Saturday, May 21, 2005

Recall on Apple iBook G4 and PowerBook G4

"iBook G4 and PowerBook G4 Battery Exchange Program: In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and other international safety authorities, Apple is voluntarily recalling certain lithium ion rechargeable batteries that were sold worldwide from October 2004 through May 2005 for use with the following notebook computers: 12-inch iBook G4, 12-inch PowerBook G4 and 15-inch PowerBook G4. These batteries were manufactured by LG Chem, Ltd. of South Korea."

The url is a page that will help you identify if you have a battery issue.

Friday, May 20, 2005

� The grand convergence in 2010 | Between the Lines |

� The grand convergence in 2010 | Between the Lines | "Gartner predicts that by 2010 three major trends � ubiquitous access, ambient intelligence and semantic connectivity "
This is when the milk cartons talking to refrigerators and tell the store you need more.
Some people think we don't need computers.

Google - Personalize your home page

This is SUPERB!! 2 of the things that I thought were missing from were weather and stock updates. Now, you can personalize the web page much more!

Gives you options to post wired / slashdot /NYT (I understand rss feeds will still be supported after the subscription kicks in, but its several months away, and therefore subject to change), etc, etc...

Kudos to Google for this! (caveat: until the security warnings are made known...)

Now, I have to figure out how to check 2 gmail accounts :P
Yup, that's me, always pushing the envelope ;)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Wired News: Give Your DVD Player the Finger

Yet another copy protection scheme. I certainly can forego watching DVD's. There is no movie so great that I would jump through this hoop. When content is protected in ways I find to be hideous to me, all it means is that I will find other content (legal, not pirated) to "feed" my mind. Perhaps this will be the beginning of a robust, open, independent, movie industry?

Here's a quote from the article that echos that sentiment:

"Ed Felten, a computer science professor at Princeton University, called the proposal the 'limit of restrictiveness.'

'I think people would find it creepy to give their fingerprint every time they wanted to play a DVD,' Felten said. 'It's hard to think that would be acceptable to customers.'

He said it seems unlikely that people would buy new DVD players with RFID readers in order to purchase DVDs that are less functional."

Of course, Ed -- that's why the wealthy content providers will grease another law through Congress. Without a legal stick no one in their right minds will purchase this kind of equipment. It is kind of like the whole broadcast flag idea -- without a law it's dead in the water.

Older Machines to Get Retooled Windows

It is code-named Eiger. According to the article, it is clearly aimed at environments where a central server is involved:

"Still in the early stages of development, Eiger will run a bare-bones set of programs directly from the desktop. The list will include the Internet Explorer browser, Windows Media Center, a firewall and antivirus software.

Most other programs, however, will run off a central server."

I think this is a great idea and a boon to the schools and businesses it is aimed at, as well as a win for Microsoft.

The Geek Gazette - Using Free World Dialup

The Geek Gazette - Using Free World Dialup: "05/09 Welcome Slashdotters, almost got me with all the traffic this time but some mad tweaking got the site swinging again after a few moments of panic as the number of sessions skyrocketed. We peaked at over 2,200 concurrent users. Who says a Windows server can't handle the load!!"
This was the day after Kerry was on the OnComputers radio show talking about Asterisk@Home. I have been working on setting one up here so we can use it to take calls on the show. I'm still waiting for some of the parts I need. (an ATA, Analog Telephone Adaptor)
I think this will work.

In the Valley of the Blind, the One-Eyed Man is King

I have a reputation as a Linux geek which is only partly based in fact. Fostered mostly by my friends who simply know less about it than I do, there is a grain of truth in it, but mostly it's just hype. This is a common phenomenon in tech and especially in personal computing. The devices we use are simply so complex as to be beyond the ken of those who don't actually study them. I do study them daily, though not in any organized way. My most penetrating self-analysis tells me that I'm not very high on the list, as far as knowledgeable geeks go. I do okay, but I'm nothing special. Not by a long shot!

Why am I writing about this? Well, because I want to avoid giving the wrong impression. Doing so leads to incorrect assumptions regarding my authority when I speak on the show. I try really hard not to give the wrong impression and study to make sure what I say is based on fact or clearly delineated as my opinion.

Still, folks overestimate what I know and can do. I got an email after the show, the other day, asking me to help (not for free) write a set of Linux kernel modules to provide hardware suppot for a small set of new products. I had to tell the company involved "sorry, but I'm not up to the task". Though I have experimented with very, very minor hacks on Linux drivers and had some small success, I frankly do not have the knowledge to manage anything more. In fact; what little I have done in this area has been more of a "cut and try" effort than anything else. I fervently wish I had that level of skill and, especially, understanding.

