Misc. Ramblings

Week of 30 July through 03 August 2001
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Monday - 30 July 2001

I'm not optimistic. About what? About how hundreds of thousands of clueless people, running Microsofts' Web Server and not knowing that they are helping to spread a computer worm which (see the 25 July CERT advisory here), will somehow become clued-in and patch their software [nice run-on sentence. Kids, don't try this at home - ed.] . Further, many of these people may not even know they have the web server installed and running. This is hard to believe, but I guess I shouldn't overestimate the intelligence of some people. But as long as there is one infected, and a bunch of unpatched servers, the cycle will repeat. And repeat.

I wonder how long it will be before someone buys one of those CD-ROMs, filled with millions of email addresses, and uses that as a seed to SPAM the world with the next worm. Imagine the chaos that would create. As I said, I am not optimistic about this.

So when did a link to MSN become a feature? According to an AP wire story (sorry, no link to the story, they don't like deep linking and have taken steps to make it difficult to do so) on how MS will ship XP in October regardless of the results of the law suit, while at the same time being forced to allow others to put links to other rival services, like AOL, is forcing MS to hide their "features." [Yup. Another run-on sentence. - ed.]

So I ask again, since when did MSN become a feature of an operating system? Since when did it become integral to its operations? Isn't this exactly what they were saying about IE? Will MS never learn? To me, this is just another nail in the coffin that is MS as it slowly sinks under its own inflated opinion of itself (how's that for mixed metaphors?).

Penguin Spotted on Palm IIIx, IIIxe, and Vx. That's right, someone has ported Linux to Palm PDAs that use the Motorola Dragonball CPU. I don't have a PDA, so I can't say how well it works, but it does sound kwel. See the site here.

Space Station Spotted over Hawai'i. That's right, the clouds cleared just at about the time the International Space station flew over the islands last night. SWMBO and I took a few minutes to go outside and watch as it sped across the evening sky. It will pass over the islands for the next couple of days for those who are interested, and live here.


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Tuesday - 31 July 2001

Surplus? What Surplus? In the strange land that is known as the White House and Congress, one wonders how you can give a tax rebate, supposedly because there are "excess" tax funds to return to the people, and then turn around and borrow $51 billion US, to pay, in great part, for the rebate (see the story for the Los Angeles Times here).

Further, the proponents of the rebate insist the money will jump start the U.S. economy because all this money would be used to purchase goods and services. However, during the module on Economics last year, we learned that there is no historical evidence to support this. In other words, studies of the effects of past tinkering with rebates/laws/targeted exemptions all indicate the effect the change was supposed to exhibit never occurs.

In the present situation, there would be at least a couple of reasons for this. First, much of the goods that would be bought are made in foreign countries or sold by foreign controlled companies. Thus the profits from these goods and services leave the U.S. Secondly, many people will simply put the money into a savings account. While saving money is definitely a Good Thing, doing so does not directly help the economy, at least, not right now.

In this day of Internet speed economies, this situation further points to the disconnect between the time line a political body deals with and reality. In other words, by the time Congress and the President acts, the reason(s) for the action is long since past, thus making the action irrelevant at best, and actually counterproductive, at worst.

The only Good Thing to come out of this is that people will have control over their money. Letting people decide what to do with their money is almost always better than letting Congress or the President decide. The Bad Thing is that it will have to be paid back, with interest.

Voice Cloning. The day is soon coming that the voice you hear on the phone, which sounds exactly like your wife/husband, may in fact be computer generated (see the story, from the New York Times here).

ATT Labs software, called Natural Voices (see it here), while reported not to be perfected yet, is pointing to problems that we will soon have to deal with.

For example, who owns your voice? The question is far from settled, but imagine if an advertiser wanted to have a commercial in which the voice of a long dead actor was used to peddle their product.

Or imagine the fraud possibilities. You get a call that sounds exactly like your wife, "she" says she forgot the PIN code for the ATM card/on-line banking service and asks you for it. Or think what would happen when the FBI is handed a tape, which purports to be a recording of you making a drug deal with Columbians. The possibilities for abuse are almost endless, but remedies and safeguards are not in place yet. Again, reality is outpacing our ability to plan and deal with this. It's stories like these that make my skin crawl. Have a nice day!


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Hump Day Wednesday - 01 August 2001

Quad-Turkey. I meant to rant comment on the made-for-television golf match held Monday/Tuesday with Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam, Robert Duval, and Karrie Webb, but it was so boring I forgot about it yesterday.

While I am sure more girls and women watched a golf match than have ever before (which will help make womens' golf more popular), very few people overall, actually watched it. The overnight ratings showed a decrease in viewership from the previous two years (see the story from the Los Angeles Times here). In fact, comparing the ratings for this year versus the last two years finds this year dead last.

There were several reasons for this. First, the pace of play was very slow. Part of this is because the level of play was so poor, what with more balls ending up in the desert than on the fairways it took awhile just to find where they landed (it was literally safer for the spectators to stand in the middle of the fairway then along the sidelines). But a good part of it relates to the format itself. The players alternated hitting the ball. This kept them from getting into a good rhythm and slowed play. And then, of course, there were the commercials.

