Last autumn I found myself
stripping and rebuilding my
high-tech dual-motor vacuum cleaner to replace a sudden spate of broken
parts, and after several hours of fiddly, perplexing work I ended up
feeling quite smug that I managed to get it all working again. The smug
feeling lasted for a few months until I had to use the cleaner myself,
though, and discovered that our cleaning woman hadn't mentioned that the
front beater thing (technical term!) was no longer spinning round. This
demoralised me completely, as I was convinced that it would be some
subtle, obscure electrical fault that would be beyond my abilities to
diagnose, and so the vacuum languished unused for all of this year while
our cleaning lady used a £30 cheapie pull-along.
The imminent departure of said pull-along with Ros
galvanised me into reluctant action this weekend, though, and I reached
for my screwdrivers and metaphorically rolled up my sleeves. After half an
hour I had most of the innards exposed - an awkward job as the wretched
device needs to be disassembled almost completely before any work at all
can be performed - and then I suddenly became aware of something that had
previously escaped my notice.
Although I'd already examined the foot switch that
turns the beater on and off, for some reason I'd failed to appreciate that
the little orange button right next to it was actually one of those
mechanical circuit breaker thingies (another technical term!) and that it
was looking suspiciously like it was broken. I pressed the button, there
was a little click from inside, and having struggled all the
casings back together with the eleven different types of screw supplied
everything is now working perfectly.
<long sigh> There is a well-known tendency for
sufficiently advanced techies in all disciplines to see only the most
complex solution to any problem, and to overlook the sort of things that
less technically minded people would check first. I think I have that
trait, in spades...
Meanwhile, elsewhere, the inestimable
Dan's Data now has a spin-off -
Anne, Dan's girlfriend, has her
own blog and evidently isn't afraid to use it. Topics so far include
the joys of obsolete PDAs, Aussie political scandals, and vegetarian
cookery. Definitely one to keep an eye on.
Yesterday was the 35th anniversary of the birth of the Internet -
waaaaaay back in 1969, when dinosaurs such as Stephen Crocker and Vint
Cerf roamed the earth, the first two computers were hooked together in a
test lab at UCLA. Four months later three other systems had joined the
network, and the cat was firmly out of the bag.
amazingly quick off the mark - only a few days after the vulnerability
in the Winamp skins subsystem was revealed, the company has released an
updated version which fixes that problem and a number of other issues.
than you can shake a (drum)stick at - the new Neko64 synthesiser
keyboard from Open Labs has a hardware specification that puts many
high-end PCs completely to shame: the $12,000 top-of-the-line model has
dual AMD Opteron 64 bit CPUs, four 250Gb hard disks, 8Gb of RAM, and an
embedded 15" touch-screen LCD panel. Oh, and it runs Windows XP, too,
which is a blessing or a curse depending on your point of view! Either
way, though, it is indeed a spectacular musical instrument...
News.Com has a long interview with Bill Gates, where he justifies the
recent decision to cut some of the more exotic components out of the
upcoming Longhorn operating system as well as explaining some of the rest
of the roadmap for the next few years of development. Some think that
the cuts are a good thing, though, especially developers still reeling
in the wake of WinXP SP2...
Shuttle repairs still problematic - NASA's goal of develop methods of
repairing damage to the shuttle while in orbit is still a long way off, it
seems. Current work is focussing on patching holes of the sort that doomed
the Columbia shuttle last year, but as yet none of the "over-wraps" can
resist the 3000 degree re-entry temperatures. Equally problematic is the
requirement set by the accident review board that no foam fragments
heavier than a fraction of an ounce should detach from the tank during the
ascent stage, and all-in-all it looks as if it's going to be quite a while
before STS is up and running again...
So, Conservative leader Michael Howard has been
banned from visiting the White House following criticism of Tony Blair
and his policies on the Iraq war. Back in February, Howard gave a speech
in the House Of Commons calling for Blair to resign, and this appears to
have personally offended Bush's puppet master, Karl Rove - his message to
Howard sounded like a sulky child: "You can forget about meeting the
President, full stop. Don't bother coming, you are not meeting him".
Given how long ago this actually happened, though, it seems likely that
the news has now been deliberately leaked to coincide with the imminent
Republican National Convention in New York, just one of a series of
bizarre stories that have hit the media in the last few days.
My favourite, as
The Sideshow, has been the allegation that veteran members of
1970s radical group the Weather Underground are coming out of retirement
to cause chaos and havoc at the Convention. According to
a story in the
New York Post, several members of the Weathermen have recently been
released from prison, and are apparently keen to pick up just where they
left off thirty years ago, leading contemporary activists in strikes
against the establishment. Needless to say, the Post claims, the NYPD is
on top of the situation and is monitoring their every move...
Strangely, though, the NYPD themselves seem to be
ignorant of the plot. They're not tracking any of the released
Weathermen, they insist - and, indeed, it hadn't actually occurred to them
that these antique anarchists represented any kind of threat. Rather
the opposite, in fact - according to an expert on the radical group, the
four recently released members are all women, none of whom are noticeably
skilled in the techniques of terrorism, and after so long in prison they
are are determined to follow the terms of their parole and stay firmly on
the right side of the law.
Apart from that, of course, it seems quite clear that
the current generation of
disaffected youth is
managing quite well on
its own, and that none of them seem to need the advice and leadership
of the Weathermen - or, for that matter, the SLA, the Red Army Faction or
the Black Panthers... Raising the spectre of one of the great
anti-establishment bugbears is a great way of stirring up right wing
hysteria, though, and given the timing presumably this is exactly what was
intended by the architect of the story. Media whores, indeed...
Modern World - an archive of some of the best contemporary left-wing
satire cartoons. They amuse me at the same time as they annoy and inform
me, which has to be a recommendation of some kind, at least...
What did George
Washington look like? - a year-long project to create a more accurate
picture of his appearance will bring together every known image, bust and
sculpture of the first US president, together with hair samples,
eyeglasses, personal clothes and all available written description of
Washington's physique. The end result will be life-size models
representing three different points in his life, to be displayed in a new
museum at Mount Vernon.
keyboard for Linux users - the CyMotion Master Linux keyboard
has the Linux penguin logo, Tux, instead of the Windows start key and
features 29 hot keys - although given that these are designed to assist
with such OS-independent operations such as cutting, copying and pasting
text, and moving between Web pages, one wonders quite what all the fuss is
And, finally, a quick reminder that the new series of
Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy starts in around three weeks, on
Tuesday 21st September at 6:30pm (repeated on Thursdays at 11pm). I'm
hoping that if I keep reminding everyone else, I might actually
remember it myself...
It is important to note that the lack of an entry
yesterday was due to a general malaise of the spirit rather than any
sudden destruction of the Internet by Islamic cyber-terrorists. I just
thought I'd stress that...
Meanwhile, a handful of random, desultory links:
phone bosses - angry at the refusal of phone companies to cut off
numbers advertised on prostitutes' calling cards, Westminster council is
distributing their own fake cards containing the numbers of senior telco
executives. The council has always had a real bee in their bonnet about
cards in phone boxes, and it's depressing to see that they still haven't
gained any sense of proportion.
group - A Massachusetts businessman allegedly
paid members of "the computer underground" to launch crippling denial of
service attacks against three of his competitors. Flushed with the success
of the first attacks, he seems to have made something of a business of it
himself - but having attracted the attention of the FBI he has now fled
the country to escape prosecution. Gosh!
for the RIAA - only two days after the Justice Department announced
that they weren't interested in probing for copyright infringement on the
behalf of the media giants, they decided to do just that, infiltrating a
peer-to-peer network to investigate sharing of copyrighted movies,
software and music - although right at the moment nobody seems to agree on
what they actually found.
