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31st March

I'm coming to the inescapable conclusion that the expensive Antec TruePower power supply in my desktop PC, Infinity3, is gradually fading away and dying... I've been worrying about it off-and-on since last autumn, when the voltage monitoring facility of my DigiDoc 5 began occasionally complaining of a low voltage on the five volt rail, and unfortunately the problem seems to be getting steadily worse. As I write this the rail is wobbling between about 4.5 and 4.6 volts, which is well under spec and almost certainly the cause of the occasional system lockups and disappearing SATA disk channels I'm seeing, and it's clear that something will have to be done. In theory it ought to be possible to open up the PSU and tweak a potentiometer or two, but the exposed mains components and fine tolerances involved make that a fairly scary procedure for both me and the motherboard, and I'm not sure that I feel brave enough. The alternative, though, is to buy a replacement PSU - and apart from the considerable expense of the high-power EPS12V devices required for a heavily-loaded dual Xeon system, the idea of sleeving all those damn wires again really doesn't appeal. The nominal five volts seems to be rapidly heading towards four, though, and as I'm starting to suspect that the twelve volt rail is slipping as well I really can't dither for much longer...

Meanwhile, I'm still busy trying to catch up with myself after the Easter holiday, so here are a few more random news links:

The Gridgame - via Ros, a fascinating and unusual online puzzle game. I tried clicking cautiously in one corner, at first, and nothing much happened - but then I clicked in the middle, and boy!

Yahoo vs. Google - an article at Guardian Unlimited describes how the two online giants are continually vying to outdo each other with new services - and right now Yahoo is ahead on points.

The problem with biometrics - when thieves stole a new Mercedes with a fingerprint recognition security system, they took the finger in question with them. it was only a matter of time, really...

Blistering battery performance - Toshiba's new Lithium Ion battery pack recharges to 80% of nominal capacity in just one minute, and will retain 99% of this capacity for at least 1000 recharges. Not bad!

The AV Guide - apparently an organ of venerable electronic gadget supplier Lektropacks, this new site is intended to be a relatively impartial guide to all things (do I really have to tell you?) audio-visual.

And, finally, allegations are circulating that ex-supermodel Naomi Campbell was seen assaulting her assistant with a Blackberry PDA. I have to say that this sounds a touch unlikely - the slimline Blackberry would make a very poor blunt instrument, I think, and perhaps Naomi would be better off with something a little more forceful - an iBook, perhaps?

 

30th March

Just some more quick links, as it's been a busy day. So sue me!

Dan bends over backwards - in the wake of criticism from the scammer manufacturer, Dan has updated his review of the Batterylife Activator - and, unsurprisingly, it still doesn't seem to work...

Pioneers of electronic music - New Scientist interviews Bob Moog of the eponymous synthesiser, MIDI creator Dave Smith, and Peter Vogel of Fairlight Instruments.

Future looking grim for Comdex - the seminal computer trade show has been cancelled again, and after two missed years it's anyone's guess whether it will ever be held again.

Microsoft playing nice - MS have dropped their demands for $500,000 restitution from the 19 year old author of the MSBlast worm, instead asking for a mere 225 hours of community service.

Server 2003 Service Pack imminent - WinBeta says that build 1830 of the service pack will be released to manufacturing tomorrow, with commercial distribution due sometime next month.

A shower of bastards - a fascinating list of malware companies that have filed suits against the manufactures of anti-spyware software for detecting, removing, or even writing about their products.

Eye-catching rodent - Logitech's new mouse has a fascinating surface finish that looks like three dimensional craters in the plastic. A review at Everything USB has some great pictures.

 

29th March

And on the sixth day, normal service was resumed as promised...

It was incredibly rainy as I was driving home today, and as the motorway out of the West Country apparently went up through the cloud layer at several points visibility was sometimes pretty much non-existent. Of course, as usual this didn't stop a small percentage of lunatics from charging ahead regardless, and after an hour of cautious driving with my eyes out on stalks I came out of a fog bank to find that a huge truck of some description had just crossed the central reservation, stretching the metal barrier out for hundreds of yards like a giant elastic band. This blocked the outside lanes of both carriageways, and to make things even more exciting the ghouls who slowed right down for a good peer at the wreckage pretty much blocked off the others. It certainly keeps one on one's toes...

For now, though, a handful of random links while I catch up with myself:

eBay income taxable? - unlike most eBay users, I'm sure the IRS and the UK's Inland revenue think that is is, but it's still a decidedly grey area. One Ohio woman is trying to determine the exact legal status of Internet-based "hobby" selling, though, and it will be interesting to see what emerges.

Got wood - I've seen both home-made and commercial wooden cases for desktop PCs. before, but I think this laptop shell is the first of its kind. it certainly has... ah... character.

More on dead pixels - this time a flurry of complaints about the Sony PSP, which has prompted a less-than-impressive response from the manufacturer. Not that it's the first time, though...

Robotic battlefield medics - the Pentagon is to award $12 million in grants towards the extensive modifications required to enable use of a civilian telesurgery system in combat situations.

Gullible Londoners free with their details - the vast majority of people asked were quite willing to hand out significant personal details in exchange for a chance to win theatre tickets.

Money where their mouth is - in the wake of last week's warnings from Symantec, a Mac peripherals company offered a prize for successfully hacking into a pair of their Macs - but the offer was withdrawn less than a day later, allegedly after pressure from Apple. Hmmmmm.

Hanging it out in public - this New York bus information screen has crashed and hung at the POST screen of what looks like a cheapy off-the-shelf clone system. How embarrassing.  :-)

The evils of HDTV - the TV companies are squatting on a huge swath of the radio spectrum originally intended for digital high-definition TV, even though the emergency services are desperate for additional frequencies.

Copyfight - at Corante, a link to a study that roundly dismisses the RIAA's claims that their war against file-sharing is "a life-or-death struggle over theft of their means of livelihood".

RFID Kills - the State Department wants to embed RFID devices into US passports, broadcasting details such as name, date and place of birth and even the holder's photograph to anyone nearby. This is a bad idea for a number of reasons, it seems to me, and there is already a campaign against the plans.

 

23rd March

Epicycle will be on hiatus for a few days over the Easter period - I'm having some downtime away from the computers. Well, all except for the laptop, the PDA, the GPS system, the cellular modem and whatever else I apparently can't avoid taking with me whenever I go away, that is.

Normal service (or whatever passes for normal right now, at least) will be resumed next week, but until then here are a few quick links...

