One Phish, Two Phish, Red Phish, Etc.

For those of you with an interest in educating your extended family on the dangers of phishing websites, McAfee is obviously selling its SiteAdvisor software via this nifty little quiz but it offers a great learning opportunity and more than a few helpful tips on avoiding giving up your personal and financial information.
See if you can match my score:
Perfect score, first time through baby! *grin*

Innovative Business Model: Buy My Product Or I’ll Sue You!

Take off every Zig - for great digital justice!
Now this is a doozy. A company called “MRT” has decided to sue Microsoft, Apple, Adobe and Real Networks because

MRT claims that Vista, Adobe Flash Player, Real Player, iTunes and the iPod have been produced “without regard for the DMCA or the rights of American Intellectual Property owners.” The DMCA, signed into law in 1998, makes it illegal to manufacture products that are designed to circumvent copy protection. Accordingly, MRT has filed Cease and Desist letters against Apple, Microsoft, Adobe and Real to stop production or sale of products that infringe on the DMCA.
MRT’s X1 SeCure Recording Control has proven effective against stream ripping, the company said in a statement, and these companies have been “actively avoiding the use of MRT’s technologies.”

(Emphasis mine.)
Oh that’s rich. That’s real rich. As if there weren’t enough examples that the DMCA is a terrible law, here we have a company essentially claiming that any media company not using their product is, in effect, not doing enough and therefore in violation of the law. It couldn’t be that perhaps those companies took a look at MRT’s offering, found it to be crap and decided to press on with their own copy protection schemes — that would be too simple! Conspiracy! Skulduggery! RICO!
Now, it seems plain to me that MRT is misreading the law and thus should have their suit laughed out of court at the first available opportunity. In order to pass the DMCA’s “anti-circumvention” sniff test, a product must be “designed to circumvent copy protection” (as referenced above). I find it a ludicrous proposition that any reasonably intelligent judge could possibly believe that Real Player, Windows Media, iTunes, Flash and the iPod were in any way, shape, or form “designed” to circumvent copy protection.
But perhaps I speak too soon. Perhaps I could counsel a few traffic light camera vendors to begin suing all cities that “refuse” to place their cameras at all stoplights. I mean, that obviously means that they are not only not interested in enforcing traffic laws but are in fact inviting and enabling drivers to break the law. They’re complicit in the lawbreaking, right? Same argument, as far as I can see.
The only solution I can see to the problem is to round up all lawyers, fire them into space and then lose the whole lot somewhere in the New Mexican desert ala Scotty.
Ars Technica has more on the subject.

Nice Inbox You’ve Got There — Shame If Something Were To Happen To It…

An enterprising Slashdotter, spurred by a pair of articles, asks Are Sysadmins Really that Bad? The short answer is: yes, yes we are.
The long answer is: be nice to us, include us on the planning stages of your projects, tell us when we’ve done either good or bad things, always remember Sysadmin Appreciation Day — basically, treat us like regular human beings.
And never, never ask “What do you even do all day?” with that tone. You know the one. Just don’t, mmmkay?

Overemotionalizing Technology

Johnny 5 — alive!
The Washington Post ran a very interesting piece the other day documenting the affinity that our military’s finest tend to develop with the robots placed in their care. The article starts off with, quite literally, a bang:

The most effective way to find and destroy a land mine is to step on it.
This has bad results, of course, if you’re a human. But not so much if you’re a robot and have as many legs as a centipede sticking out from your body. That’s why Mark Tilden, a robotics physicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, built something like that. At the Yuma Test Grounds in Arizona, the autonomous robot, 5 feet long and modeled on a stick-insect, strutted out for a live-fire test and worked beautifully, he says. Every time it found a mine, blew it up and lost a limb, it picked itself up and readjusted to move forward on its remaining legs, continuing to clear a path through the minefield.
Finally it was down to one leg. Still, it pulled itself forward. Tilden was ecstatic. The machine was working splendidly.
The human in command of the exercise, however — an Army colonel — blew a fuse.
The colonel ordered the test stopped.
Why? asked Tilden. What’s wrong?
The colonel just could not stand the pathos of watching the burned, scarred and crippled machine drag itself forward on its last leg.
This test, he charged, was inhumane.

