Saturday, September 27, 2008

I speak English natively. My friend that I want to chat with in IM speaks German. A chat-helper service called MTBOT (Microsoft Translation Robot) allows me to type in English, yet my friend sees and reads what I wrote translated into his native German language. Likewise, when he types in German, what I see is his messages machine-translated into English.

If you use Windows Live Messenger, you too can add mtbot@hotmail.com to your buddy list. When you want to chat with someone who speaks another language, add them to a "conversation" with your TBot. You and the other person are asked to specify your native language, and after that you just start typing.


There are a number of commands you can issue to control TBot's behavior. To see a list of commands, just type "TBOT ?" in the IM window. You'll then be presented with the list of available commands:


Cool stuff. Check out the Translator information posted over at the Live Search blog.

Currently-supported languages:

  • English to/from:
    • Arabic
    • Chinese Simplified
    • Chinese Traditional
    • Dutch
    • French
    • German
    • Italian
    • Japanese
    • Korean
    • Portuguese
    • Russian (Russian to English only)
    • Spanish
  • Chinese Simplified to/from Chinese Traditional



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Tech
Saturday, September 27, 2008 8:08:44 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  

Call your Congressional rep now (202-225-3121) and ask them to support H.R. 7084, the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008. Pandora and other similar services need your help.

I called last night and left a message for my Congressman in Oregon, David Wu. If it's your first time, calling just know it's easy: The operator will answer the phone, you ask for your congressman by name, and they transfer you to the correct office.

I left a message for Wu last night stating that I wanted him to support the resolution because it was of a timely nature and it ensured fair ad reasonable competition, and that industry lobbyist attempts to defeat it or stall it were anticompetitive in motivation.

If you use online streaming music services like Pandora or other similar ones, their very existence may depend on this resolution, so make your voice known now. It really does make a difference.

If you don't know who your Congressperson is, you can look them up quickly here. All you need is your ZIP code.



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Tech
Saturday, September 27, 2008 7:13:48 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Thursday, September 25, 2008

Note: While I'll likely cross-post the occasional flying post here (or maybe I'll just mention a few highlights), I've started a whole new blog called Coordinated Flight where I'll publish all my flying-related stuff. That way this blog won't get overloaded with long, detailed flying stuff.

The past couple days I've spent a little time down at Twin Oaks Airpark, a small private airport located on the far west side of Portland, Oregon. Yesterday I spent an hour there, and today I went for about two hours. Both days I learned and flew with my new flight instructor, Kelly. I've always wanted to learn to fly and over the years I've spent quite a bit of time in small aircraft. But now I'm going to put the time and effort (and expense) into learning and practicing everything one needs to know to safely fly a small aircraft.

Yesterday was what they call an introductory ride. Kelly met me and we went to the airpark office, where we chatted with Betty Stark. The Stark family owns the airpark which is on an old dairy farm and has a single runway, several hangars, classrooms and a fuel station. Then we went to our aircraft for the day, a Cessna 150. Kelly showed me the aircraft and together we went though the walk-around checklist. The Cessna 150 is a two-seater and is a smallish aircraft, but is a very common trainer. After checking out the aircraft we climbed in and started the checklist for starting the aircraft. I turned the key and the prop started spinning. Kelly explained some more necessary details about the controls and told me what was going to happen. And then we were off.

We taxied from the ramp to the end of the runway and did the engine run-up and final checks on the list. Kelly radioed the local traffic to let anyone flying in the area know we were departing, and he told me to put my hands and feet on the controls so I could feel the aircraft as we departed. He explained each task he was doing as he performed them, from the time we walked up to the aircraft until we were in the air. I think I've found a great instructor. He clearly knows his stuff and is confident. That gave me a feeling of confidence, too.

Once we were in the air, he told me he was going to hand the controls over to me. The next thing I knew I was flying the airplane. Of course, Kelly was still there, light on the controls in case I screwed something up. He didn't overwhelm me with information, but instead balanced the doing, the explaining and the having fun and looking out the window. We spent about 30 minutes in the air (and a little rain from the clouds that were well above us) and then returned to the air park. I learned about the traffic pattern for Twin Oaks (it's a left pattern with a 45-degree entrance). It was a lot of fun, and probably just the right mix of time, information and experience for a first flight.

