Saturday, July 30, 2005

Feds Eye New Mission: Zombie Hunting

This article says it all.

I have mixed feelings about whether or not this can really help the spam and DoS problems, but it is a start.


Friday, July 29, 2005

Chicago Tribune | Copy videotapes to your computer

This is how to save those old VCR tapes.
This reply came from a listener: I think it would be better to use a device that uses hardware encoding to DV rather than software like the VideoAdvantage seems to. The PC Magazine review says the min. 2Mhz requirement may be a little tight. With 3.5 Mhz and no hyperthreading, capture took 70% of system resources. Plextor’s ConvertX PX-M402U hardware encodes to DivX®, MPEG-4, MPEG-2/DVD, MPEG-1/VCD formats. For pure transfer of analog to digital, I'm still leaning toward the Plextor.

More details on HP not selling ipods anymore.

The first paragraph of the post:The analysis in the Apple community is summed up by TUAW's comment that "HP iPods accounted for only 7% of the 4.58 million iPods sold last quarter. Might this have something to do with the fact that Apple doesn’t appear to be losing any sleep over HP’s lack of [iPods in] stock…?"

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Microsoft Competition + RSS = Portals for the Masses

Three years ago, enterprise software vendors such as Peoplesoft (now Oracle) and Computer Associates made a big pitch to put "portals" on workers desktops. Portals are an aggregation of data from a variety of sources often displayed in newspaper form. In fact, the home pages of CNN, Yahoo and Excite all have the look-and-feel of portals, but require user customization to make it personalized.

In the past year or so, Really Simple Syndication (RSS) has used the power of XML and HTML to allow almost anybody to subscribe to news and information feeds from the sources they choose. Smart aggregators such as Yahoo have made My Yahoo, a personal home page with RSS, a big deal. Note that this Blog can be delivered to you by clicking here.

Where is this going? I think we are going to see some very rapid convergence over the next couple of years and consumers will like it. First, Microsoft has made it very clear that there will be a lot of RSS-related functionality in Windows Vista, which we'll see at least a public beta of next year. That tips the rest of the software industry that they better catch up -- or better yet, get ahead, of slow-moving Microsoft. Apple, for instance, just got out RSS with the OS x 10.4 Tiger release this spring. But Tiger also includes Widgets that can get data off the net and do something with it.

I see a technology smorgasbord of My Yahoo-like front-page layout tools, Apple OS X-like widgets, RSS newsreaders, and Microsoft templates allowing web users to create their own powerful information aggregation portals that workers and consumers can use.

The technology will be free and largely open source. I disagree with the conclusion of the blogged opinion article that Microsoft will "take over" RSS. And I suspect that the enterprise portal software suppliers will be cutting prices in the not too distant future.

-- Peter S. Kastner

Wired News: Cisco Security Hole a Whopper

To add to Peter's post about the cisco router flaws.

And in an homage ;) to Robert Scoble on his blog...
Links that should be updated as news comes in
Technorati 20 posts 392 hits, when I checked. 5 or so hits

and OT: Each State's wi-fi laws.

Further OT: Has ANYbody tried the OPML editor??? I started playing with it, with an export of my rss feed. It crashed, and now, when I try to edit an OPML file, the editor just runs in the background, and I haven't rebooted, to fix it. I thought this might be a neat way to post show notes, that wasn't too invasive. But, I think I'm making it more difficult than it is... who knows :)

System Administrator Appreciation Day Friday July 29th 2005

Enjoy! I guess I shoulda posted it sooner, so you could mass email your customers

Happy Appreciation Day to all you sysadmins!


UserFriendly Strip Comments

UserFriendly Strip CommentsThis is from KoffeeBeanz, Thanks Gari.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Sun Microsystems: The Gerbil Runs Faster to No Effect

Sun shipped 9% more computers last quarter, but revenue declined 4.3% to about $3.0 billion. Total product revenue declined 7.7% versus 2004. The company showed a profit of $121 million, but it happened due to tax bookkeeping. Sun also generated $22 million in free cash flow. However, it is spending $4.1 billion to buy Storage Technology Corp.'s tape and disk business, and is thus consuming cash.

The gerbil-on-a-treadmill metaphor is apt: 9% more units shipped for 7.7% less revenue is surely a doomed exercise in flying fur followed by a collapse in exhaustion. Sun is unlikely to ever see significant organic revenue growth again. The question is whether it can profitably keep its installed base happy while the business diminshes.

