Saturday, July 01, 2006

An Alternative Personal Firewall

The new Trustix personal firewall is getting a bit of buzz, with some users saying it is equal to or better than Zone Alarm and others. I have not used it, but it looks interesting enough that I intend to install and try it.

There is no charge for it. You do have to register it, though, giving up some personal information for a perpetual license.


New malware poses as WGA validation and notification

This is a concern and I wanted to let y'all know about it. In a negative sense of perfect timing, there is malware that masquerades as Windows Genuine Advantage.
From ZDNet's Spyware Confidential:
A new piece of very nasty malware has been recently discovered on spyware help forums, first here and again here. The file name is wgavn.exe and it creates a service named "Windows Genuine Advantage Validation Notification", as seen in this line in the HijackThis log.

O23 - Service: Windows Genuine Advantage Validation Notification (wgavn) - Unknown owner - C:\WINDOWS\system32\wgavn.exe

Thanks to security MVPs at the Aumha forum [ (In our little "brush with greatness) JAE (who owns aumha) was at GM 2001], I was able to get a sample today — this is one nasty little piece of malware. I tested it on a virtual machine running XP Pro, totally unpatched. On execution, wgavn.exe creates a folder, C:\Windows\etc\, that contains a file named services.exe. Wgavn.exe copies itself to the \System32\ folder as shown in the HijackThis line above.

The rest of the article is here lots of good info, and I believe a basic primer on the methods that crackerz use to socially engineer themselves onto a system.


Friday, June 30, 2006

IE7 Beta 3 (more RSS goodness)

Stolen in its entirety from Alex Barnett's Blog.
Microsoft's RSS team blog has this news.

"IE7 Beta 3 is here! We’ve snuck in some goodies in the feed reading user experience based on your Beta 2 feedback"

The post provides details on the new RSS-related features. More feedback sought.

If you have previous IE 7 Betas installed you need to know this (from the IE7 FAQs)

"Upgrading Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3
If you want to reinstall Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3 (or install a newer version) you must first remove any existing Internet Explorer 7 beta versions on your system. You cannot install Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3 over previously installed Internet Explorer 7 betas. To uninstall previous versions of Internet Explorer 7 refer to the uninstall directions below."

The IE team blog has more on this.


Max Stevens, Lead PM on the IE team shows some of the UX improvements made for this release.

Courtesy of:Alex Barnett blog : IE7 Beta 3 (more RSS goodness)

Microsoft kills the WinFS dream

The decision to drop WinFS is over a week old, now, and there has been plenty written about it. I offer this link to a short, definitive article on the subject.

I'm disappointed, very much so. For the last week I have been reading books and articles on file systems in an attempt to become fluent in them. In addition, I have studied relational databases. I think I finally understand just how ambitious WinFS was (is?) and how much it would do for those of us who work with large datasets, whether our own or those belonging to our employers. Without WinFS, Vista is just another Microsoft operating system.

Microsoft did a horrible job of pitching WinFS and without specialized knowledge the general public never could understand just how much it might have changed the way we do things. I believe I understand that now. That understanding fuels my disappointment.

I don't think MS pulled WinFS lightly. After all; they had touted it as a "pillar" of Vista and I have no doubt at all it would have been just that. Every time I look at my collection of "how-to" documents I think of how easy it would have been to find things I needed to know, had I been using WinFS. I really do hope they continue to develop it and offer it sometime in the future.


Office 2007 Ship Date Pushed Back

This one I don't really understand. I've talked to a bunch of beta testers and even worked for 4.5 hours on the beta here. I found bugs as have many of the testers, but to all of us they've seemed trivial; at least by appearance. It might be that there are simply too many of them and the degree of "badness" has nothing at all to do with it.

To me, Office 2007 (as I know it) is not a compelling product. However; I know some Office power users who find it very much one. It is a matter of outlook, I think, combined with what you work on and how.

One of my MS reseller friends (no jokes about my consorting with the dark side, please) is toting a laptop around which he lets potential clients use as a trial. He is finding workers at SMBs almost universally find something new in it that they think they will use, so perhaps I ought to go take another look at the beta.


Thursday, June 29, 2006


Its Rocketboom day! This is wild, starlings flock to a red cedar tree, hundreds of birds at least. Its amazing how the poor tree suffers...
Rocketboom Birds!

