Wednesday, 13 February 2008

samurairepairman I have a set of Kenmore HE3 appliances for washing clothing, the matching washer and the dryer of course. I like them a lot and have had them for five years. They've served me well. However, ever since installing a drawer pedestal under both, the washer had taken to frequently hopping and jumping around on the floor while in the spin cycle. It's not a good thing, and I needed a fix.

Luckily after some creative Google work I found this web site:, Samurai Appliance Repair Man. It's a blog with lots and lots of entries describing how to resolve common issues with various appliances, including mine. It gave me the information I needed to fix the problem. So I'm bookmarking it here on my blog for the benefit of others and - undoubtedly - for my own future reference.

Thanks, Samurai Repair Guy!

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Random Stuff
Wednesday, 13 February 2008 12:51:29 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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It's not like we didn't already know the malware (short for "malicious software") infection rate is increasing, but Google's security folks posted a technical paper and blog entry on Monday that illustrates the prevalence of "drive-by" malware distribution and just how big the problem has become.


“During that time we have investigated billions of URLs and found more than three million unique URLs on over 180,000 web sites automatically installing malware” … “In the past few months, more than 1% of all search results contained at least one result that we believe to point to malicious content and the trend seems to be increasing.”

Add to that the fact that a significant and growing amount of newer malware recompiles itself into new forms each time it redistributes, making it virtually undetectable by current means, and the situation potentially becomes even scarier.

The technical paper is a very interesting read and explains some of the distribution techniques and designs. It also points out one piece of browser technology that has resurfaced to plague the security world many, many times: the iFrame.

The problem is most deeply rooted in China, where 67% of all malware distribution servers are located, and 64.4% of all landing sites (sites that point to a distribution site) are located. The next closest offending country is the United States, which accounts for about 15% of the distribution and landing sites. So, one can easily see where a significant portion of the problem lies. With the increases in business and trade taking place in China now, one has to worry about the future if computer systems are in such bad shape. Clearly, something needs to change.

If you're a security person, an IT server admin, work with web applications, develop web apps, or are for any reason interested in scary figures (such as the fact that "38.1% of the Apache servers and 39.9% of servers with PHP scripting support reported a version with security vulnerabilities."), read the report. It's worth the time you'll spend.

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IT Security | Tech
Wednesday, 13 February 2008 08:43:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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It looks like the Live Search team has announced they've released their MSN Bot v1.1 (and changed the user agent string to "msnbot/1.1"). They've noted two significant (and welcome) features.

  • HTTP compression
  • Conditional GETs

What does this mean for server owners and operators? Just a more-efficient way of crawling your sites for indexing, assuming your servers support the features. Most servers support HTTP compression, and links to instructions for configuring it are provided in the Live Search team's blog entry.

If you're interested in knowing whether your site/server supports these two features, the Live Search team has also put up a page where you can run a quick test.

Of course, depending on how they detect search indexing bots, some apps may need to add the new user agent string to their configurations.

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Wednesday, 13 February 2008 07:05:56 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 12 February 2008

image Firefox, that other awesome web browser, is now available in a v3 B3 release for those who are willing and wanting to test the latest and greatest before it's all fully baked.

Here is the link to get to the download page and other pertinent information. Expect performance improvements, security improvements, usability enhancement and more. But, keep in mind it's a Beta release, which means it will likely be flaky and do things you might not like. In the words of the Firefox team:

Please note: We do not recommend that anyone other than developers and testers download the Firefox 3 Beta 3 milestone release. It is intended for testing purposes only.

Firefox 3 Beta 3 is now available for download. This is the eleventh developer milestone focused on testing the core functionality provided by many new features and changes to the platform scheduled for Firefox 3. Ongoing planning for Firefox 3 can be followed at the Firefox 3 Planning Center, as well as in and on in #granparadiso.

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Tuesday, 12 February 2008 21:43:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Richard and I had a good conversation with Scott Kveton, OpenID personality extraordinaire, on the RunAs Radio podcast this week. Scott is chairman of the OpenID Foundation.

OpenID is a cool and upcoming technology and has seen significant attention in the past few weeks especially as Yahoo! became an OpenID provider, immediately followed by an announcement that Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, IBM and Verisign had joined the board of the OpenID Foundation.

It's time to get on-board and know what OpenID is, how it might play with other technologies in the identity and access management space, and how you can learn more. That's what this show is all about.

Scott Kveton Shares His OpenID (MP3 link)
from the RunAs Radio podcast

Richard and Greg talk to Scott Kveton about OpenID. OpenID is a single sign-on solution that could very well make the classic username and password obsolete. This is a fast half hour - you'll find yourself wanting to listen again!