Watch Cisco's Lawyers: There's a Security Fire

A 24-year old technician at Internet Security Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ISSX) claims he has found numerous and fundamental security flaws in Cisco's router operating system. The researcher, Michael Lynn, quit his job when threatened by Cisco's lawyers. Cisco wanted to halt a presentation at the Black Hat security conference on what Lynn had found. There was extensive coverage in today's Wall Street Journal.

This story is early in its life, but it will have legs. It appears that Lynn is right in his belief that there are vulnerabilities in Cisco's routers, a critical and very widely used component in trusted Internet infrastructure. One interpretation of events this week is that Cisco is aware of the problems but does not have solutions: premature disclosure of vulnerabilities alerts the bad guys.

It would certainly behoove network administrators to be extra vigorous in quickly applying any patches that Cisco puts out.

Update the suit was settled out of court late Thursday.

MS Anti-Piracy Scheme Cracked

Thanks to John B. for finding us this one.

The Inquirer is reporting that less than 24 hours after Microsoft implemented a scheme to prevent pirated copies of Windows XP from being updated with anything but security updates, it has been cracked. Thus it is and ever shall be.

By the way; The original copy and original installation on my wife's Compaq laptop is rejected by this measure as illegitimate, though we have never touched it nor modified the hardware involved. I'll be calling MS about this later today and will let you know how it goes.


The Longhorn/Vista Beta Is Out!!!

Beta 1 of Windows Vista has been released to developers!

Microsoft is careful to say that this version lacks a lot of the planned features and is not intended for anyone but developers, who need some time to get their feet wet (so to speak) in the new APIs, etc. MS is saying this version is not even suitable or intended for enthusiasts wanting to get in on things early.

Still, it's out; the first really visible progress in the development of the next generation Windows.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

HP User Organization Disbands, Cancels Show

After 31 years in existence -- going back to the 16-bit computer days -- the independent HP user's group, Interex, has called it quits. Even 100,000 members could not support the annual Interex show next month in San Francisco. With poor finances and lack of interest, Interex packed it in.

Even though Interex is independent of HP, the fact that the company-focused user group folded does not send a strong positive message about the HP ecosystem. It looks to me like the HP game plan is: downsize, set the strategy, then execute. The downsizing phase is well underway, with thousands of HP employees looking over their shoulder for the pink slips. However, if the company's customers aren't even enthusiastic enough to hold a conference on the present and future of the world's second largest computer company, you have to wonder how hard a job HP is really facing when they get to the execute phase?

Tips: Keeping Your Computer Healthy

We spent the first hour of last week's radio show talking about PC maintenance issues such as disk defragmentation, imaging, and backup-restore. This ExtremeTech article is a sure bookmark with a nice written To Do list of PC maintenance chores and how to do them.

IBM's Z9 Mainframe Doubles Performance

The ninth generation of IBM's venerable mainframe was announced today. It sports a doubling of memory and overall performance.

IBM is suggesting to customers that the way to harness the increased power of the Z9 is to apply it to security; specifically, by encrypting data at all stages of storage and manipulation. While encryption, even with the Z9's hardware assists, is very compute-intensive, the benefits are legion against internal prying and theft. Various financial services and health care applications under strict privacy regulation in the U.S. and Europe, leaving data sitting around memory is increasing considered a poor plan prone to disaster and internal theft.

Worth noting, IBM is not alone in a strategy that uses some of the ever-increasing computer power to protect data security. I expect Intel will get to market next year with its Lagrande Technology. LT will do for PCs what IBM's Z9 is doing for mainframe data: encrypt data from keyboards and disks, and to monitors, while creating hardware-protected regions for processing "trusted" applications. Only the application will get to see the data in its actual form. The rest of the computer will just see a bunch of random, encrypted bits.

A tip of the hat to IBM and the Z9. But see how quickly the mass-market will catch up with this important security technology.

Russia's Biggest Spammer Brutally Murdered in Apartment - NEWS - MOSNEWS.COM

Russia's most notorious spammer brutally murdered. I would certainly NEVER advocate murder as a legitimate way of dealing with spammers (or anyone else) but it does kind of send a message, doesn't it? I honestly can't say I'm surprised though; it almost certainly had to happen somewhere sometime. At least maybe it'll serve to make the spammers (and the companies that hire them) more aware of how much the internet community at large hate them and their products...This from John-B

Monday, July 25, 2005

Secrets of good hard-drive hygiene

We were talking about this sort of thing just today on the show. Here's a 2 page article with some really good thoughts on backing up and otherwise taking care of one's data.


