Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Thecurity, Thecurity, Thecurity.....

Mostly looking at security offerings and trends today, nothing really wild or surprising in my observations so far, security really isnt my field.. I try to know a little about it but everytime I do deeper reading on the mechanics of the IT security industry I feel like I'm about to step into a huge abyssal chasm. As a result I rely on my subject matter geeks!

First up is a good article over on zdnet's blogs by Ryan Naraine. A lot of people are complaining about UAC verging on nagware in it's invasive questions, despite the fact they're expected to protect us from ourselves installing things that we dont understand the behaviour on. The piece that made me want to blog about this was in the observation of what hackers and ISV's actually specfically code for. Previously they've all coded for the full admin world-o-fun offered by Windows XP, now because UAC forces users to run within the realms of standard admin rights and be prompted for any elevated permissions. Now in a Vista world they'll code for that environment. This quote from the article from Mark Russinovich hits the spot:

"The malware author will say, 'I can live in a Vista world without needing to take over the entire box'. They will end up thriving in the standard user environment, setting up botnets, grabbing your keystrokes"

It comes back to what UAC was designed to actually do, it's not supposed to be a massive barrier system, or a firewalling like solution that protects users.. it's damage control, it's limiting the level of exposure users have by saving them from themselves.

And dont think MAC users can be smug.. your day has come.. Apple have long escaped the eyes of malware writers and hackers not due to the operating system's security levels, but due to social and business aspects. If you're going to hack something, write some malware for something or generally deliver a virus you're the kind of person looking to cause disruption.. and upsetting a large number of students, art house jazz fans, hippies and graphic designers doesnt go down as a great gesture.. but bringing down a major merchant bank or a a retail chain is.. oh wait... they dont run anything Apple.. if that's the piqued your interest look at how Dino Dai Zovi successfully hijacked a MacBook Pro in this article.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Why are female bass players in bands always really hot?

The Tyranny of Wombles

This wont make any sense to anybody overseas, but I had to explain this to a friend this morning and realised how stupid it sounded, so I've decided to ridicule myself yet further by blogging it.. all part of my ongoing mission towards self destruction!
When I was little (about 9ish I think) I was affraid of the Wombles. A Children's tv program that features small furry mammals. According to the shows theme tune lived overground, underground "wombling free", somewhere in the general vicinity of Wimbledon Common in London. Having seen the show, and having visited Wimbledon common a number of times and comparing the height of them compared to park benches I'd figured out they were about one and a half to two feet high. I'd also figured out they must somehow be related to badgers (cant remember how I got there). One bit always concerned me.. you never saw any, there was no wildlife program about wombles.. no David Attenburgh squatting next to a womble hole waiting for Uncle Bulgaria to come wombling out looking for scraps.. or dead wombles at the side of the road after being swatted by a large truck. From this I concluded that wombles were in fact, the masters of stealth, and indestructable.Then the whole scandal kicked off in later years about parts of a super gun being found at dover for shipping to one "S Hussain, Iraq". Of course the government detained all the bits, and the makers were sought for stern questioning.
Personally I think they missed out the Wombles, and that they're actually the arms merchants behind terrorist organisations and Sadam's regime of doom.. "making good use of the things that they find..." the song goes.. bloody arms to Iraq that's what it was... deep beneath wimbledon common biological weapons of terrifying magnitude are being crafted.. and they go and make a childrens tv program about them!!

Womble "Stepney" puts the finishing touches on a new anti-personnel mine layer
When I was little I was scared of wombles... the world should be too!

The Liver is evil... it must be killed...

I seem to be developing a wine habit.. coupled with my coffee habit I'm not sure if I'm just balancing out the evil which is caffeine with the good stuff that is red wine. Either way I'm probably charging head long to my first heart attack, at least I gave up the nicotene... mmmm nicotene.. tiny white sticks of satin textured joy. Come to think of it I've had my most brilliant moments induced chemically by coffee and tar. The coffee is at least socially acceptable though so fear not folks I will not be returning to the smokes!

The weekend was pretty good, numerous birthday celebrations at wallet crushing level (curse the fact I have taste!), but for the first time in a long time I actually find myself with a genuine social life.. usually it just bleeds into work and it becomes this congealed mess of answering email from a sofa in a lounge bar somewhere (deeply confusing when you're also jet lagged, outlook should have drunk mailling filters!). Amongst the various activities of last weekend I took my friend from Oiiirrrrrrrrissssssh land up to Mout Rainier, which was closed. Yep, still rotten conditions so the roads are all closed off, so we ended up at the bottom of Crystal Mountain with me grumbling that I wasnt snowboarding and that the conditions were actually really nice, and it was the last day of the season. So I was really fed up and grumpy.. until I started snickering uncontrollably at the huge sign that said "Ride Crystal", which is a bit of an in joke but trust me, extremely funny!

Anyway, hurrah for socialness.. this weekend will involve being thrashed at pool, sucking at X360 and probably yet more wine!

This week will be busy, several of my bosses are in town for an event in Seattle which means frequent unpleasant commutes and almost zero time spent with my new girl.

Oh well, first business of the day.... more coffee!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sour Apple users... whinging and moaning...

