Monday, December 30, 2002

Pork Chop Express Public Service Announcement

Warning! Warning! Danger Will Robinson! Thanks to the Swedes, we are now all aware of the dangers of the CD-ROM drives in our new computers.

You see, its all big businesses' fault. They haven't warned us that they are planting ticking time bombs, waiting to eject their payload, turning our home computers into a real-life version of Unreal Tournament's Ripper Weapon. More thanks to the Aussies for telling us about this threat. This should be headlines all across the country. How many of you have the new 48x Speed or higher CD-R or CD-RW drives? Not only are they spinning at lethal speeds, we probably need to be warned about the dangerous laser radiation that could leak out after a damaged disk bursts through the outer door of our CD drives and does horrific damage!

"You'll shoot your eye out, kid."

So, what do we do? As the article states: ""Shatter protection should be built into the drives, especially to protect the front door (of the disk drive)," he says. "What happens now is that the door just breaks and comes flying, along with parts of the disk.""

Hmmm....Duct tape? Naw. The discs of death would slice through that like a hot knife through butta.

I know, an aluminum computer case. We mount the CD drives behind the protective plating, and that will stop the shards from penetrating our soft flesh. After all, some countries make light tanks with aluminum armor, and if its good enough for a tank, its good enough for my computer. Opening and closing the drive might turn out to be a problem. Hmph.

Obviously, we all need to work together to solve this problem. In the meantime, I have found this software that will slow down your CD-Drives to a safe speed. in fact, if you read the page this software is on, it even quotes the Aussie article! Yes! Success! Notice the software interface is in all red to show you just how dangerous this is!

Someone call the government, we need regulations to keep CD-Speeds at 1x. If it saves even one life, or one finger cut, we need to enact this legislation now! Let's march on Washington! The Million Person Slow-CD March! Demand that manufacturers slow stuff down! Soon CPUs will be so fast and run so hot that you will have the next Chernobyl on your desktop! BEWARE!

I certainly hope this was a typo in the original article:

"Fortunately, most fast drives can sustain speeds required to fracture the discs, often because reading errors cause them to slow.

That doesn't make much sense, I'm certain they meant to say: "Fortunately, most drives can't sustain...." We might be safe for a bit.

Spread the word, warn the bunnies too!

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Federal Bureau of Information Technology

I came across an interesting article at talking about the FBI's Information Technology Endeavors.

Believe it or not, the FBI was/is one of the most technology "backwards" of the larger well-funded bureaus in the federal government. One of the related articles calls the FBI IT infrastructure like this:

"Trilogy would move the FBI "an enormous step forward," Schumer said. "We need it today, not tomorrow. We needed it yesterday." Schumer described FBI technology as "dinosaur-era" and "fossil technology.""

I'm not a big fan of Charles Schumer, but with what I've been told about the FBI's technology I think he's being pretty accurate.

I know we all have visions from TV (X-Files in particular) and the movies of these large expansive complex all-reaching technologically advanced systems in the law-enforcement, intelligence, and military sections of the government. However, that is far from the actual reality. Most government systems are very 'hodge-podge' with multiple uncoordinated databases and overworked and/or incompetent administrators.

So why do these projects often fail, or take many more years to complete than they should?

One can only theorize, but I have my guesses:

1. The people working in the FBI's IT department are probably underpaid. Even with recent programs that are going to allow the pay scales to step outside the normal federal classifications in order to attract better people, you aren't getting the 'cream of the crop'. Filling out a Federal Application for Employment requires a degree in 'Bureaucracy'. I understand the need for thorough background checks, but have you looked at what you need to fill out? I've also heard that if you aren't an agent, you aren't treated very well at the FBI.

2. Most desirable IT people probably can't meet the stringent security requirements of the FBI. This is a Catch-22 for the bureau. You need people with pristine backgrounds working in an agency that has access to the type of information that is stored at the bureau. Unfortunately, many of the socially mal-adjusted in the IT industry (not ALL of you, just some) have done some pretty heavy experimentation with illegal substances, or tried their hand at 'Cracking' (malicious hacking), or other things that would probably get them on the black-list.

3. Over administration. I have not found one case of a governmental organization that wasn't filled with upper-level management that weren't either incompetent, micro-managers, over-analyzers, simply concerned with their own agendas and self-promotion, or a combination of any of those. Sure there are diamonds in the rough that will do the right thing, but they are usually surrounded by so much crap they can't help their people no matter how much they would like to. With a lack of stability in management as people try to move around to get promoted, it makes a cohesive strategy difficult to implement. Management tends to 'over-meeting' and 'over-committee' IT people to death as well. They spend more time in meetings than you do getting things done, and often the outcomes of the meetings are very confusing with no clarity on the direction that is to be taken. Also IT personnel probably get conflicting orders on what priorities to set and what to do next. Things shift daily depending on the office political environment and who is on the 'hot-seat' at the time.

4. Purchasing. If you've ever worked in the government sector, you know what a pain it is to try to purchase something. It gets worse the bigger the government. Local is bad enough, state is worse, and federal is almost incomprehensible. There's a reason we used to have $700 hammers, and not all of it was greed on the part of the contractors. Often you request to purchase equipment, and by the time it is delivered its obsolete. Or if you do get it quickly enough, you get it all at once and since you are already understaffed, you can't possibly get it configured and deployed in a decent amount of time.

5. "Management By Magazine". Some upper-level manager reads something cool in a tech-rag, and suddenly that becomes the mega-project of the day, or they have no idea how hard it would be to integrate the product into the current environment. Some slimy salespeople (again, some - not all) in the private sector pushing their vapor- or brokenware doesn't help either.

6. Resistance To Change. "We've always done it this way", or "We can't do that, it doesn't follow guidelines." or "We have to get these forms exactly as they are onto the system". All these are huge hurdles that IT personnel have to overcome to try to implement technology to help people do their own jobs more efficiently. Of course, many of the incompetent are making a good living in the government, and those persons can't have someone making their jobs easier - then they won't have anything to complain about or blame for not getting their work done, all while they take bathroom or smoke breaks every 15-minutes.

Of course, not all of this is unique to government. It occurs in the private sector as well no matter the size of the organization. However, it is so entrenched in the government sector that is would be a Herculean task to get it changed. The person doing the changes would probably also be vilified and blamed for every small problem that happened along the way. Problems will crop-up. They occur in all endeavors worth completing.

The problem is that everyone's looking to their next promotion or election and doesn't want to make anyone unhappy, so they have the impossible task of trying to make everyone happy. Therefore the cycle continues, and I don't know where or how it's going to be broken.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Social Engineering

I have had three opportunities to speak to different audiences on the topic of Social Engineering. The first was at a cybercrime conference here in Central Ohio that included several Law Enforcement personnel from Federal, State, and Local agencies. The next was for the Ohio State Bar Association on December 6th in Cleveland. I'll be repeating the OSBA seminar on the 18th here in Columbus. Social Engineering is the most effective method for intrusion into 'protected' networks. In fact, Security Professionals often make it easier for Social Engineers to succeed.

An article about Authentication Systems for computer networks points out the evolution of methods for assuring that the person requesting certain computer systems are who they say they are. The article mentions Smart Cards, Tokens, Biometrics, and Passwords, and says that the market is still immature. It is interesting that the last sentence of the article reads:

"When administrators do have a choice over which kinds of authentication to use, Rolfe suggests using a risk management approach, balancing the strength of the authentication solution against the costs and other drawbacks involved."

Yes that is the whole secret behind successful Information Technology Security implementation: Risk Management.

Social Engineers attempt to fool people into divulging information that will give them access to whatever systems happens to be the target du jour. You would think that with all these different forms of protection (Smart Cards, Biometrics, etc) it would be very difficult.

It in fact makes it much easier.

Often, IT Professionals institute draconian security measures once they are unleashed and given the power to do so. Forcing password changes every 30 days, along with password complexity requirements so strict that one cannot hope to memorize them, cause people to write them down on big yellow post-it notes attached to their monitors. Hardly secure eh? Easy enough for a Social Engineer who gets himself hired at an organizations cleaning company for a short stint.

Now any IT Security people reading this are now ready to strangle me. Am I saying that users should be allowed to have one of the three most common passwords: "password", "secret", or "sex"?

No, of course not. There should be some password complexity, but not so terrible that it defeats its purpose in the first place. Sure, the mega-passwords aren't easily cracked with 'l0phtcrack' or 'John The Ripper', but they cause other more undesirable behavior on the part of the user. If you want to make users have passwords like: "O7-21IagtS,Afmv." at least train them to come up with a mnemonic like "On 7-21 I am going to Sydney, Australia for my vacation." And don't make them change them every 30 days. There, I said it.

