Saturday, August 30, 2003

Things that make you hum...
Interesting set of photos of a tow boat hitting a bridge and surviving...

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

In the news:
The worm at the heart of the Big Apple
How the MSBlast worm MAY have contributed to the East Coast blackout. [Interesting article]

Phantom.net
This is suppose to be a new gaming console, but a great deal of people are saying it is fake. The site is very elaborate, although it is amazing how much publicity it has generating for a product that is not even real. I know companies that would kill to get this publicity.

Are we Ready for Ternary or Quaternary logic
For several decades all digital computers have used binary logic (1s and 0s) as its base logic. Now that transistors are getting smaller and smaller, they are getting harder and harder to produce. Chip-makers around the world are looking at ways expand the base logic of microchips beyond two. [Interesting article, but technical]

Cool sites:
Webby Awards
Web sites that have won awards for being the best site in the category.

National Weather Service
Free weather information without ads.

SayItBaby.com
Allows you to send someone a personal or anonymous video message...

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Throwing out the baby with the bath water...

Over the last few weeks, there have been some funny situations and quotes in the news, here were two that I found very humorous:

1. The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) now blames text-messaging for helping bad movie fail more quickly at the box office. In the olden days (only just a few years ago), it use take a fews days for word-of-mouth to spread that a certain movie was bad. So, the theaters were able to get a few good days of screen play before people wouldn't come to see the movie any more. Now, people have their new fangled cell phones and can instant message their friends while watching the movie and tell them its a stinker.

In my humble opinion, text messaging cell phones are not the problem. If a movie flops too quickly at the box, I think the blame should fall on movie industry for making a bad movie.

2. Now, anyone who uses Microsoft Windows knows how stable and secure their OS and applications? Well, Scott Charney, Microsoft's chief security strategist, told a group of developers at the TechEd 2003 conference in Brisbane that information collected from Dr Watson (MS error reporting tool), revealed that "half of all crashes in Windows are caused not by Microsoft code, but third-party code."

Isn't that great news to know that Microsoft is only responsible for half of all your system crashes? Whew, I know that I can now breath a sigh of relief. Now, we can start blaming third party developers for the other half of your crashes.

Companies needs to get a clue and start fixing the real problems, and stopping finding someone or something else to blame!

A new reason to patch your computer...

Microsoft recently release a new cumulative patch (MS03-032) for the Internet Explorer browser. This patch fixes several new and existing exploits in the IE browser. This patch has been marked as 'Critical' by Microsoft, so I would highly recommend that you and yours upgrade.

If you want to take this whole process to the next level, I would recommend going to the WindowsUpdate site and upgrade to all the latest patch there.

Happy safe computing...

Thursday, August 21, 2003

New RIO MP3 Players

Rio is about to introduced two new MP3 players. I know this doesn't sound very interesting, but these players have some awesome new features.

The first product is called 'Nitrus' (it will retail for about $300 US), the cool thing about this player is that it has a built-in 1-inch 1.5GB hard drive, and it is very small. The second player is called 'Karma' (it will retail for about $400 US), it offers 20GB hard drive, an Ethernet port, RCA stereo output ports, and can play music from your computer to through the Karma and into your stereo.

Both of these devices are have long battery life (about 16+ hours), great sound, and supports a few different CODECs including some open-source ones. Both devices can play following digital audio formats: MP3, WMA, FLAC, and OGG.

Note: As far as I know the devices are not for sale as of yet...



Move Over MS03-026, its MS03-030 Turn

Well, you may have been one smart ones who patched your computer early and survived MSBlast worm without a problem. Now, you have to make sure your system is ready for next vulnerability (MS03-030) that may soon be exploited.

Microsoft patched this vulnerability On July 23, about the same time that it created the MS03-026 patch which prevents the MSBlast worm from infecting your computer. The security bulletin describes the patch as a "critical" vulnerability in DirectX. According to the Microsoft, unprotected systems can be exploited simply by playing a MIDI file or visiting a malicious web page.