Winamp skins hack - a vulnerability in the skinning engine of current
versions of Winamp will allow malicious code to be executed under the
guise of installing a new skin. The way that skins cam be installed
straight from the web is very slick, but of course as usual the trade-off
for increased usability is decreased security. Caveat
Remember VeriSign’s "Site Finder" search engine,
that would thrust itself forward if you mistyped a URL? It was leapt on
from a great height by the ICANN shortly after launch, and so VeriSign
subsequently took them to court alleging anti-competitive behaviour. Well,
fortunately a federal district court
has thrown out this claim, so our 404 Not Found messages are safe for
a while, yet, at least...
Microsoft trims down Longhorn - the new version of the Windows
operating system, due to ship in 2006, is gradually being pared down in
order to meet that deadline. Among the first casualties are Avalon, the
much-hyped new user interface, and the WinFS filesystem, both of which are
likely to ship in a subsequent feature pack.
deaf? - Siemens has issued a safety warning over it's recent 65 series
cell phones. If the battery runs down while a call is in progress, under
some circumstances the phone will play the shutdown melody so loudly that
the user's eardrum may actually be damaged... Siemens has promised an
update, but in the meantime recommends that the offending melody is
Computer Universal Bah - one of the worst translated advertisements
I've ever seen - if it wasn't for the picture, I'd have absolutely no idea
what it is they're trying to sell... I have to admit that it actually
looks like rather a useful product, though!
for the SF movie buff who has everything - well, everything except a
life-sized replica of the Terminator robot built out of used car parts,
that is... It's up for auction on eBay with only a day or so left to go,
but even with a starting price of £3000 I'm really surprised that it
hasn't yet attracted any bids - it certainly is a spectacular piece of
Well, apparently the Internet didn't melt down on
demand, today, and so of course Kaspersky is stressing that he only said
that there might or might not be attacks... <sigh>
Meanwhile, the silly season news is at its summer best...
MPs petition to impeach Tony Blair - When Ros mentioned this I
originally thought it was probably just deliberate disinformation, but
the petition's own site is backed
stories at The Guardian, so there does seem to be some
substance to it. I doubt anything will come of it, unfortunately, except
to gain some publicity for the previously unknown Welsh and Scottish
Nationalist MPs who are heading the campaign.
Video game stars posing for Playboy - for some peculiar reason, the
upcoming issue of the magazine will feature characters from games such as
Mortal Kombat, Tekken and Leisure Suit Larry. This is a somewhat peculiar
concept, if pleasingly whimsical, but what I really find odd is that most
of the characters will not be posing nude! Evidently the software
companies are determined to protect the virtual reputations of their
property, and will only let them go so far...
Teen PCs... Like, dude! - aimed squarely at teenagers, the new
Hip-e PC from Texas-based Digital Lifestyles Group has a screen and
keyboard framed in fuzzy pink fur, a leopard skin design, or a graffiti
pattern. It also comes with some bespoke task-oriented software, but I
think it's going to take more than that to make the system stand out from
the other strange, unsuccessful niche products that have already fallen by
Politicians in chewing gum horror - posters of politicians such as
Jeffrey Archer, Tony Blair and Iain Duncan Smith are being erected by
Bournemouth town council in the hope that people will stick used chewing
gum to them instead of dropping it on the pavements. Who knows - they may
actually have something, there...
Doom! Doom! We're all doomed! The anti-virus hysteria
is mounting again, with shrill warnings from Eugene Kaspersky, founder of
Kaspersky Labs, a Russian (you guessed it) anti-virus company, that
Islamic terrorists will paralyse the Internet tomorrow on Thursday 26th.
This announcement has spread to everywhere from
news services to the
NTBUGTRAQ security mailing list, but as usual it appears to be 99% hot
air. When I see this kind of wailing and moaning online, I tend to point
people to the VMyths site run by the indefatigable Rob Rosenberger
- I can always count on him to provide
an unbiased and
rational rebuttal, without any apparent sign of axes being ground. You
really can't say the same about Kaspersky himself...
The Seattle Times on Penny Arcade - I catch up with
online comic Penny Arcade every week or so, and it definitely brings some
smiles... I'm not particularly plugged into the gaming scene, so some of
the clever bits tend to pass over my head, but there
nevertheless. For some reason, they haven't yet been sued...
turn to fall foul of the UK's Advertising Standards Authority, when
their claim that running a Linux-based network is more expensive
than a Windows-based one was
found to be misleading. For some bizarre reason, they featured
comparisons between Windows on a standard PC server and Linux on an IBM
z900 mainframe, which I rather think was a good way of shooting themselves
in at least one foot... Ah, well.
"Dead or alive, you're coming with me..."
I thought I had enough
airsoft replicas, but having checked it turns out that I don't.
Fortuitously, at around the same time as I discovered the lack of a large,
excessive handgun, I also discovered this little gem lurking in the For
Sale section of the UK Airsoft
Network forums. Some keen bargaining by instant message soon resulted
in an agreement, and I'm very pleased with the deal.
This is KSC's replica of the "Auto-9", better known as
the gun from the
Robocop movies. Based on a Beretta M93R machine pistol, the additional
of an extended barrel, frame and compensator, together with a built-up
grip, transforms the piece into something quite remarkable. With both
three round burst and full auto modes as well the more conventional single
shot, it should certainly be an interesting experience. I've never handled
a KSC replica before, but although they don't have quite the reputation of
Western Arms, the manufacturer of my other
automatics, as a science fiction movie prop I don't think that's going
to be a problem. I shall post some more pictures when it's safely nestled
in my hot little hands, hopefully sometime early next week.
Tom' virus - the recently discovered Rbot-GR trojan exploits
the usual Windows vulnerabilities but comes with a new twist - if an
infected PC has a webcam installed, the virus will stream video and audio
to anyone connecting to its built-in back door. Heh!
$1 billion for
robotic fighter plane - aerospace giant Northrop Grumman has been
awarded the contract to develop the X-47B unmanned combat plane. Three
prototypes of the high aspect ratio delta plane will be made over the next
five years, with the first flight tests scheduled for sometime in 2007.
Ars.Technica has the skinny on electronic voting - around a third of
American voters will cast their ballots in the November presidential
election using touch-screen voting machines, but controversy surrounds the
choice of manufacturers, the hardware itself, and also the auditing
process. Given the likelihood that Bush can only win this election if he
steals it again, this is indeed a worrying state of affairs...
Oh, and finally - today is the tenth anniversary of
Windows 95. Although brave early-adopters (such as myself) had been
testing the new OS during Microsoft's first open beta program, the general
public were first exposed to the revolutionary operating system on August
24th 1994. Happy birthday, Windows!
Discovered in 1937,
the muon is a subatomic particle almost identical to the more familiar
electron, but around 200 times heavier. Unlike all of the particles that
had preceded it (and indeed much of the rest of modern physics up to that
point) its existence had not been predicted by theorists prior to its
unexpected discovery in the laboratory - it didn't fit into a conveniently
empty niche, provide the missing piece of a scientific puzzle, or fit into
any of the known families of other particles... It just was. So
unwelcome was this new particle, in fact, that when the Nobel-winning
physicist I.I. Rabi was told of its properties, he greeted it with a less
than enthusiastic "So, who ordered that?"...