Yes, yes, people who keep the same passwords for long periods of time are more likely to have given them to someone else, and/or have them used by hackers if they have been 'cracked'. But then again, if they were cracked and they are that complex, you've got bigger problems. Teach them to change them only whenever they think someone has guessed it, or maybe once per year. This way they might actually throw that post-it note away after a few months, and will try to comply with your requests that they will see as more reasonable. Remember, if your users don't think your requests are reasonable for what they perceive the situation, they won't comply or will try to get around your requirements.

How many password systems check to see if an entire departments' users all have the same password? I've seen that at sites with overly complex password requirements. Think about it before you institute your policies.

This relates directly to Social Engineering in that where such draconian (I'm going to try to use that term 10 more times) security measure exist, most users have had login problems at some point. Those problems have probably been very frustrating, and most IT departments I know of treat 'forgotten password' callers like scum, often deriding or speaking to them very condescendingly. Therefore it is not unusual for a "fellow employee" [nudge, nudge, wink, wink] to call another for help, maybe even asking them for their password so that they can get a quick memo typed up, or to leave a help-desk request e-mail. Tokens, Smart Cards, and the like only add to potential confusion. However, if implemented with proper training and forethought these added measures can be effective. Just try not to layer security too deep for the normal user, for you'll end up doing more damage to your security than good.

Sometimes even the IT departments are victims of these draconian methods (9 to go...just kidding, I'll stop now).

Unfortunately on the flip side, many don't have any sort of security at all other than a Firewall at the border. I (and others) call that the "Castle-Wall" mentality of security. No protection for the soft interior, or spies who might be invited in. "Security through obscurity" doesn't work either. This is the mentality of "No one knows we are here" security, or "we're too small" to be bothered with. With identity theft being epidemic, even computers at home can be a treasure trove for identity theft criminals.

So be wary, and be careful. Be just this side of paranoid.

Remember, its "Risk Management".

Author's Note: When I first wrote this article and tried to post it, I received a "Microsoft OLE DB Provider for ODBC Drivers error '80004005' [Microsoft][ODBC SQL Server Driver][SQL Server]Could not allocate space for object 'Items' in database 'blogger' because the 'PRIMARY' filegroup is full. /blog_form-action.pyra, line 54" error. Maybe I need to shorten my articles a bit.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Nemesis of Itself

If you are looking for the non spoiler review, see the post below this one.

I found a review of Nemesis that pretty much describes how I feel about the movie (other than the author hates Brent Spiner/Data - which I don't).

You can find it at Filmjerk. Be forewarned, it pretty much reveals the details of the whole movie.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Archenemy of ?

Just got back from seeing Star Trek Nemesis on opening night. No spoiler here. Just overall opinion on the movie.

First off, I'm a big Star Trek fan. I hate the word "Trekkie" or "Trekker", so I refuse to use them. Though the freak show was present at the movie theatre. However, that never detracts from my enjoyment of the movies. I usually go into a movie with extremely low expectations, so I am never disappointed.

I made the mistake of going into this one with higher-than-average expectations.

Big mistake.

How would I describe it?

How can a movie have so much action in some spots yet the whole movie seemed to crawl along?

How could they write a plot with holes so large you could drive an AIRCRAFT CARRIER through them?

How could they write a story that steals so many ideas from prior Star Trek movies? Not an original thought in this one at all.

And how could the Technology seem to go BACKWARDS rather than have advanced in this movie?


Wait for the matinee.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

What Men Will Do For Pr0n

For the uninitiated, 'pr0n' is "leet" for Porn. Yes, I know its obvious, but someone would ask.

These articles are old, but interesting.

First guy breaks into a convenience store to steal some adult magazines. First off, the whole thing is on tape, as the store has cameras. He grabs 5 magazines and then tries to break the glass in the door to get out. Only he can't break the window. So he has to climb out through the roof. Worst thing about it all is that all he had to do was unlock the door. It wasn't a key-lock on the inside, simply a standard switch lock. He must have been staring at the mags the whole time.

The next case is a burglar who breaks into houses to use the computer for porn.

What? His library card expired? Or maybe sitting in your birthday suit amongst the dewey decimal system cards wouldn't work out too well. I can't imagine committing a felony to just surf pr0n. Especially the stuff on the web, which if its any good, you have to pay for. (If you know of some free sites that are good, send links my way - I'll rate them for you.)

This guy rammed his car into granny's house, and then took his clothes off and tried to break in, naked. Granny must have had some real good porn in there. Of course, it was reported that he said he was going to kill someone. Granny probably threw out his complete Hustler magazine collection.

OK - this has nothing to do with pr0n, but could probably be a good story-line for a new adult film. Only instead of the guy stabbing her in the leg with an object hanging from the rearview mirror, he could stab her in the you know with something that was hanging from his...oh nevermind. You don't need a roadmap. Maybe the guys wife did though, one with a low-hanging bridge. (Pun intended)

OK - I used to be a Police Officer. But I don't think that I'd admit chasing a nude man and then losing him. That one would be conveniently forgotten.

Does this make any sense to you at all? You arrest a sicko-creep for having Child Porn on his computer, and you place him under house arrest when he lives across the street from a school? Utterly astounding.

And couldn't these politicians wait until they got back home? Or at least to their own offices? I know politics is boring...but.

Maybe they were just big Bill Clinton fans, and they figured if he can get a hummer while working, they wouldn't get in trouble for a little pr0n surfing.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Choosing PCs Based On Appearance

Now we're told that we are more apt to buy a computer based on its looks rather than what's inside.

Geeze, now we buy computers for the same reason that "swing" voters choose politicians? Looks?

Actually, I would like a cool looking case for my computer as well.

An LCD Panel Monitor too. I already have some cool mice. I'd need to find some sort of designer keyboard.

What I found interesting about the article was that it said that PDA sales were to "young men" before the sleek-style Palm V came out. This allowed the market to expand to non-young-men. Old Men? Old Women? I think they just meant women in general. How chauvenistic of them to say that women buy stuff only if its pretty.

Are There Really People Like This?

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court in San Francisco decided that individuals can't own firearms. They say the 2nd Amendment is for militias only.

Not surprising out of this court.

Let's declare all U.S. Citizens a militia, and be done with it once and for all.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Tesla's Legacy

Nikola Tesla was one of the most influential inventor/scientist on modern day life. His genius is not nearly as well known as Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, however I think that his genius and knowledge far surpassed those two combined.

He viewed a world full of flying machines and electrical devices that were fueled by "broadcast power". Yes, power sent through the air and into whatever device needed it.

Wireless Power is now a reality. Researchers have devised the first devices to use a very limited broadcast method compared to Tesla's World Grid.

I can't wait to see what happens in the next 20 years.

Low-Carb Redux

I frequent a Quake 3 gaming forum, which has evolved from a place to game to a community of people.

We have been having a discussion on low-carb diets when one of the people who had very occasionally posted there, and is a physician. I spent a lot of time crafting a response to his concerns. Rather than repeating them here, I leave it to you to look if you are interested. (The link takes you to page 3 of the thread.)

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Smugglin' Drugs

My 7-year old daughter takes Claritin for her allergies to grasses, trees, cats, etc. Until today it required a prescription to purchase.

Now that Claritin is an Over-The-Counter (OTC) drug, its price will drop considerably, from the $90 I was paying for a 30-day supply.

Now that I am self-employed, my insurance coverage isn't as good as before. Even though that is of little consequence. You still pay for the whole shooting match, whether in higher taxes, or higher premiums to your employer that don't go into the salary bucket. But I wasn't looking forward to paying that much a month anyway. My old insurance only covered 50% of the $90, so it was still expensive.

A have some very good friends in Canada where Claritin is an OTC drug. I was working a barter with one of them. He needed an iPod that Apple wouldn't ship to him, and I needed Claritin, which was 75% cheaper up there.

We ran into some problems trying to get it shipped. The FDA allows US citizens to order 90-day supplies of medication from outside the country. But there's the OTC vs. Rx thing going on. It's OTC in Canada, and Rx here (before today). So you have to generate this FDA Product Code which goes on the outside of the package. Even if you do all this, it still can be stopped at the border and detained.

I learned a lot doing the research on getting it shipped down here. FedEx ships from Canada to the US, but when my friend gave the package to the courier and told her what it was, she wouldn't touch it. Said that they would stop it at the border, and they were even stopping Tylenol.

