Saturday night, and welcome to Epicycle's Bizarre Spam
Of The Week Award!
Distressing to believe but Dave Darabond, your nice ally, told me you
are dull and idiot!
Is it precise?
Verify my page, if you want to be my incredible chum and comrade!
Truly yours, Terry Morze!
What? Dave Darabond is telling people that I'm dull?
Wait! I don't know any Dave Darabond! Is not
precise! No, indeed! My incredible chum Terry must not be true after all!
<sigh> Presumably somewhere in the world Dave and Terry are
sitting there thinking "Dominic says I'm dull? The swine! Wait..."
After some minor detective work, the enclosed porn link
can be traced back to scripts on a fake Geocities home page, so I've
reported them to Yahoo's abuse address... It won't help much, as there
will probably be dozens or even hundreds of equivalent pages on the other
free hosting sites, but one has to do what one can. It's clear that the
currently working through the legislature aren't going to help very much
(and may even make things worse!), and as politicians are still coming up
with stupefyingly dumb ideas like "put
your post code in the address" I'm starting to think that the
ways might be best after all...
Elsewhere - fetish researcher
Katherine Gates on gun porn. Wonderfully politically
I've just come across a
web site attacking the Gun
Control Network, a misguided and annoyingly influential pressure group
arguing for even more stringent (is that actually possible?)
firearms legislation in the UK. I have to admit that the parody is
a touch clumsy and heavy-handed at times, but its heart is definitely in
the right place and there are occasional gems - this one, unashamedly
stolen from their links page (after all, they stole it from an
American pressure group
first!), is probably the most notable:
Elsewhere, more violence - this time directed towards
defenceless computer systems, with one of the finest selections of
EtherKillers and related
hardware that I've ever seen. As usual the management of Epicycle
will not accept responsibility for damage arising if anyone actually
builds one of these evil, twisted devices...
Hhmph! Ros has just pointed me to these little gems of
complete bastardry, apparently from Bush's
recent speech on Medicare:
"Free countries don't develop weapons of mass
Free countries don't attack their neighbours.
Free countries listen to the hopes and aspirations of the people who
live in those countries."
Where does he find the sheer gall to say things
like that? What about the US nuclear, biological and chemical weaponry
arsenals (WRT the latter two -
they do!)... What
about Grenada, Panama, Honduras, Haiti and Nicaragua - in
the last twenty
years alone? And unless your hopes and aspirations include being shot,
tear-gassed, clubbed or poisoned then what about
Democratic National Convention, and the
People's Park... All
a long time ago, maybe, but they were anti-war protesters, too.
Bah! Even for a Republican president this man is a
vicious, loathsome fraud...
I've just picked up a new model kit on eBay, and in a
departure from my usual NASA and Soviet space hardware this one is the
S4 UFO by
Testors, a classic flying saucer. Rather belatedly, perhaps, this
morning I started looking for reviews of the kit, and not surprisingly
soon found myself wading through Roswell and Area 51
conspiracy pages. One of these
took me to a "Have
you been abducted by aliens?" test at Zenhex, and as I'm always game
for a laugh I filled it in. Apparently there is only a 28% chance that
I've been abducted, which I guess is something of a relief, but it did
seem to my layman's eye that a significant number of the questions
described the classic symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia rather than of
extraterrestrial behaviour... Still, if you'd rather not wait for
giant antenna to emerge from your butt to confirm your worst fears,
this is the test for you. [As an aside - bookmark the excellent
South Park episode
guide where I found that picture]
Elsewhere, Rasta poet Benjamin Zephaniah has
refused the award
of an OBE, claiming that the honours system is merely being used to
make the establishment appear more modern and inclusive:
"I get angry when I hear that word 'empire',"
Zephaniah wrote in an article for the Guardian. "It reminds me of
slavery, it reminds me of thousands of years of brutality."
<nods enthusiastically> Good for him!
Meanwhile, I've just spent several minutes trying to
explain to Ros that there is a difference between
hydroponic gardening and simply
over-watering plants... she muttered a lot, and I still don't think she's
convinced - so presumably hydroponics has now joined the list of sciences
(along with quantum mechanics, topology and chaos theory) of which she
Doesn't Approve. Having said that, though, she approves of quantum
mechanics when it suits her - for example her theory of how
coupling explains the
phenomena is certainly... ah, interesting... Mostly, though,
she seems to feel that the
Interpretation is some kind of con, a gyp intended to pull the wool
over her eyes - and when the subject arises she makes it perfectly clear
that she has no intention of falling for it! Never mind - I love her
|Still all burned-out, this evening, so just links again -
gleaned mostly from The Register,
Spammers vs. Bloggers - the war between Customerblast and Retecool
Unpatched website pulled - and not before time, some would say...
IE Vulnerabilities Index - in the style of Windows Update, and it's a
say "Yes" to spam - the new bill will actually make life easier
for them, it seems!
Microsoft? - the bounty is a good idea, says The Register's
battery scam publicity - it costs how much? Sheesh!
