Saturday, July 16, 2005

Podcast Now Supports iTunes

For all you iTunes users, our On Computers podcasts should now show up as a listing. At least with our next post which should be tomorrow. iTunes users here we come!

PCWorld Firefox Continues to Spread

Alternative browser continues to grow its market share at the expense of Internet Explorer.
As Firefox approaches the 10 percent market share milestone, it is expected to gain "significant traction" once its acceptance grows among corporations, according to
I'm a diehard Internet Explorer person and I have to admit, at least half the time now I use Firefox instead of IE.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Worm spells double trouble for PCs

Lebreat is a mass-mailer and it installs a backdoor for hackers. It is seen as a medium level threat. The ususal "be cautious when opening e-mail attachments, apply security patches and run up-to-date antivirus software" advice applies.

United Nations calls for US net pull out

Of course they do. And the US will ignore them at best. I predict that there will be no UN takeover anytime soon. I hope, but do not expect, that in the meantime ICANN will address the concerns voiced by the rest of the world.

IBM officially kills OS/2, suggests switch to Linux

Just goes to show what I don't know. I had no idea that OS/2 was still being sold, no less supported. Sales will end December 23, 2006 and support will end December 31, 2006. RIP OS/2.

The Clicker: Microsoft’s OPM for the masses

Here we go. DRM comes to your future monitor with the upcoming Windows "Longhorn". Don't have the right monitor? Don't worry. That hi-resolution premium content you just purchased will show up as lower-res content. So what's the point of paying more for hi-res premium content when you can illegally download the low-res stuff for free? Well the illegal part of it is a prob, but other than that only those who can afford both the premium content and the monitor to view it, will do so. The rest of us will manage to do without.

Am I the only one who sees a problem with this business model? Just as Podcasts fill the free and legal audio void, free and legal video will also fill that void, thereby enabling those who don't want to be bound by DRM and such to stay entertained.

Except for the PATRIOT Act, the public library is looking more and more entertaining. In other words, there is one way not to be held captive by the content providers with their onorous DRM -- don't buy their content. Just like digital TV, they may be selling but the masses may not be buying.

SCO e-mail: No 'smoking gun' in Linux code

I present this for your illumination without furhter comment, except perhaps, "I told you so."

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Speed of Apple Intel dev systems impress developers

When Apple announced they were transitioning to Intel-based machines, there were some who worried aloud about whether or not they would perform as well as the PPC-based machines. Appleinsider is reporting that early development machines are satisfying those developers who have them.

They further report that "Rosetta", the virtual machine that allows native PPC Mac OS X applications to run on the Intel hardware is "seamless" and fast.

Those of you who worried about the new Mac's performance might rest a little easier after reading this.


Microsoft's antitrust concessions are 'pointless'

Well, I had hoped the remedies worked out between the EC and Microsoft would result in some concrete gains. The ZDNet Australia article linked to above quotes a consultant at SerNet, a German open-source consultancy firm as saying the participation of Microsoft in the remedies is merely restating publicly available information and entirely insufficient to address the EC concerns, which demanded disclosure of complete interoperability information with Microsoft's server operating systems.

Read it and judge for yourselves.


Optimus keyboard

"This just looks insane, a keyboard using OLED or electrophosphorescence to display keys. If you want to be amazed take a look,[snip] but there is plenty of pictures showing OLED in action." I clicked on the english version, though the post has references to the russian version.

O'Reilly: Seven Steps to Noise-Free Digital Audio

Since creating your own podcasts seems to be the "in" thing now.. and I'm so picky about external noises (typing, breathing, etc., etc. to clarify ;) ) I thought that this link would have universal interest. Or maybe not....

For your continued enlightenment...

MissM at home, finally.

