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September 2003

Intrusion Detection Systems 
- Sometimes you can walk right through the "Combat Zone" district with hundred dollar bills tucked behind your ears and still get home safely (you probably shouldn't test this proposition though). Your mileage will vary, results are not typical, read the fine print all of that and more, of course.
Call for "oversight" to protect internet 
- Blog # 440 Call for "oversight" to protect internet
Spam Filtering 
- It takes many levels of spam filtering to tame spam. Whitelists and greylists are not enough. It's sad that we need to go to all this trouble to make email usable, but otherwise I'd get 2,000 or more junk emails every day.
An Honest look at Linux on the desktop 
- It should make you feel a little better to know that the person who said that was probably actually referring to some particular application they were using, but complaining about user ignorance isn't really going to help: in some respects, Linux and its associated programs really are somewhat "crappy".
When does virtual become normal? 
- When will everything we do be under the control of a tight, very secure hypervisor?
Microsoft Digital Rights Management 
- "New Office locks down documents" reports on how Microsoft is adding Digital Rights Management to Office 2003 applications.
SCO fined $10,800.00 
- No, SCO doesn't have 40 be-ee-lion dollars like their new pals at Microsoft, but I don't think this is going to make the CEO scramble for ways to absorb the loss.
Longhorn Delayed, Panther is not 
- Delays plague Longhorn (or whatever it will be called) but Apple stays on track.
Macs not secure? 
- This is just one of the many reasons I am loathe to use other people's code. I'm a fairly lousy programmer, but at least I know what I'm writing and can (usually) understand what I wrote.
Accidentally Blocking Windows Update 
- Accidentally Blocking Windows Updates because of Akaima's annoying popup advertisements.
Why does Microsoft oppose spam legislation? 
- Blog # 458 Why does Microsoft oppose spamlegislation?
HP offers Linux box 
- An early offering of Linux by a major PC manufacturer - sort of, but not really.
Unix to Windows to Linux 
- Unfortunately, most folks who make the move to Windows can't go back so easily. These folks apparently were running Oracle, but often people move to proprietary Windows apps.
I still love Perl, but.. 
- CPAN isn't always user friendly. Nested dependencies can ruin your day. That's not typical, of course.
SCO is hypocritical 
- SCO used to use Visionfs, which is (in my opinion) an inferior product, but prior to the sale to Caldera, it was THEIR product, so of course there were no licensing fees.
Micro Batteries Patented 
- Blog # 472 Micro Batteries Patented, where will nano-machines will get their power?
Open Office claimed "superior" 
- Unfortunately, he doesn't tell us whether or not he's running it on Linux or Microsoft, and, perhaps more unfortunately, that might be a critical difference
Corporate Open Source 
- If you screwed me in the past, why should I believe you when you say it won't happen again, Microsoft?
Crime and punishment 
- Are we too harsh on cyber criminals? I think not and I don't buy 'youth' and "young men" as an excuse.
Microsoft objects to unfair play 
- Japan, China, and South Korea have plans to develop their own OS (probably Open Source) so that they won't have to buy Microsoft. As you might expect, Microsoft, always the champion of fairness, honesty, and competitive environments, doesn't like the idea
Novell returns to *nix 
- Will Novell continue to embrace Unix? Does it matter? Will they be a significant player?
Watch your typing 
- Cybercrime is big business. The smartest ones steal and cover their tracks quickly.
Fear of hacking 
- Fake hakery? That's something I hadn't seen before, but it really did make me hesitate for just a minute or two!
Another reason to run Mozilla 
- Drive-by Microsoft IE exploits are all too common. Wake up and stop using that junk!
Comcast to double speed 
- Comcast to double speed but we are still way behind the rest of the world with fat pipes.
Comparator 1.0 - any other uses? 
- Anyway, lawsuits and all that aside, there must be other uses for this race car comparator. Eric says "I didn't invent the shred technique, but I may have perfected it". Seems a shame if we can't find some, uh, more productive, no, less annoying? No, that's not it either. Seems a shame if we can't use it for something that doesn't involve lawyers and all the nasties that go with this stuff. How about a quicker IDS system? Could this be used as a very quick way to see if you've been hacked? Maybe.