Ballmer on Open Source - and, boy, has he rattled a few cages with
security issues - bad ones, and they may well stay unpatched until
drives not politically correct - oh dear, oh dear, oh dear...
[Update - More
Hopefully normal service will resume shortly...
As everybody knows, of course, Linux and Linux
applications are inherently secure. The high quality of programming
ability employed, in comparison with that of corporates like Microsoft,
ensures that no errors are ever made... and should the unthinkable happen
and bugs somehow creep in anyway, the keen scrutiny applied to the code by
the open source development methodology will guarantee that they would be
spotted immediately - if not sooner!
I was slightly puzzled to read today, therefore, that a
serious security weakness existed in the latest version of Opera for
the Linux OS, and also that four Linux servers managed by the Debian
Project, distributor of one of the major Linux packages, have been
compromised by hackers
and subsequently taken offline for repairs.
A bad week for Linux security overall, it would appear
- and a salutary warning to anyone who thinks that any operating
system or web application is secure without expert attention and
constant vigilance. Linux is
a good, tough operating system - but it only tales one slip, or one period
of inattention, to make it
just as vulnerable as any other OS... and the prevailing attitude of
smug complacence enjoyed by so many Linux advocates goes a long way
towards ensuring that sooner or later those vulnerabilities will
Meanwhile, the second of my free engineering samples
arrived from JMC Products. I was
quite impressed with the
Panther low-noise fan they sent me last
month, but today's offering, the
Phoenix 70 cooler for high-end Intel Xeon CPUs, is a marvellous piece
of work. Although obviously inspired by the classic
Agilent Arcticooler units (often found in HP
Vectra systems after HP acquired the company) it is nevertheless an
order of magnitude chunkier and more imposing than either the Arcticooler
or the later, equally Agilent-inspired
Fitting the current
Akasa heatsinks to my CPUs
was something of a battle, so replacing them with the Phoenix units for a
real test is going to have to wait until a suitable weekend, but
first impressions are very favourable. The contact patch at the base of
the heatsink appears to have been machined to a mirror finish, although
I'm intending to remove the pre-installed layer of thermal compound, and
compares very well with the Akasa's rather rough base surface. The rest of
the heatsink is machined fairly coarsely, though - I noticed this
mentioned in a review at
FrostyTech, where it was put down to the pre-production nature of
their test sample, but as it's present on my unit too I suspect that it's
an intentional part of the design... presumably it will increase the
surface area somewhat, which can only be a good thing. Whatever the
surface finish, though, in spite of an all-aluminium construction the
heatsinks certainly have a solid, businesslike feel to them, and I'm
looking forward to being able to test them out on the 80W of dissipated
heat from the furnace-like P4 Xeons. Watch this space...
I've just spent a while browsing
Engrish.com, a site dedicated to the
bizarre and often funny use of the English language in Japanese
advertising and product branding. I've seen
this sort of thing
before, of course, most notably examples of poorly translated technical
manuals often referred to as "Japlish", but the site seems to be a
definitive collection and they even have an online store! To be fair,
though, their FAQ does explain that English words used in this way are not
usually intended to convey information, but are just a design
element in the same way that random and inappropriate Japanese characters
often appear on Western products - and their
links page contains several
pointers to bizarre snippets of Japanese used throughout the rest of the
world, so apparently dumb mistakes that way round are equally common!
The site also pointed me to a new form of art, the
origami boulder - and if the
artist in question is managing to make any money out of this, then I take
my hat off to him. Well, I would if I had a hat, anyway, as the whole site
is as witty as it is outrageous. The site even had
in Internet comic strip Geek Salad, but unfortunately
a link on the increasingly funny
suggests that maybe, just maybe, he's not the first to have come up with
the idea. Shame...
Also linked, however, is a book entitled "Why
Cats Paint", just one of a number of strange things about cats
on that site, and the site of another eccentric conceptual artist,
J.S.G. Boggs. Boggs' art bears a
striking resemblance to money, and the US Government is not at all
biggest spam myths - including several surprises...
self-assembling electronic nanotechnology device - now we're
has a review of an
impressive 20" LCD monitor from Dell, bundled with their equally
XPS desktop, a newly revamped model targeted directly at gamers. Ros
has one of the old Dimension XPS models (well, she did until I
ripped its guts out and replaced them with a
Pentium 4 motherboard from an HP Vectra) but hers was aimed at business
users and was nothing like the current model... How times change.
Well, today's planned remote access server upgrade was
a bit of a bust... PFY #1 and I worked like fiends to backup the current
NT4 configuration and then re-install the server with Windows 2000, but
evidently there was some misunderstanding and the consultants who were
going to re-install the
SecureID authentication suites never showed up! We waited as long as
we could, but even on a Saturday the remote users were metaphorically
banging on the door and after waiting for two hours past our deadline in
the end we had to revert back to the original NT4 configuration... An
annoyance, to say the least, but we re-installed NT4 to different disks,
preserving the Windows 2000 disk set, so that at least when we try again
we have the OS already built. Knowing my luck, though, by the time the
next upgrade opportunity presents itself the software will finally be
Server 2003 compliant and the Windows 2000 build will be redundant...