Cybercrooks lure citizens into international crime

This is a frightening story of how easy it is to get unwittingly sucked into criminal activity. It is a good but long read. Be prepared to spend some time with it. The bottom line is that ads for some kinds of jobs should be looked at very skeptically.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

AMD Turns a Profit

AMD Reports Second Quarter Results with EPS of $0.03 Driven by Sales of $1.260 Billion - - Microprocessor Business Establishes New All-time Quarterly Records in Total Sales, Server and Mobile Processor Sales, Gross Margin, and Operating Income.
  • Microprocessor sales were up 38% year-over-year.
  • Opteron server microprocessor sales were up 89% as enterprises feel more comfortable with AMD at the heart of corporate systems.
  • Mobile microprocessor sales were at record levels. There are 60 design wins for the Turion mobile chip.
  • Microprocessor selling prices were up 6% in the quarter, which certainly helped gross margins.
  • Memory sales were down 31%, a sign of the brutal competitive market for semi-conductor memory.

AMD was forecast by analysts to show a loss for the quarter, so being profitable is a positive sign.

Apple's Success is No One Hit Wonder

CUPERTINO, California—July 13, 2005—Apple® today announced financial results for its fiscal 2005 third quarter ended June 25, 2005, reporting the highest revenue and earnings in the Company’s history. Apple posted a net quarterly profit of $320 million, or $.37 per diluted share, and revenue of $3.52 billion. These results compare to a net profit of $61 million, or $.08 per diluted share, and revenue of $2.01 billion in the year-ago quarter, and represent revenue growth of 75 percent and net profit growth of 425 percent. Gross margin was 29.7 percent, up from 27.8 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 39 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

Apple shipped 1,182,000 Macintosh® units and 6,155,000 iPods during the quarter (up over a million units sequentially from the previous quarter), representing 35 percent growth in Macs and 616 percent growth in iPods over the year-ago quarter.
  • iTunes Store now represents about 5% of the U.S. music market. Almost 500 million songs sold.
  • Over a million podcast subscriptions in first two days
  • Apple store retail sales are up 56% with 12.2 million visitors last quarter
  • Education market is up 16% to the highest level in 9 years
  • Gross profit and net profit are at the highest levels in years.

First, we can discount the rumors of a couple of weeks ago that iPod sales are off. Au contraire. Inventories are within the planned 4-6 weeks of stock. The "better value" iPods launched two weeks ago -- lower price with color LCD and photo capability -- should continue to drive consumers to Apple.

The overall iPod ecosystem has no close competitors, period, as there are over 1,000 iPod-related products available. Apple in just a couple of years has become a force to be reckoned with in the entire music industry, as any artist with a chance at an iTunes Store song pane will tell you. This opens up opportunities for further differentiation.

The significant uptick in Mac sales is also fortuitous. But its not just the iPod halo effect: iPod has no impact on the K-12 education market, for instance.

With an entrenched position in music that is still expanding, a strong professional graphics and video market position, and renewed respect for the value and quality of the Mac line -- and that certainly includes OS X 10.4, Apple is on a roll.

The current quarter should be the strongest of the fiscal year, as Apple and the rest of the industry are in high gear chasing back-to-school sales.

All in all, an excellent quarter that shows Apple is back.

Patch Tuesday: Microsoft and Firefox Fixes Posted

The Microsoft fixes are labelled "critical". Since Microsoft says some of the flaws already have known exploits, it would be a very good idea to stay up to date on security patches this month.

McAfee Virtual Cybercrime Report Paints Grim Picture

Some of the report's most compelling highlights include:

  • The FBI estimates that cybercrime cost about $400 billion in 2004.
  • In an investigation, codenamed "Operation Firewall," U.S. and Canadian authorities announced the arrest of 28 people from six countries involved in a global organized cybercrime ring. They operated Websites to buy and sell credit card information and false identities. They bought and sold almost 1.7 million stolen credit card numbers. Of these stolen credit cards, financial institutions have estimated their losses to be $4.3 million.
  • The use of pseudonyms or online identities provides an anonymity that is attractive to criminals. Sources estimate that perhaps only 5% of cybercriminals are ever caught or convicted.

EC Jumps in on AMD Suit

Yesterday's news, but worth a comment nonetheless: the antitrust lawsuit by AMD against Intel now is now playing out in the U.S., Japan, and Europe. The steady drip, drip, drip of unfavorable news is a PR nightmare, for sure. It will likely continue for years, given the slow pace of the judicial system. It will be very difficult for Intel to emerge with all its good-will and credibility intact.

Spyware, Adware and Security, Among Other Things

More and more journalists, academic studies and consultants are pronouncing that Internet users are increasingly wary of "spyware" and "adware". These studies also reveal consumers are more than a little fuzzy on what the terms mean. The confusion is not helped by the fact that the terms can sometimes be used interchangeably in perfect propriety. The experts argue endlessly about the definition in conventions of academics and corporate boohoos.

The general population of Internet users may not know exactly what it is, but they know they don't like it. Their machines slow to a crawl, they are forced to click through ads to do their work or pursue their pleasures, sometimes seemingly endlessly. They worry about trojan horse programs stealing their personal data and making theft of their identity possible.

Businesses of every size now see spyware and adware, no matter the definitions, as a major problem. And trojan horses have been discovered in Isreal custom designed to facilitate industrial espionage. It must be pointed out that this incident did not involve files obtained from the Internet. Instead, they were spread on physical media using some fairly simple social engineering. But the lesson is clear: The machines we use in so much of our life threaten to do us harm at the hands of others.

Recently, I read where an officer of a company which distributes adware said consumers have to be educated on the difference between adware and spyware and other malicious programs. What I took from that told me he thought that if consumers were so educated, they would tolerate adware much more readily.

I have news for him; Computer use is often an intensely personal experience and the majority of people resent ANY intrusion into it. Don't believe me? Look at the proliferation of ad and popup blockers. Only the most technically inept are not aware of their availability and, in my personal experience (which may or may not be typical) adding them to the machine is THE most often requested software upgrade.

We don't just dislike popup ads. We resent them deeply. Hate is probably not too strong a term for the way we feel. The same goes for those animated Flash presentations you insist on putting in the middle of texts we want to read. I will read and occasionally react to a tastefully placed advertisement. It's not as if I think advertising is bad. I do not. I just don't wish to be forced to deal with it, have it detract from my surfing experience or leave anything on my machine, no matter what it is. I have yet to find anyone who disagrees with me on this, though I admit I haven't asked anyone I know in the online advertising trade.

There are issues of who gets to control whose computer, as well. But the vast majority of users aren't really aware of these. They just want to be able to view the content they choose without wading through layers of ads.

CNet's is reporting adware companies are trying to clean up their act and image. The driving force in this is the specter of federal legislation and nothing I've found signals anything like a moral re-awakening on the part of the adware folks. They're just afraid of possible legal consequences. In cases where companies have actually posted accurate details in licenses and made uninstallation of the adware easy, their penetration (in number of installations) has gone 'way down. There is a lesson in this, but no one I know expects these companies to hear it.


Questions About Intel's Fortran Compiler

There was a link to this in The Inquirer, this morning. I found it interesting.

It seems Intel's compiler for Fortran 77 and Fortran 90 produces code that looks for the Intel trademark and if it doesn't find it, refuses to enable several optimizations, regardless of whether or not the chip it does find is capable of using them or not. Note that this is NOT the usual cpuid routine, but something hidden. The code so produced runs much more slowly or segfaults on AMD processors.

The "bug" has been fixed, but the compiler still does not use cpuid for identifying the processor. Intel claims it was a mistake. Various observers label it a dirty trick. Read it and make up your own mind.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A quickie RE: Spyware

Saw this on infoworld. Thought it was interesting. I wish all involved good luck.

InternetWeek | Firefox Users Sound Off: Fix Those Bugs!

200 users of firefox were interviewed for issues with firefox. Most of the problems are extensions, this article has a link to troubleshoot your extension problems and some solutions for firefox developers. I am on the road home now, and don't have time to read the whole thing, so I'm posting it here ;)
Not to mention I think its useful for all firefox users...

MissM in Louisiana

Monday, July 11, 2005

Good News for NCR: Dell Loses CIO to HP

Why is it good for NCR that HP snagged Dell's CIO, Randy Mott? The answer is in Randy's (impressive) resume. He was the Walmart CIO who used NCR Teradata systems to create the supply-chain gorilla that ate the retail market with the industry's best real-time decision-making systems built on an operational data store. Then Randy was lured to Dell to do the same thing with Teradata for Dell's business, which gets gold stars from everyone for operational efficiency. Now Randy has been enticed to HP, which certainly has many efficiency improvements to be made, by HP's CEO, Mark Hurd. Mark, of course, used to court Randy when Mark was CEO of NCR.

