January 27, 2004

MyDoom

Wow.

The recently-discovered MyDoom worm is spreading like wildfire. One firm estimates it accounts for 1 in 12 emails at this point in time.

In my experience this morning, it accounts for far more. My university account had ten new messages this morning, all of which were generated by MyDoom. My ISP account had 20 messages in the inbox (mailing lists are automatically sorted out to a different folder), 16 of which were MyDoom.

In the words of Kent Brockman, "I, for one, welcome our new MyDoom, Novarg, Shimgapi, Shimg, or Mimail overlords." Maybe they'll leave me alone if they think I've given in.

Speculation is already running rampant as to the source of the malware. One poster on the popular "news" site Slashdot suggests SCO developed it. SCO, you see, is trying to sue the pants of companies using and selling Linux on the dubious claim they own large parts of the code. The company in the past has used DOS attacks in court as excuses, and MyDoom is conveniently set to launch a DDOS attack against SCO around the date they should be heading back to court. It's a nice conspiracy theory, and many people watching the goings-on wouldn't put such a move past Darl and his hemorrhaging and irrelevant corporation.

Now if this thing would just go away and let us get on with life, I'd be happy. There are only so many incorrect "You sent a virus through our mail server!" emails you can handle before you want to find some large rocks and make them meet a whole lot of thick skulls.

Virus scanner companies, this is your charge: update your SMTP-integrating products. Add to your virus definitions a flag for "forges e-mail addresses." Make your customers' servers stop sending false messages to people who had nothing to do with the distribution of the virus. I'm sick of it, and it only serves to confuse the hell out of the average home computer user, who then spends hours scanning their system for viruses only to find there's nothing detected (and usually then panics, thinking the evil virus must already have infiltrated their system so deeply that it can no longer be detected).

Posted by Colin at 12:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 26, 2004

Out of Touch

I haven't been receiving comment notifications since shortly after reopening, so I've appeared to be rather lax in responding to comments.

If you've posted a comment expecting a response and haven't received one, I hope to get to them by the end of the week. The same goes for e-mail sent to my MyRealBox account (which I just plain haven't been checking).

Posted by Colin at 10:42 PM

January 22, 2004

The Butterfly Effect

The trailers for _The Butterfly Effect_ consistently give me the creeps. It's one movie I plan on seeing in theaters come hell or high water. I initially blew it off due to the Ashton Kutcher content, but after seeing trailers for repeatedly, it seems he actually is a capable actor and not just some doofus underwear model. They also turned me back on to "It's Been Awhile," which I hadn't listened to in a long time. As I sit here listening to it this morning, I'm left with the impression that song wasn't just a lucky choice for the trailer. I get the distinct impression the screenplay was spawned by excessive listening to Staind. The lyrics sum up nearly the entire known plot of the movie pretty neatly. Whatever the case, I'm going to see it. The corporate machine can have my $7 matinee ticket and I can have my hour and change of cinema. At least, assuming hormonal hordes of pubescent girls don't show up knowing Ashton is partially disrobed at some point in the film. Should that occur, the filmgoing experience will be reduced to a lot of twittering and my drowning my sorrows in overpriced popcorn and bottled water, because dammit, I'm not walking out of a movie I paid $7 for.
Posted by Colin at 10:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 19, 2004

