

Wow, it's been a while, but this one was too good not to comment on. This analogy really sheds light on the whole adware/spyware issue.

I wish we had the facilty for you to comment on this article, but if you want to let us know what you think send your thoughts to the

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The Cheap Mouse

Somehow, I can't see spending a fortune on a mouse. My limit is about $10 for one. After that, I feel as if I've committed some unGodly extravagance.

Lately; I have centered my attention on Mitsumi Optical scroll mice. They're between $8 and $9, all over my town, and I find the performance perfectly acceptable. Linux and Windows 2K/XP see them as generic PS/2 devices and have absolutely no problem with them. We've outfitted every box here that has a graphic interface with one and I just bought one as an add-on to the laptop.

These mice are particularly suitable for such travelling usage as an auxilliary device for a laptop gets. They're seemingly impervious to dirt, run well on any surface I've tried them on and are durable. I recommend then highly. And you can save enough in buying one to take your love out to lunch.


Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Gopher, Anyone?

You have to be something of an old-timer on the Internet or a willing student of net esoterica to know much about Gopher. It's an information distribution and display scheme invented at the University of Minnesota (the golden gopher is their mascot) in the early days of the Internet. Had not the World Wide Web taken over most of it's functions, Gopher would likely be the preeminent protocol for information retrieval today.

Wired News has a nice one page piece about Gopher, here which is still very much alive and included in many Linux distributions. It's also available to Windows and Mac users. I played with it in years past and found it quite useful. You might want to follow some of the links from the Wired News article and check it out yourself.


Saturday, April 03, 2004

How Intel changed its stance on model numbers

How Intel changed its stance on model numbers

... and from the picture is worth a 1000 words department. Who'da thunk it?

Disclaimer: For the last 4 years I've been buying AMD processors.

Friday, April 02, 2004

TelevisionWeek -- Incorporating Electronic Media

TelevisionWeek -- Incorporating Electronic Media

Here's the lastest scoop on the TechTV merger. Will it survive? I'm not sure.

I guess someone thinks there's a lot of money to be made from the "gamer lifestyle".

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Larry Lessig's New Book

Notable legal scholar Larry Lessig has published a book on the "free culture" of Free Software, Open Source Software and the Internet in general.

I've not read it, yet, though I have downloaded a copy and put it on every machine I have here in anticipation of doing so. The work is released under a Creative Commons License, so you can get the whole thing as a PDF on line, here. Early reviews are very good. Check it out.


Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Ask Jeeves Stopping Paid Search Inclusions

Years ago, when they first started up, I used to do volunteer testing for Ask Jeeves and was a true fan of their service. However, I got quite tired of weeding through the output of search queries because of the paid inclusions and quit. One look at almost any query return was enough to convince me they weren't "kosher".

Now, in a move I find startling and probably courageous, Ask Jeeves is stopping paid inclusions in search results. "We're never going to mix church and state again," said an Ask Jeeves spokesman. The company has found that paid inclusions to search results "negatively affect the search experience", which I personally would characterize as understatement of the first water.

News stories announcing this change in policy paint it as a move to distance the Ask Jeeves services from those of rival Yahoo. As I could care less about the rivalry between search engines and only want decent searches when I ask for them, I prefer to see this as a pro-consumer move and to hell with the "true" motive.

I intend to give Ask Jeeves a bit of time to implement the change, then go back there and try what was once my primary means of searching again.


Monday, March 01, 2004

Gone Phishing

I got a phishing spam, this afternoon.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the term, "phishing" refers to unsolicited emails directing a person to a site crafted to resemble a familiar one, in this case, eBay, in the hope that the recipient of the email will respond to the fraudulent request to "update" their account information.

( I MUST say at this point that, though the email I received purported to be from eBay and the link inside the message looked to the uneducated eye to be one from eBay, neither eBay nor any other reputable concern would do something like this. It's important I state this, lest someone not read closely and associate this company with this scam when they are in fact victims of it.)

Those who do respond are asked to provide credit card details and other personal information, which the crooks can then use to steal identities, etc.

I did go to the url, using a Linux machine running links, a text-only browser, rather than the expected Windows machine running Internet Explorer. (My wife says I can be sneaky when I want to and I guess this proves it.) While there, my browser alerted me to a file the site wished to download to my machine. I declined the download, suspecting it was malicious in some way; perhaps a keylogger or trojan. Though it is almost certain such a file would not infect my Linux machine, being designed to infect a Windows installation, I did not feel like tempting fate. Call me "chicken" if you want.