I did call this company, though, to explain and ask a few questions. They were nice enough to talk with me for a bit and I learned something. That bit of knowledge is that companies who are using Linux or planning to in the near future are having problems finding enough skilled help here in the U.S. (When you think about it; sending a basically blind job offer to me via email is an indication of deperation.) It is this company's assumption that in the next quarter, they will need to hire 3 developers and 8 administrators and technicians skilled in Linux. To this end, they've been running ads and working with headhunters and so far have found very few candidates they consider qualified.

It may well be that the limiting factor in the takeup of Linux will be the availability of skilled people to manage it. This would not be the first time in computing history that something like this has happened. In any event, it's something to think about if you're considering a corporate Linux implementation.

While it is true that there is incredible free support for Linux online and that virtually any situation can be researched there, searching that resource pool takes time; something the business usually does not have when a problem arises. They need a fix now, preferably stored in the brain of someone on-site and at a keyboard.

The pool of Linux talent is expanding rapidly. For the most part, this is not people with certifications, though, as that part of training and testing individuals is lagging behind demand. Prices are high, too. Not outrageous, but the laws of supply and demand apply here and folks of demonstrable talent command a premium. How much of a premium I am unable to ascertain. My best estimate is something near 15%, though I don't put much stock in the accuracy of that figure.

When I am asked about career training for IT, I tell whoever inquires of me not to concentrate on one specific platform to the exclusion of others. Get a broader education. Learn to work and play in several operating systems. The datacenter of the future is likely to be a mix of platforms and operating systems, especially when virtualization becomes more widespread. It is quite conceiveable that you will have to deal with many at any one time on one machine.

Jack / Business / Technology / Internet phones given 911 deadline

Thank you FCC. Will you tell this to the local telcos so that they will work with the VOIP providers to provide this service?

FTC wants to tweak CAN-SPAM Act

The link above will take you to a 31 page PDF file proposing changes to the Can-Spam Act, mainly to the "opt-out" provisions of the law. The FTC wants consumers to be able to conclusively opt-out by taking a single step, such as sending an email or visiting a single web site.

The Can-Spam legislation is a perfect example of good intentions amounting to naught. Somehow, I doubt changing the law will change anything. I could be wrong, but history is on my side in this judgement.


Netscape v8.0 Is Out!

The newest offering from Netscape is reputed to focus on security. It uses both the Gecko rendering engine from Mozilla/Firefox and the one from Internet Explorer to allow almost every site to render well. I have no idea if this can be made secure enough. Only time will tell and you can be sure the security researchers will be probing for vulnerabilities from now on.

Right now, Netscape 8 is a Windows-only proposition. I've downloaded it and installed it on my Windows 2000 Professional desktop. In what can only be described as a brief trial, I found it performed well enough. As far as I can tell, it is a little bit slower than Firefox on the same machine. Pages rendered well and there were no operational problems to report. I'll be trying it on XP Home and Pro in the next few days.


Microsoft running late in virtualization

While it's true MS won't be one of the first virtualization technologies on the market, it simply must be premature to judge their position when the technology itself is still developing and being fitted into the realities of the data center.

Even so; the article is interesting because it puts all the expected debut dates for Microsoft products and technologies in one place. Just don't bite too hard on the idea that they've already lost ground in the market.


Small form factor HP Athlon 64s for sale

HPQ has posted a web page with several models of AMD Athlon 64 and Sempron powered small form factor PCs. While not cheap, they are not premium priced, either. View the article at The Inquirer at the link above and the HP page here.

We've been mentioning smaller form factor machines for quite a while and, frankly, have all wondered why they haven't appeared in more significant numbers. I guess the manufacturers have finally identified it as a sector they need to have offerings in. Where HP goes, Dell and the rest will soon follow.


Microsoft patents nuts and bolts of email

Patent madness continues (and make no mistake about it; that's exactly what it is).


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

� IT Help Desks in the dog house | Datapoint: IT Research That Matters on ZDNet |

� IT Help Desks in the dog house | Datapoint: IT Research That Matters on ZDNet | "Business users are dissatisfied with help desk support; so much in fact that they rank it last when asked about the importance of these technologies to their jobs,"
Maybe they need people that can help, not just people that can read a script!

Microsoft to flash Windows ID cards | Tech News on ZDNet

Microsoft to flash Windows ID cards | Tech News on ZDNet: "Microsoft is getting ready to provide an early peek at new Windows software that aims to help consumers deal with the plethora of Internet logins. "
Is this another "SHOW ME YOUR PAPERS!"?

