Bloodhound – Today I learned that “Bone” as used in Network Monitor, means “Bloodhound Oriented Network Entity”, and it is used to alert the rest of the network to of a copy of Netmon sniffing the network in promiscuous mode (so that hackers can’t use Netmon as a hacking tool without being discovered). Luckily, the Network Monitor 2.0 that comes with SMS works just fine on Windows XP Professional, and the February Platform SDK has code samples.
Today’s speech by the President was a great defense of plurality and tolerance. We even tolerate pacifism here. It was no mistake that the Governor of the first pacifist settlement in America was chosen to head the new “Office of Homeland Security”. Thousands of innocent humans were murdered by a determined network of hateful people. Instead of waging war on the “war against terrorists”, pacifists have the option of preserving the peace at home. And instead of spending time criticizing the beliefs of those who hunt down the terrorists, pacifists can use their talents to combat the flawed beliefs and propaganda used by power-hungry demagogues to motivate the terrorists in the first place.
Worms Among Us – Why do we still have computer worms? And why does it take so long to get rid of them? It’s not my job, so I’ve been assuming that someone would take care of the problem. But that seems to be wishful thinking.
Why wouldn’t the following work:
- Write a netmon extension that passively monitors traffic on the network, looking for patterns (signatures that could be updated quickly in the wake of an attack).
- Keep a list of machines that have been detected as scanning or probing suspiciously.
- Automatically add these machines to the blocked addresses list on the machine.
- Make the list available to others who can use it to block addresses.
- Perhaps pass the list on to routers or switches that are equipped to block these ports (we do something similar with the recent UPnP agreements with router vendors for allowing gaming traffic to get through firewalls).
Coding the filter is simple but tedious; figuring out the best way to share the blacklist is obviously something that would take thought. Anyway, this seems like such an obvious solution; maybe it has already been implemented and I am missing something? If it’s been implemented, why don’t companies use it?
Other news; I am not sure how much weight to place om the rumors, but I’ve heard rumors that future versions of Windows will ship without a web server installed by default.
Assembly Hell – Chris asked about the “Assembly Hell” mention the other day. I don’t know for certain, but I assume that the author of the e-mail was making a reference to “DLL Hell”. This is the affectionate name that has been given to the problems people have with conflicting versions of DLLs. Assemblies are one of the things that will supposedly save us from DLL hell. Unfortunately, I am still pretty confused by all of the different technologies involved in dealing with code library compatibility. Some of the terms cropping up are:
- Fusion Manifest
- Assembly Manifest
- Side-by-side (SxS)
- Strong Name
- Primary Interop Assembly
- Global Assembly Cache (GAC)
There are lots of things that require digital signatures and version checks now. I waste a lot of time these days trying to form a coherent picture of how all of this stuff works. I will put together some notes here when I figure it all out.
This news about news is priceless. Newspapers are complaining that they will be running out of money due to the WTC bombing — because they had to waste too much effort and space printing news instead of printing ads! This is from news media who are still having trouble with the most basic of facts, confusing Afghanistan with the Middle East or the Taliban with Arabs. Watching the coverage, it is clear that these “reporters” are in way over their heads when it comes to bona fide reporting. Just letting the pools of “shared” reporters from these mega-merged media houses do their jobs is better than any misinformation campaign that the Department of Defense could dream up.
Lots of people are worried about the economy. What’s the worst that could happen? Imagine the headline, “Nasdaq loses 6,000; Dow de-listed from NYSE.”
Speculating – One potential scenario: The Taliban refuse to hand over Bin Laden. At the last possible moment, they announce that they have tried Bin Laden under sharia (without any outside observers). They announce that they have found him guilty of violating Islamic law and execute him. Since Bin Laden’s ability to fund the Taliban has been pretty much eliminated now anyway, the Taliban can make the best use of him as an example of how “just” they are. Additionally, this would make it extremely difficult for any Western nations to demand access to Afghanistan to verify that the terrorist networks were dismantled. The Taliban have a habit of murdering diplomats and U.N. officials, and they will certainly put up much heavier defenses against outside observation than Iraq ever did. The Taliban will be able to claim the highest possible moral ground; “We had a snake in our midst, and despite his tempting us with desperately-needed money, we adhered to the peaceful laws of Islam and punished him.” Any attempts to enter Afghanistan after the Taliban turn over Bin Laden’s body will be seen as the West looking for excuses to persecute Muslims. This would elevate mullah Omar to even higher status, confirming him as the jihad leader of all Islam.
