The end of the week at last, and somewhat to my surprise
I survived again. A week without both of my
PFYs is no
joke, though, and I really hope they don't make a habit of it...
So, is this totally bad, or what? It's a replica
of the Franchi SPAS-12
semi-auto shotgun, manufactured by Japanese custom airsoft specialist
Sheriff. There were
only fifty of this particular model built, I gather, and these days it's
something of a classic. It's
something of a hybrid, too, made by combining the body of a KTW
spring-cocking replica with an Asahi
BV gas mechanism,
and then completely rebuilding the outer shell and furniture by hand. The
build and materials quality approach that of the real thing, and with an
all-metal construction it's a monster both in weight and length. In fact, it
is considered to be so realistic that I've asked the seller to include a
covering letter explaining to customs how they can easily determine that it
is only a replica.
On its way to me from the US now. Watch this space for
Just links, tonight - both of my PFYs have been
out of the office this week, and the strain is starting to show... I'd
forgotten how annoying and distracting it is to deal with the endless
stream of network account creations and deletions, web site unblocking,
mailbox quota resetting, etc etc - as well as my regular tasks, which this
week have included trying to oversee the SMS roll-out of Office 2003 to
our regional sales offices and compiling an overview of the increasingly
tangled data security in our Finance division. Oh, boy!
Unpublished data reverses risk-benefit of SSRIs in children - some of
the commonly proscribed anti-depressants are both ineffective and
potentially harmful, according to a new review of research... and the
pharmaceuticals cartel has deliberately suppressed the information.
Boosting your brain with exotic chemicals - but haven't we been here
before? Once in the sixties with the illegal drugs, and then again in the
eighties with the so-called smart drugs. How long before a new batch of
legislation to expand
The War On Some
fiction comes to life - drawings straight onto the retina with lasers,
so that digital images can be viewed in superimposition to the real world.
Suing your competitors for fun and profit - the growth of intellectual
property disputes in modern business practice. And, talking of which...
SCO vs. AutoZone - one of the companies targeted in SCO's attack on
Linux end users last month has asked for the case to be stayed until
results from three prior SCO lawsuits against IBM, Red Hat and Novell are
known. It seems like a reasonable request, to me!
has just filed 477 more lawsuits - everybody's least-favourite
corporate pressure group is at it again, bringing their total to more than
1500 lawsuits so far this year. Many of this week's targets are university
DVD post-processing in software - everybody is raving about the
quality of the image enhancement systems that are
suddenly cropping up all over, but
it isn't that long ago that plain old DVDs were considered to be pretty
spiffy on their own!
Net Advertising set to boom - although, as I said a few days ago, it
will probably just mean increasingly intrusive and annoying methods of
displaying the adverts - such as these new ones, which are
apparently resistant to advert and pop-up blocking systems. Grrrr!
New SSL worm in the wild already? Symantec claim to have found a
worm that exploits the PCT vulnerability disclosed by Microsoft only last
week. Other analysts claim that it is only a code fragment, though, and
not a finished product - but even if so, it won't stay that way for long!
TurboLinux to license Windows Media format - I'm very interested in
the recent trickle of Linux systems starting to add support for various
Windows standards. This could be very good for Linux in general, I think,
if it heralds an end to the ridiculous "Microsoft is Satan" stance so
prevalent amongst the fanboys. They're not doing their cause any favours
with that attitude, I'm sure...
To Mike Field,
sales team, MDS
Battery Ltd, after a UPS battery I'd ordered failed to turn up on
You know, when I have to deal with an unhappy
customer, I start off by apologising that his experience with my company
hasn't been up to the standards we aspire to, and only then go on
to point out why he's probably a moronic fuckwit. Your strategy seems to
be to jump straight to step two, and then miss out step one completely.
How very courageous! Do you find this works well for your business?
Obviously UPS have made one of their not infrequent
mistakes - I would hazard a guess that they tried to deliver to the wrong
address yesterday, but that's rather irrelevant now. However, I
specifically arranged for somebody to be waiting for several shipments
yesterday, and they waited all day with no sign of UPS at all - although
three other deliveries were received successfully during that time. Had it
been otherwise, I would have been trying to deal with UPS directly rather
than sending annoyed email to your company - something that presumably
didn't occur to you!
I am even less of a happy bunny, now, but it doesn't
have to end there - this is what I can do to register my displeasure with
1) Vote with my feet, and not order from you again.
If you feel that an unhappy customer "is hardly your problem" then
I shall be happy to buy my batteries from Kara's or direct from APC in
future. Because of this, I insist under the terms of the Data Protection
Act that you delete my account from your online shopping site, and remove
any and all personal details held on your company's computer or
2) I shall find the time to give your company a
suitably glowing write-up in the "disappointing online traders"
section of my weblog. In these days of well-indexed, fully-searchable
amateur journalism, all publicity is good publicity, don't you think? It
seems to me that the "hardly our problem" comment will go down
3) As one of your customers who was targeted by the
"mdsbettary.co.uk" phishing scam a few weeks ago, and who never had
a response to the anxious query I sent to you about the security of your
customer list, I was unsure whether to risk re-ordering from you anyway.
Now, however, I shall be happy to pass on to the UK tech journalism sites
such as The Register my speculation that, as the scam emails were
so accurately targeted to existing MDS customers, you may well have had
your site hacked and an unknown quantity of secure data stolen. Phishing
is big news, right now, and as your company is one of the first
non-banking sector sites to be attacked in this way I'm sure that they
will be very interested.
Just remember - as a salesman, unhappy customers
aren't your problem. Have a nice day!
So I was flipping through this week's
CPC Computer Commodities
flyer, and noticed HP's new
ScanJet 4600 series scanners. These are ultra-slim "see-through"
units, with the scan head under a transparent top cover looking down onto
the item to be scanned. It's an interesting design, allowing a page to be
aligned far more easily than in a conventional flatbed, and this
fundamental change in layout even allows the 4670 model to be used
vertically to minimise the footprint. Not to be outdone, though, it seems
that Canon's new
LiDE USB2 range of scanners can also be used in a near-vertical
position, and given how much space a scanner usually takes up I think this
is a major improvement for today's increasingly crowded desks. It has to
be said that one of my main purchase criteria these days would have to be
availability in a colour to match the rest of my PC hardware, though, and
this puts the black and gold
LiDE 80 well ahead of the rest!
