Lord of the OS

Recently one of my friends, a computer wizard, paid me a visit. As we were talking I mentioned that I had recently installed Windows XP on my PC. I told him how happy I was with this operating system and showed him the Windows XP CD. To my surprise he threw it into my microwave oven and turned it on. Instantly I got very upset, because the CD had become precious to me, but he said, “Do not worry, it is unharmed.”

After a few minutes he took the CD out, gave it to me and said, “Take a close look at it.” To my surprise the CD was quite cold to hold and it seemed to be heavier than before. At first I could not see anything, but on the inner edge of the central hole I saw an inscription, an inscription finer than anything I had ever seen before. The inscription shone piercingly bright, and yet remote, as if out of a great depth:


“I cannot understand the fiery letters,” I said in a timid voice.

“No, but I can,” he said. “The letters are Hex, of an ancient mode, but the language is that of Microsoft, which I shall not utter here. But in common English this is what it says: ‘One OS to rule them all, One OS to find them, One OS to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.’

“It is only two lines from a verse long known in System lore:”

Three OS’s from corporate kings in their towers of glass,
Seven from valley lords where orchards used to grow,
Nine from dotcoms doomed to die,
One from the Dark Lord Gates on his dark throne
In the Land of Redmond where the Shadows lie.
One OS to rule them all, one OS to find them,
One OS to bring them all and in the darkness bind them,
In the Land of Redmond where the Shadows lie.

— Source unknown

Beyond the rumor sites

MacWorld Expo SF is coming up next week, which normally has the various Mac rumor sites all a-tizzy trying to predict what may or may not appear. This time, around, however, Apple — rather than staying their characteristically silent self — is doing the online equivalent of tossing a goldfish into a pirahna tank, through the posting of oh-so-subtle headlines like ‘Beyond the rumor sites. Way beyond.’ to their website. Now, now, shouldn’t tease the animals….

— AtAT’s take on Apple‘s apparent plans to make their most rabidly loyal followers’ heads implode.

I’m shocked. Really.

Generally, I’m not much of one to take pleasure in others’ misfortunes. However, I do have to admit that it does my little Mac-lovin’ heart proud to be walking around Seattle, WA — just down the road from the pit of despair itself — and to see every newspaper stand in town featuring a headline in large, bold type, across the entire width of the front page proclaiming “XP VULNERABLE TO HACKER ATTACKS

Windows? XP? With bugs? Naah. You’re kidding. No way. I never would have guessed.

Keep in mind, this comes from a company that, when they were advertising the then-upcoming release of Windows 2000, their sales brochure triumphantly proclaimed that Win2k “includes tens of thousands of bug fixes from Windows NT 4.0!!!” (Note: For those that may think I’m mis-remembering or flat-out making this quote up, many more citations can be found with a quick Google search.)

Excuse me? Your marketing scheme for your new high-end ultra-reliable ultra-secure server operating system is to freely admit that your previous high-end ultra-reliable ultra-secure server operating system shipped not just with bugs…not just with a few bugs…but with tens of thousands of bugs?


XP sucks!

XP sucks!I got sent this image (click for a larger version) tonight. According to the site it was posted at, this is a truely genius piece of work — someone actually managed to scale up to wherever the sign is and alter it. In other words, this isn’t just some joker with Photoshop at work — this is a real-world hack job. Just wonderful…goes to show that there still are some truly cool people in the world.

Why is this not a surprise?

Looks like everyone’s (least) favorite monopoly is up to its usual bag of tricks combined with lackluster security again.

As if it’s not bad enough that Windows XP prompts (or maybe browbeats would be a more accurate description) you to sign up for their Passport system at every chance it gets (according to a C|Net article, a USA Today article, a C|Net review, and a bunch more articles and reviews scattered across the ‘net), but they’re now starting to require you to sign up for a passport before you can register hardware (as reported today at MacInTouch, prompting a mac user who’d purchased a Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer to forego registering it). Then, if that wasn’t enough — they screw up the security (big surprise, eh?), creating a situation that could have been exploited to steal Passport users’ financial information, according to this Wired story.

Meanwhile, analysts looking at the “deal” worked out between the Government and Microsoft in the antitrust case pretty much agree that it “…is not even a wrist slap. It’s a love letter…” and that “…Microsoft will emerge…stronger, emboldened, and perhaps more agressive than it was before.

Good thing I’m naturally cynical, otherwise I’d be surprised at all this. Instead, I’m just disgusted and resigned.

And people wonder why I continue to stick with Apple!

