Saturday, February 12, 2005

Broken Links Lined With Gold for Paxfire

Here's a story that I missed almost 2 weeks ago, but it is good enough to go back to today. Remember when Verisign/Network Solutions tried to redirect any non-existent domain to its niftly little search and pay-per-click ad page? Well here is a company who is trying to sell the same thing to ISPs at the ISP level.

If my ISP discounted my service for having to put up with this nonsense I might consider it. But if I'm paying them for the privilege and get nothing but annoyance, it certainly would be time for me to find another ISP that doesn't subject me to that kind of garbage.

I really get tired of my eyeballs being a commodity for someone else to make money from.

Patch now against virus-writing clowns

Another antiivirus company with a big flaw problem. This time it is the F-secure folks with the problem. Does this stuff just feel like a never ending battle?

I haven't even posted all of them I've seen this week. There is even a trojan out there that is targeting the MS Antispyware Beta. I guess I didn't mention it because it is a beta and frankly, we've had a lot of news on the MS front this week, so I really was trying to lay of off of them just a bit because this was a deliberate attack against a beta version. Other than that, many of the reports about MS Antispy have been like this one: Microsoft's Free AntiSpyware Beta. In other words: good.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Sender Authentication Widely Used To Fool Spam Defenses

Did you think that SPF and Sender ID would stem the flow of spewage into your e-mailbox? Seems it is about as effective as a DMA friendly CAN-SPAM law. Personally I have always bought into the idea that the spammers would use the very authentication tools designed to stop them to authenticate the spam, thereby letting it breeze by any defenses the hapless end user has put in place.

Personally I have found a combination of checking e-mail against both personal and community blacklists (I find SpamCop pretty effective) and Bayesian filters to be about 98% effective. I have to hand sort the rest of it. I have very, very few false positives -- so few that it is really not an issue. Also I use an anti-spam client which will allows me to restore an e-mail deleted by mistake.

There is only one way to stop spam and that is if nobody buys anything from spam, or nobody falls for phishing. That's not going to happen anytime soon, if ever.

HP's Software Strangles Worms

This is a very cool idea. Basically if "Virus Throttle" suspects malicious code, it stops the computer from making connections and notifies the admin.

Sadly this is only available for certain HP products, but then again, the good news is that this is available for certain HP products. It will be intersting to see if this kind of thing is implemented for other systems. I suppose that depends on whether it is patented, what the license terms are, and all that other good legal IP stuff.

Microsoft to Make MSN Messenger Fixes Mandatory

This is just a heads up for users of MSN Messenger.

Hands off our Wi-Fi network!

It is to nice to see this problem illuminated.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Yahoo Releases Toolbar Beta For Firefox

As Firefox picks up steam I believe that we will be seeing more and more familiar tools being offered in Firefox versions. In my opinion, it is this sort of support from third parties which will make moving away from Internet Explorer ever easier.

Does this mean that I think that folks who love Internet Explorer don't have a right to their choice? Not at all, though the security issues surrounding ActiveX still concern me. However, the most important thing for me is that we all have more than 1 viable choice of browser on the Windows Platform. To that end, I'm cheering -- Go Firefox!

Symantec flaw leaves opening for viruses

Speaking of security, if you are running any Symantec (Norton) security products you need to make sure that they are patched. Not much for me to say. Patch first, then read the article.

Windows Desktop Security Guide

Okay; It is true I've been up all night and when I get this tired, lots of things that normally would not look good, do. Still, I read this guide to securing a Windows 2000 Professional or XP Home or Professional desktop twice and it seems to have it all. This is the common sense stuff we try to convey as often and as interestingly as possible condensed into 3 pages. Give it a look and pass it along, please.


Judge slams SCO's lack of evidence against IBM

Yes, indeedy do.

No partial summary judgement, but the legal eagles agree that this does not bode well for the SCOsters.

Sirius Says Approached Apple on Adding Service

Satellite radio fans would probably love an iPod that could also receive and record satellite radio. Obviously Apple was totally underwhelmed by the idea. Right now, XM offers the Delphi MyFi which will record up to 5 hours of radio broadcasts. What the MyFi lacks of course is a way to download and store that recorded programming to your hard drive, or the ability to upload and play recorded music or other programming, includng podcasts, to the device.

As I read this article, there was other news in the Sat radio world like this article about AirTran and XM. I wonder if AirTran will offer a full menu of XM or only offer limited service like the pared down DirecTV offerings I've experienced on Frontier. Will AirTran only offer a subset of XM channels?