Shortly thereafter, I provided the Dallas office of the FBI with the email, along with a note detailing my experiences, volunteering as I did to file a complaint, if such were necessary. (And we had a neat game of phone tag getting me the relevant email address for the forward that didn't last long and was actually pleasant--not at all what I expected when dealing with a beaurocracy.)

Now, I don't expect anything to happen because of my actions. This is surely a very small blip on the FBI's radar scope by any reasonable standard. But, if it does, I'll let you know what happens and how it goes.

I've got the FBI email address saved and, from now on, I intend to forward every single scam email I get to them. Perhaps you might consider doing the same. The next Nigerian potentate who wants my help transferring money is going to come to the Fed's attention. I expect that if enough of us do this, some good will come of it. After all, you can't expect the cops to protect us unless they know what they need to protect us from.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

A New Type of Linux Distribution?

Ian Murdock, founder of the Debian Project and a principal at Progeny Linux is proposing a new type of Linux Distribution. For those of you who have failed or given up at trying Linux in the past, something like this, combined with modern installer technologies, might just be the ticket. For more seasoned Linux users, this could cut down on the nearly endless job of managing packages installed by default which are not needed in a particular instance.

The essay is short and a very interesting read. See it here.


Monday, February 23, 2004

Buffer Overflows and AMD's Built-In Protection Against Them

New Scientist Magazine has a nice one page article on AMD's protection against the dreaded buffer overflow problem which will be built-in to their processors. It's a short read and details both the fix and the problem well enough for the non-geek to get a fair grasp on it.


Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Hard Drive Noise Reduction

Spode's Abode has an interesting tweak to reduce hard drive noise. I tried it on a Western Digital drive I have that really did clatter and the difference was significant. I used thicker, less resiliant rubber bands for my mounting, though, in the interest of longevity. It's an easy fix and if your hard drive's noise bothers you, it's worth trying.


Saturday, February 14, 2004

Technical Advances (or lack thereof) In The Electric Guitar

Web site techcentralstation has a fascinating article on the arrested development of the electric guitar. It seems almost no one wants to advance the state of the art past what it was in the mid-1950's. Music lovers and techies alike might find this interesting. I know I did.


Thursday, February 12, 2004

Yahoo Messenger for Linux/Unix

I'm not a fan of instant messenging, really. But it's simply too handy to neglect completely. I use Yahoo Instant Messenger in both Windows and Linux/Unix versions.

There's a problem, though. Yahoo's client program for Linux runs on only a few distributions and only those closer to the cutting edge of development than I'm comfortable with using. As Yahoo is pretty much constantly updating their client and (probably for the best of reasons) won't connect with older clients, I'm out of luck on my Linux boxes.

The "problem" is shared libraries. Updated versions of Yahoo's client use newer versions than are included in most distributions. Both Linux and the GNU software that runs on it are constantly being updated, particularly the shared libraries. Yahoo's programmers (quite rightly) write to the newest proven libraries, while many of us are still running distributions which depend on older versions, and may not tolerate adding in the newer libraries at all. For many of us; upgrading our distributions to keep up with release cycles would be overly burdensome, taking our machines out of production too often and so affecting our work flow.

So, to the folks at Yahoo; Why not offer a statically linked version of your client? Yes, the download would be larger, but those of us who, for whatever reason, cannot run distributions quite so close the the state of the art would be covered. This would almost certainly increase usage of the product to a noticeable extent and it's not a particularly hard thing to do.


Pamela Jones a.k.a. PJ of Groklaw Interviewed

Pamela Jones of Groklaw fame is interviewed on She's a paralegal who has been collecting facts (as opposed to claims) about the SCO vs. IBM case since May, 2003 and posting them on her blog.

Groklaw is both a good place to learn about Open Source/Free Software's battle against SCO and an example of how to do a huge blog right; something rarely done well. (Trust me on this; I've seen enough of the other kind to know.)

By the bye; I panned the software with which she does the site (Userland Radio) in our review of it. But it's not all bad, as one can see by the fully functional site at Groklaw.