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IT Security | RunAs Radio | Tech
Tuesday, 12 February 2008 21:25:19 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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OneCare on 64-bit works! I somehow missed the release, but a little while back Microsoft released Windows Live OneCare v2.0, and in that release added support for 64-Bit Windows Vista. A few months ago (before OneCare v2) I had just bought a new laptop that came with the 64-bit Vista Ultimate edition pre-installed, and when I went to install the then-released version of OneCare, I was pretty disappointed that it would not work.

When I was in Costco the other day, I noticed a OneCare package on the shelf and picked it up to glance at the system requirements. Lo and behold, the packaging had changed and now indicated that 64-bit Vista was supported! When did they slip that in? I didn't see mention of it on the OneCare blog or anywhere else.

But hey, all I knew was it looked like I would be able to use it now, so I was looking forward to giving it a try.

Today I uninstalled my frustratingly cruddy other (to remain nameless) antivirus software and installed the OneCare suite. For about $40 a year I can protect three PCs and centrally manage two of them from the computer I designate as the "hub" machine. Nice.


OneCare v2 includes:

  • Antivirus & Antispyware protection
  • Online ID protection
  • Bi-Directional Firewall
  • Multi-PC management
  • Printer sharing
  • Data backup and restore capabilities
  • Maintenance and cleanup tasks (defrag, clean up useless stuff, etc.)

It's an easy and quick install, and a good way to make sure you're protected. You can watch a product demo and download the free 90-day trial here.

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IT Security | Safe Computing | Tech
Tuesday, 12 February 2008 18:33:14 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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On my Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit laptop, one of today's many Microsoft patches keeps prompting to be installed over and over, even after it indicates it is successfully installed. The patch in question is related to Microsoft Knowledge Base article KB937287, and is a prerequisite to Vista SP1, which is set to be made available next month.

Update 937287 is a prerequisite package that contains updates to the Windows Vista installation software. The installation software is the component that handles the installation and the removal of software updates, language packs, optional Windows features, and service packs. Update 937287 is necessary to successfully install and to remove Windows Vista SP1 on all versions of Windows Vista. This update will be available on the Windows Update Web site soon after the release of update 935509 and before the release of Windows Vista SP1. 

I ran the installation for all of today's patches which applied to my computer (twelve of them in total) and this one kept hanging around. Each time I restarted the computer, Windows Update again prompted me to start the installation. Confusing and frustrating after the fourth or fifth time, to be sure (reminds me of a joke about the definition of "insanity" heh).


I was able to resolve this problem by downloading the individual 64-bit patch from the Microsoft Downloads site and installing it manually. Note that the linked download location is for 64-bit Vista OS users only. Once I did that, the prompts stopped and it shows up in the installation list as successfully installed on the machine. In fact, the list now shows all of the installation attempts as successful, with a separate line for each try. Only the first try now shows "failed." Strange.


It's interesting that the KB article points out that this update will be required in order to install Vista SP1 via Windows Update when it is released, but not if you chose to download and install the service pack manually (as it will contain the fix). Extra interesting is that for this update I was unable to install it via Windows Update, but was successful with the manual install.

At any rate, there have been a flurry of posts on a variety of forums and other sites today where people were having this problem. Some people were recommending grabbing a leaked version of SP1 Refresh 2 via non-MS sites (read: not a good idea) and installing that, but for those who wish to wait and make sure they get what MS releases when they release it, this option is probably better for you.

If it works, drop a comment. Actually, be sure to comment if it doesn't work for you, too. :)

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IT Security | Tech
Tuesday, 12 February 2008 17:45:12 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Over at Wired, they've posted a set of eight early-design logos that graphic Designer Ruth Kedar came up with back when the now-established company was first finding its identity. It's a cool look at the design process and it's interesting to see how certain aspects of the design came full-circle. Click the image below to see the designs and an explanation of each over at Wired.


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Tuesday, 12 February 2008 12:27:12 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Updating from IE6 to IE7 is a considerably good thing to do, but IT pros need to plan for these things in some cases for compatibility and other reasons, so awareness is important.

If you're an IT shop using Windows Software Update Services (WSUS), be aware that today marks the date that Microsoft planned to start automatically delivering Internet Explorer 7 to desktop machines as an automatic update on WSUS systems. Computers on WSUS-managed computers that have IE6 installed will be updated, either automatically or upon administrative approval, depending on your configuration.

So, if you don't want your IE software updated today, it's important to check that your WSUS system is set up to require administrative approval before updates are pushed to the machines on your network (this is the default setting, but I've seen it changed in many cases for "convenience").

From the Microsoft Knowledge Base article (KB946202):

If you have configured WSUS to "auto-approve" Update Rollup packages (this is not the default configuration), Windows Internet Explorer 7 will be automatically approved for installation after February 12, 2008 and consequently, you may want to take the actions below to manage how and when this update is installed. You will need to take action if:

  • You use WSUS to manage updates in your organization.
  • You have Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2)-based computers or Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1)-based computers that have Internet Explorer 6 installed.
  • You do not want to upgrade Internet Explorer 6 machines to Windows Internet Explorer 7 at this time.
  • You have configured WSUS to auto-approve Update Rollups for installation.

Important notes

  • This does not apply to Windows Vista because Windows Internet Explorer 7 is a component of Windows Vista.
  • The Internet Explorer Blocker Toolkit blocks only installation that occurs by using Windows Update and Automatic Update. The toolkit does not block distribution that occurs by using WSUS. This article concerns distribution that occurs by using WSUS. Internet Explorer 7 is already available in 23 languages by using Windows Update and Automatic Update. On February 12, 2008, Internet Explorer 7 will also be made available in Japanese by using Windows Update and Automatic Update

The KB article also includes instructions describing how to configure the WSUS server, if needed.

(reminded via Mary Jo Foley - All About Microsoft)

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IT Security | Tech
Tuesday, 12 February 2008 07:42:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 11 February 2008

image Got a Blackberry? Ever worried what you'd do if you lost it? Ever actually had to replace a lost one before? Lost or stolen, it's good to be able to find your handheld, especially if it has important data on it.

A couple years ago I was in Minnesota on a trip and went to play FrisbeeTM Golf with a friend. The course went through the woods and across a couple fields. When we got done, I realized my Blackberry phone was missing. Not good.

We used my friend's cell phone and started calling it. I got lucky that day. It was (thankfully) not on vibrate mode, and we eventually found it deep in the woods (where I had been forced to bushwhack in order to get to my flying disc). The battery was near dead.

Now it appears there's a better way. Berry Locator is a software program that will cause your Blackberry device to scream and flash - even when set on silent mode. When you lose your device (or if you can't find it in the house clutter) you just send it a specially-formed email and it wakes up and does its thing, letting you find it. Even better, if your BB has GPS capabilities, you send an email and it will reply via email with a map showing you the coordinate where the device is located. Plus, you can type text in the body of your email that will be displayed on the screen when it's activated, in case someone else finds (or otherwise has possession of) your Blackberry.

Combine that feature with a password, data encryption and the ability to nuke the device in a worst-case scenario (on a corporate BES system), and you're pretty good to go.

Cool capability, but it only works if you install it ahead of time. There's a free trial version, and when you decide to buy it, it's only five bucks.

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IT Security | Mobile | Tech
Monday, 11 February 2008 18:45:43 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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It was pretty clear from the initial public offer that was made by Microsoft to acquire Yahoo! that Redmond intends to make it happen even if Yahoo! management doesn't want to go along. But just in case anyone doubted, today it became quite apparent that's the case. In a statement issued today, Microsoft says:

"It is unfortunate that Yahoo! has not embraced our full and fair proposal to combine our companies. Based on conversations with stakeholders of both companies, we are confident that moving forward promptly to consummate a transaction is in the best interests of all parties.

"We are offering shareholders superior value and the opportunity to participate in the upside of the combined company. The combination also offers an increasingly exciting set of solutions for consumers, publishers and advertisers while becoming better positioned to compete in the online services market.

"A Microsoft-Yahoo! combination will create a more effective company that would provide greater value and service to our customers. Furthermore, the combination will create a more competitive marketplace by establishing a compelling number two competitor for Internet search and online advertising.

"The Yahoo! response does not change our belief in the strategic and financial merits of our proposal. As we have said previously, Microsoft reserves the right to pursue all necessary steps to ensure that Yahoo!'s shareholders are provided with the opportunity to realize the value inherent in our proposal."

Looks like a lot of people are in for a ride. It will be interesting to see how this one turns out, to be sure.

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Random Stuff | Tech
Monday, 11 February 2008 16:23:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Well, I love my Xbox360 HD-DVD drive, and watching full 1080p HD-DVD movies on the Elite model. I've bought about 10 or so HD-DVDs and have rented a few from NetFlix recently. But, in what is looking more and more like an inevitably certain format death, Netflix announced today that it will no longer be stocking new HD-DVD releases, and they'll eventually phase out the current titles from their stock.

In fact, as I was writing this post an email from Netflix just arrived that explains the change:

netflix We're Going Blu-ray

Dear Greg,

You're receiving this email because you have asked to receive high-definition movies in the HD DVD format. As you may have heard, most of the major movie studios have recently decided to release their high-definition movies exclusively in the Blu-ray format. In order to provide the best selection of high-definition titles for our members, we have decided to go exclusively with Blu-ray as well.

blu-ray While we will continue to make our current selection of HD DVD titles available to you for the next several months, we will not be adding additional HD DVD titles or reordering replacements.

Toward the end of February, HD DVDs in your Saved Queue will automatically be changed to standard definition DVDs. Then toward the end of this year, all HD DVDs in your Queue will be changed to standard definition DVDs. Don't worry, we will contact you before this happens.

You can click here to change your format preferences.

We're sorry for any inconvenience. If you have any questions or need further assistance, please call us at 1 (888) 638-3549.

-The Netflix Team

Well, sometimes you make a bet and you lose.

So, my (our) options at this point appear to be...

    1. Wait around, hope against hope, and pray that HD-DVD miraculously sees a resurgence (umm, yeah...)
    2. Hope someone builds a dual-format drive for the Xbox360 that can replace the one I have now (not likely)
    3. Buy one of the new dual-format/combo drives that you can put in a PC and go that route (possibility, depending on what they end up costing, and I have to think about how and where I want to play movies)
    4. Buy a PS3 (ouch, in so many ways)
    5. Just give in and buy a Blu-ray stand-alone player (but I wonder if I should wait til they drop in price some more, they ain't cheap)

Any other ideas? Let me know!

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Movies | Tech
Monday, 11 February 2008 12:52:32 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I've been a monthly customer of T-Mobile's hotspot service for a few years. I used the service almost exclusively at Starbucks stores. So, with the new announcement that AT&T and Starbucks will be offering two-hour chunks of use for free if you have a Starbucks card (the refillable type) as well as a $20 per month unlimited use option. It looks like I will no longer need the more-expensive T-Mobile account. The only time I've ever used it outside of Starbucks was at airport locations (Red Carpet Club), and I'm not flying as much as I used to (thank goodness).

You can't really beat free WiFi, and it's everywhere these days (except Starbucks), so this is a smart move in my mind.

From BetaNews:

While final pricing structures could change, some details have come out: the service will cost $3.99 for two hours of Internet access. But those customers who register and use their Starbucks card will receive two hours of free access per day. An unlimited plan is available for $19.99, which includes access to over 70,000 AT&T hotspots worldwide.

Existing T-Mobile HotSpot customers aren't being left out in the cold; thanks to an agreement with AT&T, they can continue to access the Wi-Fi at Starbucks without paying extra.

(full story)

Also, see the ars techncia coverage at this link.

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Mobile | Tech
Monday, 11 February 2008 12:10:33 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 09 February 2008

I don't think I have actually mentioned it here before (oops), but I use Twitter on a semi-regular basis to jot down PocketTweets Screenshot (click for the site)thoughts, post my "status" and keep an eye on what some other people are doing. My Twitter name is greghughes (go figure), so feel free to add me to your follow list, or whatever. :)

Twitter has a mobile client (at, but note that it only works on a mobile device) that works, but it's pretty basic and feature-incomplete. So, since I had some time this evening I decided to look around for software (to run on the PC) and web-based (for the iPhone) clients.

I found a few options, including a really nice web-based client specifically made for the iPhone (or the iPod Touch) called PocketTweets, which is clean in appearance and includes pretty much all the Twitter functionality. I can post my own Twitter updates (called "Tweets"), send replies to others, or anything else on Twitter I might want. It's certainly better than any of the other clients I found. Very cool.

Next I need to find a good Windows client that won't crash when run on a 64-bit OS. I've been using Snitter, which is pretty okay but doesn't quite work (update) reliably enough in my experience and I'm not much of a fan of bright and contrasty color schemes. Any ideas?

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Blogging | Mobile | Tech
Saturday, 09 February 2008 20:12:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 06 February 2008

WTFs/m - that's perfect! I think my good QA friend Brent would probably agree (and laugh out loud)... Mild cartoon language follows, but the humor is worth it.


(discovered via Robert Hensing's blog)

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Humor | Tech
Wednesday, 06 February 2008 19:05:25 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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