Meanwhile, back at the silicon face, I've bought a
little disk array for my home server - a second hand
Multipack. And it is a little array, too, at least physically -
only 9" tall and 16" deep, which is actually considerably less than I'd
expected in spite of the not inconsiderable research I did online before
buying it! It's anything but small in terms of capacity, though - with all
twelve hot-swappable bays populated with 19Gb drives, as in my version, I
can create a RAID-5 array of over 200Gb - and installing larger drives
(36Gb or 73Gb are readily available on eBay) would increase the overall
array size proportionally.
200Gb may not sound like much now that regular desktop
ATA drives have broken
the 400Gb barrier, but they don't offer any measure of fault-tolerance
- and this just isn't acceptable to me. Given that backing up the huge
volumes of data that modern drives can hold is increasingly difficult
without high-end tape devices, and the fact that having worked in IT for
twenty years or more I've seen far too many failed disk drives to ever
trust my data to a single device, a combination of RAID for short term
security and occasional backups to protect over the longer term seems to
cover all the bases.
I have to scare up a spare 68 pin SCSI cable from
somewhere, and after that I'll be able to demonstrate the other
significant advantage of a RAID array over a single drive - for read
operations in a multi-tasking or multi-user environment, having the data
spread over a number of drive spindles is usually noticeably
faster, and in any case replacing the old 36Gb
DEC SCSI-2 array currently in use
with this new SCSI-3 unit is going to help speed things up however many
drives are involved.
Oh, and Mike? The DEC array is yours, now, whenever you
like... And seeing as it's you, I'll even throw in an Adaptec 2940 to hang
it off. :-)
Just a few links, again, as I'm a touch short on
enthusiasm this weekend...
Pole 'cyberterrorist' hack - a classic storm in a teacup, wonderfully
exaggerated by the FBA and the NSF to make everything sound all scary and
dangerous. You can actually hear the sound of axes being ground,
intrusive laws being drafted, and additional funding being solicited...
Science museum to suspend operations - Georgia's state museum of
science and technology has closed, this weekend, following years of
declining attendance, interest and contributions. For a state where reason
and education are already
from religious stupidity, I think that's a sad development indeed.
Pilots to pluck space capsule from air - the Genesis satellite, an
orbiting solar wind experiment package, will be intercepted by stunt
helicopter pilots during re-entry and snagged safely by a long cable. It
sounds outlandish, but the procedure has already been tested in a dozen or
more practice runs. Gosh!
protects against 'evil' emails - a revolutionary method of identifying
spam emails using algorithms designed to process DNA sequences claims an
almost perfect success rate - although actually, it doesn't really sound
any different from the more traditional Bayesian techniques.
Epson parades tea cup-sized flying robot - controlled remotely via a
Bluetooth wireless connection, the FR-II is actually the latest in a long
series of flying micro-robots from Seiko Epson. Who knew that the
apparently pedestrian manufacturer of printers, watches and cash registers
was working on stuff like this?
Wi-Fi hotspot finder - publicly accessible wireless hotspot, and there
certainly seem to be a hell of the lot of them... with
6587 in the UK, only 849 of which are in the London area, the coverage
is extensive indeed. I really had no idea that the idea had been so widely
And, finally, a
tournament on sex dolls - firmly in the "too much time on their hands"
department, the second annual Bubble Baba Challenge was held in St.
Petersburg this weekend, and did indeed involve contestants navigating the
Losevsky rapids of the Vuoksa river buoyed up by inflatable sex dolls. And
Not a pleasant week... One gets used to having a pair
of eager PFYs at one's beck
and call, and it's going to be a busy time until the helpdesk bod moves
over to replace my missing one. My management agreed completely when I
explained that some of the less urgent projects were going to have to be
put on hold - and then over the next few days they proceeded to load me
down with brand new ones that they hadn't even mentioned before! I
wouldn't mind so much if I wasn't supposed to be moving house at some
point in the next few months, but with everything happening at once it's
going to be hard to cope... :-(
Microsoft's geopolitical bloopers - an article at News.Com
suggests that Microsoft's lack of cultural sensitivity and geographical
awareness has cost them millions of dollars over the years, but given that
they're one of the biggest companies in the world, and that the report
mentions cases going back ten years, I think that actually their record
doesn't sound so very bad after all...
Nintendo patents online gaming - an unexpected patent application from
Nintendo, the only major games console manufacturer that has never really
provided an online play facility for its users, may cause problems for the
other companies that have. It's the old story, I'm afraid - if you can't
compete in the market, sue Microsoft (and, this time, Sony and Nokia too)
And, talking of eccentric patents and suing Microsoft -
Eolas, the company formed purely to sue the company for patent
infringement over the concept of browser plugins,
had a major setback when the US Patent Office rejected the basic claim
that was used used to win the record $521 million award last year. Hah!
Also in court - the
US Court Of
Appeals has upheld last year's ruling that P2P file-sharing programs
are not inherently illegal, presumably to the great annoyance of the
various media industry pressure groups. Unfortunately this may become
irrelevant, as the Induce Act (soon to be even more biased towards the
corporates, it appears!) proposed by Senator Orrin "RIAA" Hatch will
criminalise the software authors anyway. Sad times...
Meanwhile, out of court - the most impressive example
of quantum entanglement to date has been
demonstrated in Austria, using two laboratories on opposite sides of
the River Danube. The quantum states of a photon in one lab were
instantaneously transferred to a photon in the other via 800m of optical
fibre fed through the public sewer system. "Spooky action at a
Elsewhere, I stumbled over a US firearms dealer with
a very unusual
line in machine guns - miniature replicas of the classic Browning
heavy machine guns, chambered in .22 calibre. Nevertheless, they're
otherwise completely accurate to the original WW1-era weapons - water
cooling, cloth ammunition feed belts, brass fittings, the works... I have
to admit that they're as cute as anything - and for $49,000 for the set of
three, they certainly ought to be! The company has a number of other
exotic and unusual firearms, too, including
a belt-fed HK51.
It's been fun to browse through their online catalogue and daydream that I
didn't live in a country where even replica guns are
in danger of being banned... :-(
Too busy for anything but a few odd links...
lands Amen in hot water - their advert for Linux web servers pictured
a semi-naked woman wearing a mask under the headline "Bound to serve",
and the caption "Take control of your very own dedicated server". A
mere six people complained that it was degrading to women, and as
usual the ASA agreed. Tsk...
Resident Evil viral marketing ploy backfires - far more offensive and
annoying than the provocative server advert are unsolicited SMS text
messages sent to mobile phones telling the the owners that they are
infected by the so-called "T-Virus".
Now that's something that should be stopped...
Real anti-Apple poll swamped by pro-Apple posters - Real are trying to
drum up popular support for their attempt to break Apple's monopoly on
their own FairPlay music distribution system, and predictably enough the
Mac fanboys are not impressed...
And talking of predictable over-reactions from the Mac
fanboys - earlier this year
a parody of
Apple's "Switch" adverts resulted in the usual balanced, reasoned response
- "I hope you burn in hell" is a common reaction, which says a lot
about the character of the average Mac zealot.
gang up on spammer-run websites - UK ISPs belonging to the LINX group
have resolved to close down web sites advertised in spam email, whether
they're actually responsible for the email or not. It's something of an
empty gesture, though, as the latest figures suggest that only 1% of spam
messages actually have any connection with the UK.