Monday, February 02, 2004


Microsoft has done some substantive research into accessibility issues as related to computing. Not just for the disabled, mind you, but for those of us who are aging. It's worth a look for just about everyone. And it probably is a good idea to bookmark the site and pass it along.

Musings on a Linux Desktop

We had Sam Greenblatt from Computer Associates on the show today. One of the topics upon which Sam touched is that he sees a real need for a standardized Linux desktop.

I agree. There simply has to be a standard interface. One of the existing ones has to "win" and become a standard or a new one has to come along and take that place (the third option is some sort of unification of existing desktops and is the least likely to come about). Once this happens, the Linux desktop can (and likely will) take a real place in the world, beyond it's currently [somewhat] marginalized status.

I'll probably end up using the "default" or standardized desktop. Unlike some others, though, I still want the choice of other desktops. What people forget when there's a call for a unified look and feel to the Linux desktop is that it need not mean the end of the other window managers/desktops. Linux is in large part about choice, after all. But the face Linux presents to the average user simply must standardize, lest users spend an ongoing fraction of their time in training, whenever they move to a different machine.

I'm currently using one of the minimal window managers (icewm) in the interest of conserving resources on a low-powered machine. I had Gnome on it and the resources so consumed were sorely missed. Opening windows and apps was painfully slow. Icewm is more of a geek's interface, though, requiring many more trips to the command line than most users would be willing to tolerate. I don't mind that, but my best judgement is that almost every "normal" (meaning non-geek) user would object. Application launching from icons is something they demand and, while lots of that can be done from icewm, it's not easy as it is on the "major" desktops (or on Windows, for that matter). Of course, Linux's normal practice of having 4 separate desktops helps this a lot because one can simply leave the apps open and move to another desktop, thus avoiding the confusion of having a jillion things in the taskbar from which to pick. On older, lower powered machines, that takes a toll, too.

As I write this; I have 17 applications open on the four desktops (on that low-powered machine) and a quick look at top shows 54 processes, with 42 running and the rest sleeping. This is more than I usually have open and the machine is noticeably slowed. Text shows up instantly as I type, but any cut/paste or overtype operations are delayed in displaying. I'll finish up some of what I'm doing soon and close a few in order to get back to more usual operations.

Whether KDE, Gnome, the Sun Java Desktop, the SuSE/Ximian/Novell desktop or some other (IBM is said to have one ready, too) one has to become the standard. Users can switch, should they desire to. But there has to be one which everyone knows and can live with as the default.


Saturday, January 31, 2004

Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools

Kevin Kelly has a web log of "Cool Tools" to do all sorts of things. It's curious and, to me, a grand diversion from the everyday. This is not earth-shaking stuff; Just a good way to waste a little time and see good ways to go about things. I know this isn't computer stuff, but this one is simply too entertaining to not pass it on.

I check this about once per week, just to see what's happening.


Hack anything.

Have you ever wanted to tear stuff apart to find out how it works, change how it works or use it in some way Dr. Strangelove would approve of? This is the book for you. I won't tell you more. There's a one page article at
Wired News that does a fine job of explaining it all. I want a copy of this book. (hint, hint)

An FBI agent talks computer security and crime

An article in SecurityFocus by Scott Granneman details a visit to a computer science class by an FBI agent and what this man had to say about computer security. It's a short read; scary and enlightening, at the same time. I recommend it highly. See it here. This is really scary stuff. Frankly; the average PC user has no idea how bad things have gotten.

Here's another story on the same sort of theme by the same author. This one is also worth a read. In fact; I'd take a copy and send it to all the clueless users you run into. See it here.

John C. Dvorak on Linux desktops

John C. Dvorak tells a bit about IBM's version of Linux and their desktop, which they do not plan to roll out for a significant while, and then explains why IBM should scrap their plans and get it out, NOW. See the article at PC Magazine, here. This is a thought provoking bit for those of us who anxiously await either a standardized Linux desktop or a fully suppported one (apart from Sun's Java Desktop).