Distortions and a chirp from Australia (SCO Lawsuit) 
- SCO's Open Letter will be kicked to death on Slashdot, so I'm not going to say much about it here except to point out that this bit of weasely quoting doesn't do much for SCO's credibility
Another dumb patent 
- I suppose I'd need to actually read the patent, but this article makes it sound rather exactly like Squid - a product that's been around quite a while, though perhaps the Patent Office has no idea of that.
Is Microsoft Nuts? 
- Microsoft is deathly afraid of Linux. By itself, maybe not a great threat, but along with Microsoft's other problems, it is serious.
Why we don't need software patents and copyrights 
- Blog # 501 Why we don't need software patents andcopyrights
Copyright vs. SCO license demands 
- Reading a copy of a book is not illegal: it's the act of copying it that violates the copyright - can that apply to code?
Competing with Open Source 
- It is possible to make money with open source and it is possible to compete with a proprietary product. It just has to be a great product.
More on SCO's distaste for Open Source 
- I ranted on a bit about Darl McBride in another entry here, but I also need to add that Darl is forgetting one very important thing: Applications matter.
64 bit adoption slow 
- Sixty four bit will come eventually, but right now there is no reason to rush to jump to it.
The chokehold loosens? 
- Microsoft is going to continue to lose ground. They'll lie and cheat and win some battles, but eventually they will lose.
Legislation chatter 
- Microsoft would love to control your ability to go online. They'll do it in the name of security, of course.
What's up with Longhorn? 
- I bet thunder rolls through those cubicles every time a new exploit pops up that should have been blocked. Overworked, underpaid, and getting yelled at every week or so? Sounds like a great job.
Apple coolness 
- Yeah, I think Apple is 'cool'. Cooler than Microsoft, anyway, not that saying that means much.
Open Source kills companies 
- Technology changes things. There are winners and losers. Jobs can disappear - get over it.
Replace Google? 
- I can't see non-commercial search being successful. Too much infrastructure is needed.
Microsoft gives something away 
- For some reason, "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts" comes to mind. Probably just my naturally suspicious nature, right?`
Technology and Law 
- Foolish legisators make law with little understanding of how the Internet works and what a web site really is.
Gibson says Microsoft hasn't fixed DCOM problem 
- Blog # 516 Gibson says Microsoft hasn't fixed DCOMproblem
Who Killed Apple Computer? 
- I didn't know Apple was dead. Silly me - I guess I should have been paying more attention.
XP Security 
- Just how many security flaws have there been in XP? Microsoft declines to comment.
Context ads not working 
- When the content is more focused, the ads will be much more relevant. If you visit the more technical areas of this site, you are much more apt to see ads that are right on target. That's to everyone's advantage: if you came here looking for information on RAID controllers, seeing ads from people who make such hardware just adds to the value of what you have found.
Linux|Unix in Ford's Future? 
- As more and more Microsoft is replaced by Linux, is Microsoft's future still rosy?
We're safe for a while 
- Memory isn't everything. Processing power is where machines beat us, at least for the simple things. But how well would a Mac G5 cluster do if it had to do a search through 10^8432 bytes of interrelated data?
Big drives and what to do with them 
- I can't imagine using 20 terabytes myself, but then again I once thought a 40 GB drive would never be too small for my needs, and while it isn't quite yet, my 40 GB drive is filling up..
Killing ad banners 
- The link above will let you apply a style sheet to browsers that use such things (Netscape, Mozilla, Safari etc.) that rather completely hides ads from view.
Keep dealing till you get what you want 
- When playing cards with yourself, just keep dealing under you get the hand you want. Look, a straight flush, isn't that something!
End of SCSI? 
- Serial ATA adds command queing. Is this the beginning of the end for SCSI drives?
Context based link farms? 