IBM spamming spammers - new automatic systems send junk email right back to the computer that sent it - although it's not clear to me why there should necessarily be anything listening there... An SMTP spamming engine probably doesn't include an incoming email service, after all!

The 2005 ROBOlympics - 450 robots have registered to compete, and the event even comes bundled with a lawsuit from the International Olympic Commission, who have their panties in a bunch over the use of the "Olympics" trademark.  <sigh>

The shape of things to come - five hypothetical products from Apple, as envisioned by the design team that brought us the original PowerBook. Now, remind me, again - this was the same PowerBook that doubled as a hibachi grill, yes?

The birth of the notebook - a fascinating account of the development of portable computing, although there are a number of obvious omissions... The Compaq Portable "lunchbox" series, for example, or the SLT luggables that replaced them, both deserve an honourable mention.

Lastly, PostSecret is exactly what it says on the can - or, in this case, on a 3" x 5" postcard. Partly a psychological experiment, and partly an arts festival project, it's a growing collection of intimate confessions, hidden dreams or fears, and long-buried memories - recorded  on postcards (many of them illustrated) and submitted anonymously. They're fascinating, and often compelling and rather poignant.

 

22nd March

I have no links, and I must thumb.

[Oh, dear, I think the pressure is starting to get to me]

Criminalising technology - If P2P company Grokster loses their court case next week, in theory a whole raft of everyday items will suddenly become illegal! As the EFF explains, any technology that can conceivably be used for violating copyright will have to be designed specifically to prevent that from happening - photocopiers, video recorders, email software, and even the TCP/IP itself... All we can do is hope for common sense and fair treatment for the consumer, but I'm afraid there's precious little sign of either of those in the US legislature these days.

Symantec in the dog house, again - The suggestion that the Mac OS X platform will soon attract more attention from hackers and virus writers has been greeted with scorn and anger by the Mac community. The security company cited Apple's growing market share, together with the 37 vulnerabilities discovered OS X during 2004, but was met with responses along the lines of "Grow up and quit whining" from the assembled Mac bigots. Apple themselves declined to comment.

Utah bans Internet porn - A new bill will require the state's ISPs to block access to websites deemed "harmful to minors" by the Attorney General. This move is both absurd and offensive, in my opinion - aside from the fact that it's impossible to completely block access to any Internet resource, and pointless even to try, this is a clear violation of the first amendment - and six other states have already had similar legislation ruled unconstitutional.

Retro comms frenzy - instructions for eviscerating a traditional 1950sdial telephone and replacing it with a cellphone - in such a cunning way that the rotary dial actually dials the number. Neat!

Eddies in the space-time continuum - "Einstein was right when he said he was wrong", according to FermiLab, but it looks as if Douglas Adams was just plain right.

And, finally, cursed teddy bear up for auction - complete with a well-documented history of bizarre and scary incidents fit for any low-budget horror movie. The bidding is at over $135 as I write this, so evidently there's no accounting for taste. Think of it as Monkey's Paw syndrome.

 

21st March

I have no thumbs, and I must link.

Dan on implausible battery gizmos - These articles are so good - factual, informative, as rigorous as possible under the circumstances - and extremely amusing too
 
Huge computer key seats - GreatBigStuff.com specialises in (do I have to spell it out?) giant versions of everyday objects. If you want normal things, only bigger, then this store is definitely for you...

Only furries need apply - most Apple bigots seem to think that the hardware looks good enough already, but if you fancy covering your iBook in fur fabric then check out these instructions.

That's a lot of money - search engine Ask Jeeves is on the point of changing hands, for an eyebrow-raising $2 billion. I've never thought that much of it myself, actually - a bit too woolly...

Federal crackdown on solitaire - a North Carolina senator is proposing legislation to remove the bundled games from the state's 50,000 PCs. Betcha that won't help productivity one little bit...

Fear Of A Bot Planet - Britain tops the charts in zombie PCs, according to an an article at The Register, beating the US by a little and notoriously virus-ridden China by a lot. Hmmm.

Another rat jumps the Novell ship - now the chief technology officer has left to head an un-named company, only moments before the annual BrainShare fest. Sign of the times, for sure.

Information Commissioner investigating Ken Livingstone - in the wake of yet another data protection gaffe, this time referring to a "Shredding Week" before the Freedom Of Information Act became law, the IC may well want a word with him... And not before time, too, if you ask me.

 

20th March

Ted "Theodore" Logan: Who are you?
Bill S. Preston, Esq.: Ted, it's the Grim Reaper, dude!
Ted "Theodore" Logan: Oh. How's it hanging, Death?

 - Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey

(It was very hard to think of Keanu as anything other than Ted for a long time after those two movies)

horizontal rule

It's been a frustrating hardware day, on top of a frustrating hardware month, so I only have the energy and enthusiasm for for a few quick links... Normal service will be resumed soon, I hope.

Explosive television - Via Boing Boing, a Russian designer TV that is delightfully 1960s retro - but the $1499 price tag is neither delightful nor retro... Some subtle revenge for the fall of the Soviet Union?

Bizarre toys - also at Boing Boing, a collection of unusual toys. I think My Borg Pony is the favourite, but the other links are fascinating - although I'm wondering if some of them are actually bizarre hoaxes!

Marvellously surreal - Skeletal Systems is an art exhibit of the skeletal structure of well-know cartoon characters, from the "Peanuts" gang to modern Japanese icons. What a wonderful idea!

The Online Video Game Atlas - a collection of level maps and floor plans from video games reaching back over several decades. I spotted Prince Of Persia, which certainly brought back memories.

More dissing iTunes - I'm not the only one who is finding the current state of Apple's iTunes hard to swallow, it seems. You can't distribute slideshows with embedded music, now, it seems.

Self-replicating 3D printer - these cunning devices have been around for around a decade, now (if with rather a low profile) but this is the first one that can make a copy of itself. Another significant step...

How to hypnotize a man - not a safe link for the office, really, unless you work for a company where the managers have lost the ability to raise their eyebrows and stare at you over the top of their glasses...

Where's George? - I wish I had a dollar bill to hand, right now, as this site might allow me to follow its path from person to person around the world. It will only work well if the fan base grows a lot, though.

Weird Events - a relatively new 'blog that ranges from Fortean weirdness to mainstream science news - the current page has an odd but pleasing mixture of ghosts, particle physics and new technology.