Thursday, January 29, 2004

The Register

Control-Alt-Delete inventor retires. I had originally thought he had died, but he has merely retired. I'm glad to hear he's good for a few more reboots.
Attrition Security Rant: Anti-Virus Companies: Tenacious Spammers

This is both very sad and very funny. If you are a regular reader of Slashdot you've already seen it, so this is for those of you who don't read /. - New Explorer hole could be devastating

Our own Gari (Javabeanz) sent this to me yesterday. Give it a read and then do (or not) what you gotta do. Yep -- pretty scary stuff. I shudder to think what the bad guys can do with this one. As we learned this week our anti-virus is only as good as our defs are. Okay as good as our defs and our brains are. While the worm was a worm to the most casual observer geek -- what caught my attention was not that I had been sent a worm, but that my anti-virus didn't notice it was a worm. I can't believe that folks unzipped it and executed it, but then again, most folks don't first screen their e-mail in a plain-text/source environment like I do. The way I was looking at it made it all to plain what it was -- I never even saw it in a form where I could unzip it, no less execute it.

Sigh -- this is getting less fun by the day. Russian mafia releasing a worm to take over people's machines and create a spam flood with a DOS on SCO as cover? -- sounds like the script of a B movie.

I've got to get a life, or high speed access, one

I just read my logs and I'm in shock!

Though I am technically within the boundaries of the city of Fort Worth, Texas, in actuality I am in a semi-rural location. The only Internet access we can get is dialup. Oh, satellite is available, but my wife and I cannot currently afford that. The wireless provider we were going to sign up with went bust before we could contribute our fees to them and though they've restarted under new owners (apparently with sufficient funding) we're too poor to do that one, too.

I have a good dialup connection, using Fry's low-cost ISP service. Most of my connections are at 45k or better and occasionally I top 50k. The connection is stable and eminently usable. But high speed is not a term one associates with dialup. Persistence is, at least in my case. I am a dogged downloader, to say the least.

My logs show me that from 1 January, '04, to 31 January, '04, I downloaded 7.1 GIGABYTES of stuff on my dialup! This even though I spent 6 days in the hospital during that time. (Even with the vacation at the quack shack, this is my highest up and download totals for any month, ever.) About half of the stuff I transferred was Linux stuff for my own and my client's use and the rest was Windows executables for installation and test for the show. I also uploaded 704 MB of files in January; web sites and large graphics and CAD files for a client.

Like Microsoft's new offering of Unix tools (which they have decided to distribute for no charge). That download alone was about 200 MB. I have it on file, here, though I've not installed it yet because I'm also installing my Linux boxes again and downloading updates for them.

I've got to do something about this. I've even recently been tossed off an ISP because of the amount of time I spend connected; often 3 full days at a shot. Either that or find something to occupy the time, besides the boob tube and pestering my wife.
Latest worm has professional twist

Well, here's an interesting story about mydoom or whatever one of it's many names you want to call it. From it's first showing it appeared to have a spammer motive. I see some of the experts concur.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

I Blew It, Again

On last Sunday's show, I told how I'd installed the 2.6.1 Linux kernel on one of my machines and speculated that the new kernel would make it's first debut in a distribution in Red Hat's Fedora Core 2 in a couple months. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Turns out that Conectiva Linux already has it out in a development/testing version.

Conectiva Linux doesn't get much press here in North America, but is one of the most widely used distributions in South America, having excellent localization for the languages spoken in those parts and being a truly high-quality distro. You can visit them at and see for yourself.

The version in question is called "Conectiva Linux 10 Technology Preview 2" and has been out long enough to have been downloaded thousands upon thousands of times. It includes the 2.6.1 kernel, KDE 3.2 RC1, Gnome 2.4, OpenOffice 1.1 and a lot more.

My apologies to the folks at Conectiva.

New virus infects PCs, whacks SCO | CNET

New virus infects PCs, whacks SCO | CNET

I've seen more than a few of these "virii" this afternoon. They were easy to spot as a worm even before the anti-virus companies released defs and then updates to those defs this afternoon.

I expect to read about this in the mainstream press tomorrow.

I hope you haven't caught this one, but if you haven't done a virus scan lately, now's the time to get the updated definations and scan away. If you need to check right away try Housecall.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Another Watergate?

Apparently, Republican Congressional staffers have been reading confidential reports, mail and memos from Democratic staffers and leaking them to conservative journalists. This is NOT the result of a hack, per se, but the result of a misconfigured server. Read more at

Friday, January 23, 2004

California 'disempowered' by federal spam law | CNET

Nice article on about CAN-SPAM and the tough California law it superceded. I'm glad to know that Bill Lockyear is still looking forward to prosecuting spammers. If he nabs enough of them, the fines may help the state budget crunch ;-)

"When asked if he had any questions to pass along to McBride, Linus Torvalds chose to err on the side of caution. 'The less I have to do with Darl McBride, the better off I am ... I don't want for that 'Darlness' to rub off on me."

