My Archives: March 2004

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I see that Sir Bill of the Blue Screen is forecasting that computer hardware will be almost free in 10 years. Funny how he neglects to mention how much his software will cost then -- $1000 per PC? -- for the poor souls who are still locked into it.

On that note, I'm delighted to see that Mandrakesoft (publishers of Mandrake Linux) have emerged from bankruptcy protection. Their timing couldn't be better, since they're widely regarded as one of the better desktop Linux systems. It's time for me to give their product a test drive.

A recent posting on the ifeminists bulletin board caused a friend to ask, what does web browsing reveal about you? [more]

Posted by brad @ 12:58 PM EST [Link]

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

To begin with grins...Mike Luckovich's latest cartoon "It's Unavoidable"; Ted Rall's #2; Stuart Carlson's "Rorschach Iraq"; Gary Varvel's "the Circle of Blame"; and, Dana Summers' "These last few days have been a breeze". Dave Barry's column this week, "Confessions of a closet carb fiend," is also worth a gander. Enjoy! [more]

Posted by mac @ 07:37 AM EST [Link]

Monday, March 29, 2004

What did I say before about how nice it is to have government flunkies issue your self-serving blather? Ten U.S. Representatives have written to the EU about their treatment of Microsoft. Perhaps it's just a coincidence that five of them -- or was it eight? -- received contributions from Microsoft. (I'm never astonished when politicians are bought, but always astonished by how cheaply they're bought.)

Now to continue a theme from my last posting. Here's an action you can take where frugality, environmental awareness, privacy, consumer activism, and independence all happily combine: the next time you're ready to buy a new computer, don't. [more]

Posted by brad @ 08:31 AM EST [Link]

Sunday, March 28, 2004

For those interested in a representative sampling of Richard Clarke's "Against All Enemies," Slate provides a decent overview.

Gordon Pusch writes, "Am watching a rather bad movie (and probable series pilot) called _Phantom Force_ on the _SciFi Channel_, about a team of misfits led by a government psychic dealing with 'paranormal threats' (Think _Ghostbusters_ meets _Delta Force_ meets _The Dirty Dozen_). The movie has clearly been filmed in Ontario --- I recognize a lot of Canadian character actors, and Nigel Bennet has a major role. Part of the action is supposed to be taking place in Macedonia, Greece ---which is why I just about died laughing when the NATO commander whips out a road map of Southwestern Ontario, and points straight at Guelph!!!"

Update of news and commentary on privacy... [more]

Posted by mac @ 10:25 AM EST [Link]

Saturday, March 27, 2004

I'm sure you've heard by now that the European Union has fined Microsoft half a billion euros, and required MS to sell Windows without a bundled Media Player. Heck, even the US government declared MS a monopoly, though their remedies were something like "Bad monopoly. Play nice."

Libertarians are, predictably, up in arms about the harsh treatment of poor little Microsoft. And while I agree with the libertarian position against anti-trust law, they miss the point: as long as we have government-enforced monopoly protection, the only remedy is government monopoly regulation.

This is a scam the State has been playing for decades (centuries?) -- create a problem, and then offer their services as a solution to the problem. The real solution, of course, is to attack the underlying State-created problem, not to buy their Band-Aids. [more]

Posted by brad @ 10:32 AM EST [Link]

Kudos to the Onion's satirical poll of readers, asking what they think of Martha Stewart's prison sentence. A sample, "I'll be able to sleep easier knowing that another motivated, powerful woman is off the streets."

Remember to check out the shining-new Bulletin Board at before moving on to today's McBlog commentary...Thanks! [more]

Posted by mac @ 07:01 AM EST [Link]

Friday, March 26, 2004

I've been so busy for the last several days that I haven't had time to keep up with the news. The big item in the Information Technology world is the European Union decision against Microsoft; I expect I'll have more to say about that in a day or two. Meanwhile, I've been sitting on a number of items of interest, in the expectation that I'd weave them into a commentary; but instead I'll just present the assortment. [more]

Posted by brad @ 10:53 PM EST [Link]

For your grinning pleasure: Mike Luckovich's latest cartoon "Spin Control"; Tom Toles' on the same theme "Spin Monkeys"; Ben Sargent's "Anagram Man".