Sharing Mac Printers With Windows Users

p. One of the promised new features with Mac OS X Panther was the ability to both easily use printers shared from Windows and easily share printers to Windows. p. In my months of running Panther, I was never able to get Windows computers to print to the Canon S450 attached to my Mac. Errors showed up in the logs about format errors, but I never felt like pursuing it any farther. p. This afternoon, though, I had a hunch to the solution. In fact, it's the same solution Microsoft suggests for a completely unrelated problem. p. The key? In most cases, *don't use the correct printer driver*. This doesn't hold true for laser printers capable of PostScript. But for inkjets and the cheapo lasers that don't speak PostScript, this is key. p. So here's a step-by-step guide to getting printing working. This assumes Mac OS X 10.3 and Windows XP. h4. On the Macintosh # Add the printer to be shared, if it hasn't already been automatically detected. # Open System Preferences. # Select the Sharing pane. # Enable Windows Sharing by checking the box or clicking the Start button. # Enable Printer Sharing by checking the box or clicking the Start button. # Quit System Preferences. h4. On the Windows PC p. Although the Printers and Faxes control panel would seem the likely place to go next, it's completely the wrong place to go unless you hate yourself. Due to the way Microsoft has designed it, you don't have to opportunity to authenticate to password-protected shares (and as a result, it's impossible to browse to your Mac OS X printer). We're instead using the My Network Places view. # Open a My Network Places window. The icon to facilitate this may be on your desktop, in your Start menu, or floating in limbo. # Double-click the icon labeled "Mac OS X." If you haven't changed your Mac's name, this will be something like "Mac OS X (john-does-comp)". # Log in using the username (short name) and password of your Mac OS X account. # Right-click the printer you want to print to. # Select "Connect..." from the contextual menu. # Click Yes on the next two dialogs. # In the printer selection dialog, select Apple as the Manufacturer. # In the printer selection dialog, select Color LaserWriter as the model. # Click OK. h4. Caveats and Such p. The only things you lose are any special features your proper printer drivers may offer. If you've used Windows for any period of time, though, you're probably aware not all manufacturers' drivers work properly over the network anyway (so you may not be losing anything you wouldn't with Windows-to-Windows sharing). p. It may well be possible to control the printer remotely and print successfully by creating an additional printer on the Mac through CUPS, but I'm not hard up enough for my S450's minimal features to try it. If the possibility piques your interest, though, check out a Mac OS X Hints article on the subject.
Posted by Colin at 3:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Americana

The daily bump and grind of suburbia is hardly all that America has to offer. Too many of us spend far too long in the city. We become citified, forgetting about the whole world of experiences our country has to offer outside of our comfortable city limits. Sometimes you just have to break the mold. You broke the mold this summer. Rather than flying to Colorado, you drove. It was a long drive, but you wouldn't trade any moment of it for anything else. Except maybe the chance to do it all again with one of Canon's new Digital Rebels in tow. All the nice hotels are a great temporary respite, but you're not a real American traveler until you've stayed at One Of Those Hotels. Those of us who have been there know the kind. The ones where you can hear the drug deal going on in the next room through the paper-thin walls. The ones that feel and look like a prison because they didn't bother to put drywall up over the brick. The ones where a murder investigation comes about in the middle of the night and you decide to check out early. The ones where an endless stream of ants clamber their way up the shower drain. The ones where the bathroom doorknob comes off in your hand and you wonder if you'll die naked and alone from starvation (and you start wondering if you could somehow worm your way out that tiny frosted window). The "newly remodeled" Best Westerns, where "remodeled" means they added an indoor pool and a jacuzzi while leaving the rooms the same way they've been since 1970. You simply haven't lived until you've tried to watch television, only to find the speaker is inexplicably on the side of the TV and fires toward the door. You're not a real (or perhaps MacGuyveresque) traveler until you've propped your luggage against the wall and stood a cupped newspaper next to the TV to redirect the sound toward you. You even stayed at one Best Western (albeit briefly, because the air didn't work) with a circa-1970 Westinghouse air conditioning unit. The coldness setting went to 11. You thought of Spinal Tap and laughed. You don't think the angry German maintenance man wearing blue socks with his tan Tevas found anything amusing about your lack of satisfaction with the air conditioning in an 85 degree room. "Is fine," he said. "Needs time to wark." It had already been running for almost two hours, so off it was to find another room at another hotel. Traveling is waking up in the morning and going to breakfast at a local restaurant, to find they're seriously serving Freedom Toast instead of French Toast, and that it's no laughing matter. And that despite the Freedom Toast, it feels more like home than anywhere has during your journey. It reminds you of your grandparents' town, most of the regulars sitting at the counter talking about their farms while one sits in a booth and hollers across the room occasionally to join in the conversation. It's hundreds of miles from home and thousands from your grandparents, but there it is suspended in time and space. A little slice of American life, a little slice of home. And if you believe the menu, four slices of freedom for three bucks. Sitting in that booth, the one that never escaped the 1950s, you realize that _this_ is America. Not a sea of faceless strangers who don't care, but the same types of people you've known your entire life. People serving good food and a smile for cheap prices. You tip the waitress excessively in thanks. People you're astonished hold the door for you, and people you astonish right back the next day when you return the favor. A smile and a thank you between strangers. People of all ages, all races, all... everything. But people united, regardless of what's being reported on the six o'clock news. The open road calls. When are you going to answer? When are you going to rediscover America?
Posted by Colin at 9:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 18, 2004

Spam and Grassroots

A note to all you would-be entrepreneurs out there: "grassroots marketing" does not equate to spam.