Kelly gave me a quick-read intro book with some basic information to learn: Controls, attitude, parts of an airplane, climbs and descents, turns. He assigned it as homework and we arranged to meet again the next day at 3pm for two hours - starting with a quick ground lesson followed by some time in the air.

When I arrived today, we went into the small classroom and Kelly explained some of the performance numbers I need to start getting familiar with. It clear to me that there are a lot of pieces of information that will need to become second nature. Today's classroom lesson focused on common airspeeds and engine RPMs for different basic flight maneuvers, plus an introduction to flying the traffic pattern and the proper aircraft configuration for landings. I had a chance to ask questions and took some notes and we headed out for the aircraft (another C-150, but not the same one).

Today our time at the aircraft was a bit different than yesterday. Kelly handed me the checklist and rather than having me following him as we did the first time, he followed me as I did the walk-around inspection, checking the aircraft from nose to tail, top to bottom. He told me that the next time we meet, he may have me do the pre-flight walk-around on my own (I'm sure he'll check my work, too). After the outside inspection, he then moved the plane to a safe spot on the ramp and we climbed in. Once properly buckled up, we returned to the checklist and started the process of making sure everything was working, properly configured and ready for flight. I turned the key and Kelly showed me how the ground controls work. It's pretty counterintuitive to get out of a car and climb into an airplane: To steer in the ground you use the two foot pedals (and toe brakes when needed). If you put your hands on the control yoke (wheel), nothing happens on the ground. I'm sure looked pretty funny when my brain automatically told me hands to turn the wheel left or right. I had to force myself to use my feet. Once I took my hands completely off the yoke, however, it got a little easier.

I was taught how to do turns on the ramp, with and without brakes. After that, Kelly had me taxi the plane down the taxiway to the end of the runway, where we then entered the runway and taxied all the way to the end, did a couple turns, and then did the same thing all over again. It was a good opportunity to try to get my brain around driving the aircraft on the ground with my feet. I think some future practice will be helpful in overcoming some of the counterintuitiveness.

Kelly then had me stop on the ramp at the end of the runway, where we did our engine run-up and other checklist items. Then he made the radio call and told me to taxi onto the runway and line up on the center line for take-off. I managed to line it up and then let it point left a bit. After correcting for that (I bet it looked pretty dumb from outside the plane, heh), Kelly walked me through applying full throttle and he controlled the plane with his feet as we sped down the runway. "Okay, you feel that? We're doing a wheelie now," he said as the nose started to lift. A little pull back on the yoke and we were in the air, climbing out. When you depart to the south out of twin oaks, you have to start a turn soon after departure due to a noise abatement area (you'd think if you buy or build a house next to an airport you'd know what you're getting into, but oh well). So after a gradual left turn we straightened out and continued climbing. The airport is at about 270 feet above sea level, and we climbed to about 2200 feet.

The main in-air lesson consisted of progressively moving through various maneuvers and maintaining proper attitude of the aircraft: Climbs, gradual turns, medium turns, descents, trimming the aircraft for hands-off flight, and then combination maneuvers: climbing turns and descending turns combined with ending each of the turns on specific compass headings and returning to straight and level flight. It was really fun.

We were almost right on top of the airport before I even recognized it. That whole awareness-of-where-you-are thing comes with time, they say. For now, it;s enough to pay attention and apply what my instructor tells me.

By the time we were ready to enter the landing pattern, my brain was on the edge of overload. 45 minutes of information and sensory load was enough for my feeble brain I guess, so it was good that Kelly was handling all of the landing. I just kept feet on the pedals and fingers on the yoke to feel the controls move. Kelly explained what he was doing as we followed the landing pattern (upon passing the end of the runway on the downwind leg turn carb heat on, throttle to 1500 RPM, flaps to 10 degrees (three seconds pressing the switch), add nose-up trim... then on turn to base leg, dial in 10 degrees more more flaps, engine speed will increase as work load decreases so a little less throttle to maintain RPMs, maintain 70mph, look for the end of the runway on your left and prepare to turn to final... then your final turn, check airspeed and ensure you're moving straight for the numbers on the end of the runway (that they're not rising or sinking), add or subtract throttle as needed and line up... after that, work some voodoo magic, flare the aircraft a bit and put the wheels on the ground without breaking anything - I figure the details will become more clear as I get more experience, heh... then keep the aircraft moving straight down the runway with your feet (back to those feet again) and when all the tricycle wheels are on the ground and it's safe apply a little gradual brake as needed to slow the airplane and taxi off the runway...)