Elsewhere, I stumbled across
Word Origins, a small but
well-formed etymology site. Among the entries that popped out at me was
that for "hello", which to my considerable surprise apparently dates back
only to the invention of the telephone early in the 20th century.
Interestingly, Alexander Graham Bell, creator of the finished product if
not the underlying technologies, favoured use of the word "ahoy" instead -
the traditional greeting of The Simpsons character Monty Burns.
Also featured was the term "jumping the shark" - not
one I had heard before, but apparently coined from the episode of the TV
show Happy Days
in which Fonzie jumps over a shark tank on water skis. Many fans of the
show consider this cliff-hanger episode to be the best of the series,
after which it was down-hill all the way, and the term is now used to
describe the high point of any TV
show or, increasingly, of anything else as well. Etymology is
national ISP blocked by anti-spam group - although according to guru
Steve Linford the group in question
is new, small and generally not influential...
CNet providing free
music - not via the MP3.com site they bought and closed last year
(although they claim that will be
back online again in the future as an information site) but a similar
showcase for independent artists and small labels.
cryptographically sound random number generator - actually a purely
digital spin-off of SGI's famous
lava lamp random number
An interesting feature at Ars.Technica -
DVRs poised to
change advertising culture... Although probably it will just mean
increasingly intrusive and annoying adverts on both television and the
Liquid body armour - Kevlar soaked in STF, or Sheer Thickening
Fluid, which consists of nano-particles of silica suspended in
polyethylene glycol. A liquid under normal conditions, it hardens
instantly on impact to add additional ballistic protection without
sacrificing mass and mobility. Very science fiction!
Problems with the latest semiconductor fab plants - the industry-wide
move to the 90-nanometer fabrication process is not going at all smoothly,
it seems... IBM, especially, seem to be having great difficulties, as
their chip manufacture division managed to lose $150 million last year...
Electronic Arts sued - EMI says that the games manufacturer has has
infringed copyright for the background music used in three of its sports
games - but EA says that there is actually only one song,
containing legally sampled extracts from the others, and that it is
Last summer I
salvaged an external disk array subsystem from an obsolete DEC Alpha
on its way to the scrap heap, and it's been working quite happily since
then providing 36Gb of RAID-5 storage for my home server. Given that the
disk drives are a few years old and of unknown provenance I don't trust it
with anything important, but it's been very useful for data I don't care
about very much - backups of my RaQ server, temporary volume snapshots,
However, a few days ago the
Adaptec CI/O SCSI management software on the server rather belatedly
informed me that one of the five 9.1Gb drives had failed earlier in the
week. I'm not quite clear why it chose to wait several days before
informing me, but I rarely check the server manually and as the array
redundancy kept the data online without any sign of a problem I'm very
glad that it did - better late than never! The drives are Compaq-branded
Seagate Barracudas, and
readily available on eBay for between £10 and £15, so I bought a pair
just in case...
The Register exposes some of the double-think behind Blunkett's
compulsory ID card scam. As expected, there are a lot of lies being told
to justify the plan on the grounds of keeping us all safe from terrorists
and criminals - and more and more I'm thinking of
little speech on controlling societies...
Meanwhile, gratuitous replica handguns! [Rubs
hands together] Clockwise from top left - Para Ordnance P15-45,
SVI Infinity Xcelerator Hybrid, Browning Hi-Power, S&W M629, Beretta
M92FS, and an SVI/Para Ordnance composite.
As I suspected, the batteries in one of my home
UPS systems (don't laugh, but I have three, legacy of a
month of frequent mains failures a
couple of years ago) seem to have almost completely died. The unit feeding
the desktop PCs upstairs is managing to provide at least an hour's
runtime, but the identical but slightly less heavily loaded unit feeding
the servers is only achieving around seven minutes! I did try my
new IT director's suggestion of rolling it onto its top
and back again a few times without any improvement, and having read a
APC's technical documents I'm not surprised that it didn't help -
apparently the electrolyte gel is held in open-weave fibreglass mats to
prevent leakage, so there isn't really much scope for agitation to release
the putative gas bubbles. Never mind - it was worth a try!
The rather less off-the-wall solution has been to buy a
set of replacement battery packs, and somewhat against my better judgement
I decided to source them from
MDS Batteries, a UK supplier of every type of battery imaginable. I
was a touch reluctant, as the company seems to have had its customer list
leaked or stolen a few weeks ago - I got a message from a misleadingly
similar domain name asking me to confirm my login details, and some
investigation showed that it was a classic phishing scam. The fact that I
am actually a registered customer of a relatively small company
made me think that the scam email had been specifically targeted rather
than just sent out randomly, and the company's firm refusal to elaborate
on the exact details of the scam seems to confirm that...
Nevertheless, their prices are more than £50 cheaper
than buying from
APC's own online store, and that's a convincing argument - so I
crossed fingers that whatever the security breach was has now been
corrected, and voted with my wallet. While I was comparing prices, though,
I spotted a new addition to APC's product line, the
laptop carrying cases. This is a range of cases with various neatly
built-in power supply and charging options - a universal PSU for the
laptop itself, several USB charging sockets for cellphones, PDAs etc, and
the facility to take its power from not only mains electricity but auto
and air power sockets as well, with basic surge and spike protection built
in. It's a really cunning idea, and I can think of at least one road
warrior who would find it very useful indeed.
vs. Apple - a group of independent retailers were protesting outside
the company's Cupertino headquarters during Thursday's shareholder
meeting, claiming that Apple is heavily favouring its own shops over the
Their lawsuit accuses Apple of breach of contract, fraud, trade libel,
unfair competition, false advertising, misappropriation of trade secrets,
intentional interference, violation of the Song-Beverly Consumer
Warranty Act (whatever that is!), and more... Gosh!
Closer to home, security software firm Network
changing its name yet again, this time reverting to the McAfee name
they used until a couple of years ago... Considering that their product
branding has only just started catching up with the change to NAI, and
that some internal components still have the old Dr Solomon's
branding from the name change before that, this sounds like an excellent
way of confusing everyone and wasting a whole bunch of money. Classic
corporate management strategy, as usual...