The Interface Hall of Shame - a classic site, showcasing all that is
confusing, awkward, annoying and downright misleading in the design of
graphical user interfaces. Every programmer should read this site
carefully, and try to learn from it.
With the departure of my original PFY, yesterday, it's
one big game of musical chairs at the office... PFY #2 moves upwards to
replace PFY #1, the senior helpdesk techie becomes PFY#2, the junior
helpdesk techie becomes the senior, and a new lowest-of-the-low is
recruited from elsewhere in the company to fill his place. This
saves a lot of money in salaries and recruitment costs, I'm told, and
speeds the process up a lot (in theory, at least - in practice the senior
helpdesk bod won't be moving to my team until he's finished his current
assignments in another month or so) but only time will tell whether it
will all work out Ok. Hmmmmm.
Hardly - a collection of pictures of Transformers fancy dress
costumes, ranging from bad to worse...
The Museum Of
Unworkable Devices - some loon wrote into
with his pet idea for a perpetual motion machine, and Dan pointed him to
this comprehensive exhibition of the beasties.
- an excellent resource for airsoft handguns, created by UK 'softer
Snowman: reviews, documentation, articles and advice. Recommended.
Digital Gun Club - beautiful computer generated images of firearms of
all types. It's a bit Japanese, but pictures this good really do speak a
thousand words... I especially liked the cut-away rendering of a
And still on the subject of guns - UK audiobook
AudioBooksForFree.Com are selling an MP3 player
into the magazine of an AK47 Assault Rifle. Um, OK...
Kickboxing robots? - This sounds like a complete debasement of
technology, to me, and as usual I thoroughly approve. It reminds me of the
old Emo Phillips line, though:
“A computer once beat me at chess... but it was no match for me at
Are viruses getting smarter? - backed by large quantities of cash from
the global spammers, virus writers are developing new ways of sneaking
their code into unsuspecting PCs. [Mutters darkly]
Still feeling lazy, and somewhat uninspired too... more
Found on a computer in Afghanistan - it's a pity
that the full article is part of
Monthly's subscription only content, but the synopsis at
Ars.Technica certainly gives a feel for it. Fascinating...
[Update: Google's cache is holding a copy of the article in a freely
available form, at least temporarily]
Silicon-28, isotopically pure for your pleasure - this
particular form of silicon seems to heat up more slowly than the usual
mixture of isotopes, and so may be extremely useful in the next generation
Philco TV mod - a PC built into a classic fifties pedestal television
set... A wonderful idea, and one which has been implemented with real
skill and imagination.
tape format to ship early in 2005 - with a native 400Gb per cartridge
and 68MB/sec transfer rates, I think I know what will be using up most of
my storage budget at the office, next year. They'll cost between £4000 and
£5000 each, by the look of it, and I'll need at least five...
Information Commissioner speaks out on ID cards - "Britain is at
risk of sleepwalking into a surveillance society". The CBI said
much the same thing last week, too, but unfortunately I suspect that
both reports will as be water off a duck's back to Herr Blunkett...
has a little list - As discussion on the pros and cons of the new SP2
for Windows XP continues to spread, Microsoft have released details of
applications with known compatibility problems. As well as the expected
issues caused by the new firewall subsystem, there are a number of
inclusions... the DivX video codec has problems, for example, as the
rather eccentric defences against reverse engineering incorporated into
the code fall foul of the new memory protection features.
And talking of Microsoft, the details of that
Newham Council decision were released today. The highlights - open
source would cost less to buy, but more to implement; migration to an open
source solution would take significantly longer; open source systems are
actually less secure than the equivalent Microsoft products.
Just a handful of random links, tonight, as I'm feeling
on me and the sex vid goes live - a salutary lesson for both parties,
in that the departing partner had her bedroom exploits displayed to the
general public (or a small subset of it, at least), while the jilted one
ended up ended up in court facing charges of harassment.
bounty of the deep ocean - video at Yahoo of a giant squid
being displayed by the fishermen who caught it. Well, giant as squids go
in real life, at least, even if somewhat of a tiddler by Hollywood
Encabulators, turbo and otherwise. The
in-joke is still going strong, it seems, if
this footage is
anything to go by. My own post on
the subject has recently been referenced in
the Snopes forums, too - neat!
I Group, a recruitment agency with
an unusual advertising
campaign - drumming up business by making employers aware of exactly
how obnoxious and/or unrestrained their staff might be. No surprise to
discover that it's an Australian Company, I'd say...
At Wired -
Modern Students Devour Old Math. I've been using some of these
shortcuts for decades, though, and I'm a) actually rather poor at
mathematics, and b) know nothing at all of Sanskrit or the Vedic
writings... I guess an English public school education is good for
something, then, after all...
And, finally. Kyle Bennett of primo tech site
demonstrates his feelings towards Infinium Labs by
venting his spleen on a captured prototype one of their infamous
Phantom games consoles. Hah! You go, Kyle! :-)
My friend Mike, a space enthusiast who makes my
interest in the subject look like the occasional casual glance, has
forwarded links to
news items concerning the Indian government's embryonic manned space
program. The chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO, has
recently announced that the organisation has the resources and the
technology to schedule a manned moon landing within the next seven or
eight years, and needless to say this claim is making headlines throughout
the scientific media.
I have to admit that I am somewhat dubious about this
claim - although
Chinese have recently had significant successes in an equally
ambitious timescale, to a large extent they have piggy-backed on ex-Soviet
research and technology, an option not available to the Indian space
level of technology is communications satellites and relatively dumb
boosters, and it's a long step indeed from that to a complete set of Lunar
mission vehicles together with a life support system viable for at
least a week...
Secondly, even the initial estimates of the cost
of such a project run to in excess of Rs 100 billion - around $2.1
billion or £1.1 billion, which is a tremendous amount of money whatever
the currency... Given the incredible levels of poverty, disease,
malnutrition and violence amongst the general population of the country,
the question of whether it would be ethical to spend this amount on
a space programme that is extremely unlikely to return any material
benefit at all is one that must be seriously considered...
To their credit, though, the
ISRO have also announced their
intention to hold a national debate to seek consensus on the issue before
proceeding further with the programme, and given that support is not
universal even within the organisation I suspect that opposition
from outside will be vocal indeed... It will be interesting to see what
Elsewhere in space...
NASA Chief: 'Let's Go Save the Hubble' - although given the long haul
re-fit and re-certify the Shuttle's external tanks, it's not clear
exactly what he's planning on saving it with... A ladder, perhaps?
Redesigning rockets - NASA's new Propulsion Research Center, based at
the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will be
developing the next generations of propulsion methods - likely candidates
include solar sails and ion engines, along with more blue sky technology
such as fission motors and anti-matter drives. Also under review will be
the technique of aerocapture, where atmospheric braking is used to
insert a vehicle into planetary orbit in a single pass without expending
Russian alien spaceship claims raise eyebrows - Oh, dear... The old
idea that the huge explosion that decimated miles of forest in the
Tunguska region of Siberia in 1908 was caused by an alien spacecraft
crashing has apparently surfaced again. I first came across this idea in
Ian Watson's 1983 science fiction story "Chekhov's Journey", and
although the novel is marvellous the idea itself hasn't become any more
plausible over the decades. My own eyebrows are not just raised - they're
in danger of floating away completely!
