Saturday, July 22, 2006

Ubuntu and Wireless

Well, got Ubuntu on my Toshiba lappy. The Netgear MA 521 works fine. Kudos to the Ubuntu folks and thanks Jack too. So, I've now got a Linux only computer. If you are considering taking the plunge, go for it!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Tax Free Holidays:

Tax Free Holidays: Several states have announced "tax free holidays", where sales taxes are waived on some items purchased on those days. It is definitely a hot deal for people planning on shopping at local stores.

States which have announced tax free days as of today:
US State Dates Tax Free Items
Alabama August 4-6 Clothes under $100 School supplies under $50 Computers & software under $750 only certain participating towns
Connecticut August 20-26 Clothes under $300 per item
Florida July 22-30 Clothes $50 or less Books $50 or less School supplies $10 or less Not valid within theme parks or entertainment complexes
Georgia August 3-6 Clothes $100 or less Shoes $100 or less Personal computers or related accessories $1500 or less School supplies $20 or less Energy-efficient products $1500 or less
Iowa August 4-5 Clothes and footwear $100 or less per item
Maryland August 23-27 Most clothes and footwear $100 or less per item
Missouri August 5-7 Clothes $100 or less Footwear $100 or less School supplies $50 or less Personoal computers $3500 or less Computer peripherals $3500 or less Computer software $350 or less
New Mexico August 4-6 Clothes $100 or less Footwear $100 or less Computers $1000 or less Computer peripherals $500 or less School Supplies of any value
North Carolina August 4-6 Clothes $100 or less per item Footwear $100 or less per item School Supplies $100 or less per item Recreation Equipment $50 or less per item Computers $3500 or less Computer supplies $250 or less
South Carolina August 4-6 Clothes Clothing Accessories Footwear School supplies Computers (purchased as a whole, not individual computer peripherals) Printers & Printer Supplies Computer Software Some bath and linen products
Tennessee August 4-6 Clothes $100 or less per item School Supplies $100 or less per item Computers $1500 or less
Texas August 4-6 Clothes and Footwear $100 or less
Virginia August 4-6 Clothes $100 or less per item Footwear $100 or less per item School Supplies $20 or less per item
I hope some of you can save some money on taxes this year.
Thank you Terry Blout for this.

Cool and Illegal Wireless Hotspot Hacks

You may have heard of some of these, or maybe not. Here is how the bad guys do it. If you use WiFi, in public or at home, you need ot read this.

Security Watch from PC Magazine - Microsoft Comes Up One Patch Short

Looks like Microsoft missed another one! :( This one comes in a Power Point file and was sent via GMail. The subject line contains Chinese characters.
Does anyone need to be told if you can't read the subject, don't open it?

Hacking Digital Rights Management

"Like a creeping fog, DRM smothers more and more media in its clammy embrace, but the sun still shines down on isolated patches of the landscape."

This is a very nice summary of the cat and mouse game. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I'm glad that DRM gets cracked. The reason? Because while major works will always be preserved and moved to new formats, lesser, but still worthwhile works will not. If the DRM is not cracked these works may be lost. I also like the fact that it shows that encumbering us with DRM only hurts the legitimate consumer.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Google Accessible Search

I have several friends who are, as Google refers to them, "visually challenged". This new Google search is supposed to rate Web pages by how usable they are. Give it a try and share your comments here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Survey Finds Consumers Balk at Updating Malware Protection

Anyone who services other people's computers knows this is true. Still, I was blown away by the figures.

Read it and weep,


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

How Vonage Funds Spyware

I remember a couple mentions in chat about Skype not charging for land line calls in the U.S. and concern about Vonage's continued success. Apparentlly they are doing just fine. According to Ben Edelman, they paid Direct Revenue $31, 570 in one month in 2005, for "Spyware-Delivered Pop-Up Ads." Ben has done a very comprehensive job of documenting Vonage's use of spyware ads. We can't only blame the spyware companies, but also the companies who support spyware, with their advertising dollars. His article begins:
I ought to be a Vonage enthusiast. I support Vonage's efforts to protect network neutrality. I applaud their flexible voice over IP service and their efforts to compete with incumbent phone companies. I'm even a VoIP customer (albeit using a competitor's service).

But instead of praising Vonage, I have to criticize them -- not for their core business (which seems robust) or for their customer service (which others have repeatedly criticized), but for their reckless advertising practices. Vonage spends huge amounts on advertising -- more than $20 million per month. (source) Unfortunately, among this spending is widespread and substantial spyware-delivered advertising.

For years, my manual and automated testing have documented Vonage ads appearing in all the major spyware programs. Now that Vonage has completed its IPO -- itself promoted as a way to raise more money to buy more advertising [Do WE know anybody that bought Vonage stock?]-- this page presents twelve recent examples of Vonage ads appearing in spyware.

see the chart and the rest of the report, its disturbing. And makes me grateful for firefox blocking popups!!
How Vonage Funds Spyware

Monday, July 17, 2006

NTSB Probes Laptop Batteries in Jet Fire

Recently, there were articles and pics of a laptop exploding into flames at a conference in Japan. (It was a Dell, but the brand is not important-really.) The preliminary results of the investigation point to the battery itself as the culprit, which is why I say the laptop brand doesn't matter in this.

The link above will take you to an article in which Lithium ion batteries caused a fire when they were being shipped. They weren't even in use!

Obviously, our favorite battery technologies have some safety problems. Research is ongoing. But what happens when a laptop goes incindiary in a crowded aircraft passenger compartment? Aircraft fire fighting systems are not geared to a fire of this type, according to everything I have read. (And, no, I don't understand that, either.) Are we going to have to give up our favorite electronic devices on board aircraft? This report indicates that just having them on the aircraft, whether in the passenger compartment or in the cargo hold, might imperil the aircraft and (more importantly) the people inside.

The number of fires attributed to this type of battery is reassuringly small, but the potential for a real disaster is certainly there.

In checking this out, I've found out that not all battery research is about extending charge life and such. A decent fraction of it is dedicated to safer batteries. I didn't find news of any breakthroughs, but they could easily be making incremental progress and I missed it.


'Invisible' Rootkit Heralds Trouble Ahead

Legitimate researchers discovered this technique a month or so ago, but released very few details, for rather obvious reasons. Coders in Russia and elsewhere seem to have run with the ball and developed code that they released into the wild.

These rootkits (and there are already a couple, each with a variation or two) run inside normal processes, such as device drivers, and so are very, very hard to detect. I suspect detection is possible and those of us who do tech are going to have to scramble to keep up with the situation as it changes; not least finding and learning to use tools which can detect and remove these dangerous programs.


Tiny wireless memory chip debuts

From BBC:

A chip the size of a grain of rice that can store 100 pages of text and swaps data via wireless has been developed by Hewlett-Packard.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

OnComputers Radio show Podcast 07-16-06

This is the On Computers Radio show podcast for 07-16-06. You can listen live every Sunday from 10AM to 1PM Pacific thats 1PM to 4PM Eastern. If you prefer, you can download the same file here via ftp.

Blender 2.42 Has Been Released

The Blender Foundation has released a new version of the popular free software animation suite. It has major new features and is worth checking out.

Blender has a different user interface and it takes some getting used to. Should you stick with it, you will be rewarded with access to a wonderful toolkit capable of turning out animations on a professional scale.


340,282,366,920,938,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 new web addresses created by internet chiefs . . . so we won’t run out of space soon, then

A humorous and informative look at IPv6 and why we need it.