(I meant to post this when it was brand new and fresh, but its still relevant) and in case you don't understand, or get, just why net neutrality is so important, and an issue to pay attention too, another Rocketboom.
Rocketboom Save the Internet

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Western Digital Settle Hard Drive Capacity Lawsuit

Gizmodo says:
Take note, Apple. Western Digital is actually settling a class-action lawsuit that was filed against them. They are giving out free software to consumers who filed a lawsuit claiming the hard drives actually had less space that promised. This software is available for anyone who has purchased a Western Digital hard drive from March 22, 2001 to February 15, 2006. It isn’t just some run-of-the-mill software either, the software retail value is roughly $30 per copy.

The lawsuit stemmed because Western Digital decided to interpret one gigabyte as 1 billion bytes, while actual operating systems like Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X interpret one gigabyte by the correct number of 1.07 billion bytes. This 7-percent shortfall would be like losing 5.6GB of storage space on an 80GB hard drive. If you too have been victimized by Western Digital, then you can claim your free correction software here. – Travis Hudson

Western Digital Settles Capacity Dispute [Sydney Morning Herald]
Western Digital Settle Hard Drive Capacity Lawsuit - Gizmodo

5 Ways To Make Me Laugh At Your Web 2.0 Company — Business Logs

A couple shows ago, Jack and Greg had a discussion about Ajax, that I found informative from a programming perspective. When I ran across this article and thought of it as a twofer, related to show content, and a great commentary on buzzwords and clueless executives. The first one made me LOL, you have to click on to read the rest of the suggestions.... (hint, it includes a drinking game! How can you possibly pass that up????)

5 Ways To Make Me Laugh At Your Web 2.0 Company
Written Jun. 28, 2006 in Best Practices + Web 2.0

In this fast-paced and synergistic world, buzzwords get the play. Non-technical people start companies and press ridiculous deadlines to their engineers, Web 1.0 burnouts start new companies that are just rehashes of the idea they couldn't make work in 1999, and the technology you use is more important than the value you provide. Hell, VCs are getting sick of their clients making it big, so they're starting half-assed "Web 2.0" companies of their own which are off the map 1 month after beta.

In all this craziness I have to wonder what some people are thinking. I can't tell you how many ugly designs and worthless "applications" I've seen come across my browser pixels the past 5 months, but what I can divulge is the precise 5-step plan for making me laugh at you and your company. Here we go:
1. Tout your technologies like you know WTF they are.
This one is for all the CEOs who can't touch type, you know who you are. I can't tell you how embarrassingly funny it is to read blog entries or About pages where technological terms are thrown around and mushed up like cow shit in a tornado. Oh, so you use Ruby on Rails and Ajax? Sweet! Who developed the RoR framework? Is it a framework or a programming language? What's Ajax used for, slidey effects? Nope, guess again. Go take this quiz and see how well you do, and while you're at it, stop telling your engineers when your beta release date is before you have the specs worked out, because you're an idiot and they're quitting next week.
The rest :5 Ways To Make Me Laugh At Your Web 2.0 Company — Business Logs
Kudos to the author, Mike Rundle.

Microsoft Removes WGA 'Phone Home' Component

Eweek has the story about the updated WGA. I thought it was just because I uninstalled it, that I got the notification, yesterday. :)
Microsoft has removed the controversial "phone home" notifications component from its WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) anti-piracy tool.

The software maker June 27 announced the release of an updated WGA Notifications package that will be delivered to millions of Windows XP users via Automatic Updates with one major change.

In the pilot phase, a PC that had installed WGA Notifications checked a server-side configuration setting upon each login, to determine if WGA Notifications should run or not.

This daily configuration file check has been removed in the updated WGA Notifications package released June 27, according to a Microsoft statement sent to eWEEK.

The company said that the Validation component of the tool will still check periodically to determine whether the version of Windows is genuine.

More info:Microsoft Removes WGA 'Phone Home' Component
P.S. Oh yeah! There's a link to a Microsoft KB article, included and when I try to get there, anymore, I get an expired validation for the security AND (this is the part that bugs me the most) I have to login with my passport account?!?!?!?? Has anybody else run into this?? Its wrong to make people sign in to be informed of the flaws of the Operating System...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sony unveils Flash-based UMPC

Here we go! Sony's Vaio UX ultra-mobile PC line has just grown by one model. They've removed the 30 GB hard drive from one model and dropped in 16 GB of flash memory. This article is just a teaser and, frankly, I'd wait for reviews before I got too excited, if I were you. Even so; I think this points the way toward the future of UMPCs.

I have a bet with a friend. If he wins, I have to build him an SMP desktop machine. If I win, he's going to give me some wireless networking gear he has laying about.

