Friday, 30 September 2005
Earlier today, Alex Scoble wrote about an IM conversation he and I had regarding VPNs and solving the nagging issue of firewall and other network roadblocks that tend to wreak havoc for people who need to connect to a remote private network. If your VPN client forces you to use some random or uncommon port, you're bound to get frustrated when you try to connect from many business networks, not to mention when you try from the hotel on the road. Now, maybe you shouldn't be plugged into that business network, but blocked by the hotel? Come on, give me a break.
There's no one perfect solution to this problem. There are lots of ideas, though. Many companies (most or all of the big players in the space) are coming out with VPN over SSL options, which is great. But what if you have a need to run a VPN software client, and it doesn't (yet) support SSL tunnels?
Here's one way to skin that cat, a la Cisco: Use TCP 443 in the Cisco VPN client to connect via an IP Sec tunnel to your VPN endpoint. Note that you'll need to specify this in the connection settings. Typically the Cisco client uses the UDP protocol to do it's thing (click to enlarge):
But as you can see, you can also set it up to use the TCP protocol and whatever port(s) your VPN concentrator is configured allow. For example, you could choose to use TCP over port 80, or port 443, since both of those are commonly open from any network. Note that port 80 might be proxied in some cases, but that's probably not a problem with 443, so it's a good one to try (click to enlarge):
If you set up a couple or few profiles in your VPN client software sufficient to cover the bases (like, say one using UDP and one or two using common TCP ports), you'll pretty much always be able to connect from the road. Again, there's no guarantees and there's no 100% perfect solution, but this gets you better than 95% of the way there, I am confident. Just make sure your VPN host/endpoint is configured to support the ports and protocols you specify. In the past year or two, I have yet to come across a network while traveling (except for a couple of highly-secure ones at business locations, but hey...) that I could not successfully connect through with at least one of the settings I have available to me.
And while we're on the subject, there are some interesting and promising SSL options out there, with more undoubtedly coming. As far as other brands of VPN software clients, well - I've used most of them and let me tell ya, you're better off going with Cisco and looking at the PIX firewalls and the 3000-series VPN concentrators. Trust me, I've dealt with most of them, and there's a reason Cisco's such a prolific Internet company.
But tell me - what do you use and how have you solved this type of problem?
Thursday, 29 September 2005
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!
Go for it. You know you want to.
Research 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
- Memory: 16MB RAM / 64MB Flash
- Polyphonic Ring tones
- Support MP3 ring tones
- Updated Form Factor
- Full QWERTY keypad
- Dedicated Send & End Keys
- Mute Key
2 User-Definable Keys
- This blackberry should come with a 320x240 VGA Color LCD and should feature a 312Mhz processor
So, 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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
<title>MS05-043: Vulnerability in Print Spooler Service Could Allow Remote Code Execution (896423)</title>
<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>
<pubDate>Tue, 9 Aug 2005 00:00:00 GMT</pubDate>
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.
Saturday, 24 September 2005
Every now and then some random person or event comes along that deserves memorialization. Such is the case with Lt. Gen. Russel Honore and his words this past week when confronted with a gaggle of reporters. Honore and others (including the Mayor of New Orleans, who was having a hard time with the media crowd) were at a press conference (called by the mayor) in order to immediately get out the important word about the government's plan to evacuate people from the city of New Orleans in the face of yet another hurricane - this time, it was Rita.
But some of the reporters at the press conference were apparently still stuck on Katrina. The General was there to make sure they clearly understood their role in the situation. There's a time and a place for everything, to be sure - and that means there's a time for the media to ask questions, and there are other times when the message needs to be immediate, clear and loud in order to save lives and ensure peoples' safety. Unfortunately, there are many in the media who are all about conflict, not about helping people (regardless of what they say their motivations are). It's makes the former journalist in me scream at the TV. I hate it.
So - Thank God for people like Lt. Gen. Russel Honore. Here's his words, an audio file and a partial video of the interaction between him and the media:
Audio Attachment: 0920honorestuckonstupid.mp3 (1685 KB)
Video Attachment: stuckonstupid2.wmv (2957 KB)
Gen. Honore: And Mr. Mayor, let's go back, because I can see right now, we're setting this up as he said, he said, we said. All right? We are not going to go, by order of the mayor and the governor, and open the convention center for people to come in. There are buses there. Is that clear to you? Buses parked. There are 4,000 troops there. People come, they get on a bus, they get on a truck, they move on. Is that clear? Is that clear to the public?
Reporter: Where do they move on --
Gen. Honore: That's not your business.