- I don't see that as making sense - why would I want to put up a bunch of random, unrelated links? What good does that do for you, the visitors? However, it struck me that it might be quite a different story if the links were context sensitive, like Google's text ads. If that were the case, then the links could have value to you, and I certainly would at least try it.
Software Piracy 
- The BSA is complaining that college students steal software. The link above says that's expected: they can't afford to buy it.
Modules vs. Bloatware 
- shunning the all in one IDE's (Integrated Development Environments)
Windows in your ATM? 
- The very thought of Microsoft software in ATM's gives me chills. Are they effing serious??
No XML, thanks 
- Microsoft detest competition and openness, but sometimes they are going to be forced into it.
Microsoft Search 
- I don't doubt that Microsoft has the financial muscle to go after this. What I wonder is whether their inbred sleaziness will cause them to stack the deck in their own favor. Would they return honest search results, or would Linux and Unix matches get pushed down? When they have content on MSN that matches, will that get a boost?
Microsoft, SCO, Linux, Intel 
- iDon't talk about Microsoft security flaws if you work for a company that depends on Microsoft for income.
It's getting really nasty out there 
- Will virus and malware attacks ever end or will they become so sophisticated that we think they are gone?
Solaris Software Express 
- Sun really is bending over backwards for the development community. If you are interested in Solaris (that's Solaris for x86 too), you can get free evaluation and educational use licensing, and if you want development support it's a lousy $99.00 a year, which is just ridiculously cheap.
Drop Patents? 
- Maybe the test for allowing a patent should be based on whether it could be kept as a trade secret?
Quantum Computing 
- The possiblilty is that quantum computers could eliminate any ability to encrypt anything by being able to solve for all possibiliies at once.
Give me the EXACT command! Getting answers from Usenet 
- A newsgroup post caught my eye this morning. It read "Which is the exact command ...". I've seen others like that, often with "exact" capitalized or exclamation points added or both. It's frustration on the part of the person asking: they don't want a hint, they don't want to understand how something works, just give them the damn command that will fix this!
Added a user, now no one can login 
- You did a 'chmod dot asterix', didn't you?", I asked. He sounded surprised. "Yes, I did. For the netrc and the .profile. Why?"
Added a user, now no one can login 
- The caller id on my cell phone said this was someone in California, but I didn't recognize the number. I was tied up that moment anyone, wrestling cables to a tape drive I was replacing, so I let it go to voice mail.
In Defense of Unix (and Linux, of course) 
- In Defense of Unix and Linux. Yes, we're going to use that four letter word (and the five letter variant) that raises blood pressure!
Microsoft Word - the early days 
- I wrote this in September of 1989, and just came across it in a pile of old papers. It seemed fresh enough to me, so I'm publishing it here now. Just kidding, but it may be interesting to some, or mildly amusing to others.
Open Source is Killing Me! 
- I must say I find his arguments compelling, and in the spirit of monetization suggested by his comments, am now offering the readers of this web site an opportunity to purchase a one-time (unless I change my mind) paid up license that will allow you to visit here and copy my ramblings into your computer.
I warned you! 
- OK, it's been twelve hours since I politely asked that you people cough up $699.00 for a license to read this site. I know from my web logs that over 2,000 of you have been here since then, but only a few dozen bothered to read my demands. No, you were off looking at the faqs, or reading up on rsync or ldap or whatever: TAKING ADVANTAGE OF MY FREE CONTENT!
A simple script for adding SCO users  by Dirk Hart
- One day I was adding a user to my customers system - I must have been tired - I had forgotten one of the steps and had wasted about an hour figuring it out. Frustrated, I muttered to myself 'There *must* be a better way!'.
I don't need no stinkin patches!!   by Michael Desrosiers
- Patch management is an essential administration task. By providing updated patches to your environment, security experts agree, that up to 80% of known exploits and vulnerabilities would be rendered trivial. This consists of scanning machines on the network for missing patches and deploying those patches as soon as they become available. Failure to do so makes a infrastructure vulnerable, because not only is the vulnerability there, but it has now also been publicized, making it more likely to be exploited by malicious users, hackers and virus writers.
