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August 2007 Archives

August 9, 2007

What's in your iPod?

I am a computer geek. I'm also a bit of a music geek. I'm not obsessive. I just like to explore and find new things. Since getting an iPod, Lisa has given me a hard time about in being permanently attached to my arm. (I have a Nano with an arm-band. I do wear it just about all the time.) When you have a house with numerous parrots, it can get quite loud. Have you ever wondered what a cockatoo sounds like up close personal? I don't have to wonder. I have the pleasure of experiencing it several times a day. I wear earphones a lot at home because:

  1. I like to listen to music
  2. I like to hear the music that I am listening to
  3. I would not otherwise be able to hear over the din of parrots
  4. I would not have an uninterrupted listening experience as I move from one room to the other in my house

Therefore, I take my music with me and pump the sound directly into my ear canal, bypassing all of the other sounds that could pollute my listening experience.

As I said, I like to explore new things. That's why I listen to several of the podcast that I do. What do I listen to?

I recently subscribed to CBC Radio 3's podcast, but I am still trying to decide if I will keep it. It seems to be a combined feed of their Track of the Day and R3-30 podcasts. I like the Track of the Day, but the personalities on the R3-30 really turn me off. I'm listening to my iPod so I don't have to listen to annoying radio personalities banter about the most inane stuff. But I digress.

There are other podcasts that I listen to.

Additionally, I capture a stream of A Prairie Home Companion and create a privately hosted podcast for myself. I'm also trying to get a similar podcast for The Thistle & Shamrock but have had issues with timing and availability. I got two shows captured correctly, but then my server time changed and then the stream was unavailable and then I haven't gotten the proper timing for my new source.

At any rate, those are the podcasts that I listen to. I'd like to find other things to listen to. I'm open to suggestions.

August 17, 2007

Belgian Delirium

I like beer. I think I like beer more that the average guy. And I don't mean that I like to drink the awful swill that major American breweries call beer. I like full-bodied beer. I like to try new styles by different breweries from other countries. I like to make my own beer.

Tonight, the company I work for had going away drinks for a couple of employees who are leaving on good terms. We went to a local club near our office. I got there late due to work obligations and began to peruse the beer list. I saw a bottled beer with a $21 price tag. delerium.jpg My immediate thought was "What does a $21 beer taste like?"

Fortunately for me, I was not buying drinks this evening, so I felt quite free to try this beverage. I must say that I was rather impressed. It had a nice light body, but it did not leave me wanting for taste. It had a bit of an apple cider flavor to in; just a bit acidic, but balance well by a hoppiness. At 8.5% alcohol by volume and 25 oz (Actually, it was 750 ml, but we Americans are too stupid to know how much that is.), it packed quite the punch. A co-worker was so impressed by a taste of it that they ordered second bottle.

Unfortunately I had to leave before I knew that the second bottle was empty. My bottle had quite dried up by then. But, then again, at least one other person helped themselves to at least 8 of those 25 tasty ounces.

August 24, 2007

If I knew this back then...

Slashdot brought two stories to my attention today. The first, and more technical, was of particular interest to me. It details the steps a system administrator took to track down the damage caused by a cracker and to trace his whereabouts on the net.

Shortly after I installed my first Linux distribution, I found that my computer had been compromised. I knew when I set the computer up that it was vulnerable, but I did not know anything about how to secure it. I asked a friend / acquaintance / co-worker to help me secure the system, but we did not move quickly enough to prevent intrusion.

Since I knew very little about Linux administration, I figured the install was a total loss so I formatted and reinstalled. This time I knew a little bit more and took steps to try to lock down the system a bit more than the first time. I also installed some intrusion detection software. I monitored logs and email to watch for any obvious malicious activity. I also started dating Lisa. I started spending more time with her at her apartment and less time with my computer at my apartment. Some, myself included, would consider this a Good Thing™. I found myself unemployed as a victim of the first Dot-Com Bubble. (Yes, I said "first". I have great concern that the "Web 2.0" phenomena is really just Dot-Com Bubble 2.0.) In my free time, while not finding any work because there were very few jobs, I wrote a script that, as a current coworker referred to it, was like an RSS aggregator before RSS existed. It was basically a script that would go out to a dozen or more web pages, scrape the content, build an HTML page using their source, then email the page to me. I could then get all of my daily readings in one email. It saved me copious amounts of waiting for bookmarks to load in the days before FireFox tabbed browsing and "Open in Tabs" for bookmarks.

Well, long story short, one day, just after finally getting a job, I stopped receiving these emails. It took me a day or two to actually realize that I was not receiving them, new job and all. I ssh'd in to my machine and started poking around and came across some things that seemed very similar to what lars describes in his post: basic utilities did not respond like they should. I had seen the same thing when my computer had be previously compromised, so I knew I was "hacked". I did the only thing I could at the time: shutdown -h now

It took me a couple of days before I could actually get to my apartment where the machine was physically located to pull the network cable, boot it up, and take a look at things. Yes, the computer was compromised. They came in through an RPC call. There was a RootKit. I had a list of what system files had changed, thanks to tripwire, but no time to really deal with it. I wasn't sure how to restore the system and pretty much just shelved it.