Anyone who is still unaware of the calibre of the men
running the country (and, from the results of yesterday's poll on
cards that seems to be a significant majority!) could learn something
from the details that have just emerged of the government's
suspected terrorists. One of the two suspects released today was held
for sixteen months without being charged, without being shown the evidence
against him and, indeed, without even being questioned by the security
services... The man, a Libyan referred to only as "M", was finally freed
after a tribunal ruled that the government did not have any reasonable
grounds to suspect he might be a terrorist. A second suspect, an Algerian
known as "G", has been transferred from prison to house arrest on medical
grounds, after the tribunal found that his indefinite imprisonment without
charge had driven him insane - and "M" claims that he is by no means the
I first started to become politically aware and active
during the Conservative governments of the late 1980s, and the Home
Secretaries we suffered under then seemed to be the very worst that the
Western political machine could produce... But fifteen years later they
all look like cuddly cartoon characters in comparison to the loathsome,
inhuman toad that is David Blunkett. It finally seems to have come to the
point where I'd actually prefer a Conservative government again to another
term under Tony Blair's so-called Labour party. Sad times, indeed...
I remember when we was both out on the boulevard
Talkin' revolution and singin' the blues
Nowadays it's letters to the editor
And cheatin' on our taxes
Is the best that we can do
- Steve Earle
Raids on warez groups worldwide - more than 200 computers seized and
nearly 100 individuals identified, according to the US Justice Department.
computers not yet popular - an article in Pravda (Oooh! Pravda is
online!) suggests that nevertheless wooden computers are more
environmentally friendly than their plastic cousins - a claim which I find
somewhat dubious, I have to say...
Emulation layer allows Windows apps to run on Linux - although from
the scorn poured on most Windows applications by the Linux fanboys, I
can't imagine why they'd ever want to!
Unsolicited CDs ought to come with return envelope - a bill before the
California Assembly will force companies to be responsible for taking back
the disks if it they aren't used. This could be the final straw for AOL,
who send out an estimated 300 million CDs every year...
Lockheed's airborne anti-missile laser reaches maturity - I've been
watching this system slowly developing for around twenty years, from it's
Reagan's SDI programme, and I think it's about time that it's finally
More IP lawsuits as Forgent's JPEG claim resurfaces - is anyone
actually doing any IT development, these days, or are they all just suing
each other? Sometimes I wonder... :-(
LED fan from Aerocool - it changes colour depending on the air
temperature! I think this is a very elegant idea, but I do wonder if it
will survive Antec's
rant about this morning's Mori survey on compulsory ID cards, from
John Lettice at The Register. The public want them, it seems, but
as expected they have absolutely no idea about the practicalities of the
technology, the ability of the government to implement the scheme
properly, or the accuracy and fairness of the data that will probably be
encoded on the card. Unfortunately the six percent who do
understand the realities of the situation will almost certainly be swamped
by the wretched, sheep-like mass of the UK's great uninformed. It's a damn
MS hires ex-SUSE
executive - the project leader behind the migration of the Munich
local government IT services to Linux has defected to Microsoft...
reported last month, the once acclaimed flagship roll-out seems to
have bogged down with problems and delays.
Fake phone bills fool Canadians - but was it a scam, or just clever
marketing? The company responsible claims the latter, of course, stating
that their promotional "bill" looks completely different from the real
thing - but the prosecution maintains that they are so convincing in
overall appearance that the differing layout is irrelevant.
Another Infinium lawsuit - this is becoming just as entertaining as
the SCO fracas! And, talking of which, the vulture capital firm behind SCO
is demanding a
"regime change", complaining that the current management are spending
too much time talking and not enough time in court. Damn, but I remember
SCO when they were still a software house...
And, finally, courtesy of
The Bloodhound Gang - "A Lap Dance Is So Much Better When the
Stripper is Crying". Um, yes...
So I met our new IT director today, and he turns out to
be an ex-techie... I think that may bring both benefits and problems in
the long run, as although he'll obviously have a far more realistic
understanding of what can and can't be done with computer systems than
many directors, on the other hand - well, he'll have a far more realistic
understanding of what can and can't be done with computer systems! It's a
On the other hand, while we were talking about UPS
systems, I mentioned that one of the APC UPS boxes on my home LAN has
lost a lot of run-time, and he came up with a novel
solution - rolling it over onto its back then upright again a few times!
A little research shows
that over time the gel electrolyte in sealed lead-acid batteries can trap
gas bubbles next to the plates, decreasing the metal-acid contact area and
so reducing the power capacity of the cell. Some gentle agitation helps to
release these bubbles, restoring the full surface area of the electrode
plates. With a run-time of around seven minutes at present, it has to be
worth a try - but as the
SmartUPS 2200 models weigh over 50kg it's going to be an interesting
manoeuvre! I'll report back...
EFF to fight against bogus patents - to start with, they're taking aim
at Amazon's "One-Click" shopping patent, and another covering online
credit card payments.
record set on Internet II - and a new unit of measurement, too, the
terabit-meter per second.
Microsoft refund claims still sparse - but what is the status of the
price-fixing claims, I wonder?
SATA-2 standard already on the horizon - 3Gbps, plus all-new cables
and connectors... Just when I'd got used to the current ones!
ends MP3 amnesty - for all the wrong reasons, as usual! They really
are the most sneaky, slippery bunch of bastards imaginable...
Some people actually like dial-up net access? I was talking to one the
other night, as it happens, but I have to say that I consider it to be
deeply perverted behaviour.
Hacker profiles exposed at ZDNet - Kevin Mitnick and the other all
old-timers, so I guess it must be a slow news day in Australia...
Anti-SCO insurance - everybody is making a buck out of this, it seems,
except for the corporate end-users of Linux operating systems!
Ars.Technica reviews alternative IM clients - I've been using
GAIM, recently, and although
it's not without its quirks I'd never use AOL's own offering.