The problem is in a DirectX component that relies in a library file called 'QUARTZ.DLL'. This DLL is used by several applications, including Internet Explorer to play MIDI files. All a malicious programmer has to do is a make a specially crafted MIDI file that can cause a buffer overflow error, which can allow an them to take control of your system, or cause some type of system damage

To protect yourself, do one of the steps below:

1. See the security bulletin: MS03-030 and download the patch for your version of Windows.

- OR -

2. Goto to the WindowsUpdate site install the latest patches.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Cool Stuff Updates:

  • If you're a Christian check out the following site, it is about Mel Gibson's new Passion Movie that should be coming out about easter. The movie is about the last 12 hours Jesus life before he was crucified. It looks really good and has a very high production value, check out the site for more information. Note: Mel Gibson produced the film and is not staring in it

  • The Pulse Detonation Engine is the next generation air craft engine, that is suppose to replace the jet engine.

  • Gamma-ray weapons are the next generation weapons that will replace some of our more conventional weapons.



Sorry I have not posted recently, but I have not had time. But here is something to that I hope you find interesting...

Cool web sites that I found:
- Human Clock
- Industrious Clock
- Cool Text-to-Speech Sythnisizer
- XBox Emulator

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Beware MSBLASTER Worm

Well, its finally here a worm that takes advantage of the security hole in Microsoft RPC (Remote Procedure Call) Interface. The Worm is called MSBLASTER.EXE (W32/Blaster). Several different security professionals have to prophesying the coming of this event for weeks.

Now, I have said it before, and I will say it again, if you use Windows NT 4.0, 2000, XP, or 2003 and not installed the Microsoft patch MS03-026, do it now!

This worm has already hit my mother and knocked her computer off the Internet. From what I have read about the problems she is experiencing, it failed to install itself on here computer. The problem is that it corrupts here ability to get online.

To protect yourself try following these suggestions:

1. Install a firewall at the perimeter of your network.
2. Update your anti-virus signatures.
3. Update your application and OS patches.

Inside MSBLASTER:
The way this worm works is that it tries to force an unprotected computer to download and execute a copy of a file called 'MSBLAST.EXE' from another compromised computer. When the application gets executed on the newly compromised host computer, it then begins scanning for other vulnerable systems to infect. One of the interesting feature of this worm is that it is suppose to include the ability to launch a Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack against WindowsUpdate.com using the infected computers.

Coming Clean...
If your computer does become infected by the MSBLASTER Worm, then follow the steps below to remove the it.

1. Open RegEdit by typing "REGEDIT" at the Run... command.
2. Locate the following registry key: 'HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run' and delete the following value: 'windows auto update'
3. From the Run... menu type following command delete the worm: "del %Windir%\system32\msblast.exe"
4. Open Task Manager by right-clicking the taskbar, open up the Process tab. Find the 'msblast.exe' process, right-click it and select 'End Process'.
5. Patch your system with MS03-026.

Or, download one of the following removal tools:

- Symantec Removal Tool
- Trend Micro Removal Tool
- F-Secure Removal Tool
- Computer Associates Removal Tool
- McAfee/NAI Removal Tool

Monday, August 11, 2003

The Next Internet Revolution

Calling and talking to your friends over the Internet is a technology that has been around for several years. But it has been plagued by poor sound quality and long delays in between conversations. It also an inconvient technology to use because if you wanted to make a call you had to turn on your computer, and launch an application or goto a web site (such as Dialpad and PC2Phone )to make a call.

Then there is the hardware issues that you had to deal with, couldn't just use mike and speaker. What you needed is a headset so that it didn't sound like you were talking to someone in a tunnel. So depending on your computer setup you could be switching wires headset and speakers, everytime you wanted to make a call. It just wasn't really worth it. (Note: The hardware/software configuration would change depending which service you were using)

The biggest problem with the whole PC-to-phone or PC-to-PC technologies was they were not convinent, or easy-to-use. Consumer product designers know that in order to make a good product, it has to be easy-to-use, or it is not going to sell. They often use the telephone as good example of an easy-to-use device. Because, it is a device that we are all familiar with, and know how to use.

All of the early free PC-to-Phone services are gone, but there still are plenty of free PC-to-PC services available. Now, the PC-to-Phone services charge for their services.

Enter VOIP
Michael Robertson founder MP3.com and Lindows, just launch a new start-up company called 'SIPphone', which allows people to make with free Internet-based phone anywhere in the world.