Driven to distraction by technology

Here is a CNet article about workers getting interrupted and/or distracted by email, instant messages and such. It struck a chord with me because I often find myself distracted just that way. I need to keep my instant message client open a lot of the time, along with being close to the telephone and other distractions.

Thank Goodness I have friends who are not offended if I say I can't talk because of needing to work. People in businesses often can't excercise that luxury and this article notes that they lose vast amounts of time because of it.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

OnComputers Podcast 07-24-05

This is the On Computers podcast for 07-24-2005. If you prefer, you can download the same file here via ftp.

The Geek Gazette - Home

The Geek Gazette - Home: "Creating a Windows Backup System "
This is one way to set up a BACK UP for your computers.

The Browser is the Problem

Firefox users, including myself, widely consider themselves to be safer by using it instead of Internet Explorer. That probably is based in truth. All indications are that it is. But it has also led to a sort of arrogance on the part of many Firefox adherents. I wish I could say I hadn't fallen prey to this, but in fact I have. Once I started using Firefox, I gave a lot less thought to browser security.

Now we have the Greasemonkey add-on to Firefox, which turns out to have a really huge significant security hole in it that can allow an attacker to list the contents of directories on the target machine and view files.

With the mind set of Firefox users, feeling so safe and all, we download add-ons to our browser with very little thought, if any. I know I did and I suspect most of us do. I never gave any thought that the add-ons I've downloaded might compromise the security of my machines. We ignored the truism that even adding a small snippet of code can open security vulnerabilities undreamed of and all out of proportion to the size of the change made to the system.

The problem isn't so much with Firefox, it's add-ons, Internet Explorer or any other browser. The problem is that we're spoiled; we expect our browser to do everything. Think about that for a minute. It's true. And adding those functions with ActiveX, Flash, javascript and all sorts of other technologies over the basic rendering functions of a browser has caused all sorts of security headaches. Functional and interoperability headaches, as well, but that's almost another story. We as consumers didn't demand all these functions. They were developed and released with good, or at least commercial intentions.. And once they were loose upon the world, we took them to our hearts and raised our expectations of what our browsers should do for us.

For a couple years now, you have heard me admit occasionally during the show that I still use text-only browsers, namely Links, which either comes with or can be installed on any Linux system. I do this because these browsers render pages much faster than full-functioned browsers do on our dialup connection, which is ideal when reading large amounts of text. While the interface is plain, for a lot of my browsing, Links is all I need. It can also download files and save pages. It works for me.

Links is also much safer. Containing less technological whizzbangs makes it that way. Not that it has received the amount of attention from malicious types that IE or Firefox has, so I can't say that for sure. But it stands to reason that less features equals less vulnerabilities and I have never heard of a successful malicious attack on it.

Perhaps we should carry this farther. Perhaps we, the public, should demand minimally functional browsers designed for security and to eliminate Po pups, adware, spyware, etc. I, for one, could do well over 90% of my browsing with such an application. For the remainder, I could either use a more fully featured application or (more likely) give it up.

Come to think of it; this same argument, that limited functionality could enhance our security, can be extended to make a good case for so-called "Internet appliances". Such machines, incapable of running any software but what they were built with, could enhance our browsing experience even as they protected us. providing only that and mail capabilities. Want to download files? Okay. We'll give you disk space for just that, but you will have to hand-carry the files to another machine to view or install them. We'll provide a USB slot for that and you can plug in your memory stick, if you insist.

If it's really well done, virii, spyware, adware and all sorts of annoyances could be a thing of the past for those who own them. The same could go for cookies and tracking users across the web. Maybe I need to take another look at Microsoft TV. Then again, I'd really like something not so heavily based on proprietary technology, though there's nothing beyond their history of corporate attitude and policy stopping MS from doing that right. Still, I think it's time for such appliances to make a comeback and so allow us to disconnect our precious data from the Internet. After all; if it's not hooked up, it can't be accessed by the bad guys. And we can access what we want on the Internet with our appliances, leaving the computer safely cut off from the outside world.

I'm not at all sure I like this idea. It's almost "over the top" and involves some inconvenience for us as users. But it would save us from the armies of zombie computers which attack us or spam us because our machines would be incapable of that sort of behavior. We could have more privacy, as well. And I wouldn't have to worry about my browser.


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