Reporter: But General, that didn't work the first time --
Gen. Honore: Wait a minute. It didn't work the first time. This ain't the first time. Okay? If...we don't control Rita, you understand? So there are a lot of pieces of it that's going to be worked out. You got good public servants working through it. Let's get a little trust here, because you're starting to act like this is your problem. You are carrying the message, okay? What we're going to do is have the buses staged. The initial place is at the convention center. We're not going to announce other places at this time, until we get a plan set, and we'll let people know where those locations are, through the government, and through public announcements. Right now, to handle the number of people that want to leave, we've got the capacity. You will come to the convention center. There are soldiers there from the 82nd Airborne, and from the Louisiana National Guard. People will be told to get on the bus, and we will take care of them. And where they go will be dependent on the capacity in this state. We've got our communications up. And we'll tell them where to go. And when they get there, they'll be able to get a chance, an opportunity to get registered, and so they can let their families know where they are. But don't start panic here. Okay? We've got a location. It is in the front of the convention center, and that's where we will use to migrate people from it, into the system.
Reporter: General Honore, we were told that Berman Stadium on the west bank would be another staging area --
Gen. Honore: Not to my knowledge. Again, the current place, I just told you one time, is the convention center. Once we complete the plan with the mayor, and is approved by the governor, then we'll start that in the next 12-24 hours. And we understand that there's a problem in getting communications out. That's where we need your help. But let's not confuse the questions with the answers. Buses at the convention center will move our citizens, for whom we have sworn that we will support and defend...and we'll move them on. Let's not get stuck on the last storm. You're asking last storm questions for people who are concerned about the future storm. Don't get stuck on stupid, reporters. We are moving forward. And don't confuse the people please. You are part of the public message. So help us get the message straight. And if you don't understand, maybe you'll confuse it to the people. That's why we like follow-up questions. But right now, it's the convention center, and move on.
Reporter: General, a little bit more about why that's happening this time, though, and did not have that last time --
Gen. Honore: You are stuck on stupid. I'm not going to answer that question. We are going to deal with Rita. This is public information that people are depending on the government to put out. This is the way we've got to do it. So please. I apologize to you, but let's talk about the future. Rita is happening. And right now, we need to get good, clean information out to the people that they can use. And we can have a conversation on the side about the past, in a couple of months.
Time to print some bumper stickers... "Don't get stuck on stupid." Heh. It's not a new phrase - more like old made new again. But it's great, and appropriate.
Update: The Stuck on Stupid Blog. Heh...
(via RadioBlogger and The Political Teen)
A long, long time ago, I ripped apart my Series 1 TiVo PVR and put in a couple 120GB hard drives. In the end I got an obscenely huge number of hours of recording time, plus I added an ethernet card so a phone line's not needed to get programming info, and then I did some other fun "hacking."
Anyhow, I woke up this morning and found out my trusty modified TiVo was misbehaving badly. Or maybe it's just sick - It had a choppy image and sound on both live TV and recordings, even on the menu systems you can hear the drive inside moving between glitchy animation pauses on the screen, and it's exhibiting generally sluggish, choppy behavior. So, I figured I'd sacrifice everything on it (it's practically full - maybe another cause of the problem, who knows?) and I did a delete and reset through the TiVo's menu system.
That was at about 7am. The system restarted and the screen read, "Clearing and deleting everything. This will take an hour." It's after 2pm now and the screen hasn't changed. Seem like either the system assumed it has a 20GB hard drive in it still, or the hard drive(s) are having problems. But, it sounds like it's still methodically plugging away, so I'll let it go for a while longer and just see what happens.
Anyone else been through this? Any ideas? I've had this TiVo since they first came out, and it's served me well, but I'm also thinking maybe it's time to pick up a Series 2 TiVo and open it up and do some more PVR hacking.
Friday, 23 September 2005
Waking up to views like this from the front porch makes the commute worthwhile:
(Mt. Hood - Oregon - click for a larger image)
Wednesday, 21 September 2005
Overheard on United Airlines flight 955 to San Diego (insert Will Farrell comment here) yesterday:
"For those of you on the left side of the aircraft, you have an unusually clear and spectacular view of the city of Los Angeles, Dodgers stadium, and the downtown LA area. For those of you on the right side of the plane, you have a great view of the backs of the heads of the people who are looking at Los Angeles out the left side of the aircraft..."
Tuesday, 20 September 2005
Scoble posted something that's had my attention all evening (well, off and on anyhow - I'm easily distracted). Have you seen the Slingbox from Sling Media? It's may just be the perfect gadget for me. Think something along the lines of a Media Center extender (note: it's not one of those, just try to think along those lines), only instead it extends any TV image to pretty much any computer anywhere you have a fast connection to the Internet.
"The Slingbox is a compact and elegantly designed, state-of-the-art electronic device that connects to the back of your TV. It redirects, or “placeshifts,” the TV signal from your cable box, satellite receiver, or digital video recorder (DVR) to your computer or laptop of choice, no matter your location — so long as you have a high-speed Internet connection."