ANNOUNCEMENT: We have just this morning opened a new Bullet Board discussion forum for It is so new that we have not yet linked the forum to the ifeminists' front page - so consider this advanced notice to those of you who would like to join the moderated exchange. Only those who register will be able to post. Drop on by!

Onto political and other commentary... [more]

Posted by mac @ 11:01 AM EST [Link]

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Many thanks to unofficial co-McBlogger Gordon Pusch for serving as our scientific advisor. Gordon has been watching the increasingly-likely demise of NASA's shuttle program and sends the following links to news items and commentary to keep us current as well as to provide background:
--SpaceDaily (03/23/04): "A NASA official says some of the U.S. space shuttles flew for 25 years with flaws in the rudders of the tail section.
---SpaceDaily (02/19/04): "Is The Shuttle Grounded Forever?" NASA management's intense pressure to complete the Incredible Shinking Space-Station "on schedule" --- included distributing a screensaver that counted down to the scheduled "US Core Complete Configuration" date, 2004-Feb-19. The screensaver was a direct contributor to the _Columbia_ disaster.
---as long ago as Nov. '02, SpaceDaily ran an article entitled "Scrap The Shuttle Program." A Dept. of Commerce report recommended scapping the Scuttle. The Air Force concurred.
---for recommended commentary on NASA slurping at the public trough: "The Science of Spending Billions." Part One: "Slower, More Expensive, Worse --- How NASA intends to Do Less With More." Part Two: "Shuffling The Lockers Around." Part Three: "Getting beyond a Geocentric space Program."

Posted by mac @ 11:51 AM EST [Link]

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Michael Ramirez' "Why socail Security Won't Die"; Steve Sack's "Iraq: One Year Anniversary"; Ann Telnaes' "War is Swell"; and, from David Letterman's Top Ten Files...Ten Signs Your Supreme Court Justice Is On The Take, Ten Signs Hillary Clinton Wants To Be Vice President, Ten Things Governor Schwarzenegger Hears In A Typical Day. Compliments of Gordon's an oldie but goodie from The Onion bashing Microsoft. Hmm, wonder why I like it so much? Enjoy!

Recent news and commentary on privacy... [more]

Posted by mac @ 11:50 AM EST [Link]

Monday, March 22, 2004

This week's Dave Barry column -- "Death, taxes, airline food". "April 15 is lurking around the corner, so if you haven't yet filed your federal tax return, it's time to set aside a few hours, gather together your financial records, and flee the country. Or, if you like to 'walk on the wild side,' you can stay here and attempt to do your taxes. As usual, there are some 'new wrinkles' in the tax laws this year, to guard against the danger that some taxpayer, somewhere, will actually understand them."

An interesting exchange is occurring on the Liberty and Power blog to which I contribute. Robert Campbell is posting a multi-series critique of Naomi Wolf in light of the recent confessional article in which she accuses celebrated Prof. Harold Bloom of sexual misconduct during her student days at Yale. (My take on the subject was embodied in the column featured on this week's front page.)

Posted by mac @ 10:10 AM EST [Link]

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Cartoon Sunday: Chuck Asay's "Individual Rights"; Nick Anderson's "Baghdad Bob Found a Job"; Steve Sacks' "The USS Deficit"; and, Tom Tomorrow's "Where Dubya Really Went in 1972". Enjoy!