And by the way, one thing that the FCC mandated, but that no one has mentioned at all lately, is satellite radio receivers with the ability to receive both XM and Sirius. As far as I know there hasn't even been a whisper of this from either company for a long, long time. Also, the rumored XM and Sirius merger that was hot news a few weeks ago has quietly sunk back below the radar.

On the XM front (which as a subscriber, I'm a little more intimate with than the Sirius front) I am wondering exactly how and on what channels XM will place Major League Baseball. I am wondering why no announcement of the final details have been made yet, though I have no doubt that the deal is secure and that the games will air. What will the sound quality be and will other channels be moved or removed in order to air the baseball? XM has been extremely tight lipped on this.

Update: Here's some info from the AirTran Web site about the XM and Elton John deal. Looks like a pretty full selection from the XM menu to me.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Microsoft releases 'critical' patches

This article from CNet announces the Windows patches that we have been anticipating this past week. They were released today.

I've already updated and had no problems. I spoke to Joe earlier in the day and he has updated, too. If you don't have Windows Update set to at least notify you when patches are available, don't forget to go to Windows Update and get your patches.

Microsoft Acquires Sybari Software

Announcement details

· Microsoft announced that is has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Sybari, a privately-held company based in East Northport, NY. Sybari security products help more than 10,000 businesses worldwide protect their messaging and collaboration servers from malicious software. Terms were not announced.
· The acquisition is part of Microsoft’s comprehensive approach to helping its customers become more secure. Enterprise customers face a complex set of attacks through their Internet-facing servers, notably their e-mail and collaboration infrastructure. In a recent ICSA Labs survey, email attachment was cited as the means of infection in 88 percent of virus incidents – even though 94 percent of those companies said they had AV protection on their email surveys. As such, there is a need for better email server-level protection.
· This acquisition reflects Microsoft’s deep commitment to security. Following deal close, support will continue to be provided for the entire current Sybari product line across all technology platforms.
· The acquisition also shows Microsoft’s continued support for the partner ecosystem. Because the Sybari antivirus solution enables the use of multiple scan engines, Microsoft will work closely with a myriad of partners to help business customers guard against viruses, worms and spam.

The press release can be found here

Frequently asked questions

What exactly is Microsoft acquiring?
Microsoft plans to acquire Sybari’s intellectual property, its employees, its facilities, its customer base, and the existing agreements that Sybari has with leading technology vendors. We will work to ensure that the agreements Sybari has with its technology partners remain intact. This will give customers more choice, but more importantly it gives them protection from the latest threats.

How big is Sybari, and how many people does it employ?
Sybari security products help more than 10,000 businesses worldwide. The company has between 275 and 300 employees. Specific details on the company’s financial and operations can be found as part of Sybari’s S1 filing.

What are your business integration plans?
Following deal close, support will continue to be provided for the entire current Sybari product line across all technology platforms. Microsoft plans to continue to license most of Sybari’s product line as well.

Why did you select Sybari for acquisition?
Sybari Antigen antivirus products help deliver reliable server-level protection and improved virus detection rates through a unique multiple scan engine approach. This gives customers choice and the most up-to-date protection possible. In addition, because Sybari products already tightly integrate with Microsoft® communication and collaboration solutions, they were an ideal candidate for this type of acquisition.

How is this acquisition related to your earlier acquisition of GeCAD?
The GeCAD acquisition enabled Microsoft to deliver cleaner tools to help customers recover after the Blaster, MyDoom, Sasser, and Download.Ject infections as well as providing the Microsoft malicious software removal tool to more than 133 million PCs and helped Microsoft deeply understand the virus problem. It also gave the company an antivirus engine which can be developed and licensed as part of Microsoft’s strategy to address the security needs of its business customers. Sybari complements that capability by adding the technology to integrate AV into collaboration and communications infrastructure. This acquisition will enable Microsoft to provide the GeCAD engine as one of the engines that customers can choose to license with the Sybari server products.

Company Profiles


Cell computer details announced. Don't hold your breath!