The only Tylenol you'd order from Canada to the US would have Codeine in it, which is a controlled substance, and therefore would be stopped for good reason.

I did check around, and found that some shipments of Claritin were being stopped because they were a prescription drug. Others were let through with no problem.

One of the people interviewed for the Fox article starts to whine about how now that people are going to have to buy Claritin with thier own money. Isn't this how things work? When you have a headache, you go to the store to buy aspirin and you don't expect the insurance company to cover it. People expect too much to be handed to them, and think its somehow 'free'. If you think your insurance coverage is free, try running your own business or buying your own coverage. Everytime you use the Emergency Room as a doctor's office for non-emergencies, you raise the price of insurance for everyone else.

So quit it.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Kid's Nightmare

Imagine you're 11-years old again and you like playing with BB-guns. Your Mom has taken away yours, since you have a habit of shooting neighborhood birds. She wisely decides that you're not responsible enough yet to have one.

So what do you do? You get with your miscreant friends, borrow one of theirs, and resume killing birds.

Only this time you're standing in front of your friends house, you sight in on a bird.......squeeze the trigger........and BLAM! You miss the bird, but hit the passenger's side window of a passing passenger van, shattering it into thousands of pieces as the safety glass does what it is designed to do.

"Oh Shit!" is what goes through your mind.

You stand there, frozen. "You didn't really do that," your mind tells you, "you just imagined it, you were shooting at a bird. Somebody else must have shot that window out."

Now you see a 6' 2" man in a long black duster coat get out of the van and come toward you. You feebly try to hide the pump action BB rifle behind your leg, hoping that it won't be seen. The guy is moving towards you fast, and you're like a deer-in-headlights. Frozen. Unable to move. The man starts yelling at you to drop the gun and stay there. You can't do anything but comply. You're guilty...and you look it too. Standing in the front yard, weapon in hand, shattered glass in the roadway in front of you.

You get hustled home under the watchful eyes of all the neighbors, and you find out that they guy who's window you just shot out is an former 11-year veteran of the largest police department in the area. You start crying uncontrollably, thinking that you're going to be Bubba's cell-mate.

After its all over, you are $211+ poorer - well, that money will come out of your next two Christmas' gifts, and you are grounded for life.

Ahhh.....I remember when I was 11. That kid won't forget this day for a long time.

Just goes to show, you can take the weapons away from criminals, and even if they don't have the power to buy new ones, they manage to get their hands on them and still do something stupid.

Saturday, November 23, 2002


Can't take credit for this find. Have to give credit to my cohorts over at Chaos Theory.

But....well, not but.

Suuuuuure he was wearing trousers and underpants.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Your E-mail Will Tattle-tale On You

Zdnet has an interesting article about business e-mail. In court cases, discovery requests are made for all documentation pertinent to a court case. This includes all electronic documents and e-mail.

"So what?" You say.

Well, I'll tell you what. Having run a very large network myself, I grew tired of unjamming e-mailboxes full of jokes, attachments, and other nonsense that filled up my logs and my server space. Even though I asked nicely - several times - people would think that the messages I sent asking them to curtail non-business use of the e-mail system was not applicable to them. I didn't ask for it to stop completely, just to slow to a more reasonable level, and to not trade the same stupid 'fart-pager' commercial 2000 times which took 10GB of storage on the e-mail servers at a time when 10GB used to be a lot of space. So, I imagine if I had gotten a discovery for certain e-mails that pertained to a court case from our attorneys I would have done the same thing as the Network Managers do in the article.

I would have sent them the whole damn message store.

Less work for me to go through the millions of messages looking for specific items. Easier to send it off to the lawyers to look at.

So what if it embarrasses someone, I had asked nicely many times for them to "knock it off" and they ignored me.

So now all those potentially career-threatening messages are out in the open. Remember that e-mail you sent about that jerk of a boss you hate? Or the new "meal" you had at the expense of your boyfriend getting out to everyone? (Yes, this was a hoax, but it could be real.)

Think about it people. If you want to send junk mail around, keep it at home, or use servers outside of your network. And don't sign e-mails with your work credentials. Sheesh. Use your brain.

Or write a letter. But if you are like me, you've forgotten how.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Low Carb For Life

A new article at Foxnews talks about surprising benefits of the Atkins diet. It is not all that suprising to me.

I have been on the Atkins Diet since July 1, 2001.

Now, if you are about to go on a hysterical rant about how dangerous the diet it, please either get a little more informed (read the article, and others) or move along. I've heard quite enough of the "baloney" about a low-carb diet. Those of you who say low-carb dieting can kill you, in reference to the liquid protein diet that was around in the 60's and 70's can read this article on what really caused the deaths. That diet, while low-carb, was nothing like the Atkins diet.

In the time I have been on the diet, I have lost 125 pounds, went from a 54" to 40" waist, lowered my cholesterol from the high 190's to the low 140's, and my triglycerides are down to 35 from over 200. I'm still losing weight now.

People I haven't seen in a while don't recognize me. I look at old pictures and can't believe what I see. I had gotten very, very fat. I'm not going to sugar-coat it with words like 'obese' or 'overweight'. Some people need a slap in the face to get moving, and I was one of those people.

It is a life choice though to go low-carb. You can't ever go back to a high-carb diet. Your body is too good at remembering, and will store all the carbs once you start the intake again. Ladies, my wife is on the diet as well and went from a Size 16-18 to a Size 8-10. She used to be tired all the time, and was showing signs of hypoglycemia. She has none of those symptoms now, and neither of us has had heartburn since we've been on the diet, even though we eat spicy foods.

Try it for 6 weeks. It can be hard, but nothing worth it is easy. A typical day includes eggs and bacon for breakfast, triple decker hamburgers without the bun or ketchup (but with all the other toppings) for lunch, and steak and salad or stir-fried asparagus with bernaise sauce for dinner. Hard, eh? Giving up white flour, sugar, and caffiene can be daunting for some, but once you get over the initial period, its not nearly as hard.

If you need advice on going low-carb, drop me a line.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Prepare For Ludicrous Speed!

Computing power has increased at such a rate as to be almost incomprehensible. A new supercomputer, that can perform 35.86 trillion calculations per second was announced recently.The first computer invented in 1948 that had all of the functionality we would consider of a basic computer, performed 1 instruction ever 1.2 milliseconds, or approximately 833.33 operations per second.

So the new system is around 43 billion times faster than its ancestor. If the rate of speed increase were linear instead of geometrical, that would be an increase in computing speed of almost 91 thousand times, every hour. If this is true, in the next 50 years, computing speed will increase by a factor of at least 1,190,684,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Of course progression has indeed been geometrical, so we'll probably exceed that. One wonders when the limit will be reached. With the advances in medical science, we might be around to find out what it is like.

Friday, November 15, 2002

But He Was Just Looking for Mulder and Scully (Or Doggett and Reyes)

Gary McKinnon was arrested in the UK for taking control of over 90 US Military computer systems for over a year. I have heard from some that the 'cyber-threat' from terrorist organizations is overblown. How and why did this Super-Hacker do what he did?

He was looking for UFOs.

More precisely, he was looking for hidden information (X-Files) and evidence from US Government computers that Extraterrestrial Aliens really exist. He did this all from the computer in his home. He even dressed up for the occasion - as the article states - wearing clothes like David Bowie did during his Ziggy Stardust phase.

My favorite section of the article reads thus:

"...Gary should have known that the US is extremely protective about keeping secure its Top Secret UFO files... even the Drunken Hamster knows that from watching the X-Files TV show. No wonder the US is in such a rush to extradite him to US soil... a chip implant and an alien anal probe await at the hands of the smoking man...

..One cyber break-in, just 12 days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, caused a week-long shutdown of 300 computers at a naval weapons station in New Jersey."

Now, here's one crackpot who spends a lot of his time fanatically looking for information on aliens. How unrealistic is it to believe that some terrorist organizations haven't sent many of their agents to computer security schools, maybe even getting some their CISSP Certification.

These agents don't have to even work in the US to do damage. Not that they'd have a lot to worry about from the INS if they were here.

And that is the crux of the problem.

The incompetence that exists in the INS that is being exposed in the media is just a small slice of the overall incompetence of many government workers. In my own personal experience, there are about 5-10% of government employees that are excellent at what they do. However, they are severly overloaded and suffer burnout quickly. The other 90-95% are sitting there, taking up space and taking as many bathroom and smoke breaks as they can get away with.

