Archive for December, 2005

Server back up…

Friday, December 30th, 2005

Damn I’m good 😉

Server power supply failure

Friday, December 30th, 2005

Expect slowness when viewing the blog or any other part of the site as well as some missing files. I’m running the web server on a backup backup machine (yes, the backup of the backup machine).

Anyway, things should be back to normal in a few – right after I get a power supply. Hopefully no other damage was done to the machine. If so, that’ll make my two fastest machines both gimped out (and not in a GNU Image Manipulation Program sort of way either).

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Dean Garfield of MPAA interviewed

Friday, December 30th, 2005

Article here.

Mr. Garfield, you can sic attorneys on every visible open source P2P author, and all that will happen is you will drive people underground – and you don’t need much of an underground to write all the software that anyone could ever use. You aren’t going to manage to stop the production of open source P2P software.

Perhaps you’d like to look at Microsoft, Mr. Garfield. Microsoft has greater annual revenues than all your member studios put together. Microsoft has clout.

Microsoft wasn’t able to quash open source development, despite spending an awful lot of money and effort on it, Mr. Garfield. I’m going to give you very slim chances of succeeding where they failed.

What are you going to try? PR? Microsoft did that. They called Linux a virus. They said it exposed users to liability. They said that it was insecure, and that it was communist, Mr. Garfield. It didn’t work.

How about legislation? Maybe, if you’re really lucky, you can manage to pay enough legislators to vote in laws criminalizing the production of software that is used to cause greater than some degree of purported damages. I don’t think that you can manage that – you’d face opposition from a lot of tech types, and a number of legislators have noticed that people don’t like stories in the newspaper about nine-year-old girls being sued for thousands of dollars. But let’s say that, despite all that, you manage it. There are a lot of open source programmers overseas, Mr. Garfield, and software does not understand national boundaries. The US government made export of encryption code illegal due to national security concerns for a long time. What happened? Encryption development and distribution continued, from overseas. It didn’t do any good. You can’t quash software development.

You going to try to track down all the people copying software and music and movies down? Mr. Garfield, one of the primary functions of a computer is to reproduce and distribute data quickly and accurately. There is *huge* demand for this, demand which far exceeds and outweighs any demand for entertainment. They have a device which does exactly what you don’t want. There are too many people that want to be able to copy around movies for this to work.

How about a technical solution, Mr. Garfield? You spent plenty of effort trying to lock up DVDs – that didn’t work (you excluded Linux from your supported platforms, which was pretty stupid and put a lot of very smart Linux-using techies and crypto types to work on the problem, but even if you hadn’t, it wouldn’t have lasted long). You want to try again? Well, there are a lot of security types who would love to take your money and can guarantee you the moon, but it isn’t going to happen.

You want to try keeping digital data from becoming analog? Good luck.

You want to try keeping analog data from becoming digital? This is a new, interesting one. You’re now trying to plug a hole that requires one person with one analog-to-digital encoding device somewhere in the world per movie. It makes no more sense than trying to use CSS to keep people from getting at DVD content. It’s just not a feasible approach.

I know that this is a really appalling concept, and one that you probably don’t want to entertain. But it is possible – just possible – that your only solution is to reduce costs to where the convenience and guaranteed quality of buying your product from you outweighs the inconvenience of pirating. That means that you have to trim all your excess fat. That means that maybe you can’t spend hundreds of millions of dollars producing and marketing a movie. Maybe you can’t have actors that get tens of millions of dollars for every work. Maybe you need to use CG, and can’t afford to recompense people for the economic damage caused by shutting down parts of New York to do filming and so forth. Maybe you can’t hire people to write custom CG software for every movie you put out.

Maybe you have to make your product a commodity. You’d have to be a lot less wasteful, and it wouldn’t be fun, but maybe you have to do it.

See, nobody steals Consumer Reports’s content. Consumer Reports is a profitable website. The reason that they are profitable is because they keep their costs low and sell an inexpensive product to a very large number of people. They don’t buy masses of ads, like you do. People go to Consumer Reports instead of reading some pirated copy of their content because their price makes them worthwhile.

Now, your member studios have a huge collection of movies. It doesn’t cost you anything to have those movies around, and it would take years for the public to watch through simply the existing movies. You could have an annual fee, and let people simply download movies from you. If you can cover the bandwidth costs (not much), everything beyond that is pure profit.

Look at Clerks. Clerks is an extreme example, true, but lets look at it. Clerks was made with what isn’t even a rounding error on one of your movie-making budgets. It didn’t have cars being blown up or military consultants, and instead of shutting down Macy’s on Christmas to do the filming, it got filmed in a convenience store somewhere. But it was a damn good movie. You could sell that movie for almost nothing and make money.

What about a budget of ten times Clerks? Could you work with that?

New Windows flaw exploit in the wild

Thursday, December 29th, 2005

The new exploit is a vulnerability in the way Windows computers process certain image files (Windows Meta Files, or those ending in .wmf)

The exploit is designed to download and run files of the exploiter’s choice. This includes files that can basically turn a Windows machine into a botnet zombie.

Unregister the dll that provides WMF viewing. Click Start, Run, and enter this:

REGSVR32 /U SHIMGVW.DLL

Do so at your OWN RISK, of course as it will disable some image viewing functionality in Windows. If you find that you’d rather risk it and you want to undo the above registry command, just click Start, Run, and enter this:

REGSVR32 SHIMGVW.DLL

Linux “harder to use”?

Thursday, December 29th, 2005

Odd thing, for some reason a lot more people then a few percent seemed to be able to work with Linux long before Windows ever made an appearance. Of course they called it Unix in those days but what’s in a name?