IBM, Sony Corp., Sony Computer Entertainment, and Toshiba Corp. said today that the companies had "powered on" the first workstation using silicon designed around the collaboratively-designed "Cell" processor, which will begin pilot production next year.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a 2002 patent described the idea of software "cells" using chunks of data that are bundled with programming code needed to process the data. The Cell computer announced today uses a dispatch computer and eight execution engines, each of which can simultaneously work on its own data. To me, the software cell concept fits the fifteen-year old definition of an "object", also defined as a package of data and processing instructions. So, let's think about the Cell computer as an architecture designed to execute object-oriented (OO) code extremely efficiently. Today's computer architectures do not run pure OO code very effectively -- the overhead costs of managing the tens of thousands of objects found in a decent sized enterprise application result in 30-second response times on even the fastest server processors available today, my sources say. So enterprise C++ and Java oriented application designs are often truncated to be sorta object-oriented in a very linear, transaction-oriented fashion that maps better to today's leading computer architectures.

Enter the Cell processor. IBM says the one-rack Cell processor-based workstation demonstrated today will perform at the 16 teraflop level -- something that required a multi-million dollar Cray supercomputer a decade ago. The IBM Power architecture-based chips are scalable. Sony invested $325 million into IBM fabrication technology to use the Cell processor in its next-generation Playstation 3 console, expected in a year.

My first reaction is that the workstation using the 8-way Cell processor is not what will appear in the placated 3 -- not by a long shot. It will be very hard to drive 8 cores at 4 GHz in a production manufacturing product in 2005. If Intel and IBM cannot do 4 GHz on mass market (or even specialized) microprocessors like Prescott, what am I missing about clock/heat issues?
The cell computer die size of 221 mm on 90 nm fabrication unveiled by IBM is absolutely HUGE and therefore hard to make -- costly too. Note that Intel's Prescott is 122 mm at 90 nm, almost 100 mm smaller per side. The cell processor chips will cost a fortune to make! Too many defects in chips that big lead to lousy yields per wafer, the basic economic measure of semiconductor production. Expensive fabrication is OK on, say, an Itanium or Power processor retailing for $3,000 for an enterprise big-iron server, but horrific on a CPU for a $150 retail Sony game console. I really doubt that Sony is going to use anything like 8-way, 221 mm dies and a 4 GHz clock in their Playstation 3 design -- the technology risk of getting the placated 3 out by early 2006 with these specs is huge. Expect a (very) slimmed down version of what IBM showed today in your next Playstation.

What Sony can do with the Cell processor is combine the functions of two complicated, expensive game console parts -- the central processor and the graphics processor unit (GPU). It should be clear now why nVidia walked away from Sony last year. The Cell processor will do the work of nVidia GPU silicon, saving chip and integration costs. In addition, the on-chip I/O capabilities of the Cell processor should reduce the chip count compared with traditional (i.e., Microsoft Xbox) designs.

What am I missing to make this pipe dream a reality? Software development tools! The mature ecosystem around any of today's (surviving) microprocessor architectures allows thousands of programmers to churn out the applications that run the world. Cell processors will have to build that ecosystem. While the learning curve is steep, the business costs and risks are highest. Say you want to develop a game for the Playstation 3? Expect to invest millions in training, development tool R&D, and the costs of porting your existing intellectual property to the new Cell processor architecture. That suggests Microsoft is betting its next generation Xbox, built with traditional software tools, will be more attractive to game developers than than the sexier Cell processor and a dearth of tools -- at least circa 2006.

All is not from scratch, however. There are numerous OO language compilers available through open source and IBM which can generate the pure OO code that will make cells hum. IBM was correct to demonstrate the first Cell processor prototype on a workstation application, as opposed to a transaction-based server application. Lots of scientific code has already been "parallelized" to run on multiple machines at once. So, the second analogy for the Cell processor is an 8-way computer "grid" on a chip. This will be attractive in visualization and desktop- and departmental number crunching -- everything from computer-aided design to life sciences to financial derivatives and Monte Carlo simulations.

This grey-haired writer remembers the 1960s announcement of the System/360, an architecture first that later became the mainframe business bonanza that generated IBM billions. If IBM and its partners do a tenth as well as the System/360, they will have hit a home run. I think they can. But the payoff of the Cell processor architecture will be measured in decades, not in 2006 market share.

Peter S. Kastner

Intel's 90 nm Prescott silicon specs.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Experts predict Firefox spyware will show up this year

This Newsforge item was forwarded to me by JohnG. As he lamented "It's also sad, but we should have known this was coming."