And with the sad state of management in government, its not hard for them to get away with a lot.

Many of these 90-95% are in charge of securing, administrating, and managing government security systems. There is just too much for the 5-10% to do.

That's why we are so vulnerable to attacks. And with Linux gaining popularity it is under the scrutinizing eyes of hackers all over the world who are finding a plethora of vulnerabilities in the supposed 'secure' operating system. With a wholesale movement of systems from Windows to Linux, many systems are being left even more wide-open, because even the most incompetent can run Windows Update once in a while and get lucky. There isn't the same obvious tool in Linux, though the latest versions of Red Hat Linux are getting better at it. These admins can barely administer a point-and-click OS like Windows. They aren't going to have a clue about *nix based systems. So now we'll have even more vulnerable systems that can launch even more powerful attacks against other computers on the Internet or government Intranet sites.

Its really frightening if you think about the scale of it all and the number of systems that these networks touch.

BTW - If you do use Windows Update after reading this article and realizing that you've never done it before. DO NOT do the "drivers" updates unless you are ABSOLUTELY SURE that the new drivers are correct for your hardware. More often than not, they just muck things up so bad that your system won't boot. I've never used the drivers update, and I've been fine.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

More Dangerous Than Murder

An article at Cnet speaks about new legislation that could possibly jail a 'malicious' hacker for life. If you read the actual bill the hacking would have to be such that is causes a risk to someone's life or health. Script kiddies cracking home computers with DSL and Cable Modems can breathe easy. The Feds won't be putting you in jail for life. However, they could put you in for 10 to 20 years. Longer than some scum of the earth get for "accidentally" killing their own children.

I never understood how it could be anything other than purposeful to cause a child's death through some sort of abuse.

I'm all for stiff penalties, but this is a little excessive I think.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Two Tin Cans But No Wire

If you've had high-speed Internet access (I refuse to call it by the misnomer broadband) for a while, you've probably all but blocked out the sound of two modems handshaking to complete a 56Kbps connection over your phone line to your ISP that hangs up on you from time-to-time. However, most of the US and the world still uses POTS lines (Plain Old Telephone System) for their main access to the global public network.

It is just too expensive and labor intensive for everyone to get high-speed access quickly. With the recent Telecom 'crash', it's going to be even longer.

Some ISPs (many of whom have gone out of business) tried to offer high-speed wireless Internet access. They figured it was cheaper to 'beam' the information through the air instead of digging up the ground and laying fiber optic cable. However, many problems doomed it to fail. Limited frequencies were available for use, geographic obtacles blocked the ability to cover wide areas, and additional antennas had to be deployed. It required a lot of money to build these towers, and using existing cell-phone towers proved to be a challenge.

Recently, many people have created wireless "freenets" to share Cable and DSL connections using the now popular 802.11b Wireless 'Wi-Fi' hardware. 802.11b suffers the same problems that the big providers found, and its range is quite limited (just a few hundred feet under the best of conditions).

Recently, someone was able to send an 802.11b signal over 72 miles. They used 2-foot parabolic antennas. Startup cost around $3,000 - a little pricey for Farmer Joe out in the boonies.

Even at this range, the throughput is only 1Mb/s - two-thirds of a T1 - not too bad for some commercial startups to supply high-speed access to those people who might otherwise never have it.

As you may have heard, wireless hackers have figured out how to make long-range wireless antennas for their laptops and home computers out of pringles cans. They have even had better results using tin coffee cans!

The ingenuity of people never ceases to amaze me. It won't be long before they find the right 'object' to get these signals 72 miles or futher using common household items. I'm even thinking of building one of the coffee can antennas myself and maybe do a little Wardriving.

But that could be illegal, and I would never do such a thing.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Two Steps forward, One Step Back

Or maybe "Totally Tubular" would have been more appropriate.

I'm not going to link to everything, since its common knowledge amongst any of you that aren't still in diapers or listening to boy-band music, but it used to be that electronics were full of vacuum tubes. Televisions, radios, etc. All used vacuum tubes before the transistor was invented.

Now we're going back.

There has been a movement among audiophiles (those people that think they can hear a difference in sound quality on their 2 gazillion dollar stereo systems) to go back to systems with vacuum tubes as it produces a sound that is more "rich".

These are the same people that miss the turntable and 'record albums' because of the hiss and pops. No thanks, I'll stick with my strictly digital sound.

For you audiophiles who want to listen to music on your computer (if you can get your nose down out of the air long enough to actually consider doing such a thing), AOpen just just released a new motherboard with an integrated sound card that uses....yes....vacuum tubes.

So if you buy one, and H.G. Wells happens to visit from the past in his Time Machine, you can make them feel right at home when you crack open the case on your new computer. Or you can get a clear computer case so you don't have to open it up.

I might just have to get one of those cases if I win the lottery. I wonder how well it protects you from the radiation.

Starfleet Update

Don't know how long it will be there, but here is a link to a photo of the laser weapon used to shoot down an artillery shell in flight. I mentioned it in this post earlier.

Doesn't look like it would fit too well, might be a little too large other than mounting it in the shuttle's bay. It would take too long to deploy and leave the shuttle too vulnerable to attack. We're going to have to build something much bigger.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Getting Axed From Your IT Career

In my work as an Independent IT Consultant, I often find myself at people's homes working on systems that access business' networks remotely. These systems are the 'weak-point' in a secure network, for if they are compromised they provide a direct ingress into a companies network.

I left the world of working for someone else, as I tired of the politics and the pointy-haired bosses that seem to infest all companies whether public or private. Job security is non-existant in this day and age, and the advantage of working for yourself is that you'll never have the heart-break of losing your job due to downsizing. However, as this article states, you still can get 'axed'.

So be careful the next time you are asked by a friend to work on their system if they ask. You might end up with some unplanned surgery.

Friday, November 08, 2002

The eGreat Wall of China

The People's Republic of China has always been interested in restricting its citizens access to the Internet. Apparently they have been employing U.S. Corporation's technology in doing so as this article states.

Another case of "What do you do?".

China has been granted favored trading status by the U.S. Government and admitted into the World Trade Organization. They are simply buying technology from U.S. Corporations that can be used to meet their own internal needs, as repugnant as a free society might find them. As long as U.S. Corporations don't export 'secret' technology, they are simply obeying the law and attempting to make inroads to a new market. After all, this is the whole purpose behind a corporation, to make money for its shareholders. As much as some of you want to believe that Corporations have to act in any other manner, this is simply not the case. The way to control a Corporations actions is either through the public witholding funds and refusing to buy the companies products or stock, or through legislation.

I prefer the former solution. I have observed that public pressure is far more effective than adding to the plethora of bureaucratic rules and regulations that are almost always inefficiently enforced. However, this situation begs for legislative action. Should we allow corporations to export this sort of technology to the PRC that will allow them to more efficiently repress free expression in their country.

However, where do you draw the line? What technology or products do you "ban"? Where do you draw the line and who decides where that line is? I am a firm believer in the "Slippery Slope" effect. Once you start down a path that involves Governmental intervention, it soon grows beyond its original scope and new restrictions creep into the system. Once entrenched, they are almost impossible to remove and soon are used not for their original purpose, but to forward someone's political agenda.

It would be interesting if Corporations also added the ability for the censoring/spying functions to be "turned off" remotely. However if this were discovered, they wouldn't be able to sell their products anywhere as there would be no trust in the items to be free from outside control.

I'm glad I don't have to make these decisions. However, I do not like American companies selling this sort of technology to the PRC, and if given the chance I would let involved corporations know about it.

Quantum Drive

Quantum Computing has been a topic of recent interest. There are many articles that describe this next level of computing power that I think will make AI possible. This article describes a new method of encrypting data using Quantum Mechanics that will make it just about impossible to crack the encryption (unless you steal the 'secret key'). However, their methods and claims are self-defeating.

And I'll tell you why...

(I'm stealing this analogy from another source, and I can't remember who did it, so if you find it let me know who originally did it.)

Right now, imagine that you are standing in front of a skyscraper that is 100 stories tall with 1000 offices per story. In one of the offices is a briefcase that you need to acquire. As it is now, you have to search each office one-by-one until you find the briefcase you are looking for. It would take a long time, wouldn't it?

That's how computers work today. When you are looking for a certain piece of data, it has to search through each possible location of that data one-by-one. Computers are just fast enough to make it seem quite speedy.

Now imaging you are still in front of that skyscraper, only now you have developed magical powers and you can instantly clone yourself 99,999 times and therefore be able to search all the offices simultaneously.

That's how Quantum Computing works. You can in effect, find the data instantly, no matter where it is. Same thing goes to doing computations by Quantum Computing.

So what? What does that have to do with all this?

Think about it, we're now using Quantum Mechanics to almost instantly encrypt data so that its impossible to calculate all of the possible keys and apply them to try to 'decrypt' the data stream ('decode' is the wrong term, but that's another story). With Quantum Computing, you will be able to calculate all the possible keys almost as quickly, thus rendering all encryption useless.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Better Home Protection Than a Dog?

Besides a shotgun, the best thing for home defense is a large dog with a loud, deep bark (If you can tolerate the downside to owning such an animal). Maybe this device could be a good substitute when armed with the proper sound file and a big enough speaker system.
Cube Farm Snooping

Another article from the same site as the below two articles. Anyway, seems that the proliferation of wireless devices can get you in trouble, or 'expose' your thoughts to a co-worker without you knowing it.

While it would be very unusual for an RF signal from one of these keyboards to make it 150 meters (about 500 feet for those of you who can't do metric), it wouldn't be for those stuck in a cube farm. So take care what you type at work if you have one of those devices.
Moving the Internet back to 50's Playboy

Silly article found out and about that says that we need more 'softcore' pr0n (That's '1337 for "porn") on the Internet.

The usual "Since it's going to happen anyway, we might as well control the exposure" argument that is simply 'giving-up' before you fight (France anyone?). But interesting nonetheless.
Another Reason Gun Control Doesn't Work

I should have forwarded this over to James' site for him to post about. Seems a London Squirrel is terrorizing people in the area. Its latest victim was a toddler. If the kids parents had a concealed weapon, they wouldn't be hunting the squirrel.

I wonder what they are using to 'hunt' it with since firearms are banned.

Reminds me of back in the day when I was on the force, and we had a law on the books (since repealed) that stated that it was against the law to "chase, harrass, or otherwise harm a squirrel" in the parks around town. It was a 3rd degree misdemeanor, punishable with jail time if the magistrate was so inclined. I always said I was going to collar someone for violating this section of the code, but they repealed it before I had the chance.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Let's Mount This On The Shuttle

Technology continues it sprint forward. Found an article where the US Military has destroyed artillery rounds with a high powered laser. We just need to mount some of these on the space shuttle and we'll have the beginnings of Star Fleet. This is just the kind of breakthrough we need to help us move towards a missile defense system. We aren't going to be able to keep countries from builing ICBMs forever, so we need something to make them obsolete.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Happy Halloween!

Fun day with the kids. Don't have much to say, but I thought I'd share this with you. It kind of goes along with the theme of my blog.


Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Securing Your e-Borders

Very interesting day today. I attended a local convention, ITEC. It's a small sparsely attended IT vendor-ama. However, you can usually find some neat new hardware to look at. Unfortunately, there was very little of that this time - just the normal trinkets. Services however, were being pushed big-time. Especially in the Computer Security arena. Who knew a few things would drop in my lap right along those lines.

James sent me a link to an article written on October 28 about the Chinese trying to 'hack' into networks aboard our Naval vessels. The article doesn't go into many details, but it appears that a link was e-mailed to someone on a ship, and clicking on the link took them to a website that played the Marine Corps Hymn. Either there was some malicious code that tried to take advantage of a known vulnerability to surripticiously install a 'trojan horse', or a link to download one.

It failed, and System Admins were alerted. It was probably because it wasn't the right bait. The Chinese might think Military men want programs that related to patriotism, but I bet if it was porn, they would have been successful.

While reading the story, something at the site caught my attention. I did some experiments and discovered I was correct. I followed a link and discovered a SEVERE security hole that could be exploited to allow someone to wreak havoc on a website. It all had to do with poor programming practices.

I sent off a note to the site admins to let them know they needed to correct the problem. This exact problem is what is discussed in the article the is directly below the story I linked to above. NASA is having a problem patching their systems, and it means that other government agencies aren't any better off. However, this vulnerability was not a defect in the Operating System, it was a careless programming defect.

Hopefully they won't have the same thing happen to them that did to Blogger.

Monday, October 28, 2002

I Am Musically Challenged

Not that I can't appreciate good music, I just can't create it in any shape or form. However, I was pointed to a neat music site that even someone like me can have fun with. Give it a try.
I Keep My Extras In My Posterior

I was watching TLC's "Urban Legends" Show and one of the questions they asked was "Do Humans only use 10% of our brains?" Of course I had heard that, and even had read it in Sci-Fi books as a basis for some people being able to use "more" of their brain capacity and thus gaining powers like Telepathy, Telekinesis, and other 'Mind Powers'.

As this article and others state, we pretty much use 100% of our brains.

I guess I can quit trying to exercise mine. Here I thought I could turn the 90% 'fat' into some mental muscle.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002


This will be the first time with more than one entry per day, but I couldn't pass this by.

Now they are worried about computerized voting machines being "hacked".

Of course, "hacking" is a subjective term - often misused, as the case here. But lets go along with their little fantasy.

Let's assume that the Democratic Party finds some people with brains to run the elections in those Florida counties that had all those voting problems in the last two elections. They setup these computerized voting booths, that are for some reason attached to the public Internet. Why they would be instead of on an isolated private network, I don't know. The idea that our "hackers" have about 14 hours (7AM to 9PM - 'court' ordered extended voting hours, like in St. Louis) to learn a whole new system, find all its weaknesses, break into the systems and change the data, erase logs, and disconnect before anyone discovered them is truly fiction. Even though I would like to try to break into a system in less than 60 seconds and write a worm that does all this while getting a hummer from a babe who performed fellatio "full-service" (I'll pass on the gun to the head) like in 'Swordfish' - it ain't gonna happen.

Besides, how many people could possibly successfully pull off the above scenario compared to the number of people (no matter their technology skill level) who could pilfer a stack of butterfly ballots, punch some holes in them, and drop them in the ballot box when no one is looking? You tell me which fraud is easier.

As far as a missing 'paper trail' goes, haven't these people heard of PRINTERS?
I want my PADD

The PADD (I forget what the acronym stands for) are those thin, handheld devices that are used as input devices and computers on Star Trek TNG and later (no, not tricorders). With this invention they move a step closer to reality. In fact, they'll probably be a considerably thinner.

Imagining two sheets of thin hinged glass being my computer staggers the mind. All of the 'projected' images on suspended glass screens in Sci-Fi movies/shows can be reality. It will be much easier to carry around a PC with you no matter where you go, or to extend several small pieces networked together to create a wearable computer.

With this technology, that commercial where you see the guy with the 'half-glasses' computer interface shouting "BUY! BUY! SELL! SELL!" while pidgeons scurry away from him becomes possible. I love it. I truly am looking forward to the next 20 years to see where we are. I bet I can get a full body replacement by then and essentially live forever.

Don't know if I'd really want to do that though.
Bet You Didn't Even Notice

The "root" if the Internet was attacked today. This story gives you the high-level as non-techie-as-possible explanation of what happened. If you notice, there are basically 13 servers that let all of us get from one site to another on the Internet. As the article states, Richard Clarke (no relation to Dick), warned long ago that an attack on the root DNS servers or "Top Level Domain" (TLD) servers would be devastating.

And it would.

And it wouldn't be hard.

These are the type of cyberattacks that are easy to accomplish (and have happened before) that could cripple things for quite a while.

The article doesn't explain what the TLD servers do, or why this would be bad, so I'll attempt to explain it in layman's terms.

The 'root' servers help convert the first level of DNS names to an IP address.

Huh? You say.

OK - Let me explain. This blog, is hosted on a server with an IP address of - How would you like to try to remember to type that number instead of, or even if you bookmarked it with the number, imagine trying to send your link to other people. What if they had a bookmark with the same name already? Like Worthless Blog = or something like that. Compound that with the fact that due to virtual hosting, you can have thousands of websites hosted on a single server with a single IP address. If you don't have DNS resolution, you don't get to any of the sites on that server. DNS (Domain Name Service) provides 'real' names to the IP addresses. The rub is, DNS names are read from Right-to-Left. (OK - all of you Islamic Conspiracy Theorists get to work now on this.)

So, when your computer asks for the IP address of the DNS servers it has been assigned starts with the .com - Which is controlled by one of the 'root' servers. Therefore your computer asks the .com root server for the IP addresses of the DNS servers that control the domain. If the root server never answers, you never get there.