Sober.Q spreads hate messages in German, English

I just took a look at the spam trap on my business e-mail account and found that most of the spam in there was this hate mail stuff. If you've been receiving an unusual amount of spam in German (and that's not your usual language) the past few days, this article explains it.

Microsoft Honey Monkeys

The Register has a nice article by Robert Lemos of SecurityFocus on how Microsoft is experimenting with computers equipped with XP in various patch configurations which search dubious portions of the Internet to find web sites which exploit previously unknown vulnerabilities to install unwanted software.

Though perhaps it could rightly be said in the past that MS didn't take the security of it's products seriously. It's been years since that could be said with any hint of truth to it, if ever. This seems like a relatively innovative effort to gain knowledge before exploits are widely employed. (And I'm sure that MS would love to avoid the publicity that independent researchers give to vulnerabilities by finding them before anyone else does and patching them with a minimum of fuss.) More power to them.


Via to launch Pentium M pin-compatible CPU

Why is this significant? Well, CPUs intended for mobile use consume less power and so make less heat, making them perfect for the tight installations in small form-factor cases.

There have been rumors of similar setups from several mobo makers, but this is the first out that I know of. Expect more of the same. A LOT more. The performance of current mobile CPUs is such that in a small case they will provide all the necessary horsepower for the much anticipated media center PC or appliance without the big beige box in the living room.


Graphics chip companies' SKUs are legion

This short piece in The Inquirer illustrates why I find keeping up with video parts and specs so confusing and difficult. There's an incredible number of part numbers and variations thereof. Keeping up is a full-time job.

The article also has links to more detailed information.


And the Nerd is...

I am nerdier than 96% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

I wanted to add this as a comment to Jane's post about the Nerd test, but you can't do html in our blog comments. Anyway, I thought I was doing really, really bad as I took the test. If I tell you why I'll give it away (well what I thought were bad answers, anyway). I was shocked. Of course if you don't think nerdiness is a virtue, then I did really really bad. Thanks Jane. Proud Nerd here :-)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

AMD Desktop Dual-Core Versus Intel: No Contest?

The folks over at ExtremeTech say "we have a hard time finding any situation where a dual-core Pentium comes out ahead of a dual-core Athlon 64. Even in most single-threaded apps, AMD takes the cake. Games are an absolute blow-out..."

[UPDATE] PC Magazine's take is that "The Athlon 64 X2 positively trounced the Pentium EE 840 at" multi-tasking. Comparison chart.

Neither high-end chip is shipping yet, but it looks like Intel is going to have to rachet up the clock to get in this hunt against the AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+.

These tests also show that "normal users" will see a considerably better user experience with a dual core microprocessor. The hour glass may not be a thing of the past, but it will take over your cursor much less often.

-- Peter S. Kastner

Big lappy drives-InfoWorld

Thought this was interesting. Considering I lug a lappy around 5 days a week. A 120 GIG drive? Works for me! :-)

Next Generation Web Anonymizer

Wired News has an article about Tor, a next generation anonymizer service, developed by the Navy and now an open source project. Click the link above for the Wired article. Click here for the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Tor home page.


IE 7 Tabs Will Be 'Basic,' Says Microsoft

Yes, tabbed browsing is coming to IE -- eventually. The IE7 beta isn't even out yet. It is due this summer which is not that far off. From what I've been able to gather, the slip in popularity due to Firefox is part of the reason that MS will finally offer tabs to IE users. Some people love tabs while it is true that I know of others that do not like them. In Firefox tabs are entirely optional, and I'm guessing that they will be in IE, also. - Fun Tester

I am nerdier than 88% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

This was kind of fun, I started w/the Computer Geek Quiz, and I am ashamed to admit that it was too hard!

If you are a real computer geek, and have the courage, let us know your score at tipster"at"

In other, what I call "really geeky" stuff, an article called "Follow the Bouncing Malware: A Fresh Bounce" done by a blogger/"operator" at Internet Storm Center.
A snippet of it "Well now. Ain’t that purty? I really do appreciate the way that they’re not even attempting to rationalize what they’re doing... with variable names like “Trojan_Path,” staring you in the face, it’s sorta’ hard to keep up the charade that you’re writing an app for “market research.”

Speaking of “Trojan_Path” let’s see what we find at the other end...

The file divx.exe is a Win32 executable, 21,536 bytes long. Taking a quick look at the file reveals that it has been packed with FSG and has a really mangled PE header and a tiny, really whacked MZ header. Once again, someone is trying to hide something... "
This will either make you click or chase you off, but I found it interesting, despite the "Computer Geek" quiz being too tough, hehe.


Game Consoles: Place Your Bets

First Microsoft then Sony have announced specs for the next generation of game stations, which will begin arriving for the holidays this year and spill into 2006.