My quote of the day. Read the rest of the article for yourself and don't forget to read the PC Today article the quote was taken from.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004


Breaking news: SCO Sues Novell This Time

This is better than "Days of Our Lives". Pass the popcorn, please.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


Here are the "Novell-SCO Letters" in plain text. It is much easier to download and read than the .pdfs, especially if like me, you have a low bandwidth connection. Of course, the originals are also available for you to compare (the link referencing Novell's Web site).

It is kind of funny to think of it. My first Linux, back in 1998, was Caldera 1.3. Caldera is the company that is now known as SCO. I also have run SuSE Linux. I even have a little stuffed SuSE Tux and a SuSE Mug as well as a SuSE T-shirt. I also have a Caldera T-shirt. I guess I have the T-shirts to prove it :-)

So here's my little anti-SCO cheer:

Code to the left
Code to the right
IBM and Novell
Fight, fight, fight!

I know -- not great poetry, but you get the sentiment. Long live the penguin!
Wired News: Vaporware: Nuke 'Em if Ya Got 'Em

Another link I got of of /. this morning. The very best of those "killer" things that just didn't quite get there.
Slashdot | Learning Python, 2nd Edition

Wouldn't you know it? Jack and I have been talking about Python and today on /. I see this article about an update to O'Reilly's Learning Python.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Supercomputing in the Public Interest
Jack 'daWabbit' Imsdahl

A while back, I mentioned to Deepak (and shortly thereafter spoke of it on the show) that I knew someone who needed some serious computing power. The man in question was at the time an instructor at the University of Texas at Arlington and someone I knew from my Linux User's Group. He wanted to model automotive accidents in order to develop better child safety seats but was unable to get the necessary computing power. The University's computers simply weren't available to him on the necessary scale, due to demand from users with higher priority in the pecking order.

Deepak mentioned this man's dilemma to someone at AMD and they graciously offered to help. My friend had solved his own problems by that time, though. He moved to another institution of higher learning with a guarantee of access to the necessary computing power and a chance at tenure, to boot. Problem solved.

I've started to wonder how many such projects in the public interest are starving for computing power, though. It's not like they all need access to a supercomputer, either. My friend certainly didn't. Such modeling as he wished to do and at the level he needed to do it is commonly done (by auto makers, etc.) on small clusters of multi-processor workstations. Even with these [comparatively] modest requirements, he could not satisfy his need at the university. They were simply booked solid and he didn't command enough authority to requisition access.

Of course; in many instances, the problem is software availability first, computing power second. Without the right software, you can't get far, even if you have a few Crays out in your garage. It's easy to waste resources or even corrupt the results if the software isn't kosher. In my day, I have made very, very simple computer models of a few things (mostly to save myself hours on the hand held calculator, written in QBasic, which will tell you the low level of work I'm talking about here). I can say with authority that such software, even on my trivial level, is not particularly easy to write and test. I have no idea if my friend had the software he needed, but he seemed to feel he did. I don't recall him saying whether he'd written it, had it written or obtained it from some other source.

What is needed is some philanthropically inclined individual or group who can and will set up such a computer, or cluster of computers, and the necessary ancillary facilities containing skilled programmers and technicians. I'll bet potential projects would come out of the woodwork once the existence of such a facility is known. And I'll wager some hardware company (like AMD, who has already demonstrated their willingness to help on worthy projects such as my friend's) will pitch in with parts at cost or less. {job troll} I'd be willing to work for such a project cheaply, if need be. {/job troll}

I envision the deal like this;
The institution should be allied with some University or college so computer science students can have access to it for learning purposes and to help those needing the machines to get or write good software and run their projects well. Even a community college would do for this, provided they have faculty and students of a level sufficient to benefit from and contribute to the project.

The machine itself (and it's attendant facility) should be located in some economically disadvantaged area so that at least the jobs for maintenance and facility support go where people really need them. Such a location offers other opportunities to serve, too. For instance; One could add a teaching facility to give those among us less fortunate than we are a place to obtain at least basic computer skills, thus allowing them to get better jobs and so live better lives. You already have the necessary people and with each one doing a small amount of the teaching as a requirement of their being there, a real difference can be made in people's lives. As any such facility will need a rather fat pipe to the Internet, the small amount of bandwidth needed to teach folks how to use that medium for their betterment can be bled off without compromising or delaying anything.