Now, when the root server is working, you get back the IP addresses of the DNS servers that are the Authority for the domain. Your computer then asks those servers for the IP address of the host by the name 'jackburton' - and the domain DNS servers reply with the correct IP address, - Your computer then makes an HTTP GET command to at - which the webserver then translates to the correct virtual website and returns to you the correct data which your Web Browser re-assembles into what you see here. E-mail works the same way. Only E-mail talks through SMTP or POP3 or IMAP instead of HTTP.

Now, I have simplified a bit, your computer actually asks its assigned DNS servers to do all the work. When they get the final IP address, they send it back to your computer.

Still cornfused? Think of it like mailing a letter. If I was sending a letter to Jack Burton, 123 Anywhere Street, Anytown, AS (Any State), 12345 USA - I would address my letter like this:

Jack Burton
123 Anywhere Street
Anytown AS 12345

Now, the equivalent for DNS would be:


OK - We're missing one line, but it's the same thing. In fact drop the country designation off of the first example (because many of us don't use it because we rarely send international mail):

So we have:

Jack Burton
123 Anywhere Street
Anytown AS 12345

OK - Now imagine dropping off the 'Anytown AS 12345' from your letter. You'd have:

Jack Burton
123 Anywhere Street

What City? What State? What Country? It would never get there. It would sit in the dead letter office unless someone mailed it in the same zipcode as the destination and some mail carrier recognized it. The exact same thing would happed to all network packets not using the direct IP address of a server. The packets would not get there, and the internet would be for all intents and purposes, dead. Only sites and e-mail servers that controlled single domains would be accessible, and those only by IP address. Someone could set up a public WINS server or DNS server that everyone would have to use (so it better be a damn powerful server), and then the attackers would just flood the new public server with so much traffic that it would be useless as well.

Sorry about rambling, but with as dependent as we all are upon e-mail for business these days, it would have a huge impact on the economies of the world.

Got any questions? Drop me a line....

Monday, October 21, 2002

More Good News

I asked for it, and I got it. James sent me some good news for my blog. I was thinking more of good economic news, but I didn't specify. It doesn't matter anyway with the market up now several days in a row, even with some mixed bad indicators (damn those indicators) shows that maybe there is a little logic creeping into investment decisions. But I digress. Here are links to James' good news (and his comments):

The space shuttle Atlantis has safely returned to earth. Another successful mission!

The Russians, after an exploding rocket killed one of their ground crew, has successfully launched an orbital observatory to study black holes.

Something that may be a big boon to your business, new home builders are looking in to hooking everything with a pulse to the Internet.

Medical researchers have come up with a drug that might control premature ejaculation. Not that (ahem) I need that or anything. And there's no info on how the disgruntled wives that buy the drug will convince their husbands to take it.
My comments: Uh-huh - Suuuuure James - we know you don't need them - You've probably built up some thick calluses from those coated magazine pages - built in dapoxetine, eh?

A new dialysis machine might just save 2,000 lives a year.

He sent another reference to "The zoo in Kabul, Agfghanistan has been restocked by the kindness of a zoo in China." - but the link was the same as the dialysis machine one above. The 'a' 'f' 'g' and 'h' keys, and Control-C and Control-V are all left-handed keystrokes. James, your right hand is strong enough, time to work on your left. (See the link on dapoxetine above).

Thanks for the news!

Friday, October 11, 2002

Don't Touch Him, He Might Have a Virus

No, not some communicable disease, but a computer virus. Technology is wonderful, everytime we come up with something new it destroys the basis for much of the sci-fi that is out there. If you have read any of William Gibson's work of the Cyberpunk genre, you know about his futuristic vision of "hackers" eventually having cybernetic implants that will allow them to directly connect their brain to computer systems. Well this advancement changes all that. You don't need any external implant with conductors, simply using what we've had for thousands of years will allow us to interface with each other or with other systems.

Imagine a computer virus run rampant with this sort of technology. "Wearable" Computers are becoming more fact that fiction, and soon you'll be tightly integrated with them. Current viruses (virii?) nowdays do little more than send themselves out to other people, and try to infect them. However, will the Trojan Horse programs of the future be able to take over people's minds? Hmmm....sounds like an idea for a novel.

Friday, October 04, 2002

Sick of Bad News

Seems like the media is all about putting out nothing but bad news. The good news around never gets any headlines. The reaction to the economy is so emotions based that if good news were reported more often, the economy and stock market could possibly cure themselves. So I am going to start a list to only good news. If you have any good news stories, e-mail a link to me at this address.

Good news in the recent past:

Chrysler Adds 1,000 Jobs

Technology Company Addamark gets $7 million in Investments

Arkansas State Goverment Adds Jobs to High Unemployment Area

Flooring Company Adds Jobs (Webmaster of this site should be fired for bad links though)

Telecommunications Company Adds Jobs

Florida adds jobs in many areas

Blue Cross Adds Jobs

Toyota Adds 700 Jobs

That's it for now, I'm sure there are more. Send them in. The cynics among you that will say this is just a 'drop in the bucket' need not apply. Go read or watch the mainstream news for bad news....

Thursday, October 03, 2002


How? I just don't understand. I really don't. Someone please explain it to me. This article says it all. How in the hell are people this stupid? I can't believe it. After all of the publicity in other cases like this, how can it happen?

Some of you will try to wax eloquent about how its societies fault, that we don't take care of single mothers. That's way, way, way beyond the simple fact that this is just totally unacceptable. The article tries to spin it in a way that makes you feel sorry for the mother, and this will destroy her. Well it probably will, and it should. Dammit, I'm sick and tired of people making excuses for people who do these sort of things. A child is dead because the mother made a completely negligent and irresponsible decision.


Thursday, September 26, 2002

Been a Longer Time

You'd have thought by now that this was dead, forgotten, and destined to join a multitude of other crap on the internet. Well, maybe the last one is right.

Everyone gets to all the fun topics before I do, and I can't think of anything new and witty to add. Maybe I need one of these to make it easy for me to type my thoughts when I am somewhere away from my computer. I love technology, and I already have a PDA. I'll probably need a newer one to take advantage of it though.

Remember playing "Freeze Tag" when you were a kid? I'm too old and slow to play now, but they have a mod out for Quake 3 that works the same way. Jump over to JunkPhreak and give it a try.

OK - Starting October 4th (the last day at my job), I will have more time to think about putting stuff up here for no one else but me to read. I should add a comments section, but I doubt it would do any good.

Friday, July 12, 2002

It's Been a Long Time

Well, almost a month since I last 'penned' anything here. Well this article has brought me out of my hibernation. Yet another case of a child being the victim of a brutal and inexplicable crime. He shit his pants, so he was beaten to death. Of course, it wasn't by his natural father - it was by his 'sitter'. The boyfriend of someone else not related to the child. Sad, sad, sad. Everyone who is directly responsible for this should be locked up forever.

Of course, one could argue that societal pressures to 'not judge' other people are also at fault. After all, people from the sort of backgrounds that these people are from are no more likely to do this than anyone else. Yeah right. I'm fed up with it.

Ahhh well, I'm just blathering incoherently. Maybe I'll come back to this when I'm not so disgusted.

James has his computer back from Dell, maybe he'll have something more interesting to say.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Father's Day Weekend Justice

Even though Father's Day is a Hallmark Holiday, invented to sell cards and gifts, there was a bit of justice served starting this weekend. You may have noticed in a previous post here that I talked about the parents that allowed their infant son to starve to death. Well, the father had his days in court, and he was found guilty on Friday. You'll notice that from the article that the boy starved over a period of 51 days before he died.

On this Father's Day, I was blessed to receiving love and attention from my two kids. I am so lucky to have them in my life, as those of you with children can understand. However, it even made it harder for me to understand how the parents of little Samuel did what they did. It leads back to the same question I asked earlier: What do you do with these kinds of people? James mentions a similar situation in one of his more recent blogs.

Right now I'm watching Star Trek Generations, on Sci-Fi channel. They are evacuating the engineering sectino to the saucer section. During the evacuation, they show children being evacuated as well. What kind of military organization would allow children on a star-ship, one that could be called into military action at any time? Make no sense to me. If I were there, I'd be more concerned about my children during an emergency than the ship. I'd be getting them to a shuttlecraft and getting them the heck out of there, ship be damned. Guess it's kind of selfish of me, but that's what I would do. The kids should be back at home, away from danger. They can get Starship experience on a Holodeck just as well on Earth.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

A Right to Stupidity

Every so often in a high-profile court case, someone decides to represent themselves instead of having 'professional' counsel. I'm talking about Moussaui of course.