I'm going to avoid specifics in those post because I don't want to inadvertently direct any traffic to the very abuser I'm discussing.

At the end of last semester, a business student at ASU came up with an idea: an alternate service for acquiring text books, one where students would swap with each other (for a fee, of course). His father funded the programming and rollout of said service, and said business student and his minions began canvassing the campus with fliers advertising the site. No harm there -- bulletin boards are provided for exactly this use.

Advertising across the campus you hope to serve with cheap photocopies? Getting people to drum up the name? That's grassroots marketing.

Mass e-mailing ASU students to advertise the service? That's not. That's spamming, and that pisses people off -- myself included.

It also fails miserably at the same thing most spam does: everything. Bad grammar, bad spelling, misuse of "its" and "it's," grotesque run-on sentences... But even better than most spam, it asks the recipients to add to the deluge by spamming more people themselves!

This message is some sort of evil mutant hybrid of spam and chain letters.

I found it so annoying that I took immediate action. As soon as I heard my new mail sound and saw what it was, off it went via a forward to ASU's abuse team. The ball's in their court now, and if past experience is any indication, they will indeed deal with it appropriately.

If you're trying to start a new business and make it successful, don't spam people. You need to stand out from the competition, not sink down to the level of "make penis now!!!!11" and "b1g +1+5 4U!!!!!" Google ads are cheap. Google AdWords are cheaper. Print ads are reasonable.

Never underestimate the power of word of mouth.

But you see, the tricky thing about word of mouth is that it can work in one of two ways: for you, or against you. After spamming a huge chunk of their potential customer base, there are going to be a number of potential customers who will take word of mouth in the direction opposite what the spammers had hoped. Don't be a bonehead like this company.

Posted by Colin at 9:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 12, 2004

Trade-In (In Your Dreams)

I knew CompUSA's twice-annual trade-in period had to be coming, so I was excited when I leafed through their Sunday ad and saw it was here. I was doubly excited when I saw the top-end trade-in value was now $750, a full $150 more than the previous potential value. And then I went to the trade-in partner's web site to get a quote. "Doesn't work" is a generous description of the web application that's supposed to deal with this promotion. In playing around, I discovered: * Apple as a manufacturer is listed three times as Apple, Apple Macintosh, and Macintosh. * Of the main Apple category (the most complete), the newest Power Mac listed is 7 years old. * Entering the production order number for my Mac magically returned a quote, even though no system anywhere near that new exists in the search-by-brand mechanism. * Acer appears both as Acer, with a large product line dating back to the early 1990s, and Ager, who sells an Otebook. * Despite having entries in the search-by-brand system for most of Dell's recent systems (the mysterious lack of the Inspiron 8100 between the 8000 and 8200 notwithstanding), none of them have quotes available. * Anything you can somehow manage to get a quote on has a trade-in value of "$.00". While I love CompUSA's trade-in programs (my past experience is that the values tend to be close to eBay's inflated prices), this one so far is mind-numbingly poorly executed. I would be happy to hand them my current laptop and instantly get a gift card instead of slogging through an eBay listing, but so far it looks like that's not destined to happen. This is a fine example of what not to do when running a promotion. *Update*, 13:09: As of 13:09, the trade-in quote calculator is closed for maintenance. While they should have had all their ducks in a row before that ad ever went to print, it's good that they're taking care of the problems seemingly quickly. *Update*, 13:44: The trade-in calculator is back up. If they made any changes, I haven't found them.
Posted by Colin at 10:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 9, 2004

Get Out

It's been far too long since I've just packed up, driven for the wilderness, and been away from it all. Even an established campground would be a welcome respite from the day-to-day. Heck, I'd settle for a day trip to Sedona or Jerome or Payson.

I woke up this morning, looked at the Ansel Adams calendar on my wall, and had the overwhelming desire to just go. Pack up the digital camera and all three CF cards, pack up the Maxxum and a roll of Ilford, and find someplace. And not return until I've burned through all 128 exposures. It sounds wonderful. In fact, it sounds particularly appetizing with the spring semester starting up shortly.