The question arises of which projects are worthy? That's actually easier to answer than it sounds. To be considered, a project has to benefit a defineable segment of the public, large or small, such as children injured in auto accidents or sufferers of some disease. Perhaps things like automotive traffic analysis for local and regional governments which might not otherwise be able to afford it could be included. The results of the research and the source code for the software used to achieve them are to be made public on web sites hosted and administered by the facility. (The software requirement does not of course apply if a proprietary program is used. Generally, though, software for research is written for the purpose and not likely to be found on sale anywhere.) The results of any research done at our hypothetical facility may indeed be patented or otherwise protected as intellectual property. However; they must be made available to others for licensing under “reasonable and non-disciminatory” terms (usually abbreviated as “RAND”). These licensing and royalty terms must be agreed to by the governing board in concert with the researcher and the researcher must be contractually bound to them before any project is accepted so there'll be no surprises later.

It's not all that hard to weed out the anti-gravity proponents and those wishing to reconstruct ancient Atlantis and so on. The governing board would not have to put too much of their time into sorting those out.

This is not an easy or quick project to execute. It would require a good deal of money, the hiring of dedicated, skilled and savvy staff (programmers, technicians and managers) property to house the facility, building the machine and getting it up to speed. Still, it seems to me to be well worth someone's public-spirited investment.

Should you read this and know of someone who might need or use the services of such a machine and institution, please put them in contact with me at the address above. I'd like to gather a bit of ammunition with which to proposition those in a position to make something like this happen. I think it is needed and I'd like to have some examples with which to prove it.


Sunday, January 18, 2004

Monday, January 12, 2004

Consumer Electronics Show

Here we go. PC Magazine offers the most complete coverage of the just closed CES that I've been able to find. If you have not yet had too much of CES this week for a lifetime, then this link's for you.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Deepak's Dick Tracy Watch

Well not yet, but it will be if he has any say in it. The amazing SPOT watch. If truth be told, I'd like one of these, too. ;-) SCO approached Google about Linux license

Is there anything that is safe from becoming SCOrched earth?
This week's On Computers Tips will be about Knoppix Linux. The article has been posted and you can see it here.

If you haven't already heard, Jack is back safe and sound. He's still recovering, but he should be joining us tomorrow morning. If you don't already know you can listen to the show 10 am to 1 pm Pacific Time at the On Computers Web site. I hope you'll join us there tomorrow.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

After January 7, 2004, your computer slows down and Microsoft Word and Excel will not start

It's late, it's Friday and while the last link was about the underlying reason for the Word/Excel slowdown, here is the Symantec site that will make the Norton Anti Virus connection clear.
Dead VeriSign certificates cause glitches | CNET

Gari sent me an e-mail on this and it is also being discussed on the OC Newsgroup

If Word and Excel have slowed down on you in the past few days and you are running Norton Anti Virus, check it out.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage XM Radio plans controversial traffic service

I've known about this since Wednesday. The NAB response was not unexpected. I don't think it will make a difference. XM is not doing anything that is not within the agreement they made with the NAB.

Here's another case where consumers are voting with their wallets for better radio service and the old school wants to fight it with rules and laws. Hopefully, the competition will encourage the terrestrial broadcasters to deliver a better product. They now have digital (I'm not ready to call it HD) radio, but where they are failing, at least from the perspective of a sat radio subscriber, is content and coverage.

In my case I have little content choice on terrestrial AM and FM because the coverage is also poor. In the metro areas, there is better coverage and more choice of content, but with 1/3 of every hour being commercials, the content is merely a commercial delivery system.

If you haven't yet heard, XM is going commercial free on all its music channels (that's 68 channels -- very much the Sirius model -- I love competition) on Feb 1. All for $9.99 a month. With the receiver prices dropping like a rock, no wonder the NAB is concerned -- if they want to compete they'll have to start delivering a better product.

XM's traffic service will start March 1. I'm not sure when Sirius wil start their traffic service, but they have announced that they will have one.
The Register

Read this. Do I really need to make further comment? I thought not.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

"Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines."