It's something close to pure simplicity, too: Plug it in, hook it up, install the SlingPlayer software on your PC, and BAM! You're controlling and watching your TV, DVR, set top box or whatever you use from your computer, wherever you may be.
It's for PCs now, but more is coming very soon:
"In the coming months, SlingPlayer software will be available for select PDAs, smart phones, and Macintosh computers and will be fully compatible with the Slingbox."
You can check it out at:
And then, of course, there's Orb, for some of the same people who are interested in Slingbox (the geeky ones who are not looking for a plug-and-go solution since Orb uses your home PC and a tuner card), and it's especially nice for those who have Windows MediaCenter Edition):
Nope, we're not in the air. That would be nice, but no such luck. Instead we're stuck on the ground in San Francisco with the typical SFO airport weather delays. They loaded the aircraft and then all the ground crews were ordered off the ramps due to tons of lightning, so we're just hangin' out.
Luckilly, I can stay productive anyhow thanks to the TMobile hot spot that must be right inside the terminal.
Ive been traveling a bit lately, and have been to 11 states in the past few weeks. This time I'm to San Diego for a few days, for conferences and all that sort of stuff. If anyone's in the area, let me know and maybe we can meet up if schedules allow. My cell phone number and email are over in the right menu bar.
Monday, 19 September 2005
Research in Motion, makers of the BlackBerry devices and servers, are getting ready to kick another new model out the door - the BlackBerry Electron. It looks a lot like the 7290 in size and basic shape, but also appears to have features you typically see on the 7100 series.
The higher-resolution screen will be a welcome addition, and the idea of programmable keys is also something I'd definitely take advantage of.
And perhaps the best part: EDGE network capability. About time! Plus a speakerphone.
Only one thing more to hope for: Will it play MP3s and have a SD card slot? Well, we can always hope.
NASA's latest plans to return to the moon, and from there to go on to Mars, are now out, with more detail available. The spacecraft look a bit like the old Apollo ships, but looks can be deceiving:
"Coupled with the new lunar lander, the system sends twice as many astronauts to the surface as Apollo, and they can stay longer, with the initial missions lasting four to seven days. And while Apollo was limited to landings along the moon's equator, the new ship carries enough propellant to land anywhere on the moon's surface.
"Once a lunar outpost is established, crews could remain on the lunar surface for up to six months. The spacecraft can also operate without a crew in lunar orbit, eliminating the need for one astronaut to stay behind while others explore the surface."
Saturday, 17 September 2005
Fly softly, and carry a big stick...
I just found a great story linked from a new b5media blog (oops ) called Flightnest.com, where a student pilot was out with his instructor in a Cessna 172 and the landing gear would not lock down. Talk about baptism by fire!
Anyhow, even better is the way they solved the problem. While the student ad his instructor flew around the airport for about an hour and fire crews stood by, a couple guys in a jeep raced down the runway with the aircraft flying a few feet away. they eyeballed the gear, grabbed a big stick, and - well - go watch the video. Nice.
Scoble's posted an interview with Rob Leferts, a program manager at Microsoft, who talks about the new workflow services that will be built into SharePoint in the next version, which is tentatively set to release in the last half of 2006.
There's all sorts of new features that take advantage of the two-way connection between SharePoint 12 and other Office tools, including the Office suite of applications like Word, Excel, Outlook and others.
What does baking workflow into SharePoint in the Office 12 release mean for business people? In a nutshell, it means a set workflow features that just shows up and notifies you that you've got something that needs to be checked on or completed. It also means users can create workflow and leverage it to suit their business needs.
Example: I open Outlook and I get a notification in Outlook that says I have a task pending to complete an employee's performance review, which points me to a SharePoint site where that document lives and is waiting for me to add my two cents. When I am done, I click a button in Word or whatever program I'm in that says I am done, and the workflow takes over and pushes the document on to the next step in the business process and notifies the next person. You can buy that kind of functionality and build it in to existing SharePoint sites if you really want to, but it's a lot of work and it takes lots of time (and therefore money). So, out of the box is a terrific thing. Some of us need that. Badly.
Automating the processes that business follow in writing documents, managing tasks, and a variety of other things can be well-served by workflow automation, and the fact that they're building it into the entire Office system is not only nice to see happening, it's important to making SharePoint and the Office system in general better accepted and more usable - and therefore a more worthwhile investment.
- What you have today in SharePoint: Share and save documents, control security, publish and get notified of changes, etc.
- What you get tomorrow: Build workflow to share the document template, drive it through a process of step by step edits and reviews, get sign-off and then publish (or whatever). Note: Approvals are processed online, it's not an off-line process. You can take a doc off-line and work on it, then connect back to the server to sync it back up to its "home," then push the button to indicate you've completed your workflow task.
Expiration and document lifecycle policies can be created and automated, to ensure content is properly disposed of, flagged, reviewed or whatever. This is a pretty big deal in today's business world, where a document lifecycle process and program is - in some cases - legally mandated.
Lots of great stuff coming from these talented people, and lots of business uses and enhancements to look forward to for those of us that need to help workers better organize information and collaborate.
Again, it's going to be a very, very interesting year.
If you're like me and you disappeared for random business trips at the last minute this past week, and if your business trip didn't take to PDC in Los Angeles (neither did mine), you may have also missed out (like me) on the real-time updates related to the next version of the Office System products - currently known generically as Office 12 and the Office 12 servers.
Simply put, the Office user experience is changing significantly - and at first glance, the changes are pretty amazing and definitely fall on the "hey that's cool" side of the fence. Watch this Channel 9 video interview with Julie Larson-Green of Microsoft to get a sneak peek of what's coming.
Check Jensen Harris' blog here for Office 12 experience updates, too. Good stuff showing up there already.
Channel 9 tags for categorized videos and articles related to the topics:
Got SharePoint? Over at The Dean's Office, Dustin Miller lists a long - and exciting in a geeky way - list of what's coming up in the next version of SharePoint - which is due for release in late 2006 as part of the next version of the Office system.
HUGE improvements coming, and v2 to v3 will be an upgrade, not a migration. Phew! Check out the list.
A good Channel 9 video showing/discussing SharePoint v.next is here.
- RSS on all SharePoint lists - and access to the feeds respect the SharePoint security model
- RSS feeds are per-list and per-site (aggregated)
- Support is for RSS 2.0
- Out of the box blogs AND wikis! (and you get RSS feeds for those, too)
- Lots of search improvements and enhancements
- Outlook 12 will have an aggregator, IE7 also has one
- WSS v.next runs on ASP.NET 2.0, so ASP.NET v2 web parts are SharePoint web parts
- Version history in all SharePoint lists - with line-by-line diffs! Nice!
- Take documents off-line and bring them back
- Workflow built in - see a Channel 9 video about that here
- Document management significantly built out
- Email enabled discussion boards - send email to a SharePoint alias and it shows up in the discussion list! Nice - great internal option to things like Yahoo groups. You can also sync emails, tasks and other stuff to a SharePoint site from the Outlook UI.
It's going to be a big year for Microsoft's Office and Office Servers. Huge, really.
Wednesday, 14 September 2005
My employer, Corillian Corporation, announced the other day that it's achieved certification under the international security standard BS7799, which is also the basis for the about-to-be-released ISO17799 standard. Without disclosing anything confidential here, I wanted to write a few of my own personal thoughts about the process and my experience in it, and what I think it means in the real world.
Those of us that have been involved in making this happen - which in the end really means every single person employed by the company - are excited about the achievement. We didn't just work to certify a portion of the company's operations, we did the full-meal-deal. I know that those of us on the security team all feel a real sense of accomplishment and success, while cautiously recognizing that we now have that much more to continue to live up to, now that we've arrived. After all, resting on one's laurels in the security world is a dangerous place to be, and security is a process, not an event.
What does it mean to be certified under the "7799" standard? Simply put, the certification says that the company has put in place a comprehensive security management system and program, and that it has shown evidence through a set of documentation and on-site examinations that it's meeting the complete set of standards without deficiencies. In other words, it means we've proven under close scrutiny that we have a solid security program that we take very seriously, and that it works.
I can't begin to explain the amount of learning I did in the process of doing my part in the effort to attain certification. I can tell you that I am convinced - well beyond the shadow of a doubt - that a strong security program and management system can and does contribute directly to the delivery of high quality of products and services. It's a lot of work to get to the point where certification is even possible, and many people dedicated incredible effort over the course of a couple of years to reach this point, but the value gained through the process is very high.
Every organization that deals with security issues and responsibilities should go through the process of certification under the standard. It would make for a much better operating environment, and would result in better-run companies. And in this day, age and operating environment, where trust and security are of paramount importance to business success, there's almost no excuse not to do so.
Google has launched their Google Blog Search -and its good stuff. One of the best things in my book is that you get a list of highly-relevant weblogs before you get the text search results.
Tuesday, 13 September 2005
The XBox 360
console will be released in late November, and Microsoft has announced that several games will be backward-compatible and will run on the new machine.
Here's your chance (for the next few days, anyhow) to vote on which games will receive backward-compatibility support:
"... when it comes to determining backwards compatibility, the ball is entirely in Microsoft's court. As you'd expect, they've already baked-in all the no-brainer Xbox games that will work on 360 (e.g., Halo 1 and 2, Knights of the Old Republic, Fable, etc.), but with the Xbox 360 launch just around the corner this November, the boys from Redmond are unofficially reaching out to the gaming community to learn what remaining games Xbox fans would like to see backwards compatible on Xbox 360.
"We present below (split into two digestible lists) 80 worthy Xbox titles Microsoft isn't sure about. 80 games that will, over the course of the next 5 days, battle it out to the death. While there are no guarantees that the top 10 or 20 games will make it into the backwards compatibility list, or even what the cut-off number will be for the top titles, the stakes here are unquestionably high. To be sure, Microsoft will be checking out these results to gauge consumer interest in many of these excellent games. And they will act accordingly. So know that your vote will make a difference."
Monday, 12 September 2005
Sunday, 11 September 2005
Today I once again had the pleasure of working closely with Cops on Top, a non-profit organization that undertakes mountain climbing expeditions to the highest points in the world in order to remember and recognized the sacrifice of police officers killed in the line of duty.
Today expedition teams from across the United States and Canada took off for their respective state or territory high points to remember the first responders who were killed helping others on September 11th, 2001. We've enabled the teams to dial in via mobile or satellite phones, and their audio blogs are posted to the Cops on Top climber's weblog.
Congratulations and thanks to all the police officers and their team mates who undertook expeditions today. As a former cop and someone who's seen the positive impact the Cops on Top program has, I can tell you it means a lot to many people.
Saturday, 10 September 2005
Hey, if all else fails, boot to a USB drive, right? Only problem is, who wants to haul around an external hard drive?
Actually, Tom's Hardware has an article on installing and running Windows XP on a USB flash drive. Windows in your pocket - it doesn't get much easier than that eh?
Boot up, access the Windows install and do whatever you need. Great idea.
Notes from the article:
- A USB flash drive with at least 256 MB of storage is enough for the uses described in this article. Additional system tools or applications require more space. The upper bound limits for storage in this case is 2 GB - a byproduct of the tool's use of FAT16 for the local file system.
- Most new motherboards recognize USB flash drives as valid boot media. But conventional motherboards that are more than two years old aren't likely to boot from a USB flash drive. But in many cases, this omission can be remedied through a BIOS update for that board.
- 1.5 GB of unused disk space is the maximum needed for the tool to do its job, particularly if you want to pre-install Service Pack 2 and RAM disk capabilities. 190 MB of unused space is all that's needed to use PE Builder and the applications described in this article, however. Additional plug-ins will increase storage requirements, as will additional tools or software.
- 512 MB of USB flash drive storage space is needed only if boot-up works from a RAM disk. Otherwise, 256 MB is big enough.
- Access to a USB 2.0 port is not mandatory, though booting with a USB 1.1 port takes about five times longer.
- A Windows XP Setup CD works fine as a foundation for PE Builder to generate the USB flash drive's contents.
We're not all perfect, bulletproof or even smart. Funny how it works that way. In fact, there's a certain percentage of IT and security pros out there that come up with bone-headed, stupid ideas - and who make decisions based on those ideas.
Marcus Ranum wrote about what he calls "The Six Dumbest Ideas in Computer Security." It's a good read, and I agree with almost everything he says there:
In reality, anyone in the IT and security field should have a solid, well-formed opinion that they can back up on everything Marcus mentions in his essay.
(via Bruce Schneier)
Damn you, Apple.
Stop teasing me with higher-cost hardware that has that extra "woah dude, woah" factor.
I can't afford to be tempted like this. Stop!
Ya gotta admit it, that nano is pretty sweet. Take the smallness they went for with the Shuffle (which, by the way, is about as useless as the stick of gum it's often compared to) and then put back all the cool stuff about the iPod (you know, like menus and the touch control) and then double or quadruple the storage capacity compared to the Shuffle, and there ya go. Oh yeah, and that color display is nice, of course.
Okay, okay - I'll think about it.
This is how exciting my weekends are. Here I'm on IM with my next door neighbor this fine Saturday morning (which is weird enough, in an antisocial sort of way, now that I think about it):
Yeah, yeah whatever. I have yet to see a "good chat client" that I truly want to use on Linux (we were discussing IM clients). Don't get me wrong - Linux is great. I have a couple of secret (I do have a rep to uphold ya know...) little Linux-y things going on.
(And yeah, I know - my typing sucks)
Friday, 09 September 2005
The Linksys WRT54G is a great little WiFi (Wireless-G) home router, and there are a number of communities out there that have created custom firmware to run on them. But one of the risks of flashing your router with new and different firmware is that you might just end up with a useless brick, typically characterized by red flashing lights and a severe lack of functionality.
If you can't get a SFTP upload of the default Linksys firmware to apply to the router using their utility, it's possibly toast. But there are still a few options (try at your own risk).
First of all, though: Have you tried to upload a fresh copy of the Linksys firmware using the Linksys utility you can download from their web site? Was your router running the Linksys firmware or one of the community firmware builds when the problem started? Depending on the firmware and router version, you might find that you need to go back to an older/original firmware file, then re-apply the custom one. Your mileage may vary, but if you're bricked you might not be worried about things like warranties. Just be aware of the fact once you start messing with stuff, warranties are often a thing of the past.