No more virus alerts

I got this e-mailed to me at work today:

Warning regarding new virus:

Hi – This looks like a bad one that’s coming.
Forward this to others.
Please read and forward to everyone you know……

DO NOT OPEN “NEW PICTURES OF FAMILY” It is a virus that will erase your whole “C” drive. It will come to you in the form of an E-Mail from a familiar person. I repeat a friend sent it to me, but called & warned me before I opened it. He was not so lucky and now he can’t even start his computer!

Forward this to everyone in your address book. I would rather receive this 25 times than not at all.

Also: Intel announced that a new and very destructive virus was discovered recently. If you receive an email called “FAMILY PICTURES,” do not open it. Delete it right away! This virus removes all dynamic link libraries (.dll files) from your computer. Your computer will not be able to boot up.

Okay, let’s take a look at this, shall we?

Please read and forward to everyone you know…I would rather receive this 25 times than not at all.

Please do not blindly forward every ‘alert’, ‘warning’, or whatever else to “everyone you know.” I don’t know about you, but I would much rather not receive anything twenty-five times. There’s quite a few good reasons not to do this, most of which really shouldn’t need to be spelled out, but people persist in doing these things anyway. If everyone actually did pass something on to everyone they knew, then each of those people did the same, everyone would instantly be getting multiple copies of every alert out there in their e-mail box. Oh, wait…we already do get multiple copies of this junk, don’t we? Hmmm….

Check to see if the information is accurate. No, I don’t mean open a suspected virus to see if it crashes your system. This ‘alert’ describes a virus that comes as an e-mail with a certain subject line, and when opened, erases your entire C:/ drive. A second virus (with a very similar distribution method and subject line) is also detailed, only this one erases all .dll files on your hard drive.

The easiest way to check the validity of the claims is to go to Symantec‘s website. Symantec is the maker of the most popular anti-virus programs for both Windows and Macintosh computers, so it stands to reason that they would have a pretty good handle on any new virii (incidentally, as one of the more popular anti-virus programs is Norton’s Antivirus, the web address www.norton.com also points to Symantec’s site). Their site does currently show a high security alert for a new virus — W32.Nimda.A@mm — however, the listed symptoms and affects do not match either of the virii described in this e-mail. The closest listed virus to either of those in the e-mail is Trojan.ZeroBoot, which writes zeros over the boot sector of a drive — this will prevent a computer from booting, and to a novice computer user, could look like the entire C:/ drive has been wiped.

Intel announced that a new and very destructive virus was discovered recently.

Think about what the e-mail is telling you. Why would Intel — a chip-maker, most known for the 80×86 line of processors (from the 286 up to and including the P4) — be releasing information about a virus? A quick check of Intel’s press releases shows nothing detailing anything about a virus. In general, virus alerts are released by either very few people (like Symantec) that you can trust, or by every bleedin’ moron with a keyboard at his fingertips (like anybody with ‘l33t’, ‘haX0r’, ‘d00d’, ’69’, or ‘420’ in their e-mail address), which you should take with a grain of salt.

Buy and use one of the many Anti-Virus/Firewall/Security products from Symantec, or any other reputable software company. This will save a lot of problems and headaches in the long run — you won’t get hit with virii, and I won’t have to wade through mass e-mails about the virii that are loose.

If you think you’ve been hit with a virus: Contact Symantec and/or any decently savvy computer geek (i.e., someone who knows how to do more than click away at the World Wide Web) to see if there is information or a patch for your particular virus. Then go out, buy, and install one of the Anti-Virus/Firewall/Security products I mentioned above.

One last little thing: If you do ignore all the rest of my little diatribe…one little thing about my computers. I’m a Mac fan for many reasons. Like, for instance — no .dll files. No C:/ drive. And — while we’re not virus free — there are far, far fewer virii out there for us to contend with. Sending me your alerts does nothing but fill up my mailbox, waste bandwidth on the ‘net, and give me a minor annoyance to deal with, which I then relieve by ranting and raving on my website for the world to see.

Let’s avoid that next time.

Site design: why CSS?

As I’m currently with a fair amount of time without a whole lot of neccessary things to do, I’ve decided to explore one of the ideas I’ve had bouncing around in my head for a while. I’m redesigning the site (I know, I never got around to finishing the last redesign — but I found some tricks midway through) to comply with current Cascading Style Sheet standards. While I’d been using CSS for a while now to standardize and simplify the formatting across the site, this is my first foray into using CSS for the actual site layout.