 

17th March

Although the Web Of Letters toy I linked to the other day is cool, Amaztype is even more impressive... It uses images of books or album covers from Amazon to spell out the name of the authors or musicians - here are Laurie Anderson and Iain Banks, for example. The idea of raiding sites such as Google or Amazon for metadata is relatively new, and if we're already seeing ideas this cool (if, admittedly, relatively useless at present!) I wonder what is just around the corner - especially as Google themselves are apparently going out of their way to make interacting with their data transparent and straight-forward.

Less impressive, though, is Apple's continuing descent through the layers of corporate hell. Their latest change to iTunes is to further restrict the streaming capabilities, limiting the amount of people who can listen to downloaded music locally. This is just one of a number of changes to the service terms and conditions that have been made after users have already purchased music, and people are starting to notice. To quote Tom Waits - "What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away"...

And talking of corporates... the CEO of Computacenter, traditionally rather outspoken, has opened up at Hewlett Packard: "If you look at it, what do they do? What's their job? The software is made by Microsoft, Intel make the processors, that's where the value is. They don't make hard drives. They don't make the memory chips and they don't make the tin itself. They certainly don't assemble themselves. What is it that HP do?"  <laughs> I love it when giant corporates get pissy with each other.

Elsewhere...

Quiet bike needs added vroom - the fuel cell powered bike from Intelligent Energy is so quiet that they're having to add artificial noise. I remember this being mooted when BMW introduced the K100 back in the eighties - it just purred along, and people kept stepping off pavements in front of it.

Marmite blob ad terrified children - I saw this advert and thought it was funny, so I'm distinctly annoyed to find that it's been banned from being aired during children's programmes after only six complaints to the ASA. Given how many children must have watched it, six being upset is statistically insignificant!

Dust devils spring clean Spirit - it looks as if miniature whirlwinds have blown dust from the solar panels of the Martian rover, bringing their power output up to around 93% of the original level. There is still some controversy about the exact cause, but it does seem to be too much of a coincidence...

Zombie PCs running rife - large bot nets are becoming increasingly cunning and sophisticated, with a change of emphasis away from spam and DoS attacks towards identity theft and scamming - one even steals objects from an online game and hides them for the fraudster to collect later and sell!

And finally, at Cockeyed.com - An Unsolicited Commercial Love Story with a surprise ending.

 

16th March

I treated myself to a day off, today, and for the first time in weeks managed to spend a couple of hours not thinking about backup... In the meantime, I've enlisted one of my PFYs as a second brain - after three weeks working on these problems, I'm too full of preconceptions and assumptions to be sure that I'm really seeing the nature of the issue clearly. He spent today going through logs and checking error messages, so we'll put our heads together tomorrow and see if we can come up with anything new.

For now, though, a few random news items:

Some new airsoft replica releases, courtesy of Arnie's - firstly, a CO2 powered mini Uzi from KWC, with full metal construction giving it a highly realistic weight of 3.2Kg. The only disadvantage, it seems, is that a CO2 caplet won't actually provide sufficient power to empty an entire 39 round magazine on full-auto. I would find that rather an annoyance, personally... Meanwhile, the UN Company is offering an impressive FN FAL rifle, partly built from real components. I learned to shoot on the British Army's L1A1 SLR, a variant of the FN design, and seeing the replica certainly brought back memories - but it's an AEG, and I really am a gas purist these days...

Also at Arnie's, news of a new conversion kit to enable the Asia Paintball Real Action Markers to fire 6mm airsoft BBs. Given that this is exactly what the ill-fated Area 51 shell ejectors were, it will be very interesting to see if SoftRAM has any more success with their design. Details are sketchy at best right now, and although I'll be watching with interest I really don't think I'll be buying one. Once bitten, twice shy...

Something I did buy, though (and on a sudden whim at that!) was a new electronic target from Maruzen. I spotted it at Zero One whilst shopping for gas, and as I'm a sucker for both high-tech and different types of targets it positively leapt into my cart. Zero One won't let me link to their listing (although their product code is MZBE, if you want to find it there yourself), so here's a photo on a Taiwanese site until I can provide my own review. Now all I need is the time and energy to try it out - roll on the weekend!

Meanwhile, elsewhere... Defence contractor Honeywell and industrial glass manufacturer Guardian have filed dozens of lawsuits claiming that their intellectual property rights for liquid crystal displays have been infringed. Some of the lawsuits target the LCD manufacturers directly, but others are aimed at companies that incorporate LCDs into finished products - including Dell, Gateway, Acer, BenQ, Lite-On, Apple, Sony Ericsson, Fujitsu and Nokia. Wow! This one is going to run and run, you bet...

In yet another flip-flop, BT have announced new measures to cut down on the risk to home computer users from rogue diallers that call premium rate numbers. They seem to change their position on this issue every month, these days, but the new measures are better than nothing... barely. One is an early warning service that alerts users to unusual activity on their account, and the other is software that restricts dialup connections to only specified numbers. Given that the former is a reactive rather than proactive solution, and that the latter will almost certainly be shut down automatically by the next generation of dialler scams, the best way to serve the consumer would still be to not sell premium rate services to offshore crooks in the first place!  <sigh>

And finally, thanks to Mike, my usual purveyor of space news - it seems that NASA budget cuts may lead to the venerable Voyager 1 probe being abandoned a decade or more earlier than necessary, as apparently there no money to keep the projects operating after the current fiscal year ends in October. Other "low ranking" missions are also under threat of termination, including Ulysses, Polar, Wind, Geotail, FAST and TRACE - and although the scientists involved are scathing of the plans, they are likely to have little choice in the matter. [As an aside, I went to check Space.com for further details, but instead became distracted by their Best Of Hubble gallery and their new ray-traced space wallpaper. Great stuff...]

 

15th March

I am so tired of misbehaving backup subsystems... If this goes on much longer, I'm going to buy a ZX-81 and refuse to deal in units of data any larger than 1 kilobyte.

Meanwhile, a few links - but just a few, as it's been another of those days...

Metallica not bad guys after all? - Lars Ulrich persuades Sony to drop cover band lawsuit.

Medieval plagues may help prevent HIV infection - 1 in 10 Europeans seem to be immune to HIV.

Two-factor ID not the final word - other attacks can bypass even the strongest authentication.

D&D map projector - in my day we used to manage with little sheets of graph paper...

Government to steal back what is already yours - DRM will drastically reduce access to information.

Web of Letters - borrowing images from Google, surely the coolest ransom note generator yet.

George Dyson on Von Neumann - from the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference.

Dan holds forth - on RF-safe headphones and the twiddly bits inside a PSU. Fascinating, as usual...

Got cold feet? - Linux server hacking challenge pulled offline after only a couple of days.

 

14th March

I should re-post that Tim Taylor "More Power" grunt from last week... This is the sort of tool for which the advice "do not drink and operate heavy machinery" was coined. In spite of its rather lurid colour scheme, this 52cm Bosch hedge cutter can chop through branches up to 16mm thick without breaking stride - and as that is about the size of my little fingers, I'm glad that the dual safety levers render it impossible to use without being held firmly in both hands. It certainly made short work of the thick ivy that is spreading over the front of my new house, though, and as the growing season hasn't really started properly yet all signs suggest that it's a tool with which I'm going to become extremely familiar...

Meanwhile...

A permanent eavesdropping presence - watch as the NSA franticly struggles to reconcile their need to watch everybody in America with their obligation to respect privacy under the Fourth Amendment.

Enter the PPU - after the CPU, the FPU and the GPU, is the next big thing a Physics Processing Unit for calculating the motion of objects within a three dimensional game world?

Space tether to re-orbit satellites - another classic SF idea, MXER is a design for a 100 kilometre spinning structure that could catch satellites in a low orbit and throw them cheaply into a higher one.

Now this is a cunning thing - the "Name Voyager" at the Baby Name Wizard site shows the ebb and flow of popularity in almost 5000 names over the last hundred years. Via The Sideshow.

Bluetooth sniping - a high-gain directional antenna pointed at a large office building detected several dozen Bluetooth-enabled devices at a distance of around a kilometre. Next week; hacking them...

Finally, a quick plug for The South Park Scriptorium - comprehensive even by the usual standards of obsessive fan sites, this has pretty much everything you'd ever need to know about the show.

 

13th March

For my occasional forays onto the P2P file sharing networks I use the FastTrack client Kazaa Lite K++, a version of the original Sharman Networks application with all the horrendous malware removed and some extra tools bolted onto the side. The Sharman code has a number of quirks and annoyances, though, and today I decided to see what options were available to update the software. Kazaa Lite itself is no longer available, as Sharman (quite reasonably, some would say!) took offence at such blatant copyright violation and embarked on a major campaign to shut down sites distributing the software. This was unusually successful as these things go, and although you can still find the final V2.4.3 release, you do have to search around - and thanks to the DMCA Sharman even managed to remove all traces from Google!

In its absence, though, a number of other applications have emerged, bringing with them a confusing set of imitations, scams, turf wars and competing projects with annoyingly similar names. Starting at About, one is pointed to Kazaa Lite Resurrection, Kazaa Lite Revolution, Diet Kazaa and K-Lite. The first two are equally unauthorised hacks of the Sharman code, but the latter pair run the legitimate code in a sandbox environment that prevents the worst excesses of the bundled malware, and in this way the authors hope to remain within the law - a dubious standpoint, but one as yet untested in court.

Further searching reveals another unauthorised hack of the Sharman code, KLT K++, which seems to be the spiritual successor to the Kazaa Lite K++ build I'm used to. However, this is where the infighting starts, and is also where I started to take a cautious step back from the whole thing... The creators of the KLT K++ software are using their forum to warn about the undesirable behaviour of their competitors, quoting a Wikipedia entry to show that Kazaa Lite Resurrection and Kazaa Lite Revolutions are scams which install malware onto their host platform. However, the Wikipedia entry itself doesn't actually mention Revolutions in this context, so it has presumably been added by the forum poster - and from the subsequent smear of its author in the same post it appears that this is merely a personal vendetta. This makes me wonder about the ethics of the KLT K++ creators, and whether I wouldn't be better off staying with the known factor of the software I'm already using... It has its annoyances, definitely, but it's also relatively safe and secure (comparatively so, at least!) and as I write this I'm erring on the side of prudence and caution.

Meanwhile, elsewhere...

At Arnie's Airsoft, more news of the upcoming Model 470 gas adapter from Madbull. This cunning gadget fits into the place of a Tokyo Marui M16 series mechbox, converting it from an AEG to CO2 power with "strong" recoil and a muzzle velocity of 470 fps. It's is a fascinating idea, and I'm very tempted to get one for my own replica, but after my disappointing experiences with the Area 51 shell ejectors I'm cautious about being an early adopter in this field. This time, I think I'll wait to see how the unit works out for everyone else before taking the plunge.

Now that Microsoft and Sun are no longer constantly at each other's throats (since the Java settlement, Sun has promised not to be quite so rude in the press, and not quite so often), it's evident that the physical links between the two companies are strengthening as well. Recent visitors to the Microsoft campus have noticed $850,000 worth of Opteron-based servers and storage systems from Sun, and it seems likely that more will follow.

Having written yesterday that the real risk from viruses has moved from the traditional email vector to new, web-based trojans, an article at Yahoo News suggests that the instant messaging networks may be just as much of a growth area. The slanging matches familiar from the last year's email viruses are with us already, though - "Serflog", which appeared last week, features abuse aimed at the author of February's "Bropia" worm.  <long sigh>

Finally, this year's CeBIT tech show suggests that the IT industry's love of jargon and acronyms is still going strong. The burgeoning Voice-over-IP sector, for example, has already generated the terms SDP, RTP, RTCP, VAD, CNG, NAT traversal and STUN - and I only know what one of those actually means! You gotta love us...

 

12th March

There's a marvellous line in the current Misco Networking catalogue, advertising Symantec security software - "Viruses! Can your business afford them?". No, but we're saving up, and hopefully by next year...

It's an odd advert, actually - it goes on to quote an ISB survey (whatever that is!) claiming that "the average UK business now receives roughly twenty viruses a year", and I'm still trying to work that one out. My company receives more than twenty viruses per minute, if they're talking about individual emails that are stopped at one of our mail filters, and those messages represent far more than twenty different varieties of the thousands that are currently in active circulation... But if they're talking about viruses loose inside the network, infecting machines and replicating internally, then, well, our score for 2004 was nil. The flood of Bagel/MyDoom/NetSky variants was annoying, as it threatened to slow our external mail gateway down to the point where genuine messages might actually be delayed, but after comprehensive testing over the summer we contracted the first line defence out to BlackSpider's MailControl service and haven't been bothered since. We had a one minor outbreak back in 2003, and I think a couple in 2002, but at present viruses are very much a known quantity and until the writers stop their silly squabbling and get back to developing new and innovative ways of being a pain in the ass, I don't think they're actually much of a threat to a well-prepared organisation. We're just now seeing the first signs that things may be about to change, though, with a new emphasis on web-based virus code that exploits known but unpatched weaknesses in browsers. I can implement fairly reliable defences against this sort of risk quite easily, I think, but only at the cost of heavily restricting the web sites that my users can access in the currently fairly relaxed periods over lunch and before and after the working day - and I'm sure that will generate a huge flood of complaints, many from senior management. We shall have to see...