Major new TCP
vulnerability could affect Internet backbone routers - still
theoretical at this stage, but apparently very easy to exploit if anyone
wants to try. Many major providers have already modified their systems to
work around the issue, though, so hopefully we will never see an effective
money for sending spam - marketing firm Sendmails Corp offers users $5
for downloading and installing the company's mail delivery agent software,
then an additional $1 for every hour of computing time that their PCs
spend blasting out e-mails on behalf of Sendmails and its clients. Now
this we can do without... :-(
Well, that was an incredibly annoying day, on the
whole. My management roped me into running a two day security seminar for
the edification of the techies managing the networks belonging to our
other offices worldwide, and not all of them were very keen on the idea...
One American delegate, especially, arrived with a massive chip on his
shoulder - although, fortunately, he was jet-lagged and spent most of the
morning asleep. Around lunchtime, though, he woke up and announced loudly
that he had been trained by the military to learn in his sleep! I really
didn't know what to say to that, but after another half an hour of his
"contributions" most of us were wishing that he'd go back to sleep
Still, the day was not without its interesting points,
as one of the security consultants brought in to help out with the
cat-herding mentioned the incredibly strict
money laundering laws now
in force in England. Leaving aside the offence of money laundering itself,
it turns out that failing to report even a suspicion that money
laundering is taking place is also an offence - and one punishable by up
to fourteen years in prison! And these sentences carry no remission,
either, so a person sentenced to fourteen years will actually serve
fourteen years. Given that this is significantly longer than the sentences
served by many convicted murderers, it clearly shows the English legal
system's opinion of crimes against property as opposed to crimes against
The consultant also pointed me to a marvellous
document, too - The
Ten Commandments of The Computer Ethics Institute. Given that I
routinely break several of them without a single qualm, and have flirted
with most of the rest over the years, in some ways I am not
excellently suited to be giving a seminar on computer security. :-)
Judge throws out chat-log evidence - in an interesting twist, a judge
in New Hampshire (a "two-party consent" state, where all parties to a
conversation must agree before the conversation can be intercepted or
recorded) has refused to admit the main evidence against an accused online
Germany moots jail for spammers - big fines for spammers and the
companies which use their services, and prison sentences for the worst
offenders. Now that's what I like to hear!
New siege engine models from
RLT - the
Petraria Arcatinus, and a
PVC trebuchet design.
Dan's 100th Letters
Column - with more on the Gigabyte Controversy, the word on the
expected lifespan of high-end video cards, and a strange question about an
dogging, here comes "toothing" - The Register covers the latest in
fashionable sex adventuring. Fire up those Bluetooth phones and PDAs...
calculate your risk of death by giant asteroid strike. Thanks to the
Department of Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona, we can all
sleep easy in our beds... or not, as the case may be!
So the US Government has
firmly denied that they have any
re-activating the "Selective Service"
draft mechanism to supplement the badly over-stretched troops in Iraq, so
of course college students and techies everywhere are now feeling
extremely nervous. BartCop has a
alert status checklist, and if I lived in the US, I think I'd be
printing it out for reference - I trust Bush's government even less than I
do Tony Blair's, and that's saying something...
AnandTech reviews the Jetway Magic Twin - a miniature PC designed to
support two separate users simultaneously. How clever!
download of rebadged "Linspire" OS - in an attempt to publicise
the new name, the distribution is freely downloadable "for the next few
days" via the BitTorrent P2P network.
eMachines employees receive $72.5 million bonuses - after the
lucrative sale of the low-end PC manufacturer to Gateway, every
employee has been given a bonus of at least 30% of their annual salary.
New polymer technologies emerging - a plastic that
conducts electricity, and one that can be
moulded at room temperature.
shoot-'em-up game in less than 100Kb - it looks great, and the
screenshots for ".kkrieger" are a bigger download than the game
It's a bad time for the gullible, right now, with a
wonderful 419 scam involving a
astronaut trapped on a secret ex-Soviet space station, a phishing scam
plasma TVs from Estonia, and the classic
premium rate dialler trojan resurfacing.
And, finally - soft, cuddly versions of the dread
haunter of the deep,
Chthulhu himself. They have a
Nyarlethotep, too - collect the entire range of Great Old Ones, and
all without anyone having to eat their own eyes!
The only real problem with the network management job
I've been doing for the last five or six years has been the IT department
manager, who is an annoying, irrational, capricious, insecure bully of a
man, and who over the years has done more to lower morale within the
department than anything else imaginable. One of the main reasons for the
chip on his shoulder, I think, has been the continuing refusal of the
company to promote him to IT director - and although he's come close to
resigning over this several times in the last few years, he's been with
the company for three decades and so presumably has no faith in his
ability to find another job elsewhere.
The IT department has grown fast over the last few
years, though, along with the rest of the company, and it's become obvious
that we needed representation at board level. Now, my spies within HR have
been keeping me informed of developments over the last few months, so a
few days ago it came as no great surprise to be told unofficially that a
new director would be joining us next week to run the department. To make
space for him, the annoying manager will be relegated to leading a project
to replace our aging outsourced mainframe with a spiffy new in-house
SQL-based system, and once that is out of the way in a few years time
he'll probably just retire - to a collective sigh of relief from the whole
company, I suspect, as he's no better liked outside the department than
The official announcement of our new director came
today, though, and with it came something that my sources in HR hadn't
thought to mention - he's only 34 years old, to my 37! I've always been Ok
with the fact that my immediate manager is almost a decade younger than
me, but to have the IT director several years younger as well suddenly
makes me feel very old indeed! Only time will tell how this is all going
to work out...
computer-generated nudes - rendered in Poser, apparently, but
if so these are an order of magnitude better than anything else I've seen
so far... Thanks to Mike for the link.
Infinium rats are starting to leave the sinking ship - the
manufacturer of the alleged Phantom games console, not content with
is now fragmenting and suing itself!
"She Hates My
Futon" - a story of relationship angst, computer dating and, of
course futons. Dryly amusing throughout...
Samurize system monitor - all sorts of useful system and status
information displayed right on the desktop, highly customisable and highly
skinnable. I think I'll give this one a try.
And, finally, spotted online by my friend
Graham - "IRC is just multi-player
Links. Take 'em or leave 'em.
that isn't wet - just as good for fighting fires, but without the
soggy, squishy after-effects. I have absolutely no idea how this works!