My bet is that there will be a minimum of 35 UMPC brands and models to choose from by 1 September, this year. I don't think I can lose. Should I be right, prices will fall (though not to the level Microsoft envisioned when they drew up the concept) and availability will increase. Not on the machines will become more available, but applications tweaked or designed outright for the devices.

Apple is even said to be working on a tablet and a companion UMPC. Everyone is going to want in to this market. Not because it will be such a huge outlet. It won't. UMPCs will always be a niche product. But as the concept matures, they seem more and more useful to me and I think a lot of mobile workers, students and those in other, similar, situations will jump at the chance for a machine with the same battery life as a bare-bones notebook that is smaller, lighter and still meets their needs.


PCs getting more reliable, says Gartner

After sitting down and thinking about it for a little while, I realized my experiences back up Gartner's report, straight on down the line. We'll probably talk about this on the show and I'm willing to bet the other cast members have experienced about the same thing.

I can't comment on Gartner's numbers, but they do not seem out of line with experience, either. Our machines DO last longer.


Border patrol for Internet Explorer

This one had completely slipped under my radar.

The idea of running a browser in a virtual environment isn't new. In fact; it's a core quality of IE 7, which I guess means the idea is mainstream, if Microsoft is doing it.

My idea is that this is a decent product, but too late and over-priced, to boot. $49.95 a year is a bit much, considering I can get about the same thing by switching over to the beta of IE 7. No matter how one views it, this is proof there are more people thinking about the security of IE than Microsofties, security researchers and journalists.


Monday, June 26, 2006

More Linux updates

Here's the latest. Something went wrong with the Zinf install on Ubuntu. Program runs but won't play anything. So had to uninstall it. Ubuntu will play MP3's, with the right packages so, not a big deal. As for White Box Linux? Finally got that to do MP3's, had to install Real player, I know "groan", LOL. At least Real player for Linux comes with an executable installer and it worked the first time. Never could get Zinf to run on White box. AS for Arklinux? I had to take it off the office computer. It was just taking too much attention to keep it going. Don't blame the Arklinux folks. I'm a geek and a CLWEA, LOL.

Claria Says to Uninstall its Adware

Can the zebra change his stripes? We'll have to see.

Claria, formerly Gator, has long been a primary object of scorn, and even hatred, for their spyware, popup ads, etc. etc. Now they've promised to exit the adware business completely, instead concentrating on a portal which will deliver contextual ads to it's users.

I'll be watching this one closely, though I'm going to have to have a lot of assurances before I'll be visiting their site using anything but a sacrificial machine.


OpenDocument Gains Ground in Belgium, India

Open Document Format is truly picking up steam. I expect this to continue, but not in the landslide fashion many others predict. It will be a slow and steady growth.

Microsoft wants their XML format to be a standard, as well. It won't happen unless MS takes steps to commit their copyrights irrevocably to the public, all of the public and at NO charge. RAND (Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory) licensing won't cut it with the standards organizations. They show no indication of giving ground on this point, though they may, eventually, come around. In order to get in on the rush, they can't wait too long.

By the way; Given my druthers, I'd choose the MS formula over ODF. It's a bit more capable, in my opinion. But there's no way I'll go back to Microsoft Office as my primary productivity tool kit. The price is simply too high for me.


Microsoft Axes WinFS, Cancels Beta 2

It's been a couple years since MS took WinFS out of Vista and voiced their intention to offer it as an add-on sometime after Vista's debut. I found that very disappointing and with the cancellation of the program Friday, I find myself even less enthusiastic about Vista. More and more; it seems to me as if we are going to end up with an expensive operating system that offers nothing but eye-candy and the chance to go through a series of service packs to fix things that weren't right from the start.

That doesn't seem like a good reason to take up Vista, does it?


New Java beta includes a database

The next revision of Sun's Java will have The Apache Foundation's Geronimo database incorporated. The link above will take you to a quick and easy read that will tell you a lot about where Java is headed.

No one posits Java as a replacement for AJAX or .NET, but it does have it's place and many developers prefer to work in it whenever it is suitable. Choosing the tools to do a given program in is as much dependent upon what the programmer knows as the suitability of the tools chosen. Java sees a tremendous market share in custom applications developed within and for an organization. The addition of a database can only strengthen this position.


OnComputers Radio show Podcast 06-25-06

This is the On Computers Radio show podcast for 06-25-06. If you prefer, you can download the same file here via ftp.
This week was Geek Meet 2006 up here in Anchorage Alaska. Where will Geek Meet 2007 be? Boston, Atlanta?
When May, June? You tell us where and when you want us to gather next year.
Pictures at: More will be posted as we get them from other people.