Friday, August 11, 2006

Blooming of Amorphophallus titanum (corpse flower) at BBG

Isn't the Internet wonderful? If you can't make it to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for the blooming of the Corpse Flower, you can see it via Web cam here:

As they say: All the fun, none of the stink!

Twenty five years of the IBM PC

From the BBC:

Computer firm IBM made technological history on 12 August 1981 with the announcement of a personal computer - the IBM 5150.
Costing $1,565, the 5150 had just 16K of memory - scarcely more than a couple of modest e-mails worth.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Intel posts Linux-friendly GMA 3000 drivers

Intel has always been friendly to Free and Open Source Software and this is just more evidence that they are not averse to taking the risk of posting their code for the World plus their dogs to see. Of course, in this case, they hope to leverage that to gain feedback and perhaps help with what they admit is code unready for public release. I'm sure they will get plenty of both as more and more users demand Free Software drivers for use with Linux and other FOSS operating systems.

(Admittedly, the outcry for FOSS drivers is not coming from a great mob of people. In fact, the phenomenon is rather small, but gaining at a surprising rate. Just ask NVidia how many emails they receive on the subject. If they give a truthful answer, one that matches what my friend who works there reports, you will see this is not a minor dustup.)

As embedded graphics is the most common scheme used by OEMs, this can only be to the good for those of us who cannot afford a high end graphics adaptor and want to run Free Software and operating systems on our machines.


PC-BSD: The Most Beginner Friendly OS

I've mentioned PC BSD in our chats. I think I even mentioned it on the show. I have tried an earlier version and though I did not have completely compatible hardware, the experience was pleasant.

The link above will take you to a lightweight review of PC BSD at OS and I think you will find it informative and pleasant to read.

Once it is installed, PC BSD will look just like a Linux/KDE installation. It runs the same desktop environment (KDE) and a lot of the same software. The command line will be different, because the FreeBSD upon which PC BSD is built is a "true" Unix and not just very similar, as Linux is, but the GNU utilities, tools and applications are there, so it won't be all that foreign if you are acquainted with Linux. And I do believe PC BSD is well enough developed that a newbie can actually deal with it at least as well as the most newbie friendly Linux. Time and experience will tell if I am right in that, but I am confident in my statement.

PC BSD may or may not be nothing more than a blip on the alternative OS radar screen, but it does appear to meet a lot of needs and be something users can live with. Unfortunately, that does not guarantee success. Even so, I think this OS has a decent chance of winning a desktop following.



Microsoft to Tighten the Genuine Advantage Screws

It's not like we did not know this was coming and this and other contemporary articles still lack all the particulars. Even so, it is apparent Microsoft is going to great lengths to enforce it's copyrights and penalize those who insist on using pirated copies of their Vista operating system and Office 2007.

I have to wonder how much privacy we are going to have to give up so that MS can check the validity of our licenses. And it is going to be a real struggle for the company to deal with the inevitable false positives where the validation mechanisms declare a legitimate copy to be pirated.

Time will tell.


Is Microsoft installing spyware?

With all of the spyware around these days, do we have to worry about Microsoft?

Did you know Microsoft "Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications" tool, is calling home and connect to Microsoft servers every time you boot (pilot version), or every two weeks (current release). I would like to know WHY? What information about you and your computer does Microsoft NEED every two weeks?

USSROVER gave me this web site, I though everyone should be told about this tool to remove the WGA.
RemoveWGA enables you to remove the Microsoft "Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications"

This computer is waiting for a reboot so it can complete the removal of the WGA.
I'm back and here is a screen shot of the window I got on reboot!
FYI it took longer than normal to reboot don't worry it will come back up.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Yahoo! Developer Network - Python Developer Center

Yahoo! has started a Python Developer site which includes documentation on the Python language itself and on Yahoo!'s APIs. This matches sites they already have up for the PHP and javascript languages.

This is simply another example of companies trying to leverage individual developers and communities of developers to enhance their offerings. It happens a lot and as a corporate practice is growing by leaps and bounds.

Check it out. It is quite an interesting site.


A Face Is Exposed for AOL Searcher No. 4417749

Even though she talked to reporters, the bottom line is that Ms. Arnold felt disillusioned and she dropped her AOL subscription.

IMHO, the search engine that best protects my privacy is the one I will use. If no search engine protects my privacy then the only choice, since using the web without a search engine is counterproductive, is to use a trustworthy anonymizer.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Black Hat Wi-Fi exploit coverup

The link is to a rant at NewsForge. It's worth a read. Whether or not you agree, it is for certain that more and more often, our access to security information depends on one or another corporation's willingness to allow us to see it.

Scary stuff.