Trojans  by Michael Desrosiers
- If you use a high speed connection, there are hundreds of "crackers" out lurking on the internet, looking to get a remote-access trojan horse or listener installed on your system, access it and find out what's on it. This isn't an exception anymore. Trojans and worms using trojan elements are the new viruses of the Internet. A trojan infection can allow total remote access to your computer by a third party.
Some Assemblance of Order 
- I don't do any machine or assembly language coding any more, but I still have tender feelings in that direction. Assembler is fun: you have total control of the machine, and it runs so darn fast you can't blink or you'll miss it. You can write programs that are smaller and faster than is ever possible with any other language. Although it looks horribly daunting at first, there are really only a dozen or so basic instructions that you use over and over again. I think there is something quite pretty about listings of assembler code, and I truly miss seeing them in magazines.
Whew!!! (Internet Taxation)  by BigDumbDinosaur
- Whew!!! (Internet Taxation) Apparently I was wrong about American politicians. Not all of them are greedy crooks. What, you say? This can't be so!
Intellectual Property 
- You see that phrase a lot now, and I think you'll be seeing a lot more of it. If this were the 50's and Joe McCarthy was still hunting communists, he'd be jumping on this too, because that's really what's going on right now: concentrated wealth fighting the very socialistic onslaught of Linux.
Security through information dissemination  by Bruce Garlock
- With all the recent worms, viruses, and other little tricks the blackhats use, we are all becoming familiar with terms like; "buffer overflows", "privilege escalation", "sym link attacks", and other terms used in the security world.
Micropayments and free content vs. bandwidth 
- MSN's packets could be given tremendous priority compared to the little guys, and in a really sinister scenario, the little folks packets could actually be artificially delayed even when there was available bandwidth.
Recommending a Mac 
- You might think I recommend Macs all the time, but I don't.
RSS Backlash? 
- I see a complaint that too many Blogs lack original content, a complaint that some write too much about RSS or blogging, and the observation that your average Joe doesn't understand why he would use RSS at all.
Successful Consulting 
- So you want to work for yourself. Well, first: good for you. I think working for yourself is tremendously rewarding and you should do everything possible to make it happen. As I have been self employed most of my working life, I have more than a little advice to share with you.
Apple iPod 
- The box that the iPod is packaged in gets a lot of comment in other reviews. Apparently somebody put a lot of effort into the design, and some people think it is tres cool and all that. I thought it was a tremendous waste of space, hard to open, and made it difficult to tell if I had truly found everything I was supposed to have. Ayup, that's me, grumpy as usual.
Neglect and Misunderstanding of Backups 
- Well, OK. Maybe I had, and maybe they never did follow this rotation. Who knows? The data was damaged at 4:00 or 5:00 PM on Wednesday, and of course if she had called me then, I could have restored Tuesdays's data. But she called on Thursday, so the automatic nightly backup had overwritten that. So it's quite possible that I had done this for them before, but I wouldn't be able to do it this time. I explained that to her.
My, you're getting old!  by Steggy
- Aging is an interesting phenomenon. We're all aware of what aging brings about: aches and pains, fading memory, the discovery that you have a favorite easy chair, a new-found interest in Viagra. Yet we don't see the effects of the aging process on a day-to-day basis. Like evolution, it takes a long time for age-related deterioration to become apparent. And when it does, the discovery can be an unpleasant experience -- or at least an instructive one.
In Praise of Older Technology  by Steggy
- You know how it is. There always seems to be some crass individual, a coworker perhaps, or maybe your next door neighbor, telling you about their latest technology purchases. Is newer always better or needed?
iPod The Missing manual 
- A Mac user probably will find this helpful, though not indispensable. A Windows user probably needs this much more though. Regardless, buy it. It's well written, and will help you decide what model and accessories you actually need because it will show you all the things you didn't realize an iPod was good for.