My question is, what's the big deal? It's pretty sad in this day and age that court procedures and rules of evidence are so convoluted and complicated that a lay person with a brain can't defend themselves. The piles of court cases and legal mumbo-jumbo is what gave us Miranda in the first place. You shouldn't have the right to an attorney, because you shouldn't need one. Of course, many of the founding fathers thought that America would evolve into a country of educated farmers and businessmen, but with the continued dumbing-down of our educational system this isn't the case for many of the young skulls full of mush who attend 'publik skoolz'. So we're kind of stuck now unless we throw a lot of the rules out, and the lawyers lobby is far too powerful to allow that to happen.

With Moussaui, it shouldn't be a big deal. He still has the right to act as his own attorney, and it will save us a lot of money in his prosecution. He won't know how to draw things out in the courts for years like many of the slimy defense attorneys do, just hoping the victims and witnesses will tire of the case and not show up anymore.

Of course this isn't going to happen in this case, even if he had OJ's defense team. However, if he did, you and I would be paying for his defense. Sure, I know, innocent until proven guilty, and you can't try someone in the press - but isn't it sad that tax payer dollars paid for his lawyers up until now?

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Cheap Tech

Couple of things have happened recently that once again reminded me of just how inexpensive advanced technology is. Of course 'inexpensive' is a subjective term, but I think for what you get, computers (and parts) are incredibly affordable.

A client of mine that works out of his house tried to upgrade the memory in his system all by himself. Usually, this is not a hard thing to do, and even most beginners can do it if they take sufficient care and don't become impatient. However, it looks like he tried to jack-hammer the memory in and he cracked one of his memory slots. Ouch. Blew out his power supply as well. I have the computer up and running again on a single memory bank and a spare power supply I had laying around. When I was at his office diagnosing the problem, I told him that we would probably have to replace the motherboard, CPU, and memory. He has a Pentium III CPU, and you can't just find P3 motherboards as inexpensively as the newer ones supporting P4s and AMD chips. In fact, he could get an ECS K7S5A and Duron 950Mhz Processor for $92 before shipping. Add on an inexpensive CPU fan for $10, and $57 for 512MB of RAM and you have an almost completely new system for less than $200. I just looked at an ad for a local computer store for an 80GB hard drive for $89. Well, you're starting to get the picture. Computers have become throw-away appliances like VCRs and Stereo equipment. Cheaper to buy new than to get fixed or upgrade. Maybe James should just get a refund on his broken Dell and buy a newer, faster, and better system.

I just built myself a new computer and this makes me want to upgrade it. My youngest needs a new system as hers is becoming quite out-dated, maybe I can use these prices as an excuse.

Monday, June 03, 2002

I Just Don't Understand

I've seen a lot of terrible things in my life - the underbelly of humanity if you will, but I still cannot fathom how people can do the things they do to children. I came across this article. Made me sick to my stomach. How can you ignore the screams of your own child for so long? How could you let this happen? The article talks about the religious beliefs of the people being one of the causes. In my opinion, people who do these things in the name of their beliefs are weak-minded, if it wasn't religion, it would be something else. They have to be insane, totally insane.

One of the pillars this country was built on was religious freedom (not just freedom from religion, as some would have you believe), and I strongly support that basic right. Also, you should be able to raise your children in the way you believe best, or according to your religious beliefs. However, a line has to be draw somewhere - though who decides where the limitations are is one thing that is difficult to frame. It doesn't "take a village" to raise a child, no matter who would have you believe that, and I in no way trust government bureaucrats at any level (local, state, or federal) to make the best decision on a child's future. So what do we do? How do we stop things like what happened in Massachusetts without trampling over a persons liberty and freedoms? A hard question indeed.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Worker's Revolution

No, I'm not talking about the failed Communist movement or even Socialism, both of which have been shown to be failures - but that's a whole other story. What I'm talking about is the over-worked American worker. Downsizing by companies has the effect of separating the wheat from the chaff, but at a certain point you're throwing perfectly good wheat away.

They fired someone at work yesterday. Probably the best thing for the company and for the fired person. It however further affirmed something I have been noticing lately, especially in the IT sector. People are fed up. 60-70 hour weeks are no longer unusual, leaving people little time to have away from work, and it seems on the surface that they are working so hard and gaining so little from it. Sure, they can have four or five TVs in the house, three cars in the garage, and all kinds of material things - but there is a lack of 'life enjoyment'. I've noticed more and more people getting pissed off and leaving for other employment, or working for themselves. A scary prospect, not having that employer 'net' that gives you that paycheck every week or two. However, we need to support our extravagent lifestyles.

Now you might think that I am saying there is something wrong with material gain. There isn't - however I think the mental price people are paying to have all their 'stuff' is too high. I say that, yet I am sitting in a room in my house with 4 computers - one for each member of the family. You think that would be enough, yet I still want more. I have so much stuff I never touch, so why would I want to add to it?

I don't. In fact, I stopped buying a lot of the things I would want in the past, knowing that it would only end up in some box in the basement never to see the light of day again. But I digress...

Anyway, I see a slow movement away from the 60+ hour weeks and back to the 40 hour weeks. Away from the high-pressure but high-paying jobs back to something more sane. I've made that decision myself. Money will be secondary to having a job that is more fun and having less responsibilites. Well, maybe not less responsibility, but allowing me to have a life outside of work where I don't think about it when I'm not there.

So, if you are one of those people who work 12+ hour days and never see a weekend free, think about why you are doing what you are doing. Is it really worth the effort? Do you really think that you are going to get rich by working for someone else? Probably not. You have to take that chance and strike out on your own if you want to make it big and are willing to put in the hours. Otherwise you are just letting your current employer take advantage of you, and they would drop you like a hot potato if it would raise the company stock prices.

Sunday, May 26, 2002

A Face Only A Mother Could Love

Was surfing around my usual pages, and come across this news article about Facial Recognition. Very interesting technology. In fact, my company sells digital photo identification systems to Law Enforcement organizations. There is quite a few people worried about the 'Big Brother' aspect of this technology. In fact, I agree with them in principle, but the technology is very inaccurate.

Our senior programmer, in reaction to our competition adding facial recognition to their products, did quite a bit of research into adding it to ours. This programmer is a true wizard, very strong background in mathematics, and I've always found his cognitive and logic skills without equal. He put quite a few hours into trying to create an accurate system, one even better than the current crop of systems. He even developed a mathematical formula that could be used to break a person's features down into a unique number.

Problem is, it wasn't very accurate. In fact it was so bad that he didn't even bother to add it to the main product. Didn't meet his standards of quality. Now before you go saying that maybe his standards are too high, think about the logic of facial recognition. You take a normally clear "mugshot" and compare it to some fuzzy black and white photograph through some crappy convenience store or bank video camera. They don't even come close. OK - Lets say best case scenario, you take a super-high quality high-resolution camera and place it with perfect lighting to catch people as they walk by. The camera even has the ability to instantly focus correctly based on distance to the target. You had better hope that everyone looks at the camera straight on if you want any semblance of accuracy.

Now the media jumps all over this technology as if it is perfected. Well, we all know about how accurate the media is. I mean they are always careful to check their facts and do sufficient research on something before they publish a story, right? Ha. I've still got that bridge to sell you if you believe that. I believe there is one high-profile story in the UK where it has worked, but the problem is its impossible to know how many times it has failed. Since if you can't identify the person, you don't know if they got away. Yet there will be millions spent on this technology by Government, until someone finally admits its just not good enough. Sort of like speech recognition software. In fact, this article speaks about just how bad the technology is. Note that it states that different facial expressions can fool the software.

So, I wouldn't worry about it if I was wanted for a crime, but I don't like the idea of cameras left on and recording the general public's activities. The investment needed and man-hours required for cameras to provide real security is huge compared to the results you will get. Usually its lazy Law Enforcement practices that let the bad guys get away with what they are doing. I should know, being a former Police Officer myself. To get really controversial, the big hoopla about racial profiling going on now doesn't help either. Oh boy, now I'm going to be labeled as a racial bigot and intolerant, yet this is the farthest thing from the truth when it comes to a person's national origin. To me, actions and other non-racial indicators are more accurate and effective in determining criminal intent.

Anyway, I don't want some bureaucrat or politician using my or anyone else's private actions as something to hold over our heads. We have little enough privacy as it is. This just makes it even more intolerable.

Friday, May 24, 2002

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom....