While I wait, though - links from that wonderful UK
organ The Register:
Bluetooth security overview
SCO vs. The
World, as a gangster movie - rather good...
DVD-beating format announced
blamed for mediocre IT
And elsewhere, via Reuters, "Man
gets 'spam rage' over penis ad". Spam rage... Brilliant...
One final flurry of activity with the SMS
server, this morning, and it's now well and truly deployed. We've
installed the client on around 80% of the company's PC systems, and the
helpdesk and desktop teams are already using the reporting, asset
management and remote control facilities for real world support tasks. So
far, so good - but I'm thoroughly fed up with enterprise systems after the
last few months, and would very much like to use nothing more complex than
a word processor for the next few days! No such luck though, of course, as
tomorrow I have to be back in the office to upgrade our RADIUS server to
Windows Server 2003. No rest for the wicked, as the saying has it - so I
guess at some point I must have been very, very wicked indeed.
Oh, and my
RaQ 4 web server went funny a few days ago... I'm not quite sure what
happened to it, as I haven't had the time to pay much attention to it
recently, but I suddenly noticed odd messages in my local backup log, of
all things, and when I tried to connect to the RaQ to check them out it
just laughed at me. A shutdown and restart fixed it up, but I do find it
rather peculiar - it hasn't actually been doing anything so far,
just sitting in a corner idling, and as it isn't yet exposed to the
vagaries of the Internet there's no chance of it having been hit by
malicious code. I haven't done anything more than use the management GUI
to install the official security patches myself, either, so it can't even
be user error! Evidently it just crashed - so there goes
another Linux myth.
Meanwhile - SCO, purveyor of many other Linux myths, is
the ante considerably in the SCO vs. The Rest Of The World
intellectual property dispute. Taking a leaf from the RIAA's book, it
seems, they intend to sue several of the largest corporate Linux users,
presumably guaranteeing that said corporates will never do any kind of
business with SCO ever again. They have also announced plans to expand the
scope of the copyright violation claims to include veteran Unix house BSD
in 2004, and are also intending legal action against aging dinosaur
Novell... The latter is about to re-invent itself for the nth time
acquisition of Linux vendor SuSE, a move which SCO claims would
violate an existing contract that prohibits Novell from competing with
their Linux business. Curioser and curioser, as Alice would say.
Elsewhere, while following up the discussing arising
The Top 10
Internet fads link, I came across a
wonderful obituary of
the doomed Pointcast service. I could never see what all the fuss about
Pointcast was, either.
And, finally, if only to add a splash of colour...
More wrestling with
today, and up until the last minute we thought it was going to beat us...
there was a tricky problem concerning distribution points for the remote
offices, locally held shares designed to allow big software packages to be
installed over a fast LAN connection rather than over the slower WAN links
back to the central site. We spent about six hours struggling with the
settings, finding and fixing odd problems but mostly banging our heads
against the logical walls, but at around 3:30 in the afternoon all the
tweaks and changes suddenly came together and we finally managed to send
out a software update from a remote server. The relief was enormous,
needless to say! Tomorrow is the last day assigned to the initial stage of
the project, but with today's success we're nicely on schedule and I'm
extremely pleased with the results. Many thanks to Mike at
SynTech for his perseverance
and huge, bulging brain...
Tabula PC - a
'blog and information resource for Tablet PCs
The Top 10
Another Mac aquarium - this time in a G4 Cube
Geek horoscopes at BB Spot
- like Windows Update on a CD
And - wow - this has to be seen:
The biggest diesel engines
in the world... Absolutely incredible!
It's been an extremely busy week, so far, but a
productive one too - I've been wrestling with Microsoft's new
Server 2003 with the able assistance of our pet consultancy,
Synchronous Technologies, and
although the new version has lived up to the reputation of its
predecessors by being fiendishly complex to configure, we're managing to
hack our way through it with only minor bouts of hear-tearing and teeth
Unusually for recent Microsoft installations, we're not
actually in a
Rapid Adoption Programme for SMS, but we've had access to some of the
beta builds over the last few months and we've been able to carry out
fairly extensive testing before going live this week. It hasn't been a
completely smooth process, though, I have to say - the documentation is
woefully inadequate or outdated in places, and the release code shows some
definite rough edges... I'm expecting a number of hotfixes relatively soon
and, with luck, maybe even a service pack early next year!
The sheer power and flexibility of the system is
obvious after only a few days in a production environment, though - my
network team are in love with the unprecedented level of control over the
client PCs, and the desktop support team are already in raptures over the
reporting and asset tracking. Once my SQL geek is up to speed on the huge
and labyrinthine database structures we'll really be able to make it sing
and dance - and with another RAP for
Microsoft Operations Manager 2003
due early next year, for 90% of network management tasks I'm never going
to have to leave my desk! [sigh] I can feel the middle-age
spread setting in already...