Now I have my first textbook in hand, which is the basis of the ground school lessons (which I am looking forward to). I took a ground school class several years ago at Portland Community College when I was thinking about learning to fly helicopters (I then did the financial math and decided maybe I should wait), and I am hoping some of that will come back and help me this time around. I'm flying to Philadelphia this weekend for a family get-together, so I'll have plenty of time for reading the first couple chapters and answering the questions for each - while on the plane.

I borrowed all the pics here from the Twin Oaks web site. Sometime I hope I'll get comfortable enough to be able to take some quick pics of my own (but for now all I can really think about are the tasks at hand in flying that chunk of metal through the air).



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Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Thursday, September 25, 2008 8:55:22 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On Wednesday morning (September 24th, that is) at 9 a.m. Pacific time, Ed Bott will be joining Microsoft Technical Fellow Mark Russinovich and others for a live IT Springboard panel online discussing Windows Vista performance, a topic of interest to many and (based on my observations) understood by few.

You can ask questions live or email them to the panel ahead of time. The panel should be located here when it happens. The Springboard Virtual Roundtable Series is a great IT resource, worth keeping an eye on. Here's some detail:

Springboard Series Virtual Roundtable
Under the Hood: Windows Vista Performance…Need Answers?

Join Mark Russinovich and a panel of industry experts for a LIVE virtual roundtable to explore your top of mind performance issues, common misconfigurations, and tips on how to fix them. From boot times and applets to disk performance and battery life, find out how to optimize Windows Vista and what you can do to improve overall system performance.

Submit your performance questions live during the event or send them in advance to vrtable@microsoft.com.

Save the date!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
9:00am Pacific Time



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Tech
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 9:59:14 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Friday, September 19, 2008

It's Talk Like a Pirate Day (as happens every September 19th), and Google's jumped into the fray with Pirate search. Try it here. Enjoy.





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Humor | Random Stuff
Friday, September 19, 2008 8:15:41 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Thursday, September 18, 2008

I wasn't going to write anything about the new Microsoft commercials, which I really like, despite the fact that I wrote about the two Seinfeld/Gates commercials.

But then I realized that the PC Guy in the commercials is Sean Siler. He's a real tech guy who actually works at Microsoft for a living - as opposed to being a professional actor. Here's his TechNet blog.

In fact, Sean epitomizes the "I'm a PC" message. We interviewed him not too long ago for RunAs Radio on the topic of IPv6 (he's the program manager for IPv6 at Microsoft). I thought you might be interested in hearing what Sean had to say at that time. He's wicked smart and a fun conversation.

It sounds like it's been an interesting evening for Sean, but he took the time to exchange a couple emails with me, which was cool of him. Congrats to Sean, and to Microsoft. Good start!

So, here you go - Our interview with Sean from a few months ago:

RunAs Radio #53: Sean Siler Sets Us Straight on IPv6! (download MP3)

And here are the three new commercials. Personally, I like 'em.




Oh and if you send an email to Sean's address as listed in the three videos, you'll get a reply. I'd post it here, but it'll be more fun if you do it yourself. :)



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Geek Out | RunAs Radio | Tech
Thursday, September 18, 2008 9:05:13 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  

It's really the classic case study in information (in)security and the need for strong authentication. With all due respect to the good people at Yahoo!, this opportunity to review Internet security mechanisms is too good and too useful to pass up.