Robertson's new company is selling phones specially designed SIP phones that allow you to make Internet-based calls without a computer for free, anywhere in the world. The catch is that this technology only works with other device that support the same technology, and requires a broadband connection.

The way the SIPPhone works is that you need purchase a pair of them for $130 form SIPPhone.com. Then you plug the phone's power cord into a local wall socket, and then plug the phone's ethernet cable into your broadband router. In about a minute, the phone is ready to work. There is a great deal more information on the SIPPhone about how it works.

NOTE: The SIPphones are based on the SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) standard, also known as Voice Over IP (VOIP). The SIP protocol governs the initiation and routing of Internet-based calls.

The Competition
Vonage is a company that provides Internet-based flat-rate calling plans using your broadband connection to provide you regular phone service. The Vonage advange over SIPphone is that it works like your regular phone, and doesn't require you to change your calling habits. Anyone with a phone can call you, and you can call anyone else. SIPphones only work when calling someone else with a SIPphone.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Making the World Unsafe for Hackers

Patches happen
Over the years Microsoft has been developing several technologies to make it easier for the system administrators and the average computer users to keep their systems up-to-date (for example: WindowsUpdate).

To avoid these problems you could switch to another operating systems such as: Linux or the Macintosh OS, and you can free yourself of some of these concerns. Although, these OSes are not without their security problems too. For example: there are lots of security/bug patches that are available for Linux and it's applications.

The biggest advantages of the these alternative OSes is that they don't have the market share that Microsoft has. So, the virus writers and hackers are not activity targeting these platforms. A virus writer goal is to try to infect as many machines as possible, so their going to go after the biggest target.

Although, I wonder if Linux or the Macintosh were the number one OS, how would they fair against new attacks that might be created against them.

Protect thyself...
If you have not patched your system with with the latest patches from Microsoft, then do it now and don't wait. Microsoft has a relatively new patch known as MS03-026, it is a pretty nasty flaw, that allows programs to be run on your computer remotely without your knowledge or having to do anything for this exploit to happen.

This flaw is so nasty that the Department of Homeland Security issued a security advisory, urging people to patch your systems.

Things that you can do to protect yourself:
  • Install the latest system patch from Microsoft with the Windows Update service
  • Install a hardware or software firewall, try the free version of ZoneAlarm.
  • Install anti-virus software, try the free home version of Avast.
  • Backup all your important data.

After you secure your system, you then have worry about maintenance:
  • Update your virus signatures weekly.
  • Update your system patches monthly.
  • Maintain you data backup, on a daily or weekly schedule.

Test your system

Other tips for keeping your system secure:
  • Download and install Spybot Search & Destroy, it removes spyware and other malicious software from your computer.
  • Install an anti-spam filter on your email client, like POPFile.
  • Install a script manager, like Script Sentry. This prevents malicious scripts from trying to run on your computer without your knowledge.

Security practices:
  • Don't store confidential information on your computer unencrypted.
  • Don't open attachments in your email, unless your expecting them. Even then still scan them with your anti-virus software before opening it.
  • If you download software off the Internet, only do it from reputable sites.
  • Change your passwords often.
  • Use strong passwords, which means it should contain ad-least eight characters made up of numbers, letters (in diffent cases) and punctuation marks. For example: if your password 'Powerline', it could look like 'P0w3rL!n3'.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Cool Online Internet Tool Sites

Security:
- Anti-Virus Scanner: HouseCall Anti-Virus
- Software Update: Microsoft Windows Update
- Spyware Scanner: PestScan

Browser Tool:
- BrowserSpy

Anti-Spam Tools:
- Sam Spade

Networking Tools:
- DNSstuff.com

Diagnostics Tools:
- PC Pitstop

Graphics:
- 3D Heading Maker

More funny web sites:


  • Matrix ASCII animation - You have to see it too believe it.

  • Trooper Clerks - A couple of slacker stormtroopers kill time on the big, bad battle-station -- away (but not too far away) from all of the blasters, light-sabers and garbage compactors.