Previously, I’d been using a table-based system to lay out the page. It works — and in some ways could be considered a de-facto standard across the web at the moment — but it’s kludgy, makes the code difficult to read, and is a royal pain when facing a site update. By switching to CSS-based layout (the basic framework was found at Glish), my code is much leaner, and once done, I’ll be able to make large, sweeping changes to the site when I decide to redesign in the future by editing a single .css file, instead of having to recode every page on the site. Much, much nicer.

There is one downside to this — certain browsers (either older browsers [Netscape 4.x or previous, or IE 4.x or previous] or browsers still in development [such as OmniWeb for Mac OS X] will not display my page correctly. If you’re using an older browser, visit the Web Standards Organization upgrade project to see what browsers are available to you. If you’re using a current browser that is not standards-compliant, write the company to request compatibility with the currently published standards.

Of course, what this means at the moment is that if you start bouncing through my site, there are currently three different ‘themes’ to the pages — the older blue/green layout, the grid-background I was recently working with, and this CSS-based layout. I’m hoping to get the entire site converted over to this new style fairly quickly, however — this main page was just the matter of a couple hours work, and now that I’ve got the tweaking finalized, the rest of the pages should fly by fairly quickly.

So that’s it for now — a bit of work in front of the ‘puter to give my skin a rest from the constant flirtation with sunburn that I’ve been playing with for the past couple weeks. Ta ta for now….

Heaven forbid that happen!

Imagine the disincentive to software development if after months of work another company could come along and copy your work and market it under its own name…without legal restraints to such copying, companies like Apple could not afford to advance the state of the art.

— Bill Gates, 1983 (New York Times, 25 Sep 1983, pg. F2)

I love finding things like this…

…I found this over on /. in the middle of a discussion about Mac OS X. While probably only of interest to my more ‘geeky’ friends, I think it’s damn cool….

Mac OS X is better than I could have imagined!

Let me begin by saying that I used to be a rabid, frothing at the mouth Linux/UNIX advocator. I’ve been using Linux exclusively for nearly two years.

Anyways, when I found out about Mac OS X, I was very excited. I wanted to try it. The interface looked so incredibly well done. Whoever says that Windows has a nice user interface must be joking; I think that the Windows GUI is extremely bland.

So I bought an iMac 233 for a steal over at eBay. I ran Mac OS X Public Beta for many months in anticipation of the final release.

The day the final release came out, I was so impressed with Apple hardware and the beta, that I ran out and bought one of the new iMacs just so that I would have the extra speed boost in running OS X.

Anyways, let me say that I have not been disappointed in the slightest! OS X is everything that Linux should have been. It’s powerful enough for the command line lovers, but elegant enough for the common desktop user. I don’t care what anyone says; Linux is not ready for the common user.

Common Linux scenario. I’m running KDE with some GNOME apps, along with Netscape 4.77 and emacs. Say I want to change my computer’s theme. That means I have to find a KDE theme, a GTK theme (and figure out how to install it from KDE), and edit my .Xdefaults file, testing new values for Netscape and emacs until everything is the way I want.

That’s just too inconvenient. In fact, after running OS X for a week now, I found that there were a lot of annoying inconveniences that I put up with in Linux that I don’t have to deal with in OS X. It got to the point with Linux where I was saying, “I’m so tired of constant sysadmin battles…I just want something that works.” You know what? Mac OS X just works.

Not to mention the fact that I find Apple hardware far superior. There’s none of the Intel Driver Hell that I’ve dealt with using other OSes. I plugged in my iMac (which was equipped with CDRW, ethernet, modem, etc…) and everything worked, no tweaking necessary.

What I like the best is the XonX program that a bunch of sourceforgers are working on. By hitting Command-Alt A, I can switch back and forth between my old XFce desktop and my new, spiffy Aqua desktop.

To those who say that Apple hardware is too expensive…yes, the powermacs and the cubes are still fairly high in price. If you’re looking to play around with OS X, pick up an iMac. They’re very reasonably priced machines that pack a lot of power.

— vorpal^

New ‘puter!

This just rocks — I’ve added a new ‘puter to my stable here at home. One of the guys at work was selling his off for a good price, so it came home with me today.

Now the iMac that was playing a dual role as my main work machine and webserver (which occasionally caused the server to go down when I needed to do certain things on that machine) has been designated as just the webserver, and the new machine is my workhorse box.

For the curious, the new box is a 350 MHz blue and white Power Macintosh G3, with 128 MB memory, DVD player, 22.3 GB of storage spread across three drives (1 ATA/IDE, 2 SCSI), and dual 17″ monitors, one running off an IMS Twin Turbo card, the other running off an ATI Rage 128. Quite the step up…and I’m cheezing like mad. Time to play!