Elsewhere - I hadn't heard, but Hans Bethe died last weekend. One of the 20th century's truly outstanding physicists, Bethe's early work included theories of the nuclear reactions that power stars and key participation in the Manhattan Project, before he settled at Cornell University for a long and distinguished career which lead to him being awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1967. This was by no means the end of his contributions to physics, though, as although he officially retired a few years later in 1975, he was still lecturing in 1999 - at the age of 93! Every article I've read about Bethe remarked on what a warm, friendly man he was (and I met his secretary at a party once, who said the same), with a sparkling sense of humour and, just like his Cornell colleague Richard Feynman, he delighted in passing on his love of physics to his students. He'll be sorely missed.

On a very different note, France's National Library has airbrushed the cigarette out of a poster of chain-smoking philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre to avoid prosecution under a law banning tobacco advertising. He's not alone, though, it seems - fellow victims of the recent wave of anti-smoking hysteria include The Beatles, Courtney Love, Robert Johnson, Jackson Pollock, James Dean, and Paul Simon.  <long, heartfelt sigh>

Equally bizarre and insulting, a story at The Register reveals that the police in Clark County, Kentucky, have arrested a student for intending to raise an army of zombies to attack his school. The hapless youth insists that the so-called "evidence" was actually a fantasy story written for his English class, but nevertheless he has been charged with threatening terrorism, a second-degree felony, with bail initially set at $1000 but then raised to $5000 by a judge at the request of the persecutors. Oh, I'm sorry, that should have been prosecutors... Rural America obviously doesn't realise how ignorant, how asinine, how primitive and superstitious this kind of behaviour makes them look to the rest of the world, or if they do then evidently they just don't care. Next stop, witch burnings in the public square.

Just as stupid, if on a somewhat smaller scale, this loon is threatening a games review site with legal action because one of the games they have reviewed (Blair Witch Vol. II, released in 2000) contains a character with his name: "When folks type in my name to find me, they connect me with the Blair Witch crap that makes me look foolish--among my colleagues. This is not a pleasant experience". As often with people who take this kind of thing personally, he appears somewhat confused and incoherent, and apparently doesn't need outside assistance in order to look foolish. Thanks to his featured spot on Game Revolution, though, I don't think that "folks" will have any difficulty at all in finding him online...

And, finally, IBM have hit upon a remarkable and innovative scheme - they have a huge, powerful supercomputer, Blue Gene, and they plan to rent out little parts of its processing power to external companies so that they can benefit from the performance remotely without having to buy and operate a supercomputer of their own. Hmmm. You know, there's something very familiar about this idea... I can't quite place it... It's on the tip of my brain... No... Ah, well, maybe it will come to me later.

 

11th March

I suppose that at some point I'm going to have to relate the horrible and continuing saga of our misbehaving tape library, but at this stage the exact cause of the problems is still thoroughly obscure and it probably makes sense to wait until I can finish the story properly. Suffice to say that at the moment Dell (the OEM), ADIC (the hardware manufacturer), Veritas (the software house) and NCE (the maintenance company) are all disagreeing enthusiastically with each other over both the cause and the best resolution. However, after a full day of on-site testing today confirmed everything I've been telling them all for a week, NCE has finally agreed to provide a complete replacement chassis on Monday, so we'll see what happens then. In the meantime, I'm VPNed into the office again, as I have been every night for the last two weeks, keeping the network backups ticking over as best as I can. It's been a long haul, and it's not over yet...

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Radio Free Mars is an online radio show in MP3 format (they're calling these "podcasts" now, I gather, as if the idea was something new that originated for the iPod!) presenting science and space news. I especially enjoyed the interview with legendary NASA flight director Gene "Nice Waistcoat!" Kranz.

The SpacedOut Project is constructing a replica of the solar system at a scale of 1:15,000,000 - the sun is located at the famous Jodrell Bank observatory in Cheshire, Pluto is in Aberdeen, and various comets and asteroids are scattered as far away as the Shetland Islands and Cornwall.

"Powers of Ten" is the famous film sequence that pulls back from a man in a Chicago park to the edge of the universe, and then all the way into the microscopic cellular structure in the man's hand. Twenty five years later it was parodied wonderfully in one of the best of the Simpsons Couch Gags.

Via The Sideshow, a Java applet that seems designed to melt one's brain. Avedon describes it as a Rubik Hypercube, and whilst I don't think it's actually intended as a puzzle (god, I hope not - it's fiendish!), that's certainly is what it looks like. More of the same elsewhere on the site.

Too clever for their own good? Visitors to Japan's World Expo will be greeted by the Actroid reception robot from Advanced Media Inc, which looks and behaves in a spookily realistic way and even has a sense of humour - or what passes for one to the Japanese, that is.

MC Frontalot, hailed as the world's 579th-greatest rapper, is the creator and leading proponent of nerdcore.hiphop. No, I didn't know what it was, either, and even after listening to a number of his songs I'm still not much the wiser. I expect I'm probably too old and too square...

Miles Tag is a DIY laser tag system that the creators think is comparable or superior to the best commercial systems at a fraction of the cost. There seem to be a number of other similar projects, too, so it's obviously something of a growth area.

And, finally, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the call centre - terrorists fighting for an independent Kashmir were planning to attack the offices of major software firms in Bangalore, according to the Indian police. Just another reason to rein-in the relentless drive for offshore outsourcing, which I am convinced is causing real harm to the future of Western business. The Sideshow thinks so, too...

 

10th March

It's been a fairly traumatic week at the office, between dying tape libraries and misbehaving backup software, so I'm just going to throw out some random links and call it a night...

The new version of BitTorrent is out, and with more and more data being distributed in this way (yes, even legal, above-board files!) it's something of a must-have.

The computer industry pays tribute to the great games designers with the Walk Of Game in a Silicon Valley mall - including Atari's Nolan Bushnell, creator of the classic "Pong."