Earlier computer systems were even more primitive and being operated NOT by MIT graduates but by a girl promoted from the typing pool. For that matter how do you think the earliest word processors and such worked? Point and click? Nor were they being used by harvard graduates. Just girls with barely a diploma in home economics.

Nah, Linux is easy. It is just called hard by the amazingly lazy who do not want to be bothered having to relearn their leet button clicking skills. Remember – anyone can click double click an executable file and hit a “Next” button.

In the real world, people have used all kinds of systems and continue to do so – Windows, Mac OS, Linux, BSD, Unix, etc. You would be suprised how many companies still run their essential software via ancient telnet terminals that make you wish you were running DOS (oh okay maybe not DOS).

Here is a tip for succesful management of your employees. Do not hire people with skills if office package X (and that includes OpenOffice) is all they know. Hire people with an average intelligence and tell them I pay your wages, I choose the software, here is a manual. Any person with a IQ above room temperature will get the hint.

Corporations could be considered psychopaths

Wednesday, December 28th, 2005

The reason being that the vast majority of corporations would be classified as criminal psychopaths if they were human beings. There is even a big documentary/movie on this point.

I’ve seen people let go where I work as soon as they turn in their resignation. Any organisation that’s going to be afraid of what their employee is going to do once they’ve decided to leave, and who is still under an employment contract has real problems. If you can’t trust the people you employ when they’re obligated to you, why can you trust them to stay when they haven’t handed in their resignation?

I’ve never been locked out of a computer system or kept from doing my job just because I resigned. They’ve gotten every day’s work out of me that they could – it was expected that I remain professional.

Honestly if someone’s going to do damage to a company they’d just do it before they send their letter of resignation. If you can’t trust your staff under the usual safeguards once they say they’re leaving, you don’t have a decent security policy to speak of anyway.

Access should be terminated on the last day of employment.

There are no reciprocal guarantees, and in the IT field it is more typical than not for you to be treated nearly as if you were a criminal.

Systems you once managed for your employers now are at risk. Former peers are now potential spies. Do not be surprised to be treated like you have some sort of exotic, deadly, contagious disease. Don’t expect anything for references other than affirmation you actually did work there.

This is the fine world of trust we have achieved as a civilized and evolved society. Trust not.

I will still always give professional courtesy (e.g., sufficient lead time for resignation) but I’m ready to leave the corporate world with a sour aftertaste. It sucks, that’s just the way it is.

I don’t think it’s anything personal. It’s just the way some businesses nowadays prefer to operate. I think it’s a mistaken attempt at managing risk. Think about it – would a guy who wants to screw you over give two weeks notice? No, they’d do you dirt and take off with no notice.

MPAA and RIAA – are people really scared?

Tuesday, December 27th, 2005

It is one of those things that most people don’t feel like it is a crime and there is nothing MPAA and RIAA can do. No amount of lawsuits, no amount of sappy ads before every movie in the theatres showing poor set designers that are now starving because those pirates stole the bread from their kid’s table, is going to change that. Because people don’t think it is such a big crime to share and download mp3 files and movies.

I am not saying whether it is good or bad, or that it is right to download music from P2P without paying for it – all I am saying is that most people don’t see it as such a bad thing. As it turns out the order and peace and quiet in a most societies is not kept by police or any forceful tactics, but by the fact that the majority of the citizens like it that way. For example if tomorrow morning everyone got it into their heads that pillaging, vandalism, looting and killing each other is perfectly “ok” there will not be enough police or lawyers or soldiers to stop everyone acting in that manner.

I think the same goes for illegal file sharing, the majority of people don’t see it as a particularly bad thing and they will continue to do it. In fact what people finally see is how Sony/BMG, Universal, EMI and friends have been screwing everyone all these years by selling crappy music for $15-$20 a disk. The artists weren’t getting the money – it was all going into building vacation homes and buying Ferrari’s for the executives of those production companies.

Now someone might say that the laws in our supposedly democratic society clearly reflect the attitudes and the will of the majority of people, so how come downloading is still illegal. I think it is because the laws today are created by those who have large amounts of accumulated wealth and can sponsor and lobby the Congress to make it pass whatever they want. Also, when is the last time any of us contacted our local Congressman and petitioned him for anything?

I think the best the recording companies can do is to bite the bullet and re-structure their business accepting that the old days when they could make billions by selling overpriced crap are coming to an end.

Chad’s Tech Support…my sister’s PC

Monday, December 26th, 2005

So here I am on a Friday night fixing my sister’s PC. Win98 installed with a 333MHz Celeron and a whopping 32MB of RAM. Spyware and Adware everyfreakingwhere. I had to disable right around 15 startup options in msconfig and one was quite persistant so I had to do some registry edits. Fun stuff.

So now on goes Ad-Aware SE, Firefox 1.5, and OpenOffice 2.0. I also deleted the shortcuts to Internet Exploiter because it had a couple of “toolbars” installed that crippled the system to a halt. How the hell do people get conned into running this garbage…never mind…stupid question.

I’m writing this as Ad-Aware SE does it’s thing – so far, 472 “New Critical Objects” found. Broken down, it’s 1 Module Identified, 236 Registry Keys ID’d, 135 Registry Values, 98 Files ID’d, and 2 Folders ID’d. Nice. This box has been seriously pwned by stupidity.

Screenshot here.

Dear Santa,

Monday, December 26th, 2005

Quote of the week: December 26th

Monday, December 26th, 2005

The management game: ride someone down and, when they begin snapping, require that they seek EAP counseling. Deny.