[Abashed grin] No venom today, I promise...
Firstly, the incomparable Dan Rutter asks "how
much does a computer cost?", and ends up concluding that it really
depends on who you ask. He definitely has a point, too - I find it almost
impossible to envision even a basic PC without a tape drive and
mirrored disks, options which are completely alien to most home users.
"Now, try asking a Linux geek. Try to find a
mellow yet knowledgeable one - somewhere between the ones who get angry
if you don't say it "GNU/Linux", and the fakes who don't even have a
beard. Hi-ho to ebay.com.au you'll go in
search of a perfectly serviceable used P-II (or, these days, slow P-III)
box for a couple of hundred Aussie bucks, at most. You'll probably get a
monitor as well, for that money. You're likely to end up with a
superannuated business machine with 64Mb RAM, a well-used low capacity
hard drive and The Worst Mouse You'll Ever Touch, of course. But for
unpretentious users of the Finnish OS, that's A-OK."
Running Linux [cough] sorry, GNU/Linux, is not
all that obsolete computers are good for, though. The venerable Macintosh
Aquarium concept now has a
page, it seems, so if you fancy building a Macquarium this should
definitely be the first stop for links, pictures and advice.
An equally unlikely combination of silicon and carbon can be seen in a
more recent idea, though - if one that started off as a joke on the
case modding scene last year. In a classic case of youthful exuberance
Kevin Rose has incorporated
an ant farm into
the transparent side panel of his PC...
a story at Wired suggests that the signals from the RFID tags
currently much in vogue for
spying on consumers [oops,
some venom creeping in, there!] tracking stock levels are actually weedy
enough to be blocked by... well, the example they quote is an aluminium
foil hat! Now, foil hats don't seem to have caught on in England, as yet,
but the article also mentions a rather more significant example:
"Any conductive material can shield the radio
signals," said Matt Reynolds, a principal at ThingMagic, which develops
RFID systems. "There are all kinds of ways to render the tags
inoperable." That means Coca-Cola, which eventually wants to put an RFID
tag on every can of soda it sells, will have a hard time getting around
the metals, plastics and liquids that block the radio signals from the
Whatever the limitations of the current systems,
though, the threat to privacy is clear - according to the article the
pioneers of the technology are shunning publicity and only notifying
consumers that they are being tracked in the most vague, ambiguous
terms... And I was especially interested to note that, as yet, none of the
retailers who are using RFID tags on their stock are actually disabling
the tracking mechanism when the consumer leaves the store. Hmmm.
Lastly, P2P stalwart Sharman Networks, owners of the
popular but dubious Kazaa file-sharing software, is
running full-page print advertisements in major newspapers this coming
week in the hope of improving the software's unsavoury image. The $1
million advert campaign will exhort music and movie industry executives to
stop treating file swappers as pirates, and also ask computer users to
lobby the media companies to put aside their animosity toward Kazaa and
P2P file sharing. In spite of the multiple lawsuits currently pending
against Sharman (and the anti-trust suits Sharman have replied with) the
company is still keen for the record labels to use customised versions of
the Kazaa platform to distribute licensed, copy-protected versions of
Personally, I don't see this working even slightly
- the media groups have always been implacable in their fear and mistrust
of the file sharing networks, and I'm sure that they are firmly resolved
to crucify Sharman in a series of protracted and expensive legal battles,
acquire the Kazaa software as part of the settlement, and then kill the
network stone dead with poisoned data before launching their own, grossly
inferior offering. Oh, dear, there's that venom again...
So Bush is in London tomorrow, and I'm feeling cross
already. I'll try not to rant too much, here, as the
specialist political 'blogs
are far better for this sort of thing - but having watched the
ITN evening news just now, I'm
simmering too much to ignore it. The trigger was a GOP mouthpiece from
some odious organisation called "Republicans
Abroad" saying that American citizens in London shouldn't be called to
answer for Bush any more than the British are called to answer for the
Royal Family. To a small extent, I actually agree - there are
similarities, after all, in that neither was actually elected by a
majority of the people they claim to represent - but mostly I'm annoyed
that the TV interviewer didn't question a statement like that. Apart from
the fact that British people overseas should be called to account
for the bloated hereditary parasites whose sleaze and excesses we somehow
tolerate year after year (and often are, I gather, during whatever royal
scandal is currently fermenting), it seems thoroughly bizarre to compare
Bush to the Queen instead of to his partner in crime Tony Blair. Whatever
you think of the Queen and her extended family (and, as you can tell, I
don't think much of them at all!) even I can't equate her rather
ineffectual, detached, callous self-interest with Bush's lies, greed,
intolerance, arrogant stupidity and downright criminal behaviour both
before and after his "election". Oh, well...