It sat on the shelf for close to a year. During that year, I had to use Lisa's Win98 computer, which I did not like. She claims that she never had problems with her computer until I started touching it. I finally decide I was going to format the old hard drive and install a new Linux and start over. First, though, I wanted to get my old home directory off the hard drive so I did not loose all of my collected data. Fortunately, the drive that I intended to copy the data to was bad, so I was unable to save the data and, therefore, could not format the hard drive.

Fortunately? Yes. The following week, two guys in suits come knocking on the door in the evening before I get home from work. Lisa isn't answering the door. They aren't leaving. They just keep pounding on the door. Finally, she goes out the other door and demands to know who they are and what they want. They're FBI and they want me. It turns out that when my computer had be compromised, the perpetrator used it as a jumping point to attack some servers on the east coast (security or defense or banking servers in Virginia, or some such) and the FBI had pages of server logs with my IP address trying to access the system. I guessed as to the dates when this happened, explained that my computer had been compromised, and that I had shut it down as soon as I found out. They asked for proof. If I had wiped the hard drive, I would have had none. As it was, I had the hard drive with all of the data in-tact. They asked to image the thing. Of course, I agreed. After getting the hard drive back, I never heard from them again.

Finally, a couple of months ago (this was all years ago), I thought, I'm going to try to get that data off this hard drive and wipe it so I can set up a second machine to use as a server / sandbox. It seems that the hard drive is in tact, but my data is not. I wonder what ever happened to it. Now I wish I had know what to do to track the scumbag that broke in to my computer. I wish I still had the data on the hard drive to track his actions. I wish I knew what had happened so I could make sure that what he did does not affect anything that I have elsewhere. If I only knew then what I know now....

Self-important Marketing Crap

As I mentioned earlier, Slashdot posted a couple of stories today that caught my attention. The second story irked me, raised my ire, and generally made me feel like Jonathan Schwartz does not even pay attention to what he himself is saying.

To summarize: Sun has several great success stories and is very well respected in the tech industry. Their servers and operating system have powered major businesses for decades. They have made tremendous progress in the desktop productivity software market, directly competing with Microsoft, with StarOffice and the open source relative OpenOffice. They have signed a deal wit Google to distribute StarOffice as part of the Google Pack. And, in case you did not know, they invented Java.

Java is everywhere. Many very high-profile web properties are powered by Java. Java is on your computer. Java is probably on your phone, too. If you touch technology in any way, you probably have interacted with Java, whether you know it or not. Now, if you happen to be Sun and you know that your product is on so many pieces of hardware and works on so many different platforms, that's got to feel pretty good.

Conversely, while everyone knows Java, very few know Sun. So, to capitalize on this Java "brand recognition" Sun is changing its stock trading symbol from SUNW, which clearly states who they are, to JAVA, which clearly states what they make.

To quote Mr. Schwartz directly:

JAVA is a technology whose value is near infinite to the internet, and a brand that's inseparably a part of Sun (and our profitability). And so next week, we're going to embrace that reality by changing our trading symbol, from SUNW to JAVA. This is a big change for us, capitalizing on the extraordinary affinity our teams have invested to build, introducing Sun to new investors, developers and consumers. Most know Java, few know Sun - we can bring the two one step closer.

To be very clear, this isn't about changing the company name or focus - we are Sun, we are a systems company, and we will always be a derivative of the students that created us, Stanford University Network is here to stay. But we are no longer simply a workstation company, nor a company whose products can be limited by one category - and Java does a better job of capturing exactly that sentiment than any other four letter symbol. Java means limitless opportunity - for our software, systems, storage, service and microelectronics businesses. And for the open source communities we shepherd. What a perfect ticker.

Here's where I start to take issue. Sure, Java is everywhere. I can't avoid it. I'd like to, but I can't. I think applications written in Java tend have lag issues. They can have a lot of features, but Java, for some reason, seems very memory and CPU intense. Mind you, this is opinion base on anecdotal experience, but it is my experience. I have seen it time and time again. Maybe a good Java developer can write an application that does not suffer intermittent slow-downs. If that is the case, then there must not be many good Java developers out there, because I have not seen these quick, responsive applications.

To continue my point, Mr. Schwartz says, "JAVA is a technology whose value is near infinite to the internet." I think this is greatly overstating Java's importance on the Internet. Java could go away tomorrow and a new technology would be there to fill the void in the market. On the other hand, let's just assume that this is true. I feel that it is taking credit where credit is not due. There are other technologies that underly Java and provide real processing and data base power to those applications written in Java. There are operating systems that depend on other technologies that make Java's presence possible. These are the giants upon whose shoulders Java must stand. Without them, Java would drop into the void.

The way Mr. Schwartz finishes his article is the real stumper. "[Sun is] no longer simply a workstation company ... whose products can be limited by one category - and Java does a better job of capturing exactly that sentiment than any other four letter symbol." To the first part of this statement, isn't changing your stock ticker (your "investor identity") to a product that you produce, in fact, identifying you by that one product? Isn't it actually limiting your identity to be one product? Microsoft™ used to be synonymous with Windows™. Today, Microsoft is known for its gaming platform, its office productivity suite, and its operating system, most of which are also synonymous with "virus". If Microsoft were to change their stock ticker to WNDW (or any other "windows" variant), it would be ignoring the other contributions they have made to the community (for good or evil).

As to the second part of that quote, I know that I am not alone in thinking that Sun could pick a better four-letter symbol, but it would not be appropriate for publication or trade on the stock market.

About August 2007

This page contains all entries posted to I Geek, Therefore I am in August 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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