It is tempting to view John Kerry as the "Anyone But Bush" or "Anyone But Cheney" candidate and, so, give his Presidential bid a lesser-of-two-evils endorsement...but I've been burned before and recently. I detested the political correctness and identity politics cultivated by Clinton's administration so deeply that, when the hanging-chad scandal arose last time, I hoped Bush would win. "He couldn't be worse than Gore," I said -- infamous last words that rank right up there with Socrates' "I drank what!? [more]

Posted by mac @ 09:23 AM EST [Link]

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Heads up -- BlackICE firewall software is being targeted by a new worm. Users of BlackICE are advised to disconnect these systems from the Internet as soon as possible, since simply being connected will expose you to infection, and this worm will corrupt your hard drive and eventually crash your system.

This illustrates the weakness of software firewalls, as Scott M. pointed out three months ago. If you're not using dial-up, I'd advise a separate firewall box.


Posted by brad @ 08:42 PM EST [Link]

I, Wendy McElroy, being of sound body and sane mind... Let me try this again. I, Wendy McElroy, being of sound body do hereby aver that the war of sound bytes is at an end and that I have been vanquished in fair combat by yesterday's Black Adder clip. Accordingly, I offer the following sound byte from "Mad About You", not as a continuation of conflict but in tribute to Brad. [more]

Posted by mac @ 08:51 AM EST [Link]

Friday, March 19, 2004

Monty Python, eh? One British audio clip deserves another.

Another nasty worm, PhatBot, is making the rounds. While some consider it a minor threat, it is polymorphic to evade virus scanners, and is capable of an amazing variety of attacks, defensive measures, and propagation vectors. I think it's a sign of viruses to come. [more]

Posted by brad @ 08:48 PM EST [Link]

As I type this, major American media are reporting that Pakistan's troops have cornered a "senior" al-Qaida figure, with everyone suggesting heavily that it is #2 man Ayman al-Zawahiri. The Washington Times has stated flat out, "Pakistan says it has cornered al-Zawahiri." Meanwhile, non-US media are saying "it ain't so" - at least, not the al-Zawahiri part. The Times of India states, "Al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri were safe and `on this side of the border', an Afghanistan-based Taliban spokesman said on Friday. And a shift is occurring in the reporting on CNN: the capture is no longer "imminent" but may take days; the name al-Zawahiri is no longer being repeated. In fact, the story seems to have dropped off CNN altogether at the moment tho' it is still the main item on FOX. [more]

Posted by mac @ 09:12 AM EST [Link]

Bluffing am I?! I see Brad's Firesign Theatre clip and raise him a Monty Python -- specifically, his favorite "French insult" from The Holy Grail. Hah!

For you Trekkie fans out there "Your Trekkie Communicator Is Ready"...Seriously! Meanwhile, Virgin Airlines is likely to get thoroughly bashed by feminists. Why?The New York Post explains, "This is one set of lips you're never going to want to kiss goodbye. A urinal shaped like the puckered-up mouth of a woman waiting to be kissed is being installed in the men's room of the newly-opened Virgin Airways Clubhouse at Kennedy Airport. " No, no...I'm serious! Do you think I could make this stuff up? Oh's the daily dose of intentionally funny items: Doonesbury's latest cartoon "Laura's Thing"; and, Walt Handelsman's "Disappeared". Enjoy! [more]

Posted by mac @ 07:34 AM EST [Link]

Thursday, March 18, 2004

"Be afraid?" I think she's bluffing.

If you're wondering why I constantly harp on replacing Outlook and Internet Explorer, read about the latest Bagle worm, Bagle-Q. Thanks to a security flaw in Outlook and IE, this can infect your computer even without an attachment. Windows users who have removed Outlook and IE, and use something else, should be safe. Others should install the latest patches from Microsoft, and set their firewalls to block outbound requests on port 81. (Linux, Unix, and Mac users are also safe.)

Of course, with Microsoft patches, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. [more]

Posted by brad @ 03:28 PM EST [Link]

Joel Pett's latest cartoon "The Freedom to Ignore"; Jeff Danzinger's take on the same issue; [for a more serious treatment, see Ted Rall's article "First They "Came For the Shock Jocks"]; chip bok's cartoon "Martha's Fib"; Stuart Carlson's "Transcontinental Slap"; and Mike Luckovich's take on the same issue. Enjoy!