With all the locations I want to go a good two hours away, though, there's no way to make it there and back before the onslaught of rush hour. So the cameras remain in their bags and I remain ensconced in monotony -- for today, at least. There's no telling what the weekend or next week will bring.

And eventually, I will make it to Reavis Ranch for at least an overnight backpacking trip (and as heavy as they'll be for a six mile hike with a loaded pack, I'm taking the cameras). There are too many places I haven't been to in Arizona to let life drag me away from the outdoors.

Posted by Colin at 11:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 5, 2004

Soft Drinks: The New Axis of Evil

Just when I thought I'd read all the wacky ideas in the world, the Associated Press carries an amusing article titled "Doctors fight soft drinks." From the article: bq. Soft drinks should be eliminated from schools to help tackle the nation's obesity epidemic and pediatricians should work with their local schools to ensure that children are offered healthful alternatives, the American Academy of Pediatrics says. bq. ...the new policy says elementary and high schools should avoid [soft drink vending machine contracts] and that those with contracts should impose restrictions to avoid promoting overconsumption by kids. Sorry, American Academy of Pediatrics, but I'm going to have to disagree with you here. While I do agree that putting vending machines in elementary schools is a little excessive (since most K-6ers are lacking in self control), taking soda machines out of high schools will result in nothing less than mutiny. Beside which, soft drinks are not the sole cause of morbidly obese children running around: most of it starts at home. We have a generation of parents that suck at parenting. Children are permitted to sit on their butts all day rather than exercising (e.g., playing outside). Overprotective parents drive their sons and daughters three houses down the street to a friend's place or a block to school because they're paranoid about terrorism or kidnapping. Parents overfeed their children when they're young and don't teach them good nutritional habits as they grow. Some parents think it's cute when their kids throw temper tantrums, shoplift, or throw their food. Parents aren't intervening when their sons or daughters are playing PlayStation for 3, 4, or 5 hours straight (back in my day, your thumb would fall off if you played that long (NES forever!)). Soft drinks are truly the least of our worries. Perhaps what we should be doing instead is making PE a priority again at elementary and middle schools. When I went to school, you had physical education every year K-8 and had to have at least one credit (1 full year) over grades 9-12. With budget cuts, some schools have eliminated or dramatically cut back on phys ed programs. In a generation of sedentary children, where PE may be the only exercise they have, of course we're going to see an increase in obesity. That's assuming there isn't some element of genetics or environmental differences at work here. I have noticed every year that incoming freshmen at my former high school and at my university are on the whole shorter than the previous years' students were. With girls and boys now reportedly hitting puberty earlier and earlier, what's to say some chemical or hormone now in our foods coupled with a sedentary lifestyle isn't leading to short, fat, abnormally early-developing children? But let's just take the easy answer: soda is making our children fat! Ban it!
Posted by Colin at 11:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 2, 2004

Tech Books for Free

If you live near a Fry's Electronics and you've been looking for some reading material, it may be worth dropping in.

Five O'Reilly books are free after mail-in rebate (you end up paying only tax and $0.37) between now and the 6th.

Included in this offer:
Google Hacks
Mac OS X Panther: The Missing Manual
eBay Hacks
Windows XP Pro: The Missing Manual
PC Annoyances

I can personally attest to the quality of the Missing Manual titles. There's plenty to be had in each, even for power users. For example, I just found upon re-reading the Panther Missing Manual tonight that you can scroll horizontally by holding shift while utilizing your mouse's scrollwheel. At an eventual $1.22 per title (8.10% sales tax at the Tempe store), you don't have much to lose even if you buy one and find it doesn't add to your knowledge.

Unlike many other lame rebate offers, you aren't limited to only one of the offered titles. You do, however, have to buy each title you want on a different receipt. The end result is $15 back for up to one copy of each title, so feel free to go hog wild if you want them all.

And if you're near the Tempe store, please go buy the Apple PowerBooks they have on clearance so I don't have to look at them anymore. They're far too tempting. TiBook with SuperDrive, TiBook with combo drive, 12" PowerBook with combo drive. Go! Snatch them up right now!

Posted by Colin at 7:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack