Saturday, June 10, 2006

Microsoft to ease up on piracy check-ins

Now that the bright light of publicity has shone on the Windows Genuine Advantage program, Microsoft is backing away from it. First, they'll go to bi-weekly reporting, then discontinue it entirely.

There is a discontinuity in all this. If the WGA tool is as benign as the company says it is, why are then intending to discontinue it? If it is not, why haven't researchers found it before? It's just a feeling, but I'll wager there is more to this than we have been told and it is not necessarily bad doings by Microsoft. I am wondering if someone hasn't figured out how to either spoof WGA into accepting counterfeit copies or to attack a system running XP with the WGA software installed. Hopefully, we will find out soon.


No fix for 'critical' hole in Windows 98, ME | CNET

"Microsoft will not fix a serious flaw in Windows 98 and Windows Millennium Edition because a patch could break other applications"
Well for you diehards that can't live without your Windoiws9X. It's time to join the 21st century.

Windows 98, 98SE and ME: Information about Support Lifecycle and MS06-015

In this TechNet blog entry, Christopher Budd writes that it is not feasible to repair certain vulnerabilities in Windows Explorer as found in Windows 98, 98SE and Millennium Edition (ME). Windows Explorer in the NT derivatives, Windows 2000 and XP, is able to be repaired to cope with the vulnerabilities in question. Hence, Microsoft is urging folks to upgrade, rather than stick with these old operating systems.


Crave Talk: Is Nintendo the apple of Apple's eye?

It's a rumor and not much more. A very interesting rumor, to be sure, but only that. Idle speculation is another term that applies. The "logic" in the article linked to above is definitely weak enough to be ignored and tantalizing to the point of some folks wanting it to be true.


Friday, June 09, 2006

Turn your $60 router into a $600 router - Lifehacker

This is a great idea, I have heard there were some Linux hacks for the firmware on some Linusys Wireless Routers. Here is a "How To:" on how to upgrade your firmware and then tweak your router.
Please be careful you can make a nice blue and black paper weight flashing your router's firmware. However if you do it right, these are very nice tweaks.

Intel pledges 60 per cent price cuts

The implication is that we should hold off buying new machines until the price cuts take effect. (Maybe the cuts will be drastic enough to offset part of the expected tariff for Vista.)

Actually, this is part of Intel's counter to AMD's recent gains in market share. The prospect impresses me, but evidently the folks at the stock market missed the announcement as Intel's stock price fell 3 sessions running.


Super Battery

Longer life, vastly shorter recharge times and they might not wear out. What's not to like? It's a simple idea utilizing carbon nanotubes. Check out the link above. It sounds marvelous and, though it really is rocket science, it is nowhere near as remote as most of this sort of technology is. We might see it relatively soon.


RIAA can fine you if you install Kazaa

No comment. I couldn't equal this one if I tried.


Bumper crop of Microsoft patches on the way

"Microsoft plans to release on Tuesday a dozen security bulletins with fixes for flaws." Make sure you do your Windows Updates this coming Tuesday!

Linux UMPC Updated

It's not just Microsoft who is interested in Ultra-Mobile PCs (UMPCs) though they are certainly the largest force moving them toward the marketplace.

XYZ has a review of Pepper Pad's Linux powered UMPC. It looks very attractive and is far and away the lowest priced device in that market segment. And the list of functions, along with equipment, is impressive enough to have me wanting one.

I wonder if they'll give me one for review? I'm surely going to ask.

Check it out at the link above.


Seagate announces hybrid, encrypted 2.5" drives

It is happening. The surplus and thus low price of NAND flash memory is encouraging new storage products, just as we had predicted. No, I'm not bragging. It was really sort of a no-brainer.

There are going to be a LOT of new products incorporating flash memory. This is just one use for it. Look for a bunch of others coming out that we probably hadn't thought of.


For Dell, industry standard now includes Linux

The upshot is that 25% of Dell's enterprise business is now running Linux.

Even as Linux grows, it loses market share to Windows servers, running either Apache or Microsoft's web server. The figures are somewhat skewed by Go Daddy's recent move to all Windows operation. Without that factored in, Windows is still taking share.

The reason? There are not enough Linux techs to go around. An organization can find technicians qualified and able to run Windows well and with reasonable security quite easily. Linux techs are harder to find. I, personally, have seen 4 or 5 organizations move away from Linux to Windows or Solaris because of the technician problem within the last 12 months. Neither the economic or quality advantages of Linux matter if an organization cannot find someone to run the systems for them.


Vista Sheds Yet Another Feature

The latest feature to be stripped out of Microsoft's upcoming Vista operating system is PC to PC synchronization.

Microsoft cites quality concerns, while the scuttlebutt says it is because a large part of the code would need re-writing to be secure. Whichever it is, Microsoft has a problem.

Technically oriented observers have been down on the delays and continuously shrinking feature list for quite a while now. After all the fuss, even the man or woman on the street, who generally could care less about operating systems, are now starting to remark upon Microsoft's "failure" to produce a viable product. It is very plain that it will take a LOT of doing for MS to overcome it's ever more sullied reputation.