RIP:A System Recovery Boot CD  by Bruce Garlock
- RIP:A System Recovery Boot CD. Since most people have to deal with Windows systems, there has to be a way to get at these systems when things go awry. I used to carry around a slew of boot floppies, and CD's from site to site, if someone was having trouble booting the system, after messing with a system file
- Grep is used to search inside other files. The awful name comes from "Global Regular Expression Print", because although its simplistic use is much like Windows "FIND" command, it is actually much more powerful.
- Many a year ago, this just mean 'Disk Operating System' and could have applied to any number of computers generically. But then Microsoft MS-DOS became the most popular person at the dance, so if you heard 'DOS', it almost always was Microsoft's version.
- Think of it this way. Your pal Bill has a spare key to your house. A worm would either steal the key to let itself in (where it would then presumably find other keys to steal) or sneak in behind Bill while he was feeding your goldfish. A virus would take control of Bill's body and make him open the door. Bill would otherwise function normally, though he might twitch and fall down now and then, either because the virus wanted him to or just because it screws him up in other ways. A Trojan would be someone else dressed up to look like Bill who you then hand another spare key to. The fake Bill might then become a virus, but he started out as a Trojan.
- You need to know what awk is, and should at least be able to read a script that uses it, but I'd suggest that you use Perl whenever otherwise tempted to use this. The man page (nowadays it is probably gnu awk or "gawk" that you actually have) probably has some examples at the end of it.
- The most often missed thing about Unix sort is its incredible versatility. If MSDOS sort is an eggbeater, this is a Cuisinart. Sure, probably 99% of the time Unix folks don't do anything special with it: it's just 'sort this' or 'sort -r that'.
- This referred to any of Tandy Radio Shack's TRS-80 computers, first introduced in 1977 with the 4k (yes, 4k, not megabytes) TRS-80 Model I. The term wasn't necessarily derisive; even those of us who owned and liked the poor things would refer to them this way.
- Often expressed with emphasis in print - **plonk** -, this is the indication that you are killfiling or forever blocking further communication from a particular person. Although mostly used in the Internet Newsgroups, I've also seen it used in the context of blocking someone from sending email to you.
- Nowadays, this is a hidden feature in a program that you can only access through some special sequence of keys and or mouse movements. If you know the secret, you'll get rewarded with a list of credits, a game, or who knows what.
- Most BASIC's had these commands that let you directly access memory. When I had my TRS-80 Model I, I used these to write a very crude assembler. More often they were used to get information from system maintained areas; status of ports, that sort of thing.
- A program that reads data from standard input, changes it, and writes to standard output, is a filter. 'sed' is a filter. 'ls' is not. While many programs are written to act like a filter when they aren't given any file arguments, when a Unix person gives you an exasperated look and says "it's a filter" with that unmistakable tone of "Sheesh, you are an idiot", what they mean is that it is ONLY a filter: it doesn't take command line file arguments and you have to feed its input to it.
- In the computer world, this is usually processor affinity, and refers to keeping a process bound to one cpu. Without this binding, a process may move to a different cpu when it is scheduled to run again, and this is apt to be deleterious to cpu cache.
- This reasoning behind this name is the concept of pointing at someone, not a single digit salute. Finger will return information about a user.
- File System Check. It's what the Unix world uses to put the file system right in the even of a crash. Windows has the same thing, they just don't call it fsck. But power off any Windows machine without shutting down properly and you'll see it run.
- 2003_09_19.html kilobit, kilobyte, megabit, megabyte,gigabit, gigabyte
- The only good HTML editor. Really. First, it's pronounced vee-eye, not vee or vie. Second, it's an editor, not a word processor.
- 2003_09_22.html magic number, automagically, magic cookie,pfm
- The beginning of time, at least as far as your computer's internal clock knows. Time is measured in seconds since the epoch. For Unix systems (and I think Windows also) that's January 1st, 1970, 00:00:00
- It's fairly common to specifically say "command line arguments". Arguments read from a file are often referred to as "parameters" rather than arguments.