Monday, August 04, 2003

Viva La Open-Source

Open-source software has been become very controversial topic recent, ever since SCO challenged the Intellectual Properties (IP) rights of Linux. It appears that SCO is trying to use FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt), to try to prevent companies from adapting Linux. Microsoft (and other companies), are trying to this leverage controversial situation to try to promote their products.

Microsoft is trying to fight a difficult battle against Linux, they have to convince people to adapt their technology and that it is worth spend thousand or millions of dollars to license it. While Linux community gives away their software to everyone who want to use it. Microsoft is trying to leverage the FUD that SCO is generating to win the hearts of the IT managers that fatten their coffers. Microsoft is afraid of Linux, and they have admitted, because they know that they can't compete with a free products.

IMHO Microsoft has two advances over Linux; there first advatage is their tight application integration; the second advatage is the ease of software installation under Windows. Because the applications and OS are coming from one company the look and feel and integration can be very tight. While linux and other open-source project don't have this advantage.

My biggest complaint about Linux is the application installation procedures, some apps use a simple one-click installation, while others can very complicated. My only other complaint is the application integration between Linux apps., Mostly it is just user-interface issues. Many of these open-source don't have the resources or experience to develop good GUIs.

I have to admit that I hate having to pay for software when I don't have too and that's why I love open-source and freeware. Microsoft and other third party software vendors make some great products, but for the average home user or small business they can be very expensive purchase. For example take Open-Office, which is given away for their product for free; while MS Office can cost several hundred dollars. It can be a simple decision for some people who don't mind using Open-Office, while other will pay to use MS Office because that what 'everyone' else uses.

Personally, I love the Windows XP operating system, it is the best OS Microsoft has ever created. I can do things with this OS, that were impossible in previous version of Windows without having to write some type of C++ program. Don't get me wrong, because I am not a 'Microsoftie', I know how buggy and insecure MS products can be, but at the same time they have some pretty cool technology.

In the end you have to determine what is right for you or your company. I and just about everyone else believe that SCO will fail in the IP claims against Linux. Although, until Linux is vindicated, there is going to be FUD in hearts of the IT managers that control the technology direction of companies.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

Below is a list of funny web sites that I have found:

  • 'You Are My Friend' generator - Real fun web site that allow you to personalize a message to your friends. Just replace 'yournamehere' in the URL with the first name of your friend.

  • The Advertising Slogan Generator - As the name says it generates advertising slogans.

  • It Hurts - If you have eye problems or subject to strokes don't look at this web site.

  • BuzzPhraser - A TechnoLatin phrase generator



Friday, August 01, 2003

When Shreading Documents Isn't Enough...

Reconstructing Schred Documents (Requires Registration)
Talks about how computers and scanning technology can recontructed shreaded documents that were once though to be unrecoverable.


The Next Big Thing (for this week only) [Part 2]...

As soon something is declared as a 'hot technology', or 'the next big thing' you end up with a million or so copycats trying to cash in on someone else's success. How many search engines do we need, or how many web browsers do we need to browser to surf the web, etc... ?

Pretty soon companies are going to start developing their own 'social networking' software, or declaring they're software already has this functionality. The same thing is happened with 'Web Services', then previous to that we had 'Application Services Providers' (ASP), and 'Web Portals', etc..

I am not advocating that we discourage innovation, but it just sometimes get ridiculous with the amount of copycat technologies out there. I don't personally believe in 'Darwinism', but one of his principals holds true in my mind. This principal is the 'survival of the fittest', it states in the wild the strongest animals will survive. In the business world like the animal world this principal applies, the strongest companies will survive while the weaker companies will die.

The only real innovation that comes from these copycat companies is the fact that they will add new features or enhance existing ones that are copied by their competitors. And this cycle will continue to repeat itself...


The Next Big Thing (for this week only) [Part 1]...

Blogging has become so last week. Now, people are declaring Friendster and services like it as the 'next big thing'. This service is part of a fast growing new category of Internet services called 'social networking'.

Friendster is a service that helps people find new 'friends' by allowing friends to refer their friends to others. The service is based around a community concept, but right now it seems a new way of meeting people on the Internet.

Friendster opened to the public in March of 2003, and it just hit it's first one million users a few weeks ago. The company claims that they're expanding their user base at a rate of 20% per week.

To be continued...