On a rather more promising note, however, I also saw
terse little warnings from senior teachers, government officials and the
police aimed at discouraging London children from skipping school this
week to protest against Bush and the war. I have to admit that I'm
surprised that it's considered to be a serious issue, as from my own
experience of today's teens I'd assumed that they are mostly as
politically ignorant and lethargic as my own generation were, but given
the fuss and threats being made to deter them presumably significant
numbers are considerably more interested and active than I'd realised -
and that's extremely good news, I'm sure.
I was seized with a sudden enthusiasm, today, and
decided to do something with the Remington shotgun heat shield I picked up
from ATI back in the spring.
The original plan was to mount it to the
M1100 replica, but that would have
required considerable machining of either the shotgun's foregrip or of the
heat shield itself. However, some fiddling a while ago suggested that it
would fit to the M870 rather more easily, and as the M1100 was already
looking quite pleasing as it was, I decided to try for a makeover of the
pump action replica instead.
When it came to it, everything slotted together
relatively easily. The heat shield is designed for the "real steel" M870,
and Maruzen's replica is a close enough copy that everything fitted
tolerably well without any modification. To complete the businesslike SWAT
look I transplanted the magazine extension tube from the M1100 and added a
stock-mounted shot-shell holder - the former another ATI component, the
latter an airsoft accessory sourced from one of the Far East suppliers.
The magazine extension required some considerable
modification when I first fitted it to the M1100 earlier this year, as a
real 12 gauge shell is considerably longer and fatter than Maruzen's
replicas. Once I sliced off the over-sized mounting section completely,
though, it formed a relatively tight push-fit onto the magazine tube's
screw thread, and is held firmly enough by the plastic clamp. Now that I'm
happy with the overall appearance, though, I may well epoxy it in place to
provide a rather more permanent solution. Now all I need to do is find a
cure for the wretched "pop" sound that the M870 replica makes on firing -
even more of a disappointment, now, since it looks so macho otherwise...
Elsewhere, a wonderful
advert from Trojan, manufacturer of rubber unmentionables. Very funny
Today's Epicycle is brought to you courtesy of a
soundtrack of Hayseed Dixie's
AC/DC covers - music that probably
Shouldn't Be Allowed.
I need the light relief, though, as today's bout of all-in wrestling with
our new SNA server ended in a complete victory for the server... In the
end I brought the old system back online again - the users have had a
whole week of vanishing queues, lost print jobs, misaligned documents and
general annoyance, and by Friday lunchtime they were about ready to hang
me in effigy. It's especially annoying, as this was already the second
attempt to bring the new server live, and we really did throw everything
we had at the project... Now we'll have to retire and regroup, and hope
that some cunning plan occurs to us before making a third try later in the
However, today I finally evaded the clutches of
IBM's demon protocol and arrived home to find that Ros had managed to
procure a three foot cylinder of CO2 for the
shell-ejecting airsoft assault rifle I'm expecting imminently. The
tank holds 6Kg of gas, and if my supplier is correct it should be good for
around 40,000 rounds - although the BOC guy Ros dealt with seemed to think
it would be significantly less. We shall see...
Update: Annoyingly, my
replica supplier neglected to
tell me that I needed a very specific sort of gas tank to power the gun,
so of course we rented the wrong type. For the benefit of any
equally confused potential customers, the correct type is "liquid
withdrawal" - BOC supply both, but default to the "gaseous withdrawal"
variety that will not work at all well with airsoft or paintball replicas.
Dammit! There is some very useful information on the surprisingly
complex procedures for filling CO2 tanks at the
following sites -
Ian Pellant Airguns
Meanwhile, people with far too much time on their hands
have been very busy indeed, and have created a large and comprehensive
parody of archetypal geek site Slashdot. "Slashnot"
went live a few days ago, but I feel that they may have gone too far -
from a cursory examination, it's hard to tell the difference, and
evidently the real thing is already enough of a parody of itself to make a
satirical re-rendering almost pointless... Ho hum.
A frustrating day at the silicon face, wrestling with
SNA Server and the connection to our leased mainframe. I'll spare you
the technical details, as nobody left alive is much interested in the SNA
protocol these days, but suffice it to say that it all SUCKS. However,
while I was tracking down the link above, I spotted a little bit of
information that may be absolutely critical, and I'm now considerably more
hopeful that I can get everything back in good working order again
tomorrow. It's been a very annoying week with these SNA problems, and any
improvement would be extremely welcome...
And talking of Microsoft, the U.S. Patent and Trademark
Office has agreed
to re-examine the validity of the infamous Eolas patent, after
considerable pressure from the W3C and
other groups over the last few weeks. The W3C's request came as part of a
campaign to identify prior art relevant to the case, and with
significant support from organisations normally directly opposed to
Microsoft it's clear that there is a real groundswell of opinion against
the patent itself.
Meanwhile, at Yahoo News - "We're
not anti-American, we're anti-Bush". Oh, yes, I hear that!
