Monday, July 30, 2007
Ouch, this news is a few days old but I am just catching up on security reading and ran across this one. The securityevaluators.com guys have found some real issues with the iPhone's security and have been able to exploit it. The New York Times and others have covered this recently. Seems much of the iPhone application library runs as admin/root. The overall design of the iPhone seems to rely in large part on preventing apps from running, rather than creating a robust security environment. But leverage browser vulnerabilities or similar issues on a hacked wireless network or Internet web site and it can get very interesting very quickly.
From the executive summary in the findings document:
To demonstrate these security weaknesses, we created an exploit for the Safari browser on the iPhone. We used an unmodified iPhone to surf to a malicious HTML document that we created. When this page was viewed, the payload of the exploit forced the iPhone to make an outbound connection to a server we controlled. The compromised iPhone then sent personal data including SMS text messages, contact information, call history, and voice mail information over this connection. All of this data was collected automatically and surreptitiously. After examination of the file system, it is clear that other personal data such as passwords, emails, and browsing history could be obtained from the device. We only retrieved some of the personal data but could just as easily have retrieved any information off the device.
Additionally, we wrote a second exploit that performs physical actions on the phone. When we viewed a second HTML page in our iPhone, it ran the second exploit payload which forced it to make a system sound and vibrate the phone for a second. Alternatively, by using other API functions we discovered, the exploit could have dialed phone numbers, sent text messages, or recorded audio (as a bugging device) and transmitted it over the network for later collection by a malicious party.
This is the sort of thing I was afraid of when I wrote about the potential for iPhone security and use in the enterprise. Security vulnerabilities are not just about the Windows platform, after all. Here's a mobile platform, effectively in v1, and it has flaws that can be readily exploited. Hopefully Apple will be able to get some patches ready and out before the these evaluators release the details the evening of August 2nd at the Black Hat conference, which is where the researchers - who have already provided Apple with the full details so they can create and distribute a fix - will be presenting their discoveries.
I was randomly looking at blogs and doing some read-click-read-click-drill-down action when I ran across something that made me laugh out loud, which as it turns out was written on a blog of someone that I used to work with. Small world eh?
It's a list of ten URLs that some unfortunate businesses not only registered, but without realizing they put into actual use.
Blatantly copied here from Steve's Rant (hi Steve!):
Everyone knows that if you are going to operate a business in today’s world you need a domain name. It is advisable to look at the domain name selected as other see it and not just as you think it looks. Failure to do this may result in situations such as the following (legitimate) companies who deal in everyday humdrum products and services but clearly didn’t give their domain names enough consideration:
1. A site called ‘Who Represents‘ where you can find the name of the agent that represents a celebrity. Their domain name… wait for it… is
2. Experts Exchange, a knowledge base where programmers can exchange advice and views at
3. Looking for a pen? Look no further than Pen Island at
4. Need a therapist? Try Therapist Finder at
5. Then of course, there’s the Italian Power Generator company…
6. And now, we have the Mole Station Native Nursery, based in New South Wales:
7. If you’re looking for computer software, there’s always
8. Welcome to the First Cumming Methodist Church. Their website is
9. Then, of course, there’s these brainless art designers, and their whacky website:
10. Want to holiday in Lake Tahoe? Try their brochure website at
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Recently I mentioned that my older Infocus X1 projector's lamp has about a zillion hours on it and I had to do a reset of the timer to keep it running. Also, a month and a half ago I discussed my research into 1080p home theater projectors as I thought about stepping up in quality and capability to replace the X1. The thing that's been holding me back is price relative to what you get in the high-def world. I have the Xbox 360, HD-DVD and a satellite receiver that does 1080p images, so that's what I have been looking into. Sure, you can spend like $5,000 and get a pretty incredible projector, and just a couple years ago you couldn't buy a 1080p projector for less than probably $30K.
I know I want to replace the old projector I have. But I really don't want to spend $5K. Maybe half that amount would be okay, but not much more. So I put my research hat back on today and discovered Epson recently released their PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 projector for home theater. It's super-bright, has a great picture, it's a three-LCD setup, and gets some great reviews. It's practically identical to the 'pro' model of the same line but costs literally $2,000 less. Most notably the retail price is just under $3,000 and for the next few days (til the end of July) there's a $300 mail in rebate from Epson.
