Intolerance – Certain parts of China still hate Japan for the Nanjing Massacre, and Japan’s recent return to militarism has got to make them nervous. So it’s understandable that people got cranky when young actress Zhao Wei wore a dress printed with the Japanese war flag. But to have some self-righteous old man assault her on live television is just plain sick. Haven’t these men ever heard the rule about not hitting girls?


Shorty – Who would have thought that a toddler would be terrified by a robot dog? One could teach the child to overcome the fear by kicking the dog, but that seems a bit cruel, even if the dog is artificial. Maybe future versions of these dogs could be programmed to do something amusing and non-threatening (like run away yipping) when a small child yells “boo!”. Some fur or other soft covering would help, too. Disney makes a Mickey Mouse that crawls around on all fours and is much more appealing to toddlers; it seems the dogs are getting much smarter, though.

Honda is manufacturing a little robot called ASIMO who walks just like a Japanese child. It’s really incredible how sophisticated the biped motion is; I thought researchers had given up on two-legged robotics. Honda is apparently using these as receptionists, and I suppose the specter of a humanoid receptionist scuttling around on hands and knees is more than a little disturbing. Sony’s dogs can talk, though, so maybe one day dogs will be more common as receptionists.

Well, has reverse-engineered the Xbox network protocol and already has built the capability to play games like Halo against other players over the Internet. Tonight there are 350+ people online playing Halo. Now my crappy cable connection is really bugging me. After the Excite(at)Home debacle, I was getting just 128k. And even though the speeds have improved on downlink, the uplink speeds for cable Internet have never been that good, and slow uplink is not very nice for online Halo. Maybe it is time to switch back to DSL.


NorthworstNorthwest Airlines doesn’t actually have a significant presence in the northwest. They are pretty much the only carrier in Detroit, though, so I’ve had the misfortune of flying them too many times. Every time I’ve flown Northwest, I vow to never do it again. It is impossible to enumerate all of the ways in which they suck, and I am not a fussy flyer. I don’t mind in the least the way that United misses connecting flights with reckless abandon; only a crank would complain about American’s lousy food. But Northwest’s ability to combine the smallest seats (knee-crushing devices) in the industry, unfailingly rude service, poor facilities, luggage loss, delays and cancellations — who but a masochist could tolerate that? It is impossible to describe all of the cutomer-abusive behavior I witnessed this past week, but at least I can happily say I will not have to endure Northwest any more. I have just discovered that Midwest Express flies into Flint, MI and gets a 5-star rating on epinions (as compared to a 2.5 stars given by Northwest’s “Stockholm-Syndrome” customers). Midwest Express doesn’t have flights from Seattle, but at least I will know that I have a connecting flight, rather than have NWA switch my direct flight from Seattle to a nationwide tour. And I can pick from UAL, or AA/TWA for the connecting leg of my flight.


Serious – Well, I guess I wasn’t the only one who saw the nasty implications in the latest round of bugs. The FBI is alerting people to be extra careful. And reports that Dept. of Defense was in on the action too. I find it comforting that the FBI is taking seriously these issues now. However, I still think the proposed solutions are not even close to being adequate. You can post patches and urge people to shut off features on their machines all you want. The hard part is getting people to actually respond. Code Red was reported on CNN, and hardly anyone patched their systems. We need a way to force people to either secure their systems or get quarantined from the network. In the case of UPnP, I suppose it would be easy enough for the FBI to get the major backbone providers to just block the traffic and solve the problem there. But this is just one bug; how about Red Hat bugs? We need a systemic fix.

The FBI didn’t say how to disable UPnP on affected XP machines. The way I did it on my machine was to run a command prompt (cmd.exe) and execute the following four commands. Maybe it will work on yours..

net stop “Universal Plug and Play Device Host”

net stop “SSDP Discovery Service”

wmic /node:localhost service where caption=”Universal Plug and Play Device Host” call ChangeStartMode “Disabled”

wmic /node:localhost service where caption=”SSDP Discovery Service” call ChangeStartMode “Disabled”