Here's a few links to try to help - feel free to leave a comment if you know of others:
Ruth at RCM Technologies sent along an opening they have for a guru-level SharePoint business consultant in the Beverly Hills, California area. If you or someone you know if interested, give Ruth a call or send her an email (her contact info is at the bottom of this post):
RCM Technologies is a leading provider of comprehensive of Information Technology solutions for customers in the Financials Services, Healthcare, Insurance, Communications, Entertainment, and Pharmaceutical markets is looking for a Business Systems Consultant for a project in the Beverly Hills area.
This is initially an 8 week project. There is a high likelihood of extension after the initial phase is completed.
This project is slated to start ASAP.
Responsible for providing business solutions to enterprise-wide technology initiatives. Candidate must be a self starter with excellent communication skills. Background in web testing and training on web based systems. Formal classroom experience is not mandatory.
- Acts as a liaison between business/user and the technical developer
- Plan and analyze business initiatives to be solved with business systems.
- Provides technical expertise in identifying, evaluating, and developing effective procedures and systems requirements that meet business requirements.
- Works with business user to provide assessment of developed system in respect to the user’s needs. Also provide training and resolve issues and questions. \
- Participates in validating existing design features with specific system requirements and specifications.
Initiates systems testing.
- Acts as internal consultant within technology and business groups by re-engineering technical processes for greater efficiencies with significant impact to the business.
Required Experience or Knowledge of the following technologies/functions
- Microsoft SharePoint 2003 - Candidates must be expert level in SharePoint
- .NET development
- SharePoint implementation/migration experience
- Please send your resume as a Word document. You may also reach me at the number below.
eWeek is reporting that eBay is in talks to buy Skype, a remarkably popular voice and text communication IM program.
Skype's popular and cool, but I have to say that industry references to Skype as a VoIP player are (IMHO) poorly thought out. Why? Because Skype uses no industry standards in their communication - they created their own proprietary protocols, which means they don't interoperate with other systems. What Skype needs to do in order to play the full VoIP field is add (note - I said "add" not change) SIP and other standards-based capabilities to their product for communication and connectivity. If they do that, they might just make some money and own a huge market. But they'll have to hurry if they haven't already started.
Also - why in the world would an auction company buy a IM and Internet calling company? Is eBay really that lost? Their share price after the rumor broke seems to show it may be a bad idea. Or maybe I'm missing something here, but on its face it seems a bit ridiculous.
Wednesday, 07 September 2005
Gateway's announced a widescreen format Tablet PC - cool design, and it has dedicated ATI graphics, which should be nice in the Vista world of Aero Glass. PC Magazine has a review here:
"The CX200 is a workhorse: It's loaded with the fastest Pentium M (770) processor currently available, 1GB of RAM, and the ATI Mobility Radeon X600 graphics chipset. Unfortunately, the system couldn't run our SYSmark 2004 SE and MobileMark 2005 benchmark tests because of the tests' limitations, but other systems with this type of configuration perform very well on day-to-day computing tasks. Both the Doom 3 and Splinter Cell games ran smoothly. The 3DMark 2005 scores were very respectable at 996 (1,024-by-768), something rarely seen on a tablet..."
Tuesday, 06 September 2005
I've been researching some specific technology needs, and figured I'd post here and see if anyone working in the collaboration/groupware/SharePoint world has any ideas. I've got my own research, and am speaking to a few others I know, but the community is bound to have some good input.
What I need is a Yahoo-Groups-like system, but it needs to be private and deployed on the LAN (for security purposes). Threaded discussions, with an email interface to contribute and receive updates. In a perfect world, it would build into SharePoint (we use it as an intranet platform), or at least lend itself to being displayed there. And while I am aware of future software possibilities, I can't wait for v.next in this case.
Indexed, searchable content, with opt-in and opt-out lists that can be moderated if needed, are also important.
Any ideas? Please - let me know!
Things I have considered:
The three brightest objects in the night sky - Venus, Jupiter and the Crescent Moon - all together at once...
(click for larger image)
Monday, 05 September 2005
President Bush has issued proclamations that the United States flag be flown at half staff through September 20th to honor the memory of the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Another order requires the flag be flown at half-staff through September 13th to honor the death of Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
For people with flags that are attached to a fixed pole, it turns out there is an appropriate way to fly those flags, even though you can't actually move them on the pole. I described that here last year, when several people I know asked me how to fly their fixed flags on their porches at half-staff.
For flags that can't be lowered, such as those on many homes, the American Legion says attaching a black ribbon or streamer to the top of the flag is an acceptable alternative. The ribbon should be the same width as a stripe on the flag and the same length as the flag.