By now, we all know Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's Yahoo! email account was broken into on Tuesday night (read the link to get the details). Apparently (and fairly obviously), access was gained via the forgotten password mechanism on the Yahoo! webmail interface, which allowed the malicious person to reset the profile's password with just a few pieces of information about the Alaska governor (birthdate, ZIP code and a piece of info related to where she met her spouse) that could be easily discovered by searching Google. That fact that so much of Palin's life history has been documented on the Web makes her that much more vulnerable to knowledge-based security mechanism hacks. It should also be noted that some security questions are better (or stronger) than others, so it's important that questions you choose for online protection are not ones that can be answered with information available on the Internet.

We security folk frequently talk about something called "multifactor authentication." By "multifactor" we mean an authentication process that requires two or more of the following:

  • Something you know (passwords, user names, answers to questions)
  • Something you have (token, device, phone, etc.)
  • Something you are (physical fingerprint, voiceprint, or other biometric measure such as a verifiable, non-spoofable behavior (some call this "something you do"))

Most multifactor auth systems are pretty easy to recognize. You know them when you see them. Those key fobs or cards with the revolving digits that you have to provide at login are a common example. They're also fairly expensive and complicated. Some multifactor technologies are easier to use than others. There are a variety of behind-the scenes systems that track user behavior and other markers to determine if the person accessing an account is the legitimate user or a bad guy, for example. A well-designed and well-implemented system balances usability with security strength, and some systems yield higher results in that regard than others.

In this particular case, the bad guy was able to leverage only things he knew (found via a search engine) to change the password on the account and gain access to the Yahoo! Mail account. No other verification or mechanism was required. That's simply weak security in this day and age.

I walked through the account password reset system on my Yahoo! account, just so I could get a first-hand look at how it works and how simple it is to reset an account there. Honestly, it was a little too easy. Here are the details (you can click each image to see them full-size):

First of all, I selected the option on the login screen that says, "Forgot your ID or password?"


Next I was prompted either to supply an email address for reset, or to choose the option to reset without access to a registered email account (which to me was an immediate red flag). Obviously, I chose the latter.


This is where the security mechanism breaks down. I'm immediately asked to answer a "secret" security question. This process is called knowledge-based authentication. It's an additional layer of validation in a single-factor authentication scheme - I have to provide "something else I know." Even in my case it's information that could be fairly easily discovered (assuming I answered the question accurately). It should also be noted that in order to change my security question, I need to contact Yahoo! customer support (which I did).


Once I supply the correct answer to a single question, I'm immediately allowed to change my password. At this point it should be noted that if I was prompted to answer multiple questions in this validation workflow, using some randomization of questions and setting a time limit to answer each one, that would at least make it more difficult for someone to gain unauthorized access. Systems are available to do exactly that (I know, I used to manage a team that built one such authentication app).


I'm asked to verify my ZIP code and country (just for profile information), and that's it. Note that other analyses of this process seemed to say that providing the ZIP code and Country was required to reset, but that was not the case in my review. In fact, it appears the bad guy is just being handed that information after changing the password, for free. Take that info, stick it in your Google and smoke it: More search accuracy for the next phase in your attack. Not good.


I'm then notified that my account is now "up to date." I also got an email notifying me of the changes that were made to an account I had tied to the Yahoo! profile for communication purposes. At least I can rest assured that I'll get an email before the bad guy goes into my profile and removes that address from the account.


I think you're starting to get the picture. The authentication mechanism is only as strong as it's weakest part, and the fact that I have an option to reset without ever having to leave the browser window is a problem. Even changing the system to require that I receive an email (which is already the standard reset mechanism) would be better. As it stands today, that's an option, but not a requirement.

Many will argue that hey, it's just an email account, and that Yahoo! can't be expected to implement stronger security on their site as a requirement. I say that's flat out wrong (and what the account was or wasn't used for isn't particularly relevant to this analysis). Email is the number one mechanism used to move information - both innocuous and sensitive - among people. The fact that it's not the best mechanism for doing so ignores the fact that it's how people do things. There are a variety of options available to help ensure only authorized users can get access to email accounts. The fact they are not regularly implemented is a sad state of affairs.

There are many options to strengthen the identification and authentication processes. We can't discuss them all here, but a couple on my mind are described below.