Lindows is back,
as "Linspire" - but does anyone actually care? I never got the
impression that they were a particularly successful business, even before
they attracted the Baleful Eye of Gates...
Google's GMail, yet again - the contrast between Google's secretive
nature and the liberties they take with their customers' data.
The true American addiction - worse than crack, worse than sex, worse
than gambling... Quail at the evils of Solitaire.
"Offshore" is now a dirty word in business - but with
more Dell workers overseas than in the US, it's simply going
break-ins at colleges, universities and research institutions -
attackers are using known vulnerabilities in Linux and Solaris, along with
compromised user accounts, to gain access and control of systems ranging
from standalone servers to HPC clusters. It's instructive to read the
thread at Slashdot, though - the prevailing attitude is so very
different from when a Windows security flaw is announced...
And, finally, rude ASCII animations - who would have
(if it's too large for your screen, change the point size in the pull-down
in the top left) and one
here - the latter purports to be the entire "Deep
Throat" movie, although in ASCII it's really hard to tell.
Some people have far too much time, and CPU cycles, on their hands.
|Oh, and... six handguns, three shotguns, two SMGs and a pair of
assault rifles. Is someone going to tell me when it's
Ok to stop...?
After a day spent wrestling with SMS, HIS and LTO, I
have no brain for anything but a handful of quick links.... So you'll take
what you're given and like it, or it's back to the fish heads again.
(the company formerly known as Gator) files for IPO - so how will one
of the world's least well-regarded software houses fare on the market?
New NetSky variants open back doors - versions S, T and U leave a
listener running on TCP port 6789, permitting future updates to the
trojan's core code.
on Antec's LED fans patent claim - they document at least one
commercial offering that pre-dates Antec's unit, and a whole bunch of
homebrew versions to show prior art. Oh, and there's a thread here, at
Modder's HQ, where a representative from Antec puts their side of the
Google's GMail faces legal challenge - Californian state senator Liz
Figueroa, the architect of the "Do Not Call" law that allows citizens to
opt-out of telemarketing calls, is
block the new mail service because of its keyword-based advertising.
tape backup market with 35Gb REV disk drive - but only time will tell
if the new hardware works out better than their previous offerings, either
technically or in terms of
the BBC are
to broadcast sperm racing - you heard me, yes, sperm racing. I wonder
if the high street bookmakers will be taking bets?
Ars Technica, it seems that the actual risk of the notorious
Mac OS X
trojan has been inflated by a company trying to sell anti-virus
software. Now, where have I heard that
before? Still, as someone on the Ars
discussion thread pointed out, virus writing is now a directly
profit-driven activity, which ensures that the spam programmers will turn
their attention to the Mac platform sooner rather than later - and
proof-of-concept code does seem to be finding its way into a working
implementation extremely fast these days. If I was a Mac user, I would be
taking this as a fortuitous early warning and putting proactive security
measures in before the code finds its way into a genuine virus.
Meanwhile, my friend Mike pointed me to
the fuss that is surrounding the advertising for the new
Dawn Of The Dead
movie. Apparently one of the billboard posters has a rather spooky picture
of a staring zombie child's face, and the residents of rural Lincolnshire
up in arms about it...
I have to say that I am rather tired of the current
obsession with protecting children from every conceivable image that might
upset the little dears... The world is a horrid, nasty, brutal
place, and the tactic of wrapping childrens' sensibilities in cotton wool
until suddenly exposing them to all the harsh realities at age eighteen or
thereabouts seems really butt-headed. I was regularly traumatised by
movies and television programmes when I was a child (a couple of
Doctor Who episodes spring to mind), but none of it lasted for
any significant time and, as the saying has it, it never did me any harm!
Actually rather the opposite, I suspect, for as a young adult I was
capable of looking past the gore of a violent news story, for example, to
consider the political and sociological aspects of the story itself
without being hung up on the loss of life. In this day and age, I think
that's a useful ability - and will it be one that tomorrow's cosseted,
delicate teens will share...?
soft, cuddly microbes - a whole range of them, from the Rhinovirus that
causes the common cold to Streptococcus, H.Pylori, and the Saccharomyces
brewer's yeast. I think these are wonderful!
release FATA drive - Fibre ATA is basically a Serial ATA drive with a
fibre channel interface bolted on. Seagate are aiming it at entry-level
servers, but in spite of the marketing hype it does seem to be a
technology desperately searching for a worthwhile application...
PC cases by Katsuya Matsumura - life sized sculptures of female anime
characters, robots, and mythological monsters... some remarkable
work, undoubtedly, but the fact that they're also a PC case is really
Friendly's take on Bill Gates' downfall - oh, the shame of it all.
After some consideration, I have come to the conclusion
that Hawkwind's pairing of
"Assault And Battery" and "The Golden Void", the sweeping and
melodic semi-instrumental opening segment of their 1975 "Warrior
On The Edge Of Time" album, is absolutely one of the finest tracks
of the period. I urge you all to go out and buy a copy tomorrow - or
anything else by Hawkwind, for that matter, one of the few groups from my
teenage rock phase for whom I can still raise any enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, almost exactly fifty years earlier...
I don't know, but I believe I'm right
The auto's ruined the country
Let's go back to the horse and buggy
And try to save some money
- "Uncle" Dave Macon,
Is A Hard Road To Travel
It should be noted that Uncle Dave, as well as being
one of the era's most prolific recording artists with more than two
hundred songs to his name between 1924 and 1952, actually owned a
horse-and-wagon road haulage business. What a marvellous piece of
NetSky-Q virus attacks file-sharing sites - with the home pages of
Kazaa, eMule and eDonkey either under serious pressure or actually flooded
off line, is it reasonable to speculate that the RIAA are responsible for
this new flavour of
the virus? Given their general attitude and
aims, I'm inclined to think that they probably are...
And, talking of viruses - the
first Mac OS X
trojan horse has been spotted in the wild, and it's a clever one...
The malicious code is encapsulated in the ID3 tag of an MP3 file, of all
things - double-clicking the file launches the hidden code, which damages
and/or deletes system files, then connects to iTunes to play the music
contained in the file and so cover its tracks. Hah! That will take the
smug, self-satisfied look off the Mac-zealots' faces.