Meanwhile, closer to home...
Google to lose rights to GMail name? - It has not been a good
month for Google, so far... First the costly settlement with Yahoo over
advertising, then the delays in the IPO auction site, then the possibility
of the Playboy article violating the SEC's "quiet period" regulations, and
now the possibility that three other organisations may have prior
claim to the GMail brand name. Even if things go really
badly in the IPO, though, co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are set
to make gazillions of dollars anyway, and I have to admit that it's rather
hard for me to drum up any sympathy for their plight...
blames SAP roll-out for $208 million loss - a puzzling story, this
one, as HP is very much in bed with SAP these days and normally wouldn't
dream of criticising the system... If the problem really did lie with SAP,
therefore, having a major strategic partner condemn the product is a real
blow for its future credibility. On the other hand, if the faults lie
elsewhere within HP itself, it must be such an enormous problem for them
to be willing to throw SAP's reputation to the dogs that HP's own
credibility should perhaps be called into question. Gosh...
Linux U-turn - last year my own local council were making a lot of
noise about converting their entire IT infrastructure to open source in
order to save money, but at the start of 2004 they
abandoned these plans and signed a huge deal with Microsoft instead. A
lot of us had a strong suspicion that this entire sequence of events was
carefully designed to screw the best licensing terms out of a reluctant
Microsoft, but on Monday a joint press conference will finally reveal the
rationale of the strategy. Until then, we're just left with what to a
Windows evangelist such as myself, is one of the classic sound bites -
migrating to Linux, said the council's initial report, would put its
services at "unacceptable levels of risk". Indeed.
I'm amazed - twenty five years after they aired the
original radio series of Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The
Galaxy, the BBC is has created
radio productions of
the next three books, Life, The Universe And Everything; So
Long And Thanks For All The Fish and Mostly Harmless. The first
series will start on 21st September, with the second of the three due in
the spring of 2005.
Remarkably, the new productions feature almost all of
the original cast - Simon Jones, Geoffrey McGivern, Susan Sheridan, Mark
Wing-Davey and Stephen Moore. Only "The Voice Of The Book" is different,
with the late Peter Jones’s great friend, William Franklyn, replacing him
in the role. Even more remarkably, Douglas Adams himself is also included
- he always hoped to play the part of "Agrajag", and recorded the
character's lines before his death for use in any future production!
I've been a huge fan of the HHGTTG canon since - well,
since it first aired twenty five years ago, I guess - and needless to say
I am really looking forward to this. Neat!
Meanwhile, an unusually eclectic set of links,
Mexican webcam, complete with jacket and sombrero. A unique selling
point, or just a stupid gimmick? I know what I think...
Care and Handling
of CDs and DVDs: A Guide for Librarians and Archivists - I came across
this while I was looking for something else, today, and it certainly is a
wonderfully comprehensive document.
A stamp for Feynman? - Another attempt to have the US Postal Service
issue a stamp to commemorate a remarkable man. Organised by Ralph Leighton
at the marvellous Friends Of
Tuva site, it certainly sounds like a worthy campaign to me.
Dan on a
wine gadget scam - the Wine Clip is supposed to use magnetism to break
down icky tasting tannins and impurities in red wine, and unlike the
manufacturer the incomparable Dan Rutter has made the effort to perform at
least the semblance of a proper double-blind taste test. To
nobody's great surprise, the claims made for the device are apparently
Everything you ever wanted to know about neutron stars - well,
probably far more than most people really do want to know,
actually, except for the people who already know all of it already... Um,
Patches for CDDB apps - remember the original free,
user-maintained CD Database,
before Escient grabbed it and turned it into the "Gracenote"
commercial service? Well, the open version is still online elsewhere, and
it's possible to patch older multimedia apps (such as my favourite CD
Valet, now apparently re-released as freeware) so that they can
connect to the service at its new location.
The James Randi
Educational Foundation - I ran into links to Randi's site while
looking for something else (it's been a day for that, it seems) and was
hard-pressed to drag myself back to my original search. Randi is a touch
smug and over-inflated, I admit, but his heart and his mind are
definitely in the right place and there's tremendous amount of
interest there. Recommended, as always...
Cockeyed, indeed - Rob Cockerman's site has grown a tremendous amount
since I last stumbled across it a few years ago, but is still just as hard
to categorise or describe. Go there and have a look around - you probably
won't regret it.
So, 19 year old Jeffrey Lee Parson, better known by his
net ID "Teekid",
has pleaded guilty to creating the variant of the Blaster worm that
bears his name. While the original Blaster worm was still causing
widespread problems to sysadmins and end-users world-wide, Parson modified
the code enough to avoid detection by the current anti-virus signatures
and then deliberately released his new version. Fortunately he was both
foolish and egocentric enough to embed his own alias into the code, and
given that he was the registered owner of the T33KID domain name, even the
FBI's rather lacklustre anti-virus specialists could hardly fail to
put two and two together...
Sentencing will take place in November, and is likely
to be a prison term of between 18 months and three years. In this
day and age, nobody can seriously claim that releasing virus code is a
harmless teenage prank, or profess ignorance of the problems that worms
can cause, and although I'm not generally in favour of prison sentences
for disaffected teens, in this case I have little sympathy. The sooner the
potential virus writers learn that these days there is a good
chance of having their asses nailed to the wall, the happier most
sysadmins will be.
Adrian's RokakPot has
an article on soft-modding the ATI Radeon graphics cards into the
high-end FireGL series. I've never been particularly tempted by these
rather unorthodox procedures (there's usually no way back if it doesn't
work out well) but this one is certainly interesting. Who realised that
ATI's expensive OpenGL cards, aimed squarely at professional animators and
CAD users, were just the consumer Radeon models with different firmware!
It's a bit of a con, really...
321 Studios settles out of court with the MPAA -
It has not been a good year for the beleaguered multimedia utilities
in February the MPAA won an injunction to prevent 321 from selling its
DVD backup software... The company subsequently removed the contested CSS
decryption code from the product and launched
an appeal; however, mounting legal costs and falling sales have
driven the company into liquidation. This is extremely unfortunate in
general, as well as for 321 themselves, as the lawsuit looked as if it was
going to set an important precedent - as the judge in the case pointed out
when she confirmed the consumer's legal right to make backup copies of
movies, paradoxically the DMCA makes it illegal for them to buy
software that actually enables this! The collapse of 321's legal defence
leaves the question unresolved for now...
Build your own PC chassis with Lubic - half way between Lego and
Meccano, these beams and joints from overclocking specialist AeroCool
allow you to create an open chassis to support the various components that
make up a PC . This could be useful for someone who is constantly tweaking
and tuning, or who values the aesthetics of the components themselves, or
who just wants something thoroughly different. For the latter group.