The last S-ATA disk drive finally arrived from Scan
today, having taken them a far from satisfactory eight days to test the
faulty and issue a replacement. I don't think I'll be dealing with them
again, if I can help it - my order with them has been a disaster from
start to finish, with vanishing stock, missed delivery dates, bad advice
and an overall slug-like lack of responsiveness. I am not impressed...
However, installing it into the array was
certainly painless enough - I already had a single drive hosting my
secondary disk volume and, having physically wired in the new one, I
just had to boot into Windows, launch the RAID manager utility and
add the new disk as fault tolerance to the existing drive. It's
re-mirroring nicely in the background as I write this, exactly as
I'd expect from the considerably more expensive high-end Fibre
Channel RAID systems I use at the office. I'm becoming quite fond of
ICP hardware... :-)
Meanwhile, at least one
Fermilab researcher apparently
has far too much time on his hands - physicist
Richard Carrigan is concerned that signals from the stars
broadcast by an alien intelligence could also carry "harmful
information", in a similar vein to a computer virus. The so-called "SETI
Hacker" hypothesis, Carrigan argues, is an issue that should be
taken seriously, and caution should be exercised when handling any
data downloaded via the SETI programs. Now, maybe I'm being naive
and foolish, but I have to say that I consider the threat from
adolescent human hackers to be about a billion times greater than
that from alien ones...
Elsewhere at Space.Com, though, some beautiful
images of the recent Lunar eclipse, mostly taken by amateurs
astronomers using relatively standard digital cameras - and
especially impressive given that fairly low tech approach. Well
worth a look.
So, Bush the Election
Thief is in London next week, and his security teams have
demanded a complete ban on protest marches and demonstrations, as well
as other measures that would lead to large parts of the city being
virtually shut down for the three days of the official visit. Thanks to
Bush's spectacularly unsuccessful war on terror, and Tony Blair's
whole-hearted support of it, apparently London is now at
more risk of a
terrorist attack than any other city in the United States or Western
Bush's 500-strong entourage is understandably nervous... Scotland Yard
insist that protest marches will be allowed, and that Trafalgar Square
will be available for mass rallies, but civil liberties campaigners say
draconian anti-terror rules to be deployed - including
reportedly agreed "rules of engagement" allowing
Bush bodyguards to shoot anyone they believe is threatening the life of
I found all this especially irritating to read
today, as yesterday I came across a particularly poignant and relevant
paragraph in Hunter Thompson's classic political commentary
Fear And Loathing On
The Campaign Trail... Written about Richard Nixon in 1972, it's
just as true thirty years later - about either Bush or his partner in
crime, Tony Blair:
"There is no point in kidding ourselves about what
Richard Nixon really wants for America. When he stands at his White
House window and looks out at an anti-war demonstration, he doesn't see
'dissenters', he sees criminals. Dangerous parasites, preparing
to strike at the heart of the Great American System that put him where
he is today."
- Hunter S. Thompson,
As Thompson would say, Selah...
"Fastest Computer" advert banned
Belkin spamming network users
Fallout of the Eolas ruling
history of graphics cards
And a very big handgun
Mike pointed me to
another techie's weblog, recently, that of guru programmer John Topley,
and having had time for a quick look through the first few pages there's
some fascinating oddments, links and snippets of information. The current
highlights are a link to patched versions of the
original bundled applets
from the very first versions of Windows, an explanation of why the word "Burgermaster"
buried deep in the innards of current Windows systems, and how the
Windows NT development team couldn't
colour in shapes as well as the Windows 98 programmers. Well worth
exploring in more depth, I'd say.
Elsewhere, a fresh batch of updates at
the incomparable Dan's Data -
topics include giant magnets, getting electrocuted in the bath, and the
startling revelation that Dan is currently the
foremost money-grubber on the Internet. Kudos, dude!
Meanwhile, from BBSpot -
The Scariest Geek Movies, Part III - work backwards to parts I and II.
My favourites were "Invasion of the <BODY> Snatchers", "I Know
Who You Hacked Last Summer", and "Natural Born Kill -9'ers".
The menagerie of space models expanded slightly, a few
weeks ago, with the addition of four tiny little pieces from the
Startales collection. I
stumbled across these models on eBay, and was captivated immediately...
they're tiny, but well-made and full of detail - the photos don't really
do them justice. I found
an obliging supplier for the entire range in Japan, and snapped up
most of the ones that took my fancy. Full details, and
lots of pictures, in the freshly
updated and revamped Space Models
I showed Mike the Microsoft Exchange PR video and he
called me a whore, so I think my work is done. :-) The video
turned out remarkable well, actually - even though it was finally edited
down to just over three minutes, I ended up with a good proportion of that
time and had all the best soundbites. It will be shown at the
Microsoft IT Forum event in Copenhagen next week, but I have a
small-scale 300KBit version that runs to about 7Mb, so if anyone is
desperate to see it I can make it available here...
Closer to home, I've finally completed the write-up on
my shiny new PC. If you like pictures of the inside of computers, the
page is a must-see... If you don't, then
with a rather lower silicon content. Either way, enjoy.