Needless to say, I am considering making the move. I'll take some more time to weigh my options and keep researching. I do wonder what (if anything) Epson will do for an incentive once this month's rebate period runs out, but hey who knows...
As I type this, my X1's fan is starting to make a noise like the fan bearings are going bad. Not a good thing. Murphy's law, really. It may be time to break that thing open and clean it out so I can make it last as long as possible, but from the sounds of it I think it may be on its last legs.
Anyone have any experience with the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 projector? Or have a good alternative I should be considering? Let me know!
UPDATE: I ordered one, so the Epson is my choice for a new projector. Review to come after it arrives Wednesday (Amazon Prime rocks) and I get a little time with it.
I recently (meaning a couple months ago) dumped my increasingly unreliable and time-consuming self-hosted POP and SMTP email server in favor of one of the big hosted service options available for free from a variety of sources. In my case I looked at several of the more ubiquitous options, and chose to go with Google Apps for my domain. A close second was Windows Live Custom Domains from Microsoft, but a couple missing critical features prevented me from going that route (namely access to my email via POP3). Since I am not worried about either company going away or anything, I went with the one that seems to best fit my needs as far as features and functionality are concerned. Getting the Blackberry client app for Google mail was another bonus.
However, I ran into two frustrating problems when I set up the Google Mail for greghughes.net and started accessing the email server via POP access from Thunderbird and my Blackberry Internet service.
First, I found that in some cases, once an email had been downloaded by any POP client, no others had access to download it. This is a problem if you're relying on having your email available in more than one place as I have taken for granted before.
Second, any emails sent to my own email address - the same one associated with the account - simply would not download via POP3 access, ever. Since my weblog sends email to me from my own email address (as do a couple other apps), this was a real problem. I could not really change the behavior of my applications, since doing so would break other aspects of the systems. Besides, every other mail server with POP3 support had always worked the same way (and worked just fine), so why was Google Mail's so different?
Well, it turns out there is a not-so-obvious option (not used by default) that allows you to resolve both of these issues. It's called "recent mode." Google explains it in their help in the context of the "how do I use multiple clients" issue, but the problem related to POP-ing messages sent to 'Me' is resolved as well. The solution relates to putting an overload modifier on the front end of the email account name when you log in (a little weird and probably sloppy, but perfectly functional). It's explained below. Too bad one can't just toggle the functionality as a permanent setting in the Google Mail web interface (you can set it for a one-time download option, but it always reverts to the default after that, so it appears the below option is the only way to permanently resolve this).
To solve the problem, you have to modify your login in your POP settings with the overloading prefix:
needs to change to:
The following information is snipped from the Google GMail help center (since this applies to both the general GMail and Google Apps mail services):
If you're accessing your Gmail using POP from multiple clients, Gmail's recent mode makes sure that all messages are made available to each client, rather than only to the first client to access new mail.
Recent mode fetches the last 30 days of mail, regardless of whether it's been sent to another POP client already.
If you sign in to Gmail using your Blackberry, you're signed in to recent mode automatically. For all other POP clients, replace 'email@example.com' in your POP client settings with 'recent:firstname.lastname@example.org'.
Source: Gmail - Help Center - How should I use POP on mobile or multiple devices?
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I have used an Infocus X1 projector as my relatively inexpensive but good enough home theater equipment for a few years now. It's served me pretty incredibly well. We put a lot of hours on it, between the zillion movies, satellite TV, and extensive Xbox/Xbox360 use. It's not HD resolution and I will soon upgrade (as I have mentioned before), but for not it does the trick.
Anyhow, the other day we turned the projector on and it displayed a warning that there were only like 8 hours remaining on the bulb timer. When they released the projector, as I recall they rated the lamp (and timer) at 3,000 hours. Since then they re-rated it at 4,000 hours. Some people get that much out of a bulb, others don't.
Today my friend Cory and I went to start a movie (Wesley Snipes is The Contractor) and the projector would not fire up the lamp. Enough use had taken place in the past few days since we first saw the timer warnings to ensure the timer had run out. Even though the bulb was not burned out, the projector would not turn it on. I started searching for replacement lamps online and found I was going to have to spend between $260 and $300 in order to replace it (ouch - like I said, time for a new projector at this rate).