Sorry if you've already seen this tag line. I saw it on Slashdot and thought I'd share it with you. It put my day into perspective!

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Court ponders Web site-blocking law | CNET

So much interesting reading, so little time. I'm against child porn, but I don't think Pennsylvania has found the right way to combat it. Why don't we just bury everyone's head in the sand? Yep, that'll make it go away.
You may have noticed a recurring "what Deepak talked about" theme around these parts. That's because Jack is not here to comment at the moment. Otherwise I'd probably be writing about "what Jack talked about."

I talked to Jayna briefly today. Jack and Jayna are constantly in my thoughts and prayers. Jack, get well soon, please.
Scot's Newsletter | By Scot Finnie | 01-06-2004 |

Scot Finnie's take on Windows XP Service Pack 2 Beta. Interesting reading if you have the time or the curiousity.
Athlon 64 3400+ reviewed everywhere

hmmmm. Is this what Deepak hasn't been able to talk about?

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

SIRIUS Satellite Radio - Choose A Plan

I didn't realize this when Deepak and I talked about it last Sunday, but the Sirius Satellite Radio Lifetime Subscription is for the life of your receiver, not for your life. If I did the math right, that means that if you keep your receiver 3.2 years you break even. Longer than that, and you are ahead.

I thought the lifetime subscription was for my lifetime. Oh well, if it sounds too good to be true...

Even though I have XM because the equipment and service better meets my needs, by all means, if you are looking to take the sat radio plunge look over both companies, their programming and receivers carefully before drawing any "confusions". Please don't take my word alone for it, but you certainly can consider how happy I am with the XM service and equipment.

Both XM and Sirius have their place and the satellite radio market will only really be healthy if there is choice. Oh, don't forget that somewhere down the line, new receivers will have to work with both; but from my best sources, that's about 2 years off.
As I have tried to get some meaningful work done this morning, the flow has been interrupted by no less than 3 unsolicited business phone calls.

I have long believed that it is silly to buy anything from anyone who you can't verify who they really are. You call me - I have no idea of who you are - and you want me to give you my credit card or other billing info? doh -- slap me on the head with a mackeral, please!

It's the same with unsolicited e-mail -- who would buy from these folks?

I do feel sorry for the poor minimum wage workers who are just trying to keep body and soul together with these telemarketing jobs; but I'm sorry, I don't and I won't buy from you. If I do, I'm just leaving myself wide open to be scammed.

I wish the FTC woud let businesses sign up for do-not-call. I may sign up anyway -- many have. It has worked very well on the residential line -- that and the fact that Jim uses it for his computer so most of the time they just get busy signals, lol.
Writing an end to the bio of BIOS: ZDNet Australia: News & Tech: OS

I feel like I'm just catching up with last week's news this week. Here's an article about the BIOS replacement that Deepak talked about on Sunday.

Monday, January 05, 2004 parasite

Parasites-adware-spyware. A disgusting as well as a fascinating subject.

Fascinating? Yes, as in "just how low will the bottom-feeders go?" and also as in "knowledge is power -- to know the enemy is to be able to keep it at bay."

This is a great round-up. I like the section that outlines the good free, good commercial and not so good anti-parasite software.
Spyware Weekly Newsletter :· December 24, 2003

Here's the latest on what is going on with Gator/Claria. While you are at it, you just may want to read this the latest issue of the Spyware Weekly newsletter. There is always some interesting and disturbing information to be found here.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

What You Can't Say

I found the link to this article while perusing Slashdot today. Many of the thoughts in it segue nicely with things Deepak and I were talking about on today's show. This is a long read and there is a lot of food for your own thought on it. I'll probably read it several more times.
Hi folks. After my dismal and embarrassing memory loss, during the show, of where I had seen things as I browsed the Web this week, I thought I'd start a blog. This way, when I find something of interest I can submit the link and my comments about it at the same time using the Google Toolbar Blogger button. Quick, neat, and hopefully foolproof.

I'm sorry, but until or unless I convert this blog you will see a little banner ad. The ad is not generated by me or by the On Computers Internet radio show. It provides no revenue to the show, but is a fair exchange IMHO for hosting of this blog.

I may later upload the blog to our own On Computer's FTP space (which is an option), but not until I have it under control while hosted for free at Blogspot (or until Deepak tells me I can't keep it here on the ad supported server).