The rest of the article goes on to note that humans, as a group, tend to ascribe human characteristics to their technological tools, many times despite the fact that the tool in no way resembles a human or even an animal that might be considered a pet. In my years as a systems admin, I’ve noticed that this applies to users’ computers quite frequently. Users personalize their machines, customize their desktops, etc. and begin to think of them as extensions to themselves, be that good or bad. It’s a sentiment I can sympathize with, but I do have to admit: it’s just plain weird to think of a lump of metal and silicon as having “feelings” or even posessing the capability to be “spiteful” or “uncooperative”. Do we ever think of hammers as being “petulant” or staplers as having it in for us?
I guess we do tend to think of our cars as having personality — does this suggest that there is some minimum threshhold for a number of moving parts in order for humans to anthropomorphize an object?

Sequestered No More!

Just got out of a marathon sysadminning session where my team lead and I did quite a bit of architecting, planning, troubleshooting and strategerizing.
All I have to say is that Apple rocks for their dscl and dsconfigldap command line tools and “bind_policy = soft” is your friend for Linux hosts using LDAP.

Thunderbird 2.0: An Upgrade Well Worth Your Time

The Mozilla Foundation released Thunderbird 2.0 yesterday and, based upon my first 24 hours with it, I’d give it an unconditional thumbs-up.
Overall, it’s a much nicer experience than the previous version (1.5). It is faster, the interface is cleaner, it handles IMAP mailboxes far faster than before and it has a few nice new touches like:

  • Tags for categorizing your messages
  • Viewed message history and corresponding buttons allowing you to move back and forth between your recently-viewed messages just like you move between browser pages.

…and a ton more that I’m sure I’m forgetting at this point.
Needless to say, if you’re not slaving away under the fierce whip of one of the various flavors of Outlook, you need to start using Thunderbird 2.0. Stat.

Once Again, Lehigh Disappoints

The MPAA has released their “dishonor roll”, a list of the top 25 college and university campuses (campii? campusi? I give up!) with the highest number of “confirmed” “illegal” file sharers and, sadly, my alma mater once again failed to make the cut. I blame Farrington’s nefarious influence, even after he departed!
The 25, for those interested, are as follows (with total “confirmed” filesharers listed afterwards):

  1. Columbia University – 1,198
  2. University of Pennsylvania – 934
  3. Boston University – 891
  4. University of California at Los Angeles – 889
  5. Purdue University – 873
  6. Vanderbilt University – 860
  7. Duke University – 813
  8. Rochester Institute of Technology – 792
  9. University of Massachusetts – 765
  10. University of Michigan – 740
  11. University of California at Santa Cruz – 714
  12. University of Southern California – 704
  13. University of Nebraska at Lincoln – 637
  14. North Carolina State University – 636
  15. Iowa State University – 586
  16. University of Chicago – 575
  17. University of Rochester – 562
  18. Ohio University – 550
  19. University of Tennessee – 527
  20. Michigan State University – 506
  21. Virginia Polytechnic Institute – 457
  22. Drexel University – 455
  23. University of South Florida – 447
  24. Stanford University – 405
  25. University of California at Berkeley – 398

C’mon, people! Drexel is beating you out! I know you can do better. Put that Rossin money to work.
Sources: Engadget and Ars Technica.

Awww Crap. Looks Like I’m In The Market For A New ISP.

Holy Out-Of-Left-Field News, Batman. I’ve stated previously that I will never give Best Buy another dime of my hard-earned money due to their consistent mistreatment of me in the retail space. Looks like they’re going to be mistreating me in the ISP space until I can find a replacement:

Best Buy Acquires Speakeasy: Financial News – Yahoo! Finance
MINNEAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY – News) has agreed to acquire Speakeasy, Inc., one of the largest independent broadband voice, data and IT service providers in the United States. This move strengthens Best Buy’s technology portfolio in the small business space, delivered through the company’s Best Buy For Business unit.

This, to put it mildly, sucks. I’ve always respected Speakeasy’s stances on customer protections and have enjoyed their customer support as well as the services they offer (including, but not limited to unlimited bandwidth and a static IP address) and now, well, every dime I send Speakeasy’s way will be going directly into Best Buy’s filthy, hideously bloated, uncaring pockets.
I guess I’ll be giving Earthlink a call, as there’s no way I’m going back to the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is Comcast.

Up From Humble Beginnings

It’s hard to believe, but Google, the current King of the Internet[s], sprang up from humble beginnings at Stanford back in 1998. Want proof? Here are the pictures that capture the ragtag nature of the first revision of the Little Search Engine That Could And Eventually Did.