While searching for lamps, I decided before I spent that kind of money on a projector I intend to replace that maybe I should ask the Google gods a question in the form of keywords: x1 projector bulb timer wont start. I was lucky, even if I was not necessarily feeling it. The first search result was an Infocus support page that told me exactly what to do at the very end of the long list of equipment (it covers every other projector they have made in detail).
If your X1, X1a, X2, X3 projector's bulb timer has run down to nada and the bulb won't light anymore, do this: Power on the projector and you will probably see a flashing red light on the control panel. Press and hold the Volume + and the Volume – buttons simultaneously for 10 seconds. The projector will reset the lamp counter to zero hours and the lamp will start. Note that what I probably should have done when I started seeing the warning was to reset the timer to zero using the on-screen menu system, but once it goes dead the volume button reset is your only choice.
Turns out the same or a similar tactic applies to a number of their other projectors, too. Check here to find out what to do for your model.
Well here's news via Digital Media Thoughts that the cost of the HD-DVD player for the Xbox 360 is suddenly cheaper. I bought mine about a month ago. I don't suppose they'll grandfather me in? Probably not...
"Today at Comic-Con International 2007, Microsoft Corp. announced it will lower the price of the popular Xbox 360(TM) HD DVD Player from $199 to $179 ERP (United States only) starting Aug. 1, 2007, and will add five free HD DVD movies for anyone purchasing an Xbox 360 HD DVD Player between Aug. 1 and Sept. 30. In addition, Microsoft further solidified the Xbox 360 as the ultimate high-definition (HD) entertainment platform, with key announcements around the HD DVD launches of "300" from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group and "Heroes: Season 1" from Universal Studios."
This is a great deal, but let me give you even more incentive: most of the Xbox 360 HD DVD drives on store shelves also include the media remote, and King Kong on HD DVD. On top of that, through the Xbox Live Rewards program (which is free), you can get an additional 10% off at Circuit City. So to sum up: the drive, the remote, and six movies, for just $162. Hell of a deal!
Source: Digital Media Thoughts
CIO Magazine online has a great new article detailing the top ten thing you should never write in an email, as well as some other communication tips for business-types. It's decent advice and worth a read, for sure.
Here are the top-ten items (be sure to read the original story as well for the full meal deal):
Don’t Do That! 10 E-Mail No-Nos
1. Negative comments regarding your firm's executives. Too easy for someone else to forward accidentally.
2. Performance criticism. Seems more "official" than when spoken, causing people to worry too much.
3. Bonus or salary matters. Company plans may change.
4. Racial or gender slurs. Enough said.
5. Details relating to product liabilities. Court trail, anyone?
6. Lies about your company's rivals. Another ticket to legal trouble.
7. Office dish. If people want to spread their own news, let them.
8. Sloppy writing. Your image is at stake, even if you're hacking away on a BlackBerry.
9. Sarcastic humor. Without inflection or visual cues, it's risky.
10. Private matters. Don't e-mail details on any part of your life that you wouldn’t want to see in the newspaper.
Source: Dianna Booh
Been bit before? What else do you think should you never, ever put into an email?
Analogies and parables abound on the topics of life and business. One I have told a number of times over the years is the story about the two fire chiefs. Having worked in public safety it's one I can relate to. It's a paraphrase on other tales, and I have no real idea where it came from. Someone probably told it to me at some point long ago, probably to teach me a well-deserved lesson or two.
There are two kinds of fire chiefs.
The first stands on a hill surrounded by his lieutenants, captains, firefighters and others, overlooking the town his department is responsible for. Fires are popping up everywhere, and the chief orchestrates call after call to put out each fire, emphatically choreographing each move and lecturing to everyone about exactly what's going on and why. He is in control. What the townspeople don't notice or see are the captain, lieutenants and in some cases the chief himself running down the back side of the hill and into the town, occasionally tossing their lit cigarette butts into windows of cars and homes.