As for my husband's childish one-upmanship of yesterday with Groucho Marx clips...I can only respond in kind. Be afraid, Brad. Be very afraid.

Posted by mac @ 02:56 PM EST [Link]

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

In the one-upmanship department: It is rare that I flaunt my Marxist credentials, but I can't resist posting the audio clip for "Fredonia's Going to War!" from Duck Soup. It seems singularly appropriate on the one-year anniversary of the Iraq adventure.


Posted by brad @ 01:35 PM EST [Link]

A bit of a break from cartoons for once. Here's a trio of fun sites that are so utterly unrelated to each other that I cannot come up with integrating comments beyond "Enjoy!" 1) The For Food site allows you to customize text on a sign being held up by a homeless man by using periods for spaces, as long as the text always ends in E.g.: You can make the sign read Will Kiss Andrea Dworkin for Food. 2) The Top 11 Reasons to outsource IT to Mars; and, 3) for your audio pleasure, here's a link to some of the best songs from Marx Brothers' movies. I especially recommend "These are the Laws of My Administration" from Duck Soup, performed by...Groucho, of course! [more]

Posted by mac @ 11:37 AM EST [Link]

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

If history tells us anything, it tells us "don't piss off the Germans." I guess Microsoft didn't get that message; Internet Explorer won't support the new German umlaut domains. (Perhaps MS is still fuming that Munich went open-source, even after a personal sales pitch from CEO Steve Ballmer.) Good news for Mözilla and Öpera.

This stinks like yesterday's diapers: it seems the California Attorney General is proposing to crack down on peer-to-peer file sharing software. But the metadata hidden in the Microsoft Word document reveals that, apparently, one of the authors of the proposal is a lobbyist for the MPAA. How nice to be able to draft your own self-serving new laws, and have the Attorney General propose them on his letterhead. [more]

Posted by brad @ 05:14 PM EST [Link]

Dick Locher's "Bush's Props"; Don Wright's "How Conservatives Become Instant Liberals"; and, Tony Auth's "Consensus".

Kudos and plaudits to an old acquaintance, Tyler Cowen, for a fascinating article on "The New World of Blogs." And while I am on the almost-inexhaustible topic of blogs, here's one I visit regularly to keep current on events and gossip from the publishing world: Bookslut. I also recommend the ever-fresh Wonkette. Here's her take on the Kerry "scandal" -- that is, his claim that foreign leaders back his election rather than Bush's. Wonkette writes, "Today Dems have seized upon Boston Globe reporter Pat Healy's revelation that Kerry actually said "more leaders" in his first remarks about foreign support for American regime change. But the minor correction is hardly exculpatory; it would mean more, for one thing, if Kerry had ever bothered to challenge the initial report. As it is, he's just found his inner Clinton, constantly re-adjusting the details of the claim. Did he meet with leaders? Did he hear from them? Perhaps he received an email: "I wish to introduce myself, I am Mathias kobi Kabila the son of the late Democratic Republic of Congo President Laurent Desire Kabila of the blessed memory. I write this letter in respect of my intention to invest the sum of US$28M(Twenty Eight Million United State Dollars) with you. . . "

Posted by mac @ 09:34 AM EST [Link]

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Call it schadenfreude if you will, but I'm chuckling with mirth to learn that in the much-hyped DARPA Grand Challenge, 7 miles was as far as any robot got along the 142-mile course. A wee setback for the robotic military.

I see that I could have saved myself some typing. Much of what I've said over the last few days, including the concept of a layered defense, is also said at the Home PC Firewall Guide. That site is largely geared toward helping Windows users secure their systems -- and to do so without dumping Internet Explorer or Outlook -- so from my point of view, they're giving up two of the best defenses. But for the remaining lines of defense it's a great resource. Even Linux and Mac users will benefit from their links to hardware firewall reviews. The editor, "firewall-guy," also maintains recommendation lists on Amazon, where you can buy (for example) a DI-604 Ethernet router/firewall for a mere $36. (Roughly the price of one month's broadband access.)

Of course, your very first line of defense against attack is your Internet Service Provider (ISP). This is where most attacks ought to be blocked. [more]

Posted by brad @ 08:00 AM EST [Link]

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Wendy says that I've put enough resource material into McBlog that it needs its own index. So in blatant mimicry of Fred Reed, I've started the "Brad on Everything" page, with links to my more substantive posts. (I've left out most of the rants and "news" posts.)

While email-borne nasties are probably the #1 source of infection for home computers, direct attack on your PC's Internet ports is a strong #2. Hence the need for firewalls as your second line of defense. [more]

Posted by brad @ 10:47 AM EST [Link]

Rack up the laughter! - with Mike Luckovich's latest cartoon "Bush Campaign Ads"; and, Joel Pett's "Hunt It Down ... Smoke It Out!"

And consider adding some freshly-coined words/terms to your vocabulary in 2004.:

SALMON DAY: an entire day of swimming upstream only to get screwed and die in the end.
MOUSE POTATO: The on-line generation's answer to the couch potato.
SITCOMS: Single Income, Two Children, Oppressive Mortgage.
IRRITAINMENT: Annoying media you can't stop watching. E.g. O.J. trials or speeches by Bush.
404: Someone clueless. From the error message "404 Not Found."
GENERICA: landscapes exactly the same no matter it is. E.g. McDonalds
WOOFYS: Well Off Older Folks. [more]

Posted by mac @ 05:27 AM EST [Link]

Friday, March 12, 2004

What, is Microsoft reading McBlog? Right after I razz them about rating a security flaw merely "serious," I learn that they've raised it to "critical." On the bright side, MS has finally, grudgingly allowed those who use Outlook 2002 to read their mail as plain text. If you don't mind editing the registry, that is.

Sell it while you can: In the face of a plummeting stock price, SCO has announced a stock buy-back. The smidgen of Austrian economist in me suspects that they're hoping to prop up the price.

The SCO/Microsoft connection is now front page news at BusinessWeek Online ...and consequently appearing on dozens of news outlets. Suddenly no one's talking about DaimlerChrysler or Autozone. Could SCO's spin managers be losing their grip?

Back to bulletproofing your PC. What I've called the third line of defense is one of the most powerful, and one that just might be able to save you if you slip up and click on the wrong attachment. I'm referring to a secure operating system. [more]

Posted by brad @ 08:47 AM EST [Link]

Thursday, March 11, 2004

One more smile for you...This from a posting on the Liberty and Power Blog to which I am a contributor: "These gems come from Tom Blaskovics, via Jim Giltmier. Time to be thinking about getting out bumper stickers for the Bush/Cheney "re-election." Here's the list so far...

Bush/Cheney '04 -- Compassionate Colonialism
Bush/Cheney '04 -- Deja-voodoo All Over Again!
Bush/Cheney '04 -- Four More Wars
Bush/Cheney '04 -- Leave no Billionaire Behind
Bush/Cheney '04 -- Making the World a Bitter Place, One Country at a Time
Bush/Cheney '04 -- Over a Billion Whoppers Served
Bush/Cheney '04 -- Because the Truth just isn't Good Enough
Bush/Cheney '04 -- Putting the "Con" in Conservatism
Bush/Cheney '04 -- Thanks for not Paying Attention
Bush/Cheney '04 -- The Last Vote You'll Ever Have to Cast
Bush/Cheney '04 -- This Time, Elect Us!

