Wednesday, 28 September 2005

Ever wish you could hammer on one of those celebs that you love to hate so much? Are you one of those people (like me) who gets a little excited when you hear someone yell "Body blow! Body blow!" in a crowd?

Here ya go then: CELEBRITY PUNCH OUT!

  Celebrity Punch Out

Go for it. You know you want to.

  Cpout



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Humor | Random Stuff
Wednesday, 28 September 2005 17:20:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Blackberry 8700gResearch in Motion's Blackberry brand is (I'm saying it out loud right here) the de facto standard for business wireless email/PIM/phone communications. One of these days Microsoft's Mobile platform may overtake the Blackberry line, but hey - it hasn't happened yet, and fact is Blackberry's got the form factor down pat. Windows Mobile on a Treo? Cool, yes - but I'm not confident it will make a good RIM replacement. My Palm-based Treo that I used earlier this year got returned after about a month, and not only because of the software. The device itself was nice and all, but not very practical or friendly. I hated that keyboard.

The latest Blackberry model to hit the "coming soon" list is the 8700, which has been confirmed to exist (but not yet announced) and which is slated to hit the street later this year in a GSM/GPRS/EDGE model (you can likely expect Cingular to get it first). The specs are pretty cool and it makes me wonder what all this device will actually do (check out the list from pinstack.com):

- Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE
- Speaker Phone
- Bluetooth

- Memory: 16MB RAM / 64MB Flash
- Polyphonic Ring tones

- Support MP3 ring tones

- Updated Form Factor

- Full QWERTY keypad
- Dedicated Send & End Keys
- Mute Key
-
On/Off Key
-
2 User-Definable Keys
- This blackberry should come with a 320x240 VGA Color LCD and should feature a 312Mhz processor

Blackberry8700g_02So, if it supports MP3 ring tones and has 64MB flash... maybe there's a slot on this thing we can't see in the pics that would allow a flash card of some type? MP3 player capability maybe? Hey, I can dream, right?

Is this the one that gets an Intel processor, or no?

Looking forward to this one, for sure. EDGE data service will be terrific. From the RIM quarterly call this week, I would not be too surprised if there are other interesting and new devices coming this fall and winter, too. Lots to look forward to.



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Mobile | Tech
Wednesday, 28 September 2005 17:00:44 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 27 September 2005

Microsoft today released SP2 for Office 2003, which can be downloaded via Office Update, or you can grab it here and you can read about it here.

In addition, OneNote 2003 SP2 was also released today - read about it here, and download it here.

One of the notable features in my book is the Phishing protection update for Outlook:

Microsoft Office Outlook® 2003 Phishing Protection and Junk E-mail Filter

SP2 contains a new Phishing Protection feature to be used with the Outlook Junk Email Filter. Phishing is the luring of sensitive information through e-mail, such as passwords and other personal information, by an attacker masquerading as someone trustworthy. Phishing attacks can result in a user divulging sensitive information, including financial information, that can result in a loss of privacy or money. Phishing e-mail is hard to identify, because attackers make their e-mail appear genuine and often mimic recognizable e-mail sent out routinely by legitimate organizations such as banks and credit card companies.

To enable phishing protection, you need both Office 2003 SP2 and the latest Outlook 2003 Junk E-mail Filter Update. Once both are installed, Office 2003 SP2 has phishing protection turned on by default.

For best results, we recommend you regularly download the latest version of the Outlook 2003 Junk E-mail Filter Update. To determine whether you need this update, see the Microsoft Knowledge Base article
(872976): How to obtain the latest Outlook 2003 Junk E-mail Filter.



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IT Security | Office 2003 | OneNote | Tech
Tuesday, 27 September 2005 17:59:59 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 26 September 2005

I've become a bit of a flag-at-half-staff resource on the Internet it seems. I get lots of emails on the subject, and just this morning received one from a FOX affiliate asking if I send out emails announcing when the flag should be flown at half-staff. Well, uhh - no. Really, I'm not an authority on much of anything.

But, Mark Peterson at the Peterson Flag Company does have such an email list, so for those who want to be notified every time a proclamation is issued to fly the American Flag at half staff, here you go:



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Random Stuff
Monday, 26 September 2005 04:27:19 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 25 September 2005

I've recently started a little research project, through which I am hoping to figure out the best option for replacing four disparate old-skool PBX systems with a single, unified VoIP/SIP-based system. I've amassed more than a few Internet resources and have been doing research for a number of weeks, and figured someone else out there might have some ideas, as well. Plus, I need a place to catalog my thoughts and discoveries, so here we go...

I have specific needs that must be met, and probably the most complicated of them is that I have people who work in multiple locations, but who need to be logically grouped together as a team. So, there's a need for an Automated Call Distribution (ACD) capability, with full management monitoring, sign-in and sign-out, etc.