Physical tokens - Making the jump from only having to remember a user name (which is usually the email address, so hardly a secret ) and a password to a scheme where one must carry a token and provide information from it in order to log in is quite a leap (carrying yet another piece of technology around doesn't exactly appeal to me), but it works. The costs associated with fulfilling, supporting and maintaining such a system are very real, and for Yahoo! may not be realistic. But there are systems available to those who know and choose to use them that can substially improve your authentication profile. Check out Omar Shahine's recent blog entry describing how he's securing his accounts in a few ways, including with an OpenID-integrated single-sign-on token system from Verisign.

But, even if you use an OpenID to sign in, what if your OpenID is a Yahoo! ID or other identity that you can reset with a single piece of discoverable knowledge? It still needs to be protected from unauthorized changes and access.

How to do that? There are several ways. I have a couple of favorites, but please feel free to share yours.

Require security changes to take place out of band - One option, probably quicker and less expensive to implement than physical tokens, is using something like an automated telephone call or text message to require the owner of the account to verify a change should be allowed. By registering one or more phone numbers when the account is created and requiring a unique secret be provided via that channel to authorize a change, one can sufficiently secure the account. Vidoop uses a system like this for resetting information on their OpenID accounts. It's simple and it works. It requires me to have the correct device (my phone), uses a different communication channel (the phone network, hence "out-of-band") to contact me and then verifies I am a legitimate user. It requires me to interact as part of any change.

But the technology options get even better: JanRain's myOpenID, for example, now has a feature called "CallVerfID" that equips your myOpenID for two-factor authentication via the phone. It's quick and easy to set up and instantly protects every login with a multifactor authentication mechanism. I found I was not able to use it with a couple phone services due to the way they answer the call (I should provide feedback about that, added to my to-do list), but when set up for my cell or home phone it works as advertised.

Expect more of this class of technology in the future. Think, for example, about voice biometrics: Is that really you that's answering your phone? That kind of technology would be very cool if it was reliable. It's a complicated but useful technology that's being refined even as we discuss this.

I would guess that "review of all Internet email accounts" has been added to every campaign manager's list of things to do deal with early in the vetting process (not to mention the Secret Service's list). Any of the technologies above would likely have prevented the malicious bad guy from accessing the Yahoo! email account.

In the security world, change only happens when enough people make enough noise, a regulator gives an order, or enough companies feel enough financial pain. This looks like one of those cases where noise is the better option. It's certainly better than regulatory mandates (which tend to create collateral damage), and waiting on big companies to suffer is not exactly a reliable plan.

So... Feeling okay? How safe is your account, really?



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IT Security | Tech
Thursday, September 18, 2008 7:26:05 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The third wave of official beta apps under the Windows Live name have been made available a bit early for download. Full information and download links are located over at liveside.net. The updated Windows Live apps are:

  • Messenger v9
  • Windows Live Movie Maker
  • Mail with Calendar synchronization
  • Writer
  • Photo Gallery
  • Family Safety
  • Outlook Connector

There are also non-English versions listed on the site and a few individual reviews posted at liveside.net:

The most noticeable change is a whole new UI scheme for the apps, but there are a number of other changes in there, as well. Messenger's look and feel is very different. I see Live Writer now has direct YouTube integration - nice move and probably one that took some serious discussion to make happen (understandably). Time to start digging in and seeing what else the new apps offer under the hood.



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Wednesday, September 17, 2008 9:45:40 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The latest version of SQL Server implements several object models through Powershell to let folks manage SQL Server without using the SQL management tools.

We've just published a new episode of the RunAs Radio podcast with Michiel Wories, in which we dive into SQL Server 2008's Powershell features. Michiel is certainly the one to know and share about these features: He joined Microsoft 7 1/2 years ago in the role of Senior Program Manager for Microsoft SQL Server and is currently working as a Principal Architect on defining the next generation SQL Server management platform infrastructure. Michiel's blog is at http://blogs.msdn.com/mwories/

RunAs Radio is a weekly Internet-audio talk show for IT Professionals presented in a high-quality podcast format. Since April 2007 RunAs Radio has brought experts in the field of IT to its 10,000+ listeners, to inform and entertain. Professionally produced interviews are about 30 minutes in length and pack a substantial amount of information for maximum benefit. For more information about RunAs Radio, visit http://www.runasradio.com. RunAs Radio is available on iTunes and the Zune Marketplace, as well as directly from the RunAs Radio web site.