The wait is over - after several years of speculation, Microsoft has released the general specifications of the upcoming Xbox 2. For the real techy details, though, one needs to go to GameSpy.

At Forbes.com, the top ten corporate hate sites - as well as some of the big names online, such as PayPal, Microsoft and Verizon, the other entries are traditional bricks-and-mortar businesses.

Trouble in paradise? - the Mozilla group is arguing over the future of Firefox, with heated opposition to a faction that wants to split the application off into its own development community.

Meanwhile, a warning to those who have moved to Firefox or other supposedly more secure browsers instead of IE - if you have Sun Java installed, you may still be just as vulnerable to online nasties.

More about switching to Mac - the next part of a series at Bit-Tech about switching from the PC and Windows to the Mac and OS X - as usual, there are many pros and many cons...

20 questions - an expert system that plays (do I really need to tell you?) 20 questions. It's not very good, right now, but the nature of these things is that they tend to get better with time.

Firmly in the "too much time on their hands" department, a worm-controlled Synthesizer and a worm-based sculpture. Yes, you heard me; worms.

Plush aliens - via The Sideshow, plush Face Hugger and Chest Burster toys. They're just a bit too creepy to be cuddly, though, I think...

Fake taxidermy - a bright pink wild boar rug, made from a moulded plastic head and about an acre of artificial fur fabric. The effect is marvellous!

And, finally, is it hot in here? - an Office XP advert intended for the Swiss market, but deemed too risqué (apparently by Bill himself!) and never officially  released.

 

8th March

These are drive carriers for an LSI / Metastor e2400 RAID array - and they're also a complete pain in the neck. They're simply an aluminium frame that a SCSI or fibre channel hard disk screws into, together with a plastic front panel and retention clip that locks the carrier into place when inserted into the drive bay. When an array comes from the manufacturer, it contains a number of hard disks in these carriers, and additional carriers in any vacant drive bays both in order to control airflow and to avoid an ugly great gap in the cabinet.

However, the extra carriers that fill the unused bays are subtly different from the ones that ship with drives attached, and the nature of this difference is a clear sign of the nature of the modern corporate.

The first time I came across Metastor array hardware, the spare carriers were without the screw holes needed to attach a disk drive - although they actually had slightly raised circles where the holes would be in a real drive carrier. I always found this rather curious, as it was such a blatantly artificial way of wringing a few more bucks out of the customer - the dummy carriers must cost pretty much the same amount to manufacture as real ones, so they might as well have given you all you needed to fill the array to capacity when you purchased the unit. After all, the arrays themselves cost tens of thousands of pounds, and forgoing the sale of a few additional bits of metal and plastic at a later date probably wouldn't cause the downfall of the company...

Lack of holes notwithstanding, on the occasions we needed to add a drive or two to these arrays in a tearing hurry I simply grabbed a handful of carriers, took them home, and attacked them with my trusty Dremel. Thanks to the ready-marked locations, drilling the required holes in the soft aluminium frame was the work of only a few minutes, and often preferable to waiting several days or weeks while a purchase order crawled its way through various finance departments and a new carrier found its way from the supplier to my desk.

However, the current generation of carriers (now supplied under the aegis of "Engenio" after a merger with LSI Logic, and then a subsequent separation and rebranding) are considerably more annoying... It obviously occurred to some swinish marketing droid that harried techies might do just that, as instead of merely not drilling the screw holes, as before, instead they have deliberately drilled holes that are too large!

This makes DIY modifications almost impossible, as the carriers are an exact fit into the chassis and there's no space for a washer or over-sized screw head, so even the more resourceful users are obliged to buy genuine replacements. Unfortunately, the array hardware is getting a little long in the tooth, and now that we want to wring the last few gigabytes of capacity from it before retirement next year I'm having great difficulties actually sourcing extra carriers! None of my usual suppliers can help, and although I'm waiting to hear from several other firms I'm not really expecting good news to be waiting in my mailbox when I get into the office tomorrow morning.

Necessity, however, (as usual in hands-on IT) is the mother of invention, and I'm attempting to bodge my way around the problem. The top carrier in the picture is my pattern, showing the neatly drilled and countersunk holes that I have to reproduce - and the bottom one is my experiment, showing where I'm attempting to fill the over-large holes with epoxy resin prior to re-drilling them to the correct size. I'm not convinced that it will work, as by the time I've countersunk the epoxy to allow the screw heads to fit flush into the carrier there won't be much bulk left to hold the screw, but in the absence of any better ideas I'm giving it a go. It will be interesting to see if it works out - watch this space!

[Update: It did work, and very well. We found a supplier, in the end, but they wanted to charge us over £180 for a pair of carriers and both my manager and I blanched at that... So once the epoxy had hardened completely I drilled and countersunk the holes, scared up some spare screws, and J.R. "Bob" Dobbs was our uncle. Neat!]

 

7th March

What do we want? More power!    

There would be a .WAV file here if you had the plugin...

It's always nice to have the right tool for the job.  :-)

I spent a few hours yesterday drilling monstrous holes in the walls of my house and running CAT5 through them, so for the first time since I moved back in December of last year I don't have to step over a bundle of network cables when I go into the kitchen. Ahhh, luxury! I still have to route one cable around a door frame a little more elegantly than it is at present, and I have some mini-trunking on order from old favourite The Networking Store for that, but I'm getting there slowly. Installing a corporate-level computing infrastructure in a small terraced house is a challenge, but it's certainly an entertaining one!

Meanwhile, elsewhere...

At PoliTech - Live from the last week's court hearing, Apple's Orchard Of Terror. And at News.Com, "Apple Computer is trying to win the argument that Richard Nixon lost". Indeed.

Eek! Via Security Focus, news of a nasty new vulnerability in XP and Server 2003 - "Using tcpreplay to script this attack results in total collapse of the network". Look forward to an update soon... I hope.

The BPI learns from the RIAA - in less than a month,  the British Phonographic industry has managed to extract £50,000 in out-of-court settlements from alleged file-sharers in the UK.

A change to Windows Product Activation - in a nutshell, you'll no longer be able to use the OEM serial number stuck on the outside of a big-name PC to re-activate Windows if you need to re-install.

Off the hook again! Russian online music store allofmp3.com is safe for a while longer, it seems, after prosecutors concluded that the loophole the site had counted on is perfectly valid.

 

6th March

"You probably didn't think I did
But I heard
You say that
Love is just a four letter word"

  - Bob Dylan, but sung by Joan Baez

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In the wake of the legal decision that the Apple news sites must turn over the names of their sources, a thread at Slashdot is asking  "Is Apple The New Microsoft?" - and the general consensus is that, yes, they might well be. Regular readers of Epicycle will find this sentiment decidedly familiar, so remember, folks, you saw it here first...

They know what we're listening to - Gracenote Inc, the current owner of the original CDDB database, is collecting all sorts of information every time someone plays or rips a track using a CDDB-enabled application. Well, there is a reason why the technically aware have hacked all their apps to use FreeDB, after all!

More on the Microsoft vs. Eolas retrial - some critical evidence was deliberately left out from the original trial, it seems, showing that the browser plug-in concept had already been used in the Viola application a year before the patent was filed in 1994.

At Modders HQ, an excellent tutorial on using a Dremel rotary tool to make a complex and detailed cut-out in a PC case panel. I seem to have blown my Dremel up, unfortunately, and I may take this opportunity to invest in one of the newer cordless models.

The FCC has imposed a $15,000 fine on a North Carolina telco for sneakily blocking Voice-Over-IP calls made over their network. This is a classic corporate reaction at the moment, I'm afraid - protecting a monopoly is far more important to many companies than serving their customers.

Strange things are afoot in Seattle - in something of a reversal of previous intentions, it looks as if Microsoft will retrofit their long-delayed WinFS file system into Windows XP... In spite of announcing that it won't be included in the initial releases of the Longhorn OS that will be XP's successor!

On the Internet, everybody knows you're a dog - a Ph.D. student at University of California has demonstrated how PC hardware can be fingerprinted remotely, allowing it to be tracked wherever it is on the Internet. As usual, the implications for online privacy are deeply disturbing...

At a Java symposium in Las Vegas, the assembled experts declared Java to be mature to the point of boredom, and admitted that Microsoft's competing .Net Framework now has more vitality, and is becoming increasingly appealing to modern developers. Interesting...

 

5th March

"Where the heart is willing, it will find a thousand ways. Where it is unwilling, it will find a thousand excuses."

   - Arlen Price

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Just a few random snippets, tonight...

The US Court Of Appeals has reversed part of the ruling in the Microsoft vs. Eolas patent dispute, removing the absurd $565m penalty and sending the case back for a re-trial. I definitely approve...

Blasting Condi - Lloyd Axworthy, president of the University of Winnipeg and former Canadian foreign minister, addresses U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in no uncertain terms.

Twang - A neat little Java applet that graphically models the harmonic motion of a vibrating string. I love playing with these things...

Hitchhiker's Guide game wins BAFTA - the recent port of the old Infocom HHG text adventure to the web has picked up an award for interactive programming.

Cheap world music - courtesy of Smithsonian Institute's Global Sound project, an extensive collection of folk music from around the world, all at 99¢ per track with no DRM restrictions.

Uncle Duke lives on - the first Doonesbury strips featuring the character inspired by the late Hunter Thompson. Several volumes of collected Uncle Duke strips can be found at Amazon, too.

L0rd 0f teh Ringz0rz, Teh Tw0 T0werz - what can one say? Highlights from the second volume of LOTR, helpfully translated into Leetspeak. D00d!

Finding The A-Team - at media site Stuffo, an elegant piece of satire as they try to recruit the A-Team to rescue a damsel in distress. "I love it when a plan for a plan coming together comes together"...

And, finally, something marvellous from the Jargon Guide... Anyone who was delighted by hacker folklore The Story Of Mel, A Real Programmer will be fascinated to know that he really existed - an unearthed copy of the manual for the LGP-30 minicomputer featured in the saga refers to Mel Kaye of Royal McBee, who did the bulk of the programming of the ACT 1 system. Neat, indeed! .  :-)

 

4th March

"There are a number of gadgets on the market that enhance sexual desire. Chief among them, for women, is the Mercedes-Benz 380 SL convertible."

   - P.J. O'Rourke

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Tonight Epicycle is drawing back the veil that shrouds the mists of time to reveal a glimpse of the shadowy pre-history of computing... Or something like that...

Could Bill Gates write code? - Yes, it seems, he certainly could... In fact, back in the mid seventies, his work on Altair BASIC showed that he was something of a programming diva. It's nice to know.  ;-)

And talking of the salad days of Microsoft (or "Micro-soft", as they were until 1976) a fuss is brewing over the real origins of the QDOS operating system that became the original MS-DOS.

MS-DOS is missing, but you can play with its main competitor of the day, CP/M, at the wonderful (if somewhat embryonic) Online Software Museum. Altair Disk Extended Basic is there, too, as well as the canonical UNIX Seventh Edition and Data General's minicomputer RDOS.

A Brief History Of Spreadsheets, from VisiCalc to Excel - surely one of the least exciting classes of application software (to anyone but an accountant, that is), but nevertheless the "killer app" that drove the entire microcomputer revolution.

A History Of Browsers, as well - and these tools, together with the underlying Web that they navigate, are still powering the current revolution in online computing. There's a full technical breakdown here, too, for those obsessed with HTML version numbers...

The chronicle of that marvellous white elephant, OS/2. It showed great promise for a while, but a bizarre political schism between IBM and Microsoft in 1990 sealed its fate for ever.

Wikipedia has an excellent entry on the evolution of OS/2's successor, Windows - all the way from V1.0 to the perpetually imminent (but inevitably delayed) release of Longhorn and Blackcomb.

Of course, no discussion of modern operating systems would be complete without the GUI war between Microsoft and Apple, and Wikipedia delivers there, as well, with a thoroughly unbiased account.

As enthusiasts of Microsoft's server platforms know, the kernel of Windows NT was written by David Cutler, creator of Digital's VMS mainframe OS. A 1998 article discusses the noticeable similarities between the two systems.

At The Old Files abandonware site, a number of useful resources, including Powerload's voluminous information on DOS in all its various flavours and Lightspeed's 16bit reference page.

And finally, courtesy of Wired, a long extract from Douglas Coupland's Microserfs, which together with Tracy Kidder's classic Soul Of A New Machine, is one of the finest books ever written on the high-pressure computer industry culture of the eighties. The contrast between Data General's button-down hardware engineers and Microsoft's relentlessly alternative programmers is striking.  <long sigh>  Ah, it all makes me feel so nostalgic for the good old days...