Unsavory – Continuing to read Taliban. The hisory of Afghanistan and Central Asia over the last few thousand years makes the Balkans look like a church. The Taliban rose to power with bribery, backstabbing, smuggling, opium traficking; and they look like saints compared to the people they defeated. It is shocking that Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United States, and others actually ever trusted them enough to negotiate anything. As far as I can tell, the Taliban have broken every promise they have ever made to anyone outside of their realm.
To add to my comments yesterday about how hackers are pretty deluded if they thought they could do anything “computer” to stop Bin Laden, the book talks about how the top leaders of the Taliban coordinated most of their troop movements and negotiations via instructions written on pieces of paper from the back of cigarette packs. It is only recently that they have become wealthy enough to use normal pads of paper to write their directives. Their leader, mullah Omar and his second in command have never been photographed. You can, however, recognize them based on the former’s missing right eye and the latter’s gouged wooden pegleg and missing finger. Mullah Omar in 1996 donned the cloak of the prophet Mohammed (yes, the actual 2,000 year-old piece of cloth) and was declared by a few thousand Islamic teachers to be the leader of Islam. Some other interesting facts: Zoroastrianism is still alive today in parts of Afghanistan. Christian followers of the heretic Nestor were centered in Afghanistan. The Turkic language first took on a life beyond Persian in Afghanistan. Afghanistan was the seat of government for Timur the Lame.
Dimsum was packed as usual today. And for those who know what it means, today was the first day that I saw the phrase “Assembly Hell” on an internal Microsoft discussion list.
Economics – Went to the mall today to spend some patriotic money. There were only about 25% as many people as are normally there on a Sunday. The kids play area was just as crowded as usual, though. Kids aren’t worried about their play losing value on Monday. I bought a copy of Taliban at the new Borders Books there. We also went to see the Duane Hanson exhibit at Bellevue’s new art museum. I saw the same exhibit about ten years ago in Detroit, when Hanson was still alive, and I swear that the exact same guy in a business suit was standing there reading a newspaper the entire time. Same pose, same clothes; he hadn’t changed a bit.
Taliban is an interesting read, even though Taliban will probably be an obsolete skill pretty soon. I’ve been reading up and talking to friends from south asia, and am finding that the history and political nuances of this region is even more twisted and complex than I had known. And not only are these areas ridiculously complex; they are relatively unimportant in global economic terms. They are like the Rube Goldberg Inventions of geo-politics. I recently discovered an online magazine that chronicles the politics and current events in these forgotten corners of the world.
We computer people often go overboard with self-importance. It gets bad enough when we have computer people pitching cheap computers as the way to end third-world suffering (instead of things like medicine or sustainable agriculture). But today CNET reports that “hackers” are ernestly debating whether to take vengeance on terrorists or “stop the cycle of anger”. The idea that a hacker can do anything to get to Bin Laden is almost as stupid as thinking that bombs or missiles will take out the Taliban. These people live in tunnels in the mountains, and they don’t use AOL. Haidi has an amusing rant about other ways to NOT get Bin Laden.
Other interesting news is that there was some “suspicious” short-selling of the reinsurance companies that backed up WTC, just days before the attack. It appears that some people stood to profit massively if the WTC were damaged, and the FBI is now trying to find out who.
Also today I noticed that our Outlook Web Access (the web-based access to Exchange e-mail) has a new look. It is hard to tell it is a web application; it even has tray icon pop-up notification of new messages. And it did not require any client-side controls to be installed, so it is apparently all DHTML. This is pretty impressive.
First Demo – Today the code is far enough along that Neetu (a lead dev) was able to give me a demo. Sure there is a lot left to do, but it was better than I expected. She is really good. I am currently tring to track down some issues with side-by-side and managed code, so I am blocking the setup team from making progress. I need to fix that before Monday. Also today, for the first time in my life, I was actually very happy to see that Oracle beat expectations. Let’s hope that the markets hold up on Monday.
Think – Today it seems that more people are trying to integrate their emotions and their belief systems, and trying to find a “nice” way to respond to the terrorist attack. The pattern seems to be:
- I am angry and I want to hurt someone.
- I feel guilty about my anger. (Because I am a pacifist, opposed to the death penalty, a Christian, a “good person”, etc.)
- It feels good to believe that there is a peaceful solution.
- Now that I am thus “enlightened”, I feel compelled to assail everyone around me with admonitions to end their hawkishness and unfruitful anger.