Yikes! – Apparently Windows XP has a security hole in UPnP that lets hackers get control of a machine. Add this to the IE6 security hole that was recently patched, and you have a very serious situation. These aren’t trivial bugs. A talented hacker could build a worm atop these two vectors that would make Code Red seem tiny and insignificant. And if people thought it was difficult to get IIS users to patch their machines, how about IE users? Although I am sure certain people will happily claim this to be evidence of something wrong with Windows and IE, the problem is really much bigger. Problems like this get discovered periodically in all software, and the monoculture afficionados would merely increase the amount of investment that a malicious organization would have to put in to wreak havoc. For a well-funded malice, the cost difference between a worm that targets one platform vs. a worm that targets five is trivial — certainly puny compared to the potential payoff in damage. The answer has to be in creating a sort of “immune system” for the body electronic. Does this mean shipping all versions of Windows with mandatory Windows Update? Unfortunately, I still don’t see either patch on the Windows Update site, so that plan isn’t too practical at the moment.

Another one I found interesting; CCBill admits that a hacker infected a bunch of their customers (1,200 sites that accept credit cards) with eggdrop. They say that they didn’t bother to contact the FBI because, “it’s not that big of an issue.” The article goes on to paint the compromised systems as being capable only of participating in distributed denial of service attacks. That is, sadly, dead wrong. There are 1,200 of those things that could be loaded with any software an attacker wishes, not just DDoS. What if the hacker installs code that exploits the IE hole mentioned above, and therefore infects the machines of any users who browse the sites accepting payments? It is “that big of an issue”.

Now Microsoft is reportedly suing “Lindows” for infringing on the trademark “Windows”. Interesting that John Dvorak was commenting on the name earlier. And technically, it is kind of misleading to call Lindows a “New Operating System”. Isn’t Linux just a knockoff of Minix, which is another flavor of Unix that’s been around for 30 years? Putting a Windows emulator on Unix is not a new concept, and even the WINE/Linux combination is pretty common. But I guess that doesn’t sound as good as a shiny new OS that talks like a superset of Windows and Linux. And who would want to keep up with all of the Microsoft security patches *and* the Linux security patches?

gift culture

Gift Culture – OK, there is still time to vote for Doc. He deserves it; his willingness to rationally reconsider a blogger’s sacred topic like incestuous Google links is reason enough. But what is it with this need to associate everything with a “gift culture”? “Gift Culture” isn’t really my experience of ham radio culture (my call sign is KB8ZRL). Ham radio culture is about self-reliance, making do with limited resources, working together, and duty to your community. More like the boy scouts than the communist party — sorry to say so, Doc. Ham radio gatherings even have their own style of capitalistic flair, usually featuring fellow hams offering all sorts of accoutrements of the hobby for sale. The computer shows used to be the same, before the arrival of the self-righteous idealogues. Thank God nobody is calling the ham radio manufacturers to GPL their products (you can have this transistor for free, but you have to give away for free any products you ever make that use it). Plus, radio operation didn’t have all of the glamorous IPOs and promise of lurid wealth, so ham radio didn’t attract so many politicians.

This tuesday, most of us on my team brought in food dishes to share. We put them all in a conference room and had a good time. We got to see the Russian technique of opening a wine bottle without a corkscrew, eat horse meat, vegetable tamales, and some really good Indian tamarind pickles. Tons of great food, and I think most people actually enjoyed sharing their favorite dish with the others. Well, does that make Microsoft a “gift culture”? I mean, nobody was in it for financial gain — should I feel guilty, like a bad American because I enjoyed the food in what was a “from each according to his abilities to each according to his needs” exercise? I feel like a communist already! And I bet my ancestors participated in a barn raising or two — please don’t tell the authorities!

If Ham Radio is “gift culture” then so is everything else…


Epoch – You can bid on a copy of Windows XP signed by Bill Gates. The cool thing is, I scooped Robert Scoble on this one.

Now here’s a real scoop: “Microsoft Dumps Passport for Liberty Alliance, Sun Adopts Passport”. This article is just about as fact-based as any other I’ve seen on the subject.

Hmm, Mumia might get his sentenced reduced to life in prison. I find it interesting that this gets front page coverage, and misleading headlines like “Mumia sentence thrown out!” It’s complete non-news, so why the attention? Maybe it’s because Mumia is such a photogenic funkster with his dreds and intellectual-revolutionary glasses. Maybe the whole Bin Laden thing has again piqued people’s curiosity about those coolio urban gangsta insurgents who stand up and “fight the power”. I can’t wait to read what entertaining pieces Guerrilla News will publish in response to the latest Mumia parade. Unfortunately, reality is not as interesting as conspiracy. The official Department of Army Field Manual on Counter-Guerrilla Operations is almost boring; I guess I just couldn’t find the manual about “how to capture dangerous b-boy funky reporters as political prisoners to feed the system’s lust for corruption”.