Meanwhile, some links -
Linux backdoor hack attempted - but foiled thanks to the prompt
actions of the assembled lawn dwarves.
- straight out of
Nigerian Funds scammer exposed - well, one of them, anyway...
presumably they're not all Canadian?
"Inventor of the computer" honoured - but far from being the un-sung
hero the articles claim, this guy is all over the place these days...
3D modelling - in real 3D - sintering aluminium powder with a computer
controlled laser. Gosh!
World - but no actresses from virtual porn movies allowed, please.
A few months ago Microsoft released an update to
security vulnerability in DirectX, and unfortunately it had an
untoward effect on multimedia hardware such as my
All-In-Wonder card. The symptoms were a fuzzy display and inability to
properly re-tune TV channels on an existing installation or, as in my
case, the complete lack of any TV tuning ability at all in a fresh
The glitch only affected non-NTSC video hardware, so
didn't immediately come to light, but after a while of "well, it works for
me!" on the
support forums, we started to notice that it was only users outside
America who were affected. A degree of pressure from the assembled users
prompted ATI and
Microsoft to investigate, and in the fullness of time
patch was released - although, initially, only available by special
request direct from Microsoft tech support. As of this morning, though,
after a further degree of pressure from, well, me, actually, it is
available from their public download area. The patch works perfectly,
is a far cleaner option than mixing-and-matching driver versions, and is a
far safer option than sticking with earlier versions of DirectX V9.
Talking of Microsoft, this afternoon I was sent a copy
of the pre-production cut of Tuesday's interview. The
whole sequence is around eight minutes, of which I have about a quarter -
but apparently the final version will be edited down to a bare three
minutes, and by that stage I expect my contribution to be essentially a
and Butt-Head style "Exchange is cool... huh... huh..."
soundbite. Oh, well!
Elsewhere, some great little Flash animations courtesy
Foulds Design - the interface is a touch obscure, but look for "The
Economists" and "The Dancing Blair".
In the wake of yesterday's Gartner report on the myths
of desktop Linux, comes
remarkable statement from Red Hat's Matthew Szulik, CEO of one of the
original and foremost distributors of pre-packaged Linux. The Linux
operating system just isn't suitable for the desktop, he says, and
stick to Windows for the foreseeable future... and he's putting his
money where his mouth is, too, announcing in an email to existing users
that his company is
production and maintenance of the workstation-orientated builds and
concentrating only on the enterprise level server releases.
I hate to say "I told you so", but, well... I told you
so. It's been clear to me for years that none of the current flavours of
Unix was ever going to make significant headway into the home and office
PC market, and none of the spluttering and evangelising by Unix lawn
dwarves has made me want to change my mind... I've based this impression
firmly on my own experiences, too, as I've tried on several occasions to
get to grips with small-scale Unix installations only to retreat each time
in frustration. The latest attempt has been with my
Cobalt RaQ appliance, running a fairly straight-forward build of
Linux, and even the initial process of applying
the critical security updates was enough to turn me bug-eyed after a
evening of what felt like the IT equivalent of all-in wrestling.
And I'm certainly no tyro, either. I've been tweaking
and hacking computers of all types since the late 1970s... I predate DOS
and Windows in all its forms, and can remember a time when CP/M was still
a rather new and funky thing... I've used and supported pretty much
the full spectrum, from the
smallest handheld computers to
and mainframe systems, and although these days I'm firmly oriented towards
Windows/Intel-based systems I regularly have to configure enterprise-level
network hardware via peculiar and Byzantine
command-line interfaces. Complexity doesn't scare me, and after twenty
five years of experience I don't usually need my hand held - but I know
what I like, and I know what I consider to be reasonable behaviour in a
desktop computer system, and having to reach for a compiler to
the OS kernel every time I want to perform some minor hardware tweak
is not it.
I'd be the first to admit that Linux (and any other
Unix you care to name) has a place in the data centre, of course - it has
always been an excellent high-performance high-stability platform for
critical systems such as
public-facing web servers, and until recently I probably wouldn't have
considered implementing any other OS in such a high-profile application...
but since Windows Server 2003 was released earlier this year, with the
much-improved IIS6, I'd be quite happy using it to host an external
web system and, indeed, I'm currently doing just that.
For anything other than corporate or scientific
back-office systems, though, Linux always has been and probably always
will be dead in the water... and, for the first time ever, I find myself
in complete agreement with Red Hat's Szulik - like its
penguin mascot, desktop
Linux just won't fly.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch... Microsoft today
announced what can only be described as
a bounty of a
quarter of a million dollars each for information leading to the arrest of
the authors of this summer's Blaster and Sobig worms. The reward is being
announced in conjunction with the FBI, but the money is apparently coming
completely from Microsoft. Given the
traditional tendencies of hackers and virus writers to turn and stab
each other in the back when it comes down to the wire, I have a strong
suspicion that this tactic will prove extremely productive... Somebody
knows who wrote those worms, and as most of the authors' friends and
acquaintances are probably a spotty, adolescent script kiddies the lure of
a vast stack of hard cash is sure to prove thoroughly irresistible. I
think that we'll see a lot of false accusations initially, but I'd be
surprised if some genuine suspects don't emerge in a month or two - and,
perhaps more importantly, the remaining $4½ million that Microsoft has
apparently budgeted for rewards of this kind may well act as a strong
deterrent to future virus writers. It will certainly make taking any
credit for your work, even amongst your own circle of friends, a far more
dangerous proposition... Nice one, Microsoft!