Posted by mac @ 11:14 AM EST [Link]

Just for grins: Chan Lowe's "Good Riddance"; Pat Oliphant's "And Still They Come"; and, Tony Auth's "This Hallowed Ground". For non-cartoon chuckles: a news flash from Andy Borowitz: ""Just hours after being convicted of all charges related to the sale of her ImClone stock, domestic diva Martha Stewart attempted to flee the country baked inside an enormous pineapple upside-down cake." And to give people a sense of the ads about which Kerry was complaining when he didn't know that microphone was still on... [more]

Posted by mac @ 10:32 AM EST [Link]

Several items on top today. First, humor: those who have been following the SCO/IBM/Linux flap will enjoy this week's installment of the Bastard Operator From Hell. (I particularly like the analogy between SCO's products and excrement.)

In the You Heard It Here Beforehand department, it seems that everyone's predictions of the problems with computerized voting have materialized in California. We may never learn what went wrong; the absence of a paper trail means that no one will ever know how bad the miscount was. (The tipoff was districts reporting more votes than registered voters.)

Webmasters should read this item from SecurityFocus courtesy of The Register. I wasn't aware of Google's advanced search capabilities and how they can be used to reveal security flaws on web sites. I'll post more on this later, after I've finished the current thread.

Which brings me to the fourth line of defense for your personal PC: secure email and web software. [more]

Posted by brad @ 05:24 AM EST [Link]

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Interesting link from Steve C...interesting in the reactions it inspires. For more straight-forward fun, however, I recommend the following article on alien linguistics within SF.

Gordon P. offers insight into recent NASA claims. "NASA has been proudly proclaiming that the Mars Rover websites have received 'over 6 billion hits,' leaving one with the impression that everyone on the planet must have visited their website at least once. However, more careful examination shows that NASA's 'hit count' is grossly inflated, since NASA is counting every 'web transaction' (crudely speaking, each line in their webserver's logfile) as a 'hit' --- e.g., if someone accesses a webpage with three images, NASA would count that as "four hits:" one for the webpage itself, and one for each image. Hence, a single viewing of a webpage with a large number of logos and thumbnail images could easily rack up the better part of 100 'hits' all by itself! The web measurement firm Nielsen/NetRatings yields an answer that is probably a bit closer to reality: They report that NASA received 1.9 million 'unique visitors' when Spirit landed on 2004-Jan-04, and 2.6 million 'unique visitors' when Opportunity landed on 2004-Jan-25. Since then, interest has dropped, with only 1.8 million additional 'unique visitors' during the entire month of February..." [more]

Posted by mac @ 07:54 AM EST [Link]

Monday, March 8, 2004

For your chuckling pleasure: Gary Varvel's cartoon "The Local Government Efficiency Machine"; and, Pat Oliphant's bitter but accurate comment "Who Will Be Next?"

News updates on privacy: [more]

Posted by mac @ 08:48 PM EST [Link]

McBlog contributor Scott M. weighs in on the current spam-control proposals circulating....Scott writes, "For several weeks I've been following the proposals for regulating spam, charging "postage", etc., and mulling over my reactions to same. [more]

Posted by mac @ 02:10 PM EST [Link]

Following up on the proposal for "email stamps"... I'd say that Bill Gates is either out of touch with reality (likely) or a complete dunderhead (not improbable). Two words, Bill: email groups. As stingy as I am with my on-line time, I subscribe to about ten email lists and manage four. A penny per email may not sound like much to Sir Bill, but it would take the ifeminists newsletter out of the "free" category. And how does the dolt think a list can be sent to 10,000 subscribers if each individual message requires 10 seconds of problem-solving? Does he know how many such lists exist? On second thought, "dunderhead" seems the likelier explanation. (As I've said before, Bill has an endless number of "solutions" that don't involve fixing his lousy software.)