My company is about to start refurbishing the entire
office building, and in an attempt to save money they have decided to
decommission the small computer room used to host the Digital Alpha / VMS
servers run independently by our Finance department. These servers,
together with their annoying, poorly informed and dogmatic operator, have
been a thorn in my flesh for years, and so I was less than impressed to be
told yesterday that instead of being retired (and then safely buried at a
crossroads with a stake through their motherboards) they would instead be
re-located into the main computer room along with my shiny new Wintel
Now, the computer room is already extremely
full, and waste heat from the existing hardware is stretching the air
conditioning system to capacity, so suddenly discovering that I have to
find space for three
obsolete AlphaServers and three equally obsolete external disk arrays
(not to mention assorted serial terminals, modems, and other junk) is bad
enough - but to have to share responsibility for the running of the
facility with the aforementioned operator is distressing indeed. He and I
have a gift for rubbing each other up the wrong way, and today's meeting
to inventory his hardware was the first time in living memory that we
haven't ended up bickering with each other - a situation that I don't see
continuing for more than another few days. Mark my words; no good will
come of this...
Messenger-hosted adverts banned - the US Federal Trade Commission has
ruled that pop-up adverts displayed via the Messenger service built into
Windows 2000 and XP violate consumer protection law. The company
responsible, San Diego-based D Squared, has been banned from
sending pop-up ads over any of the instant messenger services, and
will also have to let the FTC monitor its business activities for the next
five years. Result!
Anti-wireless wallpaper? UK engineering firm BAE Systems have
come up with a cunning idea to prevent Wi-Fi network data from being
transmitted outside of the building hosting the network - a wall covering
formed from a thin sheet of polymer coated with a film of copper on each
side. The copper is carefully etched away to leave a pattern of polarised
crosses, and the spacing between these crosses allows particular radio
frequencies to pass through while blocking others. In this way, unlike the
conventional Faraday Cage technique, the material can block Wi-Fi signals
without affecting mobile phones.
Only a few days after the release of
Service Pack 2 for Windows XP, Microsoft have provided instructions on
how to prevent it from being applied... Because of the significant
changes to system security and the undesirable side-effects that may
arise, many corporates are understandably wary, so this update will allow
them to prevent the service pack from being installed via the Automatic
Updates and Windows Updates feature. I find this a little puzzling, as I
would have though that any company large enough to care about this would
be using the centralised
Software Update Services facility rather than updating on a PC by PC
basis, and so could just refrain from marking the service pack as approved
for distribution. Odd...
can get fired for buying IBM... well, maybe not IBM themselves,
but definitely their equivalents among the big names in enterprise IT, SAP
and Cisco. The CIO of the City of San Jose, co-incidentally Cisco's
hometown, has resigned amid allegations that the contract she brokered
with the company was
grossly biased in their favour. Meanwhile, way up North in Tacoma,
Washington, the city's new $51m SAP-based computer system has so many bugs
that staff can't get it up and running at all. I have to say that doesn't
really surprise me - SAP traditionally has a very poor reputation amongst
the people who actually have to implement, support and use the system...
In spite of heavy and persistent rain in the last
eighteen hours, it still seems really hot and sticky this evening -
although possibly the fact that I'm surrounded by computers, monitors,
tape libraries and UPSes all blowing hot air at me might have something to
do with that... It's not as bad as in the computer room at the office,
though - this morning I was taking some photographs to have
printed onto a mouse mat
for my PFY's leaving present, and photographing the back of seventeen Dell
PowerEdge 2650 servers, each producing between 100 and 160 Watts of waste
heat depending on the age of their dual P4 Xeon CPUs, is literally
like standing next to a fan heater. Phew!
Roxio goes crazy, becomes Napster - originally the software division
of SCSI mainstay Adaptec, the company has sold its entire portfolio of CD
writing software to competitor Sonic and will reposition itself in the
digital music sector. They're even going as far as to change their company
name to Napster, presumably to capitalise on the cachet of the original
bad boys of peer-to-peer file sharing. Gosh!
Google buys off Yahoo with shares - to avoid an awkwardly-timed
lawsuit over an in-line advertising patent, Google will now issue 2.7
million shares to competitor Yahoo. SO far the IPO is
not going very well, overall, and now has been
pushed back a week in order to allow more time for the online share
auction site to be completed.
competition hotting up - quite literally, for some, as the vehicles
belonging to two of the teams have blown up during their initial test
launches... I'm still betting on Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne, the
only vehicle with a proven track record, but it would be foolish to ignore
the Da Vinci
Project's balloon-launched Wild Fire, which may yet prove
Dope on barbequing and cancer - a rare outbreak of common sense
about the health risks of carcinogenic hydrocarbons. The verdict? "All
things in moderation, bubba..."
Hospitals defy manufacturers to patch Windows systems - I have a lot
of sympathy for the plight of those medical IT staff, as I'm currently
trying to deal with an R&D division who have a similar head-in-the-sand
approach to security updates...
And, finally, talking of security updates...
Yet another vulnerability in the AOL Instant Messenger client, this
time a buffer overflow that can be triggered by persuading the victim to
click on a specially malformed URL embedded in an AIM chat. Upgrading to
the latest beta, released yesterday, will apparently solve the problem...
I came face to face with one of the
classic lessons in data security,
today - make sure that your backup is actually working the way you think
it is before you find out the hard way that it isn't... My
soon-to-depart PFY had somehow allowed himself to be roped into doing some
freebie work for a local company run by a relative of one of our managers
(you know how it is), and in the course of the work he had to recover some
accidentally deleted data from tape backups. Somewhat to his surprise, the
only file versions he could find to restore were really, really
old, so he brought the media to me for a second opinion.
I catalogued them all very carefully, and it soon
became apparent that in spite of the regular series of dates written on
the labels of the tape cases, the last backup that had actually run
successfully was late in November of 2003. For the last nine months some
poor sap has been religiously swapping and labelling DAT tapes every
Friday, and nothing (nada, zilch, diddly, zip!) has actually been written
to any of them in all that time...
Now, most pundits would suggest that a company that
loses this much data is probably doomed, but I think that this one may
actually get away with it... In spite of having a quite respectable little
Dell server configured as an Active Directory domain controller hosting
Exchange 2003, they seem to have been saving the majority of their data to
their local drives, and using Outlook Express to talk directly to a POP3
mailbox rather than using Exchange. An eccentric approach, to say the
least, but under the circumstances one that may just save their corporate
I do hope that they cope somehow, of course, but it
does rather reinforce my growing certainty that IT (any IT, from a
PDA to a small business server) is simply not ready for non-techies to
use. The entire industry pretends that it is, but there are so many
pitfalls waiting for the unwary Joe Public User that in actual fact many
of them would undoubtedly be better off with typewriters, card indexes and
filing cabinets... And as a veteran sysadmin, I have to admit that the
idea has a definite appeal.
- it was thirty years ago today that Richard Nixon resigned, with what
must be the most concise
of resignation that I've ever seen; terse as it was, my PFY's recent
missive was positively flowery in comparison. Also at the
Watergate.Info site, though, is
The Speech That Might Have Been, written by the Nixon's speechwriter
in case he refused to resign. Fascinating stuff...
So, the long-awaited Service Pack 2 for Windows XP was
finally released to manufacturing late on Friday, and is already
available for download to MSDN subscribers. The rest of us will have to
wait until tomorrow, when the 475Mb network edition will be
posted to Technet,
or later on in the month for releases to SUS and Windows Update. Needless
to say, as a sysadmin I have mixed feelings about this particular
Bluetooth - more holes than a colander. An article in Wired
paints a gloomy picture of the many and varied security vulnerabilities in
the protocol - and has pictures of a marvellous "rifle" that can capture
data from a Bluetooth-equipped cell phone at a distance of more than a
Crossing America on a Segway - and, unfortunately, they're
blogging the epic journey as
they go. Starting today in Seattle, the 4300 mile journey to Boston is
expected to take 80 days - although I suspect that is a conservative
estimate to say the least. Some people have far too much time (at least 80
days, in this case) on their hands...