Well, the video shoot went Ok, although I was better in
the rehearsal than the real thing... Possibly the presence of two of the
high-tech camcorders I've ever seen, pointing straight at me from
three feet away together with a small battery of assorted lights,
microphones and reflectors, contributed to that. Filming me in 16:9
wide-screen seems a trifle extravagant, though - I mean, I haven't put on
that much weight since I gave up smoking...
Meanwhile - as part of the PC upgrade last week, I
moved from BackupExec V8.6 to the
Version 9, and it has not been a particularly pleasant migration. To
begin with, the upgrade process failed to preserve my scheduled tasks and
previous backup history, which although not life-threatening was certainly
a pain in the neck - but the same thing happened on the various systems
I've upgraded at the office, too, so it seems to be a fairly routine
failure. More significant and annoying, though, is the apparent failure to
enable any kind of data compression with my
VXA-1 tape drive... The drive's own hardware compression now seems
completely inoperative, and BE's software compression is actually making
the data larger - with ratios of around 0.6:1 reported, I'm only fitting
twenty-something gigabytes on each 33Gb tape, which is hardly
satisfactory! I have support calls in with both Exabyte (Ecrix as was) and
Veritas, so we shall see what transpires...
Elsewhere, for the techy who has everything - well,
everything except a
hand-carved wooden USB memory stick, that is... Also from The
Enquirer, IBM votes with it's feet and
dumps Lotus Notes
from their internal networks. I have to sympathise - I never liked the
damn thing either, and would be happy to say so even if I wasn't an
unpaid mouthpiece for Microsoft's Exchange Server publicity machine...
And, finally, a report from The Gartner Group, analysing the
eight myths of desktop
Linux. [FX: Counts on fingers and toes, runs out, borrows Ros's
as well] What, you mean there are only eight?
I'm very pleased to see that all sorts of campaigns are
underway to resist the infamous Eolas patent that threatens to kill off
most of the existing broser plugin technologies. Microsoft are still
intending to appeal against the monstrous
$521 million judgement against them, of course, but in the meantime
all the big guns are coming out against the very existence of the spurious
patent itself. The latest player is the World
Wide Web Consortium, which has just released a
claiming that the technology in question existed in an similar form long
before the Eolas patent was granted - many examples of prior art exist
where non-HTML data was displayed in a separate browser window, instead of
the main window covered by the patent, and the
that this is functionally equivalent. With virtually the entire industry
mobilising against the patent, I'm becoming a little more hopeful that the
judgement will eventually be overturned... One thing is certain, though -
Eolas is making no friends at all with this behaviour, and they're
probably doomed as an IT company whatever the outcome. I have the feeling
that being a functional IT company was never part of their plan, though -
this entire saga has smelled more of corporate greed than the cutting edge
technology to which the the company claims to be so committed.
Another example of corporate greed can be seen in the
latest email virus to hit the Windows platform - the new flavour of the
Mimail virus, dubbed
by Network Associates, is designed to launch a distributed
denial-of-service attack against major anti-spam organisations
SPEWS. It seems fairly obvious that
this code was created by or at the behest of the spammers themselves,
hoping to shut down their relatively poorly-funded opponents completely -
and with several
anti-spam organisations already driven of the net by DDoS attacks from
this summer's Fizzer
and Sobig worms,
it appears to be working... :-(
Closer to home, one of Microsoft's PR media teams is
turning up at my office tomorrow to film me talking about Exchange 2003
for the European launch next month, and on Wednesday my own company's PR
department are having me photographed for an upcoming story in
Computer Weekly. Gosh!
A new month, and a new PC... All the side panels are
back on, it's safely back on my desk, and everything seems to be working
very nicely indeed. There's still a fair bit of fiddling about to do at a
later date, with some additional systems software to install, the S-ATA
disk activity LEDs to debug, and the most of the temperature probes to
wire in, but it's been a very productive and successful day so far and I'm
on the home stretch now. Phew!
Full details, complete with many geek-porn images of
the inside of a PC, coming imminently at the new
A surprising climb in my stats last month, too - after
the plateau of August and September I'd assumed that I'd found my natural
level, but an additional five hundred visitors in October suggests that
there's still life in the old dog yet. That's no excuse not to vote for the
site at Tweakers Australia, though
- just click the button below if you want to avoid a long, detailed lecture
on exactly how I routed all the wiring in the new case... And don't think I
wouldn't do it, too.