- A hash is a numerical representation of some string of bytes. The purpose is to give quick access to data. Ignoring the mechanics for a moment, let's say that we have an algorithm that calculates 'orange' as the number 7, and 'apple' as 200.
- In the computer world, a semaphore controls access to a resource or resources that need to be shared by multiple processes. This is particularly important in the kernel where interrupt routines have to be careful about kernel structures other processes may be modifying, and when multiple CPU's are used (SMP).
- Boolean means a value that is true false. The Boolean operators generally used are AND, OR, NOT and XOR. Technically there is also NOR and NAND, but since those are just NOT OR and NOT AND, most languages don't implement them separately.
- Although unfortunately similar looking, these are two completely separate and unrelated things. Javascript has nothing whatsoever to do with java: it doesn't create java, you don't complie javascript to make java, and it doesn't use java.
Boot Time Loadable Drivers 
- Every piece of hardware needs a driver. While many things follow standards or are otherwise already available in the OS, when something new arrives on the scene, the driver may not yet be in your install media.
- This comes from Robert Heinlen's 'Stranger in a Strange Land', and means to understand fully. Heinlen was an awful writer, stilted and predictable characters, wooden dialogue and often quite juvenile. In spite of that, this book was and is important.
- The barbarians are referring to weapons caches, and we'll be looking at data caching (instructions just being a form of data too), but it's the same idea: storing something where you can get it when you need it.
Maintaining / Phreaking modems lines using ANAC numbers  by Dirk Hart
- I remembered that I talked to one lineman who had a number he called and an electronic voice would repeat back the telephone number that he had called from. After twenty minutes of googling I found that what I wanted was called an ANAC (Automatic Number Announcement Circuit) number.
Employee Monitoring  by Michael Desrosiers
- It is estimated that employee Internet misuse and abuse causes over four billion dollars in lost work productivity.
Perl sorting 
- Well, Perl provides a way for us to do part of the sorting. That is, we can provide a subroutine that the Perl "sort" will call to decide whether one thing is greater or smaller than another. Perl will still take care of shuffling things around for us.
Random Numbers 
- Understanding Random Numbers. Until fairly recently, cpu's had no direct way to generate random numbers. Intel's Pentium III introduced a hardware random number generator that uses thermal noise "to generate high-quality random and nondeterministic numbers" , but prior to that systems that needed good random numbers had to rely on add-on boards or other external input.
Understanding Packed BCD 
- Packed BCD (Binary Coded Decimal) is a numeric format that was directly supported on cpu's almost from the beginning, and still is today. Simply put, it relies on the fact that 4 bits are more than sufficient to represent decimal numbers. Therefore, two decimal numbers can be held in each byte, a 32 bit register can hold 8 such numbers, and a 64 bit register can of course hold 16. Many cpu's can do BCD math - it's just a matter of having the half bytes carry when their value exceeds 9, conceptually not a lot different than ordinary binary math. It also isn't very hard to write programs to do math on BCD numbers of arbitrary length.
Understanding Floating Point Formats 
- Under ordinary circumstances, you don't have to know or care how numbers are represented within your programs. However, when you are transferring data files that contain numbers, you will have to convert if the storage formats are not identical. If the numbers are just integers, that's fairly easy because the only differences will be the length and the byte order: how many bytes the number takes up, and whether it is stored lsb or msb (least signifacant byte or most significant byte first). Once you know that, conversion is trivial.
Perl Net::FTP 
- With Net::FTP, you have total control. You know when there are errors, timeouts, whatever. It's not at all difficult: anyone with basic scripting skills can understand and use this.
Perl Getopt and GetOptions 
- Two Perl modules (Getopt and Getoptions::Long) work to extract program flags and arguments much like Getopt and Getopts do for shell programming. The Perl modules, especially GetOptions::Long, are much more powerful and flexible.
Getopt and getopts 
- Both "getopt" and getopts are tools to use for processing and validating shell script arguments. They are similar, but not identical.