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RunAs Radio | Tech
Tuesday, September 16, 2008 9:01:17 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Friday, September 12, 2008

I enjoy the fact that my DirecTV DVR (model HR21-200) records HD content for me. The quality is generally pretty darned good (it does 1080p video now after a recent a software upgrade), and it beats the heck out of anything else available to me in the boonies. The unit comes equipped with a 320GB (give or take) internal drive, which allows something like 30 hours max of HD recording. I found that when recording full seasons of a few shows like The Office or Lost in HD (and most of us will tend to add a few HD movies in the mix), the drive tends to fill up before I want it to.

So, I ordered a Cavalry 1TB external eSATA/USB 2 drive from Newegg.com, which arrived today. I've hooked it up and it's working. My new capacity numbers? Well, it depends on the specific content, but up to about 145 hours of HD content or as much as 1000 hours of SD programming (wow). Variables that affect actual video-time capacity includes resolution, compression (MPEG2 uses more space than the newer MPEG4) and how much motion there is in the video (since more motion means less compression benefit).

I wanted to document the simple setup steps here, so people can get theirs to work if they should want to do the same thing. You can find similar info on the 'net, but people seem to have a hard time with it. My drive came pre-formatted NTFS, which is fine. The DVR will wipe any file system on whatever drive you hook up. Below are the steps that one needs to follow in order to get the external drive up and running with the DVR. The order of the steps is crucial. Don't try to power up your hard drive after you start the DVR, for example.

First of all, if your external SATA drive is a Seagate FreeAgent, you will probably not have any luck, unless you have a HR20 DVR unit. I've heard many stories from people who bought a FreeAgent drive and tried to attach it, with no luck. So, while the FreeAgent drives are great for gneral storage, they are probably not what you want to buy to attach to your DirecTV receiver. My HR21-200 unit simply refused to work with my 750GB Seagate drive, so it's doing video editing duty now. Your mileage may vary, but my experience is that they just don't work.

To start using your new hard drive:

  1. Power down the DVR.
  2. Unplug the DVR from the wall power. This is important.
  3. Attach the external drive's eSATA cable to the back of the DVR unit.
  4. Power up the external hard drive first, and allow it to "spin up" (give it about a minute to be safe).
  5. After the hard drive has "spun-up," plug the DVR back into the wall power plug.
  6. Be patient (very patient) and wait for the DVR to restart. It's not dead. Be patient.
  7. After it does it's thing, you'll be able to watch TV again. Check your recorded items list and make sure it's blank.
  8. Run a recording test and make sure you can play back.

Note that the DVR's internal drive is completely bypassed when you add a new external hard drive - the system no longer sees it. So your recordings and what-have-you from the internal drive will not be available to view. However, in my experience if you restart the DVR without the external drive attached the internal drive "comes back to life" and you'll see your old recordings there.

Any scheduled recordings on your "To Do List" that you set up before adding the external hard drive will no longer be programmed. This is important - You will need to set up your recording schedules again. Head over to DirecTV's online scheduler or their mobile scheduling site at http://m.directv.com and sign in to start setting things up. I sometimes find the mobile site to be a bit easier to use, even on a desktop or laptop PC - especially since it lets me search by name.

Also, note that whatever you set up online may not be configured using the default recording setting you've established on your receiver, so be sure to go to the receiver's Manage Recordings list and review the new items that appear in your To Do list to make sure they're set to what you want. In my case, I had to make changes. Seems like recordings scheduled online should use the defaults you've established on your machine, but they didn't for me.

Once You Know, You NeweggMost importantly, you can look for good deals on decent external eSATA hard drives to do an inexpensive upgrade to your DVR. If you like spending lots of money, you could go to one of the sites that offers upgrade hardware services, but one such site sells essentially the same drive I bought and installed myself. Their price? $299.00, and that's just for the hardware. If you want your internal drive copied to the new drive, they can do that for an additional $59 - Not worth it to me.