Back to bulletproofing your PC... Some are probably wondering why I listed anti-virus software as the fifth line of defense, rather than the third. This is because anti-virus software, while important, is nowadays largely a "reactive" measure. New viruses are designed to evade virus scanners, so the anti-virus teams are always "catching up" to the virus writers...and of course most personal computers lag behind the latest updates. Some pundits argue that, for this reason, virus scanners are the wrong solution. [more]

Posted by brad @ 10:39 AM EST [Link]

Sunday, March 7, 2004

From McBlog's unofficial co-blogger Gordon P..."Bill Gates' latest "solution" to the SPAM problem: Force people to 'buy' an e-mail stamp' by requiring them to solve a 10-second math problem before they can send each e-mail. (The facts that, 1.) Despite Gates' efforts to the contrary, there is no monopoly on mail-transport programs and no borders to the internet, and therefore no practical way for some central agency to impose such a `solution' on all users by force, and also that 2.) SPAM-engine authors have already learned how to forge e-mail headers, and could probably also figure out learn how forge such e-mail "stamps" both appear to be lost on Gates...)

Posted by mac @ 06:30 PM EST [Link]

This is what happens when you trust the government for your computer advice. According to the Internet Storm Center,

A recent advisory sent by the US Federal Trade Commission about a way to recognize "safe" websites when conducting sensitive transactions contained an incorrect statement. The statement implied if a Lock icon was visible then SSL was in use and that was a safe site. In this way is possible to recognize a site that is using SSL, but since this could also be a fraudulent certificate, it is not the possible to identify fake or real websites by the lock icon alone.

So when you see the little "lock" icon in the corner of browser window, it does not mean that you're talking to a legitimate site. Phony sites can use secure web pages too.

Am I too paranoid? A reader recently asked if it is even possible to safely connect a computer to the Internet, and if email is worth the trouble:

For a couple of reasons in addition to spam, I am becoming "alienated from email" - and computer use in general. My question is: What is the alternative to (effective) email use? Is there any?

And another question: I currently use broadband, which means my computer is open all the time. Frankly this makes me nervous, no matter how many firewalls I have on board. Must I forever have (at least) two computers, one connected to the Internet, the other not, in order to be absolutely sure that no one can get through to my files?

Short answer: for absolute, impervious, top-secret security, you use a computer that is never, ever, connected to a modem or a network. But unless you're a defense contractor, you don't need that level of security. We're online almost constantly, we use email heavily, and we've never had a successful intrusion. Here's how.

Posted by brad @ 10:32 AM EST [Link]

Friday, March 5, 2004

For your grinning pleasure: Mark Fiore's latest animation "The 9-11 Commission's Administration Awards" [BTW. Brad opens a window for each cartoon then keeps on reading while they all load, thus avoiding irksome download times]; on March 1st, "Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet" started an Outsourcing arc; Ed Stein's "Choices"; Mike Thompson's "Almost Everywhere"; and, The Onion introduces a new diet fad The Nietzschean diet which makes you eat whatever you fear most. [more]

Posted by mac @ 03:50 PM EST [Link]

Unhappy birthday: according to Netcraft, the first mass unsolicited commercial Internet message -- the notorious Canter and Siegel ad -- was posted ten years ago today, on Internet newsgroups.

Still... with over half of email now estimated to be spam, and modern spam containing so much random gibberish, I do wonder how easily the NSA can scan and analyze the world's email traffic. Netcraft even suggests (in suitably concerned tones) that spam offers new opportunities for encoding secret email. A charming notion, to those of us who are privacy advocates.

Who would have thought that the dark cloud of spam has a silver lining?