Microsoft product phones home every day

I feel like humming Darth Vader's theme -- you know -- the evil empire.

Just when I think I like Microsoft, they pull something like this. Even better, once you install WGA you can't uninstall it. So there it goes reporting back to MS each day without telling you what it is reporting or how often -- until they got caught that is.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Six Hosting Companies Most Reliable Hoster in May

Sometimes you just stumble upon a good story. I had gone to Netcraft to see what it was reporting for some hosted domains I manage and I saw this headline. I'm pleased to see that many of the hosts are ones that I and my friends use and recommend. In fact, Rackspace is on of the hosts that On Computers uses and they ranked a very respectable second.

The six-way tie is a first for the reliability survey, as three and even four providers have shared the top position in the past. The showing reflects a strong month for hosting reliability, as the winners each had just 0.01 percent of their DNS responses fail, just a hair short of a perfect showing. All six companies have finished atop the survey at least once previously.

What is also neat is that among the top hosts this month. all use Linux and FreeBSD. Want to know who they are? You'll have to read the article to find out.

Now if Blogger were only as realiable. Then again the price is right. (Blogger has been out to sluggish the past 24 hours so if you don't see us posting much it is because there have been serious technical difficulties.) Fortunately the actual blog at seems to have remained up.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Australian IT - Microsoft takes on net nasties (double click | David Frith, JUNE 06, 2006)

I'd seen this a week or so ago, and was too busy to post it. But, I thought it was hysterical. How many of us have been here???
MICROSOFT executives love telling stories against each other. Here's one that platforms vice-president Jim Allchin told at a recent Windows Vista reviewers conference about chief executive Steve Ballmer.

It seems Steve was at a friend's wedding reception when the bride's father complained that his PC had slowed to a crawl and would Steve mind taking a look.

Allchin says Ballmer, the world's 13th wealthiest man with a fortune of about $18 billion, spent almost two days trying to rid the PC of worms, viruses, spyware, malware and severe fragmentation without success.

He lumped the thing back to Microsoft's headquarters and turned it over to a team of top engineers, who spent several days on the machine, finding it infected with more than 100 pieces of malware, some of which were nearly impossible to eradicate.

If misery loves company, Ballmer has a lot of it. :)

Australian IT - Microsoft takes on net nasties (double click | David Frith, JUNE 06, 2006)

Slashdot | The Worst Bill You've Never Heard Of

Slashdot | The Worst Bill You've Never Heard Of
I have enough license for my computer to run, why do I need another one to use it?

More Linux updates

Hope you guys ain't getting tired of this. :-). Both Ubuntu and Arklinux had updates last week. Ubuntu I was able to do an upgrade while running it. Pretty cool. It went fine. Only had to re-enable MP3's. So, a nice "attaboy" for the Ubuntu folks. Arklinux I re-installed. So far so good. Thanks Arklinux folks.

Google Spreadsheets Sneak Peek

For a company that professes to be only mildly interested in offering an office suite online, Google sure is accumulating a bunch of components, aren't they? First was Writely, an online word processor that allows collaborative document generation and editing. Now it's a spreadsheet that handles Microsoft file formats and allows up to 10 collaborators at a time to work on the document.

I'm done speculating on all this, but it does walk like a duck, quacks like a duck and for all I can tell.............


Dell to become a bank

Don't mind the headlines. Without the hysteria it just means Dell is going to start acting like a car company and financing the purchase of what they build. It could be a good deal for all concerned, especially if Dell uses lower interest loans on entry level machines to open computing to those who might otherwise not be able to afford it.

There is potential for profit and the scheme might even help improve customer service. After all; you don't want a frustrated customer defaulting on a loan upon which you hold the note.


New Microsoft E-Mail Client Gets Ads

This is the first revenue generating part of Windows Live announced, if I'm not mistaken. The article posits it as an eventual replacement for Outlook Express, which makes a lot of sense.


Something Untoward in the Latest Yahoo Messenger

This is a personal and anecdotal story, but here's what happened. I just downloaded the latest version of Yahoo Messenger (msgr75us.exe). The first thing I had to do to install it was to turn of Data Execution Protection in Windows. I've had to do that with a few older programs, but what is up with this in a brand new version of Yahoo Messenger? Just how are they burrowing into my computer?

Something smells bad about this. Add to that the fact it crashed on the install in spite of me giving it a pass through DEP, and the fact that it required a Macromedia download when I finally got the install to proceed on the third try, and I got rid of it. I went back to version seven. (

This version includes an annoying animated ad at the bottom of the contacts list that I'm unable to hide. That was just the frosting on the Yahoo Messenger crud cake. And the cherry on top is the AT&T co-branding -- yuk! As to the ad, I don't mind looking at an ad in return for a service, but the minute you flash it at me it annoys me and I will do just about anything to get rid of it. I did.

Yahoo Messenger never has been the best of the best, but IMHO right now the current version is worse than useless. And I ask again, just why does it need DEP privileges? Something stinks here. I think I'll run Rootkit Revealer just to be on the safe side.