RealPlayer security flaw - a buffer overflow in the R3T media plug-in
that allows arbitrary code to be executed, affecting all but the latest
V10 Gold of the player. Yet another nail in Real's coffin, I guess - small
in itself, but the cumulative impact of all these flaws and annoyances
has to be significant.
DVD players with built-in censor - Wal-Mart and Kmart are planning to
sell a DVD player that includes a technology that can automatically skip
sexual content, graphically violent scenes and language deemed offensive.
<long, heartfelt sigh>
CD copy protection via an analogue copy - uses an obsolete technology
path to bypass the digital security, but then processes the resulting
stream from an online database to add track boundaries and titles. A
clever idea, I guess, but...
claims online anti-virus scanners buggy - security pundit Rafel Ivgi,
also known as "The- Insider", claims that the online scanners from
Symantec, McAfee and Panda all contain buffer overflows. Other experts
claim that his warnings are exaggerated though, so it will be interesting
to see what transpires.
1 million people hoping for spammer's Porsche - after last week's
announcement by AOL that they were running a sweepstake for the seized
Boxster S convertible, the ISP has been receiving several hundred
applications per minute at peak times. The winner will be announced during
the week of April 19.
Antec claims patent on LED fans - I'm in two minds over this, as
although Antec probably did make the first commercial model, the
hard-core modders were wiring up LEDS to their case fans several years
before the recently awarded patent - and in the long run it doesn't
usually pay to alienate the very community who put your company on the
the story of the
infamous Hello Kitty vibrator - an item which the holder of the
otherwise sweetly wholesome "Hello Kitty" license,
Sanrio, would much rather had never
Thanks to the Easter holiday, it's the end of the
working week at last - and boy, am I glad that one is over...
Here, have some random links:
creates automatic captions - a system that can caption digital photos
by listening to people talk about them is being developed by
Hewlett-Packard. It starts recording when a digital photo album is opened,
then processes the resulting conversations with speech recognition and
extracts keywords with which the photos are captioned and indexed. Clever,
but probably capable of producing some very odd results...
What it takes
to be a terror suspect - the ACLU are mounting lawsuits against the
Department of Homeland Security and the Transport Security Administration
over the shady 'no fly' list distributed to US airlines. There is a
significant number of people who really shouldn't be on the list,
apparently, but there is no way of finding out why they are there, and
apparently no way of getting off the list either!
Teenage girl on child porn rap for posting her own pictures online -
after sending images of herself naked and having sex to acquaintances met
on chat rooms, a teenager has been charged with the possession and
distribution of child pornography, and with the sexual abuse of children.
<sigh> A perfect illustration of the law being a complete and utter
still under heavy fire over GMail - watchdog Privacy International,
known for its annual Big Brother Awards, has asked the UK Information
Commissioner to investigate Google's email service. Simon Davies, director
of the group, describes GMail as "a vast violation of European law",
and suggests that Google itself doesn't actually appear to have performed
Bush to host ranch tour for NRA and environmental groups - it amazes
me that anyone would seriously contemplate combining the hunting fanatics
of the NRA with such tree-hugging organisations as (and I'm not making
this up) "Ducks Unlimited" and "Pheasants Forever". I
foresee bloodshed in the car park...
Linux vendors hit
back at analyst report - after a report from analyst firm Forrester
claims that in practical terms Linux is no more secure than Windows, the
Linux weenies are up in arms. It's not fair, they say, to take all
the Linux security flaws into account, instead of just the serious ones...
The latest fashion
must-have, eyeball jewellery - tiny slithers of shiny stuff are
surgically inserted into the conjunctiva of the eyeball. "So far we
have not seen any side effects or complications", said the Dutch
surgeon who pioneered the procedure, "and we don't expect any in the
future." I have to say that I'm not convinced.
ejaculation may protect against cancer - frequent sexual intercourse
or masturbation may well protect men against prostate cancer, suggests the
largest study of the issue to date. "More than 12 ejaculations per
month would start conferring the benefit", says the report - "on
average every second day or so." So, there you go!
I'm delighted... After four years of frustration over
enterprise RAID array hardware, I've finally managed to achieve the Mecca
of storage management - adding extra disks to an array and then expanding
the volume to fill the new capacity, right in the middle of the day, and
without the users being any the wiser. This facility has been advertised
on their systems for ages, but every time I've actually tried to perform
the expansion there turned out to be some stupid, fiddly and most
importantly undocumented reason why it wasn't possible - it doesn't
work on disk volumes upgraded from NT4, it needs free space after the
partition to work with, there is an "r" in the month, etc etc...
On every previous occasion that we've needed to expand
a volume, therefore, I've had to re-create it from scratch and then
restore several hundreds of gigabytes from tape, a process that takes most
of a day and usually leaves me with fingernails chewed down the the elbow.
On the last occasion, though, I tried as carefully as I could to build the
new volume with all the known eccentricities in mind and it seems to have
paid off, as I was able to add the new capacity without doing more than
slowing the disk subsystem down a touch for the few hours it took for the
array to resynchronise. I am a happy bunny indeed, tonight.
Meanwhile... I had no idea that there were so many
versions of an old bluegrass song I'm fond of, "Jordan Is a Hard Road
To Travel". I was aware that the version I know best, recorded by
Dave Macon in 1927, was inspired by a considerably earlier original
Daniel "Old Dan" Emmett in the middle of the 19th century, but while
trying to track down a better set of lyrics for the former I came across a
site that carefully cross-references no less than twenty five
significantly different variants of the song, as well as an extensive
other fiddle music from the period. The site is well worth exploring,
if you like bluegrass - and, face it, after "O
Brother, Where Art Thou", who doesn't...
Brief History Of Spam
Iron Chef haiku
Lindows throws in the towel
What a day... We're busy replacing our old NT4-based
SNA Server installation with a shiny new Server 2003-based
HIS Server, and
simultaneously upgrading the
processor that formats the mainframe documents from version 2 to version
3. Although everything seems to be going well it's a fiddly task indeed,
and as I'm apparently the only person who understands all the links of the
chain I've been run ragged coordinating the various teams involved in the
project... Next we'll spend a couple of weeks testing it and chasing
whatever issues arise, with the intention of switching over to the new
system sometime around the end of the month. Phew!