Posted by brad @ 02:42 PM EST [Link]

Thursday, March 4, 2004

Okay...we ran the test and it is an urban myth in the making. Okay, okay...for you sticklers, here's the backstory. A rumor has been zinging about the Internet: the new US $20 bills explode in the microwave due to an implanted RFID chip. For example, the Prison Planet site announces, "Note: This article has been linked all over the Internet. We want to make it clear that $20 bills will only 'pop' or 'explode' in certain microwaves. We've had E mails saying they do, they don't, 'you're all kooks' etc etc. What is confirmed is the public policy to embed US and European money with high tech tracking devices as part of the hulking surveillance society." Our lab analyst, Scott M. reports on his scientifically-conducted research... [more]

Posted by mac @ 04:23 PM EST [Link]

Further update: I've read the SCO complaint against Autozone, and it is not about contract violation; SCO is attempting to claim copyright violation simply because of the use of Linux. As I've observed before, this is going to be a harder case to make. Among other factors, it may depend on the outcome of the IBM, Novell, and Red Hat lawsuits. (Remember, I Am Not A Lawyer.) Also, because this is about Linux and not just an inter-company contract violation, I presume Autozone will enjoy the benefits of the legal defense funds set up by Red Hat and the Open Source Development Labs.

I've also read the SCO complaint against DaimlerChrysler, and it's as I said yesterday: failure to certify license compliance. It appears that SCO does have the contractual right to ask for this once a year. They might have a case here, but it doesn't implicate Linux.

Meanwhile, in the IBM case, the judge has given SCO 45 days to -- among other things -- "provide and identify with specificity all lines of code in Linux that it claims rights to." The Linux community has been asking for this for almost a year; SCO can stall no longer (although you can bet they'll demand that these court records be sealed).


Posted by brad @ 08:29 AM EST [Link]

Wednesday, March 3, 2004

My turn to contribute some humor. If you've ever had difficulty getting help from IT support staff, The Register's Bastard Operator From Hell may give you some insight. (I think some of these guys work for our local ISP.)

SCO update: today, only two weeks late, SCO has finally sued... a SCO customer. Well, a SCO customer that switched to Linux, and who SCO -- apparently on no evidence whatsoever -- claims has copied some of their old SCO code to their new Linux system. If this is true -- and the guy who did the work says it isn't -- then still it amounts to nothing more than a SCO customer violating a SCO license agreement (and possibly some copyrights). Arguably, it acts against SCO's other claims, since they say the end user copied the code, so it clearly wasn't in their Linux distribution. Regardless, expect the media to trumpet "SCO sues Linux user for copyright violation" or some such technically-correct but completely misleading headline.

As many predicted, SCO has no grounds to sue Linux users, so they're going after their own customers. (At this point only a masochist would voluntarily become a SCO customer.) It does, however, distract the media from today's disappointing quarterly report (a $2.25 million loss). Timing is everything.

Update: SCO is also suing DaimlerChrysler. Not for anything they've done, but because they "failed to respond" to SCO's request that they certify compliance with their SCO license agreement. (I don't know if such a certification is required by the agreement, or not.) According to, "SCO does not, in fact, know whether Daimler's use of Linux is violating its Unix software agreement with SCO." In other words, they're fishing.


Posted by brad @ 12:25 PM EST [Link]

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Whew...I am so far behind in blogging that it will take a while to plough through the backlog of items I've tagged. Rather than keep you waiting for a's your cartoon fix! (I'll be posting material in chunks during the day.) Nick Anderson's "Oh Snookums"; Clay Bennett's "For Best Actor.."; Ben Sargent's "Additional Amendments"; Steve Sack's "Swishy Founders"; and, Chuck Asay's "Dancing?"

I promised to update readers on Samuel Edward Konkin III's death. Promise kept.

News and commentary on privacy.... [more]

Posted by mac @ 12:13 PM EST [Link]

Time to kiss another slice of your privacy goodbye... in the name of "protecting the children", of course. I'm referring to Microsoft's recently announced "Caller ID for Email", which is apparently just a variant of SPF, a proposal that has been circulating around the Internet Engineering community for some time.

Here's the problem with both Email Caller ID and SPF (Sender Policy Framework): both are intended to prevent "spoofing" of the From: address in emails. Both overlook the fact that there are legitimate reasons to do this. [more]

Posted by brad @ 08:50 AM EST [Link]

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