Buffer overflow in PNG image support - a vulnerability in the popular
open source libPNG library could allow specially created PNG graphics
files to execute malicious code when an application displays the image.
Affected systems include the Mail application on the Mac OS X, the Opera
and Internet Explorer browsers on Windows, and the Mozilla and Netscape
browsers on Solaris. A remarkably wide-reaching bug, this one!
Western Digital launches RAID-ready disks - with a high MTBF and a
three year warranty, the Caviar RE series drives also have a new feature,
Time Limited Error Recovery (TLER), which "helps prevent drive fallout
caused by extended desktop hard drive error-recovery processes". I'm
not at all sure what they mean by that, but given
my current experiences with a drive
occasionally disappearing until after a reboot it certainly sounds
The first genuine trojan for Windows PDAs - Backdoor.Brador.A
attacks the current flavours of Microsoft's Windows Mobile 2003 / Pocket
PC 2003 / Windows CE 4.2 operating system hosted on an ARM platform. When
active it will send the IP address of the infected system via email and
then listen for further instructions on TCP port 2989. It will allow
directory listings, file transfers and remote execution of arbitrary code,
so is a fairly comprehensive back door. Given that I'm expecting around
130 XDA handhelds to arrive at the office in the next few weeks, I'm not
overjoyed at this news...
So, one of my PFYs is leaving for pastures new at the
end of next week, and unusually he's moving sideways from a network
management role to a kind of roving trouble-shooter for end-user
software... So it was rather amusing today to watch him suddenly realise
that at the new company he won't be in charge even of his own PC, let
alone the network as a whole. Instead he'll be completely at the mercy of
whatever Nazis are controlling the group policies and global system
security - no more unfiltered Internet access straight through the
firewall; no more freedom to install whatever software he wants, or
reconfigure the entire operating system on a whim; no more poking his nose
into any data held on any system anywhere on the network... It's
going to take quite some getting used to, I'd say! :-)
is suing IBM again, this time over code that was legitimate for them
to use in the doomed Project Monterey back in the late nineties, but which
allegedly should not subsequently have been used for IBM's own
proprietary AIX operating system. Now, I remember the fuss over Monterey,
and it's possible that (unlike the majority of SCO's claims), there may
actually be something to this one. Interesting - especially as AIX is a
major money-spinner for IBM these days...
incidence continues to climb - ISP EarthLink and anti-adware vendor
Webroot have released their third annual report on the state of the
spyware industry, and they claim that the number of PCs running some kind
of significantly dangerous or intrusive software has doubled between
the first and second quarters of this year. Scary stuff...
Office bans happy passport photos - all new passport photographs must
be of an unsmiling face with the mouth closed, to avoid confusing facial
recognition scanners. Well, given their current plans for universal ID
cards, I don't think there's actually much to smile about anyway...
Oracle criticised for delaying security fixes - UK security
consultancy NGS Software has identified 34 vulnerabilities in current
versions of Oracle's database system (around half which are in the latest
10g version) and claims that Oracle has delayed providing fixes since the
start of the year until a new patch distribution system is completed.
And finally, at the Democratic Convention last week,
around 30 webloggers were invited to join the 15,000 or so accredited
representatives of the traditional mainstream media. Apparently it was a
Far from home, and vastly out-numbered by "Big
Media", the Webloggers were forced to submit to some bizarre requests.
"They carted the bloggers out like zoo animals, seated them at tables
and then let people examine them as they ate breakfast," writes
Halley, of the very famous Weblog "Halley's Comet".
"WTF?!" she asks.
What indeed - there's nothing in journalism's unwritten Geneva
Convention that condones such behaviour. We were looking at the depths
That report certainly stirred up some controversy in the letters
column of UK tech news site The Register, including a pointer to
comment on Slashdot that rather struck a chord with me:
Blogs are going to change the world. Example:
OLD, TIRED MEDIA: "The Associated Press
reported that Saddam Hussein was captured yesterday by American forces."
NEW, EXCITING MEDIA: "omg like kos reported
that he saw on chris's blog that john trackbacked to mike's journal
where he read about bob's girlfriend's brother's cousin who was like
watching Fox News (fair and balanced my ass! lol) and they said
something about saddam i dunno current music:
brittney cleary - im me current mood:
Notice the synergy of information and the ease by
which information propagates throughout the blogosphere.
Indeed. If anything, that's too true to be even
slightly funny, and the vast prevalence of writing in just that style
is the main reason why I rarely mention to anyone that I write a weblog.
It's at it again! This tiny little cluster of cacti,
the largest of which is less than an inch across, is flowering for at
least the fourth time this summer! This is unprecedented in my (admittedly
limited) experience, and I'm really rather impressed with the little
All is not quite right in my cactus collection, though,
unfortunately. The neighbouring trough seems to have been attacked by an
insect, with the soft tissues of several of the plants completely hollowed
out for a centimetre of more at the growing tips, leaving just the dry,
papery outer skin. Now, the most
common cactus pests are mealy bugs, but these are usually
significantly larger, and tend to leave distinctive cotton-wool like
clumps behind them. I don't see anything like that, but instead I have
little green blobs that look almost like droppings, joined together on
almost invisible fibres just like a tiny string of beads! I can't find
reference to anything even remotely similar online, and a call to my
parents (long-time cactus enthusiasts and the source of most of my
collection) has so far proved fruitless.
However, today I carefully cut off one of the dried,
hollow tip segments, and finally spotted a couple of tiny white insects -
even with a magnifying glass they were too small to make out any details,
but I am assuming that they are the culprit... although I would have
thought them to be far too small to produce those string of beads
"droppings", and given the rapid onset of the damage I would also have
expected to find a lot more of them. It's a bit of a mystery!
I've isolated the affected trough while I decide what
to do about it, as whatever the insects are, they seem to be equipped with
enough legs to spread as far as they want to. To avoid using insecticide,
the recommended treatment
for mealy bugs is to individually paint them with a solution of methylated
spirits - but whatever I have is almost too small to see, let alone
to paint, and so that doesn't seem terribly practical in this case. I
shall probably resort to Malathion or a similar contact insecticide spray,
together with a systemic to add to the soil of all the other plants - just
"no more lawsuits" - CEO Darl McBride, surely the most unpopular man
in IT next to Bill Gates, says that the company will be moving back to its
core business of developing UNIX. I'm amazed that he still remembers...
participatory "Fool's World Map" project - a remarkable page, if
depressing... Thanks to
for the link.
Windows XP Service Pack 2 delayed again - and again, and again... If I
hadn't already seen the early beta releases, I'd have started to wonder if
the beast was actually completely mythical. Microsoft are still promising
it for August, but have stopped mentioning the year.
This story at Microsoft Watch seems to differ significantly
from the News.Com story, though. Odd...
Following an email from yet another dissatisfied
customer of the infamous Viper Shoes, I've updated my
online shopping page
with Viper's contact details, and also the details of the local Trading
Standards officer who is familiar with the company. If you're already
having problems with Viper, then Trading Standards are the ones to talk to
- but anyone contemplating a purchase from the company would be well
advised to attempt contact by telephone first, in order to confirm that
they are prepared to fulfil an order placed online - as right now the
evidence tends to suggest otherwise...