With loads more computing and graphics power than the puny previous generation -- xBox uses a Pentium iii, for example -- these new machines will conquer new markets beyond set-top gaming: they will serve as satellites for media serving in the home; and extend gaming and the game ecosystem even further into the 'net. Microsoft, for instance, has been losing about $1.2 billion a year on the xBox business. Bill Gates intends to earn that back in profits. Soon. But that will only come by expanding the market -- a lot -- in the U.S. and overseas. Sony, which garners a double digit percentage of its profits form the PlayStation, has no intention of giving up first place.

Microwave some popcorn, sit back, and get ready for a true battle royale.

-- Peter S. Kastner

New version NOD32 v2.5 released

Products - NTIf you have a license for NOD32 you can download and install the new version. You donot have ti Uninstall the old version of NOD32 if you want to upgrade.
The new version of NOD32 has Adware/Spyware/Riskware detection in it now.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Microsoft Updates Desktop Search Toolbar

Not surprisingly, this is for Windows XP, Windows 2000 and requires Internet Explorer 5.01 or newer.

KYOURadio - Open Source Radio

Well, sort of. This is the San Fran, Infinity owned radio station that started airing podcasts today. They call themselves KYOU Radio -- Open Source Radio. Sadly, if you live too far away to listen via the ether, not the ethernet, and want to use the listen live link so you can hear the station on you computer, you have to have Active X! Of course I use a open source browser, so I can't listen to Open Source Radio. ROTFLOL. I think I'll continue to get my podcasts the old fashioned way -- download them using open source software.

Ben Edelman for May 16 -- What's So Hot About Hotbar?

If you heard yesterday's show (and if you didn't you really have to grab it) we had Ben Edleman, master adware sleuth, as our guest. Ben updates his site every Monday and the spyware du jour is Hotbar. I know that my girlfriend's machine got infected with this when her junior high age son installed it without realizing that it carried a nasty payload. So go and enjoy Ben's web site and read up on the all the ways these nasties get loaded onto folk's machines. The computer you save may be your own, or that of a friend or relative.

HP confirms jobs to India move

HP has finally confirmed that it is shunting its customer support for UK punters to India.

Last week El Reg reported how hundreds of technical support workers in the UK could lose their jobs within the next six months following HP's decision to move more work overseas. Insiders who now face an uncertain future revealed how services outfit Tenty4help had been dumped by HP.

The UK is losing jobs also. :(

Canada says oui to VoIP

Canada’s telecoms regulator will not regulate Voice Over Internet Protocol providers but will restrict how the incumbent telcos charge for services.

Most countries have decided not to regulate VoIP services.®

So, you want to be a computer scientist...

It's that time of year again: BrainAcademy is back. This is the now-regular competition where A-level students and others compete for a fees-paid place at Queen Mary's University, London. However, the organisers have for the first time opened the competition to include post-graduates, and not just those from computer science backgrounds.

Here is your chance to change the world!

Oracle settles whistleblower suit for $8m

Oracle is to pay $8m to settle a troublesome whistleblower lawsuit, which saw the company accused of fraudulently billing government agencies in the US for training between 1997 and 2003.

Shame on Oracle!

Fortinet disputes Trend Micro patent ruling

A judge has ruled in favour of Trend Micro in a patent infringement lawsuit against rival security appliance vendor Fortinet.

DVD storage is so over

We don't ask much from our storage, really. All we want are hundreds of gigabytes of cheap, backward-compatible storage that will store all the high-definition video we can record, create, or steal.
That isn't asking to much is it?

Court sides with Apple over "Tiger" trademark dispute

A judge has denied a request by computer retailer TigerDirect for a preliminary injunction against Apple Computer over allegations that Apple's nickname for its new operating system, "Tiger," infringes on the retailer's trademarked name.
Where will it go from here?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

OC Podcast

This is the On Computers podcast for 04-03-2005. If you prefer, you can download the same file here via ftp.

Hyper-Threading considered harmful

From SANS Internet Storm Center
"Hyper-Threading, as currently implemented on Intel Pentium Extreme Edition, Pentium 4, Mobile Pentium 4, and Xeon processors, suffers from a serious security flaw. This flaw permits local information disclosure, including allowing an unprivileged user to steal an RSA private key being used on the same machine. Administrators of multi-user systems are strongly advised to take action to disable Hyper-Threading immediately; single-user systems (i.e., desktop computers) are not affected."
Just SCO and various BSD vendors have provided statements, and it IS more of a server issue, but I found it interesting because I have an HT cpu.

[UPDATE]Intel downplays hyperthreading threat With a tip o' the keyboard to daWabbit for passing it on :)