The second fire chief stands on the hill, watching for fires. They rarely pop up, but when they do his captains, lieutenants and firefighters follow their safe, practiced, professional training. They quickly and efficiently move to the fire scene, take care of business and then get back to the station to continue to stand watch. No one gets hurt, and the people who work at the department are happy in their profession.
Which chief do you think gets the public's attention, the recognition and the accolades? Which one would you trust with your life on the line? Which one would you trust with your job? How do you think each of these people got to be chief?
Talk is cheap, talk can be dangerous, and talk is not always about communicating. Agendas and drama often overshadow the real heroes in our world - those that lead from behind and instill a sense of worth, value and respect in the people they represent.
And therein lies the difference: As a manager, do your workers represent you, or do you represent them? Your answer carries important philosophical meaning, and coming to an honest conclusion might be difficult. Take time for introspection and you'll be a better person for it. But most importantly be honest with yourself, regardless of the answer. Without that, there is no way you can truly be honest with others. And without honesty there is nothing - Just a bunch of burned, smelly, water soaked buildings. But hey, at least the fire's out, right?
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Every now and then, despite the loss you feel and experience when someone leaves your place of work for something new, you get that true sense of "Wow!"
That's definitely the case this time around.
Scott Hanselman, with whom I have had the privilege to work for many years, has accepted a job at Microsoft where he will be diving into technology like never before - and that's really saying something. You may know his weblog and his podcast. Now he'll be inside Microsoft and as such delivering even more useful and thoughtful information and detail.
Congratulations, Scott. It's a big loss for the company to be sure, but a terrific gain for the broader community and a great opportunity for you. You're going to be awesome.
Monday, July 16, 2007
The other day John Batdorf, a sharp guy I work with, stopped me in the hallway and dropped me an email note (which he sent from his iPhone of course) regarding my recent comments about my 10-minute experience with the iPhone. He bought one on the first day and has a great write-up about his experience with the device on his blog.
Specifically, he wanted to get me to check out the on-screen keyboard and the fact that my experiences with key-misses are actually dealt with in software by the iPhone.
Just thought I would mention how great the keyboard really is. Even
when you miss the correct key while typing a word the phone does an
excellent job figuring out the correct word.
I probably missed ten to twenty words above and the phone got them all
right. This entire email took me about one minute to type.
Sent from my iPhone
I'm glad John caught me, handed over his iPhone for a few minutes, and let me have another go at the on-screen keyboard. Sure enough, for the most part if I hit an adjoining key while typing characters, the device was able to figure out what I'd screwed up and correct it for me. Not too shabby.
So, I stand corrected. The keyboard's quite a bit better than I first thought. One more plus for iPhone.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Want to know how many minutes you have used this month? Turns out the mobile phone companies have some not-so-well-advertised numbers you can dial to find out exactly how many minutes you've used. They are:
- #646# for Verizon and T-Mobile
- *646# for at&t/Cingular
- #4 for Sprint
Another tidbit of info to help watch the bottom line... Using directory assistance (411) service through the carrier can be quite expensive. So, consider using the Free411 service at 1-800-FREE411 (or 1-800-373-3411 for us numerically-challenged Blackberry types). The cost of using it is actually free, unless you consider the time it takes to listen to a short advertisement on each call. Heck, to save a buck a call, it's worth it I think.
Google Mobile allows you to send a text message to 46645 (google on the keypad) and get back all sorts of information. Check the Google Mobile page to learn about all the cool things you can do there.
For business directory information, you can also call Google up at 800-GOOG-411 (800-466-4411)
Yesterday my cyber-savvy, recently-retired and way-cool mom chatted me up on IM and asked me what she should do, because she was considering ditching the home phone, getting another cell phone so they can both have one, and using text messaging for spouse communication. Heh. Makes me wonder what kind of technology - you know, in "all the kids these days are using it" fashion - I'll be picking up on in 20 or so years. :)
Her goal was to save a few bucks, plus to get the advantages of text messaging to overcome some of the limitations with hearing impairments and cell phones. I suggested she look at her overall bundles plan with Quest, because right now they get mobile phone, Internet and home phone services all together. She might also want to look at VoIP as an option, I suggested, but mostly she should call the phone company and talk to them about what unbundling would mean in terms of price. Also, telcos changes their offerings over time, and a bundle deal you got a year or two or three ago might not be the best deal available today.