If the flag is hanging on a wall, make three black bows from the same material and place one bow at each of the mounting points.
Bill Whittle is an expressive genius. He has a way of bringing out common sense and putting things in perspective, for me anyhow.
Rather than race, rather than religion, this time Bill focuses at length on a concept we all need to think about: Tribes.
"Courage isn’t free. It is taught, taught by certain tribes who have been around enough and seen enough incoming storms to know what one looks like. And I think the people of this nation, and those of New Orleans, specifically, desire and deserve some fundamental lessons in courage."
There's no way to concisely describe what he's written - so go read it for yourself. Yes, it's long and there's some harsh language, but the message is clear. Whether you agree with Bill on every point is not nearly as important as whether or not you take the time to read.
Now that Hurricane Katrina has devastated the South along the Gulf Coast, Joel Comm, author of AdSense secrets and general AdSense guru, has launched ReliefSense.com - where you can donate your AdSense revenues to the relief efforts. It's not a collection site - it's a place where you can pledge to donate to the agency of your choice.
Earlier this year, when the Tsunami hit, I joined a few friends in asking Google to enable people participating in their AdSense program to have a mechanism built-in to donate their AdSense revenues directly to tsunami relief efforts. I got some response from Google, but not what you'd hope for - they were not able to set anything up at the time (of course, they did have donation links right on the Google home page).
Google - Can't you please find some way to allow us to make donations directly through your AdSense program??? Here's a little history (more linked from these entries):
Joel's idea is great - and I have just signed up my pledge. But if Google could enable direct donations as well, it just makes sense that so many more people would find it easier to participate in helping.
Jeremy Wright's got something cool going on. He's a bit of an electronic entrepreneur, and posted this partial image on his weblog a week or so ago as a hint of what's up his sleeve.
So, I started poking around during an extended semi-bored period, and eventually figured it out - but it took quite a bit of creative thinking and searching (Google's pretty amazing, you know?). Jeremy then let me in on the secret a little - but since it's a secret, I won't tell. But you can guess all you want.
It's basically all right there in the image though - you just have to use your eyes and brain a bit more than usual.
And - from Jeremy's blog today:
"The news? It’s a blogging network. The details are still largely under wraps, but we’re expecting to unveil it in the next 3-4 weeks. That said, if you can figure out what the name is from the logo, there are already a number of blogs live. In fact, if you can only figure out the first 2 characters in the logo, there are a number hidden links on Google to the new network."
Neville Hobson interviewed Jeremy on his podcast that was posted today, too.
It will be a cool business, when it happens. And no - that's not a swastika in the image.
Can you guess?
One of the things that keeps some companies from patching computers in a timely fashion is the potential for data loss if a computer being patched restarts and data open on the desktop is lost.
Windows Vista promises to fix that problem by "freeze-drying" any work open on the PC at patch time, allowing the user to reconstitute the work when the computer restarts.
Even better, they're making the patching process better, so restarts will be necessary much less often. Many apps can be patched while they're running, and are replaced at next restart. We have some of that now, but will have more of it in the Vista release.
Read more - Tech News at ZDNet
I rented Sin City the other day. Now, I was prepared for the fact that it was going to be a violent, even offensive film. What I wasn't ready for was the fact that it's an incredibly well-made, artistic film.
This movie, like no other made to date, truly feels like a dark comic book. It's all about the thousands of little details. From Bruce Willis' long coat blowing in the breeze in a way that could never quite happen in real life, to the stylized color (usually red) details on black and white film, it's all a fairly amazing visual experience.
That said, the comic-book-like style is more a description than an audience defining mechanism. This is not a movie for kids. It's completely and totally R-rated, all the way to the far edge of the rating system. It's violent, crude, sexual and doesn't hold back.
I don't know how many people get knocked out from a single punch to the face or have their heads shoved into an unflushed toilet in this film, but it's plenty.
If you're squeamish, don't watch this one. If you're into dark, dark, dark comic books and get into visual blood, gore and guts stylized somewhere between comic-book-fake and real-as-life, you'll probably like this one a lot. You're also likely a borderline sociopath, but hey - that's beside the point. Enjoy.
Saturday, 03 September 2005
We all know it was predicted before, in terms of the potential impact of a large hurricane on the City of New Orleans, but what I did not realize is how accurately professionals in the area had come in their estimations.
There are excerpts from an article in The Natural Hazards Observer called "What if Hurricane Ivan Had Not Missed New Orleans?" that was written by Shirley Laska of the Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology at the University of New Orleans in November 2004, after Hurricane Ivan:
"Approximately 120,000 residents (51,000 housing units x 2.4 persons/unit) do not have cars. A proposal made after the evacuation for Hurricane Georges to use public transit buses to assist in their evacuation out of the city was not implemented for Ivan. If Ivan had struck New Orleans directly it is estimated that 40-60,000 residents of the area would have perished...