 

3rd March

So Dubya has now announced that stopping Osama Bin Laden from orchestrating further attacks on the US is "the greatest challenge of our day". Does he think we all have as poor memories as he apparently does?

"You know, I just don't spend that much time on [bin Laden], Kelly, to be honest with you ... And, again, I don't know where he is. I - I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him"

  - White House press conference, March 2002

"Gosh, I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations."

  - Presidential Debate,  March 2004

You can actually hear the sound of flip-flopping all the way over here in Essex... What an ass he is.

Elsewhere, courtesy of satire group The Royal We, a parody of Apple's infamous "1984" advert, which really tells it like it is. "Apple: We've got your revolution for sale." Heh!

Tales of Future Past - a marvellous gallery of predictions of the future, now mostly been and gone... We were all going to have robot butlers, fly to the office with jetpacks, and holiday on the moon...

The Turnpike Prank - hilarious adventures on the The Massachusetts Turnpike, courtesy of Zug, "the world's only comedy site". Also experiments in credit card fraud and Viagra in church - this is definitely a site to keep an eye on.  :-)

 

2nd March

This is the result of our labours at the weekend - a 42U cabinet filed from top to bottom with CAT5. This particular one is a joint effort between one of my PFYs and myself - he did the blue network cabling, then I did the red phone cabling - and between us we managed to turn out the best one so far. It won't last, of course - over the next few months other, less fanatical, colleagues will add cables here and there, normally in a hurry and without the right colour or the right length to hand, and soon enough it will be a mess of spaghetti just like the cabinet it replaced. Ah, well - nobody ever said the life of a senior techy would be an easy one...

I've spotted some interesting new developments in CAT5 cable management, though - firstly, old stalwart supplier RS are selling patch leads with right-angled bends built into the RJ-45 connector, so that the cable comes out either parallel to the hardware for use in confined spaces, or, more usefully, up or down for use in a crowded patch panel. These are very cunning indeed, and although they're at a premium price right now, hopefully in a year or two the novelty value will have worn off and they'll be affordable as standard equipment.

Something else I spotted recently is the eponymously-named Neat-Patch system from American manufacturer Neat-Patch Products. Designed with the cabling needs of high-density blade server installations in mind, nevertheless it looks extremely suitable for medium density installation as well, and as the name suggests it is wonderfully neat. I've seen a few similar cable management gadgets in the last few month, so evidently the market is undergoing something of a resurgence, but Neat-Patch does look to be the most elegant. Maybe next time...

Meanwhile, elsewhere...

Gates receives honorary knighthood - not Sir Bill, unfortunately, but instead a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Cooool....  :-)

Carly Fiorina for president - now that Hewlett Packard have dispensed with La Fiorina, she's looking for another job... and apparently the presidency of the World Bank is up for grabs. Bob help us all...

Baby Got Bible - Via The Sideshow et al - it's kinda neat, and kinda fun... but it's kinda sad as well. I really do prefer quislibet's exceptional Latin version, though...

Supermodel spy robots - you heard me. Yes, supermodel spy robots. Don't look at me like that. Honestly, you'd think you'd never seen an elegantly anthropomorphic automaton that lurks in malls, identifying the brand names on passing shoppers' carrier bags and sending the statistics to its owners for marketing purposes, before. Well, really... Have you been living in a cave or something?

 

1st March

An annoying day at the silicon face, unfortunately, with a bout of all-in wrestling with our Exchange 2003 email server. As with its predecessors, the information store that holds the messages is limited to a total of 16Gb and, unlike the Enterprise Edition, with the Standard version we use only one store can be configured per server. This is an annoying restriction, based as it is on a marketing decision rather than any technical reason, but after all 16Gb represents a lot of email and it isn't usually too much of a worry.

However, over the last month we've been working hard to move tens of gigabytes of data from stand-alone .PST files held in user home directories on our main file server (now groaning at the seams somewhat!) into an email archiving system designed to hold all older and larger messages until someone in senior management decides that they can be safely deleted. Unfortunately, as these imported messages pass through the information store on their way to the archive, some messages don't meet the qualifications for archiving and stick in the IS instead. We've been monitoring the size of the .EDB database file carefully over the last month, but unfortunately had failed to realise that the .SFT streaming file counts towards the 16Gb total as well - so while we were thinking that we were perfectly safe at less than 14Gb, in fact we were heading ever closer to that hard limit...

We finally hit the barrier on Friday afternoon, and when that happened the information store automatically dismounted itself, cutting 700 people off from their email. As can be expected, they were not happy about this, but short of a mass slash-and-burn through the email folders (about which they would be even less happy, you betcha!) there wasn't much that could be done except to tweak the parameters from their generous initial settings to something a little more keen, leave the archiving process and online defragmentation to run in the background for a few nights, and then run an offline defrag of the IS to recover the free space.

Unfortunately this plan didn't take into account the voracious email usage of our users, and this lunchtime we hit the 16Gb limit again and I had to abandon my chicken burger half-eaten and rush back to the office to start off an emergency offline defrag. This one only produced barely enough free space to last us through the afternoon, but having completely removed the deleted item retention period from the IS I'm now watching a second defrag pass which hopefully will free up enough (and I'm looking for several gigabytes here, Ok?) to get us over the hump and allow the background archiving to take care of the rest over the next few weeks.

I thought I'd seen the last of this kind of crisis when we migrated away from Exchange 5.5 eighteen months ago, but although Exchange 2003 demands significantly less day-to-day housekeeping, it still needs an experienced eye cast over it rather more frequently than we've had the opportunity to... The pace of change, development and implementation of new systems on our network over the last couple of years has been breathtaking, and I'm afraid that some of the routine maintenance tasks have fallen by the wayside under the pressure. It's a salutary lesson - Microsoft's modern Active Directory networks are very good indeed, and I definitely stand by my decision to steer our own evolution in this direction, but they still need competent management and that just can't be skimped on.

[Update: It's eleven o'clock, and having wrestled with the damn thing since six, after various cunning schemes I've succeeded in whittling the store down to around 10Gb. I think that will do it! Phew!]

Meanwhile, back at the stats... Not quite such a spectacular month as January, but I suspect that the overall trend will remain upwards in the long term. Today's grand total is 89,525 hits since I started monitoring, though, so I think that I'll reach that magic 100,000 rather sooner than last year's calculations suggested. In the meantime, feel free to vote for Epicycle at the Tweakers Top 50 - and then I won't have to come over to your house and manage your email system, Ok...?

 

 

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