How much did I pay for mine? $167.00 from Newegg. You can do the math. Shop around, prices are even lower now, and you can find an even better deal out there.



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Geek Out | Tech
Friday, September 12, 2008 4:32:53 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Thursday, September 11, 2008

Over at Wired's Gadget Labs blog, Brian Chen writes about information discovered during a webcast presentation on Thursday covering the recently discussed iPhone security weaknesses having to do with bypassing the password-protected lock screen.

Jonathan Zdziarski, a data forensics expert and author of the forthcoming book "iPhone Forensics," did the presentation for law enforcement personnel and anyone else who might have a need to access an iPhone to discover information. During the presentation, in which he outlines a method for breaking into the phone with modified firmware and some hairy manipulation, he also showed how the iPhone takes a screenshot of every application the iPhone's user closes by pressing the "home" button. The saved image is used to "draw" the collapsing screen animation you see when your application closes and you're returned to the home screen. The image file is then deleted from the iPhone's storage.

But, nothing is ever really completely "deleted." And in this case, apparently when the temporary image file is killed from storage, the data "on-disk" is not overwritten or otherwise cleaned, so anyone with some basic forensics knowledge can search the iPhone storage space for the old files and recover them easily. You can do the same thing on pretty much any computer.

Depending on your point of view, this is either a potential privacy issue or a great forensics feature. Having worked as both a police officer and as a business security professional responsible for privacy and data integrity issues, I can understand both arguments. Certainly as a cop, being able to dig into someone's iPhone (with a proper warrant of course) to find evidence of crimes where the phone was used in some manner is of real value, and screen shots are potentially pretty useful evidence. But as a person who also values privacy as a matter of basic principle, it's a little disconcerting, especially since I didn't realize until today screen shots are being made.

The webcast recording is not yet available as of the time of this writing, but it should be posted to http://www.youtube.com/OreillyMedia in the next few days. If you're interested in learning something about electronic data forensics, it will be worth the time to check it out. Here's the O'Reilly abstract from the session:

In this free, live webcast, iPhone hacker and data forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski guides you through the steps used by law enforcement agencies to bypass the iPhone 3G's passcode lock by creating a custom firmware bundle. Author of the upcoming book, iPhone Forensics, Jonathan has devoted much of his talent supporting law enforcement personnel with his development of a forensics toolkit that allows them to recover, process, and remove sensitive data stored on the iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPod Touch. This live presentation is aimed towards law enforcement and anyone else who has a need to access the not-so-readily available data on an iPhone.



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IT Security | Tech
Thursday, September 11, 2008 8:58:55 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Seinfeld and Gates are back at it again, somehow advertising Microsoft Windows. It's starting to make at least a little sense. Kind of.

If nothing else, it's getting funnier. I know most people said they didn't like the first commercial much. I liked it, though. This second one pretty long. Enjoy:


(via Brier Dudley at the Seattle Times)

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Humor | Random Stuff
Thursday, September 11, 2008 7:06:10 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Each year on September 11th, an organization I am proud to be a part of called Cops On Top undertakes memorial expeditions to the highest points of the 50 United States. The purpose of the expeditions is to remember those law enforcement officers and public safety personnel who have lost their lives protecting ours.

Today teams from many states are again on the way to their respective summits. Those teams that are able will be calling in to the Cops on Top web site publishing systems with audio updates, which are published on the home page there. While not all locations will be covered due to conditions, many states' teams are underway. Once the teams have returned the site will be updated with photos of the events.

My friend Keith McPheeters, with whom I used to work as a police officer many years ago, wrote a thoughtful and poignant post recently about his experiences on September 11 Cops on Top expeditions. It sums up a lot.

We will never forget our colleagues, family members and friends who have been taken from us and from among us.



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Helping Others
Thursday, September 11, 2008 6:11:19 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, September 04, 2008

The first commercial in Microsoft's new ad campaign with Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates is out. I thought it was pretty funny and smart. Subtle, very subtle.

This made me laugh out loud: Gates' "Shoe Circus Clown Club Platinum Card" picture is actually his mug shot from an arrest for traffic violations in New Mexico, way back in 1977. Classic, and funny.