Meanwhile, a bumper crop of links...
robot conducts Beethoven symphony - and there's a link to video of a
remarkable robotic dance troupe, too.
Turbocharging Linux - new scheduling services optimise disk IO, and
can potentially deliver a significant performance boost.
Privacy International warns of Google's new GMail service - with
the permanent message retention and the content-keyed pop-up adverts, it
all sounds extremely dubious to me.
Research for the next generation of Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles -
am I alone in finding the idea of an armed robotic vehicle rather
closes Indian call centres after complaints - complaints about the
quality of customer service prompt closure of the Bangalore centre, but
the jobs will probably stay overseas in the long term.
Sudhian Media reviews Turtle Beach's new sound cards - and is not at
all impressed. It looks like Creative are still the smart choice, unless
you have unusual requirements.
Blue light scanner detects dirty hands - and pinpoints on a digital
display where more scrubbing is necessary.
Mysterious "Fairy Circles" defy explanation - plausible theories about
the strange, bare circles in the Namibian desert all come to nothing...
Periodic table extended - elements 113 and 115 isolated, the former of
which is unusually stable with a half-life of slightly over a second.
NASA to test the fabric of space-time - but surely there are things
that man was not meant to meddle with - no good will come of this!
University of Akron hosts concrete canoe race - they look like
normal canoes, but range in weight from 130 to more than 200 pounds. It
begs the question "Why?"
overtakes Gates as world's richest man - but only because the
dollar is a touch weak against, well, everything, at present...
Inferno Test - Impurity, Sin, and Damnation - I wasn't especially
surprised to find myself banished to the sixth level, the City of Dis,
where the heretics hang out.
And, finally, on a lighter note...
The Great Cornholio
Soundboard. "Do not make my bunghole angry!"
Airsoft truly lived up to their name this weekend - the UFO-obsessed
conspiracy theorists who monitor the
US government test area of that name would be thoroughly familiar with
my recent experience spending days watching and waiting without seeing any
signs of activity whatsoever...
I don't quite know why I decided to give this most
unreliable of companies yet another
chance, but a few weeks ago I spotted their mainstay Dee Sheldrake
advertising a replacement 11mm barrel for my M4 shell-ejector
on eBay, and foolishly decided to bid. I suppose I thought that under
the strict terms and conditions of an eBay auction he might actually be
capable of completing the deal in a reasonable timescale - but if so, I
have been completely disappointed once again.
The auction ended on the 14th of March, and over the
subsequent two weeks I sent a handful of queries to Dee, receiving in
reply the traditional assurances that the barrel would be in the post to
me imminently. Nothing materialised, of course, and eventually another
enquiry brought the news that Dee would be in London over this weekend,
and could actually deliver it personally! I was intrigued at the prospect
of actually meeting this phantom at last, and so we agreed that he
would come to my house sometime around Friday teatime.
Friday teatime came and went, along with the rest of
Friday, but when I got up on Saturday morning I found that Dee had sent
email at around 4am claming to have been delayed in a business meeting
until 2 o'clock in the morning! Its hard to imagine what kind of business
meeting takes place at that time, I must admit, but I shrugged it off and
sat down to wait for his promised appearance on Saturday morning instead.
The entire day passed without any sign of him, or any further
communication - and as I write this on Sunday evening I very much doubt
that I'm going to see any sign of him now. I shouldn't really be surprised
or disappointed, I suppose - but, actually, for some reason I am...
It would be completely wrong to refer to Dee Sheldrake
as a con man, as I'm quite convinced that there is no basic dishonesty
involved and that his intentions are completely honourable - but it has to
be said that the end result is exactly the same. The money is paid,
the goods take forever to arrive and are of unpredictable quality when
they finally do - and a lot of broken promises and unconvincing excuses
are offered along the way.
My own experiences
of this company are nothing out of the ordinary, either - in spite of the
widespread propaganda on the UK airsoft forums, it's easy to find the
truth, and I've spent the last couple of months chatting in email with a
number of Area51's other customers, including a fellow owner of the
shell-ejecting M4 replicas. Our experiences are uncannily similar,
it turns out, and as a result we're all equally frustrated and
disillusioned with both the products themselves and the company's general
attitude and abilities. It's a damn shame...
Metallic sound heard by space crew - and not for the first time, it
seems. Somebody left a window open?
Open source vulnerability database launched - and boy, it's certainly
a comprehensive list already! Now
remind me about open source and inherent
Mysterious fireball crashes in Queensland, Australia - but given the
April 1st date of the article I do wonder about its veracity.
Scientists levitate ultra-pure glass - but this is another 1st April
article, too, so who can tell.
anti-monopoly spotlight shines on Microsoft - another country climbing
on board the gravy train...
at The Register over Google's new mail service - once held up
to the light for a close look, it seems to be an online privacy
enthusiast's nightmare. Scary stuff, indeed.
Thanks to its
security flaws, and general bad
behaviour on the part of its owner, I'll never use the ghastly AOL
Instant Messenger on any of my PCs, and usually counsel against its use
elsewhere, too. Unfortunately it has now become the de facto standard for
messaging so a few weeks ago I was rather pleased to come across an open
source equivalent, GAIM. The
client is quite a nice piece of work, but predictably enough the
development group responsible has despaired of making any money from a
freeware release so has resorted to a rather unorthodox approach to raise
funds. They're holding a series of auctions on eBay for
various highly unlikely items, including a $10 bill, a recording of a
babbling brook, the DNA of one of the programmers, and the toothbrush of
another. I really do wish them well - but what a damming verdict on the
basic viability of the open source licensing business model...
legal settlement between Microsoft and Sun, The Register has
well-balanced article on what it all really means - and how settling
rather than persisting with the suit was really the best bet for
beleaguered Sun right now. It's an interesting summary, and I was
especially pleased to read this paragraph, which puts some of the recent
news concerning Microsoft into a perspective that many in government and
business would do well to adopt:
"Microsoft's unethical business practices should
be put into context. Unlike the pharmaceutical cartel or arms
manufacturers, Redmond doesn't overturn democracies or kill thousands of
civilians; unlike News Corporation it doesn't debase social discourse or
undermine language. Unlike Google, it doesn't pretend to present 'all
the world's knowledge', when most of the world's knowledge isn't even on
the Internet. Microsoft simply makes some fairly mediocre software and
charges a lot for it."