Of course, anger is counter-productive, but so is guilt brought on by conflicting values. I suppose that I can understand if people are confused by their own emotions. But I cannot believe that people are rationally conflicted about what must be done, when the path forward is so obvious. Is military action a defacto proof of agressive and vengeful action on the part of the U.S.? Of course not! No rational person would mobilize military forces based on such emotional premises, and no rational person would presume that mobilization of military forces was a defacto proof of emotional motives.
Perhaps the silliest thing I have seen today is speculation that somehow this violence was caused by the U.S. We are indeed a powerful nation if we can control the hands of an Islamist psychopath in the cockpit of an airplane. And even more impressive if we can prevent all psychopathic acts in the future by simply doing whatever the psychopaths say, as some people seem to be suggesting. This is so naive that it is borderline stupid. The people in the first three planes did exactly what the attackers asked, assuming that it would save their lives. Their cooperation cost far more than their own lives. And when the people aboard the fourth plane suspected that their plane was to be used as a murder weapon, how did they approach the conflicting values? On the one hand, they would possibly be preserving American lives (they had no way to know for sure if the plane was going to be used the same way as the others). On the other hand, they could crash the plane, causing certain death for themselves, and even the passengers aboard who had not voted to attack the hijackers. In fact, they would even be issuing a death penalty against the hijackers without even giving those poor, misunderstood islamists the benefit of a fair trial or even a good hearing-out. What if one of the hijackers had actually been coerced into being on the plane by threats from the others? What if some of the hijackers were innocent by reason of insanity (quite likely)? Is it shocking and outrageous that some passengers decided to issue a death penalty against all of the hijackers, merely because of the possibility that some of the hijackers were intentionally lying when they claimed nobody would get hurt?!? Did the passengers rush those hijackers out of a sense of vengeance or racism? Of course not!! People universally regard these passengers as heroes for risking their own lives in making the only ethical tradeoff. It was the only right thing to do. And the right thing for the world community to do is equally clear.
And yes, I did get a lot of work done today. I’ve put together some ASP+ code that makes it easy to track bugs, and even gathered some more information that makes me more confident about us hitting our dates.
Regaining Momentum – On the way to work I stopped for Coffee, and I noticed something strange. People are much friendlier, more considerate than before. Here on campus, people were working late tonight. My project actually found yesterday that we need to ship one week earlier than we originally anticipated. The devs seem confident that they will still be able to hit the dates, but we’ve also got some level of assurance that the world won’t end if we have to slip, so nobody is going to have to knock themselves out working. Today I finally found an e-mail address that didn’t bounce and was able to track down my friend Brian, who was working on floor 41 of tower 1 when the first plane struck 40 floors above him. He is doing well, and has already figured out how to get back to work using the backup systems across the river. He’s the only person I knew personally and was worried about; it’s hard to describe how it feels to know that he made it out and is still forging ahead. Emotionally he says he’s OK, and I believe that about as much as I believe that the devs here can hit the ridiculously tight dates, but the positive attitudes are inspiring.
Smoke is Clearing – The chess pieces are coming into view now, and the position in favor of the U.S. seems nearly checkmate. The Taliban have never officially been recognized as the rulers of Afghanistan. The U.N. and the U.S. recognize Ahmad Shah Massoud (who was assasinated just days before the trade center bombing) and his nearly decimated opposition forces as the true representatives of Afghanistan. So if the U.N. or U.S. were to send troops, we would technically be defending Afghanistan. How can anyone protest against that?
A side benefit of establishing order in Afghanistan is that we would finally be able to build the pipeline of our dreams to the masses of oil reserves in Afghanistan and even larger fields in Turkmenistan. This would help us preserve the miles of ice in Alaska to which some urban dwellers have become so attached recently. It’s about time.
There are already signs that we will also link this incident to Iraq, the Hezbollah, and other “undesirable” entities. Staging a decisive retaliation is sure to be a huge amount of effort, so it is natural that the allies involved will want to get as much bang for their buck as possible. The rest of the opening gambit here is about deciding which other chess pieces can be taken in the attack. The U.S. wants them all to fall, and it will be up to the skill of our diplomacy to determine whether we’re allowed to take them without complaints. Looking at the map begs the question about what has happened to our once-vaunted warming of relations with Iran? Iran would love to see the Taliban fall, but would also love to see Palestine protected from Israel (which seems unlikely now).
Last time we were at the World Trade Center, a Chess Grandmaster named Sam “Ismael” Sloan was our cab driver. He was once imprisoned in Afghanistan, and escaped. We had the fortune of talking with him on another occasion as well; this guy is for real. He maintains a web site with his spare cash from driving cab. Don’t ever try to have a more interesting life than he has had; it is impossible.