But as a TV program, it also sucked. In a normal tournament, the producers are able to pick from a multitude of shots as the players, on different holes, make their shots. In match play, you only got the one hole and one player striking the ball at a time. This makes for a lot of dead air.

The situation was also made worse by lousy camera work. More than once, the camera was focused on the player long after the ball was hit, apparently not knowing, or caring that the shot was already on its way. Other times, the camera could not even track the ball (especially as darkness fell).

And then there was the course itself. Was anyone surprised that playing on a course, built in the desert, held in above 100F weather, with gusty winds, blowing sand, and greens so dried out the ball would literally roll yards by just tapping it, would not cause poor play? And did anyone stop to think that there are other places, in the US, where you could hold a prime time golf match and still have more than enough day light to finish a match (hint: pick any place in Hawai'i)?

If by some quirk of mental illness the network decides to have another tournament next year, with the same format, remind me not to watch - unless, ahem, Anna Kournakova takes up golf. Send all flames to JDominik@hellfreezesovercantyoutakeajoke.com

Speaking of Turkeys. To all those pundits who said, the Code Red worm was dead, that it was just media hysteria, especially on the part of Steve Gibson, this story is for you.

The Los Angeles Times (see it here) is reporting that at least 22,000 sites [updated to 80,000 at mid-day] have been infected since the worm became active again yesterday. Early projections, by the Sans Institute and the FBI, indicate infection rates similar to the first outbreak with possibly as many as 250,000 infected "by this afternoon". While the infection rate may decline slightly, as compared to last months' outbreak, one has to remember that all the damage from that occurred in a day or two. This time around, the worm has a lot longer time in its scan/infection mode.

As I've said before, I am not optimistic that the 350,000 original sites have downloaded the patch. I am not optimistic that the additional 250,000 projected sites will do so either. I am not optimistic that the balance of people running IIS servers will do so. Why? Because of human nature. People are lazy/ignorant/busy. In fact, there are people getting virus infections from versions that are years old. Take a look at the CERT site and you will find exploits identified in 1997 that are still being used, in great numbers, almost four years later.

Don't ask me what the answer to this problem is, other than eternal vigilance, but things can only get worse...


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Thursday - 02 August 2001

Round II. As of the time of this post, Sans Institute is indicating 250,862 Code Red infected computers. During the last round, 280,291 were detected. I expect by the end of this day, the count will pass that last mark. And yet, the press is now downplaying the effects of the worm. I find that interesting because it is pretty clear to me that, all other things being equal, this round should/will have a proportionally larger effect than the first.

Speaking of the Press. A local police lieutenant, with 29 years of service, was recently arrested for being a peeping Tom (no, that's not the legal term but most of you know what I mean). Sad as that may be, what gets me going is how the story was reported by one of the local TV stations.

The reporter showed the victim's [the woman, not the officer - ed.] address, what her house looked like, how the bedroom window (where the officer allegedly viewed the nude woman) was situated on the property, her occupation, and her picture. Now, most people realize that there are some strange people out there. So if you have half-a-brain, you would realize it is not a good thing to send invitations to these individuals. And yet, this is pretty much what the station did by providing much, too much information. In fact, they gave out more information about the victim than the officer. I don't know, but I have to wonder sometimes about what these TV people are thinking. If they think at all.

The Other Office. KDE's Office Suite version 1.1 is slated for release mid-month. If you want an early peek, as it were, you can download the Release Candidate 1 (see the press release here).

I hope they fix the many bugs still evident in KWord. If they can get that stable, and perhaps KSpread, perhaps I could spend more time in Linux then I do Windows. But I'm not holding my breath. Maybe in a year or so.

Speaking of KDE, I find it interesting that Konqueror, their Internet browser, is also integrated into their file manager - much as MS Internet Explorer is in Windows. I may have missed something, but I don't see people up in arms about this. I don't see long diatribes about how KDE is being monopolistic or anticompetitive. I don't know, maybe it's just me...


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Aloha Friday - 03 August 2001

It's Friday!

Code Red Watch. 343,345. That's the current number of servers suspected of being infected with the worm (see the tracking site here). What's interesting is the rate of infections, which had been declining slightly, is now picking up again. I expect the number of infected sites to substantially exceed the number infected in the first round (280,391). Only time will tell how the 'net will be affected.

Coming Up Out of the Dark. The morning paper has an interesting graphic ( here) and article ( here) on the ongoing effort to raise the sunken Japanese fishing vessel Ehime Maru, now sitting 2,000-ft. (~610 metres) below the surface of the ocean. Navy officials say they have an 80% chance of success. They are not so confident that once having done that, they will be able to move the ship closer to shore for inspection. It should be noted that they have no plans to bring it to the surface, rather they want to raise it about 90-ft. (~27-metres) above the ocean floor, then tow it into near shore waters (after raising the ship further), let it back down to the bottom, look for the remains of the missing crew, and then lift it up and take it back into deeper water, where it will be left. The cost? About $40 million US.

Have a Great Weekend Everyone - Aloha!

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© 2001 Daniel K. Seto. All rights reserved.