EU politicians who imposed an unprecedented €497m fine last month
should remember that the next time they're sponsoring
international arms fairs and encouraging the drugs companies to
literally get away with murder... But they won't, will they.
Elsewhere, the remarkable Dan of
Dan's Data celebrated his 30th
birthday a few days ago - so as such a stripling is even more remarkable
than I'd realised - although the news of his tender age does make me feel
very old tonight... His
latest letters column
contains tips on floppy disk emulation, the pros and cons of digital
photography, an excellent rant on intellectual property rights and a
pointer to a new offering from RLT.com
group of e-shops. Their
Backyard Artillery and Catapult
Kits stores have been favourites of Dan's for a while, now, with good
reason - and as they have now been joined by a store selling some
extremely unusual radio controlled toys
I think they must be aiming themselves directly at Dan's own taste in
hobbies! Highlights of the new range include a replica Wright Flyer, a
bomb dropping blimp, and a Patriot missile launcher - with a radio
controlled monkey and a "real" flying saucer" promised soon. This has to
be worth keeping an eye on, I'd say.
[At this point I paused to replace a blown fuse on the
mains supply to the server farm in the basement, and in doing so noticed
that although the
2200VA UPS on the desktop systems upstairs is managing to provide at
least an hour's runtime, the identical but slightly less heavily loaded
model feeding the servers is only achieving around seven minutes! I'll try
a recalibration to begin with, but it was a second hand UPS and I have to
face the possibility that the batteries are failing, which would be
an annoyance I could do without right now.]
“Get the cheese to Sick Bay - the doctor should look at
it as soon as possible.”
(B'elanna Torres - Star Trek: Voyager, "Learning
So Microsoft and Sun have
settlement in their long-running royalty and patent disputes, with
Microsoft agreeing to pay a total of $2 billion in appeasement. This is
excellent timing for Sun, which just issued an earnings warning amidst
plans to cut 3,300 jobs, and re-affirms what has now become an extremely
reliable mantra within the IT industry - if you can't make a profit
selling products and services, sue Microsoft instead...
The Sideshow - a
marvellous list of
funny or unusual chemical names, hosted at my brother's alma mater
Bristol University and complete with many diagrams. Among my favourites
are the carbon ring molecule Arsole, the mineral Cummingtonite,
the alcohol Fucitol, the radioactive compound Bi-Curious
Chloride and the glycoprotein Draculin - the latter found in
vampire bat saliva!
PC Stats has a guide to diagnosing
caused by faulty memory - and as I was wrestling with just this issue
myself earlier this year, I can confirm that the article has some
interesting tips. What they don't mention, however, is that faulty RAM is
often quite capable of passing every test and diagnostic you throw at it
with flying colours, but crashing horribly as soon as it is exposed to
regular patterns of use. I've seen this time and time again in my career,
and sometimes one just has to go with the gut feeling and swap the memory
A Canadian federal court has found the
concept of P2P music sharing legal, and not in contravention of any
copyright laws. I just can't fathom the Canadian government and legal
system - they seem to vacillate wildly between the most restrictive,
draconian measures on one hand, and then a completely off-the-wall
libertarian ruling like this on the other. Bizarre!
I missed April Fool's Day yesterday, thanks to extreme
busyness, but better late than never... The Museum Of Hoaxes has a list of
the Top 100 April
Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time, and rather to my surprise an old
favourite is heading the list - the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest spoof
from a 1957 edition of UK news programme
Panorama. I'm not quite old enough to remember the original
broadcast, but it was re-shown throughout my childhood and I'm glad that
it's now considered a classic.
And, talking of April Fools -
Google's announcement of a new advertising-sponsored free webmail
service was so unexpected yesterday that many industry analysts dismissed
it as another hoax. It seems to be genuine, however, and although I'm
surprised that they are planning entry into an already well-settled market
(especially with an amazingly generous 1Gb of storage space),
Google is not famed for butt-headed business decisions. Time will tell...
DOS gets its
final outing - seventeen years after launch, the absolutely last ever
(promise!) incarnation of the operating system has just been released.
New York finds "Buffalo Spammer" guilty after sending 825 million junk
e-mail messages - and he'll be going down for somewhere between two and
fast-track compulsory ID cards. I'm speechless about this - except to
refer you to the quote from Hermann Goering
I posted last week... Can you feel the puppet strings?
Just back from a fast trip to Southampton and back to
put Ros on
a ship bound for Malta - although the departure time has slipped and
slipped again, and as we're now looking at a delay of another twenty four
hours she's currently stalled overnight in a local hotel. Oh, the perils
of travel - it makes me glad to be a stay-at-home at heart.
Meanwhile, January's wonderful
turns out to be a hoax indeed, but one
unexpected kind... Desperate to find a publisher for his fantasy
thriller novel, author Allistair Mitchell had the dragon made by a firm of
specialist model makers and concocted the whole story of its Victorian
origins in order to provide publicity. There are too many meta-levels in
this whole affair for me to process, right now...
Elsewhere - and this is firm proof that you really can
buy anything over the Internet - full-sized inflatable military
vehicles and planes, courtesy of the imaginatively named militaria
supplier Militaria & Co.
At the moment they offer a
Soviet T-72 tank,
an assorted handful of
trucks and transports,
and an F16 Falcon
fighter. They do offer some more pedestrian products as well, but the
inflatable are just wonderful.
Another undistinguished month in the stats, as although
visits are up slightly on last month's slump overall page views are down
even lower - and the latter is really the mark of success in a site like
this. I shall have to roll out some new content, I think, and in fact an
overview of my extensive experiences in shopping online is almost ready to
upload - and as I'm not holding back from naming and shaming where
appropriate, that should bring in some additional traffic from solicitors
preparing lawsuits, if nothing else.
So, just click the button below to vote for this site at
the newly re-launched
Australia Top 50 - while you still have the chance... :-)