The DA doctrine documents are pleasantly common-sense. The basic Marine Warfare Doctrine Paper on the Quantico site shows how much foresight the authors had. Some quotes include:

“Although the state remains the predominant entity in global
politics, its preeminence in the use of organized political violence
has declined. One of the trends of modern conflict is the
rise of powerful nonstate groups able and willing to apply force
on a scale sufficient to have noticeable political effect.

… Because of the youth bulge, an increasingly large part of the population in the developing world will be both unproductive and prone to disruptive behavior.”

and one from Martin van Creveld:

“… there has been speculation that war itself may not have a
future and is about to be replaced by economic competition
among the great ‘trading blocks’ now forming in Europe,
North America, and the Far East. This … view is not correct.
Large-scale, conventional war — war as understood by today’s
principal military powers — may indeed be at its last gasp;
however, war itself, war as such, is alive and kicking and
about to enter a new epoch.”

I dunno what you think, but the new epoch seems pretty stupid, if Soulja Mumia is the kind of hero we get to look up to.

who dat is?

Who dat is? – So now bidders for AT&T Broadband are getting cold feet. The article mentions issues of debt, but what about the 800,000+ customers that AT&T just screwed? After the Excite@Home fiasco, AT&T is selling a totally different company than they were offering before.

CNET is opining about how Compaq might have to *gasp* go it alone, if the HP merger fails. I still don’t see how it is Compaq that stands to win or lose in this deal; despite some really bad decisions in the past about investing in the Internet bubble, Compaq has extremely strong products. In my experience, loyalty and brand reputation *does* play a large part for people who buy Compaq. I mean, they make great products that everyone wants — how can they be in trouble?

I just stumbled across this article about how to get SQL Server without having to pay the per-CPU charge. The gist of the article is that, so long as you use the database efficiently enough that it will run on a free version, you don’t need to pay for the more powerful version. What he didn’t mention is that, if you use these same techniques and you still end up with enough transactional volume to need bigger servers, you may have to pay for SQL Server licenses, but you’ll save yourself a bundle on hardware costs. The key lesson is that careful design can drastically reduce the amount of resources you need in a database application. The tradeoff of design cost vs. hardware cost is usually a no-brainer; good design is much cheaper than compensating with expensive hardware.

Oracle is crashing into the XML databases space. We now have Tamino, XYZFind, Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft who are competing in this wide-open (and remarkably level) playing field. This is a glorious time in the history of IT.

Wow, I had no idea that this stuff is now legal. Adrafinil was pretty advanced, and Modafinil is even less prone to side-effects. Allah willing, the days of sloppy psychopharmacology will soon be a distant memory. It looks like OJ has been smuggling a slightly less-precise pharmaceutical. I am glad during these times of terror that the law enforcement are focusing on the things that sit at the root of society’s problems — dancing and free satellite TV.

This article is yet another oddity from the world of the retro Unix freedom fighters. Red Hat is agressively enforcing some of their intellectual property rights, and in the opinion of some freedom fighters, is doing so at the expense of the sacred GPL. Sort of like “We stand for free software, but don’t you dare distribute our software for free unless you explicitly keep it secret that this is Red Hat software.” It reminds me of a regulation I once saw within some government agency. All disks that did not contain confidential information were required to have a label clearly marked “this disk does not contain confidential information”. So I guess a spy would have looked at a disk that didn’t have a label and got all confused.

I don’t know what Larry Ellison would talk about if Microsoft didn’t exist. He used to allege that we ran Unix, and did so for performance reasons. Now he brings up the same allegations, but since the performance argument has been dicredited, the alleged reason is now security. Unfortunately, this house is made of glass. I am surprised that CNET even writes news articles about this anymore. My perception of university computing systems was that the number of systems on which you could easily get root access far outnumbered the ones that were actually secure. It’s kind of redundant to publish an article saying that kids at college can get root access on their machines and their admin will probably never even patch the holes he knows about.