Whatever I come up with, it must be SIP-based (duh), and should integrate with/leverage the existing Windows 2003 Active Directory, as well as the communication and presence capabilities of Live Communication Server 2005 (which is highly SIP-aware, of course). A feature-rich unified messaging voice mail, FAX, etc. system is a must, with the full compliment of delivery methods. End user self-service is important - In this day and age, it's hard to imagine putting in a system that doesn't allow its users to self-manage those settings that are safe to expose.

And it needs to work. All the time. None of this random glitch, dropped call, nasty audio quality stuff. VoIP has come a long way in the past few years, and my expectations are very high. I use Vonage at home and have watched it grow from mediocre to pretty darn good over the past 18 months. But I don't want to (read: can't) do that with a business-critical PBX system, and my expectations are that the IP-PBX system will be a better experience than I've had with Vonage.

It should be enabled to integrate tightly with Microsoft Business Solutions and the Office System servers and software - like Microsoft CRM, for example. And Outlook. SharePoint integration would be a huge plus, too. Web-based chat for the customer service folks would be terrific.

What else? Well, easy to setup and maintain is a plus, and web-based administration is a no-brainer.

And it needs to be something a medium-sized business can swallow, cost-wise. The days of high-priced telephony systems and proprietary solutions are practically over, and so is my involvement with them. Good riddance.

So, here's a partial list of what I have looked at so far. I guess if it's on the list, it stands out enough in my mind enough to merit a mention:

  • Asterisk - Open source (some commercial packages of it), in use all over, has matured somewhat. I know people who have deployed it and swear by it, and others who cuss its name daily. I'll let you guess which group tends to use a strict change management process...
  • Vonexus - A commercial, Microsoft-platform-cased IP PBX system from Vonexus and parent company Interactive Intelligence, geared for and targeted at small and mid-sized businesses. The more I read about Vonexus, the more I drool. I need to contact these people and find out more. It looks almost too good to be true. We'll see what it costs.
  • Other standard players - mostly hardware specific systems from Cisco, 3Com, Avaya, etc. All are great, but all are expensive and fairly proprietary. Not sure I want to go that route.

Anyone done this before and care to share experience? Know of something I am missing out on? Let me know, especially if you're familiar with Vonexus - I'd like to speak with people who use their systems (in addition to talking to their sales people).

A few online resources that are good to watch for VoIP:

And there's many more. Send me yours and if I like 'em I'll post them, too.



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Tech
Sunday, 25 September 2005 11:36:14 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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In the course of trying to save some time and make things a little more streamlined at work, I've been looking for Microsoft RSS feeds for security patch releases with sufficient detail in them to be able to do some automation of our internal patch tracking. I am already aware of the RSS feed at TechNet, since I have been subscribed to it since day-one:

http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/secrss.aspx

But unfortunately it munges multiple pieces of discreet information into one data element (specifically the title) and also leaves a bunch of stuff completely out, since it's just a list of summaries, really:

   <item>
  <title>MS05-043: Vulnerability in Print Spooler Service Could Allow Remote Code Execution (896423)</title>
  <link>http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/Bulletin/MS05-043.mspx</link>
  <description>This update resolves a newly-discovered, privately-reported vulnerability. A vulnerability exists in the Print Spooler service that could allow remote code execution. The vulnerability is documented in the “Vulnerability Details” section of this bulletin. An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could take complete control of an affected system. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights.</description>
  <guid isPermaLink="false">http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/Bulletin/MS05-043.mspx</guid>
  <pubDate>Tue, 9 Aug 2005 00:00:00 GMT</pubDate>
</item>

Maybe this is a good example of where RSS extensions could or should come into play, or maybe what I need instead is a more generic (non-RSS for all I care) XML feed that has a schema that supports keeping the patch number, KB article title, bulletin name and long description as separate data points. Plus, where's the rest of the info for each bulletin? I'd also like to see what platforms each bulletin applies to (in a yes-or-no format for each one), the intricate details about the vulnerability, and other stuff like that.

Is there an XML feed that does that already? Maybe there is but I've just not found it. There's the old MSSecure.XML from the HFNetChk command line tool (not updated since 2004 on the MS Downloads site, it appears), but even that's much more verbose than what I need. I've looked around here and here, and I have done some searching, just no luck. I figure they have the data available to build all those services, but I can't find a good detailed source to build my own lists.

I did three minutes worth of Excel work to play with the feed (and I suck at Excel so my formatting in it is poor, but it basically works) and came up with a working spreadsheet from the TechNet feed. I definitely need to be able to do more with it though. You can see my l33t Excel skiilz (um, not) here:

What I really want is to be able to automatically pull the details of each released security bulletin into a list or Excel spreadsheet, add my own metadata to each one, and have that list/spreadsheet live over time. I'm trying to avoid a whole lot of cut/paste activity and need to find a way to speed this process up. Before you say I should just use Excel and VBA to parse through the available data, let me ask you - What if Microsoft changes their formatting on their bulletins?

So - my biggest obstacle right now is a data feed. If anyone knows of one, drop me a line and let me know.



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IT Security | Tech
Sunday, 25 September 2005 04:36:04 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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