Here's the new commercial. I like the idea of starting out really vague and (we have to assume) building from there. Very Seinfeld-ish.




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Humor | Random Stuff
Thursday, September 04, 2008 9:39:51 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, September 03, 2008
As is the case with more and more technology in the modern age, it's when you start to combine the power of two or more technologies that you realize the full potential of each. Such is the case with Microsoft's Unified Communications products. Sure, Exchange and Office Communication Server are both great on their own, but when you use them together (and potentially integrate with your VoIP phone system), you realize the greater value of your investments.

Jeff Goodwin works at The VIA Group, where he specializes in Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Unified Communications in his position as Senior Technologist and Microsoft Practice Lead. He's executed a large number of UC projects for businesses, so we were fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with Jeff recently on RunAs Radio. He does a fine job of explaining what unified communications is all about.
Jeff Goodwin Rings Us Into Unified Communications
RunAs Radio Show #73 - 9/3/2008 (35 minutes)


Richard and I talked to Jeff Goodwin about Microsoft Unified Communications in this week's RunAs Radio show. Jeff lays out the relationship between Exchange, Office Communicator and Unified Messaging Server to combine email, telephone and instant messaging. Check out Jeff's TechNet articles at http://www.shrinkster.com/11mj and http://www.shrinkster.com/11mk.

RunAs Radio is a weekly Internet-audio talk show for IT Professionals presented in a high-quality podcast format. Since April 2007 RunAs Radio has brought experts in the field of IT to its 10,000+ listeners, to inform and entertain. Professionally produced interviews are about 30 minutes in length and pack a substantial amount of information for maximum benefit. For more information about RunAs Radio, visit http://www.runasradio.com. RunAs Radio is available on iTunes and the Zune Marketplace, as well as directly from the RunAs Radio web site.



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RunAs Radio | Tech
Wednesday, September 03, 2008 4:32:36 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Chrome has been available for about 12 hours. What's your point of view and experience with Google's new browser?

A bit of a simplistic poll, I know - But covers the bases as far as hot-to-cold opinions. Choose the one that's closest to yours, and feel free to comment as always.


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Tech
Tuesday, September 02, 2008 8:57:05 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, September 01, 2008

UPDATED: Chrome is now out and available for Windows, other platforms coming in the future - Check out http://www.google.com/chrome/

As mentioned earlier here and everywhere else on the 'net, Google's Chrome web browser is coming. Today Google put an official release notice on its Official Google Blog, and they tell us it will be made available for you and me to download and try on Tuesday.

Over at Google Blogoscoped there's a whole bunch of screen shots you can check out if you can't wait until tomorrow. Screen shots are a bit hard to come by today, but tomorrow it'll be in-person for everyone, and you can probably imagine how many people will be posting pictures and writing about the new browser.




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Tech
Monday, September 01, 2008 5:29:02 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Google seeded a paper comic book to some people recently, to present and describe their future web browser (or you might just think of it as the web browser of the future), which is called Google Browser or Chrome.


So, what's the story? Making the browser more stable, more usable, more secure. At first glance, it looks like a strong starting point for the future of Internet browsers. Written from the ground-up from scratch and with the experience of several years of past browser platforms to learn from, Google has addressed many of the main concerns in today's browsers.

Now the only question is: When will we get it? I will be watching here to see if something shows up. Hopefully it's soon!

UPDATE: The release date is tomorrow (Tuesday, September 2, 2008) - More info and link to screenshots here.

A variety of technologies are incorporated into the Chrome design that improve on common browser weaknesses. The key improvements fall into the areas of stability (memory allocation and management, process management), some incredibly cool javascript environment enhancements (in the form of a new, open-source javascript engine), a bunch of user experience improvements and significant security changes.

And, it's all open source. That's right - Anyone (including other browser makers) can leverage the work done in the Chrome project and can contribute or modify to meet their own needs. Good move, Google.


Pretty exciting stuff. It will be fun to see what comes next, and when.



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IT Security | Safe Computing | Tech
Monday, September 01, 2008 10:57:24 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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