Apple users really are a shallow fickle lot.. well not all of them, just the ones who seem to think that all this boils down to Apple vs Microsoft (they're good at different things.. challenge anyone of you to a race to find an icon, or a file or anything faster than me using Windows Vista with the Apple Toys R' US OS).

Latest thing is a whole tirade of people whinging at Adobe... Photoshop CS3 is out the gate and obviously marvellous like all previous versions of Photoshop. And what do you think people have found wrong with it for the Apple.. is it that somehow it's slower than on Windows Vista (nope, probably no different), is it maybe that the Windows version had more features (nope, if anything a feature rich version would more likely debut on a Mac, home of design geeks everywhere). No, it's none of these.. so what near war crime like horrors and attrocities have Adobe committed with their latest incarnation...

... drum roll...

... prepare for the horror...

... they...... moved the palette close button from the left hand side, to the right hand side...

oh god the horror! my eyes!!! It'll be on CNN later with some guy looking battered and war torn in some design office where a Mac user become so confused they went on a killing spree and then hung themselves.

A lot of people are complaining about the consolidation of the interface into something familiar to Windows users as well as the Mac. To be honest, my various encounters with the Apple OS (I do have a MacMini) havent necessarily been bad, just awkward. I spend 90% of my working life, like most peolpe in front of a Windows machine, whether I like that or not isnt the issue, the point is it's familiarity.. so I'm not going to say it's necessarily a bad thing when some minor interface changes happen over at Apple that make it more obvious to Windows users...

Sheesh, you might even win a few more Windows users over simply because it was familiar..

Well, full article on the UI issue can be found over here..

Big fat media convergence IT orgy....

My usual morning trawl of headlines has been surprisingly consistent with the subject of news this morning. It appears that either yesterday or today pretty much everybody got into bed with everybody else, offered their services through somebody elses services and ultimately it's all beginning to congeal into some big media mess where we'll all get confused about where we go to get our digital services from.. and you just know that's going to be irritating. Apple are busy working on a true Media Center to possibly compete either with Windows Media Center or even the soon to be released Windows Media Home Server.

One of the biggest is the CBS anouncement to offer it's services through Joost, MSN and AOL, full article is provided here. So, soon you'll be able to use your Windows Live (MSN) logon to watch tv, get your shows from CBS etc.

Larry Dignan, over at ZDNet's blogs gives some views and opinions on Google's own acquisition strategy as focussing more towards mobile services and small media services, which is interesting, but with Microsoft already going after TV wouldnt that rather leave Google in the shadow of a much bigger media empire? Look at Comcast for example, they just swallowed up Fandango and plan to offer all of Fandango's media and services through a new special service called Fancast.

So.. it's all congealing and converging. I think we're approaching the point where hopefully I won't need my multiple media devices in my home (psychotically my excuse is laziness and convenience). Right now I have a Comcast box, coupled to my TV, with my X360 as my media extender, which gets it's content from the PC, but the PC has to republish the iTunes library every morning at 1am so that I can get my iTunes content through Windows Media Center, and ultimately have it appear on TV. The whole thing is like the first Enterprise in Star Trek, very clever, very useful, but ultimately held together with spit and twigs with a fat scottish person screaming "it cant be done.. the Codec cant take it!" every time I try and get a HD movie in iTunes to play through the X360!

So this messy future, after all the companies have finished consuming each other and agreeing to deliver services and messing about, it's all going to be much more straightforward for me.. will it be fair? Nope. Will it work properly? Nope - you just know there'll be this massive split down the middle with Apple, Google and YouTube on one side, and Microsoft, Joost and various TV networks on the other. As long as they can share content and talk I'm happy, anything to stop me having to put yet another media device in my lounge!

Ideally I'd like my Windows Media Center as the portal to everything, YouTube, Joost, whatever. I know, Apple addicts going to be screaming at how much better the Apple Media Center will be. It won't - it'll be another tiny white/silver/black shiny box with a teeny remote which I'll keep losing and with a click heavy interface which treats me like I'm a 4yr old. Sorry that AppleTV interface by Fisher Price is hell when you have thousands of artists to choose from, and I dont want a keyboard in the lounge. I'm not anti Mac, I like the G5, the iPod is now part of my life and the MacMini works just great as my kitchen media and browser.

So.. my world = Windows Media Center + Google + TV & Radio

You may scoff, but I want a simple world with access to all of my media, web or otherwise, in an easy way, from one place. so, all this convergence might be a good thing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Taxes, forms and more forms..

I hate government forms, I mean really really hate them. It's all I seem to have been doing this year, between filling out immigration forms, social security forms, banking, and now I've had to do my US taxes. This is the first time I've ever had to do taxes.. And now I have to do them in two countries!?

So.. Today has mostly been a case of sitting and answering questions like "if you live near a river but are not blind, and once met somebody called Simon on a bus…".

Oh and I'm hungry, and my head feels fluffy.. I forgot to eat anything yesterday and then ended up at 10:30 dropping three martini's into my stomach with friends.. It all seemed fine and then it kinda hit me at once when my stomach realised that the Martini wasn’t in fact food, and didn’t offer any nutritional value.

Right, enough rambling.. It's not going well. I hate taxes, and one of my closest work colleagues was laid off about 3 hours ago, which came as a shock, both to him and me as I had no idea!

I still haven't made my mind up about the pc either..