Microsoft Security Bulletin Summary for August, 2006

Microsoft Security Bulletin Summary for August, 2006
Published: August 8, 2006 | Updated: August 8, 2006

Version: 1.0

An end-user version of this information is available by visiting the following Web site.

Protect Your PC: Microsoft has provided information about how you can help protect your PC at the following locations:

End-users can visit the Protect Your PC Web site.

IT Professionals can visit the Security Guidance Center Web site.

Update Management Strategies: The Patch Management, Security Updates, and Downloads Web site provides additional information about Microsoft’s best practices recommendations for applying security updates.

IT Pro Security Zone Community: Learn to improve security and optimize your IT infrastructure, and participate with other IT Pros on security topics in the IT Pro Security Zone Web site.

Microsoft Security Notification Service: To receive automatic e-mail notifications whenever Microsoft security bulletins are issued, subscribe to the Microsoft Security Notification Service. [I believe that you have to have a passport account for this, which irritates the doo wop out of me, for the record.]

Included in this advisory are updates for newly discovered vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities, broken down by severity are:

Critical (9)
Important (3)
Additional details available below:
Microsoft Security Bulletin Summary for August, 2006

Microsoft backs GetHuman customer service plan

Microsoft and Nuance, a company that makes voice recognition software used in call center automation, have joined with to set standards for customer service. It is a move that has been needed for a long time, though of course there is no guarantee it will come to full fruition. The presence of's founder, Paul English is probably a very good sign, though, as he will not be prone to accept half measures.

I've really only ever had one bad time with Microsoft support. My largest complaints have been with HP and especially Xerox, where I once tried unsuccessfully to reach a human continuously for two solid days to place an order. Even the sales department was unreachable to me, due to their automated contact structure. They lost when I convinced the company to go with our second choice because they were reachable without delay or having to jump through hoops.


VMware to open Windows-on-Mac tool to public testers

Along with the Parallels virtualization app, VMWare will have one that allows running Windows XP concurrently with OS X on Mac hardware in a virtual installation. It's a public beta, right now and I suggest those of you in a position to give it a whirl do so.

In a related announcement, Microsoft has admitted they are going to stop development of Virtual PC. Details can be found here.


The myth of the living-room PC

I agree with the author. Part of it is the two foot, ten foot interface thing.

I think time is another thing. Everyone has different needs, but everyone only has so many hours in a day. I know that I spend more hours a day on satellite and broadcast radio, streaming audio, podcasts, YouTube, and Netflix, than I do on TV. I certainly do not want to dedicate a computer to such a limited pupose.

And have you ever tried to run a computer, only using a remote control? Need I say more.

AOL offers free antivirus software

The good news is that it is Kaspersky based. The bad news is that "free" is a relative term. According to the article you have to agree to terms like this:

"Active Virus Shield collects a host of information that may be used for marketing purposes, starting with the e-mail address required to download and run the product, according to the fine print. Other data collected include usage stats, responses to ads and details about the PC, according to the AOL agreement."

I'd rather pay for my anti-virus with cash up front. That is a much lower price than what AOL wants for it.

Open-source router to take on Cisco

There have been and continue to be open source routers, but this is the first time I've seen one offered with a paid support program.

I have used some of the earlier "routers on a floppy", buth here and for commercial clients. I found them a really decent way to extend the useful life of an old PC and even a Pentium II at 233 MHz with only 64 megabytes of memory is capable of routing all the traffic in a fairly large office without breaking a sweat. I had one with exactly those specifications working in an office with 24 PCs and it ran like a champ for 3 years, until the hardware gave up.

As those had no firewall capabilities, I usually found it easier to actually install Linux and run that application alongside a software firewall. They were never an ideal solution, but they did serve.

Now, this company has a fully featured router app that will run on older hardware alongside today's fully featured firewall applications. You can download the software for yourself, though support costs money. It looks good.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

OnComputers Radio show Podcast 08-06-06

This is the On Computers Radio show podcast for 08-06-06. 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.

Pics of another exploding laptop

This time it's an Apple PowerBook. I'm not posting this stiff to smear Apple. One good look at these pics SHOULD convince you to check and see if your laptop batteries are being recalled. If they are, please, please exchange them. What if this happens on a plane or in your car while you are driving at speed? For your sake and for the sake of others, please check this out.


Google puts up 'Beware of malware' signs

Now here is a great idea. Should you do a search on Google and click on a returned link which leads to a site known to offer malware, Google will put up a warning. Should you wish to click through, you can. Google respects your judgement on the matter, but they figure you need information to be safe and this provides it.

The CNet article linked to above is a short and informative read. And of course; as soon as I get the time I'm going to do some searches for things like "free screensavers" and see how the warnings look. I'll either use a Linux box or my virtual XP Home installation, just to be safe.