Tick-tock, Tick-tock. A time bomb at work. Waiting to explode. Everybody is quitting, it's pretty sad. Such potential wasted. The president of the company finally sees what is going on, but he's not making drastic enough steps. The vice president wants to sit down and talk with me before I leave. Well, I have decided to not hold back, since I found out that he dislikes the CFO as much as everyone else.

Enough whining from this lemming, and off to the good stuff. OK - Maybe geeky stuff.

I ordered a couple of fans from MaxCooler for my overheating computer. A high speed Delta Fan. Sounds like an aircraft engine, the wife hates it. But I can feel the air blowing out of the front of the case, even though the fan is in the rear. Also, the fan when I bought it was rated at 68.5CFM, but now they list it at 80.16CFM. Muahahahaha! Feel the power. Now of course, I have to keep my music turned up to cover the noise, or wear headphones. Picked them up at the Radio Shack outlet store here in Columbus for $24.99 - They are normally $49.99 - We're dealin'! (The outlet store is next to Ricart Automotive, one of my company's clients.) Lots of neat discount stuff, at the outlet store it is the price it should be.

Installed RedHat Linux 7.3 on my laptop. A dual boot system with Windows 2K on the other partition. Works like a charm. People ask me about XP. In my opinion, its a mistake. It's just 2000 with better backwards compatibility with games, and the of course annoying registration function. I'll stick with Windows 2000 Professional for a long time, and will probably end up on Linux completely if Microsoft sticks with their current subscription model.

Anyway, now the kids are playing on Linux on my computers, my oldest, being 6.5 years old, can log in from the console prompt. Just like her Dad, she'll rule the world someday through computers. Its sad, a family of 4 with 4 computers. Mine being my new notebook system, though I'm typing this on my custom built system that my eldest now uses.

Pretty pathetic, eh? Well, the wife both hates it and likes it. She hates it because I am on the computer all the time, but likes it because I don't demand as much sex anymore since I am distracted. Not that she'd give it up anymore. I have to look into this female viagra.

Friday, May 17, 2002

He's Baaaaaack

Wow. 13 days since I last 'penned' anything here, and a lot has happened. Had a job interview today, went well. Told my employer I was seeking other employment a week or so ago. They took it well. Asked me to give 4 weeks notice if possible, due to the fact that I am a key person in almost all facets of the business.

Enough about me.

In a related note, looks like the technology industry is back on the rise again. If you know me in person, I've been predicting a rise in technology business either late this year or early next year. It appears I am right on target. How did I know? Well, it's like this, IT 'stuff' has a shelf life of about 2 years. Once it starts getting that old, its time to replace it - unless you bought 'bleeding edge' stuff to start with. Usually its just worn out, or its so out of date that newer stuff can be had that does the same job that takes up 10% of the space, costs 25% as much and runs 1000% faster. Also has more features and is probably a lot more stable.

The tech boom of the 90's was not due to the 'dot-coms', though they did contribute to it. It was the trillions of dollars that were spent around the globe on Y2K. Even the dot-coms had to spend money on Y2K upgrades. The 'dot-com' money was a drop in the bucket compared to Y2K budgets. It was as if the floodgates had opened for IT managers, and they found themselves with huge budgets to deal with Y2K. Not missing an opportunity, as they were used to being the poor stepchildren of the company when it came to handing out purchasing money, they bought, and they bought, and they bought. Bleeding edge stuff. Stuff that would only be used at 5-10% of its capacity. Routers, switches, servers, new PCs, you name it. Easier to replace with Y2K compliant items than to fix the old crap, that was their mantra.

It worked. No Y2K nastiness. However, they found themselves with a lot of equipment and a fleet of PCs that were hardly used. Now 3 years later, the stuff is old, especially the PCs. 1999 was the era of the 200-300Mhz systems. Those just won't cut it anymore. Its time to replace. So watch for the Computer OEMs to start having good profits again. I wish I had money for some stock.

Saturday, May 04, 2002

Party Time!

Talked to a friend today on MSN messenger. Handy little program. Makes communications instant and un-intrusive. Anyway, looks like he has a job spot for me. Looks pretty good. I feel a lot better about things now. Funny how something like this can make things so much easier.

Going to a local Restaurant/Sports Bar tonight to watch the NASCAR race. OK you lemmings, stop chuckling. I know you think that NASCAR is for uneducated inbred rednecks, but it appeals to a wide audience. I appreciate the engineering that goes into it, and even though it looks like they are just going round and round in circles, it takes quite a bit of skill to keep those cars from wrecking into one another at speeds close to 200 mph. I mean just try to image going that speed even around your city's outerbelt (sans traffic). Now put a bunch of cars out there with you, all trying to go just as fast, some a few inches in front, a few inches behind, even bumping you from side to side, and on either side of you going into turns.

You might think you're a hot-shot driver, but its not a easy as you think. I know, I've been in a car doing 110 mph down a street on a Sunday afternoon.

Friday, May 03, 2002

Now on to Geekdom

OK Lemmings, its time to get down and dirty. I wanted a pretty decent notebook computer to haul around and do work on. I can use it when doing security and network analysis tasks. So I bought a Netlux 7321.

Can't beat it for the price. Got Windows 2000 loaded up and all my tools. Then I went to install RedHat Linux 7.2 so that with a dual-boot system I could have maximum flexibility for software selection.

Damn thing runs Windows like a champ, but Linux won't stay running for more than 15 minutes.

It was heat.

Turns out the Linux doesn't support ACPI correctly so that the power can be turned down on the CPU when it gets too hot. Therefore we have all sorts of kernel panics and the like. Too bad. I have half of the hard drive reserved for linux. Going to have to wait until the next distro release and hope they get ACPI working better...

Thursday, May 02, 2002

It's Deja Dot-Com..

If you've even read this, and I know no one else has, you know I've been complaining about work. So have my other tech-co-workers. I've even seen some grousing from the sales people. Well, if you had the CFO from hell, you would too.

So anyway, we have this mandatory meeting to discuss a new opportunity for the company. All of us tech-heads about fell out of our chairs when they told us they were in effect bringing in a consulting company to sit with us while we do our jobs and help us do it even better. How insulting. You see, they think we do a shitty job, even though we do get praised from time to time. Problem is, all the guys I work with do a hell of a job, and put forth 110% effort on behalf of the customer. Management talks about how they want to do what the market tells them, but the problem is that you get so bogged down in paperwork, you end up taking too long to get the job fixed. If you just do the job and help the customer out, you get bitched at because we aren't getting paid for that type of service. Its a lose-lose proposition. Now they are going to baby-sit us. Just farking amazing. Money is always so tight, yet they waste it on headhunters and consultants. What a joke. Oh, and yes, we have those Airon chairs.

So now all the tech guys are looking for jobs. One of them said to me, "If they wanted to get rid of us, why didn't they just tell us." The sad thing is that management doesn't understand how insulting what they are doing is to all of us in the tech-side of the business.

I can't wait until May 31st. Either I find a new job by then, or I'm giving my notice and doing consulting.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Yes, this is still here. Why are you looking?

Oh look. I didn't fall off of the cliff. Neither did you. It's been a few days, and of course work rears its ugly head and gets in the way of pure recreation. After all, who wants to type inane stuff into a heap of plastic, silicon, and metal when there's so much other stuff to do, like watch Mortal Kombat on TBS.

What a sorry movie. Bad acting, bad costumes. Bad everything. Goro looked way too skinny and oh-so fake. Why am I watching it? Maybe because I have the ultimate in sensory overload. Surfing the web while watching Cable TV on my PC. Hopefully I can multitask.

Rayden is still cool.

Sunday, April 28, 2002

Learned a valuable lession yesterday

I had updated this blog for all you lemmings. A long spiel about how people avoid confrontation, even in games. But it never posted. A bunch of typing for nothing. Well, I can be pretty safe in assuming I am the only one reading this, so you know what I said.

I finished my resume today. I am applying for a new job soon. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, April 26, 2002

Hey look, its the next day and I remembered this is here. The cliff isn't too far ahead, so I don't know how long this will go on. So, what do you do with a 'blog' anyway? Most of the ones I have seen are very political as far as content goes. You know, everyone spewing their opinion, ignoring the fact that most people who would read blogs are set in their ways and aren't subject to changing their minds on any issues. James hasn't updated his much in the past week or so. Probably busy at work or with something else that is more constructive.

Speaking of work, I have to do something about my job. It is just no fun anymore. I have set a goal for myself that I am giving notice by the end of May. I'm just too unhappy. Maybe this goal will get my off my behind and motivate me to find another job I will learn to loathe in a few years.

It's the business cycle, right?