Googling the Bottom Line

I read this article last night and came back to it again this morning. That must mean I gotta post it. Anyway, this is about the fascinating world of Google results and what good placement in Google results can mean in business dollars to a company. This is part of the reason that we have to deal with the link spam and other stuff I expounded on in a previous post here.

Funny thing is that in my own business I've played the game straight and have made no attempt to "cook" the results. I've spent no time or money trying to come out on top. Yet if I google for "airplane antennas" (without the quotes), my very own business is the first result; and to date, has been that way for a long, long time. This proves that being the top link to a simple, pertinent search phrase doesn't always send mega-bucks your way. Or in other words, don't call me asking for money just because I have a top google listing. Then again, I'm not in any hurry to try to get a lower placed listing, either.

Gmail gearing up for full launch?

I've just checked my Gmail account, and it's true. I have 50 invitations sitting there.

I've been very pleased with Gmail and the price is right. The fact that it is now both POP and Web based makes it a real valuable tool. Needless to say, my Gmail account hasn't been my usual free, anti-spam, throwaway account. The 1000 MB of storage has made it very handy when friends want to transfer a large file to me (and they can't figure out how to use FTP -- which is most of my friends).

Blade Servers Begin to Catch On

With 2004 sales north of $1 billion and a 5% market share, blade servers are accelerating up the adoption-curve hockey stick. Author of this link, Timothy Prickett Morgan, asks why the adoption rate isn't even faster? The answer is IT inertia. Even the next best thing -- virtualization, dual cores, name your own favorite -- just takes lots of time to work its way into decade-long IT buying cycles. Today's rack-mounted servers replaced stand-alone Unix or tower x86 servers (e.g., the Windows NT generation). Yet the adoption cross-over from tower to rack-mount only took place three years ago, almost a decade after Compaq introduced the first Proliant rack-mount server.

At the end of this decade, the hot ticket will be four-way blades with 16 processor cores on 4 microprocessors. With then-maturing hardware and software virtualization capabilities coupled to better remote, hands-off systems management and operations, I predict each blade will be able to replace an entire rack -- and sometimes two racks -- of today's installed servers of circa 2002. That means a single, full blade cage will be able to free up literally hundreds of square feet of datacenter real estate. It will be the Storage Area Network that becomes the big real estate consumer as server floor space declines. But a parallel trend towards high-density SATA drives for enterprise applications will allow for much denser (but slower retrieval and lower duty cycle) storage in the same five-year timeframe. With this increasing density, the server capacity for a pretty good size enterprise, say 5,000 employees, would fit in a standard 42" rack. Just be careful not to kick out the power cord.

Peter S. Kastner

Who is Peter S. Kastner?

Peter Kastner has over thirty-five years experience in information-technology business and market development, management, and entrepreneurial success. He is a regular radio show host and blog contributor at the OnComputers web site.

He began his career in product development and marketing for applications software products at Wang Laboratories. For about a decade, he was a consultant and program manager with Arthur D. Little, Inc., where he was actively involved in the management and delivery of complex technology development and systems integration projects that spanned the manufacturing, banking and financial services, health care, and government markets in the U.S. and Latin America. He led Prime Computer’s market development into commercial markets, and managed marketing and sales programs at Stratus Computer from initial product launch to beyond the company’s IPO. He later was a marketing executive with Digital Equipment Corp., where he led the company’s entry into new commercial computing markets with standardized computer performance benchmarks.

In 1988, Kastner co-founded Aberdeen Group, a technology market research and consulting firm. His consulting experience includes more than 100 projects. He built the company’s practices in PCs and digital lifestyle, databases, application development, knowledge management, e-commerce, and enterprise business applications. In 1998, he became chief operating officer. The company tripled revenues in three years. He is a member of the board.

Peter S. Kastner is a director at Vericours, Inc. He can be reached at

IBM iSeries Customers in Religious Battle: Java or .Net?

Here's a mature platform with an admirable pedigree: the IBM AS/400 nee iSeries. With several hundred thousand installed in an 18 year architectural life, the iSeries is still alive -- if not kicking -- after 18 years while former competitors like the DEC VAX are on the way to the computer dustbin.

What's interesting is how many iSeries sites are "RPG locked in amber", unable or unwilling to move up the modernity curve with an object-oriented development environment (OODE) such as Java or .Net. By not moving, iSeries shops become a (still modest) risk to IBM that they will be poached by a competitor, likely a more open platform with, say, industry-standard servers and Linux or Windows Server. But moving to a new OODE is beyond the training budget and sometimes the skill set of many iSeries shops. In essence, these shirt-sleeves shops have no time or dollars to go learn a new OODE, let alone migrate the shop to a new software application set. In this scenario, IBM loses the opportunity to sell its Java-core Websphere suite. Microsoft too has a tough sell as the essence of the business proposition is "surround with Windows and then migrate".