"Regional and national rescue resources would have to respond as rapidly as possible and would require augmentation by local private vessels (assuming some survived). And, even with this help, federal and state governments have estimated that it would take 10 days to rescue all those stranded within the city. No shelters within the city would be free of risk from rising water. Because of this threat, the American Red Cross will not open shelters in New Orleans during hurricanes greater than category 2; staffing them would put employees and volunteers at risk. For Ivan, only the Superdome was made available as a refuge of last resort for the medically challenged and the homeless...
"In this hypothetical storm scenario, it is estimated that it would take nine weeks to pump the water out of the city, and only then could assessments begin to determine what buildings were habitable or salvageable. Sewer, water, and the extensive forced drainage pumping systems would be damaged. National authorities would be scrambling to build tent cities to house the hundreds of thousands of refugees unable to return to their homes and without other relocation options. In the aftermath of such a disaster, New Orleans would be dramatically different, and likely extremely diminished, from what it is today...
"Should this disaster become a reality, it would undoubtedly be one of the greatest disasters, if not the greatest, to hit the United States, with estimated costs exceeding 100 billion dollars. According to the American Red Cross, such an event could be even more devastating than a major earthquake in California. Survivors would have to endure conditions never before experienced in a North American disaster..."
TextAmerica and NBC Universal have teamed up and created http://www.missingkatrina.com/ - which is a photo blog that lets people submit the names, pictures and numbers to call for people missing in the Hurricane Katrina disaster area.
Missing People From Hurricane Katrina - 1-800-774-0512
This site is here to help you find missing persons from hurricane Katrina.
If you have their picture of the missing person you can post it to this site in one of two ways:
1. Upload their image directly from your PC using the upload form below. Once you have uploaded an image your will be prompted to enter other information like their name, your phone number and your email address.
2. Email or MMS your picture to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please make sure to put the missing person's name and YOUR contact phone number in the title or body of the email/MMS.
If you don’t have an image of the missing person or you can’t figure out how to upload or email in your information, then please call us at 1-800-774-0512 anytime between 9am and 9PM PST (7days). Our thoughts and prayers to everyone involved in this disaster. May you and your loved ones be safe.
And it is working. From one posted photo comes this followup:
Duoc and seven other Vietnamese were rescued late last night. They were transported to the New Orleans airport and are on their was to Houston airport where they can be flown home. I want to thank the owner of this site for the support they have given us.
There's really nothing quite like first-hand experience when it comes to seeing what's happening in distant places. Let's face it - the mainstream media cuts things into little chunks that remove the full context of the place and situation, trying (usually without much success) to replace it with an explanation, usually written by one or two people.
In your mind, choose one or two people you know at random. Now imagine sending those two random people into a war zone with a camera and a microphone and telling them to accurately and completely convey what's happening, without personal bias. Would you tend to trust what they have to say? Yeah, me either.
That's what interests me most about Boots In Baghdad Films, a vlog that contains video posts (using audioblog.com's videoblogging capabilities) shot by soldiers on the ground in Iraq. It's first-hand video of real situations. It's not that soldiers are without any bias - but the soldiers and their experiences are part of what's happening, which makes this video much more real than anything on TV, and the few videos posted on this site have an unedited honesty that I appreciate. Note that there's some colorful language in some of the video shots - that's to be expected, I think.
Hopefully the content will continue to grow, but of course not for one day longer than the people filming it need to be there.
(via Eric Rice)
Do unto others: People are in need, and the Red Cross is spending money on hurricane disaster relief faster than it's coming in. Click below and give what you can. If you want to volunteer, contact your local chapter.
This is not just something nice to do - this is something we have to do.
Thursday, 01 September 2005
From an IM session about 30 seconds ago:
could u imagine at school if u had that in your room.. u would be the coolest chic in the dorm..
Mary Beth says:
Ummm, yeah... I hope not.
Use Skype? Want to use it? Well, a new and improved beta version is available now - v220.127.116.11
From the Skype web site:
- Our call quality is the best ever for talking, laughing and sharing stories.
- It’s now faster to get set up, and easier to add your contacts, so you can get more friends talking for free.
- You can forward calls on to mobiles, landlines and other Skype Names.
- Make calls instantly from Outlook email or Internet Explorer with our new toolbars.
- Personalise your Skype — play around with sounds, ringtones and pictures to show the world who you are.
For those who are running the Vista Beta 1 on a Tablet PC but have not had the TIP (Tablet Input Panel) because you're not on the formal beta test program, your wait is over.
Microsoft's released the TIP to the MSDN Subscriber Downloads, so go get it and ink away.
© Copyright 2013 Greg Hughes
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
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"So how do you know what is the right path to choose to get the result that you desire? And the honest answer is this... You won't. And accepting that greatly eases the anxiety of your life experience."
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