UPDATE: For the time being, you can get the last stable version (7.02) of Yahoo Messenger here. FYI no version is bug free, but this is the best IMHO.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Lenovo deletes Linux

I have to wonder why this is a story and conclude it's just Microsoft's marketing monies at work and signals Lenovo's move into the top tier of manufacturers in Microsoft's eyes.

There are very few PC companies supporting Linux (as opposed to server makers, most of whom support Linux). HP offers Mandriva Linux in France in what can only be thought of as an experiment in offering Linux and support in a small but ready market. Local or regional "white box" PC makers sometimes support it, but none of the majors do so on the desktop or notebooks they offer.

The problem PC companies have with offering Linux is two-fold. First, they'll probably lose MS marketing monies. Second, they have no support structure in place and building up one would be both expensive and time consuming. They state there is not enough demand for Linux, which is true enough when you consider they mean there is not enough demand to quickly pay for the increased infrastructure they would need AND replace the MS marketing money that would be lost. What we in the trenches see as substantial demand is not adequate to their needs. It's as simple as that.


Update; Lenovo is now back-tracking frantically. They will continue to offer Linux on their business notebooks, known as the "ThinkPad" models. Considering that it took diligent searching to find their Linux offerings before and that they seemed to discourage the choice of it with unseemly vigor, this is hardly good news for Linux fans. Still, it is there if you want or need it. ZDNet has a story about it, here.

OnComputers Radio show Podcast 06-04-06

This is the On Computers Radio show podcast for 06-04-06. If you prefer, you can download the same file here via ftp.
Due to internet problems we were late starting this morning and the audio is not up to par for us.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Don't upgrade Web software, just keep improving it | By Jon Udell

When I logged in to my bank’s online system to pay some bills last night, I was greeted with the following message: “Bill payment system upgrade completed.”
Uh-oh. That’s a message I don’t want to see.

Thin-client software delivered through the Web can improve gradually and continuously, and that is one of its greatest virtues. When we could ship upgrades only once every year or two, we had no choice but to batch up the changes in ways that were guaranteed to disrupt the work habits of the people using our applications. But now we can trickle-feed those changes so that people can gradually adapt to them and we can more carefully monitor and adjust their experiences.

Unfortunately my bank’s bill payment service provider doesn’t operate that way. Along with a big-bang release of its back-end service, which added a variety of new features, it switched to an all-new Web interface. As a result, it took me a surprisingly long time to rediscover how to do the most basic thing -- namely, pay a bill.

Hint: The link that leads to the bill payment window should probably be labeled “Pay bill.” Or, at the very least, that link’s anchor title -- that is, the text that pops up when you hover over the link -- ought to say “Pay bill” rather than “Opens a new window.”

It gets worse. The old system would queue up payments from multiple accounts in a single screen. The new system, with “simpler navigation that makes paying bills easier,” won’t let me do that. Now I have to make payments from my household account in one batch, and from my business account in another. The forklift upgrade didn’t just temporarily disrupt my online banking experience, it permanently subtracted value from it.

My credit union did the same thing, now when I look at my account I see from the beginning of the previous month. This is useless, in my opinion, I want to see the most recent transactions and their choice was a bad one. I also recently logged on to my Gas Company website, to look at my bill. I had questions about the bill, and didn't want to waste time on hold, so instead I clicked on "Send Email" or something similar to that... and I'll copy my comments to the company:
I find the website very difficult to navigate. My original email was about my bill, but when I tried to struggle through the contact us form, it became more obvious that feedback is very needed. I offer these suggestions because I think it can only get better. :)
1. Send To*: I didn't expect to pick the company, but the department, then it was unclear to me which choice to make to send the email. I know BigCompanyA bought LocalCompanyA, and BigCompanyA was my first choice, but then realized that the operations might not merged yet. I was thinking that Send To* could possibly be changed to "Your local utility name," though I think that is awkward, too. It seems that one address could have rules setup to forward the email to the appropriate division, transparent to the customer.
2. Questions* I have EPP payment questions, and it is not listed in the options. Therefore, I select "What if my question is not listed?" and it opens another window that says "We apologize that you could not locate the information you needed in our "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQ) section. Please contact us by using the link below or calling our 24-hour Customer Service Department at 1-XXX-XXX-XXXX and a Customer Relations Specialist will assist you." and to use this form. This is a totally unnecessary action, in my opinion, and should be removed.
3. When I hit Send (which should be at the bottom of the window, not near the subject line, in my opinion), my account number, which is not required had the dashes eliminated, then told me it was an invalid account number. After double checking, I realized it had truncated the last two digits of the account number, when the dashes were removed.

I received a nice, but not grammatical letter in response, I'll be curious about the results. The only changes I've seen based on the effort I go to to give good feedback are when podcast url's are wrong. Its disappointing, frankly.
Do you have any similar experiences? Relay them in comments, please. :)
Don't upgrade Web software, just keep improving it | By Jon Udell