As is often turns out, it was worth the call:
I checked in with Quest (they are partnered with Sprint as it turns out) and the nice young fellow brought my various plans and bundling things and services more into line with current offerings and our usage....so, I saved about $45 a month with that little chat--good advice on your part. I am going to get Jack a phone he can use so we can text message as a way to communicate.
Greg Hughes says:
Greg Hughes says:
its always good to check in with them once a year to see if they can rebundle
right, I just had not given it much thought until lately
Greg Hughes says:
they count on that heh
Just more proof that it's always pays to check in with your telco company and see what they have going. You could save some pretty serious bucks by doing so.
Monday, July 09, 2007
One of the cool new features in Windows Server 2008 (which is currently available in beta) is Network Access Protection. This feature allows network admins to set up comprehensive network controls to allow access only to the proper computers and users, and based on a set of "health" criteria determined by the admin. For example, let's say you want to require antivirus software to be up to date and patches installed before allowing a VPN connection to the LAN. NAP lets you do that. Wireless and wired networks can be significantly enhanced for local and remote access. It's the next wave of access management and control, and any IT network admin needs to get familiar. This is leaps and bounds above the "NAP-lite" capabilities from Server 2003.
This podcast interview with Jeff Sigman covers the subject well, and give you a quick preview into what the capabilities are. Listen, download the beta and give it a try.
RunAs Radio Show #13 | 7/4/2007 (34 minutes)
Jeff Sigman Gives Us Network Access Protection
The final installment of interviews from Microsoft Tech Ed US 2007 in Orlando, Richard and Greg talk to Jeff Sigman, the Release Manager for Network Access Protection (NAP). Jeff digs into exactly what NAP is all about, how it interact with Windows Server 2008, Vista and Windows XP.
Links: RunAs Radio web site and RSS feed
As always, we welcome your input and ideas for the show - Just email email@example.com and let us know what's on your mind! We might even read your email on the air, and we are always interested to know what you would like to hear more about as we book our guests.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Went out this evening for a hour or so ride with a friend on the dirt bike and ATV. Had a great time, but I need to remember when I come to a sudden end of a road, the front brake is not the first one to grab. I can't believe I did that.
Ouch. Thank God for helmets and gloves. Sorry for the detailed picture. A reminder's a reminder. And it's a knee, if you're trying to figure that out.
I've had one past motorcycle mishap that resulted in injury, which involved a deer in the roadway. This one was just me being stupid. I also had a ATV screw up once that I got a bit of a bruise on, and that's about it. This time, a couple bruised and beat up knees, some scrapes on my chest and a sore, sprained wrist are pretty much all the injuries I walked away with (plus a bit of a sprained ego, I suppose), which is excellent considering I went over the bars and straight into the packed gravel road. I did what I learned in sports as a kid - walked it off and got back on. And took it really easy the rest of the ride, heh.
Anyhow, I am posting this embarrassing moment to serve as a reminder to me and to others not to be a sloppy idiot on a motorcycle. The rear brake is down there by your right foot. Right foot good. Right hand bad.
Right foot, right foot, right, foot right foot, right f...
Friday, July 06, 2007
Another Fourth of July has come and gone. This year - as I have for several years past - I operated a public fireworks display, this time for the community of Walla Walla, Washington. It was my first time there, and I enjoyed the place and people. It was also my first time running a show in the state of Washington - the past seven or eight years of this have all been shows in Oregon. We shot the show in a sports park and school area on the VA grounds, and the audience was able to sit and watch from all angles around. There's a great hillside under a water tower nearby that makes for an optimum viewing spot.
My crew was terrific, and despite the fact that it was extremely hot (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny all day as we set up the show as well as the next morning while we finished cleaning up), we all had a good time and the show went off well - safe and to the cheers of the crowd. That's what we want. Even the playground sprinklers that came on automatically at around midnight while we were still cleaning up were no big deal, heheh. We just went back to the hotel for the night and returned in the morning.
Update: Travis wrote a bit about the crew experience at the show and Jenn posted some pretty terrific pics she shot.