Elsewhere... It's just too hot for links. I had some,
but they melted.
So, the Dell engineer turned up at around midday,
several hours late, and to our delight and amazement the server obliged by
crashing only a few minutes after he turned it on. The power supply was
duly replaced, the server slid back into the cabinet alongside its sixteen
brothers, and all is well again. The next step is for my manager to try to
persuade Dell that when we phone them up to say that a power supply is
failing, all they need to do is nod their heads in agreement and send a
replacement, rather than embarking on a campaign of misdirection and
evasion in the hope of pinning the blame on something else for a few
Elsewhere - and unlike every other tech site on the
Internet, I am NOT going to mention Doom 3... Oh, dammit!
exposes 283 patent infringements in Linux - examination of the 2.4 and
2.6 code base by consultancy Open Source Risk Management unearthed
significant quantities of code already covered by various patents,
including 27 held by Microsoft, 60 by IBM and 20 by Hewlett Packard.
Whilst this discovery is very unlikely to spark a wave of lawsuits, I
think it will serve to take the smug, self-righteous grins off the faces
of the Linux fanboys for a while. :-)
Meanwhile, a Sun spokesman has been talking about
potential benefits of "owning Linux" - wouldn't it be nice to buy
Novell, the current holders of the SuSE Linux distribution, in order to
annoy IBM by refusing to allow them to use it... <sigh> I do
rather think he's missing the point.
Symantec sued over "adware" description - small San Diego software
house TrekEight (AKA Trek8, TrekData, TrekBlue,
Blue Haven, etc.) is complaining that Symantec's web site and the
Norton AntiVirus software describes its products as potentially damaging
The jury is still out as to whether the current version of the
software is actually adware, but there's no doubt that products
from a company with that many aliases bear keeping a close eye on...
Rescue robots under test - in order to test robots designed to locate
victims trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings, an artificial
disaster site (complete with artificial body parts!) was created in a San
Jose convention center. Initial results suggest that this is going to be
an extremely workable idea.
Microsoft's new mouse, courtesy of designer Philippe Starck - it's
curvy, and comes with an orange or blue illuminated strip right down the
middle. It doesn't seem to have any overt buttons, though, so
obviously there's something subtle going on there. I shall have to see if
I can find one to fondle in a shop somewhere.
One of our relatively new Dell 2650 servers started
misbehaving, today, and I spent half the afternoon on the phone with Dell
trying not to grind my teeth in frustration. Having run quite happily for
several months, today the server started spontaneously shutting itself
down with ever increasing frequency - very suddenly, and with no warning,
explanation or logged errors. It was rather warm in the computer room
thanks to the current heat wave, and my first impression was of a thermal
shutdown. However, during the brief periods of uptime I thoroughly checked
the server management utility to make sure that all the fans etc were
working at full speed, and everything seemed to be perfectly happy.
We were scratching our heads over this when, to my
horror, the computer room was suddenly filled with an extremely strong
smell of over-heating electrical equipment - as one of my PFYs put it,
"Scalextric smell"... This is one of the worst smells to encounter in
a computer room, and after some anxious nosing around failed to locate any
clear source, we pulled the server out of the rack and took it out into
the corridor to see of the smell came with it. Rather to my surprise the
smell stayed firmly in the computer room, and it was only after another
ten minutes of puzzled sniffing that we found out that a burnt-out air
conditioner in an office on the other side of the corridor had just been
repaired, dumping a vent's worth of fried electrics smell into the same
roof space as the computer room aircon used as an inlet!
Back at the server again, I tentatively diagnosed a
faulty power supply, and called Dell to arrange an on-site replacement.
Now, these days it seems that Dell would prefer their engineers to visit
hell to deliver ice cubes than to attend a customer's site to fix a
server, and to my annoyance the support monkey started off blaming the
operating system, saying that any hardware issue would be detailed in the
system logs. I was extremely dubious of this, however, having just watched
the server shut down instantly without the management system having any
opportunity to do anything about it, and started to put my foot down...
We went around in circles for a while, with me becoming
increasingly terse and him becoming increasingly defensive, and in the end
he put me on hold for a few minutes, ostensibly to consult with a
colleague but probably mostly in the hope that I would calm down
somewhat... While I was waiting, though, my PFYs and I ran through some
tests of our own, and proved conclusively that it was indeed the power
supply - it seemed that the bearings in one of the fans were failing, and
when the fan started to slow down the PSU would overheat and switch
itself off. The power supplies in this model of server are not particular
smart, I knew, and this would explain the complete lack of helpful
information in the system diagnostics.
When he came back on the line I laid out the tests we
had run and their result, and to my frustration and amazement he performed
a complete U-turn, claiming that he had known that it was a faulty PSU all
along! By this time my PFYs could see the veins on my forehead starting to
throb, and were quietly edging away - so I decided that enough was enough
and passed him back to our helpdesk to finalise the details of the
replacement. When it comes down to it, all I want is my server back up and
running again, but it makes me yearn for the time when I could ring
Compaq, or DEC, or AST, tell them that I had a server with a dead PSU,
then have the thing on my desk the next morning without a whole song and
dance about it. Ah the good old days...
Virtual machine shootout - Virtual PC vs. VMware courtesy of
Google IPO online registrations
service - and
a cute mathematical joke, as the initial value of the shares is
$2,718,281,828 - $1 billion multiplied by e, the base of the
natural logarithm. Clever. :-)
Apple vs. Real over iPod DRM - as predicted, Apple have their knickers
firmly in a bunch over Real's analysis and replication of the Fairplay
copy protection system.
watch with web access? Well, not an actual browsing capability, I
admit, but unfortunately that's surely the next step...
gullibility to phishing scams - rather to my annoyance, I only scored
70%, although in my defence I've never actually seen a genuine email from
American ISP Earthlink, for example, and didn't notice the rather subtle
And, finally - "A group of
newspapers in London has finally seen THE LIE and now reports only good
news". Huh? Is it just me, or is this completely butt-headed?
Any newspaper worthy of the name ought to report whatever news needs to be
reported, whether it is good or bad. An editorial policy suitable only for
is no way to run a newspaper...
|August already... I can't believe how fast this year is moving! 2003
felt like that, too - maybe I'm getting old.
cards: a bad idea, but we'll do it anyway - The Register
reports on the Home Affairs Select Committee's verdict on Blunkett's
heinous ID card plans... Their concerns are mostly the same ones that have
already been raised by opposition MPs, the IT industry, and the civil
liberties groups, but in spite of that they're broadly in favour of the
idea itself! Sheesh! Time to get your
NO2ID T-shirt now, and help fund the
Meanwhile, back at the stats... Well, it could be worse.
My spirited defence of Al Gore attracted a
fair bit of attention (politics is always more popular than
computing!) and that doubled my traffic levels for a couple of days, giving
the overall figures a decidedly more perky look. Haute die welt, morgens
I'm losing interest in the
Tweakers Top 50,
though, thanks to the constant presence of the thoroughly inappropriate
Elite Guides at the top of the list. Given that it is completely obvious
that they're artificially manipulating the stats (their pages don't even
have the voting button!) and the fact that the site is in no way associated
with computer modding and tweaking, it's a complete mystery to me why the
Tweakers Australia admins allow it to remain. After all this time with
no action taken, one might assume that they have a vested interest... Still,
vote for me there if you like - I won't send the ice weasels if you do.