So expect that HP will (quietly) become a major Teradata customer. In my opinion, there is no better technology for creating the complex, near real-time transaction systems that drive supplier-facing and customer-facing operational excellence. Part of that opinion rests on the deep and strategic use of Teradata by industry-leading companies who are betting their business on NCR Teradata. (For the record, I have no financial relationship with NCR).

-- Peter S. Kastner

Cybercrooks lure citizens into international crime

The USA Today story is chilling. Lured by "make money in your spare time at home" ads at places like and in local newspapers, US citizens are being lured into the web of foreign -- think Nigeria, Eastern Europe and Russia -- Internet criminals who trans-ship expensive goods and cash out of the country. All with stolen identities and credit. Everything, starting with the dummy web site URL, is paid for with stolen credit. Untraceable.

One of the big tricks is to go online with stolen ID and change the notification address, then ask for a higher credit limit. You can imagine what happens next. How large banks miss an obvious check is beyond me. Bank stockholders, who are paying billions in fraudulent charge reimbursements, ought to be asking why banks do not send an address change notification to the old address. That way the people whose ID is stolen have a clue when their bank statement is changed to Pocohontas, Iowa. The banks are acting like fools or knaves.

Lenovo links with blade desktop maker

We've been hearing about blade servers for a couple years now. Blade desktops are a relatively new development that, until now, has largely slipped under the radar. Certainly I was only vaguely aware of their existence.

Companies are hot on the idea because the rack concept saves precious office and/or cubicle space. OEMs are in favor of it because, just like in servers, they tend to lock-in customers to a brand because the blades are not interchangeable between various makers. You need a rack from the company who makes your blades and this makes switching brands much more expensive. Given a well thought-out setup, blades are also easier to service because you just jerk out the offending unit, plug in the replacement and restore from the storage appliances. There's no need to disrupt someone's office.

Since they took over IBM's PC division, Lenovo seems intent on offering a truly complete line of computers and this is proof. It's entirely possible the broad spectrum of their offerings will quickly overcome any hesitancy about the brand being under new ownership. In short; it looks as if they have all the smart moves on tap.


A MOST Alarming Privacy Threat

Okay, everybody; listen up.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in which they point out that many web sites are selling information protected by law, such as drivers license information, postal box information, cell and long-distance phone records.

This kind of information has been used in the past by stalkers to find victims they subsequently murdered, which is why it is protected by law.

The link above is to a short article in The Inquirer and there is a link to the actual complaint on EPIC's web site. I urge you to read both. This one is not rampant paranoia. This is a real threat, by any standard.


Zlib Security Bug is Being Addressed

Zlib is a set of compression and decompression routines upon which many open source and proprietary applications depend. It has had problems before, but they've been fixed quickly. As usage of the library grows and it finds it's way into more applications, the flaws affect more and more of the software we use.

Most Linux and BSD distributions, some Microsoft products and many applications from all over use this set of functions. Gentoo, Debian, Mandriva and others have already issued patches. I urge anyone using Linux, BSD or any application which uses PNG (Portable Network Graphics) format images to check for updates pretty much continuously until they get one for this problem.

It is a hard vulnerability to exploit, but with the increasing sophistication of attackers, it WILL be exploited. Get your patches as fast as you possibly can.

Also, some older Microsoft products use this library of functions and are vulnerable. Watch for updates to them, as well.


OnComputers Podcast 07-10-05

This is the On Computers podcast for 07-10-2005. If you prefer, you can download the same file here via ftp.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Your Firewall Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore!

In this article, the author argues that a firewall is a "dangerous distraction". His point is important. The firewall is not the be-all and end-all of security any more. And it hasn't been for quite a

There are other things that are equally important and perhaps chief among them is user education and enforcement of policies, both security and otherwise, that foster a safe environment. Smaller businesses are particularly prone to this problem; once they've invested in an expensive firewall, they assume their security quotient has risen significantly, when in fact it may not have advanced the cause at all.

This is worth a read. It applies to the home network and small business as well as larger entities. Security is a state of mind as well as a state of being.