Below is a video with some excerpts from the show. The video is five minutes long, which is a little more than one fifth of the actual length of the show (which came in at just under 25 minutes, right on target). So, you get a good flavor of the opener, mid-show shots and volleys, the build up to larger shells, some layered height effects, and of course the finale - which was pretty spectacular, if I do say so myself. Several thousand shells and pyrotechnic components from one inch to four inches in diameter made up the show.
I'll add a couple show setup pictures later today or this weekend. Enjoy. : )
Monday, July 02, 2007
I dropped by an at&t wireless phone store yesterday while out cruising around, and checked out the iPhone, which they have a large stock of apparently. I walked in and asked, "Do you have one I can look at?" The answer was "we have lots you can buy if you want to." I got the impression there are a lot of lookers but not a lot of buyers. They certainly are not having stocking problems.
Anyhow, I spent about 10 minutes checking out the phone, and overall I was pretty darned impressed. Certainly the overall user interface is great, and the screen is pretty amazing. I like the clean, simple, intuitive UI for sure. The Apple architecture and usability people did some pretty amazing work, and this is their first phone.
So again - I'm quite impressed. I considered buying one on the spot and my impulse-purchaser controls kicked in and I left. Important to take the time to do things like breathe. And think. Stuff like that.
So, it's great. There were a few things, though, that I had a hard time getting past during my quick run with this
device phone piece of electronic art.
One of those things is the on-screen keyboard. Unless you use a finger and type one letter at a time (no thumb-typing here for sure), it's just not workable. So, if you're sending quick messages a short line at a time you're okay. But typing longer emails or notes won't work from a practical standpoint. For most users that's probably okay. For me that's a big deal.
Next, there's no 3G support - just EDGE. Which is cool in terms of keeping battery consumption minimal but not so fun in terms of data speed. However, the iPhone has WiFi capability, so in some cases there's a fast option.
One more thing I noticed - or at least could not intuitively find - is a lacking ability to copy and paste text. If someone knows how and it's possible, please let me know and I will go back and check that out.
Finally, the lack of some things that might be software-fixable (or I missed the options, so again, correct me if I am wrong): The camera appears to only do still pics, not video. I didn't see MMS capabilities but you can email images. I could not find a way to record audio. Again, all of these are software things so they can change (and this is, after all, the first release).
So - people have asked me the $600 question (I can't see buying the 4GB model, after all):
Will I buy one?
Not yet probably, but it's very very tempting.
I can actually see it happening soon though - and that's actually a surprise to me. I didn't expect to quite so won-over. It's that usable and that nice. Despite my nit-pick list above, overall I think it's great. The phone is sleek, fast, even artistic in it's UI experience. And the things it does, it does quite well. Everything else is left out (at least for now). That's refreshing compared to other models of "smart" phones that try to be everything to everyone and in the process get bogged down in their own usability, stability and performance weaknesses. Apple seems to know where to go as well as when to stop. Others could definitely learn a lesson from that.
Who else has tried one? What did you think?
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Brent is a cool dude and a great QA guy that I used to work with. His blog is, appropriately, focused on QA and testing technology.
| Chris Brooks
Chris was formerly my boss at work and is an avid board gamer and photographer. He always has some new info about top-notch board games you may have never heard of, so if you're into them, you should check out this blog.
| Chris Pirillo
Lockergnome by trade, Chris is always up to something new. If you are not familiar with the Lockergnome newsletters, be sure to check them out, too.
| Matthew Lapworth
Matt's a software developer and friend. He seems to enjoy extreme sports. That's fine as long as he doesn't, like, die or something.
| Milind Pandit
Milind writes about all sorts of interesting stuff. We worked toegther for eight years, and he worked at our employer longer than I, which pretty much makes him old as dirt in company time. :)
| MSFT Security Bulletins [RSS]
RSS feed for all Microsoft security bulletins provides an always-up-to-date list of updates along with complete descriptions of each.
Rory Blyth is one of the funniest and most thought-provoking bloggers I read. And I blame him for everything. Literally.
| Scott Hanselman
Scott's computerzen blog is a popular spot for all things .NET and innovative. I used to work with him, but then he went off to Microsoft. He's one of the smartest guys I know, and arguably the best technical presenter around.
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