Why care? The iSeries is a multi-billion dollar global market. It won't run green-screen applications with RPG forever. Tried to hire an RPG programmer out of college recently? They do not exist. Therefore, iSeries shops must change eventually. IBM and Microsoft are jousting over these customers by playing OODE religion cards to get at the software heart and souls of the iSeries market.

Peter S. Kastner


This is the On Computers podcast for 02-06-2005. If you prefer, you can download the the same file here via ftp.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Nod 32 Info

Just an fyi guys, Nod will scan rar files. As well as several other compression formats. Hope this helps y'all out.

Which microprocessor for your next toaster?

All the major microprocessor manufacturers are drooling over the next generation of digital lifestyle electronics, driven by digital CPUs, stored programs, operating systems and all the development tools available for servers and desktops. Units will be measured in billion over a decade, so market planners are paying more than the usual attention. While digital toasters are not on the 2005 Christmas list, I think this trend is worth watching.

Peter S. Kastner

Napster takes rental media to portables

Gearing up for a US$30 million anti-Apple iPod marketing campaign, Napster wants customers to download music to MP3 players as well as listening on their PCs -- all legally. The dig against Apple is that the entire Napster library is available, while iPod content costs $.99 a song (at least to do it legally :-)

While rental content has no yet caught on, I continue to take the pulse. Napster and its competitors like Rhapsody (Real Networks) offer online playlist creation, entire artist catalogs, and genre Internet radio casting. But stop paying the montly fee and all the bits are useless.

This is a topic worth watching.

Peter S. Kastner

IBM PC buyer Lenovo has piddling profits

With profits of $42 million in its latest, China's Lenovo will take three or four decades to pay off the $1.25 billion the company will pay for IBM's PC business, a pending deal. Revenues declined to 6.31 billion Hong Kong dollars ($809 million) from 6.55 billion Hong Kong dollars a year ago. Given the rapid growth of China's PC market -- the fastest growing in the world -- this is not a good report for a company which needs to make a global name for quality and stability, property's most cited by IBM customers.

Peter S. Kastner

HP invents transistor replacement?

By criss-crossing very thin platinum, HP thinks it may have a 2-3 nanometer potential replacement for the transistor. Since the transistor may not scale well below 33 nanometers -- in two generation from today's 90 nm -- HP's lab work may prove to be seminal.

Peter S. Kastner

Slashdot | Microsoft Seeks Latitude/Longitude Patent

Slashdot | Microsoft Seeks Latitude/Longitude Patent

More news of the strange, this time via Slashdot. I could say, perhaps Microsoft has lost its bearings? Or maybe, in a coodinated effort, Microsoft attempts to patent global grid? Or perhaps we just ought to throw in the proverbial towel and note that Microsoft seeks to patent the world. Oh, but we already knew that ;-)

Pay radio gets personal | CNET

Pay radio gets personal | CNET

This isn't really new, news. It's just that the NYT has gotten around to commenting on satellite radio in general, and XM's MyFi, in particular. Of course we posted a link to a copy of the article that doesn't require a registration in order to read it.

Cattle... er, Casting Call for Bloggers

Do you like tech? Do you like to weigh in with your 2 cents about IT news? Are you a regular participant in some aspect of the On Computers show, like OC or ICUG IRC chat or the OC newsgroup? Then do we have a job for you. Yep, you too could become a contributor to this blog.

What's the commitment? How about one link to an interesting IT or other geek culture story that has not yet appeared here with your personal commentary about that story per week. Take a look at the stories so far and you'll get an idea. And of course original, personal tech stories are always welcome. All we ask is that you keep it clean and that you link to the pertinent stories and comment on them in your own words. In other words, don't post the work of others as your own.

Interested? Just click on my profile in the contributors list, get my e-mail address, and drop me a line. Tell me who you are, how long you've been participating in our chat or newsgroups, and your nick in the chat or newsgroups. Last but not least, tell me why you'd like to blog with us and the way in which you think you would most like to contribute.

Joining the On Computers blogging team will require that you sign up for a free Blogger account, so keep that in mind before you apply.